I have been in many shapes, Before I attained a congenial form. I have been a narrow blade of a sword. (I will believe it when it appears.) 5 I haye been a drop in the air. I have been a shining Star. I have been a word in a book. I have been a book originally. I have been a light in a lantern. 10 A year and a half. I have been a bridge for passing over Three-score rivers. I have journeyed as an eagle. I have been a boat on the sea. 15 I have been a director in battle. I have been the string of a child's swaddling clout. I have been a sword in the hand. I have been a shield in the fight. I have been the string of a harp, 20 Enchanted for a year In the foam of water. I have been a poker in the fire. I have been a tree in a covert. There is nothing in which I have not been. 25 I have fought, though small, In the Battle of Goddeu Brig, Before the Ruler of Britain, Abounding in fleets. Indifferent bards pretend, 30 They pretend a monstrous beast, With a hundred heads, And a grievous combat At the root of the tongue. And another fight there is 35 At the back of the head. A toad having on his thighs A hundred claws, A spotted crested snake, For punishing in their flesh 40 A hundred souls on account of their sins. I was in Caer efynedd, Thither were hastening grasses and trees. Wayfarers perceive them, Warriors are astonished 45 At a renewal of the conflicts Such as Gwydion made. There is calling on Heaven, And on Christ that he would effect Their deliverance, 50 The all-powerful Lord. If the Lord had answered, Through charms and magic skill, Assume the forms of the principal trees, With you in array 55 Restrain the people Inexperienced in battle. When the trees were enchanted There was hope for the trees, That they should frustrate the intention 60 Of the surrounding fires.... Better are three in unison, And enjoying themselves in, a circle, And one of them relating The story of the deluge, 65 And of the cross of Christ, And of the Day of judgement near at hand. The alder-trees in the first line, They made the commencement. Willow and quicken tree, 70 They were slow in their array. The plum is a tree Not beloved of men; The medlar of a like nature, Over coming severe toil. 75 The bean bearing in its shade And army of phantoms. The raspberry makes Not the best of food. In shelter live, 80 The privet and the woodbine, And the ivy in its season. Great is the gorse in battle. The cherry-tree had been reproached. The birch, though very magnanimous, 85 Was late in arraying himself; It was not through cowardice, But on account of his great size. The appearance of the ... Is that of a foreigner and a savage. 90 The pine-tree in the court, Strong in battle, By me greatly exalted In the presence of kings, The elm-trees are his subjects. 95 He turns not aside the measure of a foot, But strikes right in the middle, And at the farthest end. The hazel is the judge, His berries are thy dowry. 100 The privet is blessed. Strong chiefs in war And the ... and the mulberry. Prosperous the beech-tree. The holly dark green, 105 He was very courageous: Defended with spikes on every side, Wounding the hands. The long-enduring poplars Very much broken in fight. 110 The plundered fern; The brooms with their offspring: The furze was not well behaved Until he was tamed The heath was giving consolation, 115 Comforting the people - The black cherry-tree was pursuing. The oak-tree swiftly moving, Before him tremble heaven and earth, Stout doorkeeper against the foe 120 Is his name in all lands. The corn-cockle bound together, Was given to be burnt. Others were rejected On account of the holes made 125 By great violence In the field of battle. Very wrathful the ... Cruel the gloomy ash. Bashful the chestnut-tree, 130 Retreating from happiness. There shall be a black darkness, There shall be a shaking of the mountain, There shall be a purifying furnace, There shall first be a great wave, 135 And when the shout shall be heard, Putting forth new leaves are the tops of the beech, Changing form and being renewed from a withered state; Entangled are the tops of the oak. From the Gorchan of Maelderw. 140 Smiling at the side of the rock (Was) the pear-tree not of an ardent nature. Neither of mother or father, When I was made, Was my blood or body; 145 Of nine kinds of faculties, Of fruit of fruits, Of fruit God made me, Of the blossom of the mountain primrose, Of the buds of trees and shrubs, 150 Of earth of earthly kind. When I was made Of the blossoms of the nettle, Of the water of the ninth wave, I was spell-bound by Math 155 Before I became immortal. I was spell-bound by Gwydion, Great enchanter of the Britons, Of Eurys, of Eurwn, Of Euron, of Medron, 160 In myriads of secrets, I am as learned as Math.... I know about the Emperor When he was half burnt. I know the star-knowledge 165 Of stars before the earth (was made), Whence I was born, How many worlds there are. It is the custom of accomplished bards To recite the praise of their country. 170 I have played in Lloughor, I have slept in purple. Was I not in the enclosure With Dylan Ail Mor, On a couch in the centre 175 Betueen the two knees of the prince Upon two blunt spears? When from heaven came The torrents into the deep, Rushing with violent impulse. 180 (I know) four-score songs, For administering to their pleasure. There is neither old nor young, Except me as to their poems, Any other singer who knows the whole of the nine hundred 185 Which are known to me, Concerning the blood-spotted sword. Honour is my guide. Profitable learning is from the Lord. (I know) of the slaying of the boar, 190 Its appearing, its disappearing, Its knowledge of languages. (I know) the light whose name is Splendour, And the number of the ruling lights That scatter rays of fire 195 High above the deep. I have been a spotted snake upon a hill; I have been a viper in a lake; I have been an evil star formerly. I have been a weight in a mill.(?) 200 My cassock is red all over. I prophesy no evil. Four score puffs of smoke To every one l who will carry them away: And a million of angels, 205 On the point of my knife. Handsome is the yellow horse, But a hundred times better Is my cream-coloured one, Swift as the sea-mew, 210 Which cannot pass me Between the sea and the shore. Am I not pre-eminent in the field of blood? I have a hundred shares of the spoil. My wreath is of red jewels, 215 Of gold is the border of my shield. There has not been born one so good as I, Or ever known, Except Goronwy, From the dales of Edrywy. 220 Long and white are my fingers, It is long since I was a herdsman. I travelled over the earth Before I became a learned person. I have travelled, I have made a circuit, 225 I have slept in a hundred islands; I have dwelt in a hundred cities. Learned Druids, Prophesy ye of Arthur? Or is it me they celebrate, 230 And the Crucfixion of Christ, And the Day of Judgement near at hand, And one relating The history of the Deluge ? With a golden jewel set in gold 235 I am enriched; And I am indulging in pleasure Out of the oppressive toil of the goldsmith.
Extract from: Robert Graves, The white goddess