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Not being a native speaker I'm unable to tell if my poetry sounds fine or just awkward - I know I'm abusing grammar to fit rhymes and rhythm, but the question is: am I abusing it too much? Does that sound as poetic English to a native ear, or is it mangled beyond repair?

Animal skull took name of dread,
Obedient to the God of War.
In darkness endless, empty, dead,
Its stone face scars uncounted tore.
In thirty hours its path is led
like human's year, eternal chore.

Edit:

After the suggested corrections:

The skull of beast took name of dread,
fulfilling will of God of War.
In endless darkness, empty, dead,
Its stone face scars uncounted bore.
In thirty hours its path is led
like human's year, eternal chore.

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Have attempted to come up with a title that better reflects the question. Have I succeeded? –  Neil Fein Feb 21 '13 at 7:18
    
@Neil: Yes, thanks. –  SF. Feb 21 '13 at 7:34
    
@SF.: Usually I've seen the name translated as "terror" instead of "dread", but either works. On the other hand, the fourth line rings a bit hollow in comparison--it's distinctly lacking in scars compared to its brother. –  C. A. McCann Feb 21 '13 at 13:17
    
@JAM: Yes, it is and thanks. Now can you delete your comment with the answer? :) –  SF. Feb 21 '13 at 15:08
    
Of course - I was wondering how to "guess" secretly! Great riddle at any rate, and I like the edits. –  JAM Feb 21 '13 at 15:33
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Abuse grammar all you wish! Leave it dead in a ditch if you must to get the rhythm right. Right now the nice imagery is being let down with by the dragging artificiality of the metre.

To see why, just separate all the syllables, and annotate them to show the stresses. There is a formal way to show this, but for the purposes of clarity, I'll just bold-face the stressed ones.

An-im-al skull took name of dread,

O-bed-ient to the God of War.

In dark-ness end-less, emp-ty, dead,

Its stone face scars un-count-ed tore.

In thir-ty hours its path is led

like hu-man's year, e-ter-nal chore.

First of all it's quadrameter - four stresses to the line. This is a very hard meter to pull off. It very easily sounds like doggerel, especially if the feet are mostly iambs (as they are here).

The second line clangs horribly - it's as if you want 'to' to be a stressed syllable. But it isn't - not in natural English. That is the one that mostly badly needs rephrasing.

You might also look at the word order and see if you really need to have the words in which you're placing them. For instance, rather than 'in darkness endless, empty, dead' you could say 'in endless darkness - empty, dead - ' which feels more natural.

I do like it though! I only critique if it's worth it. I'm curious to know what the answer is - one of the planets, I imagine?

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Try now. (and no, not a planet but you're thinking in the right direction.) –  SF. Feb 21 '13 at 7:31
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Line three has a nice ring to it. The line that tripped me up is four, because the verbs temporarily confused me. "Scars" could be either a verb or noun, so my brain was kind of expecting one thing and got another.

The line is also ambiguous (maybe your intention?). I'm not 100% sure whether you mean that the stone face has scarred some other, unnamed thing, or that the stone face itself is "torn?" On first reading, I thought the latter, but now I see that the former makes more sense. Do you want the reader to puzzle over this, or should the gist of the line be clear on first reading?

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Thanks, the intention is the latter (the stone face bears many scars), I think I'll be able to fix it - replacing 'tore' with 'bore' should remove the ambiguity. –  SF. Feb 21 '13 at 2:31
    
I agree that "bore" will be much clearer. –  Anna M Feb 21 '13 at 2:47
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