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Poem: "The Canticle of Days" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
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Poem: "The Canticle of Days"

This poem came out of the July 2011 donor perk prompts; that month met the $150 threshold for a free series poem, and I wound up with some extras.  It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles who wondered how Shahana became a paladin, laffingkat who wanted to know about paladin training, and angela_n_hunt who was curious about day-to-day life for paladins.  "The Canticle of Days" takes place shortly after "Shine On" and "The Ones They Leave Behind," when Shahana and Ari set off together.  It gives an early look at how their relationship begins to develop, and sketches in some background about the followers of Gailah in general.  You can read more about the Path of the Paladins series on the serial poetry page of my website.

"The Canticle of Days" is presented here as a free epic, selected by the audience in a poll, as an impromptu perk for the August 2, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the unprecedented $300 threshold.  Thank you all.  I am deeply grateful for your support.


The Canticle of Days


Ari huffed under a heavy armload of firewood
as they set up their camp.
Shahana laid the fire with precise motions.

"Why do I have to do all the heavy work,"
Ari asked, "while you just sit there?"
"You need to build up your muscles,"
Shahana said.  She picked up a log
and tossed it lightly from hand to hand.
"I made my muscles long ago."

"I worked on a farm!  I have muscles!"
Ari protested, through her arms shook.
"Then you'll have even stronger ones soon,"
said Shahana, "strong enough to swing a sword."
Ari's gaze fell to the long blade at her mentor's hip.
"One more trip to the creek for water,
then you may rest until supper," said Shahana.

After they ate, Ari watched
as Shahana polished her sword,
the smooth steel gleaming in the firelight.
"Why do you always do things
in the same order?" Ari asked.

"When I came to the shining city as a novice --"
Shahana began, then stopped abruptly.

Ari made a small encouraging noise.
The paladin took a deep breath, then continued.
"There was a book.  We all studied from it.
It told off the days of the year,
and the tasks of an ordinary day,
and the holidays with their special duties."
Shahana smiled at the memory,
tracing an elaborate design on her palm.
"It was so beautiful, we were almost afraid to touch it.
Jewels encrusted the leather cover.  The pages
were illuminated in blue and green and red,
the holy things picked out in gilt or silver leaf."

"What happened to the book?"
Ari asked quietly.

"None of us know for certain," Shahana said.
"I have not heard that any one of us
took it from the bright temple. 
So perhaps it was destroyed there,
or stolen by the war-priests."

"It's sad to lose so much knowledge,"
Ari said.  "I would have liked to see the book,
even though I don't know how to read."

Shahana chuckled then.  She shook her head,
hair glimmering dark gold and silver.
"Nothing is lost," said the paladin,
"except for the parchment and the jewels.
Each one of us knows the Canticle of Days by heart.
I will recite it a bit at a time, and you will learn it,
though I will certainly teach you to read as well."

"I would like that,"
Ari said, leaning forward.

"We'll begin with the Canticle of the Traveler,"
said Shahana.  "It lists the duties
of a paladin on the road."
She slapped her hands against her thighs,
and after a moment, Ari followed suit.
Then Shahana began to chant:

Sun one fist above the east,
Rise and wash for morning feast.

Stretch your body, wield your blade;
Practice means good muscle made.

Break your camp and lift your load;
Sing Her praises on the road.

Should your path cross one in need,
Stop to render aid and heed.

Sun at center in the sky,
Pause for lunch then on you fly.

Whatsoever you may find,
Keep the Goddess in your mind.

Travel lightly, travel far:
Those you pass will watch your star.

Clouds and light and breath of air:
Mind the weather signals there.

Sun one fist above the west,
Choose your camp; prepare for rest.

Tend your gear and swing your sword;
Soundly sleep as your reward.

"So that's why you sing while we walk, sometimes!"
Ari exclaimed once the chanting stopped.

"Yes, it is," Shahana said.
"Tomorrow, I'll recite the Canticle of the Traveler,
until you know all the verses.  You will find
that some of them repeat in other canticles, too."

