The Song of Ceber

Introduction: The following notes have been especially prepared for the Everything2 version of The Song of Ceber. This section will contain spoilers, so it is recommended that you read the story before the notes. The notes are divided by section as listed below.

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Historical Notes

Ceber and the Poems

The Song of Ceber is one of three epic poems belonging to the Waspfolk of Trepxe. The first, The Kuronica deals with a tribe of wasps called the Kuroni defending their hive from a swarm of vespa bicolor. The second poem The Song of Ceber is about one of the heroines of the Kuroni and her persecution by the goddess Takara. The final poem, The Wasp's Ekphrastic covers the stormy romance between Mele, Ceber's daughter, and Eladay-- the granddaughter of Fyrness.

Of the three, the Kuronica has the largest cast of characters, focusing on both wasps and the marauding hornets. It is also the first to mention Ceber in a long list of heroines: ... Senca, the slayer of Ecoeh, and Rose, the one-eyed killer, and Chesoo blood-crowned, and Theanah, the nightwasp, and Ceber the Trantula Slayer, and Ryn of the black and white...

Ceber does not hold any special position in the text, being roughly equal to at least Theanah and a good deal less important than Fyrness and Jeena. But Ceber is mentioned explicitly as a wasp of note. Her adoption is mentioned and her surname "Starlight" explained in the first part of the Kuronica:

She stood replete in gore-- her fancy dress for this war party. Called Ceber Starlight. That is how her mother found her, first as a star twinkling in the sky, bright and diamond-like. And as Tanilith of the Dragon's claim watched, that new star fell from Heaven and Ceber hatched from its glowing coal and Tanis, lonely watcher, decided this wasplet would be hers and would inherit her mantel of gore.

Ceber is a constant companion of Queen Fyrness and is resented by Jeena for being an outsider, a "ill-adopted wildling, brought into our hive by Tanis whose heart and mind are failing in her old age." Fyrness is quick to rebuke her friend, but the seeds of Ceber's destruction are sown in that moment.

The Text

The Song of Ceber survives in two texts, one preserved in the Record Vault of the Waspfolk of Trepxe and the other in the Humpries Book.

Of the two, the Humpries Book is the most interesting source for it is written in Posraca Trepxian, a human language, and found in a human book dating far before the Treaty of the Wasps in 1911pic. The book, named after the Humpries Library in which it was found, is a collection of poetry from the Posraca Period or older. This means that the human scribe who translated the poem had access to an older copy and could understand it. The book has problems, the translator interprets passages very liberally so that it can be hard to tell who is speaking, yet it is clearly the same poem as found in the wasp's own archives. Further, it seems to be translated from a different source than the Vault Text because it contains several passages not included in the "official" text. The aside about Alison the Earth-walker is missing from the Vault text as well as Ceber's speech to Akenzee. There are other differences as well. "The Tale of the Blowfly" is replaced by an entirely different story and the section called "Sein, or the Rape of Ausohara" is much abbreviated.

The Humpries Book's origins are obscure however, and no light can be shed on who wrote down the poem.

The copy in the Wasp's Record Vault probably dates from 811pic and is inscribed on a hexagonal tablet of hardened wax sixty feet across, and ten inches thick. The poem is written in an ancient dialect of the waspfolk's own language. The text starts around the edges of the tablet and then spirals inwards. Such large tablets are not uncommon in the Vault. The two other great poems are similarly written on wax tablets of varying sizes.

The existence of the tablet was not known until directly before the Treaty of 1911 when one of the diplomatic envoys, Perry Aninta, was invited by the waspfolk to the Vault after he donated a book to them. Inside, they showed him thousands of tablets, and when his guide discribed the subject of the Ceber Tablet, he recognized the story.

According to the Vault curator, the tablet is a copy of a much older text now lost in what the wasps called "A Purging", a political upheaval now centuries past. The older copies were made on a more fragile type of wax called "Burniah," that tends to flake over time.

The wasps attribute the three poems to the poetess Elinseh, who they claim lived around 1110ic, but they freely admit that since "Elinseh" is a corruption of an old Kuroni word for "Poetess" the attribution is probably more traditional than factual. This does not stop them from presenting Aninta with a biography for the Poetess including some fanciful details about escaping murder at a young age, and her friendship with Ceber herself. Indeed, the attribution seems to come from a few sections in Ceber and the Ekphrastic:

Then they two       were alone again
Never knowing their audience
Ceber and Medy
No, not even I, Elinseh, shall stay.
Let us go to the garden
Rather than spoiling
Their private act. (423-429, The Song of Ceber)

And Mele ready to open up her own heart, if Eladay wished it, wanted to die right there, scarified to a god like her mother, Ceber, if only I, Elinseh, would let her! But the wasp-maiden must live! And Eladay, she knew it, surely as does this poetess! (310-317, The Wasp's Ekphrastic)

As each of the mentions of Elinseh can be translated as "This poet" or "I, the poet", it is clear that the poetess is probably more fantastic than real. To quote Aninta's own account of the event:

Their librarians are tasked with collecting all knowledge and so interviewed me on human literary work for several hours in their Record Vault. They recorded my testimony by scratching symbols into fresh wax tablets, some hexagonal, others octagonal, with their front claws.

