Literature in the Flanaess - The Later Ballads of Liam Wilspare
Date: Sun, June 18, 2006
Topic: The Library

The Bard. Of Greyhawk. His ballads include:

The Corusk Mountain Love Song
The Love Song of the Lortmils
The Mercenaries (Perran Drinking) Song
In The Land of the Black Ice Flows
Jewel River Serenade
The Fall of Pomarj

Thus, ends the main entries of the Literature in the Flanaess series.

Literature in the Flanaess - The Later Ballads of Liam Wilspare
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

The so-called Later Ballads makes specific reference to the publication of Wilspare’s collected poetic ballads in 600 CY. In fact, Wilspare’s earliest published work was a ballad and he might thus be said to have begun his career as a balladeer. While few would now so name him, the fact remains that Wilspare has produced poetic ballads throughout his career. While capable of being sung, and all publications have accompanying linear notations for musical accompaniment, the ballads function just as well as works to be recited.

In scope, the ballads follow no one theme. One or another touches most of the themes present in Wilspare’s other works. The exceptions are three ballads that may be styled epic sagas - The Fall of Pomarj; In the Land of the Black Ice Flows; Mercenaries (Perren Drinking) Song. In no other case does Wilspare create sagas of this sort. Of course, the ballad form is ideally suited to such creations which is the simplest explanation. Just as surely, however, there are those who will read into the ballads, epic saga or not, a sub-textual meaning.

The elven romantics find much to appeal to them in the Love Song of the Lortmils and the Jewel River Serenade. Those who might be styled the adventure or travel school, imagining Wilspare often speaks from first or second hand accounts gathered in adjacent lands, are much taken with all of the ballads. No reading of the ballads, however, is conclusive on any point and such speculation should not, indeed cannot, obscure the mastery of form on display.

With the nearly concurrent publication of the collected Elven Sonnets, the Later Ballads have helped to spark a renewed interest in poetry in the Flanaess as other than the simple rhymes of the tavern bards, or the sing-song praise works and obvious flattery of the court bards. Each of Wilspare’s ballads is discussed below.

General Note on Publication - Use of the term publication is misleading with regard to individual poems, even the more lengthy ballads. None are individually of sufficient length to actually be bound. Rather, they are made available in collections or as presentation scrolls. All of Wilspare’s ballads first appeared as presentation scrolls in highly limited numbers. All have been later reproduced in collections and after 600 CY in the collected Later Ballads, which is the first genuine first edition.

Corusk Mountain Love Song
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 572 CY

The Corusk Mountain Love Song is the earliest known published work attributable to the Bard of Willip. It is an epic love poem in ballad form. It takes its inspiration from the history of the Bone March, setting its tale in the time of the fall of the March to humanoid forces. Its specific locale is the fortress of Spinecastle and the surrounding mountains. Somewhat uneven, this ballad yet displays the Bards signature style. The collected version of the ballad is notably different, in fact improved, over the original and has obviously been reworked for publication in the collected edition.

Love Songs of the Lortmils
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication -0574 CY

With a style notably improved, the Love Song of the Lortmils is very similar to the Corusk Mountain Love Song. Here, the ballad is an epic romance set amidst the Hateful Wars that see the humanoids driven out of the Lortmils. A comparison to the themes of the Corusk Mountain Love Song is natural and obvious. This has not stopped the elven romantics from making much of this ballad as the first "elven connection" in the Bard’s works. A far better reading of the ballad would have it as an example of a young prodigy developing his talents. Apparently more satisfied with this work, the Love Song of the Lortmils was not rewritten for inclusion in the collected Later Ballads.

Mercenaries (Perren Drinking) Song
by Liam Wilspire
1st Publication - 588 CY

The Mercenaries Song, also known as the Perren Drinking Song for its immediate popularity in the taverns of Perrenland and Furyondy, is the first of three epic sagas among the other ballads. The inspiration for the move to an epic saga is unknown. Certainly, Wilspare was aquainted with tavern sagas and may have simply decided to demonstrate the potential of the form. This he certainly accomplished. The story itself is concerned with a company of mercenaries and their fight against overwhelming odds and fowl villains in service of an honorable employer and just cause. If Wilspare needed a common touch to be popularized among the masses, intentional or not, he achieved just that with this widely accessible and popular work.

In the Land of the Black Ice Flows
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 589 CY

In the same spirit as the Mercenaries Song, In the Land of the Black Ice Flows is vastly more polished and sophisticated in its expression. Suggestions that this work has any basis in personal experience are, however, nonsense. In the Land of the Black Ice Flows is the rare instance where Wilspare’s inspiration is immediately evident. In this case, it is the operatic work of Karyl Evard Vagner. The linear notes clearly aspire to a Vagnarian sense of high drama but reveal the limits of Wilspare’s considerable talent. Wilspare is no Vagner when it comes to operatic composition. It would be fascinating, however, were Vagner to score In the Land of the Black Ice Flows. In any case, along with the Mercenaries Song, this work continues Wilspare’s string of epic sagas in ballad form, recounting an expedition into the fabled Land of Black Ice.

Jewel River Serenade
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 590 CY

Much controversy surrounds the creation of this ballad. While it was first published in a presentation scroll form in 590 CY, it appears stylistically to date from an earlier period, perhaps as early as the early or mid-580s. It certainly foreshadows the plays A Midsummer’s Eve and A Midwinter’s Dream in its imagery if not plot, which concerns a love affair. The elven romantics, of course, seize upon the poem as further support for their hypothesis that Wilspare’s seminal influences were elven. Again, the ballad provokes controversy. Disputes aside, the work is well done but hardly among the Bard’s finest efforts.

The Fall of Pomarj
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 597 CY

The culmination of Wilspare’s work with balladry, The Fall of Pomarj is an epic saga of adventure that knows few rivals and arguably no equals. The story of hubris and tragedy that marks the history of the Pomarj is well known. It has not, however, been better recounted in verse and rarely in any form. Wilspare’s work could easily make for an outstanding play or opera, and may yet see such treatment. As it is, the Fall of the Pomarj is a triumph and an achievement that needs no further validation. Together with the Mercenaries Song and In the Land of the Black Ice Flows, Wilspare, well on in his career, is enjoying a popular renaissance, if it is appropriate to use that term, in taverns throughout the Flanaess. Wilspare is then the rare bard whose appeal, in one work or another, is truly universal among all classes.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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