Unintentional Haiku… of Mars


Kurukkan suggested using Haiku Detector to find the unintentional haiku in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘A Princess of Mars’. This it seemed like a fine idea to me. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard of it, and there was even another movie based on it (‘John Carter’) released recently. There are quite a few haiku which have a nice twist in the last line; one even has a rhyme. I’ve trimmed out some that really don’t work, but since they’re not much effort to read anyway, I’ve left in some that still sound picturesque even if they don’t break nicely into the lines. If you’re not into Mars fiction, there are some haiku about a real Mars mission, and an opportunity for you to send your own haiku to Mars, at the end.

On regaining the
plaza I had my third glimpse
of the captive girl.

“Some day you shall know,
John Carter, if we live; but
I may not tell you.

And now the signal
has been given to resume
the march, you must go.”

“I am glad you came,”
she said; “Dejah Thoris sleeps
and I am lonely.

I have twice wronged you
in my thoughts and again I
ask your forgiveness.

Sola and I walked,
making Dejah Thoris ride,
much against her will.

I have escaped from
worse plights than this,” and I tried
to smile as I lied.

Kantos Kan and I
were confined together in
one of the cages.

“I only need to
pass these guards and I can do
it,” he said at last.

No one has landed
or come up from the building
for the past hour.

In an instant we
were engaged, and I found no
mean antagonist.

“And more still I have
to say, ere it is again
too late,” I returned.

“If I can open
these doors is there a man who
can start the engines?”

But why stop there? A Princess of Mars had a lot of sequels. Here are some haiku from The Gods of Mars:

And then the awful
laugh broke out from another
part of the chamber.

The great white apes get
the flesh when the plant men have
drained the arteries.

This one is my favourite:

Then the sun went down
and darkness that could almost
be felt engulfed us.

The fighting blood of
my Virginian sires
coursed hot through my veins.

This one is hard to parse line-by-line:

“And whom,” I added,
“has the honour of serving
been accorded me?”

This one depends on a three-syllable pronunciation of Phaidor:

The girl, Phaidor,
and the black pirate kept their
eyes glued upon me.

“Unconsciousness comes
quickly at this altitude,”
she said quietly.

Later I was to
learn, and she, too, in a most
horrible manner.

“None of this world could
have bested eight of the First
Born single-handed.

This one has a kigo! It’s a real haiku. Well, except that it’s not actually about seasons.

Only at the poles
of Mars is there ice or snow
upon the planet.

Xodar was at my
side as I stood looking out
over the ship’s rail.

Evidently we
were very far beneath the
surface crust of Mars.

Here we found a small
stone prison and a guard of
half a dozen blacks.

There are no moons and
no stars reflected in the
bosom of Omean.

The girls shrank in a
frightened group in the centre
of the enclosure.

Then, turning to those
who formed the outer line, I
cried, “Down with Issus!”

Follow me to the
throne; we will reap vengeance where
vengeance is deserved.

He will keep you, and
together you may find a
way to rescue me.

Then I released my
hold and dropped—four feet to a
soft cushion of sand.

“What is the name or
title of the officer
in charge of these guards?”

Her commander may
have seen my intentions then,
but it was too late.

Do you know what thing
it was that convinced me more
than all the others?

Yesterday we crossed
these hills and came upon the
dead city beyond.

Tars Tarkas was in
advance, and they saw him, but
me they did not see.

Then he stumbled and
went down and they rolled over
him like a huge wave.

“Come, Tan Gama,” he
cried, “we are to take the Thark
before Kab Kadja.”

Suddenly I felt
the girl’s warm lips press a kiss
upon my shoulder.

Riderless thoats plunged
hither and thither among
the dead and dying.

No trace of her have
we found, and I fear that it
be a futile quest.

Tars Tarkas, Jeddak
of Thark, is Tardos Mors’ best
beloved ally.

Zat Arras and his
officers were furious,
but they were helpless.

