As a challenge, I recently decided to choose a passage from a work of classic literature and re-write it in verse. Not too surprisingly, I chose J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King — the last paragraph from “The Ride of the Rohirrim.” Such was Tolkien’s skill that this bright scene has stamped itself in my memory forever. In my own rendition, I have tried to express Tolkien’s original thoughts in new words and to preserve his vivid imagery through poetic techniques. Enjoy!
Onward, onward! On to Gondor! King of Rohan rides to Gondor! On the western wind that’s blowing, See his brilliant banner flowing! Symbol of his lordly power: Horse of white on green of summer. See his golden shield a-shining Like the sun which now is rising. Far before his mighty riders, Titan-like he thunders, towers. Swift and strong his army follows, Rolling forth like frothing billows, Gaily singing songs of slaying, On the folk of Mordor preying. Horse of white on ground of green: At the head there rides the King.
As mentioned above, I have tried to preserve Tolkien’s vivid imagery using poetic techniques. Poets recognize that words have a twofold nature. Words represent thoughts and information, thus speaking to the mind. Because they have sound, they also speak to the senses. Good poets make use of both aspects at once, choosing words whose sounds echo their meanings. For instance, doesn’t the -ing in spring lend the word a certain bounce? Doesn’t the th in wrath sound harsh and even angry? And don’t l’s and r’s simply roll off your tongue? Appealing to the senses can bring a word to life, helping it leap off the page and become a tangible thing, rather than a mere idea. For instance, look at the following line from the above poem:
“Titan-like, he thunders, towers.”
Here I tried to select mighty-sounding words — words with strong vowels and hard t’s. I have also started many lines with verbs and chosen a swift, galloping rhythm (trochaic tetrameter) in the hope of creating a sense of motion.
How well I have succeeded is for you, dear reader, to decide.