Poetry Corner – Ishmael

AND Ishmael crouched beside a crackling briar 
Blinded with sand, and maddened by his thirst, 
A derelict, though he know not why accursed. 
And lo! One saw, and strung the dissonant lyre, 
Made firm his bow unto the arrow's spire, 
And gave him dates and wine. Then at the first 
Flushings of dawn Ishmael arose, and burst 
To triumphing freedom, ran, and eased desire.

His domain was the desert. None tamed him. 
None bought or sold his spirit, though his hand 
Dripped red against the dawn and sunset stain.

Thrones melted, kingdoms passed to the world's rim. 
But Ishmael scourged the lion in Paran land, 
And kept his faith with God. And he will reign.

- Herbert Edward Palmer

Tolkien Tuesday

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

-From The Two Towers (the book.) (I'm pretty sure.)

Poetry Corner – The Riders of Babylon

The riders of Babylon clatter forth
Like the hawk-winged scourgers of Azrael
To the meadow-lands of the South and North
And the strong-walled cities of Israel.
They harry the men of the caravans,
They bring rare plunder across the sands
To deck the throne of the great god Baal.
But Babylon's king is a broken shell
And Babylon's queen is a sprite from Hell;
And men shall say, "Here Babylon fell,"
Ere Time has forgot the tale.
The riders of Babylon come and go
From Gaza's halls to the shores of Tyre;
They shake the world from the lands of snow
To the deserts, red in the sunset's fire;
Their horses swim in a sea of gore
And the tribes of the earth bow down before;
They have chained the seas where the Cretans sail.
But Babylon's sun shall set in blood;
Her towers shall sink in a crimson flood;
And men shall say, "Here Babylon stood,"
Ere Time forgot the tale.

- Robert E. Howard

Poetry Corner – The King and the Oak

Before the shadows slew the sun the kites were soaring free,
And Kull rode down the forest road, his red sword at his knee;
And winds were whispering round the world: "King Kull rides to the sea."
	
The sun died crimson in the sea, the long gray shadows fell;
The moon rose like a silver skull that wrought a demon's spell,
For in its light great trees stood up like spectres out of hell.

In spectral light the trees stood up, inhuman monsters dim;
Kull thought each trunk a living shape, each branch a knotted limb,
And strange unmortal evil eyes flamed horribly at him.
	
The branches writhed like knotted snakes, they beat against the night,
And one gray oak with swayings stiff, horrific in his sight,
Tore up its roots and blocked his way, grim in the ghostly light.
	
They grappled in the forest way, the king and grisly oak;
Its great limbs bent him in their grip, but never a word was spoke;
And futile in his iron hand, a stabbing dagger broke.
	
And through the monstrous, tossing trees there sang a dim refrain
Fraught deep with twice a million years of evil, hate and pain:
"We were the lords ere man had come and shall be lords again."
	
Kull sensed an empire strange and old that bowed to man's advance
As kingdoms of the grass-blades before the marching ants,
And horror gripped him in the dawn like someone in a trance.
	
He strove with bloody hands against a still and silent tree;
As from a nightmare dream he woke; a wind blew down the lea,
And Kull of high Atlantis rode silent to the sea.

- Robert E Howard

war-song

Ineluki, we are calling
as our women one day called.
Prince, our cries are harsh with hatred
and our hearts are turned to stone.
We would face now any horror,
we would stand who fled before.

Ineluki, we are calling
as our children one day called.
Prince, our hearts are cold within us,
and our souls grow sharp as steel.
We would take for ours the fire:
we would burn who burned before.

Ineluki! Lord, we hail you!
Wake, o Prince, from thy dark dreaming,
Rise, retake thy iron sword.
We are weak no more with anguish,
we are stilled no more by sorrow.
Prince, our hearts burn high with fury,
and our hands are hard with hate.

Ineluki! Do you sleep yet?
Here we bring your arms before you,
Here we lay them, at your feet!
From your long sleep wake and lead us,
Rise, o Prince, loose hell and tempest!
Ineluki! Wake, and lead us on again!

