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Getheli
December 12th, 2006, 11:49 PM
Hello folks, this is my first time posting in this particular section of the forums, so I hope I don't make a fool out of myself.

I had to create a storybook kind of thing for a project, so I decided to pick up and rewrite a tiny little subplot that George R. R. Martin had left rather open in his Song of Ice and Fire series.

I really hope this isn't considered fanfiction, since I tried to adapt it more to a mythical Anglo-Saxon period (As per the rules of the project).
I intended it to be read two couplets at a time, so please, be gentle :o


If any of this sounds incoherent or silly, please forgive me, its 12:50 and I just wanted to get an opinion on this so I could sleep softly.

As of now, I need to add about 1/4 more, but I'm working on it.

Edit: Not content with the last two couplets. Comments, anyone?
Re-Edit: Changed stuff that was suggested, finished the poem. Would love more comments!


The Winds of Winter blew cold around
the ancient Barrow Downs.

From thither came the Olden Dead,
with flesh a-shriveled and brown.

_____________________________________

The High King noticed with startled dread,
what the Winter Winds had wrought.

A summons was sent to the men of the land
for the Olden Dead they fought.

_____________________________________

A-warring they went, these men of the king,
together they reached the old Downs.

And a battle it was, against the Old Dead,
while the Winds of Winter blew 'round.

_____________________________________

The men fought on with blades of bronze,
and burning brands of flame.

While the dead fought on with teeth and claws,
with the Winds raising more of the slain.

______________________________________

Not a man did return from the old Barrow Downs,
though they arose when the Winter Winds blew.

When the men did not come with the turn of a moon
the King mourned for the men that he knew.

______________________________________

As the King braced for his eventual fall,
A Child walked up from the town

He spoke of holdfasts and castles and villages small,
of their allies beyond the old Downs.

______________________________________

And so the Child set out to prepare for his trip,
across the ancient Barrow Downs.

A Horse was then found near the old smithy,
and at the stables a bridle was found.

______________________________________

Thus spoke the Child to his Father, the Smith
about his need for a blade.

And though the Father did bluster and roar,
A keen-edged Sword was made.

______________________________________

The Child then went to his friends,
who'd grown up with him in the creche.

They all pledged their unwavering friendship,
though in the end but one stood in the flesh.

______________________________________

As the Child was about the depart,
across the ancient Barrow Downs,

A great Hound was found on the roadside,
which followed him with leaps and bounds.

______________________________________

As they left the lands of the High King,
and felt the Winter Winds blow.

The horse fell and shattered his hind leg,
and now the taste of death they know.

______________________________________

As they saw the first of the Barrow Downs,
they found the first of the Dead.

And his Friend found death at base of a stone,
While the Child fought on with his dread.

______________________________________

When they finally won free of the Old Dead,
the Child and Hound found rest.

Amongst the tombs and the stones of the Old Downs,
they paused their arduous quest.

______________________________________

'Till out of the gloom of a nightmare,
stood twoscore bands of armed men.

The Hound first noticed their presence,
Baying loudly 'till an arrow found him.

______________________________________

The Child did flee from the Old Downs,
alone with naught but a sword.

He fled south to the lands of his allies,
but was halted at a swift-running ford.

______________________________________

As he crossed slowly across the chill waters,
his swordbelt did slip from his waist.

No time did he have to retrieve it,
for he had not a moment to waste.

_____________________________________

Alone and soaked wet he fled southward,
bereft of all but his clothes.

He stumbled over and under and forward,
'till he found the end of his road.

_____________________________________

The land, it ended abruptly,
Right in front of the poor Child's face.

He had known the wiles of the blue sea,
and knew he was at the end of his race.

____________________________________

As the pursurers came up to the cliffside,
they arrived just in time to construe.

That the Child had leapt to his own doom,
And with him the message t'was due.

____________________________________

Southward from the fateful dropoff,
a body did wash on the shore.

A Child who had drowned, with a message held dear
the Allied King's men rode to war.

____________________________________

All armored they were, with iron and with bronze,
And armed with an axe and a brand.

Northward they rode, to the aid of the King,
To relieve him of his final stand.

____________________________________

The Winter Winds blew cold around,
the High King's encircled keep.

But when relief rode swiftly in,
the Old Dead were buried deep.

____________________________________

Strength and speed and skill and age,
mean naught when a heart's afraid.

