August 2nd, 2010

Foret Des Dames Part 1

This is the poem with Pellinore in it- as requested by sovay .  It's an enormous thing. It'll take seven posts.

            Foret des Dames


"I come to these parts for the hunting, of course,"

Said the mild old man in the Harris tweeds,

Smoking his big Bavarian pipe

At the sunny close of the afternoon,

Perched on his shooting stick among sorrel

And kingcups down in the river field.

"Perhaps you've heard of the Questing Beast‑

A bit like a lion, a bit like a goat,

A bit like a serpent‑ yes that's the one.

Well I've been after it thirty years.

It's rife round here."  He paused; his eyes

Were suddenly shrewd and straight to the point.


"You're Pellinore," I ventured.



And you are lost and hoping I'll show you

The way to Alexandria."

He rolled it out like a breaking wave.


"That's right," I said, surprised he knew.


He smiled.  "Ah well, I'd be happy to take you

Part of the way.  We're going to go

Through the Foret des Dames."  He pointed his pipe

At the wall of trees above the field.

"It's full of the ghosts of silly women;

Harmless enough, but a bit of a nuisance‑

Worse than these midges."  He rose and flicked

His shooting stick from the turf and sloped it

Over his shoulder.


    We crossed the field

And climbed the stile in a blackthorn hedge

And entered the wood.


A grainy, even,
Subaqueous light enveloped us.

It was cool and damp with wood‑doves calling

Far and near.  We waded in

Through lush greenery, briars and branches

Plucking our sleeves.


I was wanting to watch Sherlock, but I got the time wrong- and missed the beginning by half an hour- so I watched a documentary about Balmoral instead. It's interesting how the Royal family- from Victoria and Albert down to the present lot- have been complicit in the invention of a fantasy version of Scotland. And I liked the suggestion that the decay of the Union may be linked as cause or effect or possibly both to the declining power of the monarchy. I agree with Philip Ziegler that Balmoral is an ugly, charmless place- and have sympathy for all those prime ministers and international statespersons who have been forced to endure the rain, the midges,  the walkies with the corgis, Prince Philip's barbecues and the Highland Games at Braemar. On second thoughts it serves them right. The name of the place has lent itself to the happy coinage "Balmorality" which aptly sums up all the qualities that make the Windsors (considered as a clan rather than as individuals) so utterly ghastly.