Brocéliande

Excerpted from French Wiki:

 

Brocéliande est une forêt mythique citée dans plusieurs textes, liés pour la plupart à la légende arthurienne. Ces textes, datés du Moyen Âge pour les plus anciens, y mettent en scène Merlin, les fées Morgane et Viviane, ainsi que certains chevaliers de la table ronde. D’après ces récits, la forêt de Brocéliande héberge le val sans retour, où Morgane piège les hommes infidèles jusqu’à être déjouée par Lancelot du lac ; et la fontaine de Barenton, réputée pour faire pleuvoir. Brocéliande serait aussi le lieu de la retraite, de l’emprisonnement ou de la mort de Merlin.

Le premier texte à la citer est le Roman de Rou, rédigé par le poète anglo-normand Wace vers 1160. C’est dans les textes postérieurs que Brocéliande trouve son nom actuel et la plupart de ses attributions, sans que sa localisation physique ne soit évidente. La première revendication physique de cette forêt remonte au 30 août 1467 lorsque les Usemens et Coustumes du foret de Brecilien sont écrits au château de Comper par un certain Encore, chapelain du comte Guy XIV de Laval. Ces revendications physiques évoluent au fil des années. Au début du XIXe siècle, Brocéliande est assimilée à la Forêt de L’orge (dite forêt de Quentin). Depuis les années 1850, différents auteurs l’associent surtout à la forêt de Paimpont, au point que cette théorie devient la plus largement admise par la culture populaire. Seules les communes situées autour de la forêt de Paimpont utilisent le nom « Brocéliande ».

Depuis les années 1980, d’autres théories postulent sa localisation près de Huelgoat, de Dol, à Paule ou en Normandie, notamment près du Mont Saint-Michel.

L’étymologie est incertaine. La plus ancienne forme connue, Brecheliant, a fait supposer que le toponyme serait basé sur le celtique Brec’h (colline), suivi d’un nom d’homme. Brecilien supposée comme forme ancienne celtique de Brécheliant est, elle, basée sur bre (colline ayant ici le sens de motte castrale) et le nom d’homme Silien ou plutôt Sulien, même si selon certains l’étymologie en *bré pourrait aussi désigner « le fauche » ou encore « la battu du désert », un point bas et marécageux. Chez les trouvères, « Bresilianda » désignait la Bretagne armoricaine en entier. Gwenc’hlan Le Scouëzec traduit Bresilien par « la Butte à l’anguille », ce qui d’après lui « a le mérite d’intégrer au nom de la forêt de Brocéliande les « fables » concernant les fées des eaux vives ».

La forme Brocéliande, plus tardive, pourrait être basée sur bro (signifiant pays en breton), mais la forme est suspecte et il faut attendre Chrétien de Troyes pour la trouver comme variante. D’après Jean-Yves Le Moing, « Brocéliande » est « une francisation récente » de la forme « Brécilien », « peut-être influencée par les termes gallo-romans brosse (buisson) et lande ». Une étymologie populaire la décompose en « broce », forêt et « liande », lande.

Brocéliande est citée dès le XIIe siècle dans les romans de la matière de Bretagne, ce qui coïncide avec les premiers textes en langue vernaculaire. D’après Philippe Walter, cette littérature atteste que « le mythe de Brocéliande n’est pas une invention récente ».

Wace cite les chevaliers bretons qui participent à la conquête de l’Angleterre, et parmi eux « Ceux de Brecheliant (sic) dont les Bretons disent maintes légendes… ». Il cite aussi la fontaine de Barenton, qui a des propriétés merveilleuses : « La fontaine de Berenton/sort d’une part lez le perron… ».

 

Il faut ensuite attendre Chrétien de Troyes qui, vingt ans plus tard et dans le Chevalier au lion, évoque Brocéliande comme une forêt merveilleuse dont la fontaine (qu’il ne nomme pas) est défendue par un chevalier invincible. Entre 1180 et 1230, Brocéliande est citée par divers auteurs : Huon de Mery, Guillaume Le Breton, Giraud de Barri, Alexandre Neckam, Robert de Boron, et apparaît dans le roman occitan de Jauffré.

