literature

The Defense of Gawain (Fragment 1)

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By williamszm
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Literature Text

He brushed his wavy hair from his pale face
Just like his horse was shaking off the flies
While following behind. Their limping pace

Was slow, although the city rang with cries
Surprised from friends who thought that he was dead--
But still his head slumped down, and still his eyes

And clammy cheeks were flushed with streaking red,
Though they were running, dashing to his side.
And then his young brother, half-laughing, said,

"Oh god, I thought--you know we thought you died?
That awful task--you left, you rode away--
And then did not come back. Oh, how I cried!

I thought you died. On last year's new-year's day
A year since you had left, they all agreed
You must have failed your quest, but I said nay--

I knew my brother Gawain would succeed
Although it seemed to all impossible.
But you did not come back, and I concede

I thought you died." And then his voice sunk low
From where it had been shouting in delight,
And then he said: "But brother, may I know--

Your hair is snarled, unkempt--your eyes are bright
As if with tears; Your horse seems wounded too.
Your awful task--was it so hard a fight

That still some evil lingers over you?
And now I make it worse! I cannot know
The torments of the hells you have walked through

But surely I have sense 'nough to forgo
This questioning. Brother, please answer me!
Each second of your silence is a blow

Against my heart, which only wants to see
The brother that I love alive and well."
And all the crowd was waiting quietly

To hear Gawain's reply, to hear him tell
Of his heroic deeds, for he of old
Would often sing of them. But his head fell

And he drew his limbs closer, as if cold
Was creeping up along his silver mail,
And murmured that his story he would hold

Until the King himself asked for the tale.
So this is the beginning of the Arthurian poem I promised, and have been working on for quite some time now. Currently I have close to 40 stanzas completed, and I still haven't actually gotten to the main story of the poem. So I doubt I will post it all here, but here is at least a portion of what I have done!

This poem is basically influenced from two primary sources--"Gawain and the Green Knight" and Morris' "Defence of Guenevere". It will probably make more sense if you've read "Gawain and the Green Knight", at least, but even if you haven't I would really, really appreciate any feedback you might have. This is my longest poem and the first really telling a story. I would like help.

So some questions:
First impressions of Gawain?
Of his brother?
Meter issues? (I know there are some)
Do you like it thus far?
Anything else, at all? Any comments/critiques would be so helpful!

Thank you!
Published:
© 2012 - 2021 williamszm
Comments45
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inknalcohol's avatar
:star::star::star::star: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Vision
:star::star::star::star-half::star-empty: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star-empty: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star: Impact

Wow! That's all I can say right now.

I've always been a fan of the legends around King Arthur and his Knights. The stories capture you and hold your attention because you're easily able to root for them. You want to see the knights succeed in whatever their task is.

And you do not fail in accomplishing this.

Your description of his appearance as he returns captures my attention right out of the gates. It's obvious he's been through hell and back and I wanna know the story.

The way the brother rushes up and greets Gawain is exactly what you'd expect of a younger sibling that never gave up on seeing his older brother again!

And the end. Oh, the end. It's truly evil because I wanna know what happened. I can't wait for the next part.
williamszm's avatar
Thank you for the critique! If I post more pieces from this, I will be sure to let you know. :)
inknalcohol's avatar
Please do so. I'd be VERY interested in reading.
GDeyke's avatar
I'm terrible at commenting on poetry, but I really liked this. Have you finished the whole poem?
elksongredfeather's avatar

Gawain seems like he's gone through some tough times (I wonder what?) and he brother seems like he's a pretty nice guy that really cares for Gawain :)

I love it so far! I can't wait to read more! Congrats on the DD, it is well deserved :D 

alphabetsoup314's avatar
Hello, and congratulations on the DD! I am here to offer a review on behalf of Criticarium

First impressions of Gawain?
Not much so far, only that he's tired and wounded, and suffered some great loss. 

Of his brother? 
I get this image that he's all like: HELLZ YEAH I knew you were alive all this time! Take that haters :happybounce:  ............ wait a sec, why are you bleeding? :ohnoes:
I get the impression that he's idealistic, though not necessarily naive or oblivious. I also get the impression that he cares about Gawain and looks up to him. 

Meter issues?
You used enjambment quite well with the last line of (most of) the stanzas, it helped keep things consistent. With some of the stanzas near the end, without the enjambment it actually got harder to figure out the meter. 

Also, it's a little hard to figure out how to read the middle lines sometimes; some of them are longer and have a lot more syllables. I can suggest one change for this line: Surprised from friends who thought that he was dead  ...to... Surprise from friends who thought him dead. It simplifies the number of syllables in the last couple of feet, and also gives the diction a more archaic feel. 

Do you like it thus far?
Yes, it has me interested in what happens next; I would really like to read the rest, if you have it floating around somewhere. I like the formal, romantic tone that you adopted for this piece, it really does remind me of a fairy tale, where all the characters speak with flowery, poetic language. 

Other comments:
I'm not really sure why it is, but the first stanza feels a little more modern in grammar and diction than the rest of the piece, it sticks out to me (not in a good way). Maybe I'm just imagining things :shrug:

Oh god, I thought -- God should be capitalized here; I imagine that they believed in God. 

On last year's new-year's day -- Love this line! The repetition gives it a very musical feel. 

That still some evil lingers over you?... While it has some meter issues that I can't quite put my finger on, this stanza showcases the flowery speech that I love about this piece. 

