Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Elds-vimr ("Fire-Whims") [NaPoWriMo # 1]

With apologies to my friends who are participating in NaNoWriMo, I thought I´d try my hand at my variant, NaPoWriMo (National Poem Writing Month).  I hope to write a verse a day and post the results here on a daily basis this month. Wish me well!

Here is NaPoWriMo #1:

When I was in college at SUNY Geneseo, many long years ago, I was walking home one deep dark January night. Freezing as I walked, I happened to look up to the northern sky and I stood, transfixed, seemingly forever, by the sheets of light across the sky. It was the first time I had seen the aurora borealis. I have seen it a few times since, always deep into the night, always on the coldest, clearest night of the year.

I´m certain that you have heard by now of the fiery aurora that we experienced in the recent past. While there are excellent scientific explanations of this astounding phenomenon, I envision a more poetic cause.

≪http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1110/AuroraOntario_MPark1920.jpg ≫


Elds-Vimr (Fire-Whims)

Old Icelandic Line-by-Line Prose Order Translation
sá of heiðu stjörnur
snjóiga dala-lagið -
kómu inn ljós kaltast
kyndi heiðu himna
á náttar-þelli illu,
elds-vimr glóðu róðinn
hring-serk blód-liga Hamðis
hirðmenn ljósa dró fyrir
Saw (I) over bright stars
snowy waste-land -
Came the light coldest (and)
kindled the clear sky.
At dead of night evil,
fire-whims glowed bloody;
Ring-shirt bloody of Hamdis
hirthmen (of) light veiled over.
I saw bright stars
over snowy waste-land;
the coldest light came
and kindled the clear sky.
At the evil dead of night,
Bloody fire-whims glowed;
Hamðis's bloody ring-shirt
veiled the light's hirthmen.



elds-vimr > fire-whims > Aurora Borealis
hring-serk Hamðis > Hamdis's mail-shirt > the Aurora
hirðmenn ljósa > the light's hirthmen > the stars

For those who are new to my poetry, a brief explanation: the form is dróttkvætt (court meter), a poetic style most often associated with Medieval period Iceland.  Each line contains three accented syllables.  The first and next-to-last syllable of each odd numbered line alliterates with the first syllable of the following even-numbered line.  Finally, in each even numbered line, two syllables (generally either the first or third and (always) the next to last syllable must rhyme.  The verse breaks into two sections of four lines each - each of these sections (called a helmingr) is a separate syntactic unit.  The two half-verses (helmingar) are closely related.  The three poetic devices noted above are called kennings, essentially complex metaphors.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this poem.  Please leave a comment in the space below.

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