|Euterpe - Muse of Poetry - with her odd flute-like Aulos|
Her mystery envelops me; she sings as Aulos calls;
And in the mist, by magic kissed, we dance with waterfalls.
Ever wonder about the odd selection of 'tabs' across the top of this blog? Well, the names originated from a little poem that I formerly used as the blog's subtitle. It goes like this:
Of Hopping Rocks, of Paradox, of Books, of Nature's Code
A few small Crumbs, whatever comes, to mark my winding road.
This is an example of my 'signature' version of an old English poetic form called a 'Fourteener.' My personal twist is to add an internal rhyme scheme--I call it the RGB rhyme scheme (Red, Green, Blue):
The best way to describe my modification is with this "instruction manual" that demonstrates the form:
You start with RED, his rhythm FED by gliding into GREEN;
And now sweet BLUE, her meter TRUE, completes the pure FOURTEEN.
As the exampe suggests, the basic style is called a Fourteener (this is a link to the Wikipedia article). It has a meter scheme called Iambic Heptameter--two lines of seven stressed syllables each, thus fourteen stressed syllables in all. I call the two lines together a couplet because the cohesion is provided by two rhyming words at the end of the two lines (Green and Fourteen) in the example above.
(There's even a more tightly rhymed alternative, which I'll propose here for completeness:
You start with RED then march AHEAD to see what's SAID by GREEN;
Then switch to BLUE and let line TWO complete the TRUE fourTEEN.)
The Fourteener rhyming couplet was popular in sixteenth and seventeenth century English poetry. But its usage back then was much less constrained than the form I have fallen in love with - only rhyming the last word of each line. The familiar old nursery rhyme provides an example:
Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as SNOW;
And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to GO.
By contrast, you could rewrite this to form my peculiar tight-rhymed Fourteener thusly:
A little LAMB had Mary, MA'AM. Its fleece was white as SNOW;
And ev'ry PLACE that Mary'd PACE, the lamb was sure to GO.
As you see, this form is more tightly restricted. And yet I find it fascinating to construct these. I've done more than a hundred to date. An extended example appears in my Book Review of Lord of the Rings.
In fact, it is in Lord of the Rings that I have found the only example of the tight-rhymed Fourteener scheme written by somebody other than me. Here's J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Bregalad's Lament':
O Orofarnë, Lassemista, Carnimírië!
O rowan fair, upon your hair how white the blossom lay!
O rowan mine, I saw you shine upon a summer's day,
Your rind so bright, your leaves so light, your voice so cool and soft:
Upon your head how golden-red the crown you bore aloft!
O rowan dead, upon your head your hair is dry and grey;
Your crown is spilled, your voice is stilled for ever and a day.
O Orofarnë, Lassemista, Carnimírië!
Another internally rhymed example that most everyone is familiar with is the old spiritual 'Amazing Grace'.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the SOUND that saved a wretch like ME
I once was lost, but now I'm FOUND was blind, but now I SEE
I like this form also, but to me the more tight rhyming style just seems to resonate better as a true Fourteener. (Amazing Grace might be considered a four line 4-3-4-3 format with alternate rhyme scheme rather than a Fourteener couplet.)
Over the past few years I've spent plenty of idle hours creating these little RGB (Red, Green, Blue) gems. Below is a generous sampling.
I posted this first one on Twitter and got a great response:
Fed Dr. Seuss some Twitter juice. A silly song he sung
as viral toads on spiral roads snatched hashtags with their tongues.
The following ones got good responses on Twitter too. The first could be considered 'Flash Fiction'
Time travel man—his risky plan: I’ll kill my young self first.
New me’s that roam the quantum foam will rise from bubble burst.
As the content of the 'Paradox' tab demonstrates, I tend to obsess about big picture philosophy.
Man’s fall from grace did not take place when Eve consumed the fruit,
But when, in Sixteen-Sixty-Six, it fell on Newton’s snoot.
Worlds best designed are those that find their God permits mistakes
To such degree that even S/he occasionally partakes.
To man I brought the beasts I wrought with life’s breath, good and fit.
To wipe them out is license flouted far beyond my writ.
(—God, Genesis 1:26-31, 2:18-20)
“Live free or die” we hear men cry; but jails come by degree.
The birds would scoff: “Take shackles off! Can’t fly? Then you’re not free.”
Objective fact alone can’t crack the code of reasoned thought.
It first must find th’experienced mind, for there its truth is wrought.
Then there are the multiple couplet examples. Alexander Pope wrote whole books in rhyme. I've not been that ambitious yet, but here are some of my longer efforts, beginning with this five-part
"Ode to the First Woman to Solo Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail"
Emma Gatewood: Fourteen States, the Appalachian Trail—
Two thousand miles of grueling trials. And therein lies a tale.
