An Anglo Saxon Riddle for Poetry Month

For April Poetry Month, I’ve been hunting for a poem, a haiku that I wrote when I was fifteen to post here as a personal poetry selection.  Well, so far I’ve had no luck finding it, but while searching I found a poem written by my daughter, modelled on the epic, Beowulf, so I thought I would post it instead.  She wrote it in grade 5.


An Anglo Saxon Riddle
What lives in the cool, clear whale-road
That scuttles, catching slippery sea creatures.
What do the Lords and Ladies of Spain eat
On their full-loaded tea-table.
Although hindered for lack of four feet,
This marvelous Master of the swan-road
Is a wonderful and agile athlete,
With quickness of the heath-stepper
And back like an aged tortoise-house
When the barnacled-prows enter onto
The glassy-dark water and catch this
Magnificent creature, it’s life soon ends
On a platter with a melted-milk churned bath
Of salty cream, and he thinks of his life
In the cool, clear, whale-road.


Since trying to follow the Anglo Saxon meter (which goes by stress-count [stressed syllables] rather than syllable count, which would be two main stresses in each half of a line) was beyond her at that time, instead she focussed on alliteration and kennings.

Kennings create expressive imagery, using compound words and phrases that identify nouns.  They are often colourful to generate evocative images in the mind of the reader. Because of their usual quality, kennings help the listener/reader to remember important happenings or people and also were used to avoid superfluous repetition, making the poem more developed and creative.

And as to the answer to the riddle, you can find it in the following paintings:


Nature morte au crabe (1643)
Pieter Claesz
source Wikimedia Commons
Breakfast with a Crab (1648)
Willem Claeszoon Heda
source Wikimedia Commons
Still Life (1655-59)
Pieter de Ring
source Wikimedia Commons
Tortue et crabe (c. 1656)
Paolo Porpora
source Wikimedia Commons
Still Life with shrimps and crabs on a tin plate (1641)
Alexander Adriaenssen
source Wikimedia Commons
Albrecht Dürer
source Wikimedia Commons

Link to Beowulf Read-Along

Narnian Suite by C.S. Lewis

For my second poem during National Poetry Month, I read C.S. Lewis’ Narnian Suite.

Narnian Suite
March for Strings, Kettledrums, and Sixty-three Dwarfs
With plucking pizzicato and the prattle of the kettledrum
We’re trotting into battle mid a clatter of accoutrement;
Our beards are big as periwigs and trickle with opopanax,
And trinketry and treasure twinkle out on every part of us –
          (Scrape! Tap! The fiddle and the kettledrum).
The chuckle-headed humans think we’re only petty puppetry
And all our battle-tackle nothing more than pretty bric-a–brac;
But a little shrub has prickles, and they’ll soon be in a pickle if
A scud of dwarfish archery has crippled all their cavalry –
          (Whizz! Twang! The quarrel and the javelin).
And when the tussle thickens we can writhe and wriggle under it;
Then dagger-point’ll tickle ‘em, and grab and grip’ll grapple ‘em,
And trap and trick’ll trouble ‘em and tackle ‘em and topple ‘em
Till they’re huddled, all be-diddled, in the middle of our caperings –
          (Dodge! Jump! The wriggle and the summersault).
When we’ve scattered ‘em and peppered ‘em with pebbles from our catapults
We’ll turn again in triumph and by crannies and by crevices
Go back to where the capitol and cradle of our people is,
Our forges and our furnaces, the caverns of the earth –
          (Gold! Fire! The anvil and the smithying).
March for Drum, Trumpet, and Twenty-one Giants
                  With strumping stride in pomp and pride
                  We come to thump and floor ye;
                  We’ll bump your lumpish heads to-day
                  And tramp your ramparts into clay,
                  And as we stamp and romp and play
                  Our trump’ll blow before us –
(crescendo)     Oh tramp it, tramp it, tramp it, trumpet, trumpet blow before us!
                  We’ll grind and break and bind and take
                  And plunder ye and pound ye!
                  With trundled rocks and bludgeon blow,
                  You dunderheads, we’ll dint ye so
                  You’ll blunder and run blind, as though
                  By thunder stunned, around us –
By thunder, thunder, thunder stunned around us!
                  Ho! Tremble town and tumble down
                  And crumble shield and sabre!
                  Your kings will mumble and look pale,
                  Your horses stumble or turn tail,
                  Your skimble-scamble counsels fail,
                  So rumble drum belaboured —
(Diminuendo)     Oh rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble drum belaboured!
C.S. Lewis 
Poems (1964)
The Giant Antaeus (1868)
Gustave Doré
source Wikiart

There is not much information on this poem to quench our curiosity as to how it ties to Narnia.  Tirian in The Last Battle sings a short “Narnian marching song”, very much like it:

“Ho, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble
Rumble drum belaboured.”

The Last Battle was finished in the spring of 1953 but not published until 1956 and Narnian Suite was written in 1953.  Perhaps Lewis simply attempted to take the original marching song and expand it.  In any case, it’s all speculation at this point; I may come up with some reference to it as I read through Lewis’ letters (yes, three huge volumes with a fourth soon to be published).

Does anyone think that this poem sounds very much like Tolkien’s poems in The Lord of the Rings?  I do, but I am reading The Lord of the Rings presently, so perhaps I have that tone lingering in my head.

Poetry Month Tag

The Poetry Month celebration has begun at The Edge of the Precipice, and Hamlette has posted a tag with a few questions to answer.  Poetry and I aren’t close friends yet, but we’ll see how I do …..  Fortunately the first questions is easy!

What are some poems you like?
The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes
Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
What are some poems you dislike?
Since I’m a rank amateur when it comes to poetry, I’m trying to concentrate on poems which I think I’ll enjoy. I haven’t come across any I particularly dislike as of yet.  As for poets whom I’m hesitant to read because I think that I might not like their works, I can guess perhaps Lord Byron and William Blake.  But I could read them and love them for all I know!  
Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?
I’m very excited to read more Keats.  His ability with words and images is magnificent!  Then I’d also like to read more of Tennyson, Hilaire Belloc, and Oscar Wilde.  Curious list, isn’t it? 🙂
Do you write poetry?
I used to write a little long ago when I was in high school.  I remember that I wrote a haiku that my teacher loved, so I’m going to try to find it and post it.
Have you ever memorized a poem?
Yes!  A few:  Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll,  My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson, Celery by Ogden Nash,  and Ooey Gooey by Unknown.
Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?
I don’t enjoy rhyming for the sake of rhyming, but with poems such as The Canterbury Tales, the rhyming forms part of the tone of the stories and it’s wonderful!  Free verse has been less enjoyable for me, but again, I haven’t had much experience with it and my opinion could certainly change.
Do you have any particular poetry movements you’re fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)(If you haven’t got any idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine!  You can check out this listfor more info, if you want to.)

I have no idea what Hamlette is talking about!  Just kidding. 😉   I actually enjoy epic poems best, such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, etc.  As for eras, I think I’d like the Romantics, but again, I’m not sure. 

For my first poem of the month, I’m going to read Narnian Suite by C.S. Lewis because I’d never heard of it before and surprisingly it seems very Tolkien-ish.  Since they were part of the Inklings, a group that met together and read their writings to each other, it’s perhaps expected that certain styles and tones of writing, might have rubbed off on each other.