• Published 13th Jul 2012
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The Six Deeds of Harmony - Defoloce



A poem of a knight's quest to earn love. Written in iambic pentameter.

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The Deed of Sooth

──────THE DEED OF SOOTH──────

urrone was form'd by disp'rate donkey tribes,
A folk both hale and simple in pursuits.
Their lot and wont was but to turn the earth
And sun and graze upon the greensward there.

The grander world was naught amongst their cares
Though neighbours they did bid a well-come word.
So too it was when knight and goddess pass'd
Down from the borders of Equestria.

The gold-gilt waves of reaching summer wheat
Broke then to cottages and sheds of tack:
A donkey-village there amongst the rich
And pleasant favour of the till's bounty.

The knight was stayed; no sight had he ere seen
Did tribute properly the donkeys' apt
For soil-craft and for the master'd plow.
Here 'fore him bode a challenge to his kin.

"And lo! so we are come apace to 'hold
The richness past our neighb'ring county's mete!
Would that own stock could grow so powerf'ly!
What sadness, pray, might cool the hearths within?"

The Princess Love was sorrow'd, and with head
A-shake She brought him down the hill with Her.
"A masque" said She, "'hind which a green beast stirs,
And careless dines upon the fruit of toil."

At this the knight could conjure naught to say
For being stallion he could not appraise
The subtleties and depths of fem'nine minds.
His place, he knew, sat firm apart from there.

"The wheat-farm thither doth our maid abide,"
Cadenza spake as they coursed 'pon the road.
"A blessing made a burden by her lot
To set keen words upon her sisters' tongues."

At gate did fore-jack bow and give them meet.
He brought them to his board and bid them sup
In 'cord with donkey hospitality
To such hath been their mark for cent'ries on.

The fore-jack's countenance betrayed his joys.
"Two waywards thou art not, I plain behold!
A goddess, here, and one of martial caste
Who bears no steel 'gainst which to stand a foe!"

Cadenza supped, but being alicorn
Was without need for repast or for drink,
Yet such was Her full grace and courtly charms
She could not 'fend Her host and there abstain.

The knight was kind, and in his armour shone
The legion flick'ring lights of candles soft.
"Our matter," spake he strong, "sets with a youth
Who hither dwells, her blessing made a curse."

"I know the maid," spake fore-jack sullenly.
"Her sire and dam were planters in our fief.
Yet youth, in its caprice, be ever cruel;
Such jealousy fast gripp'd her peers' sore hearts."

Knight finish'd sup and stood to graceful bow.
"This matter: I confess to know it not
In nuance and in wisdom finely spun.
So might we audience with selfsame maid?"

The hostly jack led out and short afield
To dormitories where the farmers slept.
He call'd for her, the object of their quest
And she emerged with eyes a-red with tears.

Her count was such that even Love did stay
A single beating of Her heart in shock;
A-front them there beneath the forenoon Sun
Was stood a jenny, young, unearthly fair.

She 'held them still within her wav'ring eyes
And sorrow took its hold on her anew.
She wept, her head drew low, and she did cry:
"O pity! Now am I a knight's attend?"

"A blaze might start but from a spark alit,"
Betold the knight in temper'd soothing words,
"And troubles thine might not be thine alone.
What Chaos hath your sorrows erstwhile wrought?"

She led them thence to their fief's granary.
O'erflowing as it was with aurum reap'd
There still within was mix'd some brown and black
Bespeaking hard emotion and dis-ease.

Midday approach'd, and with it warming breeze
Which played amongst the armour of the knight
As he beheld the life and food of fief.
He then, bemused, did pace and made to speak.

"Wherefore doth the reapers gather that
Which sicks and dies e'en as it rests within?
I see such care ev'denced in all the else
And of thy kindred's splendour'd harvestry."

"I feel it here," spake Love, "and in Mine horn
Can be no tale: verily, 'tis Chaos
Himself who leers and sends the wheat to death.
I'faith, here nests the sorrows of our maid."

"I'm stone to think that I would be the cause
For famine and for want in seasons come!
Wherefore is it my lot to salt and scourge
These lands o'er which an idyll should be writ?"

The knight recoil'd. "How now! Thou wrights this woe?
I'll hear it not! Speak plain, I pray, and tell
To goodly Goddess Love and I beside
What cause be give to entertain such sworn."

The maiden there, of loveliness to shy
The storms as they would tear the land a-sund
Lament'd out her plight of blight perceived
That such a boon was come with deadly cost.

"O knight, O Love, I confidence to thee
That I am told my beauty causes this.
My parents loved me such to gift me good,
But I, their issue, now must see the price.
My dam wish'd deep amongst the space 'twixt stars:
'Deliver unto her a face so fair
That none in Burrone counties could compare.'
Her life in birth was Chaos' rotten tithe.
My sire, so stricken of his love's great loss
That he abscondèd hence to lands unknown.
And so it is that this own face I wear
Cost life, and love, and now our ploughshares' fruit."

The knight shook out his handsome mane and neighed,
"O maiden mine, I fear thou art misled.
Thy story, tragic though, doth hide the true
And true-like source of fortune's mal intent."

Long ears a-perk'd at these few hopeful words.
"So prithee, sir, what succour should I take
When all the woes of home seem firm 'pon me?
What force and painèd hate besets me so?"

"'Tis jealousy, as my princess confess'd,"
A nod ere which the goodly knight did give.
"A need of Sooth is what brought us to thee
So falsehoods, I perceive, hast thou been told."

"An envy of my beauty? Have it, then!
I say an one doth want it for their own
Then let them come and 'lieve me of its curse!
Such do those natt'ring sloths my peerage jibe!"

"A cave, a cave!" the knight then cried to Love.
"The Moon Herself did sing of caves, recall.
I see it now, the gath'ring pawns unwit
And how Chaos would have them aggravate."

