The Poet's Tale is the frame narrative of a much larger, composite work called The Book of Amboria. The Book of Amboria has been my ongoing project for the last 15 years, and involves multiple works, ranging from long-form poetry to sonnets to royal chronicles to country ballads to Dunsanian fairy tales, around all of which a manuscript tradition and critical apparatus have developed. The conceit of the work is that The Book of Amboria is a work compiled by a scribe, Rinsos, intended to represent the history and mythology of Amborian civilization up to a particular point in time. But Rinsos is writing with a frame narrative of his own: a Scheherazade-esque story in which a poet tells stories to the angry genius of a dead city, trying to buy time until the morning comes. This is in turn based on something which actually happened to Rinsos in his lifetime as part of the events of the rescue of the Prince Galal (the details of which are chronicled in the main novel accompanying The Book of Amboria, or will be if I ever finish it). This, then, is Rinsos' frame story, "translated" into blank verse (non-rhyming iambic pentameter), all save one line. --- A Poet, fleeing o’er the Northern heath Despaired of his way, pursued by evil men, So chanced upon a rotting coracle And desperate, put trust in sodden planks And punted over to an accursed shore Which, moated by the angry river Cheyth, Had not for ages felt the tread of man. For, since it greedy drank the blood of guests It had remained a city of the dead And for this cause men say that in its streets By moonlight glitter ivory paving stones. No stones, but dead men’s bones lie there exposed Flashing in silvery moonlight their glittering jaws, Their empty sockets gazing on the world. So Kyronkarr, where the Poet first set foot Upon its shore accursed. So wandered he For many heartbeats, gazing on its ruin, And thought him of the glory it had known. He looked upon its golden minarets And marveled at the splendor of its gates— Such splendor it had born in former times, But majesty long‐faded turns to rot And dead men take no joy in brass or gold. So splendid cities all which empire hold Are but the holds of corpses ere the end. The Poet wandered through the city wide And wand’ring, grieved the city’s muse, Who slumbered there but fitfully in brood On all her ancient wrongs. She howled like the wind: “Who walks, so loud, across my bone‐paved streets? Unholy feet! That tread beneath their soles My children’s bones. What madness drove you here? Be ware you answer well, though guest you be, For fear I not to add thee to my tale.” The Poet spake: “Unhappy fate ‘twas drew Me all unbidden to your dreadful shore. Nor come I willingly, but need requires. For fortune ill which hounds my life from birth Hath giv’n me to the hands of wicked men Who mean, ere the sun again has risen, To cast my feeble body in the Cheyth— Thence to run, all‐bloated, to the Sea. But had I known what death awaits me here I would have rather chosen hand of man Then be devoured by a spectre’s wrath And pave these grizzly streets with whit’ning bones.” Then asked the city’s spirit: “What crimes? What reason have these men to work your ruin?” “Tis only a poet’s sins, if sins they be.” “But poets,” said she, “have done great wrong to me. For by their songs my shame is noised afar Who should with kindly mem’ry speak of me Who once outstripped the cities of the earth In grandeur—and the long reach of my trade Grasped at starless seas and shadowed isle, When giants murmured the glory of my name. But mock’ry all their songs, for so I hear When some foul mocking wind or southern gale Brings past my walls some whisper of their words Which make a jest of wrongs, and make my name A byword to the peoples of the earth. No love for poets in my breast! So die, And with the service of your gleaming bones Atone the many wrongs your kind have done.” So saying she, the wind arose in wrath To smite the Poet down. He shrank against The grizzly street, and raised a suppliant hand. “Forebear, O Kyronkarr the Great, and stay Your wrathful hand from this poor Poet’s head. For payment of my life I would give all— But what have I to offer save a song? But if my feeble tongue can put in words Some pleasant tale to while the hours away— Of warriors brave or maidens fair at court— Then when the shining ram of dawn aloft Comes bounding, towing his fiery cart on high I will away, and nevermore will come Again to seek your troubled shore. So lie In peace, while ages pass, and I will tell With faithful tongue the glories of Kyronkarr.” And the city: “Long indeed since ere I heard A song to cheer these lichened walls. But do not prate to me of courtly loves. Such trifles do not please these ancient ears. But tell me now of elder days long‐passed: The coming of the Star‐folk, and their ruin, And how they flew before it to this Sea, And came through wand’ring, death, and many tears, To dwell in peace at last beside its shore. But warning one I give you. Hearken well: Speak not the nameless sin which stained my streets And made Great Kyronkarr, the peerless town, A roosting place for gulls and albatross. Speak it not! Or else thy grinning skull Adorns my empty shrines with lidless eyes, And I make thy bones a pavement for my feet.” So the Poet sang with ever‐trembling voice While all around the jaws of dead men grinned And the North wind howled through streets of dead men’s bones.