Les œuvres de la légende arthurienne qui mentionnent cette forêt sont Yvain ou le chevalier au lion, Brun de la Montagne, le Merlin en prose, Le Roman de Ponthus et Sidoine, et Claris et Laris.

Aucun auteur n’indique la position exacte de la forêt. Au mieux, comme on peut le constater à la lecture des sources, ils indiquent que la forêt se trouve en Bretagne armoricaine. Vers 1230, Robert de Boron est le premier à associer Merlin à Brocéliande.

Les auteurs anciens étant muets sur la localisation de Brocéliande, il existe plusieurs hypothèses de valeurs inégales pour la situer. L’historien Arthur de la Borderie mentionne trois Brecilien (ou Bressilien) en Bretagne. Il s’agit de trois lieux nobles ayant possédé une motte féodale : le Brécilien de Paule, dans les Montagnes Noires, le Brecilien près de Paimpont et Montfort, et le Bressilien de Priziac. La forêt de Paimpont n’est pas nommée tout entière « Brécilien », mais compte un lieu-dit de ce nom. Il existe aussi un lieu-dit Bercelien à Plouer-sur-Rance. Aucune preuve historique ou archéologique n’atteste que ces différents lieux aient été jadis situés dans une même forêt, la grande forêt centrale armoricaine étant un mythe.

Pour Wace, Brocéliande se situe en Bretagne armoricaine alors que pour Chrétien de Troyes elle semble se situer en Grande-Bretagne. L’une de ces hypothèses serait que Brocéliande n’a jamais existé, et qu’il s’agirait d’un mythe relayé par Wace, puis repris par Chrétien de Troyes à partir du texte de ce dernier.

La première localisation non ambiguë de Brocéliande date de 1429 lorsque Jean d’Orronville rattache la forêt mythique à celle de Quintin. Quelques années plus tard, le 30 août 1467, la charte des « Usemens et Coustumes de la foret de Brecilien », est écrite au château de Comper, près de Paimpont, par un certain Lorence, chapelain du comte de Laval. Ce manuscrit reprend le texte de Wace jusque dans la description de la fontaine qui ferait pleuvoir : « […] il y a une fontayne nommée la fontayne de Bellenton, auprès de laquelle fontayne le bon chevalier Ponthus fist ses armes, ainsi que on peult le voir par le livre qui de ce fut composé ». L’auteur, une personne avertie, donne ses sources en citant le Roman du chevalier de Ponthus. Dans Hauts lieux de Brocéliande, Claudine Glot voit dans cette charte la plus ancienne localisation de Brocéliande identifiée aux terres de Guy de Laval, seigneur de Comper. Mais selon Goulven Peron, l’auteur du roman de Ponthus (texte écrit vers l’an 1400) songeait peut-être déjà à la forêt de Paimpont lorsqu’il racontait les aventures du chevalier Ponthus dans la forêt de Brecilien : « L’auteur anonyme de ce roman, même s’il ne localise pas précisément Brocéliande, donne un certain nombre d’indices qui peuvent laisser penser qu’il avait en tête la forêt de Paimpont. ».

À cette époque, les grandes familles bretonnes tentent d’appuyer leur gloire en revendiquant la possession de terres arthuriennes, ainsi, en 1475, les Rohan affirment descendre d’Arthur et posséder le château de la Joyeuse Garde « où le roi Arthur tenait sa cour ». Les Laval, reconnaissant en leur terre de Brecilien, le Brecheliant de Wace, inventent la « fontaine magique » et se proclament ainsi seigneurs de Brocéliande.

