(the darbel fragment)

by Kass Rachel

1	When the first footfalls woke the sleeping city of Atlantis
         And voices rang again across the city of Atlantis
         The waters had not parted, the ocean floor seemed solid
         But memories awoke again in the city of Atlantis.
5	In birds of prey her sons had been harvested.
         When screaming came across the sky
         From world to world wrenched wailing rose.
         Parents wept, torn from their children.
         The fires of war came even to Atlantis:
10     Bitter the fateful day when first
         The enemy broached the city's horizon!
         Her shield held firm, but her children feared.
         Their home descended to fathom the deeps
         As they sailed away to unknown stars.
15     Atlantis slept through dark centuries
         Alone and empty, yearning to be known.

         The city knew her children and thrilled to hear their voices
         Her feasting hall, long-empty, rang and echoed with their voices
         Although their songs were foreign, their dances untranslated
20    The city came alive again awakened by their voices.

         Upon the waters of the sea
         Atlantis rose again. At last
         The shafts of dawn could kiss and touch
         The burnished tiles of her halls
25     And sunset's cloak could settle 'round
         Her piers and spires, her corridors.
         I sing the song the city sings:
         Rejoice, these halls are filled again!
         The barren woman, once bereft
30     Is mother now. All Pegasus
         Will gather at her feet, will know
         The safety of her golden shield.

         When the soul-eaters woke and massed their force against the city
         Her children fought with all their hearts to save their shining city
35     She broke her moorings, straining to unleash her sustained fury—
         And jubilation swept the teeming courtyards of the city [...]


Editor's note:

The Darbel fragment, found on the Rena homeworld, contains only the first 36 lines of the epic Song of the City, attributed to the praise-poet Rashelka. It differs in several minor ways from the accepted editions of the poem which are common across the Pegasus galaxy.

The notable difference between this manuscript and the common version is that the Darbel fragment features no punctuation. The punctuation I have chosen is designed to facilitate fluent chanting of the text, according to the Nala liturgical tradition of which my family is a part.

Cantillation aside, it is clear to the astute eye that Song of the City is a patchwork of at least three voices. This assertion is neither heresy, nor intended to soften our faith in the received tradition of our history. I see no dissonance between an understanding of Song of the City as composed by several writers over time, and a heartfelt adherence to the values the poem promotes.

The long lines are the oldest; their pattern of stresses, with unwritten caesurae, matches that of Lantean Waters, attributed to the early liturgical poet Eda. This was almost certainly written on the first homeworld which housed Atlantis. The repeated teleutons add emphasis to critical words ("Atlantis," "voices," "city") and suggest the rhythmic wash of waves.

Lines five through 16 retain four stresses per line, but they are notably briefer. These lines leap back to early Lantean history: the Long War with the Wraith, the Ancestors' departure, and the city's slumber. Here the poem's focus shifts to a more human scale: the sons of Atlantis (and of the worlds the Ancestors had seeded) and their suffering. The poet preserves the alliteration and assonance of the opening lines. Note the onomatopoeia in the plosive sounds of line ten.

The visual prosody of the poem shifts again with lines 21 through 32, which are briefer still. Here the system of stresses begins to break down. In their place, the poet makes use of metrics; these lines scan easily. The iambs are, like the repeated teleutons of the "refrain" verses, an aid to memorization, evidence that this poem was almost certainly recited aloud from the earliest days of its composition.

I follow in the footsteps of my teachers in presuming that this fragment, like the epic as a whole, reveals multiple authorship. But I wish in no way to denigrate the cultural or spiritual importance of the poem.

That many hands may have shaped its form is proof of how beloved this work quickly came to be. Song of the City is at its heart, a collaboration. That many joined together to create and polish it seems only appropriate. May this remind us of our Founders, of how they banded together to forge a galactic civilization none of them could surely have imagined alone.

—Rava Masret

The End

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