Thursday, 5 February 2015

Errantry

A Poem. To be read fast. 
(to the tune of Modern Major-General if you prefer)

There was a merry passenger
a messenger, an errander;
he took a tiny porringer
and oranges for provender;
he took a little grasshopper
and harnessed her to carry him;
he chased a little butterfly
that fluttered by, to marry him.
He made him wings of taffeta
to laugh at her and catch her with;
he made her shoes of beetle-skin
with needles in to latch them with.
They fell to bitter quarrelling,
and sorrowing he fled away;
and long he studied sorcery
in Ossory a many day.
He made a shield and morion
of coral and of ivory;
he made a spear of emerald
and glimmered all in bravery;
a sword he made of malachite
and stalachite, and brandished it,
he went and fought the dragon-fly
called wag-on-high and vanquished it.
He battled with the Dumbledores,
and bumbles all, and honeybees,
and won the golden honeycomb,
and running home on sunny seas,
in ships of leaves and gossamer,
with blossom for a canopy,
he polished up and burnished up
and furbished up his panoply.
He tarried for a little why
in little isles, and plundered them;
and webs of all the attercops
he shattered, cut, and sundered them.
And coming home with honey-comb
and money none - remembered it,
his message and his errand too!
His derring-do had hindered it.

Errantry by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a wonderful poem that Tolkien wrote in 1930, as described in HoME Vol.6 'The Treason of Isengard'. It was read at a literature club called by its undergraduate members 'The Inklings', the name that in later years C.S.Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien would give to their own private group of friends. It was amended through many versions, and in the end turned into the Poem 'Earendil' that in LOTR Bilbo wrote in Rivendell. 

The poem was written in a unique meter of trisyllabic assonances, three in each four lines, with the end of the 1st line rhyming with the start of the 2nd line, and the end of the 2nd and 4th line rhyming with each other.  Even Tolkien found this so hard he never wrote another poem using it again..

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