 

Aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, les auteurs romantiques défendent différentes localisations : l’abbé de La Rue évoque la forêt de Lorge près de Quintin, Châteaubriand l’identifie à Becherel, écrivant d’ailleurs : « Au XIIe siècle, les cantons de Fougères, Rennes, Bécherel, Dinan, Saint-Malo et Dol, étaient occupés par la forêt de Brécheliant ; elle avait servi de champ de bataille aux Francs et aux peuples de la Domnonée. Wace raconte qu’on y voyait l’homme sauvage, la fontaine de Berenton et un bassin d’or. ». Certains auteurs, dont le plus imaginatif semble être Blanchard de la Musse, retrouvent la charte des Usemens de Brecilien datée de 1467, et placent le Tombeau de Merlin et le val sans retour dans les environs de Montfort et de Paimpont. Dès la fin du XVIIIe siècle, « l’identification entre la forêt de Paimpont et Brocéliande constitue comme une sorte de vérité historique » et en 1835, elle fait pratiquement l’unanimité. À partir de la désignation de ce site, différents éléments qui le composent (rochers, mégalithes, fontaines, étangs) sont nantis de légendes liées au cycle arthurien.

TALIESIN

Excerpted from:

The Mabinogion, tr. by Lady Charlotte Guest, [1877], at sacred-texts.com

{My dad used to work at her family steelworks in Cardiff. Whenever we go to Palacret and see the weir, I am reminded of this.}

———————————-

IN times past there lived in Penllyn a man of gentle lineage, named Tegid Voel, and his dwelling was in the midst of the lake Tegid, and his wife was called Caridwen. And there was born to him of his wife a son named Morvran ab Tegid, and also a daughter named Creirwy, the fairest maiden in the world was she; and they had a brother, the most ill-favoured man in the world, Avagddu. Now Caridwen his mother thought that he was not likely to be admitted among men of noble birth, by reason of his ugliness, unless he had some exalted merits or knowledge. For it was in the beginning of Arthur’s time and of the Round Table.

So she resolved, according to the arts of the books of the Fferyllt, to boil a cauldron of Inspiration and Science for her son, that his reception might be honourable because of his knowledge of the mysteries of the future state of the world.

Then she began to boil the cauldron, which from the beginning of its boiling might not cease to boil for a year and a day, until three blessed drops were obtained of the grace of Inspiration.

And she put Gwion Bach the son of Gwreang of Llanfair in Caereinion, in Powys, to stir the cauldron, and a blind man named Morda to kindle the fire beneath it, and she charged them that they should not suffer it to cease boiling for the space of a year and a day. And she herself, according to the books of the astronomers, and in planetary hours, gathered every day of all charm-bearing herbs. And one day, towards the end of the year, as Caridwen was culling plants and making incantations, it chanced that three drops of the charmed liquor flew out of the cauldron and fell upon the finger of Gwion Bach. And by reason of their great heat he put his finger to his mouth, and the instant he put those marvel-working drops into his mouth, he foresaw everything that was to come, and perceived that his chief care must be to guard against the wiles of Caridwen, for vast was her skill. And in very great fear he fled towards his own land. And the cauldron burst in two, because all the liquor within it except the three charm-bearing drops was poisonous, so that the horses of Gwyddno Garanhir were poisoned by the water of the stream into which the liquor of the cauldron ran, and the confluence of that stream was called the Poison of the Horses of Gwyddno from that time forth.

Thereupon came in Caridwen and saw all the toil of the whole year lost. And she seized a billet of wood and struck the blind Morda on the head until one of his eyes fell out upon his cheek. And he said, “Wrongfully hast thou disfigured me, for I am innocent. Thy loss was not because of me.” “Thou speakest truth,” said Caridwen, “it was Gwion Bach who robbed me.”

