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Your Justice Point Gear is Named After Famous Poetry

February 3, 2012

Update: Added some references to “Prufrock,” removed a few tenuous ones, and explained several elaborate metaphors.

Someone at Blizzard really likes the poetry of Keats and Eliot–and expressed this by naming over 100 blues and starter epics after their most famous works.

Keats’ poetry has a monopoly on Justice Point items, while Eliot’s “The Waste Land” shows up in most reputation-related gear. It sounds crazy, but here’s a teaser from “Ode to a Nightingale.”

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
  To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,   55
  To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
          In such an ecstasy!
  Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.



As I continued working on Wowhead’s transmog features yesterday, I remembered an early comment that I made about the Pauldrons of the High Requiem being a reference to “Ode to a Nightingale.” I thought it would be amusing to link to twitter, but while scrolling through more sets and browsing the poem, I noticed Vest of the Waking Dream (referring to the famous ending) and kept going. Originally I assumed there were just references to the one ode using ilvl 346 vendor gear, but Hamlet found a handful of references to Wordsworth and suggested I search reputation gear as well to see if there were more literary references.  Turns out there was.

The end result: there’s four full poems by Keats, select parts from “The Waste Land,” and fragments by other famous poets. I’ve copied all the relevant poems I found here with links to the gear. You can mouseover the link to see the name of the gear inspired by a particular phrase, as well as click on the link to see the item in a new window. I’ve also included a list of items I haven’t found references for yet, if anyone wants to give that a try.

@gomatgo was curious about my thought process over at WoW Insider–I’ll try to explain it a bit better. As the Content Manager for Wowhead, I spent most of my day mucking around in the database, whether it’s finding outdated information, creating new matching armor sets for the transmog feature, or writing comprehensive guides for the site’s weekend content. Also a few months back, I manually sorted all the armor in the database into identical models–which taught me that Blizzard can create the strangest similarities and patterns. (It was kind of hellish, but I survived.)

Most gear is named following a theme–molten imagery for Firelands, Egyptian references in Halls of Origination, aquatic life in Throne of the Tides. To see so many strangely-worded items (even before I knew of their exact source) tied to gear vendors or bosses that had nothing to do with in-game lore was curious. I have a pretty good familiarity with items in the database so when I decided to seriously embark on this after noting references across armor types, some items popped out without me needing to consult Wowhead. I did approach it pretty methodically, making item filters for each type of gear, as well as noting what gear didn’t seem to fit into any poems. Some phrases also seemed suspicious–the Dragonmaw Clan would use a phrase like Aetherial Rumors? Err, no. Typing in distinctive phrases like that to google on a hunch brought up even more poems.

1. Keats
2. Eliot: “The Waste Land”
3. Fragments: Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Tennyson
4. Conclusion and Remaining Items

Keats

Keats’ poetry shows up most prevalently in Justice Point gear: ilvl 359 capes, rings, trinkets, boots, as well as most ilvl 346 blues. Several Cataclysm BoEs, Guardian of Hyjal rewards, and dungeon drops also reference Keats (he’s especially popular in Stonecore). Initially assuming that the references were limited to “Ode to a Nightingale,” I soon discovered there was a healthy amount also in “To Autumn,” “Bright Star,” and “To Sleep.” Most of the references are unchanged from the source poetry–however, there are a few that are more clever bits of wordplay. There are also a few items based on standalone words–numbless, sunburnt, vines, melodious, etc–that on their own wouldn’t stand out as being related to an item, but when most other items of that armor slot and ilvl have a distinctive reference, it makes sense that they’d follow suit.

“Ode to a Nightingale”


MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
  My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
  One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,          5
  But being too happy in thine happiness,
    That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
          In some melodious plot
  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.   10

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  Cool’d a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
  Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!   15
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
          And purple-stainèd mouth;
  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:   20
(Note:Hippocrene is a fountain with sacred power created by Pegasus striking Mt. Helicon and leaving a gaping hole–hence, Mountain’s Mouth.Vest of the True Companion is half-explicitly referenced in line 15 with “true”–and the idea of a genuine companion to “fade away” with is the focus of this stanza.)

