The minstrel boy to the war has gone, In the ranks of death you'll find him; His father's sword he hath girded on, And his wild harp slung behind him.
— Thomas Moore, "The Minstrel Boy"
Modern Western culture tends to think of Warriors and Poets as belonging to distinct, different and opposing groups. Warriors are manly men who like hitting each other and other simple pleasures. Poets are culturally refined wimps.
Traditionally though, poetry and war are complementary pursuits. Poems sing of the glory found in battle. Honor and virtue are on display when men are facing deadly peril. Experiencing death and the horrors of war makes a man contemplate the big questions of life. Often the war is being fought for some greater purpose or cause, such as liberty. Great generals devote their spare time to philosophy, wondering what it all means. Poetry (except blank verse) is built on the optimal deployment of limited resources - words that fit together with other words, and with words that aren't there - not unlike the strategic decisions a soldier makes on the battlefield.
Note that this isn't only about poetry. This trope is about literature, music, writing epic sagas, philosophy... any sufficiently refined way of expression combined with warfare, fighting or any kind of physical combat.
Thus singers, poets, and writers have gone off and joined the armed forces, looking for that glory and enlightenment. They are often welcomed by the other warriors who want someone who can express their feelings and experiences in poetry or song. Often because they themselves feel those things too deeply to be able to express them bluntly in plain words (unless they are drunk).
That's where this character comes in. He's fought in battle and is no slouch at war making, but he thinks about the purpose behind all the bloodshed and philosophizes on the meaning of life and death. Since War Is Hell he tends to have a bit of a melancholy tone about it all. Perhaps his poems long for peace as only a man who has seen war can. However, since War Is Glorious he might write songs glorifying the battle he just witnessed. If he is a supporting character, expect other warriors in his Band of Brothers to be moved by his poetry and philosophical insights when he shares them.
If he's the lead, he might be a loner with his fellows being unable to understand his way of thinking. It might also be a way of showing his Love Interest that he's not just a bloodthirsty barbarian but actually a sensitive soul who is forced to do horrible things because of war or human nature (as he understands it).
Note: Do not mistake this for Cultured Badass. That trope is about a Badass with "cultured" hobbies; this trope is about a mindset rather than hobbies. Essentially, a Cultured Badass can appreciate love poetry, but a Warrior Poet will incorporate that poetry into their daily life and their thoughts about warfare. Additionally, a Cultured Badass can enjoy battle for the thrill and pleasure, but a Warrior Poet will espouse something more mystical and/or spiritual from the fighting. Basically, just because you can write poetry doesn't mean you are a poet.
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Gennosuke Kouga from Basilisk is not only a mighty swordsman who doesn't even need to brandish his blade to kill you, he's also a talented flautist and dancer.
The first indication that Sori-sensei is a Bad Ass comes from him cutting a guy to pieces with barely any effort, because 'people who treat art as a doormat are not welcome in his house'.
Killer Bee from Naruto is actually a warrior rapper, who in fact almost always speaks in rap.
Captain Raballo, the handler assigned to train Claes in Gunslinger Girl, has an extensive library on the grounds that knowledge is essential to any soldier. On noting, however, that the book he's reading is about growing vegetables, he says dryly: "Should come in handy if we're invaded by plants from outer space." (manga only)
Darker than Black has the character of Isaak, who fits this both literally and figuratively. He is a KGB agent and has a compulsion to write poetry after using his powers. In a figurative sense, he and his partner Bertha are presented as being remarkably sensitive and likable, even though they feature in the series as opponents of the hero.
Several of the characters from Black Lagoon have a tendency to fall into this.
A one-time example in Bobobo Bo Bobobo: When fighting Carman, Bobobo and Softon take to writing Haiku. Carman thinks that this will distract them long enough for him to get a few hits in. Unfortunately for him, one of Bobobo's was:
"I'll beat you to death!
Beat beat beat beat beat beat beat!
I'll beat you to death!"
Also a literal example in the other Cyber Knight, Poet.
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Evangeline occasionally waxes eloquent concerning topics such as the nature of happiness, what true power is, and what it means to have a soul.
Graham Spector of Baccano mixes this with Talkative Loon. His endless monologues certainly seem poetic, but his rapid mood shifts and short attention span makes him sound more schizophrenic than anything.
Vice-Captain Kira of the military force, the Gotei 13, is a published haiku poet.
Captain Kyouraku is a published writer, but he has no idea how unpopular his stories are.
Shibata Taketora of Shibatora is a kendo champion who cautions a hotheaded young practitioner that "A fighting heart is not a strong heart. A heart which seeks conflict will never find true strength." Shortly after, he demonstrates his ability to cut down a violent delinquent with a "shinken," a word usually used to mean "real sword," but which he uses to describe a "heart sword," an imaginary blade.
Most of the traits that make up a Warrior Poet also exist in Destruction of The Endless from Neil Gaiman's series The Sandman. He abandoned his role as overseer of destruction to try his hand at being creative — like writing poetry and painting pictures... really, really badly.
Thorgal inversion : he started off as a skald (Viking bard), then got into the warrior biz (mostly against his will, which he will never let you forget).
V is a rather flamboyant example: superhuman speed and reflexes, check. Awesome hacking skills, check. Suicide-bombing-level of insanity, check. And when he's not fighting? Well he just grows roses, writes songs, and reads so much he can quote Shakespeare, Goethe, or Pynchon by the book and generally behave as a Shakespearean anti-hero, emulating the speech of the playwright's characters to perfection.
Wallace from Sin City is a soft-spoken, intelligent, and highly philosoiphical man... who can kill you in 90 different ways... after making the most polite warning you've ever heard.
Ultimate Thor. He used to be arrogant and lust for battle (not unlike the mainstream version...), but after maturing (and experiencing Ragnarok), he's become much more philosophical and thoughtful. More commonly, he will talk his opponents to death rather than battle them directly; however, he has been known to face down alien armadas, the Hulk, a super man, and the entire team of Ultimates. Twice.
