Callenan poetry, a brief treatise, for the July Giraffe Call

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Callenan poetry falls into several different categories, but the largest division, describing all else, is spoken vs. written poetry.

Written poetry originated with the priesthood, and before them with the gods-chasers1 of the original Home Valley. The Callenian language, written, lends itself to artistic forms and decoration.

In the early days of the written word, the god-chasers would mark short prayer-poems, often calling out to longer spoken-poem works, onto the skin of the tribe’s Riders, onto the leather of their saddles, and onto the fur of their goats. As time went on, the artistic forms became more complicated; the holy texts of Callenia are written in formed poetry.2

Spoken poetry existed long before the written, and was first used to pass on stories and lessons from one generation to the next. In the style of epics, spoken poetry tends to rely heavily on repetition, rhyme, and a strong rhythm to carry mnemonic cues.

One common form of spoken poetry, dating back to the original Tribes of the Valley and continuing even into the Steam era, is called an “around;” usually consisting of seven parts, and often of seven speakers, the poem moves “around” a cycle of life, and around the seven mountains that ringed the Home Valley.

Examples of similar works in English poetry include the country song “Don’t Take the Girl3,” where a repetitive chorus means something slightly new in each verse, and the children’s rhyme “The Farmer in the Dell4,” where each verse builds on the next.

Hear now I tell you when I last went home
The Reeve5‘s oldest daughter, she danced all alone
Her lover had left her, gone off to the fight
They burned up his body and gave her his knife6.
Hear now I tell you when I last went home
The Reeve’s oldest daughter, she danced all alone

This poem continues for six more verses, detailing the soldier’s courtship of the Reeve’s oldest daughter, their eventual consummation, and the soldier’s inevitable return to the front.

The final verse calls back to the first verse:

Hear now I tell you, when you next return
To the Village I left, to the place I call home,
Dance with the daughter, hear of her plight.
They’ve burned up my body and sent home my knife
Hear now I tell you, when you next return
The Reeve’s oldest daughter will dance all alone.

1. The Callenan left the original gods when settling Reiassan. See
2. For examples see
5. A Reeve is the political and law-enforcing head of a small village or town, appointed by the Emperor
6. Bodies in wartime are burned, although bodies in peace-time are often buried in stone tombs. A soldier’s widow, lover, or parents would be given his war-blade as a memorial.

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