“Stay your hands, men of
Helium,” he shouted, his
voice trembling with rage.

Upon the hilt of
his sword each of them swore to
do as I had asked.

So sudden was our
onslaught that they had no time
to prepare for it.

We were preparing
for the death struggle with our
hated enemy.

For an hour I
have heard the sounds of conflict
within the palace.

“He was with me less
than an hour since, Dejah
Thoris,” I replied.

With a bound I was
before it, and, thrusting it
open, rushed within.

“I love only the
Princess of Helium,” I
replied quietly.

As we stood waiting
for Xodar the smoke became
thicker and thicker.

The Warlord of Mars:

And so I gripped my
long-sword the tighter as I
replied to Lakor.

I found myself in
a small, circular chamber
within the buttress.

A handful of thern
warriors stood just behind
the little party.

“But to be doubly
sure, I will leave two who shall
patrol this runway.

The fighting blood of
my Virginian sires
coursed hot through my veins.

I could see by the
expression of his face that
he was sore perplexed.

Shortly after this
we came upon the hugest
apt that we had seen.

“The watch has seen him,”
he said; “we may remain, for
we may be needed.”

I doubted it, and
yet with all my heart I hoped
that it might be true.

I would rather be
a slave with such as he than
be Queen of Okar.”

Plainly now I saw
the end for which Salensus
Oll had destined me.

The purpose of the
apt was to insure my death
before the tenth day.

Thurid was speaking
as I came within hearing
of the men’s voices.

With that the dator
threw a well-filled money-pouch
upon the table.

Solan opened the
pouch and with trembling fingers
counted its contents.

Already have you
tempted fate too long within
this forbidden place.

Then the old man rose
from the table, shaking his
fist at the closed door.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars:

She, too, guessed all that
hung upon the action of
the coming moment.

Carthoris was not
present at the leave-taking,
nor was Thuvia.

Beside her, in the
brilliant light of the nearer
moon, sat Carthoris.

Thuvan Dihn smiled his
appreciation of the
marvellous device.

From its deck keen eyes
watched the far-fanning searchlight
of the patrol boat.

Or could it have been
as one who awaited a
welcome visitor?

In slow procession
the things moved in single file
along a grooved track.

Thar Ban watched until
he had disappeared within
the yawning portal.

It was evident
that he was following the
spoor of meat by scent.

Green warriors were
leaping to the backs of their
restive, squealing thoats.

There, at least, we shall
find beings moulded after
our own images.

“I am Carthoris,
Prince of Helium,” replied
the Heliumite.

“Let us return and
find some means of furnishing
her with nourishment.”

It is contrary
to the customs and the royal
edicts of Lothar.

They are not for sale
or barter, even though the
price were a real throne.

She raised her lids to
see what stayed the hand of her
executioners.

But though the room was
lighted, there was no sign of
enemy about.

“Never have I been
here before, nor ever have
I cared to do so.”

“I wonder if he
has succeeded as well with
the maid of Lothar.”

Then came the rush of
many feet toward him, and the
THINGS were upon him.

Carthoris was quick
to guess their error and take
advantage of it.

The other bull, still
squealing and enraged, followed
after his fellow.

Komal, too, was dead—
dead across the body of
the Heliumite.

The next to enter
this apartment will be your
executioner.

And then, too, there was
the instigator of the
entire foul plot.

His quick mind had grasped
here a chance for succouring
Thuvia of Ptarth.

Now they came to the
dense shadow under the side
of the Thuria.

Not for many a
day had there been the promise
of such a battle.

Once more he sighted
the top of the cage that held
Astok and Vas Kor.

“As you will,” said Vas
Kor, feeling the point of his
blade with his left thumb.

“He escaped my blade,
and ran down this corridor,”
replied Kar Komak.

Kar Komak turned toward
the Heliumite, a grim
smile upon his lips.

The Chessmen of Mars:

And there is a race
there that plays it grimly with
men and naked swords.