Katsumoto from The Last Samurai is made of this trope. He is the titular samurai after all. They wrote as much poetry as death warrants.
The main villain from the film The Proposition, Arthur Burns, despite being a violent and dangerous sociopath, has a wonderfully eloquent and deep outlook on life. He is just as capable of looking off into the sunset and quoting Burroughs as he is capable of torturing and murdering innocent people.
The Proposition is full of such characters. Captain Stanley is a Shakespeare-quoting badass played by the mighty Ray Winstone, and Jellon Lamb is a bounty hunter of "no little education." Considering that Nick Cave wrote the screenplay, it's only natural that everyone around is going to be super-literate.
Adam Sandler's character, Zohan, is a crazily competent Mossad agent who decides to leave war behind and choose the Ambiguously Gay profession of hair stylist
Along similar lines but done seriously, Daniel Silva's series character Gabriel Allon is an Israeli spy and assassin who when on 10-Minute Retirement has the delicate profession of art restorer.
Broken Sword, one of the three Zhao master assassins of the 2002 film Hero, is a calligraphy artist and a poetic philosopher in addition to being deadly with a blade.
The last lines of Braveheart: "They fought like warrior-poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom."
D'Artagnan: I may not wear the tunic, but I believe I have the heart of a Musketeer. Porthos: Warrior. Aramis: Poet.
Chris Kenner from Showdown In Little Tokyo is a cop who has immersed himself in Samurai culture. His half Asian partner Johnny Murata laughs when Kenner tells him he practices the art of Ikebana (flower arranging). Kenner tells him that a warrior must nurture his sensitive side or else leave it vulnerable to attack, and points out that many of the most powerful Samurai wrote poetry.
Twilight from Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole calls himself one after he is given the nickname "The Warrior" by the Echidna. In fact, like in the books, he's been known to sing heroically to cheer his friends on and frighten his foes.
Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most thoughtful and introspective of the Avengers, not to mention being a talented artist before his induction into superheroism.
Volker of Alzey in the Nibelungenlied - court musician, but also one of the most badass fighters in the epic poem. The anonymous writer loves to refer to Volker's sword as his "strong (fiddle-)bow".
Most unicorns in The Firebringer Trilogy count as this - though they are trained and raised as warriors, they also enjoy the festivities of having one appointed "singer" tell poetic stories of their heritage. Tek in particular is both a fearsome warrior and a talented singer.
And again in Interesting Times. Lord Hong is the cleverest person in the Aurient, so it's him who figures out that when choosing someone for a highly specialised position, for instance warrior, it's better to examine them on that topic than the level of exquisiteness of their seven-line poem about an ethereal white horse floating through a lavender meadow.
Cao Cao from Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a perfect example. Not only did he conquer most of Northern and Central China, but was also a famous poet who is credited today for starting the Jian'an style of poetry in China.
Other characters display this as a more important part of their back-story, as well. For example, Lu Meng of the Wu Kingdom was once something closer to a Glory Hound or The Brute, when his superiors berated him for it. Unlike most brutes, however, he actually took it upon himself to become a scholar as well as a warrior, and achieved far greater fame for his efforts.
Considering what period of China this takes place in, and how it shaped Chinese thought about war for centuries, this belief should not be considered surprising.
Maglor from The Silmarillion, who, after spending the better part of the book (somewhat reluctantly) engaged in wholesale slaughter of innocent bystanders in an effort to steal back the eponymous Silmarils, decides to throw the one he eventually acquires into the sea and take up a repentant existence Walking the Earth and singing about how sorry he is.
Just to be clear: he already was a great minstrel while being a warrior.
Gurney Halleck in Dune is a literal example. He is a musician and philosopher with seemingly infinite supply of witticisms for any occasion. He is also a remorseless killer, perfectly willing to cut any Harkonnen he comes across (or anyone who gets on the wrong side of Duke Leto for that matter) into pieces.
Alan Dale of The Outlaw Chronicles is a minstrel who has performed duets with King Richard the Lionheart (making verses up on the spot to tactfully remind the King that he owes Robin (Robin Hood, now an Earl) a large amount of money) and for Queen Eleanor, being the originator of pretty much all the songs about Robin...and is tall, especially for the time, being 6 foot tall, strong, fast and reckoned one of the best swordsmen in the kingdom by his late teens/early twenties. That and using unorthodox fighting moves to beat a far better swordsman in under 2 minutes.
Richard himself, who happens to be even better at both.
Daniel Hagman, of Sharpe, is the best marksman in his unit but is also a talented musician, singing for the other men (in one case as the man dies) and occasionally playing the guitar or some equivalent. Of course, this was mostly because his TV actor is primarily a folk singer and wrote or arranged most of the music for the show...
Incidentally, Gurney Halleck does exactly the same thing (singing to a dying man) in Dune... coincidence?
Lieutenant-Colonel Girdwood, on the other hand, thought of himself as a warrior-poet but proved to be incompetent in both areas.
Subverted in the sci-fi novel Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. The protagonist Cheradenine Zakalwe wants to be a poet as well as a soldier, but all his efforts are amateurish. In a particular irony the novel is bookended by the (much better) poetic efforts of his co-workers. Worth noting is his behavior after he realized he was a better warrior than a poet. There was a nasty slave-driver who liked to cut off people's tongues. Right after Zakalwe left the planet he was on at the time, the guy's corpse was discovered with a look of horror on his face, and several human tongues and the paper on which Zakalwe was trying to write poetry shoved down his throat.
In a similar vein, Brandark Brandarkson from David Weber's War God series. A hradani with all that entails but also a well read scholar and a decent musician (plays the balalaika specifically). However his singing voice is atrocious and his attempts at poetry don't rise above the equivalent of witty limericks.
Fiddler of the Malazan army always carries an instrument with him but never seems to play it. As it turns out, the few times he does play it the song can touch the hearts of an entire city.
