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).


  1. On 4/24/07, Douglas Summers Stay wrote:

    I just came across this poem. Someone was saying that the world was leaving Christianity and returning to paganism (exhibit A: Harry Potter) and this poem was used as a rebuttal. C.S. Lewis says "pagans? You aren't fit to be pagans..."

    A Cliche Came Out of Its Cage

    You said 'The world is going back to paganism'. Oh bright
    Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
    Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
    And Levis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with
    Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
    To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
    Hestia's fire in every flat, rekindled, before
    The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
    Tended it. By the hearth the white-arm'd venerable mother
    _Domum servabat, lanam faciebat._ Duly at the hour
    Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
    Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
    Arose (it is the mark of freemen's children) as they trooped,
    Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
    Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
    Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
    Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
    Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
    Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
    Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
    Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
    Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears ...
    You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.

    Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
    Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
    Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
    Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
    Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
    But the bond will break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
    Scarred with old wounds, the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a
    Will limp to their stations for the last defence. Make it your
    To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
    For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
    His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
    Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
    And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
    Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
    Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
    Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
    Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
    Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch,
    You that have Vichy-water in your veins and worship the event,
    Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet

  2. So who wrote this wonderful piece? I found this line especially memorable: Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim