The Last Chapter – A Poem for Frodo

One of the things I owe to Tolkien is inspiring in me a love of poetry. Before I read The Lord of the Rings, I had little interest in reading poetry, let alone writing it. It was the poems of Middle Earth that changed my mind…the way he used poems and songs to emphasize the emotional moments just made it “click” for me.

Early during my poetry exploration, I wrote this poem about Frodo in Mordor. It’s not really how I write poetry anymore, but it was definitely inspired by Tolkien. This seems like the right time to share it. 🙂

The Last Chapter

I wander through this valley of gloom
Seeking the mountain of death
Where has fled my strength, I wonder?
Uttering life’s last breath

So close around is darkness
It is all I understand
The mist around me, in my eyes
The stench of evil land

My greatest hope is victory
A sunrise for my kin
White daisies in the pastures
And gentle summer wind

Nearer and closer have I come
The slopes are at my feet
Somewhere a tower looms in dusk
Waiting for my defeat

If I can but reach that summit
And set my people free
Then I shall die, content and ready
To face the silver sea

Marian H. Rowe
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Falling in Love with Fiction

Occasionally you stumble across some historical story so weird it could only have happened in in real life.  Exhibit A: the mysterious lover of Nikolay Gumilyov.

Ngumil
Nikolay Gumilyov

Who was Nikolay Gumilyov?  Born in 1886, he grew up well educated and began writing poetry at a young age, becoming first published, in fact, at around age 16.  Gumilyov spent much of his life as a man of letters and established poet, but he also served in the Russian cavalry in WWI.  He was executed in 1921 on suspicions of being part of a monarchist conspiracy. 

When he was still a young man and writing for a journal called Apollon, he fell in love with the author of some poems which had been submitted for publication.  Here I quote Wikipedia:

In August 1909, the famous Russian artistic periodical Apollon received a letter with verses on a perfumed paper with black mourning edges, signed only by a single Russian letter Ch. The verses were filled with half-revelations about its author—supposedly a beautiful maiden with dark secrets . . . Over the next few months, publications of the newfound poetic star were the major hit of the magazine, and many believed that they had found a major new talent in Russian poetry. The identity of the author was slowly revealed: her name was Baroness Cherubina de Gabriak, a Russian-speaking girl of French and Polish ancestry who lived in a very strict Roman Catholic aristocratic family, who severely limited the girl’s contacts with the outside world because of an unspoken secret in her past. Almost all of Apollon’s male writers fell in love with her, most of all the great poet Nikolai Gumilyov. He wrote a series of passionate love letters to her and received quite passionate answers.

The mystery of the newfound genius was short-lived. In November it was discovered that the verses were written by a disabled schoolteacher, Elisaveta Ivanovna Dmitrieva, with the participation of a major Apollon contributor and editor, the poet Maximilian Voloshin. 

Apparently, Voloshin and Dmitrieva came up with this scheme as a sort of publicity stunt in order to get her published.  Gumilyov, as you can imagine, was not amused.  The fallout between him and Voloshin eventually led to a duel, which (fortunately) did nothing to help sore feelings but at least resulted in no casualties, as Gumilyov missed and Voloshin couldn’t handle a gun.

Elisaveta Ivanovna Dmitrieva, AKA
Cherubina de Gabriak

You can read more about the love triangle here.  It’s quite a soap opera and makes the Charlotte Bronte’s “Currer Bell” seem mild by comparison!

Vice, Virtue, and Heroism in Eugene Onegin – Episode 26

For lovers of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, Eugene Onegin takes us back to Imperial Russia, where young Tatyana Larina falls for her brooding, Byronic neighbor. More than a romance, Alexander Pushkin’s epic poem is a classic of Russian literature and history, as well as a glimpse into the 19th-century dueling culture which proved to be so fatal for him.

Sources / Further Reading:
Why the Russian aristocrats spoke French – Reddit discussion with academic sources
Eugene Onegin – Translation by Henry Spalding (not my first recommendation, but it’s free)
Pushkin’s African Background – Article by the British Library
List of Alexander Pushkin’s duels – By blogger Rina Tim
Russian Ark (2002) – A creative documentary surveying 200 years of Russian culture.  I was able to watch this on loan from the library, and while it’s a slow film (not gripping), the visuals are interesting.
Opening quote read by MaryAnn (LibriVox)

Emily Dickinson – Life of a Poet – Episode 25

She left us with over 1,000 poems, full of vibrant imagery and even more mysteries.  Join me as I search for the real Emily Dickinson behind the legend, examining her life story and reading such gems as “I died for beauty” and “A bird came down the walk.”

Sources / Further Reading:
Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson – Edited by Robert Linscott
Emily Dickinson – Biography at Poets.org
The Emily Dickinson Museum