Thursday, April 26, 2012

Viking Funeral


Viking Funeral

I haven’t seen you since
the viking funeral when
all the boat was burning and
you were the dog at my feet.

The wind is in the east
and my old wounds ache;
the line of scar across my
fingers, almost severed

when you drew on me
for touching,
won’t stop throbbing, and though
they were embossed on my shield

against my will
the ice age, 
the broken lands
are now my own.

I drowse when I can in the sun 
outside Sleipnir’s stable, 
where Ceridwen’s cauldron
leans ready against the wall, 

deaf to Loki making 
a bloodwar fuss over Sif's shorn hair 
the yapping liar's mouth
unfaithful, untrue.

The memory of heat
on still red scars
soothes, burning all
alike to ash, 

black bones of deceit,
the cur at my feet.

April 2012

 Hoping this will 

Meet the Bar at dVerse Poets Pub

where Victoria is hosting a prompt on allegory today (Thursday) at 3:00 PM EST through midnight Friday.

Process Notes:Ceridwen is a Welsh enchantress with a sometimes calamitous cauldron of poetic inspiration. Sleipnir is Odin's eight-legged horse on which he rides to the other Worlds, and Loki is the Norse god of deception and trickery, who in one of his escapades stole the golden hair of Thor's wife Sif to make trouble. 

The rest of this poem was inspired by a scene from the 1939 movie Beau Geste, starring Gary Cooper and Ray Milland as two brothers who join the French Foreign Legion. Here's a link to a youtube clip from the film which about 1.5 minutes in, shows a child's version of the bowlderized concept of a Viking Funeral(later to be played out in a more bloody context,) where 'a Viking always has to be buried with a dog at his feet.' In actual custom, the 'dog' was more likely to be a thrall(captive/slave.) The Viking leader was placed in his ship, generally on land, and surrounded by grave goods and sacrifices of thralls, wine and horsemeat, the ship was set afire and the ashes were buried.

Image: Photo of a Viking galley, burned at an Up Helly Aa fire festival in the Shetland Islands, by Anne Burgess 1973 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], 


  1. Drama love it, this was epic and epic moments happen often some are good and some aren't.

  2. love how you weave your poems with the historical and mythical background but always make it meaningful for today and bring your own voice and emotions in

  3. when it is my time..i think it would be glorious to go out in a flaming can spare the dog for me though...well unless he is unfaithful and bites me nearly taking my fingers...darn, the sun wont tan them either or fade the betrayal

  4. Your poetry imbues the mythic world with a reality that pierces and instructs. Always a rich read, leaving me with much to consider. Thanks for including the video clip and process notes, they were helpful.

  5. I love that you just totally told somebody off and it was mystical and poetic. Good way to vent.

  6. Nice work here....some incredible visuals! I could even hear the dramatic music playing in the background :)

    r.m. @

  7. I knew as soon as I saw that picture I was going to love the ride you would take me on!

  8. Http art of my comment is missing! It I loved it (your poem, not my missing comment) :-)

    1. Thanks Becky--getting a comment to post correctly these days between blogger and wordpress ID's is a challenge. Thanks for making sure I knew you liked the piece--I greatly appreciate it.

  9. I loved (and am not surprised) that you turned to mysthology, Joy. After all, myths are the ultimate in the world of allegory. I always learn from your posts; thank you.

  10. Much enjoyed and learning about these mystical gods...wonderful!

  11. When we lived on Lake Travis, I told everyone I wanted a Viking funeral. They would say, "but you don't have a boat." "Exactly," I'd answer. Most of them are probably still trying to make sense of that.
    Love this poem, and love the insight you provide. Interesting stuff!

  12. "The wind is in the east
    and my old wounds ache;"

    These two lines made me feel it, put me there, and for me, set the feel of the entire piece. The whole thing is a cutting edge.

  13. These are my favorites, Hedge:

    "you were the dog at my feet"

    "when you drew on me
    for touching"

    "where Ceridwen’s cauldron
    leans ready against the wall"

    "black bones of deceit
    and the cur at my feet"

    Love the change in the "dog" imagery, opening with him as possibly a loveable, petlike creature and ending with him as clearly a cheating scoundrel.

    I see this as a breakup/divorce poem with the flaming boat being your house and you being the dead/broken body. He was your killer and also the symbol of your death resting at your feet. The "line of scar" might be a wedding ring.

    1. Thanks, Shawna. That was indeed the allegory I was going for, with a bit of an old warrior image thrown in. On the line of scar, I was actually visualizing the sort of cut you'd get from a sword if you raised your hand to ward it off.

    2. Ooh, nice with the sword slash.

  14. I am feeling extremely unintellectual at the moment! All little elephants. I love evolution from dog to cur here, and your language is so rich and vivid. You have probably read the Taylor Mali (I think is his name) poem about the viking ship--the school project and the boy with leukemia--a very different poem on viking ship but you might like it--

    This terrific. k.

    1. Oh please, girl. Did you SEE what I wrote?! I'm clearly the low-level writer of the day. But hopefully some find humor redeeming. :)

    2. Humor is always redeeming! K.

    3. I liked both of yours, and Shawna's made me laugh(and also made me hungry) Thanks, K. for telling me about Taylor Mali--haven't found the poem yet, though.

  15. I never fail to learn something new here, either from your skill, or the history you interlace in your verse. I love what you've done, turning the lore to your own purpose. And the film clip is fun, though chilling to think that child's play foretells more gruesome stuff.

    1. I loved this movie as a child--though its a bit stylized and saccharine for modern tastes--it's taken from a 1924 adventure novel by P.C. Wren that leans heavily on the tradition of Wilkie Collins, and its full of both that feeling for the omnipresent grimness of life the Victorians had, and also the sense of Empire, noblesse oblige and order, so the doomed slaughter in the desert and the betrayals are all that much more dramatic and larger than life. It very much lives up to the conceit of its title, ('In French, the phrase includes the suggestion of a fine gesture with unwelcome or futile consequences, and an allusion to the chanson de geste, a literary poem celebrating the legendary deeds of a hero..." ~wikipedia) Anyway, thanks Ruth, for reading, not to mention having the patience to watch the old clip, and I'm glad you enjoyed the tale.

  16. This works for me on several levels. A fine piece.

  17. "deaf to Loki making
    a bloodwar fuss over Sif's shorn hair"

    These are the lines that really put me there. Gorgeous work, Hedge.

  18. Fabulous epic - vivid words

  19. Great visuals. I enjoyed reading this intriguing piece :)

  20. Intriguing that you incorporated a film segment into a poem that's steeped with the authentic feel and tone of the ancient Eddas. As always, you draw us into these alternative worlds, whether real or fantastic with such music and imagery that the taste of them rolls around in the mouth like a favorite pebble sating some exotic thirst.

    1. Thanks, Charles. I thought the movie supported the allegory--and it also was my first exposure to the idea of a viking funeral as a child, before the Eddas came my way, so its metaphor is actually part of my own history, as is the poem--which is all what I hope makes it an allegory. ;-)


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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