(Poem) The Sea’s Secret by Marya Berry

Preface to The Sea’s Secret
Wales - Caernarfon Castle (Welsh: Castell Caernarfon) is a medieval building

Wales – Caernarfon Castle (Welsh: Castell Caernarfon) is a medieval building

Whilst this poem is meant to imitate medieval Welsh poetry, eg, Welsh courtly poetry, the story is of my making, like the poem. I have adhered, nonetheless, to the Nordic (Viking) or Germanic influences which are known to have existed in this poetry, by using hard-edged words, except in the stanzas directly related to romantic love. In my studies of the medieval Welsh poetic tradition,  I have never encountered such a theme as is presented here, but can only imagine that such situations occurred then in life, as they still do today, though less obviously and, let us hope, less frequently.

The Sea's Secret
Cursèd island waters swaggle through scrawny  crags,
rocks, the earth's teeth broken by brawny, armoured tides,
the weekly onslaught of perished ships,
prows crushed or lithe little schooners like ours
bivouacking fortune in the fish-flying sea.

The wind has hooted across moonlit night
like a famished owl in the crackling empty air
over woodland brush, as a gale cleaves the swell
making way for our star-brushed bark,
escaping the sea's sharp jaws ready to snap us afoul.

I, Daffyd, fisherman and bard on board,
hold taut the wiry ropes of our masthead scarred
where no more hungry larks do linger,
hear heaving bulwarks of rain smash
against the nearby cliff's ragged shoulder.

The shore is guessed out there behind the pitch
and dive of the town's blinking edge. I must reach it
or be damned, for one so fair awaits me, hidden there
in the starry dark, in the wailing waves' cradle,
noble is she, huddled with her fear wrapped round her.

She is more dear than the dawn, than the month of May,
Her eyes greener than summer's silken lawns,
her glance more golden than daffodils lit by the sun's bright eye,
but I may tell it to no man, cordial or cruel,
only to swarthy midnight and the snarling sea.

If the billows breached to her kinsmen our scarcest love,
they would slay me as an enemy, hang me by my feet,
for they are gentry, welcomed at the court for their fare.
But my maiden's long black hair lies strewn over my breast
whilst they lie sleeping, in their dreams least aware.

What smites tickles most, for I am called to recite
my lays before these very men, and I have slipped
our story into verse, like a blade into its scabbard,
and they, puffed up on privilege and cascading cups of beer,
have praised my words as beauteous and clever!

My kisses leave no trace upon her lips, nor our whispers'
husk except in memory's bolted chest. My belovèd
swears to be true, if the trees uproot and walk away,
if a hundred steeds harry to marry her over a ford by day,
and I am as true as her word.
© Marya Berry 2013
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