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Poem: "The Chant of the Return of Sebak" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Chant of the Return of Sebak"
This poem came out of the February 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from moonwolf1988, aldersprig, and rix_scaedu.  It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

This poem belongs to the series A Conflagration of Dragons.  It is the second poem dealing with the fall of the capitals of the six races, focusing primarily on the Shu but also their Eofor and Hachi allies.  It is written in the forest path form, which uses forked parallels inspired by ancient Egyptian poetry.  The verses are tercets with a parallel structure (not rhyme) of ABB, which means the first line sets the topic of the verse and the next two lines make parallel elaborations on that topic.


The Chant of the Return of Sebak


Jehuti the City of Trees I praise:
     trees rooted in the rich depth of the earth,
     trees lifted in the wide height of the sky.

All around the City of Trees lay the food forests of the Shu,
     spread out like the hems of embroidered robes,
     fanned out like the channels of a river delta.

In the food forests there grew all the delights of the table:
     goats and chickens, moose and partridges,
     sorrel and pears, morels and hazelnuts.

Beautiful was the Jewel of the Forest, the capital Jehuti:
     the place where the Eofor brought their metalwork,
     the place where the Hachi brought their medicines.

Atemu the consul of the Shu I praise:
     consul of the ages, wise in his years
     consul of the people, popular in his authority.

Glad was the heart of the elder Atemu,
     sweetened by the honey of the sun on his city,
     brightened by the song of the birds in its branches.

Merry too was the heart of Atemu, rival of the autocrat Puru,
     for the city of Shaunaka was scattered in ruins
     for the back of the Madhusudana was broken by a dragon.

Atemu laughed as he rode his greatdeer home,
     for now the Shu could more easily protect nature
     for now the fickle Madhusudana were laid low.

The alliance of the peoples of the Earth I praise:
     strong ties of trade in goods and services,
     strong ties of fellowship among the grounded folk.

We are the Shu, the people of Earth and Air:
     in us is the fortitude of the forest floor
     in us is the clarity of the woodland wind.

Here are the Eofor, the people of Earth and Fire:
     in them is the security of the deepest stone
     in them is the spark of the mountain's heart.

There are the Hachi, the people of Earth and Water:
     in them is the comfort of the sheltered den
     in them is the bounty of the nurtured field.

The business of the capital Jehuti I praise:
     its economy gleaming in gold and silver like sunbeams
     its economy shining in cobalt and chrysocolla like blue pools.

To the markets of Jehuti came Ejetheo,
     elder knight of the sturdy mountain folk
     elder trader of the busy metal smiths.

To the healing halls of Jehuti came Fujitsubo,
     gifted physician of the kind marsh folk
     gifted mediator of the wise clan mothers.

These were the kind of people whom Atemu knew:
     Ejetheo the protector, strong and fierce
     Fujitsubo the healer, gentle and reliable.

The foolishness of Atemu I mourn:
     he mocked, and rejoiced in his enemy's grief
     he mocked, and thought not of his people's risk.

Atemu rode into the city of Jehuti
     and met with his peers and advisors and allies
     and met his needs at table and bath and bedroom.

These were the things that Atemu did not consider:
     that where there was one dragon, there might be more
     that what happened to one city, might strike another.

Atemu was caught altogether off his guard
     when the attack came to the Jewel of the Forest
     when the attack fell on the City of Trees.

The coming of the dragon I mourn:
     his body like a tree, deep green and powerful
     his mind like a storm, vast and tumultuous.

He breathed upon the streets and boughs of Jehuti,
     now in sheets of chaotic green and yellow flame
     now in clouds of corrosive yellow-green gas.

He devoured the people as they tried to escape,
     smoking them out of their hiding places
     chasing them down the paths as they fled.

In the old songs sung by the senior bards
     was found an explanation of the great drake's desire,
     was found a description of his likeness and his name.

The return of Sebak the Green I mourn:
     he who hungers for the flesh of beasts and people
     he who hungers for copper and cobalt.

From the sky he swooped down upon them,
     crushing the people beneath his belly
     swallowing the folk down his great gullet.

Out of the legends he emerged, all unexpected,
     crunching the beautiful jewelry between his teeth
     lapping at the rich ores with his slim tongue.

Into the heart of the once-great city he went,
     crouching like a green flame beneath tree-sized logs
     glinting like a hidden gem under the dusty rubble.

The death of the elder knight Ejetheo I mourn:
     who rushed heedless of age into his last battle
     who rushed heedless of risk between danger and babes.

