A Past and Future Secret by Blind Guardian from the album Imaginations From the Other Side

Oh, I haven't been here for a while
In blindness and decay
The circle's been closed, now

My song of the end
I've seen it all

Listen crowd I'll tell you everything
Though I have to say I don't know much
Talking about a past and future secret
Most called him once and future king
Far back in the past I saw his ending
Long before it started I knew his name
He's the one who took the sword out of the stone
It's how that ancient tale began
I hear it in the cold winds

My song of the end
I had seen it in my dreams
My song of the end
I can't stop the darkening clouds

I feel cold when I cry out for the bark
Take him back to Avalon
Dwell on for a new age
So long sleep well my friend
Take him back to Avalon
I will wait and guard the future king's crown

My song of the end
It was nice but now it's gone
My song of the end
It was fixed the whole time
My song of the end
I saw it all

This song is one of the more melodic tunes that Blind Guardian sings very similar in style to that of The Wizard - harp or harpsichord with a much more Celtic than heavy metal feel to it. This is not to say that there aren't any heavier spots in it.

The lyrics themselves tell of King Arthur - "the once and future king" as told by Merlin. Most often, the story of Merlin's end is that of being entrapped within a tree after having fallen in love with a maiden who then caged him (either she loves him and wants to keep him, or hates him and wants to destroy him - the end result is the same).

Merlin is sometimes seen as living backwards through time - growing younger and haven seen all the future - "My song of the end, I've seen it all" and indeed he has. Other accounts put him as the son of a nun and an incubus and thus he can see the future.

There are a two references to King Arthur in the first full verse of the song:

The second chorus mentions "I can't stop the darkening clouds". Some saw Merlin and King Arthur as an attempt to hold back the dark ages after the fall of the Roman Empire - a chance to unite the tribes of Britain against the Saxon invaders. Unfortunately, this attempt failed - the round table was destroyed and the knights scattered (Mordred sideing with the Saxons). In the end chaos and evil reigned and the dark ages fell upon Britain too as it did on Europe.

The last time Arthur was seen was when he went to Avalon after having been mortally wounded. Some versions have him being carried off, others say that a boat (at this point in the song I wonder about the double meaning here: 1) bark of a tree (that Merlin was traped in) 2) bark as an alternate spelling for barque - meaning boat. I tend believe #2 - "for the boat" rather than "from the bark"). In Avalon - a realm of the faerie, King Arthur was healed and waits to return. One of the prophecies of Merlin was that the world would not know if Arthur was dead or not.

The legends do not say what will happened to Arthur's crown (this is likely lyrical license by Blind Guardian). Arthur left his kingdom to Constantine, son of Cador of Cornwall:

Welcome, Constantine; you were Cador's son;
Here I bequeath to you all of my kingdom,
And guard well my Britons all the days of your life
And retain for them all the laws which have been extant in my days
And all the good laws which there were in Uther's days.
And I shall voyage to Avalon, to the fairest of all maidens,
To the Queen Argante, a very radiant elf,
And she will make quite sound every one of my wounds,
Will make me completely whole with her health-giving potions.
And then I shall come back to my own kingdom
And dwell among the Britons with surpassing delight.
(from Layman's Brut c 1200)
This event is placed by Geoffrey of Monmouth ("History of the Kings of Britain", c 1137) and Wace ("Story of Brutus" c 1155) in AD 542. Neither Wace, Layamon, nor Geoffrey mentioned the throwing of Excalibur into the lake - that is part of Le Morte d'Arthur written in 1469 by Sir Thomas Malory.

The accounts written by Wace and Layamon both indicate that Arthur will return when England is in need of aid:

He left his realm to Constantine, the son of Cador of Cornwall, and asked him to reign until his return.
(From Wace's "Story of Brutus")

And the Britons are still always looking for when Arthur comes returning.
Yet once there was a prophet and his name was Merlin:
He spoke his predictions, and his sayings were the truth,
Of how an Arthur once again would come to aid the English.
(From Layamon's Brut)

And thus the lines "Dwell on for a new age / So long sleep well my friend".

Authors differ on the amount of involvement of Merlin in Arthur's life from some helping King Uther (Arthur's father) to (magically) look like Igraine's husband so he could sleep with her and father Arthur (after the death of her husband, King Uther married her) - to the teaching of the young Arthur and informing the barons that the only person who could draw the sword from the stone was the rightful king. Merlin was thus responsible for giving the crown to Arthur (some writers more literally than figuratively) and helping win the war against the barons who did not accept Arthur's claim to the crown. It was Merlin who lead Arthur to the Lady of the Lake to receive Excalibur after breaking the Sword in the Stone in a battle with King Pellinor. However, many authors (Geoffrey, Wace and Layamon) did not have any involvement of Merlin in Arthur's reign beyond prophecy.

My song of the end
It was nice but now it's gone
My song of the end
It was fixed the whole time
My song of the end
I saw it all


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