The Song and The Travels of Tiadatha

Here I have transcribed two books of poetry I discovered last year in a second-hand shop, Major Owen Rutter’s WWI pieces,

The Song of Tiadatha


The Travels of Tiadatha

I hope you may enjoy them.

About the Tiadatha books

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page on Owen Rutter

I was buying some second-hand poetry recently, and having picked up several early editions of Robert Service’s Yukon ballads, I picked up a book by the same publisher, with the same dull red cover, with the intriguing title, “The Song of Tiadatha.” Having already discovered Henry Longfellow’s Hiawatha, the name-form rang a bell, and I bought it. I soon discovered it to be an entertaining and thoroughly original work.

Major Owen Rutter (1889 – 1944) was commissioned into the Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War, serving with them in France, then in Salonika, and whilst editing for the soldiers there ‘The Balkan News,’ he wrote up his account of soldiering life into his Song of Tiadatha, published in editions of the Balkan. So popular did it become, telling the common tale of how war makes a young nut into a soldier, that it was promptly published in 1919, and a further story of the hero’s travels came along in 1922.

Tiadatha (Tired Arthur) is a young well-heeled chap lazing about in St. James and Piccadilly prior to the war, and the Song takes him from his comfort and ease, and we follow him through a growing learning process of training and going to war, meeting on his last day before embarkation his green-eyed Phyllis, whom we hope he will come back to in the end.

The Travels meets Tiadatha returned from war and experiencing the let-down that many found after the wartime exertions and excitement, and so he takes a journey to see his friend Percy in Borneo, and they travel together around the world, coming as before back to the harbour of London and his green-eyed Phyllis (after some misunderstanding).

Tiadatha’s Verse Form

Tiadatha uses a verse form little used by poets, the trochaic tetrameter, or, to explain it simply, each line has eight syllables, and the meter or rhythm of the form demands there be emphasis on the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th syllables of each line. It was loosely used in the early 19th Century for the Finnish epic Kalevala, but really found worldwide use through the American poet Henry Longfellow, who thought it ideal, with its sing-song intonation, for the rendering of some Ojibwe legends.

A useful quote from Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha may demonstrate the use of the meter and the stressing of the syllables, noted here in Bold.

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,

By the shining Big-Sea-Water,

Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,

Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

Dark behind it rose the forest,

Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,

Rose the firs with cones upon them;

Bright before it beat the water,

Beat the clear and sunny water,

Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water

It is a very simple verse form, and indeed carries no requirement of rhyming at all, but when done well it can be read with a highly rhythmic voice and it simply flows. It is also easy to write, and one can set down reams of the stuff quite quickly, but to do it well requires time and creativity. As rhyming is not a factor here, other techniques come into play, such as repetition, use of similar word forms together for emphasis, and indeed dramatic introductions and summings-up are de-rigour with this form. All is done with a view to the meter and the flow of the piece, it is a very good way to tell a flowing and burbling story.

Major Owen Rutter – known as “Klip-Klip” to his Balkan News readers – clearly saw the potential in this particular verse form, and we are rewarded with the opportunity to enjoy his stories,

So, without further ado, please have a read and enjoy.

The Song of Tiadatha


The Travels of Tiadatha

Although I am aware that, strictly speaking, the Tiadatha books are still just within copyright, there are other versions already available online, and I have transcribed the text purely for the purpose of allowing other people to read a work that deserves to be read.