Arthur, are you there?Apr 4th, 2010 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
Monday and Tuesday, two days in England to reflect and take stock. The ferry departing from Rosslare at 9.00 in the morning; a hope that the storm will not be as bad as forecast.
Life never turned out as it might have done, but then life rarely does. The old Chinese curse of living in interesting times is avoided; life is very predictable.
Perhaps on Tuesday, time to go to South Cadbury and to climb Cadbury Hill. It was a place with mythical status in childhood; a place where legends began and ended. It was part of that irrational buoyant childhood belief that there was not anything in the world that could not be changed. There was always hope.
Cadbury Hill was a place of hope because it was where King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table lay sleeping, awaiting their appointed hour. Walking the hill, that sense of silly childish dreams returns. Stand and look at the country spread below, and there are, carried on the wind, hints of horses’ hooves and men’s voices.
Pointless imaginings, but amongst the books in the house there is a copy of T.H. White’s Once and Future King. Michael read it when the age at which I imagined that Arthur was real. It closes on a note of irrepressible optimism:
The old King felt refreshed, clear-headed, almost ready to begin again.
There would be a day– there must be a day– when he would come back to Gramarye with a new Round Table which had no corners, just as the world had none– a table without boundaries between the nations who would sit to feast there. The hope of making it would lie in culture. If people could be persuaded to read and write, not just to eat and make love, there was still a chance that they might come to reason.
But it was too late for another effort then. For that time it was his destiny to die, or, as some say, to be carried off to Avilion, where he could wait for better days. For that time it was Lancelot’s fate and Guenever’s to take the tonsure and the veil, while Mordred must be slain. The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea.
The cannons of his adversary were thundering in the tattered morning when the Majesty of England drew himself up to meet the future with a peaceful heart.
EXPLICIT LIBER REGIS QUONDAM REGISQUE FUTURI
Perhaps it is that sense of not an end, but a beginning, that will be sought on those grassy slopes.