While I enjoy every line in Child of Light
I must admit I do not know
What type of verse is in the game
What kind of meter makes it flow
My profound apologies. This, by the way, is why I don’t write poems. And, I confess, I’ve forgotten just about everything I studied about poetry back in my school days. After playing the majestic Child of Light, though, I couldn’t help but wonder: What type of poetry guides us through the magical land of Lemuria as we embark on a wistful adventure with lovely Aurora and luminous Igniculus?
Although the rhyme scheme changes now and again, the vast majority of the verse shares a common format. “I would say 95 percent of the game is in ballad form, which is made up of four-line stanzas with rhyming words at the end of the second and fourth lines,” says the game’s writer Jeffrey Yohalem. “Then there are couplets and triplets for emphasis that break that up, which is part of ballad form.”
But don’t confuse ballads with highly structured nursery rhymes or the rigidly rhythmic iambic (stressed, unstressed) pentameter found in many of Shakespeare’s poems. “Ballad form uses variable iambic syllable counts,” Yohalem says. “It is flexible and built for long poems.”
That’s why you’ll sometimes see lines of differing lengths, or word pairings that don’t perfectly match up. “The form is somewhat in service to the content and even the masters cheat every now and then,” Yohalem explains. “For instance Coleridge in his ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner rhymes hear with mariner. And as long as the end of line 2 rhymes with the end of line 4, other rhymes can occur in the same stanza, but are not required.”
The only time Yohalem fully breaks out of ballad form is with the Confessions – secret letters found floating in the wind. In those cases, he uses the sonnet form. “Those are incredibly complex rhyming schemes,” Yohalem says.
While writing poetry can be tough enough, the biggest challenge for Yohalem wasn’t finding the perfect rhymes. “Overall it’s keeping every character’s voice very clear and distinct,” he says. “Doing that while rhyming is the toughest thing because you have to make sure that even though the cadence flows similarly between everyone, they all sound like themselves and not like each other.”
Economy is also essential with poetry. Unlike prose, there’s absolutely no room for meandering. Every line, word and syllable must have a reason for appearing. “You have to make sure the scenes are tight and that every beat happens accordingly and that you’re not adding pretty lines in order to complement the rhyme scheme,” Yohalem says.
Having crafted a genuine work of art with Child of Light, does Yohalem have any favorite lines from the game? “There are all kinds of moments that I love,” he says. “Rhymes emerge sometimes out of the blue and out of inspiration, elevating certain moments by the way they sound. There’s this incredible ballad that Óengus – one of the characters in the game – recites about the history of his people. I’m very proud of that. There are these moments that kind of burst out in song – I really love those.”
For more insights into the inspirations behind Child of Light, float over to these UbiBlog features: