Archive for May, 2007

The Grammar Of Poetry

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2007 by legolasandfrodo


Legolas and I have recently taken the position of Poetry Moderators for Poet’s Treehouse over at the HSB Backyard.   The rules will soon be posted up at the Backyard and you can learn the details about submitting your poetry to us there.   In honor of this event, I have decided to post a little "tutorial" on how to write poetry.  Hopefully this will be helpful to some of you!


Poetry, like every other kind of art, has a form.  It has rules and reasons and a particular routine. Today, many people are forgetting this.  They think poetry is just some genius quality that a few people have and the rest of us must live without.  It is true that some people are naturally gifted at writing poetry but all of us can be good at it if we really want to. 


I am reading a book this year called “The Grammar Of Poetry” written by Matt Whitling.  It speaks of the different forms of poetry and covers the basic rules that apply to all poetry.  Knowing these rules has really helped me to write better poetry and even to enjoy other people’s poetry better.  The book actually goes into quite a bit of detail but the points that have been the most helpful to me are these:


For different types of poetry, different orders of stresses are used.  In poetry scanning (going over a poetical work to determine what meter and rhyme scheme was used) each accented syllable is marked with a stress symbol, a little slash above the accented syllable.  An unaccented syllable is marked with a breve, a mark shaped like an upside-down half moon and placed above the unaccented syllable.  The three forms of poetry that I have read about so far are iambic, trochaic and anapestic.                               


In iambic poetry, the second syllable is accented but not the first.  An example of a piece of iambic poetry is Tennyson’s “The Eagle,” which begins like this: (I have put the accented syllables in bold type so that you can see where the stresses are)


“He clasps the crag with crooked hands

Close to the sun in lonely lands…


Trochaic meter is the exact opposite of iambic meter- in trochaic meter the stress is on the first syllable, and the second syllable is unaccented.  An example of trochaic poetry is this line from Chesterton’s dedication in the Ballad Of The White Horse.


 “…Carrying the firelight on your face,

Beyond the loneliest star.”


Anapestic meter is formed with two unaccented syllables and then one accented one.  An example of anapestic poetry is Lord Byron’s  “The Destruction Of Sennacharib” which begins like this:


“The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold…”


Dactylic meter is the exact opposite of Anapestic meter.  It is a combination of of three syllables- the first is accented and the second and third are not.  An example of dactylic poetry is this


Hail to the chief who in triumph advances,

Honored and blest be the evergreen pine!


The best way to write good poetry, though, is not to memorize a bunch a grammar rules but to READ poetry.  Although learning about poetical grammar and forms is helpful, the most important thing is to read the works of other poets.  This is crucial for providing the vision and inspiration necessary for writing good poetry.  (Some of my personal favorites are Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and Gilbert Keith Chesterton.)  When you read a poet, concentrate on their style and what subjects they generally focus on.  Try to get a feel for what the poet is like- their worldview and life.  A good way to write poetry is to first read a poem written by another poet and then, with the meter still in your mind, to try and write your own poem about a different subject but using the same meter.  Maybe you could try to identify the meter too.


However you decide to study poetry, remember that it is meant to be enjoyed!



The Spirit of Fire

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11, 2007 by legolasandfrodo

This is a poem that I wrote recently and I decided I would share it with you on my blog.  


THE SPIRIT OF FIRE      Dedicated To Alatariel


Of Feanor
In the golden days of Tirion,
The Elven-city of the sea
In the golden days of the Blessed Light
The Trees still shone and the stars were white
And all of the world was fair and free.


There was born of Miriel
Upon the hill of Valinor
Curufinwe, the Spirit of Fire
And he was the son of her heart’s desire
And she called him Feanor.


But the strength and life of Miriel
Passed to her beloved son
Her spirit was silently borne away
And great was the sorrow of Curufinwe
And he wept alone in Tirion.


Then Feanor sought solitude
And he labored and learned alone,
He gained the knowledge of many things
And the understanding that wisdom brings
And he was the heir of the Elven-throne


Of Nerdanel
The years passed on in Valinor
And Feanor wandered in the evening
On the shores of the sea his eyes beheld
The beautiful image of Nerdanel
And a song of Valinor was she singing.


And he watched her dance in the pale star-light,
Her tresses swirled in the rushing winds
And she was fair beyond all words
But on that night doom fell on her
And silently she came to him.


And as the dawn of Laurelin shone,
Feanor rose and clasped her hand,
Before her knelt and kissed her brow
And he set upon it a silver crown;
But later that crown was lost in the sand.


Of The Silmarils  
Upon Valmar was Telperion
The Elder Tree of divine light,
The first of the works of Kementari
That shone with light of the silver sea
And covered the land in radiance white.


