Tolkienesque Poetry?

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Tolkienesque Poetry?

Postby Celebrendir » Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:29 pm

Is there, somewhere in this forum, a thread that features poetry by community members, in the poetic style of Tolkien?

I have not yet found such a thread, where the beautiful Tolkien style is echoed or imitated. I have found poetry posts, but they do not generally appear to be in Tolkien's style.

I love Tolkien's poetic style, and would like to practice it with other aspiring poets and Tolkien-lovers.

Does anyone else share this desire?
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:50 pm

Hail and well met, Celebrindir, welcome to TORC. Glad you found the Scriptorium . . . :D

To find some lovely gems, you might have to scroll back a few pages. I found three threads that may interest you (well, went looking for them since I remember they had some good stuff in them).

Here's the links:

By Johnny Blaze
By Wayside Whistler
By WithyWyrm

Hope that's something along the lines of what you're looking for . . .

:D:D:D
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Postby Celebrendir » Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:18 am

Thank you, SilverScribe, for finding these three poems for me. The second and third do indeed ring with some echo of Tolkien's voice, and are skillfully composed: I appreciate the poets' effort.

I will continue searching the forums for other Tolkien-style poems, and if you happen to come across more, please let me know. Thanks! Eventually I hope to compose some myself.
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:21 pm

Well, I'm no poet, and certainly no Tolkien, but there are a few humble scribblings of my own waaaaay down in the Basement of this here old Scriptorium . . .

clicky linky

Alas, I have little talent and these days, no time. But I can scramble a few words and dump them out in even some semblance of poetry . . .

If you don't look to closely. ;)

:D:D:D
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Postby Celebrendir » Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:42 pm

I think you may have more talent than you realize, SilverScribe: I enjoyed reading your poetry. Thank you for sharing it!
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Postby rwhen » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:32 pm

Celebrendir, we cross paths yet again. See? I said that I "saw" something of the person behind the words in your posts. I now feel validated.

Our dear Scribbles is being very modest as she always is. Her talent is huge and anyone who has spent the years that I have following her various works, knows it.

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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:21 pm

Awwww, now y'all are gonna make me blush . . . :blush: Thanks ever so much for all the kind words.

Maybe I should trot out my actual Tolkien themed poetry one of these days . . . rummages through the desk . . . Now where did I put "Spring in Rivendell" and "The Lay of Lethelian" . . .

;):D:D:D

Edited to Add: Well, it seems that somewhere back in the mists of time, when TORC had a database glitch or something, a whole chunk of time is missing from this forum - along with a lot of original, Middle Earth themed poetry that I posted as a newbie . . . Good thing I work from Wordpad or Word . . . that means I can torture y'all anew. =:)
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Postby Celebrendir » Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:20 pm

rwhen wrote:Celebrendir, we cross paths yet again. See? I said that I "saw" something of the person behind the words in your posts. I now feel validated.

Mae govannen, Rwhen! Fair are your words to me, and gracious, as cool droplets glimmering on the pale niphredil of Lorien, that gladden the face of that golden realm.
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Postby TS » Wed Nov 05, 2008 10:35 pm

Tolkien, I'm afraid, is really something of a second-rate poet.

For example, Elizabeth made me read this poem of his the other day:

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?


I couldn't figure out exactly why it sounded SO bad to me until I realized that it consisted entirely of fourteeners (except for one line that even more clumsily breaks that meter), a metrical line C.S. Lewis describes as "lumbering" and "terrible":

The medial break in the alexandrine, though it may do well enough in French, becomes intolerable in a language with such a tyrannous stress-accent as ours: the line struts. The fourteener has a much pleasanter movement, but a totally different one: the line dances a jig.


If you're reading that poem correctly according to its meter, it really comes off sounding absurd. Because it really is just that: a jaunty little jig, and jaunty and jiggy definitely don't suit the content. The sadness of the elves so beautifully evoked in The Silmarillion ends up sounding like so much doggerel here, which is really a shame.

Just something to keep in mind. If you want to write good formal poetry, there are far better poets than Tolkien to which you can look. I'm a Romantic fan myself.
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Postby BrianIsSmilingAtYou » Sat Nov 08, 2008 4:00 pm

TS wrote:Tolkien, I'm afraid, is really something of a second-rate poet.

For example, Elizabeth made me read this poem of his the other day:

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?


