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by James Graham 

Posted: 01 April 2012
Word Count: 122
Summary: Two versions: one eccentric, the other very eccentric.

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A man with two arms
is fully armed. Iím
an armed man, I can
hug you. If I were

in a battle, and my arms
were wrecked by arms,
then I would be disarmed.

But you would still be armed.
Your arms are fire arms.


A man with two arms
is fully armed. Iím
an armed man, I can
hug you. In Orkney

long ago, baith folk and dogs
were airm and hungry.
Die Arme. Arma
virumque cano
: a poor
man with a dog. If I

were in battle, and my arms
were wrecked by arms,
bits of bone, bits of flesh,
then I would be disarmed,

wretched, airm. But you
would still be armed.
Your arms are fire arms.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 16:46 on 01 April 2012  Report this post
This started with one word, a dialect word from Orkney and NE Scotland: arm or airm meaning poor - in the sense of 'not rich' as well as 'to be pitied'. It's a fascinating little word-history; it came to Scotland through Old Norse and is the same as the German and Danish words for 'poor'. I'd love to keep that bit in the poem, plus my deliberate mistranslation of the opening words of the Aeneid, but does it work?


V`yonne at 16:54 on 01 April 2012  Report this post
Without the explanaion of the word I have to confess I would not have known that meaning James. Does it work? With the explanatory note very well.

Dave Morehouse at 16:11 on 02 April 2012  Report this post
James - Yes, I prefer the second version. It forced me off to Wiki and Google but that's a good thing in my opinion. The wordplay is clever enough that I wanted to know more. I especially enjoyed the play on "firearms" in the final line.
Your arms are fire arms.

Historical and foreboding all at once in this version. Well done, Dave.


While we're into wordplay I remember long ago the definition of "eccentric". It went something like this. When a rich man walks about in his underwear he is eccentric. When a commoner does it he's called crazy. Your stature as a writer here certainly grants you the right to compose 'eccentric' poems. I mean that as a compliment and honor. You do great things here as an author and in your critiques of others' work. Thanks for that, Dave.

TessaF at 18:07 on 03 April 2012  Report this post
Hi James - I also prefer the second version.

In the first stanza the language is sparse and stripped down and even though he talks about hugging, he seems like a man trying to remember.

Then in the second stanza we hear his dialect and there is something very warming about that - as if he is home or remisniscing about home - and it puts him in some context. Even though he mistranslates the Latin, that seems like such an 'everyman' (everywoman) thing to do. So it seems to me like he is a man who has tried to educate himself, gets it a bit wrong but there is something noble in the attempt. Also I like the way the meaning goes from 'arms and the man' (him as a soldier) to 'a poor man with a dog' (him in his home setting).

The third stanza is in complete contrast to the previous one and shows in very simple, detached language, how brutal war is. In stanza 4 I like the way 'wretched' mirrors 'wrecked' in the previous stanza. It's altogether very clever the way 'arms/airms' and the various meanings are used and it puts me in mind of a riddle. I really enjoyed this.

James Graham at 14:21 on 07 April 2012  Report this post
Thanks for your comments so far. Oonah, I hoped that the context would allow the reader to guess 'airm' - 'airm and hungry' and 'wretched, airm' were hopefully meant to give clues through the accompanying English words. I was very conscious that these lines might be obscure; maybe a reference in the poem to a time of famine in Orkney would make it clearer.

Dave and Tessa, it seems the longer version is ok with you. As I say, I wondered if the middle lines with the bit of Scots dialect and the Latin would be too obscure, but I begin to think they will get by, and the short version is too blunt.

Thanks again for your feedback.


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