King Arthur's sleepless knights

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Dramatic and brooding, Tintagel is set on one of the wildest and most savagely romantic coastlines in Britain. The legendary birthplace of King Arthur is saturated in folklore ... gift shops, hordes of visitors and piles of plastic Excaliber swords. What, asks Liverpool poet Brian Patten, would Merlin and the original Knights of the Round Table make of it all if they were around today?

Tintagel in Cornwall mercilessly milks its connection with King Arthur and Merlin. The exploitation of any legend is fair game. But in a place with one of the wildest, most savagely romantic coastlines in Britain, the concentration on plastic Excaliber swords and the equivalent of the Excaliber Sup-U-Like and Happy Knights Take Away are depressing. What would the original inhabitants of Tintagel castle be doing if they were around now?

What are they up to now, those

medieval heroes?

Sir Lancelot, old and wheezy,

Sits in the back room of the

King Arthur Tavern;

His mind half gone,

He mistakes the glass of wine

shaking in his arthritic

hands for the Holy Grail;

Sir Perceval's a write-off,

Released under a care in the

Community Scheme

He's back in Tintagel

Embarrassing the day-trippers;

In the King Arthur car park

Sir Bedivere's arguing with the


He's been short-changing them


Sir Galahad's in trouble -

He's been slipping love potions

into young girls' drinks -

The blonde waitress at the

Camelot Cafe

Has shopped him at last,

Poor old geezer, mumbling

about sheaves and swords,

His innuendoes ripe as melons;

Guinevere couldn't stand him;

She gave up her job at the

Excaliber Sud-U-Like

And ran off with a prat from

the Cornish tourist board.

Merlin fared little better:

His magic reduced to trivia

He turned himself into a

million and one souvenirs

And opened a gift shop.

Perceval, Bors, Gawain, Morgan le Fay, the Fisher King,

The poet shamans, the whole

weird crew,

Wander back and forth

between the lands

Of the living and the dead and

the not-quite-sure.

Spectral creatures,

Glimpsed in Tintagel High

Street late at night

By a few solitary believers.