I couldn't figure out exactly why it sounded SO bad to me until I realized that it consisted entirely of fourteeners (except for one line that even more clumsily breaks that meter), a metrical line C.S. Lewis describes as "lumbering" and "terrible":

The medial break in the alexandrine, though it may do well enough in French, becomes intolerable in a language with such a tyrannous stress-accent as ours: the line struts. The fourteener has a much pleasanter movement, but a totally different one: the line dances a jig.


If you're reading that poem correctly according to its meter, it really comes off sounding absurd. Because it really is just that: a jaunty little jig, and jaunty and jiggy definitely don't suit the content. The sadness of the elves so beautifully evoked in The Silmarillion ends up sounding like so much doggerel here, which is really a shame.

Just something to keep in mind. If you want to write good formal poetry, there are far better poets than Tolkien to which you can look. I'm a Romantic fan myself.


It is true that it is iambic heptameter, in the form of fourteeners in rhyming couplets.

However, it seems like a subjective assessment that this makes it "jaunty".

Fourteeners are a variation on common meter, or ballad meter.

An example is the spiritual "Amazing Grace". You can sing this poem to that tune. Is that jaunty? That is a much better model for how to read this piece--use that kind of pacing, if not the same melody.

Another good example is the following by Emily Dickinson. She is actually using ballad meter, but if you combine the odd and even numbered lines, it become a fourteener.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality.

Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me;
The Carriage held but just Ourselves and Immortality.


As you noted that you are a fan of the Romantic era, you are probably aware that Blake uses this meter in the Book of Thel. That is surely a jaunty read.

All that the jaunty comment means is that you're reading it wrong. If you read it to the tune of the "Gilligan's Island" song, for example, rather than "Amazing Grace" that is your error, not the fault of the poem.

When one reads poetry (and I do open mikes several times a month, and have been a occasional featured reader locally in the Philadelphia region for years), it is a mistake to impose a preset view of what the meter means without making reference to the content. It is different in that respect from music, where there may be a set melody that imposes itself.

As an example, the line that breaks meter corresponds to the emotional breaking of the volta. (This is a sonnet in couplets, in case you did not realize it):

O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore

Someone who has experience reading poetry aloud will turn that into a virtue--especially since someone with experience reading poetry aloud would not likely have been reading this in a "jaunty" fashion, but would have respected the content and would have used the small repetitions of sound that are characteristic of the piece to slowly build to the climax.

This is actually one of Tolkien's best realized pieces, taken on its own terms, certainly from a metrical and formal standpoint.

Let us consider the claim that this is doggerel--

From wiki:

Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings:

* trite, cliché, or overly sentimental content
* forced or imprecise rhymes
* faulty metre
* misordering of words to force correct metre


Let us consider these points.

The material could be considered sentimental, but within the context of Tolkien's world it resonates as true if you are willing the accept the sadness of the Eldar and their loss and separation from Eldamar.

The rhymes are not forced or imprecise. However, there is a reliance on some rhymes such as years/tears and me/sea that could be considered overused or somewhat cliché, but again they work in context and (unlike the case of doggerel) the rhymes do not appear to drive the content, but the content dictates the rhyme.

All of the lines (except for the one noted above) are perfect iambic heptameter, without any of the "forced" stresses or grammatical distortions that are characteristic of doggerel.

The one line that has an anapestic substitution in the middle does so for a reason that is consistent with the emotional struggle of the speaker, which is a proper use of metrical variation.

Also, doggerel rarely obeys difficult formal constraints.

The poem above is a sonnet in iambic heptameter rhyming couplets with a volta that begins in line 9, with the first "O Lorien!", which is classic for a sonnet.

Coming in with preconceptions is one of the best ways to kill the appreciation of a piece.

BrianIs :) AtYou

PS

Here is an example of how taking something as "jaunty" causes a (deliberately) humorous "misreading" of something intended otherwise:

What if the Beatles were Irish?

Your description of how to read this poem is comparably askew.
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Postby TS » Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:47 pm

First of all, Brian, I very much appreciate the depth and intelligence with which you've disputed my claim. After evaluating your arguments and rereading the poem a few times, I've come to judge it somewhat more highly. The first four lines, however, remain undeniably jaunty and, as the Host assesses Chaucer's verse in his Tale of Sir Thopas, "may wel be rym dogerel." You've made me realize that, yes, I was unfairly reading the remainder of the poem in light of the pattern established in the first four lines; I would nevertheless like to argue that those opening lines DO force us to read them in a way that does not do justice to Tolkien's brilliance or his prose artistry.

