There’s something awe-inspiring about being able to pull off two things that shouldn’t go together. A few years ago, at a very upscale restaurant, I was feeling just crazy enough after a dinner of nettle pesto lasagnette to try a rosemary pound cake with olive oil ice cream. It was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. (Countdown to vaguely homophobic, canned joke in three…two…one…)
A warrior-poet seems like it shouldn’t work. We intuitively think of a warrior and we think of a hulking barbarian with big muscles who likes to hit things and doesn’t think much. Manly men who like simple pleasures. And a poet, well, that’s a sensitive, frail weakling, prone to navel-gazing and crying over sunsets. So how the hell does olive oil ice cream taste so good? Let me tell you.
I really have no idea. I’m sure you have to use a really quality olive oil, one with that polyphenol telltale peppery back-of-the-throat tingle or something. It’s definitely a recipe that you need quality ingredients for. You probably use honey instead of sugar, too. I really don’t know. But I’d like to learn. I mean, the taste is so good, I can’t even describe it, it’s like… wait, what were we talking about?
A warrior poet isn’t just a combination of the two, it’s a synthesis. It’s a person who understands that war and poetry (and here, ‘poetry’ can mean any sufficiently refined form of expression. Poetry, literature, music, philosophy, etc.) are two sides of the same coin, not two poles on a long continuum. A warrior-poet is a great fighter, but since war is Serious Buisness, is contemplative. He/she thinks about the big questions, wrestles with the big issues. As has consistently been demonstrated by history, the only way to effectively wrestle with these issues is with expressing them in art – hence, the ‘poet’ part of the title.
Note that we’re not talking about the “cultured warrior” character archetype here, where a character is both a skilled warrior and has refined, artistic talents or hobbies – like James Bond. The warrior-poet is about a mindset, not a skillset. (Although most warrior-poets actually do play music/compose epic ballads/etc).
If you need a template for the warrior-poet, well, there’s really only one perfect real life example. A man who graduated university with a degree in Philosophy (just like me!), who wrote a book about philosophy while recovering from a work-related injury, and was also a noted poet. I think he did some kind of martial arts work or something as well. Of course I’m talking about…
Yep. Bruce Lee.
You can also point to Richard the Lionheart, Winston Churchill, Tupac, CS Lewis, Cao Cao, and Ernest Hemingway as real-life examples.
Warrior-poets are awesome. They’re my favorite character archetype ever, and though I’ve met few of them in real life, the few I have have blown me away. Let’s all go out and be warrior-poets today.
Just to conclude and to finish disputes, I’ll leave you with a great scene from my favorite warrior-poet from television. That’s my favorite, but it might not be yours. Sound off below – who ya got?