More Musings on the Muse

From: 94stranger


I shall ride high to meet
the lords of barley;
I shall ride by and parley
with the lords of wheat
and where the brook runs down
to Camelot, I shall dismount and drink –
ere there is blood in the water, and the mighty sink;
beneath the patient oak where in the shallows wink
the pieces of the crown.

This is the full text of the poem.

I’m going to write an extended post on this on my blog, under the title ‘exploring Camelot’, so anyone interested should be able to find it there shortly. However, as a kind of preview, I’ll run through the production of the above.

Sometimes, I find myself with a kind of ‘inner itch’ and then out pops – something. In this case, it was the first two lines, exactly as above. ‘What rhymes with barley? I asked myself, ‘parley’ came straight back, ‘and wheat rhymes with meet’ – then I had, almost immediately, lines three and four. The emotional impetus of this carried me forward, and lines five and six, which are the core of the poem, and told me sort of what it was about, came also almost at once. Then the flow dried up, and the rest was blood, sweat and tears – and the result (those last three lines) is far from really pleasing me, I have to say.
More later on my own blog, including further musings on your musings, Colleen

To me the core of your poem is the last three lines. I find that they give a depth and history of the image made by the first six lines. I think the semi-colon confuses the meaning. It could read (without it) as “and the mighty sink beneath the patient oak” which then adds to the image of blood in the water and bodies sinking into the ground. To me, if the poem ended at the sixth line, it would be a nice image but would have no further context. Leaving off the last line (with some tinkering) would still give a story, a history to this image of Camelot, but the last three lines bespeak a time of glory and a time of turmoil, the future falling of Arthur and Camelot, where even the trappings of splendor come to naught and all that is left is the natural world: the oak, the water, the lords of wheat and barley.

I actually like those last three lines best of all. But again, by themselves they would not give a complete picture.

As with most musings with the muse, sometimes it is the picture or the line you are given and then you’re left with what to do with that and how to use it.


Filed under spirituality, Writing

5 responses to “More Musings on the Muse

  1. 94stranger

    Hi Colleen,
    I think you’re right to imply that perhaps I’m undervaluing the last lines. If so, then it’s a warning to try and be as neutral as possible in one’s attitude to muse vs sweat.
    I’m annoyed now at not having been more aware during the writing of this poem. I think perhaps, to correct a little what I said before, the input in the sweat and toil lines amounts to trying to grasp the significance of the given lines. In other words, it’s like being given a gift which is incomplete and obscure, and having to complete it.
    Perhaps I referred to the lines

    And where the brook runs down to Camelot
    I shall dismount and drink

    as the core, because that’s the watershed – it was only with the arrival of the word Camelot that I had my first inkling of what was going on.

    Another thing you’re right about – the semi-colon; this was just a piece of sloppiness – I tend to work fast and short, and not to revise beyond the first 24 hours or so after finishing something. I guess that’s why I’ve been drawn to Haiku – you don’t have to hang about! So, the semi-colon is OUT.

    Thanks for all your input on this. It’s not often that one gets the chance in the blogosphere – or so I’ve found – to get a real in-depth critique of a piece of work: everything moves so fast and one is only as good as one’s latest post. So, I owe you one.

  2. 94stranger

    Just after writing the above, I had a close encounter of the muse kind – out of the blue, as it were:

    Camelot – reprise

    In the high hills I met the lords of barley;

    By water-mills in vain

    did parley with the lords of wheat.

    Sword-sharp is my regret: I did ride down

    to Camelot, those stricken knights to greet.

    I ride among the scattered homesteads now

    And versify on all that came to pass –

    in hope in time to come, when I am under grass

    the tale shall live to echo ever on

    through the great castles of the lords of barley;

    at the high tables of the lords of wheat.

  3. colleenanderson

    I think we do have to watch that all that is muse-driven may not be at its best and that sweat- driven is not necessarily as good. After all, some muse-driven pieces are like mad Dionysic ramblings and takes the artist to separate the wheat from the chaff. (I just had to say that, with all the grain imagery.)

    If I call the ideas I get through dreams as muse-driven, often they need sorting into something that our waking minds can follow. Yet they can be wonderful and whole in themselves.

    With your watershed lines, I completely understand as they anchor your poem to a time and a place, both mythic and in its way timeless. They led you to your concluding lines. Your poem captures this timeless mythic splendor and the darkness of regret and tragedy.

    This second poem is different in feeling and message. Its message is more straightforward, whereas the first has layers that leave you thinking. Who the “I” is in the first one is open to interpretation, which I think is a good thing. In the second, it is the bard, the recorder of tales. It’s not bad to know this, but it makes the poem much different.

    If I had to choose one poem over the other I would still go with the first one. Have you tried to publish these anywhere (though I know that by posting on the internet does limit publication possibilities)? The rhythm works better in the first one but in the reprise it trips up around this line: “And versify on all that came to pass -”

    As to owing me…heh. Be careful what you offer. I might send you one of my epic performance pieces. 😀

  4. 94stranger

    You are very perceptive!
    I feel that you’re right: I mean that I get lost a bit in the middle of number 2, and I guess it’s because I haven’t really decided how it stands in relation to number 1 – I feel now that I am going to ignore this work for a few weeks or months and let it settle: it’s what I usually do, a bit like composting, where you make the heap and then leave nature to do her bit. If at some stage I do a spring-clean on this second one I’ll let you know.

    (You’re right, correcting an epic for you might be a bit above and beyond… but if you do need to bounce anything off me at some future date, feel free to at least make an approach!)

  5. colleenanderson

    I sometimes have to let things percolate for a long time. In some cases I’ve come back to a story years later to finally see what wasn’t working in it. Happy composting. 🙂

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