Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem - and a writing exercise, with photos to follow

The Three Ravens

There were three ravens sat on a tree,
    Down a down, hay down, hay down
There were three ravens sat on a tree,
   With a down
There were three ravens sate on a tree,
There was black as they may be,
   With a down derry, derry, derry, down, down.

The one of them said to his mate,
'Where shall we our breakfast take?'
'Down in yonder greene field,
There lies a knight slain under his shield.
'His hounds they lie down at his feet,
So well they can their master keep.
'His hawks they fly so eagerly,
There's no fowl dare him come nigh.'
Down there comes a fallow doe,
As great with young as she might go.
She lift up his bloody head
And kissed his wounds that were so red.
She got him up upon her back
And carried to earthen lake.
She buried him before the prime;
She was dead herself ere even-song time.
God save every gentleman
Such hawks, such hounds, and such a leman.                                                          (lover, sweetheart)

I hope this old ballad sends a shiver down your spine. It's Child ballad No. 26 (Francis James Child collected over 300 ballads in the late nineteenth century, which were later published by Houghton Mifflin. They were re-issued in 2003 by Dover Publications. I love the plain language and the sense of so much story left untold. This version/translation was published in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 1970. There are many versions of the same story around. 

Writing exercise: Talking about language, of course! I subscribe to A.Word.A.Day - which not only delivers an often unusual word to your email each day, but also outlines the etymology of that word. Today's word was 'truce' which is derived - and this is where it gets very interesting - from the Middle English trewes meaning agreements, pledges. The Old English derivation was treow - trust or belief. The root of the word is an 'Indo-European root deru-/dreu- (to be firm), which is also the source of truth, trust, betroth, tree, endure, and druid.'[my italics]

Research the etymology of a word - find out what other words share the root of that word, and then, taking a few of those words write a piece using your words. Anchor your piece of writing with the meaning of the root of your words which should reveberate through the piece even if you don't actually mention it.

I forgot to add that if you want some more information, fly over to the Tuesday Poem Hub from where you can  read all the other Tuesday poems. 


Penelope said...

Catherine, I had to do this poem for HSC (about the same time it was written down by Child, it seems) and so it is pleasurable to encounter it again without the dread Vulture of Exam fluttering around. (Do vultures flutter? Probably not!) Thanks for posting it.

Cattyrox said...

Hi Penelope - glad you enjoyed revisiting this and that the ghosts of the vultures didn't squawk mournfully or flap fearsomely!