Also was there Laurelin
And she was blessed by Elbereth

Fair was her golden crown of light
And fair were her beams that pierced the Night
Before her beauty was marred by Death.


But ever was the heart of Feanor
Troubled with a sense of great unrest
A thought that in ages yet to come
The work of Yavanna should be undone
And the Light of the Trees forever be lost.


In secret he forged three glorious gems
Unsurpassed, three wonderful vessels
In them imprisoned the Light of the Trees
More fair than the stars on the western seas
And he called them Silmarils.


He placed them high upon his brow
And bore them in pride in Valinor
And he showed them forth that all might see
And they were hallowed by Elentari
And he cherished them the more.

Of The Unchaining Of Melkor
Now it came to pass in Valinor
That Three Ages of Doom came to a close
The Three Ages of the doom of Bauglir Melkor
And he was released from Angainor;
Came forth from the Judgment Halls of Mandos.


And in Valmar, before Taniquetil
Came Melkor from the Halls of Doom
And sued for pardon before Manwe’s throne
And feigned sorrow for the evil done
And for Middle-earth, laid in ruin.


And Nienna aided his deceitful prayer
Unaware of the purpose of his thought
And Manwe hearkened to his words
And his promises to heal the world
And thus his freedom Melkor bought.


Then Melkor went free in Valinor
And wove dark evil into his speech 
And Curufinwe, in all his might
Fell prey to Melkor’s hidden lies
And in him woke a yearning to be free.


Thus Feanor hearkened to Melkor’s words
And his heart grew bitter and proud
And he forged for himself a deadly sword
First of the weapons in Valinor
And he fell into shadow.


And Curufinwe spoke of rebellion
And battle against the Powers
He spoke of the freedom of the Northern Night
Of the dark wild lands beyond the Light;
Of cities and strongholds and towers.


Of The Death Of The Trees
Then Melkor lusted for the Silmarils
And coveted them from afar
But Feanor perceived his mind
And closed his doors on the Lord of Night

And Melkor went from Valinor. 


Hidden deep in the northern cliffs
Ungoliant the Great dwelt in the dark
To her Melkor came in the dead of night
Wove about them an evil Unlight
And in secret they came unto Valmar.


Then Melkor drew forth his black spear
And pierced the Trees of Valinor
And their blood flowed onto the Ring of Doom
And their light was quenched and laid in ruin.
And Melkor fled to Middle-earth.


But his Darkness went first to Formenos
And he slew there Finwe, Elven-lord
And the Silmarils he took for his own
But in his dark hand the Light yet shone
And he set them in his Iron Crown
And Feanor cursed him and named him Morgoth.


Thus Night came upon the Blessed Realm
And Tirion fell into Darkness
And Valmar sank in a sea of fear
And Nienna washed the ground with her tears
And the Shadow entered the West.


Of The Fall Of Feanor
Then anger overcame Curufinwe
And he went in wrath to Tirion
And the Seven Sons of Feanor
Swore an oath of eternal war
Against Man and Elf and immortal Valar
Who withheld from them the Silmarils.


They summoned to witness Illuvatar
And Mandos and Manwe both
And Elbereth, Queen of Stars
And called on themselves Everlasting Dark
If they failed to fulfill their Oath.


Thus in the madness of their wrath
And the folly of their anger
They set to pursue Morgoth Bauglir
And wrest from his grasp the Silmarils
Defying Valar and Valier.


And so it was the Noldor came,
Through the vastness of the waters
Came to the land of Middle-earth
Immersed in Darkness since its day of birth
The Darkness of the Great Lord.


And they hoisted their banners in the wind
And sounded their silver horns,
And Lammoth echoed their battle cry
And their spears shone like stars against the sky
As they marched into the North.


Then driven by the fire of his wrath
Curufinwe passed o’er the plain
Passed over the plain like the Jaws of Death
Swift as the winds of Manwe’s breath,
And his foes fled before his name.


He came to the Gates of Angband
And struck the iron doors
And forth from the gates came a spirit of flame
Gothmog the Great, Curufinwe’s bane
Went forth to do battle with the Elven-lord.


Long they fought before Angband
And Curufinwe fought as one that is fey
And he strove against fire and shadow
Driven by his anger and his sorrow
And many fell beneath his blade.


But on that night doom fell on him
And at the last he was stricken down
Curufinwe, Feanor
Fell before the Shadow Lord
And he was cast upon the ground. 


And there he ended, lost in darkness,
Far from the Hill of Valinor
Curufinwe, Spirit of Fire
And he was the slave of his heart’s desire,
Thrice accursed, Feanor.


And lost are the days of Tirion,
Elven-city of the sea,
Lost are the days of the Blessed Light
When the Trees still shone and the stars were white
And all of the world was fair and free.


– Legolas