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JOHN-COWPER-POWYS_PORIUS300The setting is the Kingdom of Edeyrnion in North Wales, where the indigenous Forest people have ruled by the Brythonic Celts on behalf of Rome. Prince Einion, ruler of Edeyrnion, owes allegiance to the Emperor Arthur, who rules Britain for Rome. While historians tells us that Rome withdrew its army from Britain around 410 AD, Roman influence is still strong in Powys’s late 5th century. But in the autumn of 499 AD the Saxons, under their leader Colgrim, are advancing on Edeyrnion and the Forest people have joined with them against their Brythonic rulers.

The main plot follows the various experiences of Porius, the heir to the throne of Edeyrnion, the novel’s eponymous protagonist, and his struggle to gain freedom from the influence of his parents. This in particular involves resolving his divided loyalties between Rome and the indigenous peoples of Wales. Porius himself not only has Roman, Brythonic, ancestors but an ancestor who was an aboriginal giant as well as relatives amongst the Forest people. Porius gains maturity, and with it personal freedom, through a number of significant experiences, including especially this encounter with the aboriginal giants of Wales, as well as the profound influence of the magician, prophet, and possibly the god Chronos/Saturn, Myrddin, who reinforces the values, and develops on, the teachings of Porius’s earlier teacher, the Christian heretic Pelagius. A major climax in the novel comes when Porius mates with the young giantess, he names Creiddylad, one of two surviving Cewri, or giants, the true aboriginals of Britain. This is immediately followed by the violent deaths of Creiddyladd and her father.

However, this novel goes beyond Porius’s experience, at times focusing on other characters. This includes the highly significant scene involving Myrddin’s magical transformation of the owl Blodeuwedd into a young girl. Another important episode occurs when Morfydd, and Euronwy, Porius’s mother, unite “to aid the endangered House of Cunedda”. This involves Morfydd “sacrificing her love for Rhun” by agreeing to a political marriage with Porius, “in order to create harmony between the Roman and aboriginal peoples”. Then there is the scene which involves Brochvael, Morfydd’s scholarly father, who represents classical Roman culture, confronting the aboriginal worlds of Sibylla and the Druids, which dramatizes the novel’s central political conflict in yet another way.

The novel’s final climax comes with Porius’s “rescue” of Myrddin from his entombment by the enchantress Nineue on the summit of Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain. A scene where, according to Powys scholar C. A. Coates, Porius saves “the good magician” by resisting “the temptation of the bad fairy”. However, the ending is ambiguous, and “Merlin’s stature at the end of the novel is such to preclude any sense that his is not in fact the ultimate power”. Powys provides invaluable commentary on Nineue in his “The Characters of the Book”. However, by freeing Myrddin Porius makes possible Myrddin’s return in two thousand years to re-establish the Saturnian Age of Gold.

At the end of the novel Ederynion remains free from Saxon domination, a freedom that it will retain and which will shape the subsequent history of the Welsh: “The new nation, the Cymry, is to be born as a result of the Saxon invasion”. And Porius himself has also gained the necessary personal freedom and maturity he that will need as the future ruler of Edeyrnion. | WIKIPEDIA |

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juni 15th, 2014 at 8:00 am