Before I begin, a note on my original "doggerel" insinuation: if you will note how I actually phrased it, I merely contended that, because of the awkward meter, the poem ended up "sounding like so much doggerel," not that its contents, in fact, constituted doggerel. Moreover, I was referring to a single specific failing in the poem, viz., the jauntiness of its meter: note that your Wikipedia definition simply says that doggerel "might have any or all of the following failings," against ALL of which you inexplicably felt compelled to defend the poem. In response to your contention that doggerel "rarely obeys difficult formal constraints," I would direct you back to that line in The Canterbury Tales (incidentally, this is the first citation given for the word "doggerel" in the Oxford English Dictionary), in which the Tale of Sir Thopas is perfectly formally accurate and metrically sound. I, for one, have never used the word "doggerel" to refer to poetry that was simply bad, in the sense that it had technically "faulty metre": you seem to have construed my remark about the clumsiness of the metrical substitution as accusing Tolkien of not knowing how to count his syllables, which was not my intention.

Since you've raised the matter of poor rhymes, however, I'd just like to point out that grew/blew and sea/tree, especially in couplet form, seem among the most cliché rhymes conceivable. They also arguably do "drive the content" of the first four lines: I, for one, don't really see what the foam has to do with anything, and there seems to be no particular reason why the speaker should sing of a wind that blew rather than some other elemental force or entity. Finally, how can you not see some horrendous examples of "misordering of words to force correct metre" in these first four lines? "leaves of gold there grew" and "in the branches blew" represent just the kind of affected, amateurish inversions of word order that characterize the worst of the formal pieces by modern-day aspiring poets. None of these factors are sufficient to justify a dismissal of the poem as "drasty rymyng ... nat worth a toord," but in my opinion they do contribute to the overall jarring effect of the verse that works against the poem's contents and sentiments.

But now on to the real issue: the horribly jigging fourteener. You've made me come to realize that it is possible to read, say, the last line without any such jauntiness: "What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?" So you've allowed me to pinpoint the real problem: the fourteener itself is not the issue, but rather the less than masterful manner in which Tolkien employs it in all of the first four lines. It's the way Tolkien allows the line to fall into a four/four/six pattern, and even forces it to do so with his punctuation. Consider the first line: I sang of leaves [short stop], of leaves of gold [short stop], and leaves of gold there grew. The effect of the commas -- and, this is important, the length of the one single line -- does, in fact, force us to read the rhythm as something like: "do DO do DOO do DO do DOO," that is, with the stresses a little longer on LEAVES and GOLD, and then a final breathless rush towards the end of the line. Note that this holds true for the rest of the opening lines, even where there are not commas, as after "a wind there came." We are forced to make a short stop at "came," especially because the following foot "and in" is so weak. Similarly, we might be tempted to read the next line ignoring the pause at the comma, i.e., "beYOND the sun, beYOND the moon," but the length and pace of the line simply will not permit such a reading. Now, you bring up important points with your separate references to "Amazing Grace" and to music generally, but I feel these two references contradict one another:

It is different in that respect from music, where there may be a set melody that imposes itself.


I think this is absolutely correct, and also the reason why "Amazing Grace" can use something like ballad meter without sounding jaunty: the prescribed length of the notes in "how sweet the sound" ensure that "sweet" and "sound" last for the same duration, whereas, as Lewis observes, the "tyrannous stress-accent" of the English language, when not regulated by musical notation, will naturally cause fourteeners to strut or jig, especially in the way Tolkien uses them, actually drawing extra attention to this problem with his built-in caesuras. In a way, then, I would argue that a similar "melody" CAN be imposed by the text of a poem, though to a lesser extent than in music. I can't claim wide open mic experience, but it seems to go without saying that one can't manipulate a poem any way one wishes during a poetry reading: a period means a full stop; a comma means a longer stop than no comma; and one cannot shuffle the caesuras and longer stresses at will simply because it sounds better to do so. Might it not also "sound better" to adjust a rhyme or replace a word here or there? You talk of "respecting the content" -- what of respecting the form? The punctuation is just as much a part of the poem as are the letters, the form as much as the content, and it is Tolkien's form that determines the pacing in these first four lines. In short, there's nothing so very "subjective" about my criticism at all.

