Saturday, 30 April 2016

Rain, Twilight, Odours And Bird Calls

Many Andersonian descriptive passages appeal to at least three of the senses. Here we have four:

"Weather had brought rainshowers, through free of the cold east wind or frost that would have boded ill for the coming season. Now clouds drifted low and leaden beneath an overcast that quite hid the sun and laid an early twilight in the valley. Breezes plucked fitfully at grass and leaves. Odours of growth had given way to dankness. Homebound rooks cawed afar, otherwise silence abided the night."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (New York, 1989), pp. 241-242.

We can usually rely on the concluding sentences of such a paragraph to gather together some odors and sounds! All that remains is for the characters to eat or drink something.

Niall the High King walks in the twilight with his chief advisers because he is uncertain about taking his fourteen year old son, Breccan, to war as well he might be. The son will die and Niall will blame anyone but himself. What can Breccan want but to go to war? This is the example set by his father. To the Goddess, Niall says:

"'I promise You many slain...but this You know I have given and will give.'" (p. 256)

"They agreed that the raven had been a marvellous vision, a holy vision, foretelling slaughtered foes, plundered lands, and return to fame. Breccan was so rapt in dreams of it..." (p. 259)

What an upbringing! And when the Ysan defense of Armorica wrecks Niall's fleet and kills Breccan, Niall can blame no one but Ys! Later, Niall will die in the same way as Breccan. Those who live by the sword...

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Exactly! Niall had only HIMSELF to blame for Breccan's death. Even allowing for how the age of adulthood was customarily set earlier in those days than we do now, 14 really was too young for Breccan to go to war. Simply forbidding Breccan to go on Niall's expedition would have saved his life. Yes, those who live by the sword DO tend to die by it!

While I agree with you on finding the war oriented, glory obsessed culture of the barbarian Irish to be unsatisfactory, we need to remember practically all human societies go thru such a phase before becoming truly civilized. We see the same phenomenon in the German tribes pressing so hard on the Empire's Rhenish and Danubian frontiers. And, later, the Scandinavians who harried Europe for more than two centuries after AD 800.