19 August 2012

Fitt 39 Finishes: The cowards return, and Wiglaf criticizes them

The soldiers who had run into the forest come back to their dead king and see Wiglaf sitting, exhausted, beside him. He tells them exactly what he thinks of their cowardice. He points out all the gifts they had received from the king were not paid back by service when he needed it. He forecasts that they and their families will pay for their faithlessness by loss of land and name. Death would be kinder than that

                                          Beowulf paid
by losing his life for lordly treasures.
Each of the pair* passed to the end
of his lease on life. Not long after,
the battle shirkers abandoned the woods—
gutless traitors, ten together—
who lacked the heart to heft their spears
when the lord they followed faced great danger.
Now, caught in shame, they carried shields,
battle armour where the old man lay.

They saw Wiglaf, sitting weary,
the shieldbearer by his baron’s shoulder,
He could not wake his king with water.
No way in the world, though he wished it, existed,
to lengthen the life of his leader in war,
to let or hinder Heaven’s servant.
The judgement of God would govern the deeds
of every man, as it still does.

Then the young man gave a grim answer
that came quickly for those whose courage fled.
Wiglaf spoke out, Weohstan’s son,
a sorehearted swordsman, on seeing the outcasts.

“What one would say, who wants the truth,
“is that the great lord gave you treasures,
“the horseman’s gear and garb you stand in,
“when he often, on the ale bench, gave
“helmet and byrnie to the hall sitters,
“the Lord to his followers, the finest ones
“that could be found, close by or far,
“this one who discarded his war clothing.
“How can you boast, his brothers in arms,
“of your glorious king? Yet God allowed him,
“Triumph's Master, to take his revenge
“alone with a sword when spirit was needed."

“I had small power to save his life
“to bring to battle, but I began
“to better my best, backing my kinsman.
“With every stroke its strength diminished,
“the lethal foe. The fire lessened
“that flowed from its head. Too few heroes
“came to the king in his cusp of need."

“Now gifts of treasure and tendered swords
“will come to a close, accustomed delights;
“your clan will lose their claim to land,
“each man among them, the moment earls,
“however far, hear how you ran,
“dead to glory. Death is better
“to any earl than an empty life.”

*Beowulf and the dragon.

07 August 2012

Hypermetric Lines

I promised long ago to explain Hypermetric Lines. The following explanation is from my book, The Complete Poetry Guide and Workbook:

A poet might choose to make some longer lines, called hypermetric lines. In them, the first half-line is preceded by an extra lift and dip(...) and the second by a dip(...). These lines do not occur by themselves, but in groups a few lines long, like this one from the poem Beowulf, lines 1160-1164.
...Bearers offered
wíne from | wóndrous containers. || And then | Wealtheow entered,
góing in | a gólden tórc || to where | the twó góod ones
ídled | úncle and néphew || without | émnity yét,
éach one | trúe to the óther....
Why the old poets used hypermetric lines, I cannot say, but you might find a use for them to slow up the action or add a little variety.

My Poetry Workbook is on Sale!

I've been away from this site for over a month now, but I have an excuse. I was editing a book for publication. The book is The Complete Poetry Guide and Workbook. It represents two years of research and writing plus I don't know how much editing.  You should be able to order a copy on Amazon, but I will get a larger share of the purchase cost if you buy it direct from Lulu.com on this page. The cost to you is the same either way. Let me tell you about it, though. Here's the cover:

Here is the Table of Contents for the first half of the book, including the page numbers:

Introduction 10
  • Poetry in General 11
  • What is Poetry? 11
  • Poetry Came From Music 13
  • A Working Definition of Poetry 14
  • Barriers to Poetry 15
Poetic Devices 17
  • Poetic Devices of Timing and Stress 19
    • Lines 19
    • Rhythm 25
    • Metre 29
  • Poetic Devices that Repeat Sounds 38
    •  Alliteration 39
    • Assonance 45
    • Consonance 48
    • Rhyme 51
    • Repetition 59
    • Onomatopoeia 61
  •  Poetic Devices of Meaning 64
    • Simile, Metaphor, and Personification 64
    • Imagery 69
    • Symbolism 73
    • Allusion 81
  • Poetic Forms 87
    • Introduction 87
    • Non-Metric Forms 88
      • Prose Poetry 88
      • Free verse 98
      • Alliterative Verse 107
      • Japanese Forms: Haiku, Senryu, Tanka 116
    • Metric, Unrhymed Forms 131
      • Cinquains 131
      • Blank Verse 133
    • Metric, Rhymed Forms 140
      • Couplets and Heroic Couplets 140
      • Tercets 143
      • Quatrains 149
      • Quintains, Especially Limericks 159
      • Sonnets 161
    • Typographic Forms 170
      • Acrostics and Acronyms 170
      • Calligrams and Concrete poetry 177
    • Translation 184
      • What is a Good Translation? 184
      • Why Translate? 186
      • How to Translate 187
    • Sharing Your Work 194
  • Glossaries 199
    • Poetic Terminology 199
    • Examples of Poetic Forms and Subjects 208
Each of the chapters is followed by exercises, graded into three levels of difficulty. The second half of the book is an anthology of over 150 classic poems. They serve as examples of forms as well as inspiration for poets and just plain enjoyable reading for everyone else.

I really believe in this project. I hope you'll consider buying it and that you let me know what you think. The next challenge is to distribute it as an e-book.