And she went forth after him, running. And he saw her, and changed himself into a hare and fled. But she changed herself into a greyhound and turned him. And he ran towards a river, and became a fish. And she in the form of an otter-bitch chased him under the water, until he was fain to turn himself into a bird of the air. She, as a hawk, followed him and gave him no rest in the sky. And just as she was about to stoop upon him, and he was in fear of death, he espied a heap of winnowed wheat on the floor of a barn, and he dropped among the wheat, and turned himself into one of the grains. Then she transformed herself into a high-crested black hen, and went to the wheat and scratched it with her feet, and found him out and swallowed him. And, as the story says, she bore him nine months, and when she was delivered of him, she could not find it in her heart to kill him, by reason of his beauty. So she wrapped him in a leathern bag, and cast him into the sea to the mercy of God, on the twenty-ninth day of April.

And at that time the weir of Gwyddno was on the strand between Dyvi and Aberystwyth, near to his own castle, and the value of an hundred pounds was taken in that weir every May eve. And in those days Gwyddno had an only son named Elphin, the most hapless of youths, and the most needy. And it grieved his father sore, for he thought that he was born in an evil hour. And by the advice of his council, his father had granted him the drawing of the weir that year, to see if good luck would ever befall him, and to give him something wherewith to begin the world.

And the next day when Elphin went to look, there was nothing in the weir. But as he turned back he perceived the leathern bag upon a pole of the weir. Then said one of the weir-ward unto Elphin, “Thou wast never unlucky until to-night, and now thou hast destroyed the virtues of the weir, which always yielded the value of an hundred pounds every May eve, and to-night there is nothing but this leathern skin within it.” “How now,” said Elphin, “there may be therein the value of an hundred pounds.” Well, they took up the leathern bag, and he who opened it saw the forehead of the boy, and said to Elphin, “Behold a radiant brow!”

“Taliesin be he called,” said Elphin. And he lifted the boy in his arms, and lamenting his mischance, he placed him sorrowfully behind him. And he made his horse amble gently, that before had been trotting, and he carried him as softly as if he had been sitting in the easiest chair in the world. And presently the boy made a Consolation and praise to Elphin, and foretold honour to Elphin; and the Consolation was as you may see:–

“Fair Elphin, cease to lament!
Let no one be dissatisfied with his own,
To despair will bring no advantage.
No man sees what supports him;
The prayer of Cynllo will not be in vain;
God will not violate his promise.
Never in Gwyddno’s weir
Was there such good luck as this night.
Fair Elphin, dry thy cheeks!
Being too sad will not avail.
Although thou thinkest thou hast no gain,
Too much grief will bring thee no good;
Nor doubt the miracles of the Almighty:
Although I am but little, I am highly gifted.
From seas, and from mountains,
And from the depths of rivers,
God brings wealth to the fortunate man.
Elphin of lively qualities,
Thy resolution is unmanly;
Thou must not be over sorrowful:
Better to trust in God than to forbode ill.
Weak and small as I am,
On the foaming beach of the ocean,
In the day of trouble I shall be
Of more service to thee than three hundred salmon.
Elphin of notable qualities,
Be not displeased at thy misfortune;
Although reclined thus weak in my bag,
There lies a virtue in my tongue.
While I continue thy protector
Thou hast not much to fear;
Remembering the names of the Trinity,
None shall be able to harm thee.”

And this was the first poem that Taliesin ever sang, being to console Elphin in his grief for that the produce of the weir was lost, and, what was worse, that all the world would consider that it was through his fault and ill-luck. And then Gwyddno Garanhir asked him what he was, whether man or spirit. Whereupon he sang this tale, and said:–

