Caste of Singers & Poets
Here are relevant references from the Books where the Caste of Singers & Poets is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
An ancient poet, who incredibly enough to the Gorean mind had sung the glories of many of the cities of Gor, had spoken of Ko-ro-ba as the Towers of the Morning, and it is sometimes spoken of by that name.
Outlaw of Gor Book 2 Page 39
"And worse than that," she laughed, clapping her hands, "he was of the Caste of Singers."
It could have been worse, I thought. After all, though the Caste of Singers, or Poets, was not a high caste, it had more prestige than, for example, the Caste of Pot-Makers or Saddle-Makers, with which it was sometimes compared. On Gor, the singer, or poet, is regarded as a craftsman who makes strong sayings, much like a pot-maker makes a good pot or a saddle-maker makes a worthy saddle. He has his role to play in the social structure, celebrating battles and histories, singing of heroes and cities, but also he is expected to sing of living, and of love and joy, not merely of arms and glory; and, too, it is his function to remind the Goreans from time to time of loneliness and death, lest they should forget that they are men.
The singer was thought to have an unusual skill, but so, too, were the tarn-keeper and the woodsman. Poets on Gor, as in my native world, were regarded with some skepticism and thought to be a little foolish, but it had not occurred to anyone that they might suffer from divine madness or be the periodic recipients of the inspiration of the gods. The Priest-Kings of Gor, who served as the divinities of this rude planet, inspired little but awe, and occasionally fear. Men lived in a truce with the Priest-Kings, keeping their laws and festivals, making the required sacrifices and libations, but, on the whole, forgetting about them as much as possible. Had it been suggested to a poet that he had been inspired by a Priest-King the fellow would have been scandalized. "I, So-and-So of Such-and-Such a City, made this song," he would say, "not a Priest-King."
In spite of some reservations the Poet, or Singer, was loved on Gor. It had not occurred to him that he owed misery and torment to his profession, and, on the whole, the Caste of Poets was thought to be a most happy band of men. "A handful of bread for a song," was a common Gorean invitation extended to members of the caste, and it might occur on the lips of a peasant or a Ubar, and the poet took great pride that he would sing the same song in both the hut of the peasant and the halls of the Ubar, though it won him only a crust of bread in one and a cap of gold in the other, gold often squandered on a beautiful woman who might leave him nothing but his songs.
Poets, on the whole, did not live well on Gor, but they never starved, were never forced to burn the robes of their caste. Some had even sung their way from city to city, their poverty protecting them from outlaws, and their luck from the predatory beasts of Gor. Nine cities, long after his death, claimed the man who, centuries ago, had called Ko-ro-ba the Towers of the Morning.
"The Caste of Poets is not so bad," I said to Linna.
"Of course not," she said, "but they are outlawed in Tharna."
Outlaw of Gor Book 2 Pages 103 - 105
"What," cried a merry young voice, insolent and good natured, "could a wench like you know of fools, of the Caste of Singers, of Poets?"
Outlaw of Gor Book 2 Page 107
"Are you asking us to become warriors?" cried a voice.
"Yes!" I cried, and such words had never before been spoken on Gor. "In this cause," I said, "whether you are of the Caste of peasants, or Poets, or Metal Workers, or Saddle Makers, you must be warriors!"
Outlaw of Gor Book 2 Pages 169 - 170
"No," I said. "I think you would find few songs in the mountains."
"A poet," said he, "will look for songs anywhere."
"I am sorry," I said, "but I cannot allow you to accompany me."
Andreas clapped his hands on my shoulders. "Hear, dull-witted scion of the Caste of Warriors," he said, "my friends are more important to me than even my songs."
I tried to be light. I feigned skepticism. "Are you truly of the Caste of Poets?"
"Never more truly than now," said Andreas, "for how would my songs be more important than the things they celebrate?"
I marveled that he had said this, for I knew that the young Andreas of Tor might have given his arm or years of his life for what might be a true song, one worthy of what he had seen and felt and cared for.
"Linna needs you," I said. "Seek her out."
Andreas of the Caste of Poets stood in torment before me, agony in his eyes.
