Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Poem: "The Recruiting Ranger's Ballad"

To walk the purple heather
Under our enemies’ gaze;
To deal death in all weather
And punish their sinful ways;
That is work for a ranger,
A hunter all of his days:
Killing the Orkish stranger
Whose reeking breath is a haze
Of pestilence and anger,
Who only knows joy when he slays.

We stalk and spy all over,
From swampland to cloudscoured braes.
In glades and caves we shelter,
Away from the sun’s searching rays;
When the enemy sleeps we stir,
And slaughter him where he lays.
We’ve stolen many a letter,
Sending a forgery in its place.
Such are the tasks of a ranger,
Unrecognized all of his days.

Bitter ‘tis for a ranger
When one of our own kind strays:
Robbing a homestead’s manger,
Reaving a poor farmer’s drays,
Bedding a baker’s daughter,
Forgetting the virtues we praise.
For then we hunt down a brother
Who has disgraced all our ways.
We strip him of his honor
For the rest of his living days.

A short, hard life for a ranger
‘Til the time comes and he pays
Death, the skeletal piper,
Who takes our burdens away.
We greet her as the lovers
We lack in our living days.
He may go to his gods with strangers,
But his bones with us will stay.
And that is the end of a ranger
Who served the crown all his days.

So won’t you join us, brother,
And learn our valiant ways.
We kill the foes of the crown, sir,
For which every subject prays,
From east to west and further,
Through rain, fog, sun, cold and haze.
We can always use another
Fool who’ll fight for what the crown pays.
It’s a blissful life as a ranger—
You’ll regret it all of your days!

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I wrote this while playing Shadow of Mordor and reading Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads, which is why it's a weird combination of Kiplingian and Tolkienien imagery. I'm not sure what time period these rangers exist in, but it isn't ours.