Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, INTRODUCTION, by LAYAMON

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INTRODUCTION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There was a priest of yore, / layamon, the name he bore
Last Line: May hereafter the better be!

THERE was a priest of yore,
Layamon, the name he bore;
The son of Leuca he --
God to him gracious be --
At Ernley that priest did dwell
Where the churches be builded well;
There, upon Severn's flood,
The place, it seemed him good,
To Radestone was it nigh --
There he read books, verily,
And the thought upon him fell,
In his mind he pondered well,
How folk might by him be told
Of the noble deeds of old;
How men those folk did call,
Whence they had come withal,
Who first did England hold
As their own, in days of old,
After that flood was spent
Which God on the world had sent,
When every soul was drowned,
And no man alive was found
Save Noah, I trow, and Shem,
And Japhet and Ham with them;
These four, each one with his wife,
In the ark, they kept in life.
Layamon, as I understand,
He journeyed far thro' the land,
And sought for each noble book,
Which he as his model took;
The English book, to wit,
Which erst by Saint Bede was writ;
And one of Latin lore,
By Saint Albin made of yore,
And eke by fair Austin wrought
Who Baptism hither brought.
And a third book he took alway
Which he 'twixt the twain did lay --
('T was a French clerk made that same,
Wace, did men call his name,
And well did he write, I wis!
And he offered that book of his
To Eleanor, Henry's queen --
A high king was he, I ween.)
He laid those books adown,
That priest, hight Layamon,
He turned the leaves carefully,
And looked on them lovingly,
(God be gracious to him, I pray!)
Then a pen he took that day
And he wrote upon parchment fair
The true words together there,
And of these three books, anon,
For our use hath he made but one.
Now Layamon doth beseech
That good men, all and each,
For the love of God on high,
Who this book read verily,
And learn its runes alway,
That in soothfast words they pray
That his soul, who did him beget,
May in endless bliss be set,
And his mother's soul also,
Who bare him, such bliss may know;
And for Layamon pray that he
May hereafter the better be!

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