For a Child can do what a hundred man can,
if he's of what heros are made.

JBI
December 13th, 2006, 08:04 PM
An interesting ballad. One of my problems however is that it really isn't emotional enough. Just my opinion, but you asked for coments.

Try making something more personal.

Getheli
December 13th, 2006, 09:10 PM
Might I ask what you mean by not emotional enough.

And can you suggest anything.

Edited the above for progess.

Dawnstorm
December 14th, 2006, 01:16 PM
Hi,

It looks like you're attempting to write an epic poem. Formally, you use a variation of the heroic quatrain, which deviates from the model in two ways:

1. It's not iambic pentameter (daDamdaDamdaDamdaDamdaDam)

2. It's rhyme-scheme is abcb not abab

The point of close adherence to such structures is one of cultural expectation: there's often an idea of order vs. chaos, and the lines describing villanous actions often deviate more from the structure than those describing the heroic actions.

The point is that, if you have a specific rhyme scheme (setting up expectations with the first quatrain), you can then depart from it for effect. (For example you can shorten the lines as the action speeds up; iambic pentameter --> iambic tetrameter [just delete a daDam]).

The thing about poetry is: many people believe it's about the rhyming, when, in reality, metre is more important. All those poetic oddities ("doth speak" in them olden times ;) ) are there to keep up a steady rhythm. Even free verse is not prose, in the sence that there is no metre to take care of (there just isn't a recurring metre). A poem is always told on two levels: words and rhythm. I feel you neglected rhythm a bit (and occasion neglected word-choice as well).

Another thing: I notice you haven't named anything, in your poem. This is unusual in the epic form, as the names were often the point of it. (That doesn't mean you can't deliberately leave them out; but, on the other hand, this could be [one of] the source[s] JBI's "not emotional enough" response.) Epics usually have limited surprise value in what's going down; the emotion comes from invoking familiarity with theme. Names are what make these epics different from each other. (Notice "the High King", "the Land", "the Child"... gives the poem the feel for being an outline, rather than an epic itself.)

Now, to the specifics:


The Winds of Winter blew cold around,
the ancient Barrow Downs.

From thither came the Olden Dead,
with flesh a-shriveled and brown.

No comma after "around", or it reads as if the winds blow randomly around (not "around the Barrow Downs").

Metric expectation: (4 iambs + 3 iambs) x 2 (a few irregularities don't hurt)

interesting metric adaption: oldEN; A-shriveled


The High King noticed with startled dread,
what the Winter Winds had wrought.

And summon he did, all the men in the land,
for the Winds of Winter they fought.

Is the wind and agent, here? Or is this a matter of "blaming the messanger"?

The line "and summon he did..." has a strange waltz-like rhythm (with many unstressed syllables). One of the advantages that the iambic rhythm has in epics is that it's the rhythm of "marching to a beat". It's a rousing rhythm. The waltz rhythm sounds "lighter", more playful, or hurried (depending on tone). The only words that carry meaning are "summon", "men" and "land", of which 2 are generic. "Summon" is the strongest word in this line, and it's heart.

"for" seems out of place (as it appears to mean "because"); are they already fighting? Especially, since they go to battle in the next line.

I find the latter couplet a bit weak (unfocussed and unspecific).

Also I find you've used the "Winds of Winter" three times in two quatrains, which is a bit too much repetition for my taste (in poetry not every word, but every syllable should count; especially every stressed syllable [stressed either by normal word pronunciation, or by the position in the metre]).


To battle they went, these men of the king,
together they reached the old Downs.

And a battle it was, against the Old Dead,
while the Winds of Winter blew 'round.

Again, the waltz rhythm. It's turning into a nursery rhyme. "these men of the king", "And a battle it was" sounds rather light-hearted, too; as if you were reading it to your children (and spare them the bad bits, 'cause they're too young.) It's possible that it's part of the concept (but the beginning quatrain suggests otherwise).


The men fought on with blades of bronze,
and burning brands of flame.

While the dead fought on with teeth and claws,
while the Winds rose more of the same.

Ah, so we do have an active wind.

"Blades of bronze": That's something I don't know, but wouldn't iron swords (or steel swords, if they had them, then) be superior to bronze swords? The idea is that, to me, the prominent position of "bronze" suggests I should pay special attention to the material, but the material isn't particularly impressive (but then I'm not the most knowledgable person when it comes to swordsmanship; this site has experts.)

