Archive by Author | Scott Thornby

Music Monday: ‘Zombie,’ Bad Wolves


Yes, it’s a cover.

My information on this may be shaky but as I understand it, the artists (Bad Wolves) were intending to collaborate on this song with the Cranberries prior to Dolores O’Riordan’s death.  She was only four years older than me.  This song therefore became a tribute, and a compelling one it is.

The lyrics are a little different but they point out something utterly essential: we haven’t learnt.  For all our advances in technology, society and medicine, it truly is ‘the same old theme in 2018.’

Music (Makeup) Monday: ‘Bloodsucker,’ Paralysed Age


Argh!  I missed last Monday’s post!  Oh well.  Two posts for today, it seems.

I have a real soft spot for this song.  I first heard it as ‘Bloodsucker 2000’ on the album ‘Music from the Succubus Club.’  I won’t go into the nuances, but suffice it to say this dark but playful tune caught my heart pretty much immediately.

Music Monday: ‘Rock It For Me,’ Caravan Palace


This is the track that a friend of mine used to introduce me to the concept of electroswing and, more specifically, the excellent French band, Caravan Palace.  It remains one of my favourites of theirs, though others hold special places in my heart nowadays.

I don’t pay a great deal of attention to musical trends or genres, so I was unaware of the existence of electroswing before this song – and I have to say, I love it.  The fusion of old and new is kind of incredible, and Caravan Palace does it particularly well.

And so, I present it without further comment.  Enjoy.

Music Monday: ‘Double Thread,’ The Orbweavers


A friend of mine recently suggested – or perhaps welcomed, or challenged, depending on your viewpoint – that I begin regularly posting a Music Monday entry to my blog.  She does the same and has found it helpful to have a regular blogging goal to which she can adhere.

I’m uncertain how to approach this without being too self-critical, so instead I’m not going to overthink it.  Music will be posted from Spotify unless I have a strong urge to throw in a video, in which case I’ll aim to share the artist’s official video from YouTube.

So here is my first entry: Double Thread, by Melbourne-based band, The Orbweavers.

Further thoughts under the cut.

Continue reading

Changes & Challenges

I have several unfinished drafts of blog posts here on Ink-Stained Worlds that I will almost certainly never publish.

Most of them attempt to put into words my feelings regarding the death of my mother and the unusual relationship with grief that I seemed to have developed following her passing.  Alas, I am not as eloquent as I would like, so I will quickly sum up the core of it:

I have not cried for my mother, and I do not expect to, since she died.  I am not upset that she is dead – at all.  I miss her fiercely, and I wish that I could discuss many things with her as once I did, but seeing the literal agony in which she lived the final months of her life, I am grateful for her death, because it has given her peace.

Jennifer Thornby

Jennifer Thornby

Grief counselling has never been something I have gelled with, but in my mother’s case I simply don’t feel the need.  I have closure here – or, at least, as much closure as anyone could wish to have upon the death of their mother.  I said my goodbyes.  She knew that I love her.  She is no longer in pain – and those things, for me, are enough.  Grief is a very personal process and I had a quiet but intense friendship with my mother that grew and deepened in the years leading up to her passing.  I appreciate that time.  I do not wish for more, exactly, because I would not wish more life on her without being able to assure her quality of life, and that was denied to her by her condition.

To wish more life on her simply so that I could talk to her some more would be selfishness of the highest order.  I would wish death upon the worst of Humanity before wishing upon them the ordeal through whish my mother passed – and she was the best human being I have ever met.

This post, as I am so wont to say, isn’t about that.  It’s been bugging me that I haven’t written the above clearly and succinctly, and unlike the former posts (which I wrote with the mindset that I’d maybe put them out there, if I liked the way they turned out), I do fully intend to publish this one.

So.  On to what this post is actually about. Continue reading

Trapped in the Mirror

Sometimes I get lost in songs.

The cage I find myself in, at times like this, are made of sound – tiny notes meshed together and harder than steel, even if they can be broken by pressing the Pause button – but the stuff in the cage, filling the void between bars and sloshing in the empty space around my (metaphorical) flesh is raw emotion.

