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Bardic Arts

The Cup, the Sword, the Hawk, the Chain

by
Siobhán ní hEodhusa
June Crown, 1999 (AS XXXIV)

A score years since King Stephen’s reign
Who made the young Guildemar belted knight
These made a fire in Radnor’s brain:
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
That he would stand on Hastings plain
And mark Jubilee with a martial rite
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Challenge he issued o’er the main
To Drachenwald’s king and assembled might
That who would honor dare maintain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Meet him where Godwin’s son was slain
And pluck up his pennon whence it was plight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Barely was Sol in the Ram’s domain
The dawn just beginning to conquer night
Radnor arose from where he’d lain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Kissed his dear lady, once and again
Then dressed him and armed for the coming fight.
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Flocks of small birds raised up their strain
That all who should hear knew a deep delight
Radnor strode out to that refain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Pride in him swelled as sharp as pain
When battles great abbey hove into sight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Gathered a host beside that fane
Their spirits as great as their number slight
Mistress Siranna’s speech was plain:
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
‘You called, Your Grace – Who would remain?
How could we but answer you if we might?”
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

High minded heroes all would fain
Keep vigil a while ‘ere the full daylight
Their contemplations to contain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
What might to chivalry pertain
That each man might later share his insight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Sagan arose: he would explain,
That ere each retires to his vigil site
One solemn act did yet remain:
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Poured from his hand in jingling rain
The chain that first sealed Radnor’s oath as knight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Houghton did first its path ordain
Then long in the Ermine’s line it was tight
That it might further honor gain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Bellatrix sent it back again
A while with Radnor to reunite
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Yet one more gift he would obtain –
A token with meaning more recondite
From Sagan’s hand again it came,
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
A silver chalice, fair yet plain
To stand as the grail of a questing knight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Radnor looked out o’er Hastings plain
His thoughts, without talons, would not alight
Turning from contemplations vain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
He saw glide past his windowpane
A hawk, real as he, in his hunting flight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

The day would pass with n’er a stain
Upon the fine warriors honor bright
Many the wounds they would sustain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
And yet unblemished would remain
The chivalrous spirit that was their might
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Alfred would fight with might and main
And Philip and Gerstan their loves requite
Christopher, like a hurricane
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Would greater reputation gain
With Morgan, and many a squire and knight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

Through all, the sword a king had lain
Across Radnor’s shoulders to dub him knight
Which had marked one where once was twain
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
Stood as the strong, unbroken skein
That Radnor’s life tapestry bound up tight
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light

That knightly ideal could not stain
That like his own blade was keen and bright
Chivalry’s soul, one cannot feign
The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
And hero-days we shall regain
As long as their dreams such a noble knight!
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have kindled old coals into present light
          The cup, the sword, the hawk, the chain
          Have summoned old souls into living sight


‘Commissioned as a commemorative epic by Duke Radnor of Guildemar’.’ -- Siobhán ní hEodhusa


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