Horror out of Welsh Mythology.
Excerpt from the Ballad of the Mari Lwyd
Mari Lwyd, Horse of Frost, Star-horse, and White Horse of the Sea, is carried to us.
The Dead return.
Those Exiles carry her, they who seem holy and have put on corruption, they who seem corrupt and have put on holiness.
They strain against the door.
They strain towards the fire which fosters and warms the Living.
The Living, who have cast them out, from their own fear, from their own fear of themselves, into the outer loneliness of death, rejected them, and cast them out for ever: The Living cringe and warm themselves at the fire, shrinking from that loneliness, that singleness of heart.
The Living are defended by the rich warmth of the flames which keeps that loneliness out.
Terrified, they hear the Dead tapping at the panes; then they rise up, armed with the warmth of firelight, and the condition of scorn.
It is New Year’s Night.
Midnight is burning like a taper. In an hour, in less than an hour, it will be blown out.
It is the moment of conscience.
The living moment.
The dead moment.
FINAL LINES OF THE POEM
O white is the frost on the breath-bleared panes
And the starlike fire within,
And our Mari is white in her starry reins
Starved through flesh and skin.
It is a skull we carry
In the ribbons of a bride.
Bones of the Nightfrost parry
Bones of the Fire inside.’
None can look out and bear that sight,
None can bear that shock.
The Mari’s shadow is too bright,
Her brilliance is too black.
None can bear that terror
When the pendulum swings back
Of the stiff and stuffed and stifled thing
Gleaming in the sack.’
Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight.
Hark at the hands of the clock.