Overall, while I'm not too familiar with Arthurian legend, I loved the romantic feel to the piece, and will be eagerly awaiting more. 
LibbyKeppen's avatar
OMG I love Gawain so much ah!  I am so glad this got a daily deviation, it is so deserving.  I also love the obvious influence from Gawain  and the Green Knight.  The flow of this is very appealing and I can't quite pinpoint what it is so it kept me interested throughout.  And the creative use of dialogue here was excellent too.  I am so happy for you, congrats!
ShadowedAcolyte's avatar
I think you're largely fine on the meter. There are a few hiccupy places, but almost all the old poems had those, because perfectly metered poetry actually gets mind-numbing and you lose the actual words in the meter. It wasn't choppy enough to throw me off, so that wasn't bad (except maybe "impossible" since it's a tertiary rhyme).

I would continue to read more, if it were available. Thanks for the read.
sakohju's avatar
Wow! Really rich poem~ I'd love to read the rest!
AyeAye12's avatar
Please, please please do post the whole poem. This is brilliant stuff. Always good when peeps get classicalness spot on. 
TruthisTruth's avatar
Congratulations on the Daily Deviation! :clap:
FalconFate's avatar
Wow…

You should become a scholar! This is AMAZING!!
Karinta's avatar
What's the form????
Gryffgirl's avatar
Very beautiful poem--I love the Arthurian theme!  Congratulations on your DD! :clap:
robson666's avatar
congratulations to the well deserved Daily Deviation Clap
Lintu47's avatar
Congrats on the DD! :dalove:
Have a nice day! :party:
MirachRavaia's avatar
dA hipster stamp by MirachRavaia
Congrats to the DD :D
xlntwtch's avatar
:iconcongratssignplz: ...Is this a sestina? It seems like one. (I'm an ignorant prose writer...)
I know the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight very well and enjoy seeing it brought to life again here. Thank you. :+fav:
williamszm's avatar
I don't think it's a sestina--though I'm not really familiar with that form. I stole the form from William Morris' Defence of Guenivere.

And thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
xlntwtch's avatar
DailyLitDeviations's avatar
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by =DailyLitDeviations in a news article that can be found here: [link]

Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by :+fav:ing the News Article. Keep writing and keep creating.
williamszm's avatar
TheGlassIris's avatar
Hello, I will be critiquing your piece on behalf of :icongrammarnazicritiques:. I will do my best to help by suggesting improvements that can be made and general feedback on aesthetic appeal.

First impressions of Gawain? (PTSD, trauma, hundred-yard stare, all the symptoms of shell-shock. I recommend intensive therapy without opiates or drugs of any kind)

Of his brother? (Obviously desperate to help, too young to understand his brother's circumstances, too eager to come off as more than an annoyance to Gawain, a good choice for second speaker as his concerns for his brother in the first part contribute greatly to the audience's understanding and assumptions about Gawain's circumstances.)

Meter issues? (I know there are some)

(a lot of year's here)
I thought you died. On last year's new-year's day
A year since you had left, they all agreed

Do you like it thus far? (very interesting, the separation of parts was a good choice)

Anything else, at all? Any comments/critiques would be so helpful! (for such a long piece your pacing is very good and your enjambment brings attention to all the right places. I'm not a fan of long ballads and Romanticist works with traditional or formal rhyme and meter, so for you to have captured my interest like that is a good sign indeed.)

He brushed his wavy hair from his pale face (a slow intro here)
Just like his horse was shaking off the flies (nice, implies tiredness)
While following behind. Their limping pace (great enjambment!)

Was slow, although the city rang with cries (a wonderful line that shows how lauded a warrior he is and how anticipated his return was)
Surprised from friends who thought that he was dead--
But still his head slumped down, and still his eyes (nice use of the double noun/verb of "still")

And clammy cheeks were flushed with streaking red, (what red? red from what? "And clammy cheeks were flushed, streaked with red,")
Though they were running, dashing to his side.
And then his young brother, half-laughing, said,

"Oh god, I thought--you know we thought you died? (the use of dashes is a nice touch)
That awful task--you left, you rode away--
And then did not come back. Oh, how I cried!

I thought you died. On last year's new-year's day
A year since you had left, they all agreed
You must have failed your quest, but I said nay-- (the implication that he had left on some great quest and then expected to return home triumphant, combines with his slouched, defeated demeanor quite nicely)

I knew my brother Gawain would succeed
Although it seemed to all impossible.
But you did not come back, and I concede (your rhyming is just remarkably smooth and lyrical)

I thought you died." And then his voice sunk low
From where it had been shouting in delight, (here it begins to slow a bit and as a reader I can tell that it's getting serious)
And then he said: "But brother, may I know--

Your hair is snarled, unkempt--your eyes are bright
As if with tears; Your horse seems wounded too.
Your awful task--was it so hard a fight (This.)

That still some evil lingers over you? (this stanza break right here is brilliant. Implying that his defeat has instilled evil within him so clearly it almost seems like you can literally see the dark, disappointed looks in his eyes, reflecting in the crowd)
And now I make it worse! I cannot know
The torments of the hells you have walked through

But surely I have sense 'nough to forgo
This questioning. Brother, please answer me!
Each second of your silence is a blow

Against my heart, which only wants to see
The brother that I love alive and well."
And all the crowd was waiting quietly

To hear Gawain's reply, to hear him tell
Of his heroic deeds, for he of old (a wonderful stanza that displays the hopefulness of the crowd and the imminent disappointment that they soon face.)
Would often sing of them. But his head fell

And he drew his limbs closer, as if cold
Was creeping up along his silver mail, (a beautifully foreboding image)
And murmured that his story he would hold

Until the King himself asked for the tale. (fantastic ending, can't wait for more)

Hope this helps.
williamszm's avatar
Thanks! I'm so glad to took the time to critique this so thoroughly--I really appreciate it!
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