With his worthy war-wrench he went into the fray
     smiting the startled dragon on the snout to turn him aside
     striking the lock from the door to reach the nursery.

Here is the last deed of Ejetheo the hero:
     flinging children from their beds on the balcony
     floating them down to the arms of their frightened parents.

Thus it was that the hideous drake caught up to him
     and wrapped him in sheets of fierce green flame
     and wreathed him in terrible heat until he died.

The death of the gifted physician Fujitsubo I mourn:
     who would not leave her post in the healing hall
     who would not leave her patients to the dragon's mercy.

With her heart in her throat she worked as fast as she could,
     stabilizing those who could be moved and sending them away
     comforting those who could not be moved and easing their fear.

Here is the last deed of Fujitsubo the hero:
     she threw floor cleaner into the face of the drake
     she threw a scalpel into the pupil of his right eye.

Thus it was that we learned Sebak was not invulnerable, but
     none could stop him from smoking Fujitsubo to death
     none could stop him from slaying the last of her patients.

The fall of the capital of the Shu I mourn:
     Jehuti the beautiful, whose leaves touched the sky
     Jehuti the fruitful, whose roots embraced the earth.

Felled were the heights and the homes of the city,
     the great trees laid low and smouldering
     the sweet streets choked with reeking fumes.

Ravaged were the food forests around Jehuti,
     the orchards once heavy with pomes and berries
     the meadows once leafy with shoots and pods.

The people of the fallen city wept as they fled
     to their allies in the mountains or the marshes
     to their enemies or those unknown in lands beyond.

The mountain city of Hildeburh I praise:
     capital of the Eofor, people of Earth and Fire
     capital of our allies, loyal in time of need.

The Shu appealed to the Eofor in hope of refuge,
     sending word to the mountain stronghold
     fleeing uphill toward the safety of the peaks.

The Eofor opened their arms to the Shu
     and let some of the refugees into the city of stone
     and let them make their homes beneath the slopes.

Woe, that the warriors of the Eofor could not drive out the dragon!
     for they sent some to the ruins of Jehuti;
     for they tried, and were slain for their trouble.

The wetland city of Kamo I praise:
     capital of the Hachi, people of Earth and Water
     capital of our allies, sympathetic to our loss.

The Shu appealed to the Hachi in hope of aid,
     sending word down every rill and river if able
     fleeing downhill if desperate enough to seek even swamps.

The Hachi opened their hearts to the Shu
     and sent what physicians they could spare
     and sent what supplies they could pack with them.

Woe, that the healers of the Hachi could not save everyone!
     for the drake's flame had sometimes burned too wide
     for the drake's toxins had sometimes sunk too deep.

The messengers of five out of six peoples I praise:
     those of the Shu, the Eofor, the Hachi
     those of the Imran and even the Beneberak.

What remained of the Madhusudana mocked us
     as Atemu had mocked Puru, when Janardana had come.
     as Atemu had perhaps deserved, though Sebak had slain him.

It was no surprise that our allies aided us in this
     though the mountains and the marshes yield few messengers
     though the Eofor and the Hachi are not the swiftest of people.

It was more of a surprise that others lent their aid:
     the Imran bard Zabur, and even one of our enemies,
     the Beneberak alchemist Ladah who sealed scrolls at no cost.

The patience of the people of the woods I praise:
     though the Shu are burned, we shall sprout anew
     though the Shu are smothered, we shall yet breathe free.

Perhaps a dragon is like a forest fire,
     quick to come and destroy all that lies in his path
     quick to go and leave the world to recover behind him.

Perhaps a dragon is to be admired like any other elder,
     for surely Sebak is older than anyone living, even a Hachi
     for surely Sebak has gathered ancient wisdom under his wings.

Of myself I shall say the least and the last
     for I am the youngest and juniormost bard of the Shu
     Astennu, who earned her seat on the day her city fell.

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Comments
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 9th, 2013 07:23 am (UTC) (Link)
What a tale! Well done. And an interesting form. I find it interesting that the poetry of Biblical Hebrew, another Afro-Asiatic language, also makes considerable use of semantic parallels.

And a couple of notes on English & such:
* capitol is a building or group of buildings; capital is a city. See, e.g., http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/
*      and wreathed him ^ terrible heat until he died.
  →→ insert "in"
*     quick to come and destroy all that lays in his path
  → lies
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2013 07:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>What a tale! Well done.<<

I'm glad you liked it.