During a break, I asked about their own canon, and they described at length a story of a wasp expelled from her home, and I said, "Wait, I know this poem!" For I remember reading it in one of the books in the old Humpries Library in South Bend. I related to them the rest of the story and described how it was written down in an ancient book, a collection of some sort. Thee wasps were very impressed, setting forth many theories as to how the poem was transmitted to humans before myself.

One, the younger, of a religious mind, theorized divine transmission via their gods, while the other mentioned a "mad" queen entertaining a human scholar.They dragged out a history to confirm it, but could not find the reference even though the older wasps said she remembered the entry clearly. They both claimed the "Ceber" poem to have been written by the great wasp poet Elensay(sic), some three thousand years ago. The younger presented me with a biography of the poet that can hardly be trusted: "Elensay, the great poetess, was born in Comely under the reign of Queen Patil. A jealous queen, Patil disliked Elensay's mother and plotted to bring about the death of her and all her children. The hive stopped her from murdering the wasplets and a young wasp Fairness(sic) overthrew the Queen. Elensay learned her poetry from the brooks, the mountains, and the thunder, for when young, she would travel to the flood and treat with the river spirits."

The strange appearance of a non-human poem in an ancient human book, has caused much speculation and is unlikely to be solved anytime soon.

Characters and Their Name Pronunciations

Oufa/Offa       Oo-fah
The primary god of the wasps. Oufa is responsible for the creating the sky and the stars and maintaining order on the Earth.

Essa       Ea-sah
Oufa's wife. Essa is a benign deity who very rarely interferes in the affairs of mortals.

Whylight      Why-light
The White Dragon god. Associated with male fertility.

Terite      Teh-right
The Red Dragon god. Associated with battle and lust.

Takara      Ta-kar-rah
Terite's wife. The goddess of machines and machinations. The primary villain.

Elsalay      El-sah-lay
The goddess of love. Elsalay inspires people to passion and madness.

Sein      Sin
Elsalay and Whylight's son. The god of poetry and art.

Ylsslea/Yelsalay/Other variants      Yel-sah-lay
Elsalay and Whylight's youngest son. The god of dancing and music.

Kuroni      Coo-ro-knee
The tribe of wasps of the Hive of Comely. Ceber is adopted into this tribe.

Elinseh     El-en-say
Obstinately, the poetess who is supposed to have written The Song of Ceber. Probably a more mythical than a historical figure.

Srah      Sir-rah
One of the heroes killed in the battle for Valayis.

Sache      Sah-chee
One of the heroes killed in the battle for Valayis.

Rose      Rose
One of the heroes killed in the battle for Valayis.

Ryn      Rin
One of the heroes killed in the battle for Valayis.

Theanna      Thee-en-ah
One of the heroes killed in the battle for Valayis.

Casta      Cast-ah
One of the heroes killed in the battle for Valayis. Mother of Tinella.

Aros      A-rowus
The Kuroni's poet before Therdy.

Comely      Come-lee
The land the Kuroni come from. Cursed by Takara, it is now a desert.

Shnon     Sha-non
The queen of the Cave Ants.

Chesta      Che-stah
The Kuroni responsible for Takara's wrath on Comely. She offers a soiled offering, setting off the drought.

Chesoo      Chee-sue
Chesta's mother.

Ceber      See-bur
The heroine of the poem. Ceber is a Tarantula Hawkwasp, adopted by Tanis into the Kuroni.

Apse      Asp
A cave ant slain by Ceber during the battle for Valayis.

Aninlda      An-dah-lay
A cave ant slain by Ceber during the battle for Valayis.

Calife      Cal-i-fay
A cave ant nobel slain by Ceber during the battle for Valayis.

Phialia      Fil-lay
A cave ant slain by Ceber during the battle for Valayis.

Pernis      Pern-is
A cave ant slain by Ceber during the battle for Valayis. Beloved of Takara, this is the prompting for Takara's pursuit of Ceber.

Mele      Mel-eh
Tanis's mother. Raped by Terite.

Tanis/Tanlith      Tan-is
The daughter of Mele and Terite, the result of a forced union.

Fyrness      Fair-ness
Queen of the Kuroni. A warrior queen.

Therdy      There-dee
The poet of the Kuroni. He desires Ceber and tries to get Takara to help him obtain her.

Sindra      Sin-drah
The mother of Fyrness.

Verte      Vert-eh
A wasp who tried to put Clifdora to sleep with a potion.

Clifdora      Cliff-door-ah
Verte's victim.

Gem      Gem
An ancestor of Fyrness.

Sel      Sell
An ancestor of Fyrness.

Nelter      Nell-ter
An ancestor of Fyrness.

Wyr      Wier
An ancestor of Fyrness.

Hyrt      Heart
An ancestor of Fyrness.

Jeena      Jean-ah
Mother of Therdy. Eventually usurps the crown of Comely.

Kabar      Kay-bar
A human slain by Ceber.

Akenzee      A-ken-zee or Ah-ken-zee
The titanic black widow who guards the afterlife.

