Monday, April 30, 2007

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

The Highwayman

The wind was a torrent of darkness
upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon
tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight
looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding,
up to the old inn door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead,
and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He'd a coat of the claret velvet,
and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle;
his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle--
His rapier hilt a-twinkle--
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered
and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters,
but all was locked and barred,
He whistled a tune to the window,
and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot
into her long black hair.

Dark in the dark old inn-yard
a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened--
his face was white and peaked--
His eyes were hollows of madness,
his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter--
The landlord's black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened,
and he heard the robber say:

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart;
I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold
before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply,
and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight,
though hell should bar the way."

He stood upright in the stirrups;
he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement!
His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume
came tumbling o'er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight,
and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning;
he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset,
before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon
over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching--
King George's men came marching,
up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord;
they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her
to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement,
with muskets by their side;
There was Death at every window,
And Hell at one dark window,
For Bess could see, through her casement,
the road that he would ride.

They had bound her up at attention,
with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her,
with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say,
"Look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight,
though Hell should bar the way."

She twisted her hands behind her,
but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers
were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness,
and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it!
The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it,
she strove no more for the rest;
Up, she stood up at attention,
with the barrel beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing,
she would not strive again,
For the road lay bare in the moonlight,
Blank and bare in the moonlight,
And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight,
throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it?
The horse-hooves, ringing clear;
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance!
Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight,
over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding--
The redcoats looked to their priming!
She stood up straight and still.

Tlot tlot, in the frosty silence!
Tlot tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer!
Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment,
she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight--
Her musket shattered the moonlight--
Shattered her breast in the moonlight
and warned him--with her death.

He turned, he spurred to the West;
he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the casement,
drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear it,
and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight,
and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman,
shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him
and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon,
wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway,
with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on a winter's night, they say,
when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon
tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a gypsy's ribbon
looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding--
The highwayman comes riding,
up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters
and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the shutters,
but all is locked and barred,
He whistles a tune to the window,
and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot
into her long black hair.
--Alfred Noyes

I almost put this poem in last week's Poems in Novels category. I'm pretty sure, however, that the full poem was not printed in any of the Anne of Green Gables books. I actually can't even find which book it's mentioned in. What I do know is that it was in one of the movies, and that was enough for me. It was also enough for Loreena McKennitt who recorded this poem as a song (she also did the Lady of Shalott which was the other poem in those movies). Because of the availability of a recording set to music, I have large portions of this poem memorized. I haven't sat down and really ironed out all the creases, though.

I think it's interesting that the fourth stanza, which explains how the redcoats knew he was coming back, was left out of the song. She also leaves out the stanza after her hands reach the trigger, which I can understand. Se cut the final stanza as well, which I think is the greatest tragedy because without it, the highwayman's ghost is always searching for her, and in the original, she's waiting for him and they're together.

On the topic of Anne, in Anne of Avonlea, she says the following, which I thought was appropriate for the blog:
"Look do you see that poem?" she said suddenly, pointing.

"Where?" Jane and Diana stared, as if expecting to see Runic rhymes on the birch trees.

"There . . . down in the brook . . . that old green, mossy log with the water flowing over it in those smooth ripples that look as if they'd been combed, and that single shaft of sunshine falling right athwart it, far down into the pool. Oh, it's the most beautiful poem I ever saw."

"I should rather call it a picture," said Jane. "A poem is lines and verses."

"Oh dear me, no." Anne shook her head with its fluffy wild cherry coronal positively. "The lines and verses are only the outward garments of the poem and are no more really it than your ruffles and flounces are YOU, Jane. The real poem is the soul within them . . . and that beautiful bit is the soul of an unwritten poem. It is not every day one sees a soul . . . even of a poem."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Tiger by William Blake

The Tyger

Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
--William Blake

I love this poem. The tyger is so mysterious and exotic, and a little but dangerous. There's a lot of great imagery with the tyger being forged in some terrible foundry. It reminds me that there's a lot we don't know about God and his purposes in creating a lot of things, and yet we can see that there is a beautiful purpose in even the parts of the plan that seem terrible. At this link, you can find the full text of Songs of Experience along with Blake's original illustrations.

I've decided I'm not very good at poetic analysis. I know that I get more out of a poem when I closely consider its structure, imagery, and word choice. My problem is that when I try to write it down, it seems so dead when compared with the original words. If you want analysis of this poem, or others that I post, there are plenty of sites that will provide that for you.