Your mention of Dickinson in relation to this issue is also quite interesting, but I would argue that the key difference between Tolkien's mediocre poem and Dickinson's often superb ones comes in her ingenious, idiosyncratic use of line breaks and punctuation. Her use of ballad meter exactly instead of the fourteener, in combination with her infamous long dashes, allow her much more freedom in shaping how we read the poem in defiance of the English language's normal stress patterns. Those dashes allow her to indicate far longer stops than the short pauses of the fourteener, and the shorter lines also obviously create stronger caesuras by their very nature. Really, I think if one reads Tolkien's poem aloud in a way that does not sound like a jig, one must artificially add in a few of those longer stops, thereby in effect breaking up the fourteener into ballad meter. And, sorry, but that's just what Tolkien put down on the page; I still agree with Lewis that the kind of line he wrote dances a jig, despite any desire on our parts for it not to. Let me go out on a limb here and "translate" Tolkien into Dickinson:

Beyond the Sun--Beyond the Moon--
The foam--was on the Sea
And by the strand of Ilmarin--
There grew a golden Tree.

Now all we've gotta do is just turn one of those rhymes slant instead of puerile, and I think it's actually a surprisingly better example of verse, one with a more appropriate level of ponderousness. Unfortunately, Tolkien wrote fourteeners, not ballad meter.

And I'm glad you brought up Blake as well. Personally, I don't find the Book of Thel the most compelling piece of poetry out there, (proto-)Romantic or otherwise, but Blake's use of fourteen-syllable lines in it is definitely mediated by some clever manipulation of stress accents and strategic comma use. You tout Tolkien's "perfect iambic heptameter" throughout his poem as an achievement, whereas I see it as a limiting flaw. Anybody can toss off some iambs, and it is definitely possibly to write iambic doggerel. Just ask Elizabeth; I've written her my share of dreadfully drasty sonnets.

So, an excerpt from the Blake:

The daughters of Mne Seraphim led round their sunny flocks,
All but the youngest. She in paleness sought the secret air,
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day.
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard,
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like the morning dew;

'O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring, born but to smile & fall?
Ah! Thel is like a wat'ry bow, and like a parting cloud,

Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water,
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant's face,
Like the dove's voice, like transient day, like music in the air.
Ah! gentle may I lay me down and gentle rest my head,
And gentle sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden of the evening time.'

The Lilly of the Valley, breathing in the humble grass,
Answer'd the lovely maid and said: 'I am a wat'ry weed


In fact, now that I think about it, I'm not even sure you could call the above lines fourteeners at all. If so, there are substitutions just about everywhere, aren't there? Sorry, but I think you misunderstood me, and Lewis: it's not a length of fourteen syllables that causes a line to jig, nor iambs alone, but their confluence in the fourteener proper. Thus, your citation of Blake's more radical meter actually helps prove my own point about the specific failings of Tolkien's chosen form.

In your post, you also really made little effort to establish how Tolkien's chosen form enhances the content of his poem. Why fourteeners instead of good old iambic pentameter? Why not free verse? Instead you adopted a more defensive posture -- which is, I suppose, understandable, due to the flippancy of my assertion that Tolkien was a second-rate anything -- but also a vague one: you claim the weaker rhymes work "in context," but I'm not sure what you mean by that. For instance, just because the poem is about a Sundering Sea doesn't mean that Tolkien has to rhyme the word "sea" on two occasions in it. I also don't really understand your point about the volta: you say that the metrical substitution two lines later "corresponds" with the volta in the ninth line, the speaker's turn from Aman to Lorien, but I have no idea what significance you're attaching to that "correspondence." Please clarify, if you think it helps your case. I mean, I guess you can justify the metrical substitution somehow -- again, obviously I didn't intend to suggest that Tolkien let it slip in unintentionally -- but it still seems a clumsy one. You could account for the substitution in the location it appears (that is, not coincident with the volta proper) as mirroring the speaker's increasingly "broken" emotional state during his reflection, but I'd invoke a form of the imitative fallacy and say that's kind of a cheap, overdone effect.

Lastly, what preconceptions are you suggesting I came in with when reading the piece? As I explained, in my first few readings of the poem, something just felt off about it, and only later did I begin to analyze what exactly was bothering me about its form and meter. And now that I've analyzed it more fully in light of your defense, I'm willing to concede it's much better than I thought it was, as several of the final lines defy the fatal four/four/six jig.

But he still ain't no Keats.
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Postby MithLuin » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:54 pm

Okay, the Beatles songs were hilarious. I think I prefer them better that way :twisted: But then, I'm one of the few people in the world who is not a huge fan of theirs, so I know I'm weird.