“My sword is at your
feet, Tara of Helium,”
said the young chieftain.

She inclined her head
in assent to the claim of
the Gatholian.

“His flier departs
for Gathol in the morning,”
John Carter replied.

If Luud wishes to
question her that is for Luud
to do — not for me.”

“Here,” and he raised one
of his chelae to his head,
“is the perfect brain.”

Should we put food at
his feet and leave him alone
he would starve to death.

There were suggestions
of familiar lines of the
handicraft of man.

He thought of the great,
ultimate brain toward which all
kaldanes were striving.

Another king would
be loosed from his sealed chamber
and Ghek would be killed.

It was Tara of
Helium, fighting for her
honor or her life.

Quickly he transferred
himself to the shoulders of
the great, inert hulk.

Only this single
one and when it died there could
not be another.

The wind had increased
during the night and had borne
them far from Bantoom.

“I go forthwith,” he
continued, “to wrest food and
drink from the ancients.”

At the bottom was
a short corridor with a
closed door at the end.

They almost laid hold
upon it — a little more
and they would touch it.

Again was it a
catastrophe that Ghek, the
kaldane, could not smile.

“Life is sweet,” agreed
Tara of Helium, “but
honor is sacred.”

“The slave girl, Tara,
is summoned to the presence
of O-Tar, the jeddak!”

“Between them, though, there
lies a country of torn rocks
and yawning chasms.”

All were lighted, though
usually quite dimly,
with radium bulbs.

It was a duel
that held those who witnessed it
in spellbound silence.

And while they jockeyed
for position a rider
swept swiftly past them.

Now and again he
tried a door until he found
one that was unlocked.

He paused, deep in thought,
and then turned his gaze again
upon the kaldane.

“Slay him not and pray
that he be not dead if you
would save your princess.”

Pressing his face to
the bars the Gatholian
whispered her dear name.

There was nothing on
the dais from which he had
seen the thing arise.

And now Djor Kantos
approached and kneeling raised her
fingers to his lips.

“Jed or panthan,” she
said; “what difference does it make
what one’s slave has been?”

“If you are in doubt
tomorrow,” he said, “come and
see if you dreamed this.”

The next ones I could only find with hard line breaks, so I had to replace them with spaces before feeding the text to the detector. The Master Mind of Mars:

It is thus that I
obtain practically all of
my material.

“After all,” she said,
“it is not so dreadful, now
that I really know.”

“There are subjects here
who have lain thus for fifty,
Ras Thavas tells me.”

The arm and the brain
were taken from two who had
met violent deaths.

“No,” said the ape, and
this time the word was clearly
enunciated.

“It would do you no
good,” I assured him, “for you
could never escape.”

“Some day I shall find
a way, even though the plan
I now have fails me.”

He would be wholly
within my power and he
knew that I knew it.

“It is only sleep —
if it lasts for ever I
shall be no wiser.”

“Let me up, that I
may feel a good pair of legs
under me again.”

He would rather play
jetan than attend to his
duties as watchman.

Perhaps I could find
ingress to the apartment
looming darkly near!

“We have tried it out
upon Barsoom and we would
not be without war.”

Mu Tel wished us luck
and the ship slipped silently
out into the night.

We were quite close to
the enemy now and heard
their shout of anger.

“No harm can come to
Toonol because of what I
seek to accomplish.”

Once again Xaxa
signified that she would see
Hovan Du perform.

For an instant the,
warriors and the nobles
stood transfixed with awe.

“Well done, Vad Varo,”
he growled, “though I know not what
it is all about.”

“But first we must top
the wall to the inner court,”
I reminded him.

Here excited slaves
hastened to do the bidding
of the Jeddara.

As you receive my
word so shall you prosper or
so shall you perish.

“But from what we know
of Xaxa that could have been
done only by force.”

“There is no question
about it, John Carter,” I
spoke up in English.

