Thursday, 6 April 2017

Brecca's Odyssey - an epic poem in the style of Beowulf

This poem was born out of the saga Beowulf.  We were instructed to take Beowulf and rewrite our own fantasy epic based on the content and length.  It was a tough ask but I feel I achieved.

An artistic depiction of Beowulf.

Brecca’s Odyssey

In the grand court, Ecghyrd held reign,
his house honoured, and secured for keep,
the King attired, from hard fought treasures,
his bidding, thanes sought,
the stories of old, on the ears of the young
castles stormed and maidens rescued,
a Son he had, Brecca the Charitable
a man ready to fight, a boy awaiting glory.

The Geatish court, attuned to hunting,
a boy sallies forth, Brecca’s foray to
Harnehyrd, the Royal Forest
where a boar roars, in rampant style,
the young hero, dirk and shield
stands his ground, the charge straight
at him, meaning harm, death
if the lad moved, the wrong way.

The boar, Trychnia, lashed with tusks,
an attempt to gore, to bleed, to win
to slay the hapless boy-man, future king
of the Geats, kinsmen, thanes, ladies
of a court cringing, the news not expected
to be a good kind, yet Brecca raises his dirk,
and as the hot beast lunges forward,
his trusty blade slices downward
and impales with venom, into a tough hide,
tough yet pliant, aged yet pliable,
he turns the blade, lunges to heart,
blood spurts, a mighty growl,
the beast slain, honour to the victor.

He enters the hall, the boar weighty
pushing down, his youthful stature,
the King, his father, raises his glass
mead maids fill again,
the Thanes and Geatlords
fill theirs to overflowing,
the Great Lords kin, fighter to be,
Brecca places his trophy on the floor
bows to his Father, unsheathes his blade,
and cuts the beasts head off,
honouring all the fighters, giving due deference
licking the blade, he instils bloodlust,
the warrior to be, anointed,
proclaimed, acclaimed, gifted
the Mighty Sword of Eochyrd.

Beowulf looked on, from behind,
too young yet to raise the Mead,
too young yet to fight for Geat,
a year or two behind Brecca,
but ready to spring into his manhood,
so he steals from the hall,
makes his way to Harnehyrd
and wrestles a wild Elk
Herckyrd, to it’s sanctioned death.
Into the Great Hall, alive with bravado
and the boasts of war thanes, legends,
those that fought the Frisians, allied the Danes,
the great headless boar, gone to the kitchens,
the blood on the floor, freshly cleansed,
only the sign of Brecca at the head of court,
the ladies teasing, the King laughing,
Beowulf places his prize on the floor,
erupting, the court goes into caterwauls,
no sword to be seen, no knife, no dirk,
just the sign a great man to be
had wrestled a great deer to death.

Far from displeased, Brecca hops to join him,
a trophy shared by two kinsmen,
the spirit of blood and bond, a license accepted,
but both men receive now full military regalia,
the chain mail vests, hard helmet,
a sword and scabbard, death and life.

There came a messenger, a man of Denmark,
a thane of some standing, to gain allegiance,
to stop the ruination of the Danes
through a difference of opinion
in the Dane Mead Hall, Cheryct
throne room of Feng, a bad king,
when in fact Amleth should be anointed Danerule.
The Lord Ecghyrd dispatched Brecca
with seventy five fighting thanes
and with the Dane messenger,
they set sail for Denmark,
horses in the hold, swords, shields
helmets and longbows with spears,
a full kit out of chain mail
and sufficient supplies
to last a long campaign.

The long boat with high prow
sailed the seas, avoiding the shallows,
skirting mortal danger, digging
nose first, into spewing sea turmoil,
the emissary repeated, trouble was afoot,
how could a boy, so young in years,
manage to negotiate, deal with
and restore the kingdom again.

Then the speaker, the one with tales,
related the story of the Great Boar,
and the boys reaction, after thoughts,
his immediacy to keep balance,
which so impressed his noble King
and the teaching started, the decorum,
the ability to be a king, to manage men,
and he was introduced
to mead, and the laughter and company of men,
and the tactical infighting erupted,
as it does when a boy becomes man,
when the boy man Beowulf, did the same
he too was gifted with statesmanship,
and both boys were sent off to Fris,
to make peace with the Frisians
and to negotiate trade.

They both did such a sterling job,
our king bestowed thanedoms for them,
boys not yet cutting their hair
with sharp blades and careful hands,
given the right of passage,
the land of princely wealth,
given freedom to serve the court
when and where, by Gods grace
they felt it important to be there.

So placated, the Dane turned
and stood facing the bow, home
across hostile seas that were growing
more in turmoil every passing minute.
It was then Brecca recognised Bruntha
the death wind of the East, and knew
things were not going to be safe,
already the sails were fluffing,
spilling poisonous air, and ripping,
the longboat became becalmed
and all men, land dwellers,
shivering in their skin boots,
the long boat commander ordered oars
and the sails furled, oars set in portholes
the longboat started to turn with Bruntha behind it
making way back towards Geat.

Brecca stood firm, measured his decisions,
he knew he needed to get to Denmark,
but the way was closed to him,
Bruntha’s bidding, huge waves
welled up and broached the oars,
water spilled over, the water drowning
innocent men, fighting men,
they passed the turning point to Geat,
lost in a haze, lost like sea whales,
what sea dragons would assail them,
as they ventured where no Geat had been.

Brecca sung a dirge, short and sweet,

Oh Bruntha, wild women of the sky
play me a tune
that I’ll not fear, send me to places
where bears roar
and whales sound they horns,
place me in the care
of long lost Dryar
the ghost wind
of Geat, the wind that jams
logs into place, ladies into bed.

The sea grew wilder, the waves killing
a crew fighting oars, fighters fighting death,
the toll rising as the waves overwhelmed
and in the breath of a spoiling Bruntha,
Brecca and his crew, became legends
in every mead hall of Geat.


Heaney, Seamus “Beowulf” London Published 1999

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