Therefore I say that we will go on, and this doom I add: the deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda.
“Children play at being great and wonderful people, at the ambitions they will put away for one reason or another before they grow into ordinary men and women. Mankind as a whole had a like dream once; everybody and nobody built up the dream bit by bit, and the ancient story-tellers are there to make us remember what mankind would have been like, had not fear and the failing will and the laws of nature tripped up its heels.
--W.B. Yeats, preface to Gods and Fighting Men by Lady Gregory
You without me can be nothing but silent. I without you can have nothing to say.
For a chief does not grant speech save to four : a poet for satire and praise, a chronicler of good memory for narration and story-telling, a judge for giving judgments, an historian for ancient lore.
–Triads of Ireland
The poet is trusted as the potential savior of the tribe, for he has acquired traditional wisdom and can be expected to utter his potent judgments whenever he is called upon to do so.
–Charles Dunn, The Role of the Poet in Early Societies.
Beware lest you be angered by warnings
Frankly spoken by men of wisdom
Whose chief concern is to uphold your honor.
Among all men on the earth bards have a share of honor and reverence, because the muse has taught them songs and loves the race of bards.
–Homer, The Odyssey
There sit the sainted sage, the bard divine,
The few, whom genius gave to shine
Through every unborn age, and undiscovered clime.
Three debts which must not be neglected: debts of land, payment of a field, instruction of poetry.
–Triads of Ireland
Now, as I understand it, the bards were feared. They were respected, but more than that they were feared. If you were just some magician, if you'd pissed off some witch, then what's she gonna do, she's gonna put a curse on you, and what's gonna happen? Your hens are gonna lay funny, your milk's gonna go sour, maybe one of your kids is gonna get a hare-lip or something like that — no big deal. You piss off a bard, and forget about putting a curse on you, he might put a satire on you. And if he was a skilful bard, he puts a satire on you, it destroys you in the eyes of your community, it shows you up as ridiculous, lame, pathetic, worthless, in the eyes of your community, in the eyes of your family, in the eyes of your children, in the eyes of yourself, and if it's a particularly good bard, and he's written a particularly good satire, then three hundred years after you're dead, people are still gonna be laughing, at what a twat you were.
--Alan Moore "The Craft" - interview with Daniel Whiston, Engine Comics (January 2005)
Buliwyf: I have only these hands. I will die a pauper.
King Hrothgar: You will be buried as a king.
Buliwyf: A man might be thought wealthy if someone were to...draw the story of his deeds, that they may be remembered.
Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: Such a man might be thought wealthy indeed.
– The 13th Warrior
Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who present, past, and future sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walked among the ancient trees.
Many brave men lived before Agamemnon, but all are weighed down in unending night, unwept and unknown, because they lacked a sacred bard.
Poetry is ritual. It is special speech, and outside of normal patterns. Its form forces you into a different cadence and different vocal tune. The structure creates new word choices and sentence flows. Its repetitions takes you into the beat of the heart and count of the breath. It sets the stage for illumination and insight. Poetry is ritual.
-- Arthur Hinds