Mount      Cran Mount Cran
A volcano in the Dora Mountain Range overlooking the plain of Comely and the Vada River.

Terbeir      Tear-beer (either as in rend or cry)
A mud-dauber hive located near the Vada River.

Vada      Vay-day
A river of Northeastern Alleguay, a tributary of the Run River.

Medy      Med-ee
A dauber wasp and Ceber's lover.

Myelight      My-light
Medy's father.

Ja-Kara Zăd      Jah-Care-ah Zahd
The afterlife. It has been completely covered by Akenzee's web.

Alcuin      Al-cun
The doctor of Terbeir.

Sochek      So-check
The queen of Terbeir.

Card      Card
Sochek's husband.

Elle      El-ah
The poet of Terbeir. She is killed and possessed by Takara.

Sendy      Send-ee
Elle's husband.

Karo      Car-oh
The Earth Monster. In the Tale of Blowfly and the Three Monsters, he is described as a mountain-sized pile of dirt.

Delves      Delves
Demons from the moon. They relight their hair via Mount Cran's fires every night.

Arktow      Arc-toe
The World Spider. Cousin to Akenzee, Arktow is a giant rabid wolf spider.

Celah      Kel-ah
A Kuroni who deified Takara.

Aves      A-ves
Celah's lover who was killed by Takara in her version of the story of Celah and Aves.

Venco      Ven-co
Celeh's father.

Wyrm-Wunian      Weirm-Woon-Ian
The palace of Oufa, dragged out of the ocean.

Dora      Door-ah
The land that contains Terbeir and the Dora Mountains. Comely is directly north of Dora, but not part of it.

Urha      Er-hah
The Weaver Worm who deals with the Past.

Linelis     Line-liss
The Weaver Worm who deals with the Present.

Epenè      Eh-pin-eh
The Weaver Worm who deals with the Future. Slain by Takara.

Aaron      Air-on
A human archer, brother to Kabar, eventually slain by Ceber.

Alson      Al-son
The Wandering Wasp. Alson, like Ceber, has no wings.

Sival      Si-val
The spirit who steals away Alson's child.

Valayis      Vah-lay-is
The land of the Cave Ants. Invaded and taken over by the Kuroni.

Tamara      Tah-mar-ah
Valayis's captain of the guard. Half gall wasp, half velvet ant.

Seret      Sir-et
A far off island nation.

Tinella      Tea-nel-ah
Daughter of Casta. Called "Nella" by her friends.

Anlay      An-lay
Mother of Tamara.

Vanlay      Van-lay
A loyalist to Jeena. Slain by Ceber.

Sidney      Sid-knee
A loyalist to Jeena. Noted for her greed.

Estika      Es-stick-ah
A daughter of Ceber. Slain by Takara.

Mele      Mel-eh
A daughter of Ceber, and the protagonist of The Wasp's Ekphrastic. Ceber's only surviving daughter.

Breah      Brea-ah
A daughter of Ceber. Possessed and killed by Takara.

Scope      Scoup
One of the great divine craft spiders.

Hatan      Hah-tan
One of the great divine craft spiders.

HolHammas      Whole-ham-mas
Guardian of Oufa's palace. A titanic harvester ant.

Notes on the Text


"Hércyme beginne þæs gieddes Ceberes." Translated from Old English: "Here begins Ceber's tale." These framing comments come at anytime the narrator of the poem changes: when the poem begins, when Takara is telling the story, when Takara finishes, and during the benediction at the end when "I" close the tale. These short sentences are in Old English and are meant to ape a similar device used by Chaucer, though Chaucer used Latin.

I start the poem off with a creation myth to introduce the natural law of the world. When working on the rough draft, I didn't standardize the spelling of names through a stupid and misguided idea that since in the Odyssey Odysseus' name is spelled two ways, and because name spelling wasn't standardized until modern times, I shouldn't enforce a strict spelling rules on the names. I wised up by the second draft, but I was left having to scrub out all the variants. Therdy, for instance appeared as Theredy, Therdee, Theridy. I believe I've gotten most of them back to Therdy, but man what a pain in the ass.

Takara is a Japanese name. It means "treasure". I picked it because of the harsh middle syllable.

"... jeweled stars..." An explanation of the Galaxy across the sky designed to be similar to such stories found around the Earth.

The third generation of gods are all jeweled cockroach wasps, because those insects are beautiful, not because the gods zombify roaches and lead them to be devoured alive.

Kuroni- A few years ago, I was working on a fantasy novel in which a large race of wasps was present. I called them "Kuroni" in passing because it sounded vaguely Japanese and I had imagined them as Japanese Giant Hornets. In Ceber, I use "waspfolk" and "Kuroni" almost interchangeable, but the exact rule is that the Kuroni are Ceber's tribe specifically, and not all wasps.