"I wish you well," I said, "- Poet."
He nodded. "I wish you well," he said, "- Warrior." Perhaps both of us wondered that friendship should exist between members of such different castes, but perhaps both of us knew, though we did not say so, that in the hearts of men arms and song are never far distant.
Outlaw of Gor Book 2 Pages 171 - 172
I wondered at this for the Caste of Musicians had been, like the Caste of Poets, exiled from Tharna. Theirs, like the Caste of Poets, had been a caste regarded by the sober masks of Tharna as not belonging in a city of serious and dedicated folk, for music, like Paga and song, can set men's hearts aflame and when men's hearts are aflame it is not easy to know where the flame may spread.
Outlaw of Gor Book 2 Pages 223 - 224
Other contests of interest pit choruses and poets and players of various cities against one another in the several theaters of the fair. I had a friend once, Andreas of the desert city of Tor, of the Caste of Poets, who had once sung at the fair and won a cap filled with gold.
Priest-Kings of Gor Book 3 Page 12
A century ago the tarnsmen of Treve had even managed to stand off the tarnsmen of Ar in a fierce battle fought in the stormy sky over the crags of the Voltai. I had heard poets sing of it.
Priest-Kings of Gor Book 3 Page 61
I was pleased to see that the men of other castes, unlike the Initiates, did not grovel. There were men in that crowd from Ar, from Thentis, from Tharna, recognized by the two yellow cords in their belt; from Port Kar; from Tor, Cos, Tyros; perhaps from Treve, Vika's home city; perhaps even from fallen, vanished Ko-ro-ba; and the men in that crowd were of all castes, and even of castes as low as the Peasants, the Saddle Makers, the Weavers, the Goat Keepers, the Poets and Merchants, but none of them groveled as did the Initiates; how strange, I thought - the Initiates claimed to be most like Priest-Kings, even to be formed in their image, and yet I knew that a Priest-King would never grovel; it seemed the Initiates, in their efforts to be like gods, behaved like slaves.
Priest-Kings of Gor Book 3 Pages 294 - 295
The street was lined by throngs of Tuchuks and slaves. Among them, too, were soothsayers and haruspexes, and singers and musicians, and, here and there, small peddlers and merchants, of various cities, for such are occasionally permitted by the Tuchuks, who crave their wares, to approach the wagons.
Nomads of Gor Book 4 Page 34
"Actually," I informed her, as I continued to weave the cords together in an ever larger and more complex fashion, "this is only a fifty-seven turn knot. It is, however, my own invention, though I never thought I'd need it. This trick was taught to me by Andreas of Tor, years ago, of the Caste of Singers, for doors in the city of Tor are commonly of this variety. His own knot was a sixty-two turn knot, father's was seventy-one; one of his brothers used a hundred, and four turn knot, which, as I recall, Andreas thought a bit pretentious."
Assassin of Gor Book 5 Page 54
There are processions in the city that day, and songfests, and tournaments of the game, and recitations by poets, and contests and exhibitions.
Assassin of Gor Book 5 Page 212
Processions took place on the bridges; there were tournaments of the game organized; poets and historians vied in praising the day, each more ecstatically than the last; but, perhaps most importantly, holiday was declared, and great games and races were sponsored without cessation for the next ten days, extending even through the Third Passage Hand.
Assassin of Gor Book 5 Page 235
I, Tarl Cabot, am a simple man, poor in many qualities, one who is doubtless much excelled. There is little, I suspect, that I could do better than many others. I am a man who is surely next to nothing, one unworthy of note. Yet I think there is one talent I have, though it is unimportant and unworthy, a gift toward which I have mixed feelings, a gift which is both boon and curse, one which has caused me feelings of horror and guilt, and yet to which I have owed my life and that of those I have loved. It is a gift I have sought not to exercise, a gift I have feared, and sometimes would put aside, but cannot do so. He who is a Singer must sing; he who weaves the beautiful rugs of Ar or Tor must weave; the Physician must heal; the Builder build; the Merchant buy and sell; and the Warrior must fight.
