The Bull of Conflict


‘I come from battle and conflict
With a shield in my hand;
Broken is the helmet
By the pushing of spears.’
The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir

On an empty day automata drift,
Wending suit shapes through the mist.
Touchless I fade like a symbol unhitched.
The spoils of war quake in the museum.
Piercing the grey wearing horns of a bull
A white warrior blackened and bloodied
Disguises his limp in an infinite gloom,
On his spear leans, softly says:
“My comrades are slain and yet I live,
I come from battle and conflict.”

His dire avowal brings howling winds,
Chill clutch at my shoulders their lament dins
Of hero light fading from mortal skin.
In glass cabinets swords clash savage,
Raging figures thrash on ragged pages
Chanting the desolate past of ravaged war bands.
With war-torn wisdom, sombrely he whispers:
“These gathered memories to you I give.
Gone are the days I crossed this land
With a shield in my hand.”

His barrage of sadness barks in my mind
Like hapless hounds on a winter’s night.
Fierce their madness, dark their plight,
For the perishing souls they collect,
The past’s great spirit protect.
Like thundering wind obligation overwhelms me.
The blade of futility threatens to unfasten me.
“How do I cherish and defend these memories
When like the kingdoms of Rheged and Elmet
Broken is the helmet?”

I ask the Bull of Conflict.
His tears run bright with the passing of time,
Chariots wheeling in multihued light,
Victims reflected in star lit skies.
He says, “This shadow land needs enchantment
To banish the blight of despair.
Nurture the memories with magic
And they’ll sing a blessed new year.
Do not be pressed into fear
By the pushing of spears.”



Artwork inspired by ‘The Bull of Conflict’ by Rhyd Wildermuth.

4 thoughts on “The Bull of Conflict

  1. simonhlilly says:

    Though possibly tangential, I have been considering the appearance of the Pleiades in Old Celtic art from a hint in the Second Branch. If one face of Gwyn is the Bull, then Orion/Sirius/Taurus/Pleiades may be woven into a single complex of some kind. (Graceful muscles are the words you speak ).

    • lornasmithers says:

      What’s the hint in the Second Branch? I’ve considered that, as a hunter god, Gwyn may be equated with Orion, Dormach (Gwyn’s dog) with Sirius, Tarvos Trigaranus (‘The Bull with Three Cranes’) with Taurus and the Pleiades with the Seven Whistlers (who fly with the Gabriel Ratchets – the Northern English equivalent of the Cwn Annwn). However, this all conjecture… I’d be intrigued to hear your thoughts.

  2. joarc2013 says:

    Hmm… Orion and Sirius are also equated with Isis and Osiris…
    Lorna your poetry is powerful and heartful…
    Simon – how good to see you – you collected power plants for essences from our garden many years ago (in Devon) hope you and Sue are hale and hearty…!

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