by Julian Turner

“Bards are a malicious and untrustworthy set of people”
– Giraldus Cambrensis

To all petty chapmen and pedlars
who wander abroad lodging in ale houses
all fencers, bearwards and common players
of enterludes and minstrels,
to all wodewoses, mendicants and peregrini,
madmen, jugglers, gleemen and buffoons,
to all beggars and to those exposing their wounds
for coin, all rhymers and their ilk,

understand that what you share in common
is greater than the Acts of Vagrancy:
you are indeed the well from which
the water of the gods is sourced,
the sacred spring from which all humankind
would drink – the art of foolishness –
intense, unreasoned, the words arose in him
and came forth in an unsightly flood

no one could understand: folly, poetry
and saintliness lie under the one blanket,
the refuse of the Earth, the witless and the mill-
horse are both as one thing,
the possession of deformity considered in itself
safeguard against malignant influence,
the fool’s mouth guarantee of fortunate success,
the power of dream and prophesy in ecstasy.

You feathered Gelts – put on your cloaks
and dance the god, chirrup like birds,
describe the place ten leagues beyond man’s life
the shadowlands inhabited by ghosts
and speaking serpents; lost souls who court
vituperation so as to obtain good luck,
sing of the overlooked and laughed at, sing
into this world protection from the evil eye,

sing the clairvoyance of your calling, who walk
asleep proclaiming the absurd, unbound;
sing for the imbecile and idiot, the men
so far ahead that they have met themselves
on their return and quizzed the grizzled souls
about the afterlife, the happy hunting ground.
Spirits who refuse to keep silent, unstop
the bottle of your voice and pour out its salve.

julian turner's picture

Born in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire in 1955, Julian Turner was educated at New College Oxford and Goldsmiths' College London. He has 3 collections of poetry published by Anvil, the most recent of which, Planet-Struck appeared in 2011. He is currently Royal Literary Fund Fellow for Leeds University

Last updated February 03, 2014