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What I'm Reading

I will probably mention a couple of books by Poul Anderson, assuming I keep this going, but I'm going to start with

A Midsummer Tempest.

Imagine a world where clocks existed in the days of Caesar - where Bohemia had a seacoast - where the Danes had cannon centuries before anyone else - where the Montagues and Capulets feuded through the streets of Verona - where The Great Historian recorded these and many other true episodes of history.

In this land, the English Civil War burns across the country.  Prince Rupert of the Rhine is general of the armies of King Charles, battling the Roundheads, until he is captured and held in secret.  A young girl and a buffoon aid him in escaping, to meet with Oberon and Titania, and go on quest of instruments that will save King Charles, England, and The Old Ways...

Poul Anderson was an accomplished  poet, historian, punster,  science-fictioneer, and fantasy writer.  All these things come together in AMT, and it's worth reading just for the horrible Shakespeare puns (On a boat that is mildly lost: "The fault, brute steersman, lies not in our spars but in ourselves").  At the risk of blowing it, though, I want to give you the invocation that raises the land to battle:

I am the land.

I have the right to raise the land I am.  In me alone the mightiness indwells, until I bestow it upon my messengers that they may bear my wrath across the world.  Mine is the outrage, as mine was the love.

I am the land, by virtue of the bones of my forefathers which have strengthened it, the flesh which they give back to us in harvest, the patience of their plowing centuries, each blossom time when they went two by two, each hunter's moon in woods afire with fall, each winter and each sorrow which they outlived until humbly they went down to namelessness.  Their gnarled old fingers made me what I am - not wilderness nor iron desert: home - the while my skies and seasons worked on them.  Their songs and hearthside tales, my wind and rain, speak each unto the other of our oneness.  Though men and trees do die and die and die, the house, the fields, the woods endure, and every babe or lamb or new-leafed branch says forth the immortality we share.

Thou shalt not bind me fast in fetters of brick and steel, nor make my people to  idolators of little frantic leaders and their texts.  If mystery and merriment alike be humand rights, I claim them for my folk.

Mine are the dead, the quick, and the unborn.  From out of time, I call their life to me that it may leap in those embodiments to which the wonder of the folk gave birth.

Come in your love and your dreadfulness.  Ye garlanded white maidens of the springs, ye dancers in a bright midsummer night, ye tricksy elves who are a houosehold's luck - ye huntsmen who go rushing through the air, ye tall grey-cloaked who walk the hills in awe, ye lurkers in the rustling river depths, ye warriors who sleep by rusted swords which once did bell, 'This country is our own!' - arise.  The hour is gruesome late. Arise.

I am the land.  I bid you come alive

I've had this book for twenty-something years, and I STILL cannot read that passage without weeping for its beauty and strength.

Someone once said that Poul Anderson was not a superstar like Asimov or Heinlein.  He was more the Joe DiMaggio of SF: he wasn't the best at any one thing, but everything he did, he did well.  I can't argue.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 13th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
You wrote the quote like a set of paragraphs, but is that how it appears in the book? It's easy to read in blank verse (for the most part), and I'm sure that's no accident.

I think I'll give Poul Anderson priority over Piers Anthony. The former sounds more like my kind of punster.
Nov. 13th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
You wrote the quote like a set of paragraphs, but is that how it appears in the book? It's easy to read in blank verse (for the most part), and I'm sure that's no accident.
That's exactly as it appears in the book. There are several excellent sonnets buried in the text, such as Charles' counsel against his generals' despair, and part of the fun is looking for them.

Will, the buffoon, offers Rupert some booze that was liberated from a Roundhead's house, and wants to finish it up before the battle, for "the spirits were for swillin', but the flask was weak." Anderson is several levels above Anthony for quality puns IMO.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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