The Executioner. Soldier-turned-vigilante Mack Bolan is very well read. Each novel in the series begins with a couple of quotes from a literary work, then a quote from Bolan's journal giving his own take on it. His favourite book is Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, as Bolan often sees himself as "tilting at windmills."
David Zindell's Requiem for Homo Sapiens has the Order of Warrior-Poets. Every year they clone billions of children, whose educational process includes regular fights to the death — either via combat, or poetry competitions. Each "graduating class" numbers in the hundreds, if that.
Death Star has Nova Stihl, Imperial prison guard, trooper, and master of martial arts, who has Battle Precognition. He's also got a sense for fair play and likes training people. And the stash of illicit holograms under his bunk? Dissertations on philosophy. He doesn't think of himself as a particularly deep thinker in the start of the book, though.
Brandark Brandarkson from David Weber's War God series wants to be one of these badly. He's got the Warrior part down; it's the Poet part that eludes him. His attempts at poetry are mediocre at best and while a gifted scholar and skilled musician but the less said about his singing voice the better, which is a problem when coming from a society where poets are of the bardic tradition.
Jonathan Hemlock of The Eiger Sanction. Assassin and art historian.
Nearly all Middle Eastern royalty had some elements of this trope. Ottoman Sultans in particular were known not only for their abilities on the battlefield but for their patronage and in many cases their participation in great art. Suleyman the Magnificent was a proficient metalworker, and most rulers after him decided to master a craft as well.
O heck, almost everybody. Even the Hobbits. Even Samwise. Well he wasn't that good of a poet, but still...
Al'Lan Mandragoran (a.k.a. Lan) in the Wheel of Time. It's almost an Informed Ability, since there is exactly one scene in the series in which he recites poetry, but given that he's rightfully a king one would expect him to have a certain amount of cultured education.
From A Wizard Abroad, we have Tualha, the bard who goes into battle and recites epic — and insulting — poetry at her enemies. And is a small kitten.
Both Aubrey and Maturin from the Aubrey Maturin series. Each has his forte and loves bringing destruction to the enemies of the crown; Aubrey as a more than competent naval officer, Maturin as a spy. Also, they're deadly with blades and guns individually. And in their spare time they wile away the hours playing duets written for violin and cello. And the officers under Aubrey's command also love music and turn their hand to poetry. Frankly, this is Truth in Television, since months sea could get boring.
In Mikhail Akhmanov's Envoy from the Heavens, Ivar Trevelian arrives on a planet to investigate why the local Human Alien population is stuck in Medieval Stasis for the better part of a millennium. He disguises himself as a member of the Rhapsod Brotherhood (traveling bards and minstrels), so his travels don't arouse suspicion. Very quickly he finds out that singing and entertaining is not all the rhapsods do. Apparently, they are also highly-skilled warriors, feared and respected throughout the world. When the need arises to dispense justice, they replace their robes and lutes with armor and weapons. Thanks to his own training, Ivar is equal to them in this regard.
Heir Apparent: Saint Bruce was a warrior poet./He lived in a cave, don't you know it?/He wrote sonnets and verses,/But never said curses./He'll give you one chance—please don't blow it.
The sci-fi short story Between Two Dragons by Yoon Ha Lee is set in a Space Opera future where the military leadership are all expected to be warrior poets, so that even messages of defeat have a certain grace to them.
According to Ax, in the Animorphs universe Andalite warriors are supposed to be scientists and artists as well as soldiers. How well the first two actually take depends on the individual.
Draycos the K'da of the Dragonback series explicitly calls himself a warrior-poet. He's shown considering how he could compose something for an occasion, and before he learns how to read English he once memorizes something by making a kind of poem in which each letter is a warrior posed in a particular way. He's also quite good at the warrior aspect.
Many characters in The Icelandic Sagas. Norse culture did not see literary talent and fighting ability as incompatible, and often they went together, as one of the most effective ways of making your name as a poet was coming up with cutting insults for your enemies. Who would often respond by trying to cut bits off you.
One of the most notable examples is Egil Skallagrimsson, an anti-hero Viking native to Iceland who was both noted as ground breaking skald and all around badass berserker. In his titular saga after an event the narrative will stop to relate a poem Egil supposedly sung to mark the occasion. He was so good he convinced one King Eric Bloodaxe to abandon their long running feud instead of having Egil's head chopped, with a poem he made up the night before.
The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is about two Warrior Poets in a tragic love triangle with a woman.
In Beowulf a hero is not judged just by how well he can perform feats of bravery and strength. He is judged at least as much by how well he can tell tales of his heroic feats.
In the Bible, King David was a serious and successful battler on the field. He also played the harp, sang, and wrote many many of the songs in Psalms.
Could be said of Klingons in general. They love their opera (tends to be violent) and would love to claim Shakespeare as one of their own.
Standard Klingon mating rituals apparently involve the male reading love poetry... while ducking the roaring, clawing female's hurled objects.
Starfleet officers are like this too in a less flamboyant manner.
Jean-Luc Picard in particular exemplifies this trope. "[...]the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet." He's also in command of his civilization's single most technologically advanced and powerful vessel. While battle for him is a last resort, he is still an imposing tactical and moral presence (particularly his alternate universe self, who personally mans the tactical station when a certain officer is killed). "If the cause is just and honorable, they are prepared to give their lives. Are you prepared to die today, Tomalak?"
For the matter of that, even Quark was this in "looking for Par'mach in all the wrong places"-with Worf's help.
G'Kar, of Babylon 5, post-season three epiphany. While he has a difficult time teaching his people, he is highly respected and his book becomes one of their holy books, painstakingly reproduced by hand (complete with a certain circular mark on page 83).
For that matter Deleen could qualify; though she is more a mystic that Minored In Asskicking then a warrior who minored in poetry.
Sinclair tops all of them. He's Valen, the prophet of the Minbari religion.
Ta'Lon, G'Kar's replacement as Narn ambassador. G'Kar explains that he chose Ta'Lon because they are both warrior poets, only coming at it from opposite directions. He's capable of kicking major ass (and wields the Narn equivalent of a katana), but also has a rather philosophical bent, and is G'kar's intellectual equal, at least. When G'Kar gives Ta'Lon a Mathematician's Answer in one episode, Ta'Lon not only calls him on it, but does so in an eloquent manner.