Assassin of Gor Book 5 Pages 340 - 341
I gazed upon the Ubars, squat, brilliant Chung; narrow-faced, cunning Eteocles; tall, long-haired Nigel, like a warlord from Torvaldsland; and Sullius Maximus, who was said to write poetry and be a student of the properties of various poisons.
Raiders of Gor Book 6 Pages 155 - 156
The man had been blinded, it was said, by Sullius Maximus, who believed that blinding improved the quality of a singer's songs. Sullius Maximus, who himself dabbled in poetry, and poisons, was a man of high culture, and his opinions in such matters were greatly respected.
At any rate, whatever be the truth in these matters, the singer, in his darkness, was now alone with his songs. He had only them.
I looked upon him.
He wore the robes of his caste, the singers, and it was not known what city was his own. Many of the singers wander from place to place, selling their songs for bread and love. I had known, long ago, a singer, whose name was Andreas of Tor.
We could hear the torches crackle now, and the singer touched his lyre.
Raiders of Gor Book 6 Pages 224 - 225
When again I sat down I said to the serving slaves, "Feast the singer well," and then I turned to Luma, slave and accountant of my house, braceleted and chained at the end of the long table, and said to her, "Tomorrow, the singer, before he is sent on his way, is to be given a cap of gold."
Raiders of Gor Book 6 Page 227
"Years ago," she said, "when I was so much younger, I recall hearing sing of Tarl of Bristol."
"In the marshes?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, "sometimes a singer comes to the rence islands. But, too, when I was a slave in Port Kar I heard sing of Tarl of Bristol, in the house of my master."
Raiders of Gor Book 6 Page 246
Samos now spoke softly. "There is something," he said, "between the fancies of poets and the biting, and the rooting and sniffing of beasts."
"What?" I asked.
"Man," he said.
Raiders of Gor Book 6 Page 311
Goreans care for their world. They love the sky, the plains, the sea, the rain in the summer, the snow in winter. They will sometimes stand and watch clouds. The movement of grass in the wind is very beautiful to them. More than one Gorean poet has sung of the leaf of a Tur tree.
Hunters of Gor Book 8 Page 119
Players, incidentally, are free to travel where they wish on the surface of Gor, no matter what might be their city. By custom, they, like musicians, are held free of the threat of enslavement. Like musicians, and like singers, there are few courts at which they are not welcome.
Hunters of Gor Book 8 Page 148
I looked about. There was already, though before dawn, a dim filtering of light in the forest, the false dawn, the inchoate, fractionated light preceding the true dawn, when Tor-tu-Gor, the common star of two worlds, would, as a Gorean poet once said, fling its straight, warming, undeflected spears of the morning among the wet, cool branches of the forest.
Hunters of Gor Book 8 Page 219
The men of Torvaldsland are rovers and fighters, and sometimes they turn their prows to the open sea with no thought in mind other than seeing what might lie beyond the gleaming horizon. In their own legends they think of themselves as poets, and lovers and warriors.
Hunters of Gor Book 8 Page 257
Sullius Maximus was an authority on poetry, and gifted in the study of poisons.
Marauders of Gor Book 9 Page 18
The litany and responses of the congregation were now completed and the initiates, some twenty within the rail, began to sing in archaic Gorean. I could make out little of the wording. There was an accompaniment by sistrums. Portions of the hymn were taken up by four delicate boys standing outside the white rail on a raised platform. Their heads were shaved and they wore robes resembling those of the initiates. Choirs of such boys often sang in the great temples. They were young male slaves, purchased by initiates, castrated by civil authorities and, in the monasteries, trained in song. I supposed, to one versed in music, their soprano voices were very beautiful, here in the far north, of course, in Kassau, to have any such boys, properly trained in the archaic hymns, indicated some wealth. I did not think such singers existed even in Lydius. The High Initiate of Kassau obviously was a man of expensive tastes.
Marauders of Gor Book 9 Page 33
Similarly there are no Scribes, but a piece, which moves identically, called the Singer. I thought that Andreas of Tor, a friend, of the caste of Singers, might have been pleased to learn that his caste was represented, and honored, on the boards of the north.