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
  What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
  Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,   25
  Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
          And leaden-eyed despairs;
  Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.   30

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
  Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
  Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,   35
  And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
    Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays
          But here there is no light,
  Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.   40

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
  Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;   45
  White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
    Fast-fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
          And mid-May’s eldest child,
  The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.   50

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
  To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,   55
  To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
          In such an ecstasy!
  Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.   60

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
  No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
  In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path   65
  Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
          The same that ofttimes hath
  Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.   70
(Note: Lines 65-69 really get the point of Eternity across (Pathfinders is clear with “found a path”). The song is described as originating in biblical times in Ruth’s sorrow (the Book of Ruth) and constantly reappearing through the ages.) 

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
  As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades   75
  Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
    Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
          In the next valley-glades:
  Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?

(Note: The narrator attributes the nightingale’s song with evoking strangely joyous qualities–upon hearing the song, he feels “rich to die” and describes the nightingale as “pouring forth thy soul in an ecstasy.” In that context, “Fled is that music” is a good approximation for Fleeting Joy.)

  80


“To Autumn”

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


“Bright Star”

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

(Notes: The Slippers of Moving Waters also matched–and were itemized well–for priest t11.

“Stedfast” is just one word, but the piece of JP gear is a chestpiece and the very next line talks about the steadfast love’s “ripening breast.”

I found “Fluid Death” to be a nice summary of the idea described in the last four lines–an ambiguous state where the narrator’s love interest hovers between life and death in the paradox of immortality.)

“To Sleep”
O SOFT embalmer of the still midnight!
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleased eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities;
Then save me, or the passèd day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oilèd wards,
And seal the hushèd casket of my soul.



Eliot: The Waste Land

Eliot’s sprawling modernist poem is the basis for most Cataclysm reputation rewards. These references are not immediately apparent–they’re clever reconstructions of the source material. For example, it’s neat how “faces that sneer and snarl” is not only turned into an item that uses the word “snarl,” but one that references “faces” as well: Snarling Helm.



Line 19:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),


Line 90:

That freshened from the window, these ascended
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.

Line 100:

So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls;


Line 173:
The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard.


Line 183:
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear



Line 343:

There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mud-cracked houses



Line 366:

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only



Line 385:

In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the roof-tree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning.


Line 413:
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours 
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus


Fragments

There are a cluster of items with distinctive-sounding names that can be traced back to other great poems in the canon. Wordsworth has a few JP items, Shakespeare has a BoE relic, Tennyson has a shield. There’s also isolated references to other works by Keats, as well as an elegy written about Keats by one of Canada’s poet laureates. And as several people have pointed out, there’s a few references to another poem by Eliot–“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot

Line 4:

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats         5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent



Line 15:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,         15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,


Line 84 (this item also summons a ghost):


I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,         85
And in short, I was afraid.


“The Daffodills,” Wordsworth
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


“The Lady of Shallot,” Tennyson
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay.


“Sonnet 73,” Shakespeare
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.


“Ode to Psyche,” Keats
Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branchèd thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:


“Ode on Melancholy,” Keats
(first draft–the more famous version substitutes ‘sadness’ for ‘anguish’)
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the anguish of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.


“By the Aurelian Wall: In Memory of John Keats,” Bliss Carman
By the Aurelian Wall,
Where the long shadows of the centuries fall
From Caius Cestius’ tomb
A weary mortal seeking rest found room
For quiet burial,

Conclusion

Speculation is fun. There’s a grey area of items that could possibly allude to famous poems if you squint the right way, and it’s enjoyable to find reasons to back this up. One could wonder if the nightingale roaming desert in “The Waste Land” is a reference to the Desert Walker Sandals.  Is Sorrowsong is a reference to “Ode on Melancholy,” as it’s a synonym for both words in the title and every other dungeon has a Keats reference, or just a generic sounding trinket? Part IV of “The Waste Land” covers an restless youth that died at an early age (but doesn’t actually use the word “impatient”), while Boots of the Forked Road could allude to “The Road Not Taken.” And there’s still some JP pieces that I haven’t found poems for yet.