"Begot of dragons". I've deliberately made the exact creation of the wasps vague. Takara claims later that the wasps were fashioned of out "dirt and filthy air" which conflicts with the narrator there. Since this is a secondary epic, I've attempted to reproduce some of the wacky imperfections found in primary epics (such as the Iliad). Primary Epics, are often compiled oral stories (for more on the oral nature of the Homeric poems see the introduction to the Robert Fagles's translation of the Odyssey). This is why the technology level of the humans is all over the place and why the exact time Ceber is away from Valayis is heavily distorted. The multiple creation myths are meant to copy the layering effect that oral tales gain after being modified through different mouths and different generations.


"Oxyear". Year of the Ox. A hint of what sort of calendar is used.

"Skybright candle" is an example of a kenning, a compound word meant to be a metaphor for something else. In this case, the sun.

"Clockwork Goddess". Takara is technically the goddess of Devious Plot and Clever Warfare, kind of a malignant Athena. Clockwork is meant metaphorically, but also literally too as she is also a goddess of complex machines. Her epithets reflect this.

Hemolymph- I'm perhaps being a little sloppy in using hemolymph and blood interchangeably, but the alliterative scheme of the poem favors short words with heavy front sounds such as "blood".

Tanis Dragon-Half

It is unfortunate that there is a character in the Drangonlance series named Tanis Half-Elf. Since I've never read Dragonlance I can only assume I'd heard the name in passing and magpie-like collected it in the back of my brain. I don't think it is too much of a problem unless Tanis Half-Elf is a murdering, psychotic yellow jacket. I did briefly consider changing the name to Tanlith, but didn't mostly because I didn't want to go through the hassle of changing the node title on E2.

Ceber is a tarantula hawkwasp, New Mexico's state insect. I don't know why we have a state insect, but we do. They are striking looking, colored a deep black with a hint of blue sheen and bright orange wings. They are also enormous, about the length of a man's middle finger. They're not to be fucked with either as their sting is painful enough to drop a human to the ground for several minutes. Despite this, they are not aggressive and willing to leave anything alone provided it isn't aggressive or a tarantula.

The Ant Queen

"O weaver worms". This is a traditional Invocation to the Muse. In this case, the Muses and Fates have been bundled together, taking the weaving aspect and connecting fate and creative work together. The worms are silk moth larvae.

"There was a time... survives those minutes." This is a pseudo-sonnet meant to introduce the idea that maybe the ants speak a bit differently from the wasps. Whether or not it works, I love the idea.


Therdy's name, as mentioned, was one of the hardest to standardized for stupid reasons. I've always pronounced it "There-dee" with a bit more emphasis on the Th than usual, but because I didn't exercise control over the name's spelling in the first draft, Therdy was often spelled "Teheredy" or some other abominable way. So, I could not just go into the computer and change all instances to Therdy because I was using several different spellings.


Takara very rarely speaks in verse. Most of her dialogue is prose except when she is trying to convince somebody of something and even then she prefers prose. The reason for this is because the change in stress and meter causes slight unease in the reader, subconsciously cuing them in that something isn't right about the speaker.

In the Garden

Poor Ausohara is patterned after Aphrodite's innocent stupidness in the Iliad where Hera asks to borrow her powers (the girdle).

"Fatal dose..." You may notice a theme starting here where adversaries end up killing each other. This is repeated throughout Ceber.

"Rabbitty urges". I'm borrowing an ex-girlfriend's phrasing here.

"Pushed poor Therdy". I'm always worried about using rape as a device in a story, because it isn't a trivial matter in any sense and real people do get raped, and it is an issue people feel strongly about. I try to counter this by making nothing graphic.

"Therdy was over..." A reoccurring joke in Ceber is that artists and poets always get killed.

The Trial

So, like the Invocation earlier, epics often have long lists of genealogies. Just open the Bible or read the first part of Beowulf. Here it serves to tell the reader why Fyrness has to listen to Jeena rather than dismissing her out of hand (or claw).

"Fyrness famous for her fairness." I'll probably burn in some poet's hell for this exact-alliteration. Fyrness is a wasp queen. She is not to be mistaken for an ant queen. Ants and bees evolved from wasps and so wasps can be thought of as more "primitive" in their eusociality (as it is less complex not that it is less evolutionarily developed). To wit: Wasps do not exercise as much control over breeding female workers as ants do (ants actively seek out and kill fertile workers, some wasps do too, but not to the same extent) and sometimes a queen will rise up from the ranks and kill the reigning wasp. But that's all tangential, as most wasps are solitary parasitoids who prey on spiders. I take massive liberties with wasp biology throughout.

Mount Cran

"Ground Wasp". Velvet Ants and their kin, specifically.


"... monkey gods" A slight dig at humanity's pretensions.

"...enslaved to their..." Here and elsewhere we can assume that the wasps have a dim view of domestication.

"Whose early success..." I'm thinking primarily of Che Guevara here, whose success in Cuba led to him becoming an overbearing asshole that it got him killed in Bolivia. Never forget you are mortal.

"bit him in two..." Ceber's physical size, while never stated in the poem, is about the size of a Labrador retriever. She's smaller than an adult human, but a wasp the size of a dog is still a very serious threat.

"Into caves..." Another theme I was playing around with. Caves are powerful, primordial places. In Ceber, they come before the poem shifts tone.

The Storm

"What brings thee..." The rule is that the Titans always speak in thees and thous.