“First, I have been formed a comely person,
In the court of Caridwen I have done penance;
Though little I was seen, placidly received,
I was great on the floor of the place to where I was led;
I have been a prized defence, the sweet muse the cause,
And by law without speech I have been liberated
By a smiling black old hag, when irritated
Dreadful her claim when pursued:
I have fled with vigour, I have fled as a frog,
I have fled in the semblance of a crow, scarcely finding rest;
I have fled vehemently, I have fled as a chain,
I have fled as a roe into an entangled thicket;
I have fled as a wolf cub, I have fled as a wolf in a wilderness,
I have fled as a thrush of portending language;
I have fled as a fox, used to concurrent bounds of quirks;
I have fled as a martin, which did not avail;
I have fled as a squirrel, that vainly hides,
I have fled as a stag’s antler, of ruddy course,
I have fled as iron in a glowing fire,
I have fled as a spear-head, of woe to such as has a wish for it;
I have fled as a fierce hull bitterly fighting,
I have fled as a bristly boar seen in a ravine,
I have fled as a white grain of pure wheat,
On the skirt of a hempen sheet entangled,
That seemed of the size of a mare’s foal,
That is filling like a ship on the waters;
Into a dark leathern bag I was thrown,
And on a boundless sea I was sent adrift;
Which was to me an omen of being tenderly nursed,
And the Lord God then set me at liberty.”

Then came Elphin to the house or court of Gwyddno his father, and Taliesin with him. And Gwyddno asked him if he had had a good haul at the weir, and he told him that he had got that which was better than fish. “What was that?” said Gwyddno. “A Bard,” answered Elphin.

The Hooded Man

hunting echoes

in a canyon

with a ceremonial

drum

 

wearing an overcoat

of shadows

belonging to

someone else

 

seeking a river’s tears

under a willow tree

being coy with carp

and an egret

 

wobbling with

the newborn deer

in ignorance grass

on poppy meadows

 

where remembering

brings no opium

not for ghosts

or djinns

 

counting cherry stones

piled in perfect balance

a heap of Sakurai

in the making

 

a sandwich of Satori

rice paper fine

and as delicate

as dew

 

the dawn chases away

echoes and shadows

and walks daisies,

petal footsteps in the stream

 

tickling toes between

washing scales

as the sunlight

twinkles

 

the mists yawn

the trees sway

dancing mirror ponds

shimmer sequins

 

the stars stretch

their cosmic arms

teasing the hair

of night’s sky

 

and now even echoes

chime no more

Pie Jesu in the snow

as a lamb sings

 

frolicking with buttercups

and dents-de-lions

shorn of shadow coats

and now naked

 

no more soul

to clothe him

not now

not ever

 

the land of shadows

fades misty fast

without meals

or succour

 

and diamond eyed,

glinting galaxies,

he pulls up his cowl

the hooded man

 

… … hunts no more

Hidden Dragon

Beneath the granite

the slate and the shale

dripping mystic tears

the cave broods

lachrymal

 

Each hesitant drop

marks time, as it

ekes a basin

out the rocks;

the metronome of destiny

 

Myddrin of the opened eye

watches from afar

as Taliesin he opines

and verses Bardic on

the gathering Eisteddfodau of dreams

 

‘neath the cornerstone

the hidden Dragon stirs

scratching an ear

with a claw,

pensive on his waking

 

Who calls forth

the Dragon from his sleep?

Who has the temerity

to enter his brooding lair?

Who summons the Dragon’s breath?

 

Stretching lithe

and yawning wide

he flexes wings

unfurled flags

and blinking eyes

 

He remembers when

he came here

from the Dragon’s realm

high on the cosmic planes

to be Sentinel

 

Again the eye is open

he climbs out the cave

to his mountain Eyri

to espy

the world of men

 

And he breathes

the very hush of Dragon’s breath

rolling over fields

under doors

to permeate, to permeate

 

The breath clings

holding its magic lore

intact, sensing smells

and nuance

as the Dragon now inhales

 

He breathes again

primordial

Jurassic

and before

to cloak the world

 

For in the mist

of Dragon’s breath

only he can see

and as the Sentinel of eternity

he must ever watch

 

With eyes keen

beyond ken

and sharp,

as sharp

as the Sword of Taia.

 

Y Ddraig Glas

the very last of the Sentinels

is now abroad

and his aeonial purpose

beckons