A Fighting Man of Mars:

They have eight legs and
broad flat tails larger at the
tips than at the roots.

Thus by the squealing
of their vicious mounts would I
be guided to it.

At that moment there
came the clank of side arms from
the adjoining room.

Presently his eyes
moved in my direction and
halted upon me.

“As a little child
I was stolen from Tjanath,”
replied Tavia.

“Together we came
to Tjanath, expecting a
friendly reception.”

A moment later
you may enter, but pay no
attention to me.

I cannot turn a
prisoner over without
a written order.

This time there were two,
a long sword and a short sword,
and these Nur An took.

It was a gloomy
pile, apparently built of
black volcanic rock.

“Ghron has taken a
fancy to you and he is
giving you your choice.”

“I knew that you would,”
she said sadly, “and yet I
hoped that you might not.”

“It is the other
conditions which no man of
honor could accept.”

I turned to Nur An,
who had been listening to
our conversation.

“In the meantime we
may be able to work out
some plan of escape.”

“It is quite hopeless,”
I said as I drew my head
back into the room.

Perhaps I could pass
them without arousing their
curiosity.

The scene that met my
gaze sent the hot fighting blood
surging through my frame.

“In a moment it
will be ‘who you were,’” I told
him in a low voice.”

She had not seen me,
though doubtless she had heard me
as I stepped aside.

Selecting one, I
jammed it into the chamber
and closed the breech block.

I grasped her firmly
by the harness where the straps
crossed upon her back.

Well, her ambition
would be fulfilled, but at what
a hideous cost.

I could not even
contemplate it without an
agony of pain.

Tonight these three had
hoped to gorge themselves; I could
see it in their eyes.

It was the hunting
cry of the wild beast calling
the pack to the kill.

Turning, I saw a
single man moving across
the valley toward us.

Her breast was bared to
receive my dagger, her face
was upturned toward mine.

With half closed eyes she
pressed her own lips upward more
tightly against mine.

It is strange how men
change and for what seemingly
trivial reasons.

At that instant the
door burst open and a man
rushed into the room.

We were just what she
had said we were — comrades in
arms and nothing else.

My long sword was of
the best steel, for it was one
of John Carter’s own.

“You will need help,” I
could hear the other man say
in a pleading tone.

Phor Tak made
a sudden motion with his
hands and disappeared.

In this way he could
see to navigate the ship
and my plan was blocked.

“She might have been the
daughter of a jed had I
remained in Tjanath.”

Swords of Mars:

In other words, I
had elected to fight the
devil with fire.

The landing space was
small, and the hangars themselves
dingy and unkempt.

Look at me; I am
an assassin, and I don’t
belong to the guild.

He always selects
the more attractive of the
girls that are summoned.

That is the reason
he tells us who are doomed so
much about his work.

Not until then did
I move, but now I arose
and went to the door.

“Oh, I am sorry,”
she exclaimed; “I did not know
that you cared who knew.”

I was playing a
game with Death, and I must give
him no advantage.

“No, no,” he said, “I
was expecting no one; but
I have enemies.”

We were near the door
leading to the avenue
when two men entered.

I had been there but
a short time when he summoned
me to his person.

“I have learned several
tricks in gearing during my
long life in the air.”

“There is nothing, Fal
Sivas, more glorious than
freedom,” I told him.

“You can let her know
that I have no ambition
to displace Hamas.”

I wanted to make
sure, if I could, that Rapas
had not followed me.

If I killed this man,
I did not want Rapas to
know that it was I.

I had told her that
Fal Sivas had commanded
me to kill The Rat.

Still I loitered on,
as I was very anxious
to see him tonight.

“Ur Jan is certain
now that John Carter, himself,
is in the city.”

“Ah,” exclaimed Ur Jan,
clapping his hands together,
“you got him tonight!

He added this last
with a nasty inflection
that I did not like.

“Tell me where he was
building it, and I will go
and investigate.”

