Monday, May 13, 2024

Random Readings: William Morris' "The Hollow Land"



I was reading William Morris' short romance, "The Hollow Land," yesterday. It was an early work and not one he thought worth reprinting, though it happened posthumously. A fantasy, but not a great one.

However, it had the following passage, after the hero has by cunning infiltrated a walled town at night and is leading his soldiers toward their enemy:


We had not gone far, before we heard some knights coming, and soon, in a turn of the long street, we saw them riding towards us; when they caught sight of us they seemed astonished, drew rein, and stood in some confusion.

We did not slacken our pace for an instant, but rode right at them with a yell, to which I lent myself with all my heart.

After all they did not run away, but waited for us with their spears held out; I missed the man I had marked, or hit him rather just on the top of the helm; he bent back and the spear slipped over his head, but my horse still kept on, and I felt presently such a crash that I reeled in my saddle, and felt mad. He had lashed out at me with his sword as I came on, hitting me in the ribs (for my arm was raised), but only flatlings.

I was quite wild with rage, I turned, almost fell upon him, caught him by the neck with both hands, and threw him under the horse-hoofs, sighing with fury [...] I fought with my heart, till the big axe I swung felt like nothing but a little hammer in my hand, except for its bitterness: and as for the enemy, they went down like grass, so that we destroyed them utterly, for those knights would neither yield nor fly, but died as they stood, so that some fifteen of our men also died there.


Wow.  That is one vivid recreation of an event unlike any that Morris could possibly have taken part in. Gonnabe writers should reflect on this whenever somebody says, "Write what you know."

 There's more than one way writers can "know."



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