The Light


R S is striding down the hill through the early morning light. Clear, tight. His jaw stretches like paper. He hasn't shaved perfectly, bristles on the chin are missed. The fields behind him are full of mangles, green top, the soil in overgrown furrows. The hedges stand exactly where they did on the ancient maps. This landscape, his landscape, it doesn't change much.

In his hand he clutches a copy of Peter Meuiller's Distaff and the catalogue of book-bound objects showing at the European Centre for Traditional and Regional Culture at Llangollen, Clwyd. Childe Roland's paper book in a bottle, his bindings of torn paper, colours overlaid and rolling like waves, treaties with subject but no content, gestalt whiteness, French and welsh merging, fel melin, fel ymbarel, fel eli, fel melfa, fel tawel, fel dychwel, What are your plans for the future, my lord, Ham and Jam? There is light in these works; sometimes nothing but. Where else in this northern fastness can you find the word for light repeated so often that it glows. The friction of the signifier, the concrete base of Meuiller's brightness makes sparks in the Welsh air.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. A poem by Robert Browning published in Men and Women (1855). The title comes from a snatch of song recited by Edgar in King Lear. To maintain his practice and his position Browning had resolved to write a poem a day. The Lear song comes from the age of Arthur where Childe Rowland, aided by the instruction of Merlin, makes his way to a castle to rescue his sister who has been carried there by fairies. "Child Rowland to the dark tower came, / His word was still 'Fie, foh, and fum / I smell the blood of a British man.'

R S hums the snatch, feet in their brogues crushing the earth clod, small dust flurries rise as they pass. The light here has never been good. No depth or range of colour, only grey and green. And the wind blowing. Meuiller in his guise as Childe Roland has adopted these lands. On them he mixes his native Canadian French with the Welsh of the stones. His dissertation was a blank book with a long line running from page one to page three hundred. The line was English, if a line can carry tongue. It sped from where the idea began to where the idea finished. Do ideas finish? R S is unsure.

On the headland facing Ynys Enlli, island of the saints, Bardsey, birds and graves, and holy stones, Roland has assembled a choir. Slowly they sing the Shearwater Oratorio - dit dit dah dit - Roland's Morse code translation of the Manx Shearwater's enigmatic cry. R S wasn't there. The text in his hands is colourless and silent. But on Bardsey, the shearwater's breeding ground, is a cloud of wings, a storm of sound.

R S walks on. You can't rely on things. He knows that. Childe Roland doesn't engage language from the outside. He assembles it from within. R S stuffs the poems inside his coat. Read them again later. Worry about the consequences. Or keep the whole thing a life secret? Behind him the sun's light streams in through the clouds. The paleness banished. Fel cerdd newydd. Nawr.

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