"Like the morning one and the practice ones,"
Ari guessed.  "We always have to get up in the morning,
and you practice with your sword all the time."

Shahana nodded.  "Now, this is how the words look
when they are written out."  She traced them,
line by line, in the soft dust beside the fire.

With Shahana's help, Ari sounded out the words.
Then the girl plucked a sprig of flowers
and laid it alongside the lines.
"Now the book has red and green in it again,"
she said solemnly, "just as it should."

"And gold," Shahana said, tipping her head at the fire.
"Someday, we'll remake the Canticle of Days,"
the paladin promised.

"Yes," said Ari.  "Will you teach me
the traveling songs, too?"

Shahana draped a fond arm
around the girl's shoulder.
"I will teach you," she said,
"everything I know."

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Current Mood: grateful grateful

23 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: angela_n_hunt Date: August 5th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
And this made me cry.

Well done, my dear.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 5th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Aww...

*hugs* I'm touched that you found it so moving.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: August 5th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Now the book has red and green in it again,"
she said solemnly, "just as it should."


And that, for me, was the climax of the poem. Beautiful.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 5th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>And that, for me, was the climax of the poem. Beautiful.<<

I'm happy to hear that.

Ari seems to a have a knack for striking moments of symbolism. I think that's part of what Gailah sees in her as paladin potential: a subtle instinct for the numinous. If Shahana's paladin style is based on compassion, Ari's is based on serendipity. I can usually tell what Shahana is going to do ... Ari, not so much.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: August 6th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that's a lovely moment.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 6th, 2011 12:23 am (UTC) (Link)
This is a very moving poem that speaks greatly of the virtue of devotion. It also speaks strongly of where faith truly lives, not in any temple or holy book, but within the hearts of those who hold it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2011 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>This is a very moving poem that speaks greatly of the virtue of devotion.<<

I'm glad it worked for you.

>> It also speaks strongly of where faith truly lives, not in any temple or holy book, but within the hearts of those who hold it.<<

Sooth. There's an interesting dynamic in this series, I think, because of the way the temples exist in two planes, both the material and the celestial. They're meeting points that make it easier for people and deities to interact directly. But they also remind people that the celestial coexists with the material. Heaven is always with us, just around the heart's corner.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 6th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

"Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train." O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Sooth. I've always liked that quote of his.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 6th, 2011 12:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Also, I've added "Participate in a ceremony with Elizabeth" to my bucket list. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I would greatly enjoy that. I'm sure your insight and energy would be an asset to any ceremony.

"Bucket list" ...?
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 6th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Thanks!

Bucket list = things to do before I kick the bucket :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Okay, now it makes more sense.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2011 07:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>My favorite line in it.<<

That's always useful feedback.

>> Knowledge has worth far beyond any physical treasure.<<

Sooth. And it's one thing nobody can take away from you.
eseme From: eseme Date: August 8th, 2011 02:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I too like the lesson that it is not the book but the information and wisdom in it which are the key.

Somewhere, a goddess is smiling.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 8th, 2011 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad that idea resonated with people.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: April 12th, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love it! Love the poem within the poem. But also, I am always interested int he day-to-day lives and routines of "heros".
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 12th, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I love it! Love the poem within the poem.<<

So far I have one other piece of liturgy from this tradition, the hymn "Star of Gailah," which isn't published yet.

>> But also, I am always interested int he day-to-day lives and routines of "heros". <<

There's a lot of that in this series, woven in and around the major events. I think it's characteristic of the style of paladins, that their lives are so much about service and doing the little things. They're heroes -- but it's not about heroism per se.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 28th, 2017 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Rereading, Path of the Palidans has always been my favorite of your work. Ari's so young here!

-Anna Libertas
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 28th, 2017 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed this. Ari grows a lot in this series!
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: October 3rd, 2017 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Rereading in October of 2017. I still love this one.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 3rd, 2017 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

That's good to hear. I love it when people reread my work.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 15th, 2018 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is FANTASTIC! I'm sorry I'm finding it so late, but I'm also not sorry, because now I can binge it. -kellyc
23 comments or Leave a comment