Elnavis

A death-barge washed up on the shores of the North lands,

It carried a strange manly form,

His eyes were of jade, and we watched him, afraid,

As he waded in toward the shore.


The folk tune for Raqefet

A death-barge washed up on the shores of the North-lands
A death-barge washed up on the shores of the North-lands
It carried a strange manly form. His eyes were
It carried a strange manly form. His eyes were
of jade, and we watched him afraid  (--), as he wa-
of jade, and we watched him afraid (--), as he wa-
-ed in toward the shore.
-ed in toward the shore.

He was lean and ill fed, half starved, almost dead,

"Former King," some called him -- they scorned.

But the darkbeast he'd fight, the North tribes unite,

By Kuln-Holn we were duly forewarned.


Ara-Karn, former lord, spoke nary a word,

His countenance stern and opaque,

Only later we learned, from the dead he'd returned

To fight for the North people's sake.


Some watched in alarm, as he beat fierce Gen-Karn,

The two men fought hand to hand.

Then the tribes chose him chief, but it gave no relief,

For a grand campaign had he planned.


The Northernmost tribes have offered a bribe,

To their King a princess they present.

Ara-Karn won't consent, gives anger his vent,

Then retires for the night and weeps in his tent.


Ara-Karn led wild bands down from North lands

In order to pillage and loot,

They raped and they killed, their coffers they filled,

While he watched them, distant and mute.


We men of the South are soft to the touch,

Our skin is less rough than a North woman's cheek;

The men of the North are rude and uncouth,

We Southerners idle and weak.


Some say Ara-Karn is no Northern man,

But one of our own who took up their cause.

Some say Ara-Karn is as large as a barn,

Seven score old with strange beastly claws.


Allissal, Allissal, Divine Queen of the South,

Fought for the right to fight back.

With the council she'd plead: "It is time for brave deeds,

"To stop the retreat and begin the attack."


The Queen's pride and joy, her sweet golden boy,

He will set out to battle her foes.

Her flesh and her blood, he's the son of a god,

Or so the official tale goes.


But the boy's still a youth and cannot, forsooth,

By law wield scepter or rod.

He may ride out to war with a score and no more,

So his guardians decreed with a nod.


Elnavis, Elnavis, a youth and a novice,

Knew not of his one true birthright,

Did not think it was odd that his father, the god,

Never came to his aid in the fight.


It seems that our Queen, when a girl of fifteen,

Had a roll in the hay with a stablehand, yet!

It meant nothing to her, cast him off as a cur,

But her he could never forget.


The boy who was lean, his eyes flecked with green,

Loved her true and would not forget.

But not so Allissal, a mistake we would all

In due time come to regret.


Ara-Karn, Ara-Karn, caused us much harm

Pursuing the girl of his dreams,

While somewhere out there, his child and his heir

Fought for our right to be free.


A year now has passed, since Elnavis rode last

With a handful of lads for to tame the North lands.

Lost his helmet and shield, the which he'd never yield,

Unless he were vanquished and slain.


The Priestess most high has given last rites

To guide well his ghost on oblivion's tack,

A great barge they burned; his soul's in an urn.

Sacrilege should he ever come back.


The great Allissal wept for her son,

Then returned to the palace a desolate mother.

In her bed she was laid by a strange man of jade

Who gave comfort to her as a lover.


There's a spy in our van; he foils all our plans,

But the Queen smiles again, and we do what we can.

Merchant towns fall to barbarians in thrall.

Allissal puts her trust in a strange green-eyed man.


Back from the North boldly rides forth

Elnavis with rough warrior band.

He's come back to find the hordes at the door,

But he's now of an age to command.


"Mother, my dear, never fear, I am here.

"So bring out the mead and let fly the banners."

The men laugh at her and guzzle their beer,

Rough warrior lads have no manners.


Allissal paled a shade. To her dear son, she said:

"How dare you come back from the dead?!

"I am now in command and your sword I demand,

"While the enemy pounds at our gate."


"I wept for you once, but now that you've come,

"Elnavis, you come back too late.

"Why not before? Now I need you no more.

"Elnavis, why did you wait?"


Elnavis fought well, then stopped for a spell,

After more than a day at a shrine.

He was battered and bruised and a little confused,

And drank to his fill potioned wine.


Elnavis, Elnavis, a fool and a novice,

Was slain by the old high priestess.

A soul laid to rest has no right to exist.

Spake the gods: "He must die, nothing less."