"Not even a aphid would be safe". Aphid infestations are notoriously hard to kill.

"Beaten, buffeted, bashed, broken." This line really shows how fine a form alliterative verse is when highlighting action.

Terbeir on the River Vada

"Ja-Kara Zad" I wanted a threatening name for the afterlife, so I chose these arbitrary sounds. I don't know what it means.

"Celibate Ceber" The stock epithets common in epic poetry are really a device for the oral poets from which these type of poems originated from to use when he/she needs to either think of what comes next or when they need an easy way to modify the poetic structure on the fly. The "shining-eyed Athena" and "Clever Odysseus" thus are not descriptors of the people so much as they are metrically convenient. Ceber is an Alliterative Verse poem and the stock epithets are equally useful in creating the necessary front sound. Ceber is celibate at this point in the poem, but more importantly "celibate" has the right front sound to complete the scheme.

"Ceber Warsong" This is another example of the epithet, but placed at the end this time. Ceber's real surname is Starlight (so named because of her discovery by her adopted parent, as elaborated in later in these notes), but like many poetic contrivances and because I am aping epic devices, her name is often whatever fits the line than what is accurate.

"A white wasplet" A reference to metamorphosis. I fudge the biology a bit here, sometimes presenting the wasps as full-grown juveniles and other times as if they go through complete metamorphosis.

"They could have asked..." I think we have all seen those sickeningly ridiculous couples who flirt, drive competition away, go out on dates, and who are dating in all but name.

"A human's lamb" The only reason this is here is so I can make the puppy simile in the next line.

The Plot

"Love-splattered fantasy" This is called an extended metaphor, common to a lot of poetry. The not-so-subtle idea is that stories are like sex.

"Song-fisted" Ella, the doomed poetess, might have the most epithets of any character after Ceber. "Song-fisted" is a metaphor that is boarding on kenning territory.

"Fairfolk" These would be fairies or elves, or maybe even Tolkienian fantasy elves. Elsewhere in the poem there are passing references to these creatures. The idea is that the humans wiped them out similar to how some theories say humans may have destroyed the Neanderthals.

"... fearing nothing from a beetle..." Tiger beetles are fearsome predators. Ella should have been more careful here.

"Did not notice || her new mind" Ceber's "perfect" line is 7 syllables divided by a caesura splitting the line into 4 and 3 or 3 and 4 syllables. In Anglo-Saxon poetry the alterations always fall on emphasized syllables. In Ceber, I don't follow this last rule closely. The caesura, or space, is a typical feature of Old English poetry as printed in anthology. But! It is important to remember thas as first written down, Old English verse had no spaces and even Beowulf was written across the page like prose. The natural pause of the caesura in such lines as "Silver Sein || Whylight's first son" is real both in my poem and those of my ancestors, and it has even been suggested by some scholars to have been a place where some sort of musical instrument would be strummed.

The Feast

All the food mentioned is artistic license. Most wasps' real food would have to be nectar. Flying takes massive amounts of energy and sugars are the only way to insure quick disposable power.

"Heroic times when Ayeguay" Alleguay, the Great Continent, probably means "Place of the Alle River" if translated into English. Many epic poems take place in heroic times and often the narrator is looking back with nostalgia. This is perhaps an attempt by the poets to explain why Zeus isn't screwing everything in sight or why there are no longer men capable of fighting entire armies by themselves.

"Seeing his disheartened..." Ceber really does need dating tips.

The Tale of Blowfly and the Three Monsters

This story is a blending of tropes occurring in Native American myths with Blowfly substituted for Coyote. The main source as best as I can recall is "Coyote and the Earth Monster", though all the elements have been scrambled and I've given it a good infusion of Germanic Giant Myths. The trope of the clever hero tricking his stronger adversary is common in fairy tales around the world.

"Wise Wasp" This is an example of the strange parallel structure in some fairy tales with the cardinal directions represented.

"Rabit wolf spider" I don't mind spiders in my home as long as they aren't widow spiders or recluses. The little brown and tan rabid wolf spiders hunt cockroaches and silverfish, and as far as spiders go, kind of cute. I can't imagine, however, how terrifying they must be to their prey.

The Tale of Celah and Aves

"She smashed it" A hint of Germanic celebrations creeping in.

This is meant to parallel Ceber and Medy.

"Takara sy framdede" Takara is interrupted.

The Volcano

"A mighty/thunderbolt" What the gods can and cannot do is left deliberately vague. One does wonder why Takara doesn't just fry Ceber and be done with it.

Ceber Alone

"Lucky me..." Part of the fun of writing something in a 1100 year old form is the ability to engage in such overblown speeches. Nobody talks like this and in most contemporary forms such as the novel, a writer couldn't even dream of getting away with such declamatory text.

"Even ticks... are not immune to their own poison" As far as I know, ticks are not inherently venomous just filled with the sort of germs that'll fucking kill you.

"mauled fist" Armored.

