The Bard did everything according to whether his breath came through the right or left nostril. Janet Jones went to him once and told him she thought I was dying in my luxury apartment in The Denizen. The Bard claimed his right breath was not working, and so he could not leave his Druid grove. Janet Jones assured me, however, that the Bard walked backwards and forwards, blowing air fiercely through one nostril, then the other. I have to record it, a number of people were coming to do him obeisance.
Despite my riches, he cared more for duping money out of new pupils than for me. However callously he behaved, I remained under his spell and forgave him everything.
I studied the science of the breath and found it changed every twenty-four minutes; coming through the left nostril, sometimes through the right, and sometimes through both. I had an old book about it called Gwyddoniaeth Anadl by Y Bard Arwyddion. It was claimed this work was in old or common Brythonic, and I studied it carefully. Even with Gaelic dictionaries I found the tome difficult to follow because it mixed up at least three Celtic languages. Academic linguists who’ve looked at it say the book is an obvious fake, written by someone who spoke modern Welsh almost fluently but who was far less dextrous when it came interpolating Breton and Cornish; not to mention the odd word here and there that the author’s defenders in a glossary claimed passed only into Cumbric, although the little known of that language – which has been dead for not quite a millennia – comes from secondary sources. I borrowed Gwyddoniaeth Anadl from a famous Bard, and he assured me it was the real deal.
I read that all steady actions, purchases, the pacification of anyone, cooking or marriage — the meeting of friend or Bardic master should, invariably must be done when the breath comes through the left nostril: indeed for the doing of good actions this breath, alone, proved favourable.
But in charming a woman, stopping a woman, in all cruel and passionate acts — mark the implication — the right breath was favourable.
When both the breaths were working, Y Bard Arwyddion said, not only no act could be successful, but disaster attended on one who acted when both the breaths were working: when air was coming in and out of both nostrils, one should pray. And if parents were breathing through both nostrils when they conceived a child their offspring would be gay. Y Bard Arwyddion seemed to view the latter as a bad thing, which struck me as bigoted.
When I protested to my Bard about his indifference, he swore that whenever I sent for him, his two breaths worked together and he dared not come to The Denizen. You do not throw your magical will against the power of The Goddess! Working with Her, all will be well — working against Her, I who with a breath once ruined a Bard, can testify that my own ruin was greater.
I was no longer happy with the Bard. He neglected me and was often angry with me when he deigned to visit The Denizen. I was frightened of his anger for he had no self-control and beat me with clenched fists till I cried. Equally, like a child when he was pleased, his transport passed all bounds. He taught me many quaint arts. Alchemy was one of the arts he really knew. I have made a great many bars of gold and silver from copper and tin.
The prepared gold and silver were of a quality far superior to any on the market. The gold was yellower than any known gold with a glitter that like nothing you’ve ever seen, and the silver was whiter and heavier than you’d expect. Janet Jones helped me despite not knowing my formula. I used this gold and silver only for the relief of the destitute, never for myself. There were a lot of poor people on the Golden Lane Estate, which was a few seconds walk from The Denizen, and an even more extensive ‘low end population’ on neighbouring social housing estates.
I wanted to advertise that the area’s poor could come and take as much gold and silver as they liked, but the Bard was furious at the very idea. He said that each man had his own destiny and if I interfered I’d sacrifice my own luck. The Goddess Herself, he said, never interfered. He exclaimed my impetuosity had already driven down the value of gold.
It was annoying to read that while I was making silver, new silver mines were found in Alaska, and my silver was growing valueless. A greater magic-will was combating mine and neutralising my advantages.
How do I make my gold? I have left the formula in full to The Hackney Preacher, Father William Taylor, if he dares to use it. It would be better if he doesn’t for considerable risks are run in its production. If the smoke from the arsenic gets into one’s eyes, blindness ensues, and the sulphur may explode. But sulphur and arsenic are the juvenile methods of the Western world.
I turn mercury into ashes by virtue of a Snowdonain herb, and one grain alone of these ashes in copper or tin does the rest. Even a grain of this gold in baser metals turns it into gold, and so on, 11,000 times, and then stops.
You, who would make gold, sit at the feet of a Bard. Give him your body, your mind and your wealth. Produce for him in agony of spirit and body children. Then the world will be yours, wealth untold. But you will have nothing you want to possess. Innocence, the power to appraise and be happy, these are greater gifts.
Once I threatened the Bard that I should divulge all his secrets. He smiled and told me to beware of the curse of the Muse. I asked him what that was and he replied that it was the curse given to those who talked too much. “Knowledge teaches,” he said, “but wisdom is always silent.”
Is it because the sphinx stands silent forever that the ages tolerate its ugliness, and the stony silence that gives power to the idols of the Druid groves? The Bard bade me, in all seriousness, to be warned in time that even his power would not be able to save me if I transgressed the law of the “Muse.”