For my own personal study, I enjoy using the books that Mom bought me at the LCCC library discard sale. They're titled Off The Ground and are written/compiled by Alexander Haddow and William Kerr. They were printed in the 1930's in the United Kingdom, and are charming. For one thing, they are full of old ballads and poems that don't make it into the modern anthologies of formless non-rhyming stuff. The authors also assume that the reader is also in the UK in the 30's, so there are odd moments when you realize that he's talking about something entirely different than you'd assumed. Take for instance the introduction to The Minstrel at the Gate in book one: "Rokeby, from which the following stanzas are taken, is a long poem telling a story of the Civil War. It was a summer evening in the year 1644..." Suddenly you realize that he's not talking about the American Civil War, but the one where England's King lost his head! I like being reminded that I'm not the center of the universe sometimes.

They ask four or five questions at the end of each poem, mostly to get you to pay attention to how the rhythm and word choice add or detract from the mood. They'll often put two poems on the same subject, or a poem and a prose description of the same event together to compare the effects of each. What I especially like, though is that they are generally open ended questions, and the "answers" are all hidden away at the back of the book. This tells me that the authors thought that my opinion about the poem is at least as valuable as theirs, and they're only there to show me how to really decide how and why I feel that way. The books are out of print, but you can find them on rare book websites pretty easily.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Green Hills of Earth by Robert A Heinlein

The Green Hills of Earth

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
--Robert A Heinlein

This one is kind of cheating since I haven't memorized the whole thing, but I thought it would round out the week quite nicely. The poem is from Robert A Heinlein's story by the same name, which I read in the compilation The Past Through Tomorrow. Though the poem is excellent on its own, the fictional story of its composition (as recounted in the aforementioned short story) makes it much more powerful. I like it when poems and stories go together, each giving the other more weight. My other favorite story in this collection of excellent stories if The Man Who Sold the Moon

The summer I read Heinlein's Future History stories for the first time, I tried to write my own short story/poem combination. I got a couple of poems out, which you can read on my tiggywinkle site, but the stories never materialized. In one, The Jupiter Pluto Run there's a guy who has to sit alone in a spaceship for the very long time (maybe several months) it takes to get from Jupiter to Pluto because the supply ship needs human control on takeoff and landing. It would talk about how lonely he gets, how he spends his time to keep from going crazy, why he's doing it, and that sort of thing. The other was going to be called Company Man and it would talk about two guys who work for a powerful company that is pretty much in charge of everything that happens out in space (you know the type if you've read or watched this sort of sci-fi--the kind that owns your soul like the old coal mining companies). One would be pretty high up in management, and he wants to just take off and explore, but can't because of his work and family responsibilities, and the other is a grunt worker, trying everything to earn enough money to just get back to earth. I've written several scenes that might get expanded into full stories one day...but not today.

Friday, April 27, 2007

One Ring by JRR Tolkien

One Ring

Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakutul√Ľk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
--JRR Tolkien

OK, If you don't know what this one is, I feel sorry for you. There are LOTS of poems in The Lord of the Rings that I could have chosen, and that I will undoubtedly post later on. In keeping with this week's theme though, I picked the one that is most central to the plot, and that I have also memorized. Aragorn's All that is Gold does not Glitter is also central to the plot (though not quite as much), and I've memorized most of Roads go Ever On and On, but neither has the international exposure this one does, so it's my pick for the day.

I read The Hobbit when I was quite young, maybe in Jr. High or even before, and liked it a lot. At that point, I picked up Fellowship, but I only read until they got to Rivendell and found out what happened to Bilbo. I just didn't care about Frodo or his quest, so I stopped reading. It wasn't until I was 19 and home for the summer after my freshman year of college that I picked it up again. At that point, I was hooked. I think I read the whole trillogy in about a week or two.

As for the movies, I thought they were great. There were a few things I would have done differently, though. I would have ditched the special effects on people who were tempted by the Ring -- like Bilbo and Galadriel. I think that both of them were good enough actors that they could have pulled off an excellent performance without it, and as it is, I think that the effects deminish the moment. I would have spent less time on the reunion curtain call in Frodo's recovery bed, and given at least a little time to scowering the Shire.

