Saturday, November 10, 2007


Generally, as I said in the comments the other day, until recently, writing poetry here is something I've steered clear of. Others do it better. My poetry is, like me, tending to the prosaic, the old-fashioned, the unoriginal. Dazzling feats of poetic imagination and the language to convey them are a bit beyond me. I know good poetry, I think, when I hear/see/read it, and it makes me feel very dull. I suppose we often equate what's good with what we can't accomplish ourselves?

However, I still quite like writing poems, and one-a-day posting has encouraged me to put things on here I might have rejected formerly, recycle some old material, get new things written up and out, and if they're not up to much, they'll be fish and chip paper tomorrow, when I put something new on...

This one I wrote in a fit of whimsy a couple of years ago, before I had a web log (as one sometimes tries to call it in the interests of grace and correctness!). I decided to set myself an exercise of sticking to a really tight and constricting rhyme scheme - it goes A-B-A-B-C-A-C-C-A ; the first and last A rhyme in the verse (stanza is really too pretentious a word!) is the word 'string', in all but the last verse, as you'll see.

It's doubly overweeningly ambitious as it's also a story, and I don't do fiction either, or not in any serious and sustained way, plots and character development also being beyond my scope. Hence the story fizzled out, as I couldn't think of a way to finish it, and also the rhyming potential rather exhausted itself ! So the last verse, which I wrote more recently, leaves it to you to conclude the story. But the mood of melancholic whimsy rather suits me at the moment.


" A pair of scissors and a ball of string
Are what I give you to take on your quest."
So the young knight bade farewell to his king,
And rode from the castle into the west,
And the sun was setting all orange and red
And he screwed up his courage and tried to sing
And tried not to think of his home and his bed,
And puzzled and puzzled his poor young head,
As to what he could do with scissors and string.

As a boy he had treasured pieces of string,
Not knowing quite why or what he could do
With them, yet had them stored in a tin,
Long bits, short bits, old bits and new,
In apple pie order, and hoped he would find
A sad lost bird with a broken wing
Or some other poor creature to which to be kind,
A unicorn even, or rare snow-white hind
Or just a stray dog to lead home on a string.

He lay down in a wood, and put his string
(And scissors too) in a prudent place, before going to sleep,
He kissed his horse and blessed his king
And said his prayers and tried not to weep,
As he thought of the valley from which he came
Of his home and his sisters, the apple tree swing,
Of his dog, and his sense of unjust blame,
And his choice to leave, his desire to shame
Those who'd had him kept on the end of a string.

He dreamed through a nightmare of unravelled string,
Impossible tangles, skeins falling apart,
Of spiders' webs that strangle and cling,
He yelled in his sleep and woke with a start.
He reached for his sword and became aware
Of a rather alarming and curious thing
Which he rose and examined with exceptional care,
For his foot was encircled as if in a snare
By a loop that was made in the end of the string.

One end so accounted for, the rest of the string
Was unwound and led into the heart of the wood,
Quite out of his sight -"Now what will this bring?
Who has done it and why, is it evil or good?
But I'm seeking adventure, and my courage is nought
If I give in to fear or the least little sting
Or scratch, or misfortune" the young knight thought
"When there's dragons to slay and foes to be fought"
And he got up and followed the trail of the string.

It appeared to be endless, the line of the string
It led him through thicket and bogland and briars
He followed through autumn and winter and spring
In woodland and mountains and moorland and mires,
And as summer drew on he was weary and tattered,
His horse often stumbled, he just had to cling
To his will and his hope which was all but shattered,
His sword had grown rusty, his armour mud-spattered,
Still he followed the devilish, marvellous string.

I wish I could tell you the end of the thing,
That he found his dear love, or a chest full of gold,
Or a faraway land where they made him their king,
But the rest of the story remains to be told.
If he followed and triumphed, at the end of his trail
Found his goal or some other, was able to bring
Home great glory, or wisdom, or the one true Grail
I don't know. You must make what you want of the tale
Of the knight, and his quest, and the strange ball of string.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful tale, wonderful poetry. The theme of a journey makes me think of the old Nordic epics, even of 'Compasses' and of course many a fairy tale. Bravo! Encore!

Jean said...

Gosh. You are brilliant, Lucy. Please stop censoring yourself!

Unknown said...

I like especially: "he kissed his horse and blessed his king". But the absence of a conventional ending is the best thing in this rollocking tale. How I love stories!

robinstarfish said...

Enchanting! It would make a fine lyric to a Loreena McKennitt soundbed.

You've got a rare gift, Lucy.

meggie said...

You really are gifted.
I am no knowledgable critic, but I love this poem, & the images evoked!

Pam said...

I thought that was jolly good, and will therefore overlook the fact that you thought I might have English politeness. English? Me???

I've read several posts in a oner (can't keep up with Na...etc people at the moment) - all very enjoyable. Happy blogbirthday!

julie said...

Everyone's already said it better than me, but I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks, Lucy!

herhimnbryn said...

Oh! What a glorious tale.

Jan said...

Your writing is always a treat and your poetry no exception.
A courtly tale, this!

Lucy said...

Thanks for a nice response!
ML - I suppose with the funny rhyme and rythm it was meant to be a pastiche of one of those Victorian takes on the epic ballad, Tennyson or Wm Morris; fortunately I didn't try to take it to epic lengths.
Jean - always encouraging you are! Some self-selection is perhaps necessary though...
Plutarch - pathos eh? I think perhaps he's a Knight Who Loves Too Much! Glad you like a story, In fact I think it may have been a mention you made of string theory a little while a go that made me go and dig it out...
Robin - that's some compliment, I LOVE Loreena!
Meggie - your good opinion and that of others like you is more important than critics!
Isabelle - ach, my mortification knows no bounds! I think I may have been muddling you a little with Jan and forgot yu were in Scotland. But the same goes for Scottish politeness and good queuing manners of course. I'm off to the Border Ballads for more inspiration. Thanks for graciously coming over anyway!
Julie - thanks to you too!
HHB - lovely to have you still visiting, thanks.
Jan - thanks and your words likewise a treat!

Anonymous said...

This is great, Lucy. A compelling little tale set within a consistently comfortable rhyme scheme & a steady anapestic rhythm. That's more than most of us are managing!

Lucy said...

Cor! :~)

Granny J said...

I somehow felt that I was obligated to come up with a concluding verse, but after a couple of days and absolutely no final inspiration, I must merely congratulate you on a lovely little infinite adventure tale. Somehow I am reminded of a favorite SF in which the aliens capture the occupants of a medieval castle &, when moderns finally move into space, they find that jousting is a wide-spread entertainment across the galaxy.

Ramesh Gandhi said...

Really well done! Writing in strict forms without thumping is tough, but it can be very satisfying (I haven't been all that successful at it :)). And telling a story at the same time makes it so much harder. Have you tried the same kind of thing with a modern subject? One of my favourite books is Strong Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Form. I love the way modern poets take the old rules and show that they can still be used in powerful ways.

Lucy said...

GJ - thanks for the thought; the sf story sounds funny.
Nancy - everso nice to have you in circulation a bit more! I don't know Strong Measures, it sounds interesting. I did enjoy that Vikram Seth novel in verse about California, the verse actually gave the narrative more momentum I think.