So I really disliked Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and periodically remember the fact. Why does no one write the kind of elves–or elves at the civilizational stage–where they’re full of fire and vinegar and giving all kinds of merry hell to Others. If you’re that worried about writing them outside the Tolkien template, all you have to do is make them Fair Folk instead…

Poetry Corner – Song of the Sons

ONE from the ends of the earth—gifts at an open door—
Treason has much, but we, Mother, thy sons have more!
From the whine of a dying man, from the snarl of a wolf-pack freed,
Turn, and the world is thine. Mother, be proud of thy seed!
Count, are we feeble or few? Hear, is our speech so rude?
Look, are we poor in the land? Judge, are we men of The Blood? 

Those that have stayed at thy knees, Mother, go call them in—
We that were bred overseas wait and would speak with our kin.
Not in the dark do we fight—haggle and flout and gibe;
Selling our love for a price, loaning our hearts for a bribe.
Gifts have we only to-day—Love without promise or fee—
Hear, for thy children speak, from the uttermost parts of the sea!

- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – The Forsaken Merman

Come, dear children, let us away;
Down and away below!
Now my brothers call from the bay,
Now the great winds shoreward blow,
Now the salt tides seaward flow;
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray.
Children dear, let us away!
This way, this way!

Call her once before you go—
Call once yet!
In a voice that she will know:
"Margaret! Margaret!"
Children's voices should be dear
(Call once more) to a mother's ear;

Children's voices, wild with pain—
Surely she will come again!
Call her once and come away;
This way, this way!
"Mother dear, we cannot stay!
The wild white horses foam and fret."
Margaret! Margaret!

Come, dear children, come away down;
Call no more!
One last look at the white-wall'd town
And the little grey church on the windy shore,
Then come down!
She will not come though you call all day;
Come away, come away!

Children dear, was it yesterday
We heard the sweet bells over the bay?
In the caverns where we lay,
Through the surf and through the swell,
The far-off sound of a silver bell?
Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep,
Where the winds are all asleep;
Where the spent lights quiver and gleam,
Where the salt weed sways in the stream,
Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round,
Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground;
Where the sea-snakes coil and twine,
Dry their mail and bask in the brine;
Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with unshut eye,
Round the world for ever and aye?
When did music come this way?
Children dear, was it yesterday?

Children dear, was it yesterday
(Call yet once) that she went away?
Once she sate with you and me,
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,
And the youngest sate on her knee.
She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.
She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea;
She said: "I must go, to my kinsfolk pray
In the little grey church on the shore to-day.
'T will be Easter-time in the world—ah me!
And I lose my poor soul, Merman! here with thee."
I said: "Go up, dear heart, through the waves;
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves!"
She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.
Children dear, was it yesterday?

Children dear, were we long alone?
"The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan;
Long prayers," I said, "in the world they say;
Come!" I said; and we rose through the surf in the bay.
We went up the beach, by the sandy down
Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall'd town;
Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still,
To the little grey church on the windy hill.
From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers,
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.
We climb'd on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,
And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes.
She sate by the pillar; we saw her clear:
"Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here!
Dear heart," I said, "we are long alone;
The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan."
But, ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were seal'd to the holy book!
Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more!
Come away, come down, call no more!

Down, down, down!
Down to the depths of the sea!
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings: "O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy!
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well;
For the wheel where I spun,
And the blessed light of the sun!"
And so she sings her fill,
Singing most joyfully,
Till the spindle drops from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,
And over the sand at the sea;
And her eyes are set in a stare;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye,
And a heart sorrow-laden,
A long, long sigh;
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden
And the gleam of her golden hair.

Come away, away children
Come children, come down!
The hoarse wind blows coldly;
Lights shine in the town.
She will start from her slumber
When gusts shake the door;
She will hear the winds howling,
Will hear the waves roar.
We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing: "Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she!
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea."

But, children, at midnight,
When soft the winds blow,
When clear falls the moonlight,
When spring-tides are low;
When sweet airs come seaward
From heaths starr'd with broom,
And high rocks throw mildly
On the blanch'd sands a gloom;
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze, from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town;
At the church on the hill-side—
And then come back down.
Singing: "There dwells a loved one,
But cruel is she!
She left lonely for ever
The kings of the sea."

- Matthew Arnold

Poetry Corner – Song of Seven Cities

I WAS Lord of Cities very sumptuously builded.
Seven roaring Cities paid me tribute from afar.
Ivory their outposts were—the guardrooms of them gilded,
And garrisoned with Amazons invincible in war. 