I have an unusual relationship with emotion.  Mind you, I have an unusual relationship with most things.  I’m fairly typical like that.

Let me explain what this feels like…

Continue reading


I recall my oldest brother,
Flawed though recollection be;
Scalpel wit and thoughtful manner,
Man of practicality.

Ever with a clever comment,
Born of academic mind;
Looking up and ever forward
Though much grieving lay behind.

Sad afflicted was my brother,
With a wicked malady;
Bravely fought against that illness –
Bravely fought, and now is free.


I recall my youngest brother,
Four good years above my own.
Troubled days we spent together,
Wounded heart now overgrown.

Charming, laughing, always funny,
Blessed with popularity.
Cursed he was with demons bitter,
Deep within.  We did not see.

Much I have to tell my brother.
Much is sadly left unsaid.
By his hand, in midst of darkest
Misery, his life has fled.


I remember both my brothers,
Loved them both until the end.
Love them still, though grief be bitter;
Sometimes hearts will never mend.

Golden years we spent together.
Sadly, what they say is true:
Never will you know your blessings
Til, one day, they’re lost to you.

Sadly passed but not forgotten,
Gone again from whence they came.
Only lost in mortal presence;
In our hearts they still remain.

Lacey of Riverwood

In the town of Riverwood in the state of
Pennsylvania they got grass and lumber,
Trees and cows and silver from mining under
Silvertop Mountain.

Frankly worthless, but for the westward train line
Running mighty carriages, hauling people,
Freight an’ goods, the civilised necessaries
People desire.

Now, to speak regarding the folks in question,
Farmers, miners, cowboys all sweaty, dusty,
Hardened men and women despite the river views, which
Brighten the township.

Lacey Blackburn, she was a miner’s daughter
Gentle, not the sort you’d expect to find in
Such a place, all given to dreaming, fair of
Skin and of manner.

Raven locks and emerald eyes so often
Lost, unfocused, Lacey was quite a beauty,
Sadly hard afflicted with that most deadly
Malady: boredom.

* * * * *

Winter was a memory and the Spring was
Fully Springing, washing the darker days and
Bringing sunlight back from forgotten places;
Season’s renewal.

Heaving beast of metal and steam, the train was
Growling like an animal as it reached the
Wooden platform serving the township’s people,
Straddling Main Street.

Down came quite a boot upon quite a foot, and
Next to that another was soon to greet the
Board beneath, supporting the legs of quite a
Newcomer’s body.

Finely dressed and given to observation,
Perspicacious woman of leisure, dressed in
Satin brocade, rich and a shade of purple
Pleasing to look at.

Gentle Lacey, open of mind and heart, was
At the station, daydreaming, unprepared for
Catching sight and scent of the new arrival,
Nor her attraction.

* * * * *

That was not a concept that Lacey ever
Had considered, given that all the people
She had known held nothing of charm or brightness;
Now she felt different.

All at once she knew that she never wanted
Something simple or, for that matter, men-folk;
Caught within the gaze of this woman’s eyes, she
Found herself waking.

Given how the Riverwood folk were tended,
Lacey’s passion, newly awakened, nascent,
Wasn’t something easily spoken of or
Lightly considered.

Nor did Annabelle, as her name was given,
Lack for much attention from men of all sorts
Courted, flattered, presents galore the month long;
All she accepted.

What could Lacey, simply a miner’s daughter,
Give or say to turn such a beauty’s heart thus?
Barely talking, barely a word together,
Lovesick young Lacey.

* * * * *

Caught while making moon-eyes at Annabelle, her
Father wagged his finger at Lacey sternly.
“Close your heart to that one, or make your move, or
Else you will miss out.”

Given more to quietness, Lacey wondered
How to make her feelings apparent, given
How the men of Riverwood worked to woo her
Annabelle Murphy.