"Lacewing lady" Lacewings belong to the order Neuroptera,which means "net-winged". Like most Neuropterans, they like light and fly poorly, but have terrifying predatory larva. The lacewing's larva, the "aphis lion", can destroy an aphid a minute, draining them dry with two sickle-like jaws. The aphids have no defense against these miniature terrors except to out breed the threat. Aphis lions therefore can be said to be one of the few creature that is not starving in its natural habitat. Lacewings are closely related to ant lions.

"Accuse all you want..." Groveling and now insulting. Yes, this is a scene of domestic abuse and by all rights our sympathy should fall with Takara, but as I've made her repugnant, many might not notice that she has just cause to hate her husband.

"Reconstitute him with the All..." A hint of what the wasps believe will happen in the end times. I imagine it to be a Ragnarok-like event.

"Skilled/in earthplay" Hawkwaps do spend a lot of time digging out burrows to entomb spiders in.

"defilade" A military term. Concisely, where enemy fire cannot reach.

"... die on your own term... in the heat of battle..." Epics usually feature a hero who epitomizes a culture. If dying in battle is expected of heroes, we can guess the end of the story. The end is extensively hinted at elsewhere, such as the human battlefield later, and the story of the dragon Ven earlier.

"You are only as weak as your last action" There is a terrible, terrible film called Robot Jox. Filmed in 1989, the plot is set in a futuristic world where Russia and America unwilling to wage nuclear war instead fight for territory using giant mechs. The effects are bad and the acting is somehow both wooden and over-the-top at the same time. It also has some memorably bad dialogue such as the golden, "I can't read, but I'm not dumb!" One of the villains, a traitor named Tex ('cause he's Texan, see?), betrays the hero. Tex has a moment of pathos just before killing a revered scientist-- a what the hell have I become moment-- and the scientist tells him, "We are all the people we have ever been," as a way to tell Tex that it isn't too late to come back from the darkside. Tex shoots him anyway. I thought the statement "We are all the blah blah blah" was climatically dumb. But the phrase kept bouncing around in my head. This is might direct refutation to that statement, not because it is necessarily true, but because it bothered me enough I had to comment on it somewhere, and here is as good a place as any.

"but agency they cannot touch" Not strictly true as Takara overrides freewill at least twice in the first part of the poem. This is, however, the justification for Takara killing people to possess them rather than forcing them to follow her will.


This section hearkens back to a tale I heard when I was a young child called "Yellow Corn Girl", a traditional Navajo story as told by Joe Hayes. In summary, a girl tending corn hears a song and finding a singing grasshopper instead of squashing him like her parents bade her, she makes a foolish bargain to let the grasshopper's family eat some of the corn if she can learn the song. The grasshopper's 15,000 relatives show up, and the girl and her family starve. The song here is not anywhere near the same, nor is the moral, nor is anything really, but I've kept the central idea of a person wishing to learn as song at the expense of some other desire.

"Spur-throated grasshopper" A differential grasshopper. They're common in gardens in the Southwestern United States. The food description of the Grasshopper both repulses me and intrigues me. I imagine it tasting like lobster, but BLEH! GRASSHOPPER!

"Not to salivate" I seriously doubt wasps drool.

"No verisimilitude" Grasshoppers sing to get laid.

Song of the Grasshopper

"Okikikikiki" This closely imitates what grasshopper songs sound like.

Ceber's Response

The entire grasshopper section was put in primarily for pacing reasons. Without it, Ceber shows up in the afterlife with no time passing at all.

Journey to Ja-Kara Zad

"Sly assassin bug" Seriously cool insects, assassin bugs are ambush predators who come in all colors and sizes. One type, camouflaged more by scent than color, hides in termite nests and uses dead termites to lure more termites to their deaths. Termites are obsessive about sanitation, and clear dead bodies out of the nest as fast as possible to prevent disease. The assassin bug waits until a worker tries to clean up the body and attacks. The new termite becomes the bait for the next termite, and so on.

Ja-Kara Zad

The afterlife of the wasps is designed to be The Scariest Thing for Bugs Ever. Akenzee is a black widow because that's the scariest spider I could think of, and is fraught with symbolism being black and red, two colors that mean much to the human mind.

"Lady Diptera" Diptera is the scientific order all flies and mosquitoes belong to.

"Threw her down" Zeus is always throwing titans down. Since Oufa is basically Bug-Zeus, I wanted him to throw down somebody.

"Look where you've..." It's not as if all those Ceber has kill don't have a point.

"Peptic coma" Wasp venom's basic components are usually peptides.

"Doesn't a murderess owe" Murderer vs. Murderess is a battle between being grammatically correct or poetically direct. I've taken a "deplorable compromise" (to use Ceber's phrase) and used both in this section. You can accuse me of being sexist by paying attention to genderfied nouns, such as elsewhere using "blonde" and "blond" to distinguish females and males, but I think I can defend myself here because all the principle action is carried out by females with the exception of Oufa and the Dragons. Wasps are interesting in that they are a female-based society and by default any story about them has to invert traditional male-female power dynamics. I'm not claiming this is a feminist work, but it is interesting to be writing from such a unique perspective.

"Like carotid artery" For all the anthropomorphism, they still are bloodthirsty, armored, flying monsters.

