Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Above: Wolstonbury Hill seen looking south, the hill I had in mind for The Flight of Taliesin : A Downland Chase, below.

The Flight of Taliesin : A Downland Chase

Following a request to give some info as to what this painting is about: during the story of Taliesin, the Welsh mythical/magical bard, he is chased by the witch/giantess Ceridwen, just after he has received his powers of inspiration from the liquor in the cauldron. He changes into a hare to run away swiftly, but she changes into a grey hound and takes up chase. This is repeated every Winter in the stars as Canis Major the Hound with bright Sirius for eye chases Lepus the Hare, located just below Orion. These are low constellations and so the chase can actually be seen running over the tops of hills of the southern horizon, such as the Downs. I live in Westmeston on Black Dog Hill from which the chase can be viewed over the high ridge of Ditchling Beacon, but in my painting the hill recalls nearby Wolstonbury, chosen because the dome shape echoes the curve traced in the sky by the constellations as they move from East to West. 

I've written a poem about this mythological episode: 

At first I was a normal lad like you
My gift was knowing how to make ale brew
The art of making liquor froth and foam
Then one day I wandered from my home
And met two witches round their cauldron seated
I showed how, without it being heated,
Liquor can be made to boil and rise
Seeing this the two showed great surprise
They turned to me and then began to ask
If I would do for them a certain task
They had to go and gather herbs of power
And to find a soothing yellow flower
While away they could not tend their brew
This simple task I then agreed to do
The purpose of the brew I’ll now explain
One of them, Ceredwen her name,
Had a crow-child, harsh upon on the eyes,
To compensate she thought she’d make him wise
Once imbibed the potion would impart
Great beauty to his words, and great art.
Ceredwen was clear as she could be
The contents of the cauldron weren’t for me
But while they were away the bubbling broth
Spat drops onto my thumb, which I licked off
At once an eloquence instilled my mind
And knowledge of a strong prophetic kind
Such that on returning they could see
What had occurred, and I was forced to flee
I changed into a hare and quickly raced
She, a black grey-hound, angrily chased
I dived, a darting fish, into a lake
And she an otter-bitch’s form did take
Then, a little bird, I rose in flight
She followed as a hawk of piercing sight
I saw a barn and flew in through the door
And there I saw a pile upon the floor
Of winnowed wheat for use in making beer
I quickly hatched a plan to disappear
I shrunk down to a grain of tiny size
And fell into the pile in this disguise
Ceredwen came in, a fire-red hen
She searched and searched until she found the grain
Now there was no place for me to hide
She gulped the grain down into her inside
As this seed I journeyed through the gloom
And found my way into the witch’s womb
Seeding myself there inside the hen
And in this chamber I was formed again
And so, grown from that little seed of corn,
I, of second mother, was reborn
A mother’s kindness cooled the witch’s wrath
Towards the one who’d drunk her magic broth
But still she would not raise me as her own
Into a leather bag I was now sewn
This bag she placed inside a little boat
There upon the river’s flow to float
In that darkness secrets I was shown
A wisdom without words was then made known
And just as I was running out of air
Suddenly, fair Elffin, you were there.

1 comment:

Celestial Elf said...

Wonderful Pictures and Great Post :D
You might like my
Taliesin's Battle Of The Trees machinima film,
Bright Blessings By Stone and Star,
Celestial Elf ~