Anyway, back to Tolkien. I agree that how you read a passage will change its tone dramatically. I've heard people recite Emily Dickenson's "I could not stop for death" poem to the tune of Gilligan's Island, and it was, of course, a bit too jaunty ;).

For an example in the opposite direction - Tolkien wrote the walking song to be light-hearted, and Billy Boyd made it quite haunting when he had Pippin sing it much further from home.

Here is an excerpt of what the Italian band Lingalad did with Frodo's lament for Gandalf in Lothlorien: The Grey Wayfarer

And here is an a cappella version of Namárië by Miriam Peirone. Tolkien himself recited it as something closer to Gregorian chant.
But here, he just recites it regularly. I can't find the clip of him chanting on line, but this version is closeish...maybe Here he reads The Tale of Tinuviel


Ah, right, but this was supposed to be about "I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew." Let's see what youtube can do with that.

A distinctly non-jaunty version I'm not sure if I'd say it's haunting, but it is at least reflective. And for much better quality, check out Wonder from the LotR musical. It uses some lines from the poem, but is an original composition.



As for writing Tolkien-esque poetry, I haven't really tried. I did, however, have to use bits of poetry in some of my Tolkien fanfics. In my first (about hobbits) I dealt with that in three ways - I composed my own nursery rhyme-esque poem, I took a bluegrass song and re-wrote it, and I used a translation of a Spanish poem (unaltered). The effect was meh; I wasn't really pleased with any of that. (The story is here, should anyone care). More recently, I've had to put lyrics in Maglor's mouth, so I've come up with this:

“...and then he rode away, his grief and despair overcoming all counsel. He would not be restrained, this vision of the Valar, who rode to challenge Morgoth himself. His horse returned riderless, and died in mourning. An eagle bore his body back, and Turgon his son buried him in the mountains, never forgetting.”


Again, I am not pleased with the result. I'm not a poet (obviously), so I did not pay much attention to things like meter while writing this. I tried to work a little bit of alliteration in, but that's about it. I sure Maglor would be quite displeased, but ah well.

Oh, and I did compose a poem/song for MoME 2006, now that I think about it. But seriously, I could count the number of times I've attempted to write poetry (of any sort) on my fingers, and not run out. So, I'm not the person to talk to about this!
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Postby Celebrendir » Fri Nov 14, 2008 2:49 pm

Alas! My thread, which was supposed to be about the simple enjoyment and creation of poetry, has been invaded by a horde of intellectuals!

I confess I have very little interest in such lofty debates. In my opinion, you're thinking about poetry overmuch, and not really feeling it at all. But poetry is fundamentally the domain of the heart, not the mind. You're settling for the lesser gift when you reduce poetry to a mere intellectual exercise or academic debate: a pallid shadow of the real thing.

But perhaps such discussions are necessary; and I am not one to tell others where they may take the threads I begin. Therefore, if this is where this discussion really wants to go, then so be it. May others derive some benefit from it.
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Postby Cynara » Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:02 pm

I feel your pain, Cele. I can recommend the songs of Andrew Peterson, particularly his album A Far Country. He is, in fact, a singer/songwriter, and doesn't sing about Tolkienesque things particularly (although he often references Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia in his songs. His work is undoubtedly religious, but the music is beautiful and calming, and his lyrics are graceful and evocative is a way rarely seen. I suggest looking him up on YouTube.
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Postby Celebrendir » Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:19 pm

Hi Cynara,

I checked out Andrew Peterson on YouTube as you suggested, but I haven't found any Tolkien references yet. Actually, his lyrics and style seem very much in the contemporary Christian mode, which is often at odds with Tolkien.

But if you can name some specific songs with Tolkien-style lyrics, I would be glad to look them up.

Thanks. :)
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Postby Cynara » Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:47 pm

Try "Havens Grey." If you can't find the reference... ;)
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Postby MithLuin » Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:24 pm

I like Andrew Peterson, but didn't know that song, so thank you for sharing! (Yes, he's a CCM artist)

Havens Grey complete with LotR movie clips. ;)

The first song by him that I ever heard was Nothing to Say. I think it catches some of the wonder that you can experience looking at the world, and in that sense, it reminds me of Tolkien - who describes wonder beautifully. This song describes driving through the American Southwest.

Another one by him I like is Shiloh which is about longing for home.