Stones of red carnelian, chosen special,
Matching hair of flame and those eyes of amber.
“Here, a present.” Awkwardness, silence, laughter.
“Hey. I’ve been waiting.”

Happy Lacey, blushing and grinning, joyful
Found her way to love in the arms of Anna,
Simple miner’s daughter and stylish lady,
Always together.

In the town of Riverwood in the state of
Pennsylvania they got grass and lumber,
Trees and cows and silver, but also Lacey,
Happy with Anna.

This is my second, and certainly more coherent, attempt at modern Sapphic stanza poetry. Twenty stanzas long, I was aiming for 500 words and exceeded that count by about 11. It’s hardly a Classical masterpiece but I’m fairly happy with it.

To clarify: I’ve never visited the US of A. I have no idea if Pennsylvania has or had a town called Riverwood in it. Also, this poem is set roughly within the frontier years of the colonial expansion into the West. Apologies to the history buffs that this poem annoys.

Still, I had fun writing it and I hope you had fun reading it.

— Scott Thornby, 2016.03.09

Sapphic Love?

Sappho, lyric poet of Lesbos

Sappho, lyric poet of Lesbos^

Over 600 years before the advent of what is now carefully referred to as the Common Era there was born a female child on a faraway Greek island known as Lesbos. Her name, in Attic Greek, was Σαπφώ, transliterated as the far more familiar ‘Sappho.’ More than two thousand years after her death, in the late 1800s, her name and homeland would be used for the first time to refer to female homosexuality and, indeed, this is one of the subjects that people most closely associate with Sappho.

She was a lyric poet of no mean stripe, established among her peers as both skilled and eloquent, but unfortunately very little of her work survives to the current day. According to records she was a mother to a daughter named Cleïs, after her mother, though this is by no means certain; the reference may have been to a personal and much-cherished slave-girl. She wrote about loving both women and men, yet there is considerable doubt as to the biographical veracity of her work. Certainly she was a Lesbian poet (that being, a poet from Lesbos), arguably the Lesbian poet, but was she the lesbian poet or, in fact, a bisexual poet? A Lesbian lesbian or a Lesbian bisexual?

Does it actually matter? Opinion on that will vary.

One thing that is not in question is her incredible impact across all of Classical antiquity. Sappho was a woman who had won the respect and admiration of her peers, a victory that was unlikely to have been easy. Greeks loved her. Romans loved her. She was not universally loved, of course, and saw a period of exile from her home to Sicily for an undetermined number of years – but this post isn’t about all of that, in any case.

This is about her poetic form.

I want to be clear about something, here. I am no historian. I am no anthropologist. I have no degrees of any sort, let alone those of language or poetry. As the Doctor once put it, ‘I’m a madman with a box – without a box!’ My position here comes from fascination and love of written expression, not one of formal structured learning.

I have never read anything more than snippets of Sappho’s poetry, both because I haven’t gone out of my way to do so and because I don’t speak Greek. Her poetry has been translated, of course, but such translations are by their nature imperfect.

What I have read about is something called the ‘Sapphic stanza.’

Not long ago I was trawling through pages about poetic forms looking, basically, for inspiration. I got it when I happened to see the word ‘Sapphic’ in a list of verse forms on Wikipedia. I freely admit that it caught my eye because it was related to that famous Greek poet – I’ve researched her a little before and I find her a fascinating figure. I knew her reputation was strong but somehow I had never heard of the Sapphic stanza. Aeolic verse, yes, but nothing actually named after Sappho.

I was hooked. So, like the good little fish that I can be at times, I swallowed that hook good and hard. Sadly, I was also extremely tired, so my initial attempts to parse the information I was reading were all fruitless. After a hard night’s unsatisfying sleep I came back to it and things became more clear.

Let me give you a brief run-down*.

The Sapphic Stanza

The first thing to understand about the Sapphic stanza is that it is designed for Classical language, specifically Greek. It doesn’t translate to English well. Part of the reason for this is that the poetic form used relies on quantitative metre. This differs from qualitative metre, the kind used most commonly in English-language poetry, in one very essential way: qualitative metre keys on syllable stress, whereas quantitative metre keys on syllable weight.

