Whichever way the visitors choose to come –
up the steep, narrow road with blind corners
and left onto the Harlech Castle car park
or walking down from the high street – most
make for the statue, especially those
with young children attracted by the horse.
It is a war horse, so the tail is docked.
Its neck and head are lowered, its legs splayed,
its nostrils flaring, its eyes wide. It carries
two kings: Bendigeidfrân – Brân the Blessed
– and his nephew, Gwern, a boy still, who lies dead
across the horse’s flanks, bound in a cloth
wrapped tightly round his uncle. Brân – whose name
means ‘Raven’ – is hairless, his arms merely stumps
and his legs lopped off below the knee.
He was once a giant who crossed the sea
in a dozen strides. Later in these same
Irish wars his head will be severed.
His seven companions will bring it back
talking to Harlech, where it will hold court
for seven years. They will bury it
on the westernmost isle of Gwales.
The sculptor’s work is mostly busts or statues
in bronze of figures of note: statesmen,
soldiers, artists, and these mystic kings
from the Mabinogion. Most visitors
are silenced by the three figures though some
seem unconcerned by the horror or are
too embarrassed to mention it.
The littoral that features in the stories
is now populated with caravan sites.
Such rhetorical bathos is arriviste,
for they were bards for millennia,
makers of metaphor. ‘The severed head
spoke. But one, curious for truth, opened
the forbidden door…’. Before messiahs,
before calendars, before the curve
of the imagination, ‘the waters
turned, replete with gods and birds, unsung,
unblessed, empty of man’.
Note: The statue is ‘The Two Kings’ by Ivor Roberts-Jones – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivor_Roberts-Jones.