Then, when the air was full with these repeated loud complainings,
a strange madness
came upon him
He crept away and fled to the woods, unwilling that any should
see his going. Into the forest he went, glad to lie hidden beneath the
s. He watched the wild creatures grazing on the pasture of
the glades. Sometimes he would follow them, sometimes pass them
in his course. He made use of the roots of plants and of grasses, of
fruit from trees and of the blackberries
in the thicket. He became a
Man of the Woods
, as if dedicated to the woods. So for a whole
summer he stayed hidden in the woods, discovered by none,
forgetful of himself and of his own, lurking like a wild thing.
But when winter came and took all the plants and the fruit on the
Trees, and left him nothing to live upon,
he poured out these complaints in a pitiful voice:
'O Christ, God of heaven, what shall I do? What place is there
on earth where I can live? I see there is nothing here to eat--no
grass on the ground, no acorns on the tree.
'Nineteen were the apple trees
which once stood here with their
fruit: they stand so no longer. Who, who has stolen them from me?
Where have they gone so suddenly? Now I see them, now not. So
Fate both supports and opposes me, letting me see and preventing me from seeing.
'Now the apples fail me, and all else besides. The forest stands
leafless, fruitless. It is a double affliction: I can get no cover from
the leaves or nourishment from the fruit. Winter
and the rainstorms
borne on the south wind have taken them, every one. If I
happen to find turnips deep in the ground, hungry swine and greedy
boars rush up and snatch the turnips from me as I pull them up out of the soil.
, dear companion, you used to wander along the byways of
and through the glades with me: you scarcely get across
the field. Harsh hunger has weakened both you and me. You lived
in these woods before me, and age has turned you grey first. You
have nothing, know not your next meal. I wonder at it, for the
forest pastures abound in goats and other creatures you might take.
Perhaps it is just that your hateful burden of years has deprived you
of strength and prevented you hunting. All that is left to you is to
fill the air with howling, your wasted frame sprawled flat on earth.'
So he continued aloud as he went about among the undergrowth
and dense hazel
s. The sound reached a passer-by, who turned aside
towards the source of the speech he heard. He found the place and
he found the speaker. But Merlin
saw him, and was off. The traveller
followed, but could not keep up with the fugitive. So he returned to
his route and continued on his business; but he was touched by the
plight of the man who had fled.
Merlin's companion here is a wolf
; in Welsh, the word for wolf is bleidd
; in Robert de Boron
, and in the Didot Perceval
, Merlin's companion and clerk is a man called Blaise
The poem sets up the pattern of the wild man in the woods. Also, among the trees mention are particularly the apple tree--associated with Avalon, and also the title of a poem attributed to Myrddin--and the hazel--associated with the Well of Wisdom in Irish tradition.