I think you can enjoy poetry with your heart, but if you are going to create it, you have to be willing to analyze. And Tolkien didn't invent the style/meter of "Earendil was a mariner..." without paying attention to such things, certainly. You may love trees to look at, and still know them by name. Being 'intellectual' doesn't kill the enjoyment of poetry (or at least, it needn't).

And really, we should be nice to TS - after all, he dressed up like a Ringwraith to propose to Luthy on Halloween :).
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Postby TS » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:45 pm

TS is really something of a second-rate Ringwraith. You could see the bottoms of his trouser legs.
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Postby Celebrendir » Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:56 pm

MithLuin wrote:I think you can enjoy poetry with your heart, but if you are going to create it, you have to be willing to analyze.
Do you?

MithLuin wrote:You may love trees to look at, and still know them by name.
True, but there's a difference between naming a tree, and going into intricate detail about all the ways its trunk and branches and leaves are poorly made or "second-rate."

To quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I'm sayin' about that." This discussion teeters on debate, which is something I try to avoid; indeed it has already gone there. So I will bow out of it now, respectfully, with sincere thanks to all. Enjoy!
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Postby TS » Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:49 pm

Celebrendir --

One generally does have to know what's good -- and why -- to make something that's good. Especially if that something is formal poetry, because prosody isn't easy. But I'd also venture the argument that questions of how a poem is made and how it operates can be important for other reasons: I do believe there is a point to literary criticism. You don't have to analyze a work of art to enjoy it, I suppose, but "enjoyment" is really a form of analysis itself. Something in any appreciative reader is -- although perhaps more unconsciously in some readers than others, or at some times more so than others -- actively discriminating between this poem and that poem, this style or word choice and that one. I wouldn't characterize my reaction to literature or my criticism of it as ever merely an "intellectual exercise": my responses are always powerfully motivated by a passion for literature, and a greater passion for what I perceive to be greater literature. If I were to adduce here a famous sonnet by Keats or Shelley to compare with Tolkien's, it would not be to denigrate Tolkien in order to prove some cold intellectual point, but rather to demonstrate why I truly and passionately believe Keats produced a far more moving, meaningful, and beautiful work. Similarly, rather than reduce a poem to a shadow of itself, I hope in my future academic criticism and teaching to better illuminate a given poem. Sometimes we do need to be "taught" a little bit to appreciate a poem. Sometimes we just don't see -- or feel -- everything that the poem is capable of making us see and feel. Same goes for say, a novel like Moby Dick, which I know I would have failed to appreciate had I tried to read it on my own. Fortunately, I had a fantastic professor guide me through it. I can only aspire to someday be such a one.

And there's nothing wrong with a little civil debate. If I responded a bit, er, aggressively to Brian, it was because his analysis of my earlier statements challenged me to do so. Mith, of course, disagreed with me but made no such challenge, implicit or explicit. And so I can respond to her much more freely:

I think the real point of our disagreement really lies in what you said here:

It uses some lines from the poem, but is an original composition.


I guess I just see even something like that version set to music on youtube as just that, a more or less original composition, or at least in some way derivative. I do agree it represents a considerable improvement over the limiting punctuation and pacing of the original, but it's not exactly Tolkien's poem. I mean, I guess that's just a difference of opinion I'm willing to tolerate. :) I'll admit to being very text-focused in my perspectives, not performance-focused, even when it comes to say, drama, which can obviously be problematic. But il n'y a pas de hors-texte, right? :twisted:
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Postby MithLuin » Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:57 am

Celebrendir wrote:
MithLuin wrote:I think you can enjoy poetry with your heart, but if you are going to create it, you have to be willing to analyze.
Do you?


Yes and no. I can certainly analyze poetry, but by no means can I create it myself :P


Of course I consider the song "Wonder" to be something wholly different from the poem "I sang of leaves..." but it did use the first two lines more-or-less intact, so I thought it was worth bringing up if that was the particular part of the poem being criticized.

A lot of readers skip over Tolkien's songs/poems while reading, so obviously not everyone considers them great stuff. I think his prose (in some places) is a lot more moving than his poetry, and in general, don't think he's going to hold up favorably to Keats. But I often like what he has to say better than Keats. ;)

The excerpt of the Lay of Leithian that was put into the published Silmarillion was brilliant stuff, of course. So even if you don't like this poem, there are others....



Edit: TerryD's thread is full of poetry. If you want to find more poetry, track down posts by Will (A_Simple_Poet) and Parm (prmiller). So yes, there are threads here with poetry. Whether it is in Tolkien's style or not....well, I'll leave that up to you to discover.
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