Marauders of Gor Book 9 Page 57
In the feast-season of Odin a fine skald is difficult to bring to one's hall. One must bid high. Sometimes they are kidnapped, and, after the season's singing, given much gold and freed.
Marauders of Gor Book 9 Page 231
When a girl is enslaved she loses caste, of course, as well as citizenship, rights and personhood; when she is enslaved she becomes an animal, subject to the whips and wills of masters. Most groups, however, are sold for field and kitchen work. The Curulean did not handle such latter groups. We did have two pairs to be sold tonight, one consisting of a singer and her lyre player, and another of identical twins, from the island of Tabor, named for its resemblance to the small Gorean drum of that name.
Slave Girl of Gor Book 11 Page 430
The fairs, too, however, have many other functions. For example, they serve as a scene of caste conventions, and as loci for the sharing of discoveries and research. It is here, for example, that physicians, and builders and artisans may meet and exchange ideas and techniques. It is here that Merchant Law is drafted and stabilized. It is here that songs are performed, and song dramas. Poets and musicians, and jugglers and magicians, vie for the attention of the crowds.
Beasts of Gor Book 12 Page 44
The amphitheater, of course, is used for more than Kaissa. It is also used for such things as the readings of poets, the presentations of choral arrangements, the staging of Pageants and the performances of song dramas.
Beasts of Gor Book 12 Page 84
The drum of the red hunters is large and heavy. It has a handle and is disklike. It requires strength to manage it. It is held in one hand and beaten with a stick held in the other. Its frame is generally of wood and its cover, of hide, usually tabuk hide, is fixed on the frame by sinew. Interestingly the drum is not struck on the head, or hide cover, but on the frame. It has an odd resonance. That drum in the hand of the hunter standing now in the midst of the group was some two and one half feet in diameter. He was now striking on it and singing. I could not make out the song, but it had to do with the mild winds which blow in the summer. These songs, incidentally, are rather like tools or carvings. They tend to be regarded as the singer's property. It is unusual for one man or woman to sing another's songs. One is expected to make up one's own songs. It is expected that every man will be able to make up songs and sing them, just as every man is supposed to be able to carve and hunt. These songs are usually very simple, but some of them are quite beautiful, and some are quite touching. Both men and women sing, of course. Men, interestingly, usually do the carving. The ulo, or woman's knife, with its semicircular blade, customarily fixed in a wooden handle, is not well suited to carving. It is better at cutting meat and slicing sinew. Also, carving ivory and bone requires strength. But women sing as well as men. Sometimes they sing of feasting clothes, and lovers, and their skill in quartering tabuk.
Another man now took the drum and began to sing. He sang a kayak-making song, customarily sung to the leather, wood and sinew, with which he worked, that it not betray him in the polar sea. A fellow after him sang a sleen song, usually sung on the water, encouraging the sleen to swim to where he might strike them. The next song dealt with a rascal who, supposedly hunting for tabuk, lay down and rubbed his boots on a rock, later returning to his companions with a report of luckless hunting, indicating his worn boots as evidence of his lengthy trekking. From the looks cast about the room I gathered the rascal might even be present. One fellow, at least, seemed quite embarrassed. He soon leaped up, however, and sang a song about the first fellow, something about a fellow who could not make good arrows. Two women sang after this, the first one about gathering birds' eggs when she was a little girl, and the other one about her joy in seeing the face of a relative whom she had not seen in more than two years.
"Sing, Imnak!" called Akko.
"Sing, Imnak!" called Kadluk.
Imnak shook his head vigorously. "No, no," he said.
"Imnak never sings," said Poalu, helpfully volunteering this information, forgetful apparently of the bondage strings knotted on her throat.
"Come, Imnak," said Akko, his friend. "Sing us a song."
"I cannot sing," said Imnak.
"Come, come, sing!" called others.
To my surprise Imnak rose to his feet and, hastily, left the feasting house.
I followed him outside. So, too, concerned, did Poalu.
"I cannot sing," said Imnak. He stood by the shore. "Songs do not come to my mouth. I am without songs. I am like the ice in the glacier on which flowers will not bloom. No song will ever fly to me. No song ever has been born in my heart."
