It was thus in the time of siege and famine:
A poor farmer sold his little daughter
To the asrais and nixies of the mere
So that the harvest might not fail again.
Then the farm prospered and all were fed
So no more was thought of the bargain
Though the reeds at the water’s edge
Sang of the prize that was expected.
And Meggan, growing fair but also strong
Took to ploughing with her horse,
Coming on her sixteenth birthday
To till the rich silty fields by the lake.
It was springtime and fine weather
And she and her horse Meadowmane
Worked quietly from shore to headland
As the gulls followed the turned turf.
On a start, a milk-white charger appeared
Its golden mane and tail flashing in the sun
Its dappled flanks afire with rainbow flecks
Snorting and prancing in courtship and display.
‘I know you Brookenhorse’, said the girl
‘The mount of Jenny Greenteeth Grindlelow
Sent from the dark depths of the mere
To claim me as a prize for the tarn-hag’.
Then the enchanted stallion came up
And nuzzled Meadowmane on the cheek
Nipping the old cart horse on the neck
At which the Brookenhorse shape-shifted
And took up the plough collar and traces
Heaving the ploughshare and coulter
With such force that the task was soon done
And the meadow seared with perfect furrows.
At which the Brookenhorse bolted for the lake
Taking with it both the plough and its mistress –
And she trapped by the reins that she had wound
To the handles was dragged beneath the water.
‘Welcome my beauty’ said Mother Grindelow
‘You my drowned princess are my catch now
Take up your deathly pallor and sleeves of green
And sing with us amid the mere of midnight silver’
‘I have my prizes now – my temptress Morgwen Fey –
And the sharp steels of the foreshare and coulter
With which to forge a sword of endless enmity –
The enchanted plough become the stuff of strife’.
But Meggan shunned the hell-bride and her watermaids
And dreamed of the bright spring meadow flowers
And the warm sun and scent of heaving Meadowmane –
Finding at last the Brookenhorse in its watery stall.
At which it flared its nostrils, reared and stamped,
Abject in its thrall to the monstrous Borrag Queen,
Now become once more an ancient broken steed
Mere knucker bones and hide, bleached by the depths.
But Meggan wept that it had lost its rainbow glimmer
And placed her arms around its neck in comfort
Reaching to her kirtle purse to find a scrap of bread
That she had kept to share with Meadowmane.
At which the Brookenhorse glowed fine and white again
Lustrous and resplendent in its strength and beauty
And she broke down the stall gate and freed the horse
Leaping to its back as it bolted for the sunlit sky
Seizing the sword of enmity now become destiny
That mystical Cut Steel – Cleft Evil wand Excalibur
Until at last they came to safety and the light of day
Where she became her maiden self with Meadowmane.
And her father threw his arms around her with joy
Lamenting only the loss of his much-loved plough
But handling with amazement the magic sword
That shone among the peaceful fields of plenty.
So in time a knight came, seeking justice and love
And found at last the sword beaten from the share
Taking it up reverently from the Lady of the Lake
Bringing her and her treasured milk-white foal to Camelot.
First Posted 4th May 2019 by Keith Shorrocks Johnson