I did like the addition of scenes showing more of Faramir's relationship with his Father and brother, and while I might not have had him carry Frodo all the way back to Osgiliath, I do understand why it was done. Unlike Orson Scott Card, who thinks "it was important to the story that he is not tempted the way his brother Boromir was," I believe that it's important to the story that Faramir was tempted in exactly the same way his brother was. That's what sets them apart. It would not make Faramir noble to leave behind something he has no desire for, just like I'm not especially noble for not killing somebody who annoyed me. On the other hand it does make him noble to have in his grasp the one thing that he believes will make his father finally love him, and at the same time possibly turn the tide of war in favor of the city and people that he loves -- and then give it up because he is the sort of person who keeps his word. That shows us how we can be noble by not falling to the very real temptations that beset us each day -- some almost as addictive and compulsive as the Ring. The internal struggle that happens in the cave that night is hard to show on film, and it's hard to show how afraid for his life Frodo was in his custody. So I respect that change.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two Poems by Gavin Gunhold

Registration Day

On registration day at taxidermy school
I distinctly saw the eyes of the stuffed moose
--Gavin Gunhold (Gordon Korman)

Fruit Fly

Due to the tragically short life span of the average
fruit fly,
College is not really an option.
Caps and gowns don''t come in that size anyway.
--Gavin Gunhold (Gordon Korman)

These are two of the poems in A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman. I may not have liked much of Mrs. Mertz's class in 5th and 6th grade, but she did have books available to borrow, and among them were Gordon Korman's first four Bruno and Boots books. I thought they were the funniest books I had ever read, and after I (quickly) got through them, I went to the library and checked out everything else he had ever written. When I was in 6th grade, he came to speak at the Young Authors conference, and even though Mom had signed up as a chaperone, and I was the only real fan in her class, Mrs. Mertz didn't pick me to go. I was crushed -- I REALLY wanted to hear him speak. Sigh... I finally did get to meet him several years later when he cam to another Young Authors, and we went as a family to the evening open house. Everybody in the family had a different one of his books for him to sign, and I was carrying Garbage Bag. It was a pretty beat up copy that I had gotten from a library discard sale. He said, "Wow, this looks like it's been through the washing machine!" I explained how much I loved reading his books, and how I'd been waiting years to meet him. He signed the book, "To Karen, Great meeting an "old" fan-- Gordon Korman"

I can also credit him with helping me get married. One of the few things Peter knew about me before our first date was the fact that I loved Gordon Korman's books. He figured that anyone with such good taste had to be right for him, so that gave him the last bit of courage to ask me out. We still occasionally get each other Gordon Korman books for Christmas and Birthdays, and read them aloud and laugh.

For those of you that don't know, Gavin Gunhold is Korman's signature non-existant character. He appears in most of his humorous books, usually when somebody has to make up a fake name for some reason. In this book, he's a Canadian gas station attendant who was killed while cashing the check for his single published poem. Our heroes in the book, for various reasons have to: keep people from finding out he's dead, make up more of his poetry to analyze for an English assignment, and pass off Gramps as the poet himself on national TV.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine
One choked his little self and then there were nine

Nine little Indian boys sat up very late
One overslept himself and then there were eight

Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven

Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six

Six little Indian boys playing with a hive
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five

Five little Indian boys going in for law
One got in chancery and then there were four

Four little Indian boys going out to sea
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three

Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo
A big bear hugged one and then there were two

Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun
One got frizzled up and then there were one

One little Indian boy left all alone
He went and hanged himself and then there were none
--Agatha Christie (or perhaps anonymous)

This is the poem from the book by Agatha Christie. It has been variously titled: And Then There were None, Ten Little Indians, and more recently Ten Little Soldiers (in the current printing of the novel), or Ten Little Sailor Boys (in the video game), all changed from the original Ten Little N*** for obvious reasons.

I started reading Agatha Christie when I was 10, just before we moved to Ohio, I read Murder on the Orient Express and thought it was amazing. Sometime in Jr. High I came across The Sleeping Murder which gave me the shivers and remained in my imagination for years. All the same, because of the poem, I like this one the best.

Again, I can't seem to find definitive information about whether she wrote it herself, or took a real nursery rhyme that was floating around at the time. The rhyme seems not to have survived except in the exact form from Christie's book, which could mean that the racism inherent in the original rhyme killed it, or that it never existed in the first place.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dragonsongs by Anne McCaffrey

Sad Song

Harper, your song has a sorrowful sound,
Though the tune was written gay.
Your voice is sad and your hands are slow
And your eye meeting mine turns away.
--Anne McCaffery

Menolly’s Running Song

Then my feet took off and my legs went, too,
So my body was obliged to follow
Me with my hands and my mouth full of cress
And my throat too dry to swallow.
--Anne McCaffery

These are from Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall Trillogy: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums.

