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Anderson’s Faerie Tale: The Broken Sword

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews the pioneering fantasy novel by Poul Anderson

In 1954, a bold and exciting new work of fantasy fiction was published, influenced by Norse myth and describing a heroic quest, containing elves, giants, magic swords, enchantment, an epic battle, and plenty of singing. The novel was called The Broken Sword by the Scandinavian-American author Poul Anderson: a book which has been eclipsed by the more famous novel which appeared that year, The Lord of the Rings (or at least began to appear that year: The Fellowship of the Ring was published in 1954). And yet for many, including the giant of modern fantasy, Michael Moorcock, The Broken Sword is superior to Tolkien’s novel: in an illuminating article about Anderson’s novel, Moorcock writes that The Broken Sword ‘seems to echo the existential mood of the west after the second world war’. Instead of Tolkien’s black-and-white vision of heroes and villains, Anderson is all noir. Scandi-noir, we might now say. Read the rest of this entry

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The Best Poems about Money Everyone Should Read

‘There’s no money in poetry,’ Robert Frost once observed, ‘but then there’s no poetry in money, either.’ But was Frost right? Are there any great poems about money? Has money ever inspired a good poem? Here are some of the best poems about money in some way, whether they merely mention money as a crucial element or even, in some cases, take cash, money, pounds, pence, and dollars as their central subject.

Anon, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’. Given the monetary mention in its title, this traditional nursery rhyme had to feature in this pick of the best poems about money! The rhyme has attracted some fanciful theories concerning its lyrics, including the idea that the twenty-four blackbirds represent the hours in the day, with the king representing the sun and the queen the moon. Another places the rhyme in the time of King Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, with the blackbirds symbolising the choirs of the monasteries, baking a pie in order to try to curry favour with Henry.

Robert Herrick, ‘Money Makes the Mirth’. This rhyming couplet pithily praises money’s value: ‘When all birds else do of their music fail, / Money’s the still-sweet-singing nightingale!’ Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of A. E. Housman’s ‘Spring Morning’

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936) was not a prolific poet – he published just two collections in his lifetime – but he was, and is, a popular one. ‘Spring Morning’, which was published in Housman’s less well-known second volume, Last Poems (1922), the long-awaited follow-up to his 1896 collection A Shropshire Lad, is a spring poem with a bittersweet twist.

Spring Morning

Star and coronal and bell
April underfoot renews,
And the hope of man as well
Flowers among the morning dews.

Now the old come out to look,
Winter past and winter’s pains,
How the sky in pool and brook
Glitters on the grassy plains. Read the rest of this entry