>> And an interesting form. I find it interesting that the poetry of Biblical Hebrew, another Afro-Asiatic language, also makes considerable use of semantic parallels. <<

Yes, the main resource where I found the forked parallels covered both Hebrew and Egyptian examples. It's a fascinating article.

Changes made. "Capitol" to "capital" was made grudgingly; I really prefer "capitol" for a leadership-city, because there are bunches of other meanings for "capital" that have nothing to do with government.

Anyhow, thanks for the proofreading. For future reference, please put editing notes in full size so they're easier for me to read. I'm a professional writer, and an editor, and it would be silly of me to be shy about proofing my own work.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 10th, 2013 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yes, ma'am.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 10th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Sounds good, thanks.
From: sylvaine57 Date: February 9th, 2013 07:38 am (UTC) (Link)
This is gorgeous and kind of made me tear up a little.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2013 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm delighted to hear that. It's very much what I was aiming for.

This is the second in a series of six poems detailing the fall of the major cities. Tragedy thus forms the foundation of the series as a whole. The sideline poems -- the first of which, "Carrying the Sea and the Sky," is in the unsold poetry list -- will pick up more personal perspectives as individual people try to rebuild something of a life.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2013 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I'm still getting a feel for these <<

Hey, it took me two weeks to lay down enough foundation that I could start writing the actual poems. I know how you feel.

>>(being an entirely new setting, the number of new names is going to take me a while to get on top of),<<

Hint: each race draws its names from a specific mythic or literary source. So the Madhusudana in "The Janardanakavita" have names from the Mahabharata, while the Shu here have names from the Book of Going Forth by Day (aka The Egyptian Book of the Dead). As the series builds, more examples should make it easier to see how the names fall into clusters. So far, I've only worked out complete phonetics for the Eofor but I'll probably do the others later. That's what let me render the original Ecgþeow from Beowulf into the Eofor name Ejetheo (or Ejeþeo).

>> so I don't have a whole lot to say about the story here, but I love the form. Going to have to make use of that myself. <<

Please feel free to use the form! Do you want my rough notes for the forest path form? I worked them out before I wrote the poem, much as I did for the kavita form earlier.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2013 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>>Honestly, I'm still at the point of having trouble keeping the names of the races sorted out, let alone individuals within those races.<<

Yeah, it takes a while. Having illustrations would help too, but so far I just have descriptions. I did block out some related information early on, like a list of the races and their sources, along with more detailed descriptions of each race.

A portion of this stuff will be one of the options for bonus material, since that perk reached its goal.

>> I've got a system for this sort of thing, tho: I'll go back and re-read them all ever time you post a new one, and they'll sink in eventually.<<

That should work. It's similar to what I did when I was writing the background notes; I kept re-reading what I'd already done, until the names sank in.

>>It looks like a fairly straightforward form, but I would be interested to see the notes, see if I'm missing anything there.<<

It is fairly straightforward, but having more detail might help. I have sent you the form notes in a private message. Enjoy! Oh, and if you try writing it, I'd love to hear about that.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>>There is more in there than I saw at first. A lot of that possible variation doesn't really get highlighted in this poem. Thank you! <<

Yeah, I picked a smallish subset for sake of clarity. In a shorter poem, I might have played around with different patterns, like going ABB ABB ABB ABA.

>>And yes, if I use it, I'll certainly share with you!<<

Thanks.

>> Also, I think I just read the word "parallel" enough times that it lost meaning ;) <<

*laugh* That can happen.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 10th, 2013 03:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yay, I guessed right about "Eofor"!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 10th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

That's always fun.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 11th, 2013 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Wouldn't "Ejeþeo" be baffling to readers who don't recognize a thorn, which is probably most of them?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2013 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Possibly so. That's one reason I went with "Ejetheo," the other being this is a Shu poem rather than Eofor.

But readers? Some of mine are fellow hobby-linguists and stuff like this gives them a happy the same way it does for me. I seriously spent a couple hours designing the phonemes for Eofor because I wanted the color of a dragon, which was based on the colors of forged metal, for which I needed a vocabulary list, and trying to do just one word without any of that other stuff was like trying to pull just one feather out of a pillow. And this is my life.

I figure, if I decide to use thorn in writing Eofor stuff, I can always just footnote it.

Eofor also has æ (ash), and œ (variously called œthel, ethel, or ēðel) and which I am strongly tempted to nickname oak.
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: September 6th, 2015 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Chills.

That was beautifully done. <3
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 6th, 2015 09:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I wanted to go for a really classic feel with these. Watch for the audio file for "The Ballad of Zaavan's Revenge," it's linked from that poem's page.
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