Of Bards and Ballads
In my Archers Dirge to Nigel Pargeter I claim the title 'Bard'in its pre-stolen (by poets, of course) form, ie a lyrical writer narrating events of the times. Bards wandered afar, entertaining people with songs. I don't wander as much as I used to, and my children tell me not to sing, but that's only because I'm their dad. I can sing pretty well if I want to.
Bardic lyrics don't have to scan or rhyme, only to work harmoniously with a melody. Mine had been provided by Elton John (formerly Reg Dwight), lyrics intended to be recognisable as pertaining to his popular ditty, just as those ancient bards did to catch the ear better than with a familiar melody. Ballads were a different kettle of fish, of course - they had to rhyme or the balladeer would be looking for a new job sharpish. (I have a book of 'Old Ballads'printed in 1777 which confirms this, although some of the rhymes are dodgy to say the least).
So to 'get'my bardic dirge you need the original verse pattern of Bernie Taupin and music by E. John. If anyone thinks Taupin's versification somewhat poor, I don't suppose he'll care, having made more money out of his lyrics than all the living professional poets in this country put together.
To reply to Ophir - of course I don't listen to The Archers, but they kept retrailing that moment ghoulishly on Radio 4, the scream, the falling off his roof. The scriptwriters, commoners all, also don't know that if the Pargeter seat were any REAL stately home it would've had a parapet wall with lead gutter channels behind, not common ol'guttering, and he couldn't have fallen if he'd tried.
I did listen, yes, in the old days before it became a radio sub-genre of neo-pagan 'Soap Opera'in which characters must be violently sacrificed to commemorate high days and holidays. The best moment ever in those delightful times was when Walter Gabriel got Snow White and The Seven Dwarves out from the video store for Mrs P only to discover when they settled down to watch that it wasn't the Disney version. Funnier for Mrs P retelling it in high dudgeon, Greek Theatre style, rather than acting the moment for the audience. They understood good radio much better then. I laughed for days.
And I do claim authorship of another dirge, from those days - titled John Archer and His Tractor, to the tune of The Leader of The Pack, with tractor revving instead of motorbike noise. I consider that to be my bardic triumph (although truth to tell I sold my Triumph in 1988, a clapped-out Bonneville motorcycle).
I here declare: I have no pretensions at all to being a poet. I thought my Jan issue dirge would say that for me. Actually, I don't think I've seen an awful lot of poems written in recent decades that are really any good. There's lots that people think are good and poets who think they're good, but most is just poetry journalism by poet hacks. Like the modern novel, poetry's disappeared up its own bottom and believes anything can be the subject of poetry. Poetic principle? Anyone else is welcome to whatever that means nowadays.
But wasn't Shakespeare a Bard? Perhaps shouldn't have mentioned this....Eds