I have known…

Listening to music can be therapeutic, soothing, invigorating, inspiring, heartbreaking, or depressing, much like reading or listening to a story. In fact Hans Zimmer once said that in all the music he composes his primary purpose is to tell a story, despite using no words. Listening to one of his most famous pieces (that accompanies one of the great movie endings of all time) inspired this little effort of mine below. In Zimmer’s piece, and the film, the hero is faced with a situation where all seems lost. He did everything he could, but all he has worked for has crumbled to dust before his eyes. He sees the situation for what it is, absorbs this devastating news, and yet he still finds the strength to keep going, even to sacrifice himself and his reputation to save people he will never meet, who will almost certainly never even know, let alone appreciate, what he did for them. He is able to do it quickly this time, because he’s done it before. In these respects, these few minutes are a microcosm of his entire heroic journey.

As the piece played I was struck by the ways in which it mirrored some of my own experiences (except it took me far longer to gather up the strength to keep going, and my behaviour has been far less heroic). It encourages me to keep going, to do better, to come closer to the good example set.

This is the power of story, of archetypes, of strong heroic characters, of good examples. Let us make more of them.

My piece set to Zimmer’s music can be found here, with the lyrics below that

I have known…

I have known despair, and I will not promote it.
I have known pain, and I will not glorify it.
I have known false hope, and I will not encourage it.
I have known cowardice, and I will understand, but not praise it.
I have known self-loathing, and I will not romanticize it.
I have known brokenness, defeat, lostness, and yet emerged on the other side, not unscathed, but grown.
I have known failure, and I will learn from it.
I will defend the truth.
I will not abandon my allies.
I will keep learning, and admit when I am wrong.
I will advocate for genuine hope.
I will praise and strive to create beauty.
I will call for courage in matters great and small.
I will seek to repair the damage I have caused.
I will seek to restore friendships.
I will console those who suffer.
I will encourage those who feel they can’t go on, for I have walked that path.

The Beast – Parts Eleven and Twelve

Part One

Part Ten

Daric looks in horror as she shifts into a form
That shows faint hints of her old self, but still it makes him squirm.
He runs the fallen minion through, then charges at the beast,
She blocks his path and views him like a predator its feast.

He shows the flat of his great sword, its strange glow gives her pause;
Her feral eyes reflect it as she growls and bares her claws.
“Beatrice, please, don’t heed his lies; I’m Daric, your true friend;
Love and sacrifice are things he cannot comprehend.”

She trembles at his gentle words, but the beast is stronger still,
She snaps back to her vicious state as he exerts his will.
“Your ignorance will bring you down, all power is mine to give;
It’s only for the sport of it that we still let you live.”

The two beasts circle round him, looking for a chance
To pounce and rip his throat out in this deadly evil dance.
He backs against the cabin wall to cut their angles down.
“This coward is no threat to us, let’s go and raid the town.”

They turn and head towards the woods, he quickly scrambles after,
The beast jags left and back around, and roars with mocking laughter
“We have you trapped in open ground, no barriers to hide you,
Your guard will drop eventually, and then we will divide you.”

His vision’s width is limited by his visor’s plate;
He blinks blood from his eyes and spots the movement just too late.
The beast pounces onto his back, sinks a fang into his neck;
He throws the beast off, tearing through trapezius muscle wrecked.

With one last force of will, he plunges down with his blessed blade
Into the prone beast’s midriff, but as contact’s to be made,
She pounces forward, knocks him down and pins him to the ground;
His helmet pops off, they lock eyes, then turn to the vile sound

Of wailing shrieks and sizzling flesh, the blade’s pinned through its leg
Into the earth so it can’t move, just pitifully beg
As flames and smoke pour from the wound, creating a great cloud;
It writhes and shrivels into dust, with a thunderclap so loud

It knocks her off him several yards, the cloud then comes alive,
Swirling like a great tornado, then it starts to dive.
He presses on his neck and slowly climbs to his weak knees,
Grasps the sword and waves it as if swatting angry bees.

The cloud backs out of his sword’s reach, then rushes into her.
She springs up to her feet and then gives out a joyful purr.
She snarls at him, then falters as she sees his holy blade;
One last hope occurs as his vision starts to fade.

“Beatrice,” he slurs, and stabs the sword into the earth.
“I gladly give my life for yours, whatever that is worth.
This makeshift cross can take your curse, grasp it and be free;
If I die before you live, then please remember me.”