Ta'Lon: A stirring reply, Citizen G'Kar. Unfortunately, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. You did not answer my question.
Stargate SG-1 has two perfect examples in Teal'c and Bra'tac, two highly-honored and wise leaders and warriors among their race, the Jaffa. They started the rebellion by their people against those who enslaved them, and are widely honored as among the wisest, if not the wisest, of the Jaffa. Despite their age, they are stronger warriors than most other Jaffa. Still, they are full of wisdom and are incredibly loyal and caring. They fight with both action and words, sometimes even at the same time, which is absolutely awesome. They have never, ever, ever renounced their beliefs, even when faced with death. In this situation, their only response is, "I die free."
Other Jaffa have displayed some of these characteristics, but Teal'c and Bra'tac are the prime examples. Most other Jaffa simply fall into the Proud Warrior Race Guy category.
The Brunnen-G of Lexx are described as "a race of romantic warriors" or "romantic dreamers", who led the rest of humanity to victory against a civilization of planet-sized insects — all while sporting beehive hairdos and dazzlingly intricate rainbow-colored bodysuits. (Curiously, the only Brunnen-G poet we meet, Poet Man, is a non-conformist who wears drab, colorless clothes and a plain hairstyle.)
And one of the Divine Shadow brains was a Genocidal Tyrant Poet:
His Shadow: As a result of the fall the evil section of my brain was destroyed. Only my poet half remains. I am at peace. Fair lady, would you care to hear a sonnet?
Tyr Anasazi in Andromeda. Often seen reading Ayn Rand while on bridge duty. The whole of Nietzschean society was meant to be this by their progenitor, but even the Nietzcheans themselves admit this was generally a failure.
D'Argo from Farscape: quite apart from the time where he revealed that the "weapon" he'd been building for the last few episodes was actually a musical instrument, but his ultimate goal was to settle down, grow a few vineyards and make wine for the rest of his life. It's his life-long dream.
For a while, 'Warrior-Poet' took pride of place as the main word used to describe Stephen Colbert in the opening credits for The Colbert Report. (Others include 'Megamerican' and 'Grippy'.) Other than that, he has very little to do with this trope.
Not necessarily. It could be said that this is how the character Stephen Colbert sees himself: valiant, but also intelligent and refined, while still placing valor before strict reasoning (i.e. his frequent references to "gut" thinking) all of which are common traits of warrior poets. The humor comes in to play because he's actually boorish, bigoted, and fears things such as bears and "Threats to My Heterosexuality."
Spike, from Angel and Buffy. He spends most of the series as either a big tough bad guy or trying to deny his Heel Face Turn. In the penultimate episode of Angel, however, he spends his last evening before the Final Battle drinking and talking big — acting as if he's trying to start a bar-brawl — but it's all to work up his courage to get up and read his poetry to the audience at the bar. He actually was a poet before he became a vampire, and found himself with the nickname 'William the Bloody' because his poetry was so bloody awful.
Ironically, the 21st-century crowd applauded the same poem that his 19th-century critics dismissed as 'bloody awful'. Either tastes have changed or everyone at open mic night was plastered.
Don't forget that Angel's also an accomplished sketch artist. No one ever mentions it, really, but he draws exceptional portraits quite often.
And Cordelia has confirmed that he has a fashion sense ordinarily only seen in women and gay men.
Buffy would like to study poetry, but doesn't have the time. Her lecturer joking suggested she try short poems instead.
Book: "Fancied himself quite the warrior poet. Wrote volumes on war, torture, the limits of human endurance. He said, 'Live with a man forty years; share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then tie him up, and hold him over a volcano's edge. And on that day, you will finally meet the man.'"
Simon: "What if you don't live near a volcano?"
Book: "I suspect he was being poetical."
Simon: "Sadistic crap legitimized by florid prose."
Sadistic gangster Adelei Niska turns out to be a big fan of Shan Yu, needless to say.
It seems that a philosophical streak is a job requirement for the position of an Operative.
Oh, and Mal read a poem (try not to faint). That counts for something, doesn't it?
Its All There In The Manual. It's explained in some sources (such as the RPG core book) that he grew up the son of a wealthy rancher. His mother wanted him to be cultured, which would explain him being familiar with Coleridge (who wrote the poem in question), as well as other traits like his knowledge of high society dances.
Although the Daleks of Doctor Who are supposed to have little emotion, they apparently enjoy poetry.
Their most celebrated and mentioned work on that subject is The Lament of the Non-Operational, a 128-stanza poem.
The Cold Sniper in The Kill Point is a subversion. He seems like quite the philosopher at first, but as the series goes on, it becomes clear that he's just babbling about whatever pops into his head.
According to a deleted scene, Ronon Dex used to write poetry in his youth (though it may have been a way of impressing the ladies).
Jax from Sons of Anarchy writes down his thoughts in a diary. Like his Father.
The novelty song/comedy sketch "Boot to the Head (Tae Kwan Leep)" features a martial arts master trying to teach philosophy and mediation to his students. When Ed Gruberman makes it difficult, he shows him why he is the master.
Much of the lasting appeal of slain rap icon Tupac Shakur is the question of whether he was, deep down, an intellectual or a thug.
The Irish hero Finn MacCool, known nowadays for having far too many pubs named after him, was an early example of this trope. He commanded a large group of heroes who were required to be masters of war and poetry as well.
Väinämöinen in The Kalevala. Not only he is the mightiest poet ever, but his kantele is made from a jawbone of a giant pike.
Tristan (or Tristran) was musically gifted, and also a knight of the Round Table.
King David composes much of the book of Psalms in his free time from giant slaying and country-rebuilding. In fact, the only reason He Who Slew Hundreds of Thousands has an opportunity to become king is that the music he played could make you cry and the previous King had to hear him. He's also famous for dancing happily in the street once he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.
