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To continue with Thomas Gray’s The Bard: A Pindaric Ode. Recall from the previous postEdward I, after his conquest of Wales [1283], ordered all bards to be slaughtered in order to draw the people’s cultural and nationalistic sting.”

The poem opens as Cambria [Wales], embodied by the lone surviving poet, stands amongst his slain brethren. He casts a curse upon the tyrant Edward Longshanks which foretells “long years of havock” to his heirs – the first being the brutal murder of his son…

The Bard, 1774, by Welsh artist Thomas Jones

The Bard, 1774, by Welsh artist Thomas Jones


‘Weave the warp, and weave the woof,
The winding-sheet of Edward’s race. 
Give ample room, and verge enough
The characters of hell to trace.
Mark the year, and mark the night,
When Severn [Edward II] shall re-eccho with affright
The shrieks of death, thro’ Berkley’s roofs that ring,
Shrieks of an agonizing King!
She-Wolf of France, [Queen Isabel] with unrelenting fangs,
That tear’st the bowels of thy mangled Mate,
From thee be born, who o’er thy country hangs
The scourge of Heav’n. What Terrors round him wait! 
Amazement in his van, with Flight combined,
And Sorrow’s faded form, and Solitude behind.

And so catastrophe continues to plague Edward’s heirs through the antistrophe. In the last lines of the epode, the Bard claims victory over the Hammer of the Scots (and Welsh Bards)  !

To triumph, and to die, are mine.’
He spoke, and headlong from the mountain’s height
Deep in the roaring tide he plung’d to endless night.

The Bard, John Martin, circa 1817

The Bard, John Martin, circa 1817

The Bard, by Welsh artist Thomas Jones, is as melancholic as the opening strophe. The poet is “Robed in the sabled garb of woe… Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre.”  He glances back at the Stonehenge (ish) circle of stones. They represent the antiquity of Welsh Bards, thought to be descendants of Celtic Druids.


NOTE: I’ve reposted a slightly larger image of The Bard (by John Martin) because I can almost hear his rage at Edward’s troops (lower left) moments before his final triumph. 

The Bard: A Pindaric Ode
Thomas Gray (1757)