Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

23 April, 2012

The Queen of Air and Darkness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Well, midnight is fast approaching, my self-imposed deadline looming, and I’ve got nothing. I’ve been racking my brain all day trying to come up with something decent to write, and gotten nowhere. I guess I’m just tuckered out right now.

In lieu of my own words, let me point you to someone else’s. I’m not what you’d call well-versed in poetry, but I do enjoy the occasional bit of rhyme and meter. The other day I stumbled on to a short collection of poems by A. E. Housman, and found I quite liked them. See, i was curious where Jim Butcher got the title for Queen Mab in the Dresden Files, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Looking it up, I discovered it was the name of one of the books in The Once and Future King – a book I actually own, but haven’t read yet. That book, in turn, got the name from a Houseman poem, found in the collection Last Poems.

Her strong enchantments failing,
Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons
And the knife at her neck,

The Queen of air and darkness
Begins to shrill and cry,
‘O young man, O my slayer,
To-morrow you shall die.’

O Queen of air and darkness,
I think ’tis truth you say,
And I shall die to-morrow;
But you will die to-day.

Yup, this is the sort of poetry I like. I also quite liked this one, which I think is a bit more representative, what with being about war and how dumb it is to die for your country:

Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough
The land and not the sea,
And leave the soldiers at their drill,
And all about the idle hill
Shepherd your sheep with me.

Oh stay with company and mirth
And daylight and the air;
Too full already is the grave
Of fellows that were good and brave
And died because they were.

So yeah. Go read some poetry.


  1. It’s not that fighting is dumb it’s that if you don’t you’re not good or brave that’s why it says the IDLE hill and by the way I think your comment was HORRIBLE and disrespectful since those people risked their lives to save our country they even saved YOU! So don’t say it’s dumb because if they didn’t fight we wouldn’t be here!!!

    Comment by Susie — 1 July, 2012 @ 10:53

  2. Actually, I didn’t say that I thought it was dumb to die for your country – I said that this particular poem, carrying that general message, was more representative of the collection as a whole, as it is a very melancholy collection with several poems about regretful soldiers dying for futile reasons. I did phrase the sentence a bit flippantly, but I think that flippancy was well evident in the post, and I do not apologise for it.

    I completely disagree with your reading of the poem. It contrasts the idyll of peaceful hills and pastoral life, the environment which youth will often reject as dull and limited, with the supposedly exciting life of the soldier. It disparages the exhortation of bravery and goodness as the virtues of war, much in the same vein as the contemporary “Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen. In Housman’s collection, that same theme of dying for your country for no apparent gain can be found in for example “Grenadier”, while “Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries” reinforce the theme that money is the only thing they’re dying for.

    As for giving lives to save our countries and us – the First World War seems to me one of the most futile conflicts in our history, and so much more the tragedy for it. The only cause fought for was which imperialist powers would continue to expand their influence, and which would be forced to stay their ambition. It came about because of monstrous arrogance on all sides. What exactly were we saved from? Add to that the fact that my country actually stayed neutral throughout the conflict, I feel quite certain the causes they were fighting for had very little impact on my being here.

    Comment by Obdormio — 1 July, 2012 @ 13:46

  3. Welcome, Susie! Always a pleasure to see new people commenting on this fun little weblog.

    Leaving everything else in your coment aside – I do not care much for poetry – I have to admit stunning intrigue at your certainty as regards the links of causation between British soldiers fighting in the First World War and Norwegian birthrates in the 1980s. I would be highly, highly interested in, and very grateful for, an elaboration on this point.

    Comment by Loki — 1 July, 2012 @ 13:56

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