Cadenza loft her chin to taste the sky,
Her horn aglow with fiery sensate.
"A cavern near the burg be easterly;
A blackness hangs o'er all its vestibule."

The knight turn'd then back to the jenny's gaze.
"These peers, these ones who bid thee carry blame:
Be they asleep, afield, or doth they roam?
I conjure that their years are like of thine."

The donkey-maiden there was put aback.
"I'faith, we share a year of birth amongst,
Though pointèd will and hurt was brought of late
As they came loath to look o'erlong my face.

"As for their hobby, nay, I know it not.
They discount me at ev'ry turn and bide
Their idleness away where none might see.
I've caught no reason e'er to mark the cave!"

"We now away," with hasten'd care cried he!
The three-count comp'ny gallop'd east across
The roll'd-on hills and shallow pools of rain
Until to antre dark anon were come.

A noisome smell was issued from the mouth
And o'ermuch depth no light would penetrate.
The jenny's ears told well her tides of dread
Whilst knight approach'd the rocky demon's maw.

"Offal nor the droppings of cave-bats be this
Which 'fends our nose and keeps us breathless bound!
'Tis verily quite plain a witches' brew
Of fetid make and wicked dreamcraft sought!"

They braved the ichor of that skyless stretch
And deep a-soul of earth did that path take
Until, at last, the three were come before
A chamber domed in ill-eased verdant light.

Four donkey-maidens cauldron did attend
And, chanting to unworldly powers, they
Forth summon'd smoke and heavy turgid mists
Coloured of limbs which be bereft of blood.

In shadows close the three beheld the moot
Of earthen magicks jured without a horn
To call upon the finery of skies.
The mortals' coats were wont to 'scape their flesh.

In Quagga did the donkeys send their pleas
Unto the veils of magick, grave and base.
Entranced were they, and so espied no foe
To stir them from their magick'd reverie.

"That be the utterance of zebra-folk,"
Hoarse whisper'd the still knight, a-pale with awe.
"Alas that it be so, but mine own ken
Be not a match for far tongues such as these."

Cadenza made to cyph the eerie cants.
A goddess, She, yet young as gods are come.
"It 'feats me, so it does," was Her lament,
"But malice is forfent; it visits not."

"A curiosity is set to hoof;
Let I reveal and break them of this spell."
The knight emerged him from the shadows' cape
And stood a-bold to capture sorc'ress eyes.

"A pony! Pony!" come one witch's shriek.
"In armour as to slay us where we stand!
Bepeace, sir knight, and stay thee up thy girt—
We are but maidens, issued of Burrone!"

"I know thy hail, and thy foul purpose too,"
Without gentility did the knight speak.
"Pray tell me whence this zebra-earthcraft comes
And wherefore pourest hate upon the fair."

"Our purpose be not foul!" then called the next.
"Our tutelage was in last winter brought
By zebra-train in lasting migrancy.
A barter'd 'change of gifts: repast for this."

Spake knight "So said and heard, and yet uneased
By what array be cast before my hooves.
Hast thou yet more to speak to magicks these?
Avail thy selves, that consequence be light."

The third was now the one to speak her piece:
"O sir, the spell within thy witness held
Be but a blessing for our failèd crops
Which wither under beauty's baleful heat."

"Like sun removed of rain, would beauty be?
Be fairness now ill omen to the earth?
What good is come from lying to a friend
And lying to one's self in measure more?"

To this the jennies conjured no rebut
Save scuffing of black hooves upon the rock.
The knight made gentler in his manner's lead,
His voice grown soft with beauty of its own.

"Thou seest it not, but there it doth await
Thy sure attention—that the wheat dies not
From beauty, but from specious, cutting words.
In beauty there is Sooth, in Sooth beauty.
Thou stock'd by now so much in bitter bile
From lies come sooth, and Sooth is so denied.
Now twofold falsehoods thee attend to keep
And nurture like the wheat thou wouldst protect.
Thy souls are made ill-favour'd by false wish
Where Sooth would give thee beauty of a kind
Ungained by comely, fetching countenance.
Renounce it now, and see bounty returned.
The zebra-craft be strong, but others more.
No spell can best emotion's power raw
In Harmony's weal or Chaos's woe.
Pray be a friend, that friends enjoy life more."

The jennies there, the fair one's erstwhile friends,
Exchanged their eyes ere bowing grace to him.
The zebra-spell was dissolute anon
And then the smoky air did sly depart.

"Sir knight," said one, "confess we then our ire
That we were not made fair as our dear friend.
As we a-grew and took more note of age
Desired we much misfortune for her life."

The knight returned the bow with dashing cut.
"Thy hate begun the with'ring of the crops
Unknownst to thee, but then thou hadst the cause
For further harm and fashioning of lies."

"We wanted it be Sooth, yea, verily!
So much that we convinced it to ourselves
And thought that we alone could much protect
Our livelihood from her own wickèd face."

The mention'd maiden show'd herself to them
And many tearful pardons were result.
They walked them back the village as fast friends,
Again to chase down their happy pursuits.

Both Love and knight alike were sought to feast,
Carousing them with donkeys until dawn.
Yet, dutiful in all, they two declined.
For five more feats await'd them beyond.

They took their leave with saddlebags aweigh
With sumptu'us carrots, hazelnuts, and thyme.
They went with promise that the pony-folk
Be ever welcome in their sun-soaked land.

The Element of Sooth, so strong it was,
Did mend the sicken'd wheat e'en in its stores.
Not one sole stalk was left to rot alone
And winter bore no fears for fair Burrone.

Author's Note:

"Quagga" is the name I gave the language of the zebras here after the species name for the plains zebra, equus quagga.