On Bards of Old

Did bards of old, I wonder, ever tire
of rooting through their souls for a new verse
in order to instruct, praise or inspire
through their connection with the universe,
and after twenty years of “learn by rote”,
requiring mastery of form and feel,
the skill to recognize a tune by note,
a repertoire to make the senses reel,
and knowledge of the history and lore,
not only of their clan, but the whole world,
while at the beck and call of some great lord
who nine times out of ten, was partly churl,
requiring curses cast against their foes
or songs of praise to elevate their fame?
How often did a bard observe a rose
for just its fragrance, not speaking its name?

And when a verse or two was shared between
a group of bards that met along the road,
how often did the conversation lean
to simple things, not meter, rhyme and code?
I wonder if the burden that they shared,
the weight of culture’s future on their tongues,
was often thought a curse, even compared
unfavorably to being deaf and dumb?

They say the pen is greater than the sword,
that eloquence breaks down more doors than steel;
how treacherous that makes a life where words
are just as precious as true love, or meals.
Let modern poets suffer for their art,
imagining their angst so great and pure;
where their woe ends, the bard’s task only starts,
and leads where few may travel, or endure.
Those bards of old are gone, some may declare;
Their arts? Anachronistic and no use.
So few remain who act as if they care,
and on the struggling poet, heap abuse.
Did bards of old, I wonder, ever think
to give up, knowing that their audience,
who when given ambrosial words to drink,
gained neither wisdom or experience?

04 MAY 2005

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