So, why these poems? Unsurprisingly, they mostly cover themes of death and destruction–“The Waste Land” especially is reminiscent of post-Shattering Azeroth. “Ode to a Nightingale” and “The Waste Land” both reference a nightingale singing–but not just any song, one that’s timeless and pure through the ages–to a narrator half-wanting to give up. But it could just be a staff member’s favorite list of poems (how do “Daffodils” fit into this doom and gloom? Perhaps another metaphor for hope coming from sadness.). It also makes the most sense to fool around with entry-level gear names because higher level gear will mostly likely receive a ‘theme’ relating to the lore of an instance.

On a more subjective note, finding this array of references was like seeing a familiar face in a crowd. It was easy to form a contrast between the helpless narrators and the ‘player-hero’ persona everyone is constantly bombarded with when logging into WoW–from easy questing, to zone-wide narratives celebrating every move you make, to accelerated raid nerfs and LFR ensuring all characters feel integral in defeating Deathwing. (Not to mention, with how gear is reset every tier–hardly anyone notices this gear anymore with ilvl 378 gear from JP and heroics available instead.) I’d much rather occupy a world where there’s a place for the nightingales and narrators of Keats and Eliot, than one where everyone is competing to be the Savior of Azeroth and Thrall’s best friend in every plot line.

Anyway, I won’t pontificate about LFR or Valor Points…for the moment. But I would find it fun if people wanted to share other literary allusions they’ve found in WoW or find a home for the remaining JP items :) Thanks again to Blizzard for the awesome naming game!

Remaining JP Items (craftables/dungeon/quest gear isn’t listed):

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Hamlet permalink
    February 3, 2012 8:11 am

    Hey, I also told you that “Sticky Fingers” is from a somewhat well-known 20th century poet called Mick Jagger. I don’t see why that wasn’t included.

  2. February 3, 2012 8:45 am

    It’s maybe a bit of a leap but “Mirror of Truth” always made me think of Plath’s “Mirror”.

    “I am not cruel, only truthful-”

    “Vine belt of the Woodland Dryad” could also be a reference to Keats and his “Ode to an Nightingale”.

    “When the blazing sun is gone” is a line from Twinkle twinkle little star, so that could be the source for “Crown of the Blazing Sun”. Whether it’s a work of literary merit is possibly up for debate though.

    There is a Robert Southey poem called “the Hermit” which includes the lines:

    “For well the hermit Henry was beloved.
    He hastened to the chapel, on a stone
    Henry was sitting there, cold, stiff and dead,
    The bell-rope in his band, and at his feet
    The lamp that stream’d a long unsteady light”

    I’d like to think that poor Henry was remembered through a hermit’s lamp.

    Amazing post, loved reading it.

  3. Narci permalink*
    February 3, 2012 9:06 am

    Do you think the Dawnblaze Blade might be Dickinson? Also maybe the Hammer of Sparks mace?

    The Red — Blaze — is the Morning –
    The Violet — is Noon –
    The Yellow — Day — is falling –
    And after that — is none –
    But Miles of Sparks — at Evening –
    Reveal the Width that burned –
    The Territory Argent — that
    Never yet — consumed –

    I think the Bedrock Mace is clearly a tribute to our great poet Fred Flintstone.

  4. February 3, 2012 9:32 am

    I keep looking for the Rosy Fingers of Dawn, but alas.

    Excellent post, Perc. Really well done.