With that he falls and lies quite still; she smells his salty blood,
His tender flesh so succulent, and hunger like a flood
Washes over her and draws her to his fallen form,
And yet a small voice whispers in the middle of that storm

That there is more to life than feasting, victory and war,
That this pile of meat is a good man that she adored,
And so she reaches fearfully for that repugnant steel;
It burns with purest agony, but she clings on with zeal.

The evil cloud is funnelled through the sword to the abyss;
Its final scream of terror fades into the faintest hiss.
Near-exhausted, Beatrice pulls the sword out from the ground,
She looks around the battlefield and whistles for her hounds.

When they come running from the trees, she’s not angry they fled
From the terrifying beast, she’s glad that they’re not dead.
She moves to Daric’s fallen form and listens for his breath;
It’s shallow, short and weakening, he’s very near to death.

“My Daric, you have honoured me as if I were a queen;
No matter what you thought you were, you were a knight to me.
For what it’s worth, I dub you with the sword that set me free.”
She puts the sword face on his wound, it hisses, glows brightly.

“Arise, Sir Daric, Knight of all I am and have to give,
Know that you have won my heart, but most of all, please live.”
Her dogs lick all the gore away, she drags him back inside
Lays him in her own soft bed, keeps herself occupied

With cooking, washing, nursing him with all she can provide;
She sends a dog to bring some help while she stays by his side.
Days later Daric slowly wakes, is welcomed with her smile;
She kisses him and tells him he still needs to rest a while.

Her door’s been fixed, her house is warm and festively spruced up;
She brings him fresh stream water in a simple wooden cup.
Her smile drops, “Now that you know about my heinous crime,
Do you still wish to stay with me, through pain and toil and grime?”

“My love,” he says, “a day with you is worth a thousand more
Without your beauty and your grace, whatever lies in store.
It was the beast who acted through your captive hands and eyes.”
“I remember clearly now, he used my wounded pride.

“It felt just like an awful dream, I could not but comply.”
“Perhaps those are false memories; he served the Prince of lies.
But even if it was your fault, all that and more besides,
I can’t condemn, since there but for the grace of God go I.

“Please be my wife, that we may be and work this farm as one;
‘Twould be my crowning moment, my greatest treasure won.”
The priest arrives, but not alone, the news has spread far and wide
Of the great battle that took place, and that the beast has died.

The king and all his pageantry arrive in state to bless
And honour Daric’s courage, to publicly express
His gratitude for this great feat, give gold and tracts of land,
And approve the ceremony that joins them hand in hand.

“What God and king have joined as one, let man not separate;
This marriage is a victory over rage and reckless hate.
May the ballad of their love be sung and oft retold,
Until it is a treasured myth of ‘that grand age of old.’ ”


This poem in its entirety is the finale to my second poetry collection, Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders, now available on Kindle, which looks at heroes and wonders of the grand type we see depicted in our favourite epics as well as inspiring everyday examples that only a few ever notice. Beauty to enjoy, courage to inspire, wisdom and folly to admire and avoid:

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The Beast – Part Ten

Part 1

Part 9

He presses on the injury,
Holds the wound closed gingerly,
And rushes down the barren hill,
Empowered by a desperate will.

He asks for strength and righteous eyes
To resist the creature’s lies.
He sheathes his sword, gets out the bow
As he spots her house below.

Perhaps it is adrenaline, perhaps he has been healed –
He cannot feel his arm joint, the wound seems to have sealed.
Below the valley opens up, the bandits have returned
Now they will pay dearly for the lesson they won’t learn.

One bandit lies upon the floor, an arrow in his side
Then the beast approaches and they’ll wish that they had died
They writhe in pain right where they stand as jagged claws erupt
From fingertips as they change into forms foul and corrupt

Two tear into each other, the other two stand still,
Submitting to the beast’s commands, they’ve lost their own free will.
“See my perfect justice, did they not deserve to die?
And by each other’s faithless hands, that does so gratify!”

“These other two shall serve my noble purposes henceforth;
When we are finished here, we will proceed to cleanse the north!
That ignorant canned pilgrim dares to fight against my reign;
While you two tear him limb from limb, I’ll play with his weak brain.”

The beast’s two standing servants charge up with a rapid lope,
Daric fires an arrow, and one tumbles down the slope.
He draws his sword a second late as the first one leaps
It glances off his helmet with a cut that slowly weeps.

