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Discussing: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

I'm being a big old pretentious dork and adding some really obscure poetry to my latest effort (SSP: Let Me Lie Here, in beta, love comments, please, feel free). It's medieval Welsh poetry, because I am really that pretentious. (More charitably, you could say I have an inordinate fondness for things antique and britannic.) So, it contains some very not-Middle-Earth references. I would like to carefully, subtly, replace these allusions to Welsh personages, beliefs, evens, and history with suitable Middle Earth ones. Just because otherwise it would be jarring and confusing. I mean, what does the average reader of a fic about Eomer know or care about Aberffraw? However, I am not loremastery enough in the ways of Tolkien, and thus the original obscure Welsh references make more sense to me than corresponding M-e ones. Sad, I know. The poem is called Marwnad Llywelyn, The Lament For Llywelyn, by Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch, circa 1280. The subject matter is a bard lamenting his lord, Prince Llywelyn of Aberffraw, who was slain by the Saxons. The poem is most wrenching because the Prince was the last of his house, and the nation is now in chaos and unable to resist implacable enemies (who did, eventually, subjugate it-- medieval Welsh history is not pretty). I found it so, so, SO wonderfully fitting to the tale of the death of Theodred (from the POV of Eomer) that I couldn't resist: Our last hope is dead: the world is ending and we have no hope, our way of life is come to an end and our enemies are coming, and dammit I loved him. Easy enough to substitute Edoras or Rohan for Aberffraw, or Eorlingas for Welshmen, enemy or wildmen or Orcs for Saxon, etcetera where it makes sense. But here's a tough one for me. Many a tear sliding swiftly on a cheek [...] Many a homestead scarred in the wake of fire [...] [more lines describing destruction of battle] Many a wretched cry as at Camlan. Many a tear over the cheek having fallen. [etcetera, etcetera] Camlan is a reference to King Arthur's last, disastrous battle. So, i need the name of a disastrous battle, about which the Rohirrim (but I'm not picky) might conceivably know-- a horrible, awful, bad battle, at which people were slaughtered and ways of life came to an end. Something we can all empathize with. Like Ithilien getting burnt and dead and stuff, but something concise and vivid and preferably not more than three syllables, though I'm not too fussy. (While you're at it, I'd like a pony. I know, I'm asking a lot, but does anyone have any ideas?) Another one concerns the exhortations to God and Christ in the poem. I know M-e didn't have religion in the same sense, as JRRT himself explained. So... who should my poet rail against? Do you not see the Truth arming itself? [...] Do you not see the stars having fallen? Do you not believe in God, you mad men? Do you not see that the world is ending? Ah God! towards You: that the sea would drench the land! What is left us that we should linger? There is no place to hide from the prison of fear. And, here: Mine: Rage against the Saxon for [violating]* me. Mine-- faced with death-- is the need to lament. Mine-- with cause-- is to rail against God who has left me without him. Can you see how freaking awesome this poem is, btw? Anyhow, thanks in advance for any help anybody can give me. ____________ * translated by my professor as "violating" or "outraging", but she admitted that the Welsh verb used, treissyaw, more closely translates to a**-f***ing in a very non-consensual fashion. Not shy, those Saxons.

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

I'm being a big old pretentious dork and adding some really obscure poetry to my latest effort ...
Sounds like fun. In reference to the question about "a horrible, awful, bad battle, at which people were slaughtered and ways of life came to an end.", the first thing that comes to my mind for the Rohirrim is found in Appendix A: The House of Eorl, in the passage about Helm Hammerhand:
...At the same time Rohan was again invaded from the East, and the Dunlendings seeing their chance came over the Isen and down from Isengard. It was soon known that Wulf was their leader. The were in great force, for they were joined by enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen. The Rohirrim were defeated and their land was overrun; and those who were not slain or enslaved fled to the dales of the mountains. Helm was driven back with great loss from the Crossings of Isen and took refuge in the Hornburg and the ravine behind (which was after known as Helm's Deep). There he was besieged. Wulf took Edoras and sat in Meduseld and called himself king. There Haleth Helm's son fell, last of all, defending the doors. 'Soon afterwards the Long Winter began, and Rohan lay under snow for nearly five months (November to March, 2758—9). Both the Rohirrim and their foes suffered grievously in the cold, and in the dearth that lasted longer...
Would the part about Haleth falling before the doors of Meduseld work in that context? I'm not sure if you'd want to use Edoras or Meduseld in that line, but that's what first occurred to me when I read your question. ~Nessime