"You can sing, Imnak," said Poalu.
"No," said Imnak, "I cannot sing."
"Someday," said Poalu, "you will sing in the feasting house."
"No," said Imnak, "I will not sing. I cannot sing."
He looked about himself. "That giant lout with the mustache and braided hair, and ax, is not about, is he?" he asked.
"To whom might you be referring?" I asked.
"To one who is called Hurtha," said the fellow.
"Oh," I said.
"That is, at any rate, what you told me his name was, the last time we spoke of him."
"Yes," I said, "of course." Perhaps I had made a mistake, earlier, several nights before, in revealing the Alar's name. Still I did not think he would be a difficult fellow to locate, even if his name were not known. There were not too many like him with the wagons. It did not seem to me a very complimentary way, incidentally, in which to refer to Hurtha. He was, after all, even if perhaps a giant lout, from some points of view, a poet, and was entitled to some respect on that account, particularly if one had not read his poems. Too, he prided himself on his sensitivity. "No," I said. "He is not about."
"Here!" said the fellow, firmly, thrusting a piece of paper toward me. There was some writing on it.
"Whose writing is this?" I asked.
"Mine," he said.
"Oh," I said. To be sure, Hurtha was illiterate, like most Alars. Boabissia, too, incidentally, was illiterate. Illiteracy, however, has seldom deterred poets. Indeed, some of the greatest poets of all times were illiterate. Among folks as different as Tuchuks and Torvaldslanders, for example, poetry is seldom written down. It is memorized and sung about the fires, and in the halls, and thus is carried on the literary tradition. And poets such as Hurtha, it seemed to me, were even less likely to be deterred by illiteracy than many others.
"He leaped out at me, from behind a wagon, with his ax!" said the fellow. "'I am a poet,' he announced, his ax at the ready. 'Would you care to purchase a poem?' 'Yes!' cried I. 'Write,' he then said, and dictated to me this poem, which I, for my very life, hastily scribbled on this slip of parchment."
"You did so, of your own free will," I noted, thinking it important to emphasize this fact.
"I want my silver tarsk back!" he said.
"It is a very fine poem," I said.
"You have not read it," he pointed out.
"I have read others of his," I said. "I am sure it is every bit as good." Indeed, I had already read three others this very night. The Tabor merchant was the fourth fellow who had come by to look me up. Too, coincidentally, he was the fourth fellow who was demanding his silver tarsk back.
"To me," said the merchant, "it seems merely strange, or perhaps, at best, unmitigated trash, but then I am a simple man of business, and not a scribe. Doubtless such things come more within their jurisdiction than mine."
"That is true," I said, encouraging him.
"Would you care to interpret this line?" he asked, pointing to a line.
"No," I said.
"What about this one?" he asked.
"I do not think so," I said.
"What about this?" he asked. "'Her eyes were like green moons.'"
"That is an easy one," I said. "Doubtless moons are supposed to suggest romance, and green the vitality and promise of life."
"It is addressed to a wounded tharlarion," he said.
"Oh," I said.
"I want my silver tarsk back," he said.
"Of course," I said, emptying my wallet into the palm of my hand. It was not hard to do. "Perhaps that tarsk is it," I said.
"I suspect so," he said. "You have only one there, and that is stamped with the mark of the mint of Tabor."
"So it is," I said, handing it back to him. One thing about Hurtha, he thought highly of his poems. He did not let them go for nothing. They were not cheap. He maintained his standards. Still, it seemed that a silver tarsk was a high price to pay for a poem, even if it were as good as one of Hurtha's, particularly one one had to copy oneself. Indeed, many lovely women on Gor do not bring as much as a silver tarsk on the slave block.
"Thank you," said the merchant.
"Yes?" I said. He was still there.
"I am surely entitled to something for my trouble," he said.
The other fellows had not taken this attitude. Still, they had not been merchants.
"Here," I said, giving him a copper tarsk. That left me with two.
"Thank you," he said, after scrutinizing the change in my palm.
"You're welcome," I said. He then left.