Samson tried to get in on the action quite a bit earlier, in the midst of a riddle game. Readers of English translations in which the poem rhymes sometimes mistake that for Stylistic Suck, since in the context of the times, Hebrew poetry normally did not rhyme. The original Hebrew version of Samson's poetry doesn't actually rhyme, however. Opinions differ over whether it (or the translation) suck anyway.
Odin from Norse Mythology is a deity of war and poetry. This is in contrast with Tyr, another God of war; and Braggi, another God of poetry; both of who are not this trope. They can hold their own in war and words—just not to the point of being this trope.
Parodied constantly in Calvin And Hobbes as Calvin treats all snowball fights as epic wars. One time, he gave a speech about the importance of craftsmanship while meticulously assembling a snowball from just the right kinds of snow (and signing it) before throwing it getting steamrolled by Suzie, who had used the time to amass a massive snowball arsenal. Another time, he actually consecrated his snowball before throwing it:
Oh lovely snowball, packed with care, Smack a head that's unaware! Then with freezing ice to spare, Melt and soak through underwear! Fly straight and true, hit hard and square! This, oh snowball, is my prayer.
The Eldar of Warhammer 40000 exhibit signs of this trope, but here the order rebelled against was not so much dishonorable or brutish war as decadence.
Speaking of that "werewolf bard", it's actually one of the five Auspices — the Galliard, born under the gibbous moon, who starts the game with the second-highest Rage rating of all five Auspices, but whose Gifts tend towards communication, inspiration, and passion. They reappear in Werewolf: The Forsaken as Cahaliths, and while there are still bardic elements, they're more regarded as prophets.
The Brujah vampire clan in the Historic World of DarknessVampire: The Dark Ages and to a lesser extent Victorian Age Vampire. By the time of Vampire The Masquerade itself, though, they'd lost the poet aspect almost entirely, and were just violent rebels without a cause.
In Cthulhu Tech there are the Nazzadi were specifically created by the Migou to be intelligent ass-kickers, and it shows.
Also, one of the things that gnaws at the Nazzadi is that as a cloned race with no members chronologically in their 40s, they have no true culture of their own, and are desperate to create one. Therefore, any of the 2nd generation Nazzadi who take up one of the arts are highly prized by their families and the Nazzadi as a whole.
The game mechanics of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG reflect the samurai ideal of a Warrior Poet. "Levels" (School Ranks) are based off Rings which take the lowest of two statistics; one physical and one mental/spiritual. A truly accomplished samurai thus had to be quite proficient in mental attributes even if he is primarily a warrior (and vice versa). Many of the more sophisticated Bushi (warrior) Schools also offer training in artistic skills along with the more traditional martial fare with the epitome of this philosophy being the Kakita Bushi of the Crane Clan.
In Traveller different races have their own martial traditions. The Sword Worlders, for instance, name planets after mythological swords some of which come from the works of a famed Terran epic poet. The Azhanti have some of the best martial music and provide choirs for the Imperial Duke. Aslan have traditions of epic tales and decorative weaponry. And so on.
The title character of Shakespeare's Othello won over Desdemona with eloquent tales of his adventures, and his description of their courtship similarly wins over the Venetian senate, with the exception of Desdemona's father (as the Duke comments, "I think this tale would win my daughter too").
The backstory for the Tarth species in Deadlock: Planetary Conquest includes a Tarth named Guh, who lived as a warrior. After he received what he believed to be a mortal wound, he resigned himself to death...until he looked up at one of the planet's moons and saw movement. He regained his will to live and went on to become a famous astronomer. A statue in his honour depicts him impaled on a spear, looking at the sky through a telescope.
In terms of literal poetry — he does deliver legitimately evocative soliloquies at the start of Metal Gear Solid 4 and at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, although he does have quite a few clunkers at other moments.
The entire Protoss race from Star Craft embody this ideal, having embraced a rigid quasi-religious collectivist social order based on self tempering, personal honor, and obedience, to escape a tumultuous war-filled past. This leads to a peculiar view of warfare, wherein "modern" mass-destructive weapons have been largely shunned in favor of armies of melee combatants and machines of war whose purpose at heart is something else (the few examples to the contrary being regarded as abominable).
Wrex of Mass Effect, who is surprisingly philosophical for your average reptilian Bounty Hunter. Ashley Williams as well, in what is actually a quite literal example: she really does quote poetry. Classical poetry as a matter of fact, and she gets the quotation right, too. She also examines her own religious and philosophical learnings and the impact that space travel and aliens have on the theoretical existence of God.
There is a Krogan Warrior reciting love poems in the second game.
Grunt is a rather amusing subversion, as he spends a lot of his time during the game musing on his place in the universe and his reason for being. Indeed many of his statements are quite poetic, and this eventually leads him to his ultimate conclusion... that he really likes killing things. He seems to consider this a great spiritual victory, and who are you to disagree?
According to the Shadow Broker's files on him, he has become a fan of Hemingway (though he didn't like A Farewell to Arms very much).
The Shadow Broker's file on Jack (Subject Zero) show that she wrote a poem for Galactic Poetry Monthly, but her poem wasn't accepted due to not following guidelines on proper meter.
Jack's poetry also seems to be less a cultured pursuit, and more a way of grappling with her own personal demons (of which she has plenty).
Kasumi is revealed to have written several haiku (again, from the Shadow Broker's files).
Vivec from The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind is technically considered to be a poet. He is author of The 36 lessons of Vivec (in-game books) which are poetic and extremely cryptic stories of his greatness. The Lessons sometimes break the fourth wall in very subtle ways but mostly they just confuse you. And yet, one of these Lessons detail how he poked an evil god that had betrayed him into a crevice of fire with his spear. However since Michael Kirkbride, who wrote the Leasons, did not write Vivec's dialogue Vivec seems way too plain spoken for a poet when you meet him in-game. In fact, his title actually is "Warrior Poet".