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

That event would work wonderfully, but how to invoke it? Without (shiver) having to add in an explanatory line? Ohhhhh... I suck at poetry. But you're right, that would work. Just.... How to say it. :-/ >Sounds like fun. It is. Man, I'm having a blast. It did occur to me that an option would be to have the poet rail against Fate, instead of God-- Mine-- with cause-- is to rail against fate which has left me without him But I'm not sure about the one where he beseeches God to let the sea drench the land. It sounds eerily like the Fall of Numenor but I don't know that the Rohirrim would know about that. And Tolkien does say that the Rohirrim don't beseech the gods by name. Though, many fanfics use "Valar" as an interjection much as modern people would say "Jesus" or something. It remains an option...

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

That event would work wonderfully, but how to invoke it? I call it the Dunlending Invasion of Rohan (although "the Mark" would probably sound more authentic, if it is from the Rohirric POV). Hard to fit into three syllables: Dunland's Thrust? (Sorry, I'm obviously not a poet...) (Edit: Dunland's Siege? Scourge?) And Tolkien does say that the Rohirrim don't beseech the gods by name. If they did, the one they would invoke might be be Béma, aka Oromë the Hunter. - Barbara P.S. Another battle possibility might be the Battle of the Plains... I'll dig up the description for you. P.P.S. I think this poem is a great choice! Will look forward to seeing the completed story...

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

So, i need the name of a disastrous battle, about which the Rohirrim (but I'm not picky) might conceivably know-- a horrible, awful, bad battle, at which people were slaughtered and ways of life came to an end. Here's that info about the Battle of the Plains (from the Unfinished Tales chapter on Cirion and Eorl). The Northmen are the direct ancestors of the Éothéod (and thus the Rohirrim); given Rohan's bardic tradition, I'm sure this battle would be long remembered...
[The Northmen] were slow to recover [from the Great Plague of 1635, when half of their people and horses perished]; but their weakness was not tested for a long time. ... But when the invasions of the Wainriders began [1851 III] and involved Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years, the Northmen bore the brunt of the first assaults. King Narmacil II took a great army north into the plains south of Mirkwood, and gathered all that he could of the scattered remnants of the Northmen; but he was defeated, and himself fell in battle [the Battle of the Plains in 1856 III]. ... As for the Northmen, a few, it is said, fled over the Celduin (River Running) and were merged with the folk of Dale under Erebor (with whom they were akin), some took refuge in Gondor, and others were gathered by Marhwini son of Marhari (who fell in the rearguard action after the Battle of the Plains). Passing north between Mirkwood and Anduin they settled in the Vales of Anduin, where they were joined by many fugitives who came through the Forest. This was the beginning of the Éothéod, though nothing was known of it in Gondor for many years. Most of the Northmen were reduced to servitude, and all their former lands were occupied by the Wainriders.
Hope this helps! Barbara

