fragments of
an attempted writing


This prophecy Merlin shall make
for I live before his time

notes to the title page

Teste David cum Sybilla: the medieval poem Dies Irae, which is the Sequence (a poem sung or said immediately before the Gospel) in Roman masses for the dead, begins with this stanza:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sibylla

(The day of wrath, that day shall destroy the world in ash, as David and the Sybil testify)

David is the Psalmist. The Sybil of the Dies Irae, and of the middle ages in general, is an aged prophetess described by Virgil in the third and the sixth books of the Aeneid. In the former we are told how she writes her oracular utterances on leaves which are scattered by the wind, and in the latter she is Aeneas's guide to the underworld.

The complete text of the poem will be found in Wikipedia. There are many references to it in The Anathemata.

This prophecy . . .

Shakespeare King Lear Act 3 scene 2 line 81. The Fool speaks:

I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go.
When priests are more in word than matter,
When brewers mar their malt with water,
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors,
No heretics burned but wenches’ suitors,
When every case in law is right,
No squire in debt nor no poor knight,
When slanders do not live in tongues,
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs,
When usurers tell their gold i’ th’ field,
And bawds and whores do churches build—
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.
. . .
This prophecy Merlin shall make,
for I live before his time.