Elnavis, who fought hard, died lamb to the slaughter,

Dam and sire made a martyr of him.

The lovers still quarrel and bloody the war.

The hope for our people is dim.


Ara-Karn, Allissal, may you both rot in hell!

Your people you two have betrayed.

For ruler should never by feeling for lover

Let action or judgment be swayed.


The streets are blood red, filled with dying and dead,

But the Queen knows the truth, knows the jaded man's ruse,

And when next they meet, one will know a defeat.

What issue will this day produce?


Elnavis, Elnavis, we need you, Elnavis.

Your blood cries out and we long to obey.

But who now will rule us? Guide us, console us.

Elnavis, show us the way!



(c) 1987, 2009 Aya Katz


This poem, based on the books by Adam Corby, The Former King and The Divine Queen, was first published in 1987 in the anthology called A Child Possessed.

It can be sung to the folk tune Raqefet.

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Comments 12 comments

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Aya -- Thanks for a very enjoyable experience to read this, which I could hear in my head looking at the musical introduction you provided. I then listened to Esther & Abi Ofarim's 1965 version on you tube, while rereading it and could read and savor it again and again.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jerilee, so glad you liked it! It really does help if you have the melody in mind. How clever of you to find the Esther Ofarim version! Now, I'll have to look it up, too. It never even occurred to me that something like that would be available on YouTube!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Because I don't understand the language it was very useful for me to listen to it and fit what I was reading just to the music and the beauty of the language.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jerilee, the Hebrew words are about a cyclamen -- it's a flower much like a shrinking violet -- that hides among the cliffs, and the sun shines on it and a bird sings to it, and then a little girl finds it and picks it, and that's the end of the story.

I'll post the link here, because it is a very beautiful rendition:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU_BMD8KpCw

Thanks for helping me find it!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

No problem. I should be thanking you for introducing me to the song and for the gift of the words. Your kind translation only makes both sweeter. I heard them in my sleep and that led me this morning to discovering her rendition of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cvOjmWv7yc which oddly fits your other recent hub regarding liberty. Bird on a Wire is an old country song from the same time period, that many would know from Leonard Cohen, or the many other artists that sang it. Hers was one of the best. Poetry and music -- no greater gifts.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jerilee, I discovered Leonard Cohen and his songs only recently -- a couple of years ago. I like "Bird on a Wire" and "Everybody knows" in his own renditons. I also like the Judy Collins version of "Joan of Arc". This one you provided of Bird on a Wire with Esther Ofarim is great, too.

Poetry and music go hand in hand. It's when poetry becomes completely separated from its musical foundations that it becomes less accessible to most people, I think.


pgrundy 7 years ago

Wow, this is a side of you I have not seen. (I suspect there are many!) I like it. I also love Leonard Cohen's work. I often feel a bit like a drunk in a midnight choir myself. A few years ago an apartment I lived in was burglarized, and they took everything EXCEPT my Joni Mitchell CDs. I thought that was kind of disrespectful to Joni, but I was glad to still have them.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

PGrundy, thanks for dropping by. I've always felt we had more in common than meets the eye. Leonard Cohen is probably just one example. I worry about the same problems, I just have completely different solutions. Weird burglars, you had! Everything but Joni Mitchell. Did they leave a note explaining why?


pgrundy 7 years ago

No, but I think it was a drug thing. My son was living with me at the time, and he had friends who had drug problems. They saw that I had a TV and he had a video game, and I think they came in and took what we had. I couldn't prove it, but I feel certain in retrospect that's all there was to it. It happened all the time around South Bend. It's really annoying to live in a city with lots of drug trouble because people are all the time coming in and taking your stuff. I had lots of jazz and some Prince and then the Joni Mitchell. I guess addicts aren't into folk music! lol!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

PGrundy, yes, it's tough dealing with crime in the city, because there's so much anonymity. I mean, you had a good idea who it was, but you couldn't prove it, and law enforcement couldn't help you. It's not that there isn't any crime in the country. There are people who have those tendencies everywhere.... But when everyone knows everyone, a person is much less likely to get away with it. Or if they do get away with it once, they can't keep doing it over and over again to different unsuspecting people.


Dardrae profile image

Dardrae 7 years ago from Wheat Ridge, Co

This is quite well-done and I absoloutely love it. Mixing music and poetry, fantacy and history....Lovely, just lovely.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dardrae, thanks! It's always encouraging to receive such an enthusiastic response.

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