With Daric’s sword now drawn and glowing, fear shows in its eyes,
But feral orders from the beast lead to its quick demise.
It pounces down from its high rock, is skewered on the blade
It thrashes, spasms, gurgles, as its life signs quickly fade.

Daric pulls his blade out and turns to head on down,
He’s just in time to hack into the second minion’s crown.
It collapses instantly, he feels a surge of pride;
Now naught between him and the vile beast’s vulnerable hide.

“Stay back!” cries Beatrice as it batters down her door;
She fires arrows through the gap as spruce planks hit the floor.
They strike the beast right in his chest, he merely grunts and grins,
Pulls them out and drops them as if they were but patchwork pins.

It opens up the door and invites her to come out,
Ignoring Daric’s charge towards him with a mighty shout.
A half-dead minion on the ground trips Daric with its knee
The beast then slowly shakes its head and calls out tenderly:

“Beatrice, my precious fawn,
We stand before a whole new dawn.
You killed your father, brothers all
When in your inner monster’s thrall.”

“No,” she whimpers at the door,
Then starts convulsing on the floor.
“Now retake your perfect form
As we start the cleansing storm.

“Kings will bow before us as we triumph, side by side.
Behold, you puny mortal man, my glorious blushing bride!”

Parts Eleven and Twelve

The Beast – Part Nine

Part 1

Part 8

They stand and breathe
Amid the bones of long-dead men.
It can’t believe
That Daric is back here again.

“What brings you here? Why do you hide
Inside that shell of hollow pride?
I’ll end that false serenity
And show you your identity.”

“I’ve had my fill of your dark lies
To drag me down to my demise;
You shall not take me down that road
To pay debts that I do not owe.

“It doesn’t have to be this way
The cross can take your curse away.
Upon the Hill of Myth I met
A man who can forgive your debt.”

“Forgiveness? Curse? I am not cursed,
I’m justice of the universe!
All men must fall beneath my power
And every day and every hour

“They live or die at my command
All live in fear of my black hand.
None escape the truth inside
Of demons finally untied.

“Did not my gift to you suffice?
I shall give a greater share,
To fill your veins with darkest ice
And we shall see then how you fare.”

His sword grows heavy in his hand
His movements weak and sluggish,
As frauds and intrigues underhand
And fantasies quite thuggish

Assault his mind, distract him for
The beast’s first leaping, slashing claw
A single talon finds a gap
Between two plates before it’s snapped

By plate edges that scissor closed
As Daric with his free hand throws
A punch to force the great beast back
And then continues his attack.

His sword arm is now wracked with pain
As he swings it up again
He lands a weak and glancing blow,
But the blade sticks and starts to glow.

The beast now screams as its flesh burns,
It stumbles back then quickly turns
To flee the way that Daric came;
With horror, he cries out her name,

“Beatrice!” Daric finds the tip
Of the beast’s claw, with clenched teeth rips
It from his shoulder, screams in pain,
Then sets after the beast again.

 

Part 10

The Beast – Part Eight

Part One

Part Seven

“May I know your name at least, good sir?” she asks with pain.
“Daric son of Connor, son of Fergus, son of Caine.”
“A heart of oak is what you have, don’t you live in shame
Of past mistakes when you are working to remove the stain.”

His heart aches for her suffering soul, but he daren’t raise her hopes.
They come to a small comely house that lies between two slopes.
In need of minor maintenance, but built of sturdy logs
As they approach, they’re greeted by a pair of hunting dogs.

Down the left hand slope a small stream sparkles in the sun,
Fertile land around the cabin needs a lot of weeding done.
A low stone wall around the henhouse needs some mortar for its holes,
The roof above the front door has some mildew in its poles,

But all in all, he summarizes, “What a lovely home!
Just the place to come back to and rest your weary bones.”
Her eyebrows rise in cautious hope at Daric’s warm remark.
“I can prepare a simple meal, before it gets too dark.”

Inside his shell he blushes, blusters, “There’s still daylight left,
I must see to my errand and repay my mammoth debt.
Up that right hand slope is where I first lost to the beast;
I must return there to ensure his brutal reign will cease.”

“The beast? He slew my father and my brothers in the night;
My dreams are still now haunted by that awful grisly sight.
Avenge them and my heart and home will be forever yours,
No matter what your past or what your future holds in store.”

