The Founding of Britain

Four roads run from Logres, to cardinal points;
joints in the bones of this burgeoning nation,
named New Troy, when Brutus laid its foundation,
slew a great ram and cut it in quarters
for the demarcation of rule along four borders.
Yet when he awoke the next morning from sleep,
gone was the carcass and there stood the sheep
alive and unharmed – at the omen he wondered;
decreed that this land ought never to be sundered.

‘For the God of Albion desires not sacrifice
the Earth spat out the libations we poured,
our priests it ignored though they observed
the laws and the prayers which ere now sufficed.
Heirs of eternity, though we seek to be
yet our ambition is scorned by this country,
hostile to the old ways, and yet the meeting of all ways
the centre and the end of the world.’

Brutus died, and sacrifice ceased
yet the Trojan settlers dwelt and increased
in this land of their inheritance; island of promise.
Still they kept their traditions and devotions to their gods,
yet now bloodless – awaiting though ignorant the new revelation;
sole innovation in the history of man;
and the gradual unfurling of the divine plan.

Through religion and myth the Trojans were disposed
to accept a second Helen in their midst
whose birth-giving gracefully entered into communion
with its only antecedent, in reflection of that glory
that united the world – and in fulfilment
of the graces it foretold before the foundation of the world.
In infinitesimal degree the mortal woman Helen
shared in that holy providence of Heaven –
brought her babe into the body of Christ
and crowned him Emperor; standard-bearer of the Light.

Forth from Albion he came to his settlement in New Rome
yet the old home still housed the memory of his passing
and the shadow of his reign left a vacancy in place
till Arthur should arise in ascent of the throne,
Image of the Emperor and executor of his grace.

The four roads remained, bearing and conveying
troops and travellers in this last outpost of Empire.
They spanned from the centre to the farthest reaches
ever in danger from strangers to lapse out of existence.
Yet the threads held through and bound the land
in spiritual coherence, if not in appearance;
North, South, East, and West they spanned.

A wall to the foremost marked the margins of mankind
blind roamed the barbarous shapes of the giant race
beyond the borders of Britain, in dank Broceliande
where boars file their tusks on trunks numbered past telling
of trees tangled and dark – grown too close for felling.
Nary an axe falls in that fell forest, but javelins jostle
and rankle, sometimes a bow twangs and the tribes
launch an assault on the wall at the border
like water on rock – chaos meeting order.

Southwards ran the road to Dover;
Wherefore to Dover? to Dover where the cliffs
in dazzling candour signal to the intrepid sailor
who perseveres through the mists and the murk
in pursuit of a rumour at the world’s end.
They part the fog like a wall or a wedge
of white stone, grown from the ocean floor,
lapped and chapped by the salt-sea spray
but resolute with a brute force of will;
shimmering afar at first until a cloudburst
drenches their white faces in light like
liquid glory – a beckoning call
to the wayward wanderer astray in Gaul
or tossing in the channel, homeward bound.
On the stony shore’s side he’d run aground
and kiss the earth for sheer joy of landing
in that blessed country, all fears withstanding.

To the East where Saxons roamed the fens
and eked out out a living like beasts in dens
lily-fragrant Botwulf offered a libation of praise;
waged war in honour of the Ancient of Days.
In the marshes he met his enemies, unseen.
The gods of the heathen – spirits unclean –
warned of his coming by the fragrance of sanctity
fled in a flurry of madness like the swine gadarene,
excised in terror between the marsh and the city.
The heathen wailed; courage failed; pagan prowess was shaken.
Their gods deserted them, their lands were forsaken;
baptised, redeemed by the working of the leaven,
Botwulf the blessed, of the council of Heaven.

Westward the Druids dwell, driving their flocks
like shepherds of the heathen, hard-fettered in the stocks
of blood-feud and purification – bloody libations
to Albion’s old gods in sundry manifestations.
The brethren read the stars by night and fast by day,
awaiting the auguries to lighten their way –
for the old laws are failing, and religion decays.
Their own gods grow aloof; their rites are defunct,
while unctuous soothsayers feed richly on flesh –
offerings of floundering chieftains bereft of authority;
shaken by the coming of a strange God.

By J. W. Thompson

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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