CW Project: The Hunter’s Willow

The Hunter’s Willow

Ross Koppel

 

I awoke and to the swamp I travelled

Death in mind

With uncle left and brother right

And hound not far behind

 

We made our way, quite clumsily

Through the muck and mire

The sky turned black, the wind did howl

And the weather turned quite dire

 

Rain and thunder crashed upon us

And from it we made haste

A great willow tree in our gaze

Some shelter for to taste

 

We had some joy

And safety then

Us three

Not merry men

 

And when the storm began to fade

We found ourselves quite lost

Our future ended, we had been made

What devil had we crossed?

 

Away and back we meandered

Through that lonesome bog

Until again we saw that tree

Steadfast in the fog

 

I felt the shudder of the cold

Against my lips so blue

And my actions I took next

To this day I rue

 

I was so cold and I accept full fault

As I produced a fire

And down and down that willow burned

Becoming nature’s pyre

 

The hound did bark as the storm returned

My brother loosed a scream

With no shelter to run to I’d become

A villain so it seemed

 

My uncle was the first to go

On the devil’s ride

With no energy to spare

We left him where he died

 

I chopped him up and cooked his flesh

And fed him to the hound

My brother, of course, would not partake

He was the next man downed

 

Hunger had taken them from me

And I did tend the beast

And to this swamp and in this muck

I was never to be released

 

One night I was awakened

By the howling of the mutt

And from the shadows walked at me

The bodies I had cut

 

My family shambled to my place

And I then raised my gun

I shot and shot but to no avail

I knew that I was done

 

The Hound had charged and bit and scratched

And I saw that I had failed

For my shot had hit a mark

And through the dog it sailed

 

I ran and ran with these specters

Chasing after me

I found my way out of that swamp

A city light to see

 

It has been many, many years

Twenty, give or take

And to this day when thunder falls

I shudder and I shake

 

I had ate my brother

And my uncle too

And of my poor courageous hound

It was I who had shot him through

 

But memories serve me no fear

In comparison to this

On any night dark and foggy

When my family I miss

 

Their bodies would come unto me

And I would run and hide

For had I not burned the willow

They never would have died

 

Some nights I hear the snarling

Of a devil dog

And some nights I see the shamble

Of my brother through the fog

 

There is but one place in this world

For safety I may go

It is beneath the great weeping arms

Of that burned willow

 

 

Review

The Hunter’s Willow is heavily inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The similarities are myriad. The Hunter’s Willow tells a similar story of an individual committing a crime against nature, and in so doing curses himself and his companions. The form is similar as well, featuring quatrains and an ABCB rhyme scheme. There are differences as well. The Hunter’s Willow is not broken into parts, fails to feature an audience and never breaks away from quatrains and does not include any portions of ABAB rhyme.

In keeping with romantic tradition, The Hunter’s Willow features an extensive theme of nature’s power, especially in the form of encroaching darkness and fog present in many of the paintings viewed during class. The poem features the metaphorical encroaching darkness in the form of dead things literally chasing the narrator for twenty years, as well as frequent use of fog and night.

The formal elements, specifically rhyme is sustained in The Hunter’s Willow. The rhyme follows a very strict ABCB pattern throughout the poem. The Rime will at times break from quatrains and break from the strict rhyme scheme, but Willow does not. The extensively varied meter of Willow serves to break the monotony of repetitive meter.

The curse of the albatross and the curse of the willow function in similar ways. An individual is lost and is presented salvation in the form of some natural gift. Coleridge used an albatross that granted the sailors luck, I used a willow that provided shelter. Both poems then feature a destruction of that gift, a curse involving the death of the narrator’s friends or family, and then an inability to escape that memory.

The Hunter’s Willow is a contemporary poem. Coleridge’s crossbow and sails has been replaced with a gun and city lights. However, The Hunter’s Willow is not purely modern, as there will always be hunters, hunters will always have dogs, there will always be willow trees to hide under, and hunters have always and will always hunt with family.

-Ross Koppel

 

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