"The village entire" You can't write a long piece like this without getting a few of the format's idiosyncrasies stuck in your head. I'm now constantly having to purge alliteration from my prose, but the worse example was at an IHOP with a now ex-girlfriend and I said something like "I'll have the crepes linden-berry complete," and got a very strange expression from the waitress.

"I had a dream" Another pseudo-sonnet, this one with six syllables per line and some pretension to an ABAB rhyme scheme.

"Spider!" Ceber notes later that she always gives her opponents a chance to step aside before she kills them.

"Varying her circle" This is how actual hawkwasps fight. It's not entirely dissimilar to grappling, where a smaller, more agile opponent tries to tire out a larger adversary. The wrestler circles until until he/she spots an opening and strikes. The key difference here is that spiders have eight legs, so it is more difficult to lock their limbs up. The wasp is aided by having more joints than a human wrestler has, and each of these joints has hooks to further entangle the spider with little risk to itself.

"A great groan" A cheap way to keep Ceber from rescuing all of Terbeir and possibly anybody who died taking Valayis.

Takara in the Garden

Datura or loco weed or devil plant or jimson weed is a wild plant in the Belladonna family that grows throughout the Americas. It is a powerful drug. As described in Carlos Castaneda's Teachings of Don Juan, the principle anima for Datura is that of a vicious woman (not unlike Takara) who cannot not be controlled and may destroy her user on a whim if not carefully respected. Datura is a drug that can really wreck you because unlike weed, booze, mushrooms, X, meth, or any other drug I can think of, you do not know you are high when on it. Back when I was a teen and into experimenting with drugs, I tried a low dose using datura seeds. The effects went as follows: At on-set, my behavior was bizarre and my movements as if I were drunk, but I didn't realize it until five minutes later, but still thought that even though my behavior earlier was that of a high person, now I was okay. Ten minutes in, I realized the first five minutes, I'd been high as shit, but was glad to be okay. Fifteen minutes later, I realized I was high through the first ten minutes, but was reasonably confident I was acting rational again. And so on. At the end of the night, I managed to lock myself to in the inside of a friend's garage door with a pair of handcuffs, while acting (I thought) in a completely rational manner. Fortunately, my friend returned with the keys before I could reach the ketchup packets on a nearby shelf, which I had some notion of using on the cuffs to free myself. Not recommended. The tea version as described here is supposed to send you off the island for days.


Sein's singing is fairly insipid. It is based on "A Song" supposedly by Shakespeare, but probably not really, where the poet shows off his virtuoso rhyming skills in the same way Sein shows off his alliteration.

"Wyrm-Wunian" Translated as "Insect Home". Wunian means "to dwell" in Old English and is technically a verb, but I've used it as a proper noun here.

"Wall of heaven" The world is imagined to be a sort of curved sphere with an eggshell-like sky with another world behind it, similar to Native American myths.

"While the sky bruised purple" This device, called the Pathetic Fallacy, has to be used very sparingly because it can be heavy handed if the author doesn't keep it under control. This is a metaphor for Ausohara's emotional state, because good taste prevents me from describing her rape graphically in-scene.

"The mortals mess it up" Oufa's complaint is taken in part from Zeus' in The Odyssey about how immortals complain to the gods about everything.

"Where the worms" The worms, as stated before, are silk moth caterpillars and to my mind related to the Greek Fates who were weavers of a great loom. In the same way the worms here are also weavers. Divided into Past, Present, and Future; one devours the past, unmaking as it is unmade in our memories, one watches the present with her eyes so that it can be observed and recorded, and the final worm spins out the future.

"Said, says, and sayè" English has no future tense. The best we can do is stick auxiliary verbs in front of our present tense verbs. Will sit, will say. "Sayè" here is an attempt to force "said" into a Romantic Language-esque future conjugational a la Spanish. The idea being Epenè (note how his name ends) has said, is saying, and will say all his dialogue as if he speaks through all time. This makes Takara's slaying of him absurd as she would have to kill him simultaneously at all moments of his life to even hurt him.

"An idiodyssey" Man, I am proud of that pun.


"Far too fetid || to feed upon" Implying that Ceber would eat human if the opportunity presented.

"march fly" These small flies live in compost and often congregate in large breeding swarms in March.

"Flying spindles" The Spartans likewise were supposed to consider arrows cowardly. One wonders what they would have thought about ICBMs.

The Two Dragons

"Earth-Stepper" is a literal translation of the West Saxon "eardstapa", translated traditionally as "the Wanderer" as in the poem of the same name.

"Gall wasps" A bit of an obtuse joke. Gall wasps, much as the Romans perceived the Gauls, are viewed by the Kuroni and presumably the poem's narrator (in that the poetess is a character called Elinseh) as exotic but uncultured louts.

"merstrata" Translated into modern English as "water land", the ocean in other words. Think "mermaid" -> "sea maiden".

"Spur-throated" A locust variant of the grasshopper before, turned gregarious by the Black God. Either differential grasshoppers or the extinct Rocky Mountain Locust.

"October" Technically, the months in Ceber should follow those in The Voyage of the Roofer Boonhurst, so this would be more properly "Llmas".