"Alas," said Hurtha, coming up to me, disconsolately, "I fear I have made a terrible mistake."
"How could that be?" I asked.
"In my good-hearted enthusiasm to assuage our needs," he said, "I fear I may have suffered dishonor, if not ruination."
"How is that?" I asked. That was certainly an interesting thing to hear.
"I have been selling my poems," he said, collapsing near Mincon's fire, by the wagon. He sat there, with his head in his hands.
"Oh?" I said.
"Yes," he said. "Surely you recall the four silver tarsks I gave you earlier in the evening."
"Of course," I said.
"I received them from the sale of poems, my poems!" he said, shaking with emotion.
"No!" I cried.
"Yes," he said, miserably.
"I had thought it must be from the sale of numerous rich gems, doubtless sewn in your jacket," I said.
"No," he said. "I looked about the yards, and when I found fine-looking, sensitive-looking chaps, splendid-seeming fellows, of apparent refinement and taste, those of a sort I thought might be capable of appreciating my work, I offered them one of my poems, and for no more than a mere token of appreciation, a silver tarsk."
"That was incredibly generous," I said.
"It was a terrible mistake," said Hurtha.
"I am glad you realize that," I said.
"What?" he asked.
"Nothing," I said.
"My poems are priceless," he said.
You think you should have asked for more than a silver tarsk?" I asked, alarmed.
"No," he said. "I should not have sold them at all."
"I see," I said, relieved. "But they are probably not really all that bad."
"What?" he asked.
"Nothing," I said.
"I realized it with the last poem," he said, miserably. "I looked down at the silver tarsk in my hand, and at the poem in the fellow's hand, and it all became clear to me. I saw then how terrible was the thing I had done, selling my poems, my own poems, my precious, priceless poems! They now belonged to another! Better I had torn my heart out and sold it for a tarsk bit!"
"Perhaps," I said.
"I then begged the fellow to take back his worthless tarsk, and return the poem to me."
"And did he do so?" I asked.
"Yes," said Hurtha, looking up at me.
"Well," I said, "it all ended well then.
"No," he said, tears in his eyes. "You do not understand."
"We are now short a tarsk?" I said.
"No!" cried Hurtha. "There were four other poems sold! I shall never be able to recover those poems! They are gone, gone!" He put his head again in his hands, sobbing. "I shall never be able to find all those fellows again. Scarcely had I sold them the poems than they all hastened away, covetous, lucky, greedy fellows, lest I change my mind. Now I shall never be able to find them again and appeal earnestly, fervently, to their better selves, and higher natures, to take back their filthy money. What a fool I was! My poems, gone! Sold for a mere four silver tarsks! Waste! Dishonor! Misery! Ruin! Tragedy! What if this story should ever get back to the wagons? I am unworthy of my scars!"
"Hurtha, old fellow," I said, gently.
"Yes," he said.
I placed my hand on his shoulder.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Look," I said.
He lifted his head and. looked up.
"Here," I said, softly. I held forth to him the four copies of poems which had been given to me earlier by his four customers, or patrons.
"It is they!" he cried, wonderingly, tears in his eyes.
"Yes," I said.
"You knew!" he cried.
"You could not let me go through with it!" he wept. "You sought them out! You purchased them back! You have saved me from myself, from my own folly!"
"It is little enough to do for a friend," I said.
He leaped to his feet and embraced me, weeping, tears in his eyes. I struggled for breath, clutching the four poems. I speculated that this must be much like the grip of the dreaded, constricting hith. Surely that, capable of pulverizing a fellow, crushing his bones and popping him like a grape, could scarcely be worse.
"How can I ever thank you?" he cried, stepping back, holding me, proudly, looking at me.
"Between friends," I said, "thanks are neither needed, nor possible."
"You, too, are overcome with emotion!" he cried, sympathetically.
"I am trying to breathe," I told him.
"Let me have those poems," he said. He took them and put them with the one he had kept, that retrieved from his last transaction, the one in which, happily, I had had no part.
"I have them back, thanks to you!" he said.
I had now caught my breath, nearly.