  5. Narci permalink*
    February 3, 2012 9:56 am

    At least she has a gear set while she waits for her vanity item? http://www.wowhead.com/transmog-set=37

  6. Nikki permalink
    February 3, 2012 10:25 am

    Ethel Caution-Davis – The River is described as:

    “a decrepit old woman shivering in her sombre shawl of fog”

  7. Dugrungos permalink
    February 3, 2012 10:26 am

    I’d hazard a guess that Yellow Smoke Pendant is a reference to the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

  8. Lani permalink*
    February 3, 2012 10:36 am

    I love everything about this post! Great work, here. Sadly poetry is not my strong suit so I don’t have anything to add, I’m just going to read and enjoy!

  9. February 3, 2012 12:22 pm

    Thanks for reminding me how much I can enjoy reading poetry, especially as a form of Hide&Seek!

  10. February 3, 2012 2:15 pm

    Given what we can’t buy any “foonting turlingdromes” or “crinkly bindlewurdles”, I’s guessin’ what Blizz ain’t a fan of Vogon poetry. More’s the pity.

  11. February 3, 2012 2:18 pm

    On reflection I think Milton and Paradise Lost makes more sense for the “Crown of the Blazing Sun”.

    “Sometimes tow’rds heav’n, and the full-blazing sun”, especially since a few lines later he says “O thou, that with surpassing glory crown’d”.

    Just had to sing Twinkle twinkle little star to a bunch of three year olds earlier so it was stuck in my head.

  12. Hamlet permalink
    February 3, 2012 2:28 pm

    [Baradin Footman's Tags] is also the “eternal Footman” from Prufrock. It’s not merely the one-word match, but also that the item summons a ghost of a footman. We should scan Prufrock closely again, it’s such a ubiquitous poem.

  13. Flynn permalink
    February 3, 2012 4:48 pm

    Probably just an oversight, but the first stanza of “Ode to a Nightingale” includes “shadows numberless,” for the Helm of Numberless Shadows.

  14. February 3, 2012 5:12 pm

    Dagger of Restless Nights is Prufrock. As is Chestguard of Insidious Intent (which is a 226 Yogg drop). So maybe this was done occasionally for older items too.

  15. February 3, 2012 7:32 pm

    I don’t for a second think any of these were on purpose… Most of these are simply matching one word with an item, and they’re common words. Try the same with any poem and you’ll get tons of matches. They aren’t even specific enough to the author to warrant these poems over any other. Like, any other at all.

    That said, I found it entertaining to see the connections you made, and there were one or two that really might have been on purpose. I mean one of the greatest things about poetry is that everyone can read it and get completely different meanings… they aren’t necessarily right, but they’re interesting. So this whole post is kinda in that vein, Lots of work into it too! :)

  16. February 3, 2012 8:25 pm

    I love this post. My original major in college was “verse,” and I do believe many of these phrases were drifting about in the unconscious of the Blizzard crew. Just bear in mind with Eliot, there’s always a good chance that memorable phrase was borrowed from Shakespeare, Milton, etc. I thought “those are pearls that were his eyes” was such a great line from the Wasteland, and then I saw the Tempest…

  17. Classy permalink
    February 8, 2012 8:17 pm

    While there may be a few “grey” ones, I do think that a majority of these were intentional, such as “Cluster of Stars” and “Woe Breeders Boots.” I’d say about 90%. Love the work you did to create this! Very thought-provoking and interesting to see all the name inspirations.

  18. February 11, 2012 12:04 am

    I see a few sceptics here about the poem linkage and items… but as someone who LOVES to see the connections between WoW stuff and pop culture, I think this was a fantastic post Perculia and really well researched.

    Sometimes I wonder if the people who created these little ingame references get chuffed when we discover them and immortalise them in blog posts ;)

  19. February 29, 2012 5:28 pm

    …looking….searching….for words…

    …speechless.

    Navi, I wonder the same thing about the “chuffing,” all those literary-types being outed!

    Excellent post – you have a new fan!

Trackbacks

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