Blood Knight Karel managed to turn into one of these after Fire Emblem 7. In the chronological sequel, Fire Emblem 6, he's a calm and philosophical swordsman, a far cry from his bloodthirsty younger self.
Colonel Corazon Santiago shows signs of this in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. As with all faction leaders, the game occasionally gives quotes from her, ostensibly excerpts from books she's written, and while her philosophical side is very military-oriented and bleak, it's also perfectly suited for the Death World she and her followers have landed on.
Forde from Fire Emblem 8 is one of Those Two Cavaliers and a very accomplished painter, as well as a good map-maker. Two of this three possible endings involve him becoming famous due to his artistic talent.
Genesis of Crisis Core, seriously if his army didn't consist entirely of clones of himself, they'd be wondering what exactly to make of his orders which consisted entirely of quote from his favorite play.
In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, nearly all of the ten protagonists come off as this, since they all got a wise side to share.
John Marston from Red Dead Redemption is very well-read for a former bandit and has a very developed vocabulary, especially considering the literacy rate of the time. So long as it's in English, of course.
Captain John Price, from the Modern Warfare sub-series of the Call of Duty franchise, despite normally being a Badass with a dry sense of humor and a dedication to get any mission done, no matter how insane or difficult, has a rather awesome change of pace with some rather poetic speeches in Modern Warfare 2. They in simple terms are World Of Cardboard Speeches which he delivers to Soap to show him how there is no need to be afraid of fighting Shepherd and his army because as soldiers they have the luxury of knowing when their time might be up and because of it they can face any challenge without fear or regret, and they will kill Shepherd before they can die.
Price: "The healthy human mind doesn't wake up in the morning thinking this is its last day on earth. But I think that's a luxury, not a curse. To know you're close to the end is a kind of freedom. Good time to take... inventory. Out-gunned. Outnumbered. Out of our minds. On a suicide mission. But the sand and rocks here stained with thousands of years of warfare... they will remember us. For this. Because out of all our vast array of nightmares this is the one we choose for ourselves. We go forward like a breath exhaled from the earth. With vigor in our hearts and one goal in sight: We. Will. Kill him."
Price: "This is for the record... History is written by the victor. History is filled with liars. If he lives, and we die, his truth becomes written, and ours is lost. Shepherd will be a hero, 'cause all you need to change the world is one good lie and a river of blood. He's about to complete the biggest trick a liar ever played on history. His truth will be the truth. But only if he lives, and we die."
Tai Kaliso of the Gears of War series communicates almost solely via poetic waxing.
Ulysses from Fallout New Vegas. He's as Badass as humans come in the Fallout universe, but he also has a philosophical, almost mystical way of speaking that's completely unheard of anywhere else in the Mojave. He's also very well versed in Pre-War history, which is very unusual in Fallout.
In Borderlands 2, Zer0 speaks in Haiku at least half of the time he opens his mouth. Some are beautifully written prose, others... not so much.
The cyclops Gargarensis, who also happens to be one of the main antagonists of the Age of Mythology campaigns. For some reason he loves quoting Lepanto during cutscenes.
Power Gig Rise Of The Six String has the Followers of Zhen clan, a group of musical warrior mage-priests. As music is both sacred and used for combat, their art is their weapon of choice! Many of them also engage in philosophy and some even take vows that reflect their personal beliefs on their path towards enlightenment.
Looking for Group features Krunch, a minotaur with a passion for history and knowledge. Of course the fact that he'll quite casually turn you into a bloody puddle with his mace means he's sometimes confused with his warrior brother.
His treatment by his brethren also holds true to the trope. Despite being a Badass most of the time he was generally the butt of jokes around his father.
There's also Pella the dwarf warrior, who in one fight scene sings "The Rose" by Bette Midler while calmly hacking up enemies.
Dinobot from Beast Wars achieved Warrior Poethood in the episode which ended in his Heroic Sacrifice, even managing to be responsible for the rise of humanity by inspiring the primitive humanoids how to defend themselves using the stone axe he created to defend himself at the very end.
Also, not content with writing his own prose, Dinobot also ripped off a few bits of Hamlet for use in his dramatic death speech.
An extremely literal example: While everyone in Visionaries had Voluntary Shapeshifting powers, some of them also had magic staves that contained a kind of unique, one-use battle genie. These spirits were released using, of all things, rhyming couplets. So when the Blood Knight wanted to wreck a castle, he could summon a monster by holding up his staff and yelling:
The book that has been in consistant publication longer than any other book in human history is a book of poetry lasting only thirteen chapters. This book is also the most important book on war ever written, "The Art of War" attributed to Sun Tzu who made his living as a mercenary general.
3rd Century Chinese warlord Cao Cao and his son and successor Cao Pi were both considered the greatest poets of their generations, in addition to the warmongering thing.
Traditional Japanese culture is known for demanding samurai to be good at Ikebana (floral arrangement) and poetry and stuff. The ideal was summed up as "Bun Bu Ryo Do", literally "literary arts, military arts, both ways", or more loosely "The pen and the sword in accord". Samurai were among the most cultured and literate classes in pre-Meiji Japanese culture. The tea ceremony and rock garden also had their roots in Samurai culture.
Miyamoto Musashi is a famous example. Apart from being a swordsman, he painted and sculpted, practiced calligraphy and studied Zen Buddhism.
Yagyu Jubei, grandfather (Sekishusai), father (Munenori) all fit this trope. They mastered the sword, but also took time to write books on the Zen in sword, and Munenori was a politician, even if an Evil Chancellor.
Similiarly, in old Ireland, you couldn't be a great warrior unless you played the harp and mastered fidchell, an ancient Irish board game, somewhat similar to chess.
Norsemen got great social recognition for being good skalds as well as warriors.
The medieval knights of Europe were expected to be skilled at poetry, chess, and dancing, as well as following a strict code of chivalry. This may have had something to do with the fact that European knights were also nobles — such pastimes were probably taught to all noblemen regardless.
