Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A Tale of Two Knights

One night in late Decemberish
Beneath a dark and brooding sky
Rode brave and bold Sir Tally-Ho
And the Black Knight, Tatty-By

Sir Tally-Ho in armour fine
With sword and shield and spurs of gold
Sat high upon a milk-white horse
Its warm breath freezing in the cold

On a coal-black mare rode Tatty-By
A-stomping on the frozen ground
To shield him from the ice and snow
A wolf-skin cloak wrapped tight around

Ice and snow
Ice and snow
Upon the trees and earth below
Upon the Field of Morrowmoor
Where met the brave Sir Tally-Ho
And the Black Knight, Tatty-By
One night in late Decemberish
Beneath a dark and brooding sky

Sir Tally-Ho by brookside paused
To quench his weary thirst, and rest
But as he stooped o’er the frozen lake
The ice reflected clear as glass
An image of his true-love laid
As if in death, but recent passed,
A lace veil drawn across her face
And at her breast both hands were clasped.

‘An evil omen this must be
To show my true-love so to me
Have I not left her two days since
Waving from her balcony?’

Up spoke a raven roosting near
‘An image only this will be
But come to pass it will, I fear,
Unless you meet your enemy
In battle by the third month hence
Upon the Field of Morrowmoor
And spill his blood upon the ground
Crimson ‘gainst the frost and hoar’

Frost and hoar
Frost and hoar
Upon the Field of Morrowmoor
Where fought the brave Sir Tally-Ho
And the Black Knight, Tatty-By
That night in late Decemberish,
So very long ago

And so set forth Sir Tally-Ho
Riding high and riding low
For forty days and fifty nights
And many more besides,
The land in ever-winter gripped
No breath, no life, save his alone
The ground as iron, hard as stone
The raven close behind

The black knight rode o’er hill and dale
Drawing with him in his wake
Horrors beneath night’s dark veil
And all around the earth did shake.
All Man’s defences built to last
Trembled as the knight rode past
And fell before his bloody lust
Leaving nought but ash and dust

Ash and dust
Ash and dust
A wilderness of dirt and rust
Upon the Field of Morrowmoor
Where Tally-Ho fought Tatty-By
Beneath a dark and brooding sky
So many years ago

And so at last it came to pass
The two knights met on Morrowmoor
And seeing naught but polished glass
They stood and stared in awe.

A mirror stretching wide and high
They looked into each others' eyes
Reflected in reflections on
And silence all around.

Then spake the white knight angrily
'What meaning here? How can this be?
I came to meet my enemy
Lest my true love should die.'

‘Ah, foolish man, can you not see?
That I am you and you are me?
I am the darkness in your soul
I am the part that makes you whole
And standing here on Morrowmoor
We are each other, nothing more,
And you will know no other love
Until you've bested me.'

Sword-blades thrust and armour flashed,
First a parry then a clash,
A high, a low, an in-between,
And not a pause for breath.

By light of sun and dark of moon
The knights in constant combat spin
For full four weeks ‘til both were spent
But neither could advantage win.

Their battle clean the mirror smashed
And shards of glass rained all around
And where these stabbed the barren ground
A blade of grass was born.

The two knights both exhausted stood
Fought to a standstill; they took root
Their armour rusted in the rain
And, to my knowledge, both remain.

Ages pass,
Tall grows the grass,
Long fingers gripping root and branch,
Two trees that from a clearing rose
Where once stood brave Sir Tally-Ho
And the Black Knight, Tatty-By
One night in late Decemberish,
Beneath a dark and brooding sky
So very long ago


  1. I admire your A Tale of Two Knights so much; the writing skill, the story and the rhythm. I feel it should be sung beside a campfire - so enchanting! Always fond of the grave metaphor a raven bears and the vision of Sir Tally-Ho's beloved was described beautifully... very vivid yet fragile.

    I can imagine all the wonderful ways your mind would adapt this poem into an animated film. The second mention of a veil makes me think of the woman's and the night's veils blending together. Elegantly eerie atmosphere to your tale, I love it.

    My favourite part has to be where the two knights face their shared reflection. The term "Until We Have Faces" has been significant to me in both C. S. Lewis' book so entitled and the band, RED's album. It also reminds me of a verse in Blind Guardian's "Mirror, Mirror":

    "Mirror, mirror on the wall,
    True hope lies beyond the coast
    You're a damned kind, can't you see?
    That tomorrow bears insanity/That the winds will change for me"

    All throughout you write so visually and meaningfully with space for the imagination to bloom. The ending is tense leading to a tranquil and thought-provoking finish... You should be famous.

    1. Thank you Amazonite for such wonderful feedback. Sorry it has taken so long to reply, I haven't been on here much lately.This started as a short nonsense poem but quickly decided it had to have a life of its own, and took 2 years to finish. I'm familiar with your references, but they weren't consciously in my mind at the time - more listening to English folk ballads and battling personal demons at the time, hence the battle with oneself as represented in the two knights = two sides of the same person. Much appreciated!