General Poetry posted July 15, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
An Ode


by tfawcus

Wild fly their feathered tails as stallions stamp
and snort a trailing mist of billowed breath.

Their wide eyes gleam with fear, their flanks still damp
with dew condensed from skies foretelling death
as night subsides, to sleep in buried woods
beyond the glare, the joyless glare of day.
Behold, the riders come with glinting swords,
and spurs to goad these steeds in blinkered hoods,
that paw the brazen earth in fierce display,
and neigh at the approach of their grim lords.

Amid the turbulence of stamping hooves
was one who stood in stirrups, tall and fair,
surveying smouldered peat of peasant rooves
and fields of golden corn now razed and bare,
and woodland ways, enjoyed in solitude
before that tragic day, when her horse shied
at sudden swoop and tumble-feathered claw
that ripped a rabbit's heart, its entrails strewed,
surprised by sudden force as all hope died...
the same she found when she rode home once more.

Her flowing locks were hid, her breastplate tight
constraining secret fires, catlike and lithe,
and, in her hectic eye, the hollow sight
of one who had been cut by death's sharp scythe
that swept across the land she once called home,
and severed from her bosom all her kin.
Her noble heart still heard the blood-wrenched screams
as those she loved were slain, and she alone
escaped by dint of fate, whose mocking grin
now drove her to fulfil tormented dreams.

Revenge was in her heart, a worm that grows
in scale when fanned from embers of dull hate,
unfurling shadowed wings on all her foes,
and claws, with venom spiked, to seal their fate.
For circumstance had turned this gentle lass
into a dragon queen, whose flames consumed
all those who crossed her paths of ashen grief.
She turned fresh fields of spring to withered grass
just as her foes had done when she was doomed,
and thus she shed her youth and her belief,

or so it seemed, as she upstaged the throng
to urge them on. "Who rides with me?" she cried.
All growled assent in voices loud and strong,
save one sole nobleman whose voice replied
with gentleness and calm. He shook his head.
"Enough," he said. Just then, a skylark rose,
with overflowing song, to greet the morn.
"See there, that bird, her song a silver thread
"of sorrow, spreading like a salve that flows
"to soothe away her grief... her nest is gone.

"Although forlorn, she'll build another soon.
"Her life goes on." With that, he turned away
but, as he left, the echo of her tune
still drifted on the wind to bid him stay.
It's hard to tell who cast the stone or made
the coward call. A mob is of one voice,
and men of peace are often crucified.
Slow, he walked away, hurt but unafraid.
She freely let him go, the ghost of choice;
redemption offered, but the chance denied.

Determined to avenge herself in gore
on those who wrecked her home, her love, her life,
her spur dug in. She led her troop to war,
her chance to change foresworn for further strife.
Yet, for a time, she seemed preoccupied,
as she recalled the peace of former times
with hesitating mind, but still she fought
against a foe who gnawed at her, inside,
as visions flooded back of leprous crimes
and ate her heart, consuming every thought.

When loaded with the dross of anger, hate,
and bile, the scale weighs heavily in mind.
It takes an age to mine the counter-weight;
forgiveness is a gem that's hard to find.
The fair maid's fate, in leaden casket sealed,
was thus assured as from the clear blue sky
a falcon flew across the barren heath,
unerringly towards the new-ploughed field
where last the lark's soft trill became a sigh,
and Cadmus sowed the fateful dragon's teeth.

Poem of the Month contest entry


An English Ode, mainly in iambic pentameter, using an ABABCDECDE rhyme scheme

In Greek mythology, Cadmus killed the sacred dragon that guarded the spring of Ares. The goddess Athena told him to sow the teeth, from which sprang a group of ferocious warriors. This has given rise to the phrase "to sow dragon's teeth", used as a metaphor to refer to doing something that has the effect of stirring up conflict. [Source: Wikipedia]

image: detail from a painting by George Stubbs 1770
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