Excerpt – Prologue and Invocation

 

My present goal is briefly to describe

the mighty deeds of Eden’s famous Tribe

from high antiquity to modern times

in lucid, readable Heroic Rhymes

that nearly any member of our band

with brains between his ears, can understand.

 

Permit me, first, a word on scribal Style:

Traditions have been fixed for quite a while;

and I shall follow them, however it

displeases readers lacking taste and wit.

I write as Eden’s classic authors wrote.

Wherever possible, I try to quote

their golden iambs.  Thus should every  scribe

of Eden keep the records of the Tribe.

All tastes are not alike, I realize.

I nonetheless decline to compromise!

What compromise is possible?  One type

of reader savors Art, the other, tripe.

There is no tepid “Middle Way” to go.

Like death, or pregnancy, it’s Yes or No–

You’ll either be enraptured by the terse,

majestic cadence of Heroic Verse

or else it drives you screaming up the wall.

There seems to be no neutral  ground at all.

I don’t expect my work to go to waste.

We have, among us, apes of cultured taste:

the Literate Elite.  I write for those.

Let lowbrows read some Scribbler’s dreary prose.

 

This book will fill some long-felt needs.  For one,

our present tribal Archives weigh a ton.

The custom of inscribing all our lore

on chiseled slabs of stone, as heretofore,

has meant that history has put on weight

beyond my competence to estimate–

much less to carry.  Nor have volunteers

come forth to share this load I’ve borne for years

through prairies, mountains, deserts, swamps and sloughs

as Eden’s Tribe it’s holy Quest pursues.

A sedentary race of stay-at-homes

is justified in storing weighty tomes,

but apes who have our quest-pursuing bent

with lighter reading ought to be content.

 

The land through which we travel now is rife

with deadly hazards to one’s health and life:

explosive gas from smoking fumeroles,

and dragons darting out of clefts and holes,

and winged snakes, concealed in clouds of gray

volcano smoke, to pounce upon their prey.

It’s difficult for someone to compete

unless he’s quick and agile on his feet,

and not encumbered by a heavy sack

of Literary Treasures on his back.

And if the harsh, relentless truth be told,

I’m past  my prime of life: I’m getting old.

A lighter load would be a boon to me.

I’m not as nimble as I used to be.

Besides, too many “documents” we keep

are uninformative–a cumbrous heap

of sherds and fragments which cannot be read;

or commentaries, made by scribes long dead,

on writings which were subsequently lost

among the swamps and deserts we have crossed;

or whopping tales the ancient used to weave,

which now not even gaffers can believe

or myths our Senior Tribesmen have themselves

devised–of goblins, pixies, spooks and elves–

which scribes with little talent of their own

as chroniclers, immortalized in stone.

We have some archives which exist in three

or four editions, none of which agree.

Least valuable of all our books are those

in cryptic tongues no living tribesman knows.

Be sensible: Do antiquaries need

archaic texts which none of us can read?

There’s too much trash  the Tribe of Eden owns

of which in vain we ask: What Mean These Stones?

 

The monsters we contend with, day by day,

have proven helpful, in a passive way.

The fuming pits abounding in this land

provide the chemicals with which I’ve tanned

the dragon-leather which, if bleached, makes quite

a choice material on which to write.

One modest credit more: I’m first to think

of using dragons’ soot-black blood for ink.

If all goes well, I shall present the whole

of Eden’s history on one small scroll,

in style and portability improved,

with errors and obscurities removed–

a text which may an inspiration be

to apes, throughout our future destiny,

instead of merely stirring up dissent

by giving quibblers grounds for argument.

In place of many clashing texts, I give

you one, coherent and definitive!

No “food for thought” is lost.  I promise that.

I save the meat, although I trim the fat.

 

For this first time in many days, the view

is relatively peaceful–with a few

small winged serpents soaring in the night;

but not a single Dragon is in sight.

I’ll seize this priceless opportunity

to finish editing my History

before another troupe of monsters choose

to interrupt me.  Let’s get started, Muse!

 

Literate Louie

Scribe of the Tribe

December, 19067