Dragonsong is one of the comfort books that I feel the need to have with me wherever I live. I've tried getting rid of them to save space, thinking that I can always get it at the library, but tht really doesn't work when I'm too upset about something to leave the house, or I need something to read on Sunday or late at night. I've read these books so often that I have memorized parts of them without trying, like the above poems.

Included in my list of comfort books are:
  • Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Reading these books can almost always calm me down when I'm anxious. The familiar words and stories lull me into a sense of security. These books are safe. It's interesting to note that certain voices have the same effect on me. I like to listen to: Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion, Patrick Tull reading the Aubrey/Matirin books by Patrick O'Brian (though I don't like to read the books in print), and another Recorded Books reader, George Guidall (who generally does the introduction and ending bits on the Patrick O'Brian books along with reading whole books on his own).

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

The Walrus And The Carpenter

The Walrus And The Carpenter
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might;
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky;
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand--
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A Pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach;
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said;
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat;
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low--
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing-wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need;
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now, if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?"

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but,
"Cut us another slice.
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick.
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but,
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said;
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
--Lewis Carroll

So, in keeping with this week's theme of Poetry Out Of Novels That Is Also Poetry I've Memorized, I give you The Walrus and the Carpenter. It comes from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I memorized this one for a talent show at a family reunion sometime during Junior High. For a long time, though, I had trouble remembering what came next -- each individual stanza was fine, but I'd leave entire verses out. That's when I started trying to put clues in my memorly of one line that would give me a hint to what comes next. I'm not sure if it makes any sense to say it that way, but now I do it with a lot of things I memorize including hymns, origami shapes, and my 14 digit library card number. I haven't yet done it for The Lady of Shalott which is why I'll perform The Walrus and the Carpenter (when asked, or when bored), but I won't pretend to be able to do Lady without a cheat sheet.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Grail Poem

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.
(The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.)
--Susan Cooper

These poems are from the Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper. They're prophecies that guide the Will, Merriman, Bran and the Drews on their quests to defeat the Dark. I was told once that Susan Cooper found these very old poems somewhere, and wrote her books to fit them. I'm rather skeptical about this, though I find the idea romantic. If anybody knows one way or another, you should let me know. I memorized these poems while walking home from school after Track practice in High School. Doug and I had a goal of one day making a full set of Signs. I think he made a pretty good sign of Iron on the forge out back, and a sign of wood was roughed out at one point, but I'd really like to see it done well. That reminds me -- They're making a movie of these books, and they're sure to have nice ones there!

I really like books that have poems as part of they storyline -- as you'll see if you read more of my posts. They're the book world's version of Broadway Musicals. A good poem can really push the storyline forward, and make the book more memorable. Also, poems and songs are part of my everyday life, so it stands to reason that I would relate well to stories that include them as part of the characters lives.

Some notable authors who use poetry well:

  • Lewis Carroll - King of nonsense poetry and parody, I especially liked reading The Annotated Alice for showing me the originals poems he was making fun of.

  • Anne McCaffrey - I like the way the poems are generally quoted only in the epigraph part of each chapter where they don't stop the action of the book. The characters and narrator then refer to by name, or by quoting a couple of lines. This is they way things happen in real life with poems that are in the collective consciousness.

  • JRR Tolkien - OK so the poems do occasionally stop the action in his books, especially when they're long, but you can skip them if you want. The thing about Tolkien is that he had such an ear for language that his poems - even the ones in made up languages - are a pleasure to read aloud.

  • Robert Heinlein - One summer I read a lot of Tolkien and Heinlein, and it inspired me to write poetry and melancholy Sci-fi/fantasy.

  • Brian Jacques - In his early books, the puzzle poems and happy feasting songs were a real delight. I'm sad that his later books and poems are so formulaic now.

  • Roald Dahl - His poems, like his stories are wickedly funny. Of particular note are the Oompa Loompa songs from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He also wrote a fun one about Red Riding Hood.

You'll be seeing more of these authors as we go on...I just thought I'd mention them here.


I wanted to make a book of my favorite poems, so I started collecting them into a word document. It got really long really fast. It wasn't very pretty or very searchable. So I thought that I could make a blog that I could post a poem every day, and then it would be all nice and pretty and stuff. I also thought I would write my thoughts about why I chose each one. Just so you know, I got all of these poems off the web, so if I'm breaking anybody's copyright, others did so before me. I think that the scope of what I'm doing constitutes fair use, but I may be wrong. If there's a problem with me posting any specific poem here, let me know.