The Land Without A King

The Land Without A King:

THEN stood the realm in great jeopardy long while, for every lord that was mighty of men made him strong, and many weened to have been king. Then Merlin went to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and counselled him for to send for all the lords of the realm, and all the gentlemen of arms, that they should to London come by Christmas, upon pain of cursing; and for this cause, that Jesus, that was born on that night, that he would of his great mercy show some miracle, as he was come to be king of mankind, for to show some miracle who should be rightwise king of this realm.

I have been gone too long.

I left behind a son I thought invincible; fearless. All his life, five years long, he feared 'neither fire nor iron,' as the heroes of Hrolf Kraki's hall swore they would not. He did not fear heights, nor strangers, nor thunder, nor anything at all. He never had.

Now he is terrified of everything. He clings to every leg, kisses and hugs everyone, as if to plead for kindness. He is given to illness and panic. I never knew how much of his courage was from me; but without me, his mother reminds me, he is only a little boy.

It has been a hard year. His grandmother's ashes will be buried tomorrow. His mother has been gone to care for her. His father has been gone long months, and will be gone long months yet. All the things he knew and trusted were swept away, and he was alone.

This is the message of Le Morte D'Arthur. It is the message of the Beowulf also: that the king is the land, and without his strength the people are broken apart, at the mercy of a merciless world. It is the message of the Odyssey:

There she found the lordly suitors seated on hides of the oxen which they had killed and eaten, and playing draughts in front of the house. Men-servants and pages were bustling about to wait upon them, some mixing wine with water in the mixing-bowls, some cleaning down the tables with wet sponges and laying them out again, and some cutting up great quantities of meat.

Telemachus saw her long before any one else did. He was sitting moodily among the suitors thinking about his brave father, and how he would send them flying out of the house, if he were to come to his own again and be honoured as in days gone by.
What have I done to this little boy?

What better men than me have done, I know. I know the reasons and could recite them better than most; and I believe in them. But there is the price, laid plain.

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