One of my favorite findings in this Summer of Faerie project was an essay by George MacDonald in which he argues (in a lyrical, wandering way that doesn’t really feel like an argument) that the purpose of a fairy tale is, like music, to awaken readers instead of convincing them.
He says (speaking of the author):
… where his object is to move by suggestion, to cause to imagine, then let him assail the soul of his reader as the wind assails an aeolian harp. If there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it. Let fairytale of mine go for a firefly that now flashes, now is dark, but may flash again. Caught in a hand which does not love its kind, it will turn to an insignificant ugly thing, that can neither flash nor fly.
This week’s Summer of Faerie post, a haunting poem by William Stark, honors MacDonald’s vision of a work of art as an aeolian harp or firefly. Reading it rewakened my memories of the stormy, brooding Anglo-Saxon poetry of my freshman “Intro to British Literature” course; the misty, musical words of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion; to the green hills and rainy skies of England’s Lake District. Enjoy!
Threnody: The Fallen Kingdom
by William Stark
Along the twilit road I trudged, yet seeming scarce to tire,
as round about the raindrops muddied field and path to mire.
No gleam of sun glanced through the gloom, no fire from hearth did flame,
and all about was dark and cold, yet in that moment came
a spark forth from my musings grim. that set my mind afire.
A dwindling, flick’ring, dying coal that gleamed with memory’s gold,
recalling all the former days, those radiant years of old,
when hearth and heart were warmed and filled, when singing never ceased,
when friendship fair bound man to man, by doom nor foe released,
and holy honor ruled the realms, as men of yore have told.
Castles and strongholds stout they raised, untouched by storm nor siege,
whence warriors errant sought afar the kingdom’s furthest reach;
and seven towers watched their strands, above the harbors still,
and pillared halls they made themselves, and a city on a hill.
For love and honor were their lords, and loyalty their liege.
These all shine clear before my eye, from flashing, noble past:
the seven guarding towers pale, the ancient strongholds fast,
the city white on verdant hill, that stoops to azure sea,
awash in sunset’s golden rays from pinnacle to quay.
But weep, for it could not endure, could not forever last.
The vision past, the towers fall, dissolving into rain;
the sun-washed city on the hill gives way to gloom and pain.
Its warriors sleep beneath the hills; their loyalty is dead,
And only chill and dark endure, yet still I trudge ahead
To wander on until at last my city I regain.
William Stark is a rising high school senior from Georgia; an avid reader of epic, myth, and fantasy; and a writer of both poetry and prose. His poetry primarily follows formal structures such as the sonnet and blank verse and has been featured at the Foundling House website. His prose work combines elements of high fantasy and science fiction, and most recently produced the first draft of his first novel. William also maintains a website for reviews of lesser-known children’s books, which may be found at www.realmofbooks.com.