“If you tell anything you have learned by virtue of the fact that you were you, paralysis will descend on you, and your lips will be sealed for ever.”
“Do you curse me?” I asked because I was frightened.
“One curses oneself,” he said carelessly, “by one’s own folly and impetuosity.”
The Bard’s curse obsessed me. I would start to write down its effects but the tips of my fingers went numb and my toes felt as if they were glued together. My spine ached incessantly and I was filled with a sense of uneasiness. I woke up at nights with my heart racing as the lights flamed around me.
I asked the Bard once if he or I were greater and he laughed heartily. “I am,” he said somewhat sadly, “in the world you are next to me because you are the greatest Muse of the world.”
He fell into a moody silence. He was often silent. I wanted to hear of his early life, and how he achieved his bardhood. But the more I questioned him, the more sullen and morose he grew. I learned nothing from him. Had he too suffered, I wondered, at the hands of his dead “High Priest”. Had he, too, wept in disillusionment as I wept?
Later, I met his brother and from him I heard of the Bard’s life before he took the white robe. Their uncle was a great Bard, though he called himself Barti Ddu or Black Bart, the beggar. This proud title of the beggar for a priest may well surprise the Chinese world, who thinking in prescribed manner do not know Wales at all. No one of high rank can be proud in Wales, and especially not its its princes; there were massive protests against the investiture of Charles Windsor AKA the so-called Prince of Wales in 1969.
Royalty and aristocrats in Wales must bow down before the likes of the local Robin Hood known as Twm Siôn Cati, and the country’s many famous pirates including Henry Morgan and Bartholomew Roberts AKA Black Bart. And we should not forget the Tarw Scotch or Scotch Bull of South Wales, groups of workers who in the nineteenth-century terrorised landlords, bosses, bailiffs and blacklegs, by destroying their property. Their motto was: “Y gelyn pob dychryndod” (The enemy of all fear). Nonetheless I shall speak of a Llewellyn or a Welsh prince later, for one was caught up in my circle.
I wandered in my thoughts and then my words. I often bring myself up with a jerk from the mere narration of my own story. I have annihilated time in my mind and when I am careless, everything stands still on a single point of nothingness.
The Bard was from a family of very poor dockers or stevedores. They were tasked with stealing alcohol from the cargos they were paid to unload, and supplying it to celebrants in the Druid groves all across Monmouthshire and Glamorgan. This illicit booze was essential to the daily worship of the Goddess, both as votive offerings and for drink fuelled mystical insight. The duty of taken stolen spirits to far flung corners of South Wales, more often than not, fell to my Bard. He was only ten years of age at the time, when fates made of him a neophyte and then a Bard. He had taken several bottles of whiskey out to Tonypandy on a full moon night.
A terrible storm suddenly arose which devastated the countryside for miles around and forced the boy to take shelter in what he took to be a deserted cave. The cave was very large, and at the furtherest end, an “Ovate” sat in deep meditation.
The boy of ten came under his spell. The “Ovate,” they said, awakened and touched the boy at the back of his neck, my Bard fell into a strange trance and dreamed wonderful visions. It’s asserted he never really woke from that trance. It was the end or the beginning — who shall say which is right — of the Newportian youth.
The Bard’s parents came to the cave many times and wept bitterly, imploring the “Ovate” to return their son, for, at that time, they had only one son. The High Priest dismissed them with rough words and kept the boy. Long afterwards he relented sufficiently to promise them other sons. The Bard, even at the age of ten, had been betrothed to a priest’s daughter: but as he never went back home, there could be no marriage and the girl later died from alcohol poisoning, after drinking ten pints of snake-bite and several bottles vodka.
The superstitious asserted that the High Priest himself had transformed himself into liquid alcohol and killed the girl out of spite. The Bard had four brothers in all. The one I met was the youngest of the four. He was counted as simple, was six-feet seven and a half inches in height, and in an eerie way was handsome. He had strange whims and fancies: and was often possessed by Balor Birugderc, the terrifying evil-eyed god of drought and blight.
When ridden by the Barlo, the Bard’s brother would fling his huge head backwards and forwards with sufficient force to crick the neck of one less strong. At these times, he had the gift of prophecy, and I know the Bard took his utterances very seriously; even if he did quietly complain to me and his disciples that he’d have preferred his brother to have been possessed by a Welsh god, while admitting things could be much worse, since at least Balor wasn’t a protestant martyr! Even when he wasn’t acting as a human host for the king of Irish demons, the Bard’s brother was an utter nutjob. Needless to say, he was a bigamist with many wives.
I record these strange things, hesitatingly, wondering whether I do well or not to record the beastliness in man. Sometimes, I think the beast is better than man. If he has his moments of uncontrolled passion it is to reproduce his kind, obeying only the urge of creation. But man and woman when he is the defiler of the chalice, and she the defiled cupcake, have fallen below the beast.