A test that broke much younger folk, she trekked through rain and cold—
Georgia to Maine, alone, in pain, at sixty-sev’n years old.
She hiked in Keds, and note: Instead of fancy custom pack
She stuffed her gear inside a queer old home-made denim sack.
No bag, no tent, the year she went was nineteen-fifty-five.
It earned her fame, and some would claim she kept the Trail alive.
But hype aside, this truth abides: What Grandma Gatewood did
Was conquer fear and pioneer a path for countless kids.
My environmental position distilled in a three-fourteener ode:
The following set of four is an adaption of the
Unitarian Universalist 'Seven Principles'
To seven bold-struck rules we hold. The first says ‘All have worth.’
The last declares ‘Bequeath your heirs a healthy living earth.’
Rules two and six: let justice fix compassion’s primal drive
So world-wide peace achieves release from bonds for all alive.
Our fifth and third rules guide the ‘herd’ of fellow trav’lers all
Accept and cheer your friends and peers toward growth by common call.
And at the core is number four, for balance springs from this:
Seek to be free, responsibly; dynamic truth is bliss.
For my ongoing, ever evolving 'magnum opus' novel project, 'Eden's Womb' (see the 'Books' tab to the left of this one) I used Fourteeners, mostly in epigraphs. First here's the one that starts the tals, sort of an introduction to the 'Big Picture' setting of this Fantasy/adventure/creation story.
And so Naja sets into motion her scheme to take control of the distant future Earth of our story:
Naja's efforts to coerce/recruit Adam Timberfell (her 'Chosen One') are hinted at in a love song from the film version of another epic Fantasy story: Chronicles of Narnia--Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I used this as the epigraph of the second book of the series.
Somewhere out there, the Gods prepare a place for us to be.
More than a prayer, beyond despair, just close your eyes and see:
We’re queen and king of anything, if only we believe.
It’s written far beyond the Star: that place of our reprieve.
Our faith and love will rise above the daily gloom and dread.
For who we are is perfect par for what we’ll find ahead.
There is a place, where face to face, the water meets the sky—
Where hearts soar free in jubilee, where hope takes wing to fly.
These broken hands can mend the lands: the time we’ve waited for—
Man’s final peace, triumph, release! We’re meant for so much more.
So keep the faith when slith’ring wraith advances through the winds:
She knows that place. Hold on and brace—the epic ride begins …
—adapted from “There’s a place for us”
sung by Carrie Underwood, 2010
* * *Below are some examples of chapter epigraphs used in earlier versions of the novel. I've eliminated most of these because they are distractions, but some of them are pretty cool on their own. Often my best ones start with a prose quote, and I adapt it to the RGB Fourteen format. (I'll forgive you if your eyes are glazing over at this point.)
* * *
The face of all the world recalled is changed since then, I think:
Steps of thy soul, beside me stole, ‘twixt me and dreadful brink.
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Sonnets from the Portuguese 7
* * *
Sin bound me ‘round, though I’ve not bound. I was not recognized,
But I have seen that All is being dissolved in earth and sky.
—The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, 8:16-17
* * *
My vision smears but ne’er more clear has been my inner sight.
Their quest begins; I gift my twins a chance to reach the light.
* * *
THE LEGEND OF LUKE AEOLUS
Hush child and sleep, the night is deep, you’re safe from winter’s gales.
The hearthstones glow and visions flow as Grandma spins her tales.
* * *
She shall remain preserved from stain—immaculate from birth,
We here declare. Her blessed heir will be man’s King on Earth.
—Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854
* * *
How often I have roamed ‘neath sky, engrossed in longing search
To once exult ‘fore mountain altars: All the world’s a church.
—inspired by journal entry of John Muir, 7 September 1868
* * *
“Come in my house my dainty mouthfuls”, said the red-eyed crone,
“My oven’s hot and I have got a taste for flesh and bone.”
—‘Hansel and Gretel’, The Brothers Grimm, 1812
* * *
Sweet face whose lips launch’d thousand ships, all’s dross that is not thee;
Suck forth my soul and see it roll: Immortal I shall be!
—Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, 1604
* * *
This seed we plant, Reid Malenfant, is mind-grown universe.
“But we, blue child from Cruithne’s wild, can say that we were first.”
‘Manifold: Time’, 1999
* * *
‘Tis almost dawn, I’d have thee gone—yet not more than a bird
Whose freedom fed on silken thread is pluck’d back with a word.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, scene 2, ~1595
* * *
The words of wind, born from within, Voice carried on the clouds,
Stars slowly stream from sky to dream when passing through the shroud.