"burning brands of flame": after looking up "brand" in the dictionary, I suppose they're "burning pieces of wood" (rather than branding irons, which occurred to me first :o ). So, basically, you're overdoing the burning, here (a bit like the delicious delicacy of deliciousness; might work for emphasis; but I don't really see a reason to emphasise fire that much.)

Basically, what we have here is that the men are better armed, but the dead outnumber them and won't stay dead. "raising more of the same" doesn't really work, for me; it sounds like they raise "teeth and claws".


To a man they fell, these men of the King,
and arose when the Winter Winds blew.

When the news did arrive, despair did the king,
and mourn for the men that he knew.

The waltz rhythm is becoming a pattern. I advise against it, as it counters (at least for me) the rather serious content.

For example, take the line:

"and mourn for the men that he knew"

If you cut, in each foot (= syllable pattern around a stressed syllable) an unstressed syllable, you'll get:

"and mourn the men he knew" (this is tighter, you don't have to hurry through the line to get to the stressed syllables, which are the words that give the poem its power).

Reading it, though, I notice that the regularity of it, now puts me to sleep; it's gone from a nursery rhyme to a lullaby, which isn't exactly the point of the change. So, I'll re-insert one of those syllables:

Either "and mourn for the men he knew" or "and mourn for the men that he knew". I see no reason to stretche the foot that contains "men" (especially since the word gets lots of exposure in the poem and tends to be invisible at that point). On the other hand, expanding the foot that contains "knew" could have a more powerful effect; so I'd go for the latter. I find, inserting the "that" again gives the syllable "knew" more power, as it slows down my reading (whereas if I had the "for" in the prior part of the line; I'd hurry through both, as I see a "da Damdada Damdada Dam" rhythm).

Notice that this all depends on how you actually accentuate your poem when you read it. My reading may simply be off. Also, this edit stems from my preference for a "daDam" rhythm over a "Damdada" rhythm for serious content (which is nothing but a preference, really, based on an instinctive march vs. waltz association).

I won't comment on that rhythm again, I promise. ;)


As the King wept for his eventual fall,
A Child did speak to the man of the crown,

Of holdfasts and castles and villages small,
of their allies beyond the old Downs.

What's this? First you had a "noble" king, bemoaning the fallen he knew, and now you have him wallowing in self pity, all in the space of a line? Unworthy of the epic form.

"man of the crown": Doesn't this mean member of the court, or man in service of the King; not King? Unsure, really, and too lazy to research. (I do think the child speaks to the King, or I wouldn't know what the "the" would refer to - nobody else has been mentioned.)


And so the Child set out to prepare for his trip,
across the ancient Barrow Downs.

A Horse you shall have, the King did decree,
and at the stables one was found.

First, I think you switch around the couplets, as they make more sense.

"and at the stables one was found": I think you shouldn't waste a line on stating the obvious. If they found the horse where you'd not normally find one, then that would merit a line; but as such the line adds nothing to the poem (don't have filler lines, just to keep up a rhyme scheme.)


The Child spoke thusly to his Father,
about the obvious need of their aid.

But the Father did bluster and roar,
though in the end a Sword was made.

"thusly"?

"need of" --> "need for" (I think, or I misunderstand)

"about the obvious...": this sounds too generic to me, and the "Sword" comes out of nowhere. I think this could use more focus.

Example, so you see what I mean:

Thus spoke the Child to his Father, the Smith
about his need for a blade.
And though the Father did bluster and roar,
A keen-edged Sword [was/he] made.


The Child then went to his friends,
who grew with him up from the creche.

They all pledged their unwavering friendship,
but in the end but one stood in the flesh.

"who grew": tense: "who'd grown..."

"But in the end but..." but x 2 in two different functions; sounds like an unitnended parallelism (these can disrupt poetry worse than prose)

***

I'm running out of time, now; I hope you can see my perspective and it's helpful. I think your poem could benefit from:

- more specific words and fresher words (e.g. "did speak" --> besought; may not work in context - it's just an example)

- more focus (see the "sword" example; as well as the King's various tears...)

- a different and more controlled rhythm (I'm uncertain about that, really; it's intuition mostly)

Other than that, you're on the right track.

Getheli
December 18th, 2006, 06:51 AM
Edited again. Final edit, mebbe? :D