April is National Poetry Month. I’ve never considered myself to be much of a poetry fan, nor am I that skilled in their construction. However one of my favorite stories is filled with poems in many forms. From songs, to prophecies, to war chants and funeral songs, a poem can add lyrical depth to a special moment in any story.
My favorite story of all time is wrapped up in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Four, simple Hobbits discover their destinies through friendship and danger along the path to stop an evil plot to conquer the free world. How can that not get you excited?
Along the way they meet Dwarves and Elves, and discover a humble Ranger named Aragon. The following poem is told of this Ranger, a man who’s hiding from his destiny.
The poem was written of course by J.R.R. Tolkien. But in the book, its claimed by Bilbo Baggins – the Hero from the Hobbit – and told to his nephew, Frodo, by Gandalf the Grey.
The poem starts,
- All that is gold does not glitter,
- Not all those who wander are lost;
- The old that is strong does not wither,
- Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
I can remember the first time I read the Fellowship of the Ring. I tended to skip the poetry and songs, and searched out the fighting, the action and the dangerous parts of the story. But something in this first line stuck with me. All that is gold does not glitter. Someone who is important, was hiding in plain sight.
The second stanza of the poem wraps it up, and hints at the importance of this wandering gold:
- From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
- A light from the shadows shall spring;
- Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
- The crownless again shall be king.
A King? A broken blade? Light in the Shadows? Now this was a poem my adventure-addict twelve-year-old self could get a hold of. Not only is this a hinting at Aragorn’s true nature, but it is a foreshadowing of his destiny. The King will return.
The imagery in this poem has always stuck with me. That first line has influenced how I view a true hero: All that is gold does not glitter. A hero doesn’t need a white horse, or shining golden armor. There could be a time when fanfare and showmanship are necessary, but just because it’s plain and normal doesn’t mean it has no value. You see this kind of heroics in many books: The Way of Kings, Divergent, Daughter of Light, and many, many others.
While I may not have read much Poe, Whitman or Dickinson, I do like when an author adds a bit of flair to their fiction. Adding poetry in a song, or prophecy is a great way to include a different writing style, or change the pace of a scene.
What are your thoughts on the use of poetry? Do you gobble up book after book of lyrical painting, or could you care less and would rather read an instructional manual for a toaster?
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