These may seem like the same thing. At first I was confused – isn’t the weight of a syllable the same as its stress? – but no, indeed it is not. The difference is important and makes Sapphic stanzas, in their purest form, exceedingly hard to craft in English.

Syllable weight, in this context, is defined roughly by how long the syllable takes to say. A syllable with a diphthong or a long vowel or which is followed by two consonants is long; otherwise it is considered short. In this way the single-syllabic words ‘lot’ and ‘lout’ are short and long, respectively – but only in isolation. Is the syllable ‘lot’ still short if followed immediately by the word ‘then’ or does the break between the words preserve the short status of ‘lot?’ Would the syllable be automatically made long, for that matter, if it were changed to ‘lots’?

These aspects are all concepts that my poor, untrained mind are ill-suited to understanding.

Luckily, there’s another option.

Modern Sapphic Stanza

Undoubtedly prompted by Anglocentric poets some time ago, the concept of the ‘modern Sapphic stanza’ is really easy – the poet simply substitutes the quantitative metre for a qualitative metre, equating a long syllable with a stressed one and short with unstressed.

Simple as that.

Stanza Construction

Sapphic stanzas are, depending on your opinion, either made of two lines of equal length plus a third with five extra syllables, or three lines and then a fourth that is five syllables long. I tend toward the latter view simply because I find it easier to keep in mind. Either way it comes out the same. The structure is based around the trochee (LONG-short) and the dactyl (LONG-short-short), as follows:

/x /x /xx /x /x
/x /x /xx /x /x
/x /x /xx /x /x
/xx /x

The above chart uses ‘/’ to denote a long/stressed syllable and ‘x’ to denote a short/unstressed syllable. In other words:

DA-da DA-da DA-da-da DA-da DA-da
DA-da DA-da DA-da-da DA-da DA-da
DA-da DA-da DA-da-da DA-da DA-da
DA-da-da DA-da

Or, if you like:

Apples, apples, oranges, apples, apples
Apples, apples, oranges, apples, apples
Apples, apples, oranges, apples, apples
Oranges, apples

Another way in which this differs from most of the poetry that English speakers are likely to be familiar with is that each line of the stanza begins with a stressed syllable rather than an unstressed one. The remarkable strength this imposes on the verse is undeniable and, especially when one is writing it, immediately obvious.

Sapphic stanzas typically don’t rhyme though, of course, there’s little to stop an enterprising poet from doing so. A poem written in this style can be of any number of stanzas. Go nuts, write for as long as you care to. Forget trying to fit your thoughts into X number of stanzas, risking the unlikely ridicule of others should you exceed or fail to meet that stanza count. Write one. Write 1,000. It’s your choice.


While I’ve only written a little in this form, and probably not very adeptly, I’ve thus far greatly enjoyed the Sapphic stanza. While this is by no means the only style in which Sappho wrote it is perhaps her best-known form. Others contemporary with her also wrote in the same style, to the point where people are undecided as to whether Sappho actually invented it or whether she simply adopted and popularised it. For my part, based on only the little I’ve read – which is barely any – I like to think she did indeed invent it.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site I don’t consider myself a skilled poet. One thing that I can say about poetry, though, is that I have a much easier time simply enjoying the process of crafting than I do short stories or longer pieces. Even articles about poetry are less fun to write than poetry.

This form, though, I found particularly satisfying. It’s difficult, there’s no doubt about that; while part of me wants to try to older, quantitative form a bigger part of me is sure that I need more knowledge of quantitative verse in general before I even try to approach that hurdle.

For now, though, I’m enjoying my little imperfect forays into modern Sapphic verse – and right now that’s enough for me.

* = Again, I hasten to point out that I am no wise poet or knowledgeable historian. This explanation of Sapphic stanzas may be wildly inaccurate but it is my understanding.

^ = Curiously enough I rather think this portrait of Sappho rather resembles Jennifer Ehle in her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.