"There they are," he said, blissfully, regarding them, "written down, in little marks."
"That is the way most things are written down," I said.
"Are they well transcribed?" he asked.
"I think so," I said. I took a deep breath.
"Are you all right?" asked Hurtha.
"Yes," I said. "Occasionally there is a line which is difficult to make out, and there seems to be a misspelled word here and there." That was to be expected, I supposed, given the fact that they had presumably been written in a condition of some agitation, under a condition of some stress. There was an occasional spot on the parchment. Perhaps sweat had dropped from someone's brow them.
"You are sure you are all right?" he said.
"Yes, I am all right now," I said.
"I am not surprised that a small mistake, perhaps a poorly formed letter, an irregular margin, or such, might have been made," said Hurtha. "Some of the fellows transcribing the poems were actually shaking. They seemed almost overwhelmed."
"I am not surprised," I said. "It was all part of the impact of the experience of hearing them for the first time, I suppose," I added.
"Yes," said Hurtha. "It would seem so."
"You do not know your own power as a poet," I said.
"Few of us do," said Hurtha.
"Well," I said, "fortunately, we have the five poems back. It would be too bad to have lost them."
"A tragedy, yes," said Hurtha, "but I have others."
"Oh?" I said.
"Yes, more than two thousand," he said.
"That is a great many," I said.
"Not really, considering their quality," he said.
"You are prolific," I said.
"All great poets are prolific," he said. "Would you care to hear them?"
"Not at the moment," I said. "You see, I have just, this evening, read some of them. I do not know if I could take more, just now."
"I understand," said Hurtha. "I am one well aware of the complexities of coping with grandeur, of the exquisite agonies attendant upon wrestling with nigh ineffable sublimities, with the excruciating intensities of the authentic aesthetic experience, with the travails of poignant significance, with the exhausting consequences of confronting sudden and startling distillations of meaning. No, old friend, I understand these things full well. I shall not force you beyond your strength."
"Thank you," I said.
He looked down at the poems in his hand. "Can you believe," he asked, "that these saw light only this evening, that I dictated them upon the spot?"
"Yes," I said.
He stood there, looking down at them, in awe of his own power.
"I wonder if poems should be written down," he said.
"I have a very poor handwriting," I said, "and I am particularly bad at the lines that go from right to left."
"I am illiterate," said Tula, quickly, in the crisis of the moment forgetting even to request permission to speak.
"So am I," said Mincon, happily.
Boabissia, of course, was also illiterate. She sat on the ground with her back against the right, rear wagon wheel, her ankles still bound together.
Hurtha looked at Feiqa. She could read and write. She was highly intelligent, and had been well educated. She was of a well-known city. She had even been of high station, before being enslaved, before becoming only an animal subject to her masters. She turned white.
"She is a slave," I said.
"Oh, yes," said Hurtha, dismissing her then from his mind.
Feiqa threw me a wild look of gratitude. To be sure, much of the copy work, lower-order clerical work, trivial account keeping, and such, on Gor, was done by slaves. Hurtha, however, I thought, apparently correctly, might prefer having his poems transcribed by free folks. It had been a close call for Feiqa.
"I am starving," I said.
Hurtha consulted his internal states. "So, too, am I," he reported.
"But I remain firm in my resolve not to sell my poems. Better starvation."
"Certainly," I said.
In defense of many Goreans, if a defense might seem in order, they do listen to, relish, and often travel far, to see plays, attend song dramas, and hear stories, some of which may take several days to tell, particularly if they are from the lips of famed Singers. The name of this caste does not translate well into English, but it seems to me that "Singers" might be more apt than "bards, reciters, story tellers," "poets," and such. Some well-known singers are William of Harfax, Olaf of Kassau, Andreas of Tor, Hakeem of Turia, and Phaidon of Anango.
"Merchants buy and sell," said the Tarnkeeper. "Initiates eschew beans and charge for prayers and spells. Scribes ink scrolls, Builders build, Physicians heal, Bakers bake, Metal Workers work metal, Leather Workers work leather, Players battle on the kaissa board, Warriors, in the kaissa of steel, battle on the field and in the sky.