The Clash of Poets

Morgan B

[…] So up stood Hrragni, Ffrehkk’s own bard,

rattled drum-skin, silenced troops;

recounted well heroic lays

of valour-deeds, all glory-spun,

by the hall-shaker, wave-traverser,

Krekki, breaker of helms, a folk’s defender:

...And Krekki – so grim and strong,

he slashed the foe to blood and bone;

a tree of blades, he spun with might,

his cries cut harder than enemy swords:

Ulwarf was in him, our lord’s champion.

He took life from his fiercest foes,

they who cursed, swore oaths against

the sacred bird most blessed by Ulwarf;

the king of birds, the druid’s own spirit,

the cave-dweller, the nester in the dark,

the holy wren, who shuns the sun-flame

who, hunted by the enemy, speared on sticks,

sacrificed by heathen hands – soon saw vengeance,

when slaughter-spears of wrath slung forth

to gore those who had likewise stuck the night-flyer...”

“Who, may I ask, were his fiercest foes?”

asked Sigfri when the song was done.

The gleeman said: “The Ylfish hordes

of Wealdond land. We harrowed hard

their golden fields, with iron and flame.

Their craven goddess saved them nought.”

The silence sat uneasily, ‘til Sigfri spoke;

“Well, that was all a long time past.

Gods may change as much as men.

And enemies may come to peace,

and sworn kindred bind blades in slaughter.

Perhaps, such times as now may see

another thread, a strand of wyrd

come tie together former foes.”

“It’s but a song,” the poet said, “A tale.

We mean no malice by its telling;

I sing of deeds done hard and well,

not of the hurts of those who fell.”

“Spare the rhyming,” Sigfri sighed,

“It does not fit the heroic strand:

try to sing it true, perhaps

by ways and means so wisely done

that bright hearers may, by songcraft,

tarry truly, taking lessons;

heed well the tales, their wisdom fed;

speak widely then of what they learn.”

With that, the wise-one wandered off,

the Ulfish singer silent now.

  • Author: Morgan B (Offline Offline)
  • Published: July 25th, 2022 18:36
  • Comment from author about the poem: A short passage from the epic 'Gyldlandsaga' in which the arch-bard Sigfri challenges a lesser poet, who dares to let an unintended rhyme slip in to his speech. Sigfri's rather sniffy reply incorporates all of the major Old English poetic stress patterns, one per line, using the various forms of alliteration in an attempt to educate by example (or demonstrate his own creative mastery of the form). 'Gyldlandsaga' is a 76,500 word epic I composed in 2021 for my final MFAAH project, informd by the Old English and Norse poetic traditions, though giving centre stage to characters and voices traditionally marginalized from such works: non-humans, non-males, and otherworldly beings of various kinds. The oblique reference to the wren in Hrragni's narrative is derived from one strand of folklore which views the wren as a bird of ill-omen; Hrragni's people are a race of fearsome wolf-people, loosely modelled on medieval stereotypes of the Vikings, and inhabit a land with perpetual moonlight.
  • Category: Fantasy
  • Views: 28
  • User favorite of this poem: arqios.
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