	All the world went softly when it walked before my Cities—
Neither King nor Army vexed my peoples at their toil,
Never horse nor chariot irked or overbore my Cities,
Never Mob nor Ruler questioned whence they drew their spoil. 

	Banded, mailed and arrogant from sunrise unto sunset;
Singing while they sacked it, they possessed the land at large.
Yet when men would rob them, they resisted, they made onset
And pierced the smoke of battle with a thousand-sabred charge. 

	So they warred and trafficked only yesterday, my Cities.
To-day there is no mark or mound of where my Cities stood.
For the River rose at midnight and it washed away my Cities.
They are evened with Atlantis and the towns before the Flood. 

	Rain on rain-gorged channels raised the water-levels round them,
Freshet backed on freshet swelled and swept their world from sight,
Till the emboldened floods linked arms and, flashing forward, drowned them—
Drowned my Seven Cities and their peoples in one night! 

	Low among the alders lie their derelict foundations,
The beams wherein they trusted and the plinths whereon they built—
My rulers and their treasure and their unborn populations,
Dead, destroyed, aborted, and defiled with mud and silt! 

	The Daughters of the Palace whom they cherished in my Cities,
My silver-tongued Princesses, and the promise of their May—
Their bridegrooms of the June-tide—all have perished in my Cities,
With the harsh envenomed virgins that can neither love nor play. 

	I was Lord of Cities—I will build anew my Cities,
Seven, set on rocks, above the wrath of any flood.
Nor will I rest from search till I have filled anew my Cities
With peoples undefeated of the dark, enduring blood. 

	To the sound of trumpets shall their seed restore my Cities
Wealthy and well-weaponed, that once more may I behold
All the world go softly when it walks before my Cities,
And the horses and the chariots fleeing from them as of old!

- Rudyard Kipling

Poetry Corner – The Green Eye of the Yellow God

THERE'S a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu, 
There's a little marble cross below the town; 
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew, 
And the Yellow God forever gazes down. 
He was known as "Mad Carew" by the subs at Khatmandu, 
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell; 
But for all his foolish pranks, he was worshipped in the ranks, 
And the Colonel's daughter smiled on him as well. 
He had loved her all along, with a passion of the strong, 
The fact that she loved him was plain to all. 
She was nearly twenty-one and arrangements had begun 
To celebrate her birthday with a ball. 
He wrote to ask what present she would like from Mad Carew; 
They met next day as he dismissed a squad; 
And jestingly she told him then that nothing else would do 
But the green eye of the little Yellow God. 
On the night before the dance, Mad Carew seemed in a trance, 
And they chaffed him as they puffed at their cigars; 
But for once he failed to smile, and he sat alone awhile, 
Then went out into the night beneath the stars. 
He returned before the dawn, with his shirt and tunic torn, 
And a gash across his temple dripping red; 
He was patched up right away, and he slept through all the day, 
And the Colonel's daughter watched beside his bed. 
He woke at last and asked if they could send his tunic through; 
She brought it, and he thanked her with a nod; 
He bade her search the pocket saying, "That's from Mad Carew," 
And she found the little green eye of the god. 
She upbraided poor Carew in the way that women do, 
Though both her eyes were strangely hot and wet; 
But she wouldn't take the stone and Mad Carew was left alone 
With the jewel that he'd chanced his life to get. 
When the ball was at its height, on that still and tropic night, 
She thought of him and hastened to his room; 
As she crossed the barrack square she could hear the dreamy air 
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro' the gloom. 
His door was open wide, with silver moonlight shining through; 
The place was wet and slipp'ry where she trod; 
An ugly knife lay buried in the heart of Mad Carew, 
'Twas the "Vengeance of the Little Yellow God." 
There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu 
There's a little marble cross below the town; 
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew, 
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.
- J. Milton Hayes

Poetry Corner – Ozymandias (stupendous leg edition)

[For reasons apparently known only to himself, Smith apparently retitled this poem "On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below."]

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone, 
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws 
The only shadow that the Desert knows. 
"I am great Ozymandias," saith the stone, 
"The King of kings: this mighty city shows 
The wonders of my hand." The city's gone! 
Naught but the leg remaining to disclose 
The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
 
We wonder, and some hunter may express 
Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness 
Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase, 
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess 
What wonderful, but unrecorded, race 
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

- Horace Smith