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

That event would work wonderfully, but how to invoke it? Without (shiver) having to add in an explanatory line?
Why bother with an explanitory line? Take your cue from the Professor; how often in LotR did he reference events or bits of poetry without giving the reader their full history? You could if you wish include the citation of that passage from the appendix as the inspiration for the poem and let the readers go look it up themselves (nothing like directing others to what inspires our fanfic in the first place ) As for how, are you familiar with the Old English poetic device called kenning? Here's the explanation of it from Building Blocks of Old English Poetry:
Old English poetry is especially famous for two stylistic techniques: kennings and variations. A kenning is a poetic compound, sometimes puzzling, that substitutes for a simpler noun. Thus a king is a ring-lord or a treasure-giver; God is often called World-Shaper; and a fighter might be a sword-wielder, shield-breaker, spear-friend, war-companion, among numerous others...
You could draw from Tolkien's descriptions of the Dunlendings, which would give you an image of Wulf the Usurper.
There was at that time a man named Freca, who claimed descent from King Fréawine, though he had, men said, much Dunlendish blood, and was dark-haired. He grew rich and powerful, having wide lands on either side of the Adorn... Near its source he made himself a stronghold and paid little heed to the king. Helm mistrusted him, but called him to his councils; and he came when it pleased him. (LotR: Appendix A: The House of Eorl)
The physical description, as well as the character traits Tolkien ascribed to Freca, could apply to Wulf as well, especially when you consider his actions in taking Edoras, enslaving the people who were not killed (and though Tolkien doesn't specify, in my own story it is Wulf who slays Haleth before the doors of Meduseld). As for the Dunlendings, this is the description from Appendix F: The Language and People:
Dunland and Dunlending are the names that the Rohirrim gave to them, because they were swarthy and dark-haired...
The use of kennings could allow you to work them into the text of the poem and retain the authentic feel of the original. This device could also be useful in solving your other problem. I agree that the Rohirrim don't directly invoke the names of the Valar, though I am of the opinion that Tolkien's omission of such references does not equate with exclusion. Since the Rohirrim speak of Béma (Oromë) in their legends, it is not unreasonable that they at least know of the other Valar - and knowing is akin to believing. Create a kenning for one of them and fit it into the poem in the desired place (example: Ulmo could be referred to as the ship-breaker if refering to a disaster at sea). The reference is oblique, so you wouldn't be going counter to the "no direct invocation" of the Valar. Just a couple of ideas to play around with. ~Nessime

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

Building blocks of Old English Poetry!! Oh no. I may be tempted to write my own. You've been warned. Thing is, this isn't old English, it's old Welsh, translated into modern english. It does seem to use a similar convention-- the fallen prince of Aberffraw is variously described as "Nancaw's breastplate", "oak door", "stone roof", "gold-handed leader", "hawk unshameful", "Stronghold of Cadwaladr", "lion of Gwynedd"... Similar to Homeric epithets as well... Been going through my copy of the Tain bo Cuailnge as well-- medieval Irish epic-- and they do rather a lot of that sort of thing. The hero, Cuchulainn, is described in all kinds of ways, and there seem to be games played among the characters for who can make the most oblique references to other events and characters. I guess the high courts of Icelandic and Celtic society shared a kind of "court poetry" which was renowned for its obscurity-- referring to nothing directly and requiring extensive poetic knowledge by any who sought to understand it. ... OK, just spent like an hour reading about Welsh bards. Well, it seems to me that the best thing to do in this case is simply not to use the most troublesome bits. But if I have the time, i will work on them, and incorporate them more fully into a story, as a piece of the story, heavily reworked, instead of the chapter headings they are now. I scored a copy of UT today from a random dude with a table full of books next to Washington Square Park, for like $5-- trade paperback, lightly used-- so, I have TONS more ideas now for stories. TONS. So... plenty of homes for poetry. And if all goes well, and I can write something decent, and get it approved for inclusion in the archive-- when you select "Eorl" from the drop-down list of characters, it won't give you a page that says "No stories matched your search". (Mischevious grin.) I'll need a lot of poetry for that. Thank you all for your help! I may well be revisiting this thread in times to come. Much is percolating in this brain of mine.

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

I don't know if this is the right place for this question, but I'll ask it anyway. In THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, "The Council of Elrond" specifically, Boromir reveals the words that he and Faramir both heard in their dreams. You probably know them by heart - Seek for the Sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells; There shall be counsels taken Stronger than Morgul-spells. There shall be shown a token That Doom is near at hand, For Isildur's Bane shall waken, And the Halfling forth shall stand. Is this a particular type of poem or verse? Or just lines nicely put together?

 

 

Re: Loremasters of Middle Earth: poetry questions

Is this [the Boromir's Dream riddle] a particular type of poem or verse? Or just lines nicely put together? Hi Raksha, I would say that it's didactic verse: instructions, essentially not poetry, but set in rhyme to make them easy to memorize. An example of this genre is an immortal work called the Dentiad: Whene'er along the ivory disks are seen The rapid traces of the dark gangrene, When caries comes, with steady pace, to throw Corrosive ink-spots on those banks of snow, Brook no delay, ye trembling, suffering Fair, But fly for refuge to the Dentist's care. - Solyman Brown Hope that helps! Gemma

 

 

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