—based on ‘Suteki da ne’
Kazushige Nojima, Final Fantasy X, 2001
* * *
My people, come, retreat to slumber, shut your doors behind,
And hide yourselves in deepest delves until the wrath unwinds.
* * *
Not singly drums the death which comes—no sudden debt come due.
This death we don, here and anon, has long been in the queue.
—Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, ca. 60 A.D.
* * *
In ages hence this difference I’ll ponder with dismay:
Where Gods bestowed a choice of road I took the lesser way.
—based on ‘The Road Not Taken’, Robert Frost, 1915.
* * *
There is a star in east afar that calls: “Ye shepherd, rise.
Leave flock behind and seek the Mind that walks beyond the skies.”
—inspired by ‘A Star in The East’
Milton Okun, Robert De Cormier, Carter, 1976
Gamora: “Ye think history repeats from time to time?”
“No,” answered Warlock, “nevermore. But now and then it rhymes.”
― Dan Abnett, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Legacy
24 December 2008
* * *
A trillion souls with skulls like bowls, giv’n just ten thousand years,
Drained all resource without remorse, and left the world in tears.
* * *
No greater prize for mortal eyes: a single precious day—
To live, to breathe, with luck bequeath its gifts to morrow’s way.
* * *
In hidden halls within its walls, atop a mountain perch
DunCanon’s son, her Hallowed One, proclaims a sacred search.
* * *
Beneath the ice, like winter mice, the careworn Gleaners toil
To slowly chip from glacier’s grip the fruits of once-warm soil.
FOLLY ON THE ICEWAY
To river Sprite, to squandered sight, I rise with desp’rate ode.
A mercy grant, ere Heavens rant—pray ease my awful load!
THE HAND OF THE GODS
Nine branches hath the Shepherd’s path. You cannot scout them all.
Retreat to peace … accept release! Each road fulfills thy Call.
From shore to shore, our Buddha bore his people’s urgent dream.
Yet dukkha claims all mortal gains. Nirvana is the stream.
THE LAST OPTION
The Rotted Lands raise ghostly hands to guard their secret spawn.
Dare trespass here, you’ll flee in fear … or die before the dawn.
THE QUICK BROWN FOX
Her trifling verse—a toxic curse—escaped and plays its card.
When tamper’d bit trumps Dealer’s writ the final trick comes hard.
To stand and stare, or choose to share thy precious living wine:
Two voices stilled? One dream fulfilled? The vital choice is thine.
Man’s god, God’s man—the early plan: A kingdom and its Lord.
But later tastes would soon replace a monarch with a board.
Plague four of sev’n: lift eyes to Heav’n where mind and faith compete.
Should faith prevail the further trail shall spread before thy feet.
Where reason fails trust ancient tales to yield a path to light.
Let truth unfold from words of old: hope spring from darkest night.
‘Step forth’, they taunt, ‘accept the gauntlet laid before thy feet.
The last gate’s key, thy destiny—at DunCanon shall meet.’
The sickle’s blade—of pure light made—Heav’n’s sharpest cutting brand
Cannot surpass one blade of grass deprived of human hand.
Those desp’rate hours—while doubt devours—evince the greater goal.
Blind Chaos bends to Spirits’ ends when pray’r directs the soul.
O beast of pow’r, now comes the hour: a balm applied today
Relieves thy pain in hope to gain a favor down the way.
IN A CLOAK OF EIDERDOWN
By gloom of night a new-come fright disturbs the rancid air.
An omen charm rings clear alarm: ye company beware.
MRS. WYCHERLEY’S CAT (in honor of Alexander Pope)
Her husband dead, I watched her wed that money-grubbing rake.
Sev’n years in Fleet his fate would meet; and not a penny take.
An ancient norm sustains its form within this Rotted Land:
Ere balance chose, crude science froze, usurping Nature’s Hand.
UNTIL WORD ARRIVES
In realms unseen a Fungid queen records her firm command:
“This consort-clone, ‘til now unknown, dies only by my hand.”
By quantum bits her Voice emits a message faint and thin.
What strength denies, the frail espies: a pow’r from deep within.
From random drift a current swift; from Chaos comes a plan:
Thus Naja rose; and from her flows the Noble Course for man.
A child, thirteen, confronts a queen ‘til truth stands undenied:
‘Your sacred phrase, from ancient days, is Adam’s constant guide.’
TO CATCH HER DRIFT
Awake, stout soul! Assume the role that Naja's plan portends:
Thy knowledge grows, Her guidance flows, Sustains, Impels, Transcends.
‘Twixt land and sky her peak lifts high: commanding all the realm.
Through countless years no man came near ‘til Lissa took the helm.
Endure your pain for greater gain: our quest—our hallowed goal.
Leave doubt behind and steel your mind: to DunCanon we roll.