1.25.2020 3:00 PM

O valley of plenty

We asked a poet laureate to judge Jaskier's poetry from 'The Witcher'

My former poetry professor called Jaskier an "untalented beginner."

Just like Geralt of Rivia, the real-life poet laureate of Vermont thinks that the bard Jaskier's music from The Witcher is like ordering a pie only to find that there's no filling. Jaskier may be the equivalent of a mediocre pop star on the Continent, but in terms of straightforward poetry here in the real world, his lyrics leave something to be desired.

There's no denying that Jaskier's song on The Witcher, "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher," is a viral hit, but the internet seems divided as to whether it's actually good poetry. So to get to the bottom of the issue we reached out to Vermont poet laureate Chard deNiord, who offered to analyze the bard's lyrics. [Full disclosure, deNiord was my professor at Providence College and we're friends on Facebook.]

"These stanzas work as song lyrics maybe, but not as a poem," deNiord tells Inverse. "Sounds like a rather untalented beginner wrote it — not a poem, just as a car without an engine or wheel is not a car."

“These stanzas work as song lyrics maybe, but not as a poem.”

"Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" is an undeniable earworm sung by Jaskier during the events of Netflix's The Witcher series. It was written by series composers Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli and performed by actor Joey Batey.

In the second episode of The Witcher Season 1, Jaskier tags along with Geralt on a mission and quickly assumes the role of the Witcher's PR manager, singing of the monster hunter's exploits. After one less-than-epic mission involving a fawn and some elves, Jaskier decides to embellish the actual events and spin it into a spirited tune. The chorus, in particular, is catchy beyond belief, albeit simplistic:

Toss a coin to your Witcher / O’ Valley of Plenty / O’ Valley of Plenty / O’ / Toss a coin to Your Witcher / O’ Valley of Plenty

The rest of the lyrics don't make a lot of sense without context from the episode, especially as we recognize some anachronistic phrases (one couplet references Elf on the Shelf, for example) and, as deNiord points out, there's a "vague use of 'it'" (What does Jaskier mean by "From whence it came"?)

He thrust every elf / Far back on the shelf / High up on the mountain / From whence it came

We can pick apart "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" as a poem — and we will in a moment — but nobody can deny the ballad's catchiness.

One unofficial version of the song on YouTube has over 16.3 million views. Elon Musk admitted the song was stuck in his head for a week. Actor Joey Batey may have called the song "annoying" in an interview with Men's Health, but he also admitted it had been stuck in his head for eight months and that re-recording it "did some wonders for [his] heart at the end of everything." Almost immediately after the show was released, fans started a petition on Reddit for Netflix to release the track in an official capacity. The streaming platform did just that earlier this week as a Spotify single on January 22 before releasing the full soundtrack album on January 24. Like many a good song, the lyrics of "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" aren't going to win any poetry awards.

Earlier this week, Polygon's Karen Han questioned the overall quality of the song. Neither she nor Chard deNiord think the lyrics hold up.

"There are too many forced rhymes and a lack of context or significance beyond the storyline of the TV show," deNiord argues, calling out "obscure facile lines" and the aforementioned vague us of "it."

He adds that, as poetry, the song lacks a coherent subject, suffers from awkward grammar, and, is generally speaking, incoherent — especially if you haven't seen the show.

As Karen Han notes in her piece, the phrase "ride along" is used, which sounds like contemporary slang. Perhaps the most egregious stanza substitute's "beat" for "bleat" as a groan-worthy but delightful pun:

While the devil’s horns / Minced our tender meat / And so cried the Witcher / He can’t be bleat

Without the context of the episode's plot, this stanza is rather confusing and probably accounts for Chard's note about "obscure facile lines." For the most part, there's no consistent rhythm or meter, and a few forced rhymes only make for weaker poetry.

"Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" might be rather weak in terms of poetry, but when we consider that it's more or less improvised by a young bard looking to make some coin and spread renown for his Witcher friend, it winds up being incredibly effective and successful. Poetry is a slightly different kind of art form compared to music. There's obviously a great deal of overlap, but if a song entertains us, then isn't that what matters the most? In a Twitter thread about Jaskier's music on the show, Netflix revealed that much of Jaskier's music was deliberately made to be "extremely, well, not good."

By comparison, then, "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" slaps as an earworm even if the lyrics aren't that great.

The Witcher is streaming on Netflix, and the soundtrack is available on Spotify.

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