The Medieval German minstrel knights, Minnesänger such as Wolfram von Eschenbach, Tannhäuser or Walther von der Vogelweide, could well be the Trope Namers
Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, as far as we can tell, worked his way up from penniless Provençal minstrel, to man at arms, to knight, to crusader, and finished out his days as a feudal lord somewhere in the neighborhood of Bulgaria. A sample from one of his most famous works: "Handsome warriors and good fencers/ Sieges and catapults and pikes/ And the destruction of walls, new and antique, And the vanquishing of battalions and towers/ I see and hear, and I cannot get/ anything that would avail me in love!" He's got another poem where each of the five stanzas is in a different language. He was by all accounts a pretty impressive dude.
Irishman Joseph Mary Plunkett, executed for rebellion in 1916. He wrote "The Presence of God":
I see His blood upon the rose, // And in the stars the glory of His eyes; // His body gleams amid eternal snows, // His tears fall from the skies. // I see His face in every flower; // The thunder, and the singing of the birds // Are but His voice; and, carven by His power, // Rocks are His written words. // All pathways by His feet are worn; // His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea; // His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn; // His cross is every tree. //
The 10th-century Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi arguably deconstructs this. His (truly great) poetry is full of boasts about his military prowess, although no more so than many others at the time. Particularly well known is the couplet:
I am known to night, and horses, and the desert, // and the sword and the lance, and the paper and the pen.
But one day he finds himself travelling through the desert, and his company is set upon by bandits. Hopelessly outnumbered, Mutanabbi and company turned to flee, but he was stopped by a servant who asked him, "What about those famous lines of yours, 'I am known to night, and horses, etc.'" Determined to make good on his rep, Mutanabbi turned and charged the bandits single-handedly. He was instantly killed.
For that matter however, played straight with ancient Arab tribes of the Quraysh during around 6th century AD in Mecca. While a good bit of them are traders, the most renowned warriors are also poets; in fact, one's prestige during the Quraish era was either on their feats of prowess in combat and/or their poetry. The affinity of poetry in Middle East is in full effect even today, and while the "warrior" aspect has faded nowadays, it certainly was in full force in ancient times.
Bruce Lee graduated from university with a degree in Philosophy. He wrote a book about the philosophy behind his martial art while recuperating from a spinal injury caused by excessive weightlifting. He also wrote quite a bit of poems during his lifetime. The list of his poems is on The Other Wiki.
Julius Caesar, Magnificent Bastard extraordinaire if there ever was one, was not only one of the greatest military geniuses ever, but also a great prose writer and poet. Although his surviving prose works are still admired to this day, practically none of his poems survives... however his fellow ancient Romans seem to have been divided over the quality of his poems.
Patton. Anyone remember in the movie? "Through the travail of ages, midst the pomp and toils of war, have I fought and strove and perished, countless times amongst the stars."
Saint Ignatius Loyola, along with the fellow founding members of the Society of Jesus. Aka Jesuits. He starts as a Genius Bruiser, finishes as the leader of a whole league of Badass Preachers.
When you consider that it was (and still is) a requirement for all Greek men to serve in the military, then all the ancient Greek philosophers (Socrates, Aristotle, etc.) and playwrights (Euripides, Sophocles, etc.) were Warrior Poets. (In fact, Aeschylus' gravestone spends more time talking about his military successes than about his multi-award-winning literary career.) And since the Greeks fought each other all the time, the image of the "old philosopher" probably means the ones who survived that long were probably pretty good at fighting. To sum up: Socrates probably could have kicked your ass.
Many Irish rebels were also poets, most notably Patrick Pearse and James Stephens.
Cyrano de Bergerac. Although perhaps better known for his fictional exploits, the real Cyrano was a famous writer, a fearsome duelist in a time when duels had been made illegal, and was so dangerous with a sword that his friends nicknamed him the Devil of Bravery. He also alongside d'Artagnan, another tough guy who is better remembered for his life in fiction.
Though more famous as a warrior, King Richard The Lionheart was also a poet; though only two of his poems survive, his routrenge, Ja Nuns Hons Pris is well-known to connoisseurs of medieval music.
In the Befreiungskriege, the German "Wars of Liberation" from Napoleon's domination, the poet Theodor Körner left a successful play-writing career in Vienna to join the famous Freikorps of Ludwig von Lützow; he wrote and sang poems for his fellow soldiers, accompanying himself on the guitar. These poems were collected posthumously by his father in the anthology Lyre and Sword and later set to music by Weber, Schubert, and others.
Other poets serving as Volunteers in the Prussian army in the Wars of Liberation included Friedrich von La Motte-Fouqué (creator of, among others, Undine) and Joseph von Eichendorff. Adelbert von Chamisso had been a Prussian officier until 1806.
The Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, Petar II Petrovic Njegos, was his nation's most renowned poet and philosopher — when not indulging in notoriously bloody feuds with the Ottoman Turks. Oh, and he was a monk, nominally at least.
Most poetry, drama, and music of the Aztecs were written by the battle hardened warriors.
George Gordon Lord Byron, poet and playwright, who took up arms for the cause of Greek independence and died while drilling Alpine troops at Missolonghi.
Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, two of the best known war poets in history. Both were decorated for heroism; Sassoon was arguably more Badass, and certainly luckier (he survived the war and lived to a ripe old age; Owen died so close to the end of it that his mother got the telegram as the armistice bells were ringing).
World War I in particular produced a great deal of war poetry of acclaim. Besides Sassoon and Owen, John McCrae is another of the better-known examples of this lot. He was an artilleryman who had fought in the Second Boer War before serving as a surgeon in World War I. Like Owen, he died on the battlefields of France (though unlike Owen, who was killed in action, McCrae died of pneumonia). His poem "In Flanders Fields" earned him fame while the war was still raging, and is still often read to commemorate Remembrance Day.
