Gloom Breaker – an ode on the tale of the heart-healing power of the songs of the birds of Rhiannon

I

At dim-lit dawn on Platform 1 in sombre throng
we stand forlorn in flat, sense-numb routine 
until from trackside trees bright breaks the redbreast song:  
clear, lucent water in a crystal stream   
We tend to think that we’ll not hear
such music at this time of year
yet chiffchaff, thrush and finch brave Winter’s squall   
Untensing, in my mental eye
I spread my wings; I rise and fly
upon the soothing sound set free, and then recall  

 

II

how Branwen’s hope lay likewise in her feathered friend  
as she in miniature set down her news:   
‘Come soon! I, Queen of Eire am by brute force detained  
Your sister, Bran, they torture and abuse’   
She ring-wise rolls her chosen words
and gently takes the docile bird’s
frail form and round a tiny leg she ties   
the note. A kiss, to wish it well
then through the window of her cell
releases it and skyward, swift the starling flies  

 

III

It lands, it sings, they read, they sail, but sail in vain:  
A fire claims her child – she can’t but grieve   
and though Bran’s fleet a wood had seemed upon the main  
Just queen and seven soldiers live to leave   
And these in shock, with aching hearts
Then board their ship and disembark
Across the sea in saddest state they sail
When finally they reach their home
She dies of grief with one last moan
In sympathy the voices of the songbirds fail.

 

IV

How heavy sat the sorrow of these seven men
While songbird silence held the land in thrall
They travelled on together through the gloom and then
They came to Harlech with its feasting hall
And here a wondrous sound they heard
Of great Rhiannon’s mystic birds
And suddenly sweet bliss displaced their pain
And here for seven happy years
This magic kept away their tears
As I too am uplifted waiting for my train.

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