Farewell to Byzantium - James Prescott


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Farewell to Byzantium

Copyright © 1990 James Prescott


Sombre sand the rhymer  scrys for rune-writ thighs that
Thrown there, bode the hidden  thongs the thin crones spin us,
Our fate to bind – future  footsteps by Norns foretold.
Heed now runic riddles  read by your skald, Thorvald.
Grand hird, purple guarding,  gold-paid axemen boldest.
Dreamt I tragic doom-time,  death in palace hallows –
Loyal guards lie sword-slain;  Loki claims King Phocas;
Fire, confusion, fear and  foolish hope – he's ghoul meat.
Stumble, shocked and smoke-blind  slaughter, rape, escaping;
Friends and lord lie murdered,  leaving me to grieve them,
While the road runs loud with  whispers of – Tzimiskes.
He's a selfish halfwit  whoreson – mighty spiteful.



[ I wrote this poem in imitation of the Norse Viking skaldic poetry form called the dróttkvaett. It is written as if by an Icelandic captain in the Imperial bodyguard in Byzantium in December 969. It's not such a great bit of poetry, but I have extremely fond memories of having introduced it, and read it, for an enchanted crowd in a field in the summer in the middle of British Columbia. For whatever reason, it created a magical moment for the audience, and for me. ]




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