A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

At the Gates of Gath

A poem.  Something like the first line of this occurred to me when I lay in delerium after suffering toxic shock a while back.  I recollect composing a mighty fantasy epic while sundry doctors of the medical arte punched shunts in my right kidney and pushed catheters up where catheters ought not go.  That epic was a serious affair and ended with a pun of intolerable cruelty, all of which, save for the first line, whirled down the memory hole as my mind returned.  Recently, as that line reoccurred to me, sundry other lines also popped up, and I have arranged them here as a sort of rough draft of a rough craft.  The meter is a bit shaky as is the stanza structure, but it might serve for whimsy. 

At the Gates of Gath

Three knights rode up to the Gates of Gath in search of the Jewels of Jazz.
Retail, brave sirs, what deeds you've done.  If none, you shall not pass.
The first knight spoke and said "My name is herald that doth bear my fame
From far and wide on every side by every lad and lass.

"For I have dared thick jungles in the darkest of Afrique lands
And fought therein the lion fierce with these, mine own strong hands!"
Thy jungles thick were the field next door and thy lion an old tomcat.  
By such small feats no laurel sweet can be won to crown thy hat.  

The second knight then raised his voice and said "I sought the Grail
And found it in guard of a maiden fair.  I swear I did not fail.
The dragon that did ward the gold was bested by my actions bold
And I filled it up and quaffed the cup, sweeter than golden ale.

Thine ale was only a water glass from which thou tooketh sips,
And the dragon was but a chameleon fed upon leaves and clips.
The maiden fair, her name was Claire and the gold was in her curly hair
And the Grail was on her lips.  

("Oh bravely done," the third knight said.  "Bolder than mane or scale
It is to quaff from such a cup and walk off whole and hale.") 
And then he turned to the Porter of Gath and said, though he brooked his awful wrath,
"In very truth, the deeds of youth may toll a mighty tale.

"For the mountain may be higher if the legs that climb are short
And a gallon of a monster may loom dread to a quarter quart.  
The size of an opponent dire is greater if the knight's no higher.
And a tomcat is a lion if the knight's the shorter sort."

The Guardian laughed and said "Come in," and wide swung the iron Gates.
And the Jewels of Jazz he did dispense in twos and fours and eights  
From the skies above where the stars unfurled to a old, gray rock from another world
To beasts and flowers and birds and powers before the hour grew late.

Then out went the calls from the castle walls to summon the knights who roam
And the knights, they gathered their armaments and mounted and pedaled home.
The world is wonderful, potent and wild when seen with the clear-headed eyes of a child
When tomcats are lions, and cardboard is iron, and bicycles coursers with fleckings of foam. 

(c)2013 Michael F. Flynn


  1. Well I liked it and am sorry the original is lost.

  2. Terrific idea, sound structure, good development. The only thing I see wrong with this is that it is a very rough draft (or attempt to capture one), by which I mean that it limps. It keeps falling in and out of metre, and the rhymes are not all they could be. However, I think there’s a very good (and Kiplingesque) poem in there, and I would be pleased to see it come out of hiding. Sir, it is well worth working on further.


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