"Horse-slayer" Velvet ants, sometimes called horsekillers because of their exceedingly painful stings.

"A dauber in my" Note that Jeena now speaks in prose.

"leapt from mandibles" Jeena's story is wildly inaccurate to the events. One wonders if she is lying or if she honestly believes what she is saying.

"No bedrock" Albuquerque is built on top of an underground aquifer and as such has no bedrock. Our buildings can't get very high. That's where this idea comes from. Since Valayis is a good place for wells, as mentioned in Chapter One, this makes sense.

"The people's anger eventually will" I'm probably commenting on Congress here.

"Sent her son" Much like primary epics, the story gets muddled as if the poet were relating the story second hand. But then so is Tamara, a nice in-world explanation of this lapse.

Ceber in the Cave

"The Cave ants" Ceber is black as are the ants, hence Nella's mistake. Nella is named after the Nostalgia Chick's friend, incidentally.

"But knew herself extinct" I try to drive this trope home wherever possible, so that the ending of the poem doesn't come as a shock, and is foreshadowed on a second read.

"Came into Jeena's hall" This is meant to mirror Fyrness's arrival in Shnon's chamber (the same room, in fact).


Melè is named after her great-grandmother.

Breah speaks in prose. This shouldn't lessen the reveal, however.

Much like Beowulf's third act, this is a jump in time. I'm violating one of Aristotle's poetic laws: "Unity of Time and Place".

The Masked God

"Beat her without killing..." If killing gods were easy, Ceber could have done it earlier and the poem would have ended at Terbier.

The Flight

"Crystaled with Gold" Old English poems can go on ad infinitum about treasure troves. That's what this is imitating.

"Scope and Hatan" Translates to "Singer and Fervency".

"To haul his" This story about Oufa hauling his palace out of the sea has no analog that I can think of, but it does recall tales of heroes or gods preforming some fantastic labor or feat.

"Like Lyr, the luckless cuckoo wasp" A jokey reference to King Lear as told by both Geoffrey of Monmouth and Shakespeare. Notice Lyr is a "cuckoo" wasp. That is to say a "crazy wasp".

"HolHammas" His name means "cave dwelling" or maybe "home in the ground". Harvester ants do have very square heads. Some ants have heads that fit into their burrow holes and can act as bulkheads against intruders.

"The goddess grinned" It's a pity we don't get to see more of Essa.

The Lion

Helkenes: Like Ja-kara Zad, this has no real meaning beyond the "nes" being a suffix for land such as the Middle English "Heathenesse and Christianesse".

The Worm and Ceber

This recalls the Browning poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came". At the end of that poem, Roland can see all of his long dead friends as he nears the Tower. That's what the Worm offers Ceber here.

The Breathless

"Sickle grass" I think of it as a malevolent version of the Elephant Grass that plagued the soldiers of 'Nam. I've heard, but cannot confirm, that the grass's edges were sharp enough to cut skin.

"The Great War" A bit like when the gods overthrew the Titans in Greek Myth.

"TAKARA MISTRESS OF THE MACHINES" This owes a lot ot Dracula's crypt, which when Van Helsing reaches it, has Dracula's name carved over it.

Takara, Goddess of Gears

"Judge me, you insect?" I've always loved the Out of the Whirlwind speech from The Book of Job. Takara's claim is sometimes used by a bad breed of Christian as a cheap way to persuade people into obaying God. Not that Takara should be in anyway conflated with the Judeo-Christian God. The poem is not allegorical. Despite my atheism, I do not intent Ceber to be didactic as such works are typically tedious.

"Unsure of your feet?" In fencing, a match is often decided by the feet more than the sword. Controlling distance is a very important concept, because if you control the distance between you and your opponent you are the one who determines who has the initiative to attack or defend.

"Damn you" As order is restored, Takara is forced back into the verse structure.

"Hercym endeth thaes gieddes Ceber Starlightes" Here ends Ceber Starlight's tale.


The Benediction is meant to be more humorous and light than what came before it. The direct insparation is Chaucer's note at the end of The Canterbury Tales and Puck's monologue at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I let the rhyme fall apart in the last three lines to indicate conclusion.


The Map

A page of the rough draft

Takara's speech


The following is a list of the books I used in someway to construct The Song of Ceber. These range from stylistic inspiration, to methodology. For instance, I used Beowulf to inspire the poetic form, and the introduction to Robert Fangle's translation of the Odyssey for its excellent background of the development of epics in oral traditions. You can also consider this a "further reading" list.

Alexander, Caroline. The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War. New York, NY: Viking, 2009. Print.

Chaucer, Geoffrey, and Larry Dean Benson. The Riverside Chaucer. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. Print.

Hayes, Joe, and Antonio Castro. The Gum Chewing Rattler. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos, 2006. Print.

Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. Print.

Homer, and Richmond Lattimore. The Iliad. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1962. Print.

Homer, and Robert Fagles. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin, 1997. Print.

Pope, John Collins, and R. D. Fulk. Eight Old English Poems. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. Print.

Thiel, Diane. Open Roads: Exercises in Writing Poetry. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2005. Print.

The Song of Ceber

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