“O, my lady fair, what can I say to such a gift?
I will endeavour to succeed and then return so swift
That you will hardly notice that I ever went away,
Should I gain your lovely hand, forever I would stay.

“I cannot take you with me and can’t bear to leave you here,
At any time those shameful bandits might still reappear.
Here, take my shield and put it in your window on display,
Then they will see it, think me there and depart in dismay.”

“But you will need it to survive your duel on that peak
I’d dread to think because of me you’ll find yourself too weak.”
“No, I insist, to keep it would distract me fatally
With thoughts of what I could have done to keep you safe and free.”

“If I can’t persuade you, take my father’s bow at least;
That will help you in your struggle with that horrifying beast.
I can use my brother’s bow and barricade the door.”
“Thank you, my good lady, he has much to answer for.”

Daric ventures up the slope, across a narrow ledge,
Towards the culmination of his solemn oath and pledge.
He passes by the arid bones of victims long deceased
‘Til finally and once again he sees the dreaded beast.

Part Nine

The Beast – Part Seven

Part 1

Part 6

“Hold your tongue, you worthless wench,
There are no saints to save you;
We’ll leave your body in a trench
Or perhaps enslave you.

“Your shack will make a useful base
For our next operation;
To keep intact your pretty face
You’d better learn your station.”

Daric spots the vicious voice’s source beside a tree
Four bandits have a fair young maid encircled hopelessly.
Her fiery curls and bold green eyes are strong but full of fear,
Since she is unaware that some help is very near.

Daric grabs a stone and hurls it at the nearest lout,
The bandit crumples to the ground before he can cry out.
The other three all dive for cover and the young maid flees
Towards Daric’s position as they melt into the trees.

“Stay behind me!” Daric calls, emerging sword in hand,
With shield held up and visor down he loudly takes a stand.
“This lady is not here alone, fight now or leave her be!
I have no time for so-called men who act so cowardly.”

They do not reappear, and when it’s clear they’ve gone,
Daric turns to the young maid who’s as graceful as a swan.
“What were you doing way out here, where bandits raid and roam?”
“I sold eggs at the market and was finding my way home.”

“I would escort you there, if your father would not mind.”
“Were he alive he would be very glad to meet your noble kind.
My name is Beatrice, but joy has left my family,
I am all that’s left of our once very fruitful tree.”

“You are all alone out here? Things should not be that way.”
“They would improve if I could ask my rescuer to stay.”
She blushes. “Please forgive me for my shameless forwardness,
A man like you must have important matters to address.”

A man like me? thinks Daric, Oh, my poor girl piteous,
What if beneath this noble shell I am still hideous?
I never thought to look at my reflection since the Hill
Now I dare not show my face, this is a bitter pill.

“Do not idolise me, my good lady, I am flawed;
My past is full of selfishness, bitterness, discord;
Right now I’m on my way to make amends for my old life,
I’ll spare you all the details, and so save you needless strife.”

Part Eight


 

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The Beast – Part Six

Part 1

Part 5

The trapdoor opens with a creak
To reveal a tunnel bleak
Sloping down into the dark,
Then a torch lights with a spark.

He takes the torch and ventures down
The passage dank and winding,
Its walls engraved with horses, crowns,
And at its end then finding

Beside a rusty metal gate
A shining sword, shield, suit of plate,
Upon which eagles are engraved,
Here is the glory Daric craved,

And yet this gleam is not so prized,
Now that he has been chastised.
Above the armour rack a plaque
Warns in lettering most stark:

Who would grasp this noble hilt
Must be free of vice and guilt,
Must stay upon the righteous path,
Or fall victim to his own wrath.

So with solemn oath he takes
The armour and with hand that shakes
He grasps the hilt of that great sword,
Salutes the hill and gives his word.

Beyond the gate a passage grey
That leads by narrow hidden way
To a gorge quite overgrown
With walls of uninviting stone.

He hacks his way through underbrush
Emerging in a meadow lush.
He strolls on down the gentle slope
His heart now light and full of hope.

He finds his bearings, heads off back
Along a dry and dusty track.
It takes him on a different route
(With stops to shake stones from his boot)

Across a plateau, past a bog
Through strange terrain obscured by fog;
As he rounds a disused sty
He hears a stifled female cry.

 

Part Seven


 

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