On the German side you had e. g. Hermann Löns, Gorch Fock and Walter Flex, writers who joined the armed forces in 1914 and who all were killed in action. The school sailing vessel of the German Bundesmarine is named after Gorch Fock, who perished aboard S. M. S. Wiesbaden in the battle of Jutland. Two well-known marching-songs of both World Wars, Wildgänse rauschen durch die Nacht (Wild geese are rushing through the night) and Wir fahren gegen Engeland were written by Flex and Löns, respectively. Another well-known warrior poet was Ernst Jünger, who was awarded a Pour le mérite (better known in America as the "Blue Max"), survived World War I to write In Stahlgewittern (In steel-storms) and other works, served in World War 2 and lived to be 100 years old.
J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis didn't write much about World War I but they served in it and it influenced their writings. The Dead Marshes, for instance, are said to be from memories of the trenches.
Mao Zedong(Mao Tse-tung) is now more known for being the founder/leader/dictator of the People's Republic of China. He also wrote quite a few poems during the period of conflict between the Communists and the Nationalist government. Wikipedia article here. He was also quite good at calligraphy.
Tupac Shakur and other gangsta rappers created very influential and popular music, while at the same time engaged in some pretty serious urban violence.
Egil Skallagrimsson of Iceland was famous as both a fighter (a berserker in fact) and a poet. He subverts this trope somewhat, in that while he had a caring and sentimental side, he also had a terrible temper and sometimes behaved very rashly.
Emperor Marcus Aurelius of Ancient Rome was more famous for his philosophical thoughts then for his warlike enterprises.
In fact, given Russia's long literary tradition and the Russian people's history of fighting against pretty much every other country, their own government, and even their environment, just for their own survival, Russia can be seen as a Warrior Poet country.
Winston Churchill: As a soldier, he served with distinction in India, Sudan, and the Second Boer War; he also fought on the front line in World War One despite being a battalion commander. He also led Britain in World War II. As a man of arts and letters, he was a decent amateur painter, an accomplished memoirist, and a good historian, writing the all-encompassing (if a bit dated) History of the English-Speaking Peoples, for which he won a Nobel Prize In Literature. He also was an accomplished wit and a master of oratory (which helped him lead Britain during World War II).
Several eighteenth and nineteenth century military and naval officers. Including King Frederick the Great.
"Several" puts it mildly. Life at sea was dull and many (most) turned to the arts and other intellectual pursuits to pass the time. Naval gazettes included poems written by officers, and officers were known to collect their works and publish. Note: They weren't necessarily inspired, nor even all that good, but, still, there you are.
Frederick the Great besides ruling his country and commanding his army in the field wrote historical and philosophical works, poetry (including a very long didactic treatise about the art of war in verse), opera libretti, and instrumental music (some of which is performed to this day). He also dabbled in architecture.
Ewald Christian von Kleist (1715-1759), one of Frederick's officers, also achieved fame as a poet, but his career in both fields was cut short when he was mortally wounded in the battle of Kunersdorf.
August Neithard von Gneisenau, Blücher's chief of staff at Waterloo, wrote poetry in his youth and also displayed a measure of literary and rhethorical talent in articles such as the ones he wrote to popularize the Prussian army reforms. His first work was a poem in honour of poet, playwright and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing on the occasion of his death.
José Martí, Cuban revolutionary, national hero, and one of the most important figures in Latin America literature.
José Hernández, soldier and author of the Argentine national book, El Gaucho Martín Fierro. The title himself is, appropriately enough, something of an example as well.
Muhammed Ali would sometimes write poems before going into the ring. Many of his poems were about boxing, but he also did one that was a protest of the Vietnam War.
Alan Seeger is a perfect example, though he was a poet that became a warrior instead of vice versa. He was an aspiring poet that traveled Europe, writing of nature's beauty, up until the start of World War I. When the war broke out he headed to France to join the Foreign Legion, taking up arms to defend the country he loved. He died fighting to retake a village from the Germans, though even after being mortally wounded he continued to cheer on his comrades until he succumbed to his injuries. Gamers will most likely remember him by his poem "I Have A Rendezvous With Death" that was featured in the trailer for Gears of War 2
John Gillespie Magee Jr., a US citizen who earned a scholarship to Yale but instead chose to join the Canadian RAF prior to the US entering WWII. He is best known for his poem "High Flight," although he wrote others, and was in the middle of writing one when he died at the age of 19.
Masaharu Homma, the Japanese general who commanded the troops responsible for the Bataan Death March. He was also amateur playwright and poet.
The two poems in Audie Murphy's war memoir To Hell and Back were composed by him, although they are attributed to a different character in the book. He wrote poems about his war experiences all his life, but had little interest in publishing them, often discarding or mislaying them when he was done. The Alabama War Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama includes lines from one of his later poems. Also co-wrote lyrics for Country Music songs, mostly about love, loss and depression in general, rather than about the war in particular.
George Washington was famous for simple, yet elegant prose in his speeches, and even wrote a book on etiquette, but this may have more in common with the Cultured Badass.
Fitzroy Maclean, the famous Scottish spy, soldier, swashbuckler, and explorer. He would probably fit this trope more exactly then many as he both fought in war and wrote about it.
Martin van Crevald's The Culture of War is an actual study about this attitude as indicated by the title. Of course he comes from a country where everyone is a warrior.
When you think about it, trudging along ten-miles a day with a fifty pound pack amid a column of thousands of smelly dusty men isn't as exciting as it's made out to be. Warriors have plenty of motive to become Warrior Poets.
George Orwell- Fought in the Spanish Civil War, then wrote about it. He also used his experience of CPS censorship to influence the doublethink in 1984 (anarchists in one issue of Daily Worker, Trotskyists in the next)
Joe Hill- he was a radical organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World- wobblies. He is most famous for his prolific song writing. In fact 95% of Labor Ballads come from him. At that time labor organizing was a form of combat, with strike breakers, cops and the army often called in to break up strikes.
Anti fascist action, a group of militant anarchists who fought street battles with neonazis produced many punk ballads.
The hippies and civil rights movements produced many philosophers and musicians. Of course this was a non violent war, but it still counts. Especially since only one side was nonviolent.