My weight upset it,
and it crashed to the floor with
a terrific din.

Scrambling to my feet,
I stood there in the darkness
waiting, listening.

As I made my way
toward the house of Fal Sivas,
I planned rapidly.

His manner altered
then, and I could see that he
was afraid of me.

Portions of the skulls
of three had been removed, but
they were still conscious.

Zanda was without
hope, but she remained cool and
did not lose her head.

“I estimated
that we should complete the trip
in about five zodes.”

“Your mechanical
brain is functioning better
than ours,” he replied.

“How in the name of
our first ancestor are we
going to catch her?”

“Perhaps she thinks it
is love,” I said, “but it is
only gratitude.”

If she knew who I
were, even her gratitude
would be turned to hate.

I could see that this
pleased Jat Or, but I could not
tell about Zanda.

Jat Or and I sprang
toward her; but she retreated
quickly, still struggling.

As he caught my eyes
upon him, he shook his head
and smiled ruefully.

“Your deductions are
faultless,” replied Jat Or, “but
where are the people?”

The circular wall
was pierced by half a dozen
tall, narrow windows.

If the former were
true, I wanted to know it
before darkness fell.

“All that remain of
the Tarids,” said Umka, “live
here in this castle.”

Ur Jan’s expression
revealed his surprise when his
eyes fell upon me.

“There was no silence,”
I replied; “and the room was
crowded with people.”

I will admit that
you have splendid control, but
your eyes betrayed you.

“Strange things happen in
the castle of Ul Vas, strange
and terrible things.”

“You are in love with
one of those women; you will
not go without her.”

He acquiesced with
a nod, but I saw his eyes
narrow craftily.

I could hear smothered
exclamations of surprise,
relief, elation.

I stepped to the sill
of the window, and Ur Jan
clambered to my side.

We are going to
the window of the room where
the girls are confined.

I felt my lips tense
in the fighting smile that is
famous in two worlds.

There were left to me
then, only the senses of
taste and smell and touch.

She was probably
much more surprised than I, and
she started to scream.

“There is another,”
she exclaimed presently, “and
there, and there, and there.”

When we are there, throw
your brands at the nearest beasts;
and then start to climb.

Some intriguing ones in Synthetic Men of Mars:

That left only two
of our antagonists, and
these the dwar called off.

“Our orders were to
bring the prisoners,” replied
one of the others.

He can take your brain
out and put it in the skull
of another man.

I only knew that
I loved Janai, that I
should always love her.

“And for what reason
did The Warlord of Barsoom
search for Ras Thavas?”

“What good shall I be,”
he demanded, “with only
a head and one leg?”

“Let me live, but cut
off this leg and let me try
to grow a body.”

We had no more than
reached the tank when a head cried
out, “Kaor, Vor Daj!”

John Carter is one
of the most human persons
I have ever known.

“He says that you can
toss a man to the ceiling
and catch him again.”

A second man reached
me and I threw him all the
way across the room.

I told him in a
few words how I should do it
were I in command.

The effect that that
statement had upon me may
well be imagined.

“I only asked for
you that I might protect you
for Vor Daj,” I said.

“Don’t forget that they
were your face and body once,”
I reminded him.

“They may have been sliced
up and thrown into one of
the vats,” said Tun Gan.

“This hormad,” he said,
indicating me, “has been
of service to me.”

It knew some tricks that
I thought only the pupils
of John Carter knew.

“Then I shall go back
to the city before my
absence is noticed.”

“I bring you no word
of Vor Daj,” I said, “because
he has disappeared.”

“If you hope to live
and escape you will have to
believe me,” I snapped.

I leaped to my feet
and ran quickly to where we
had hidden the boats.

They manned a number
of canoes and sallied forth
to intercept us.

The others noticed
it too, and Gan Had said that
they had prisoners.

You have no right to
do that to us when there is
no hope of success.

“Did you not hear that
a malagor was stolen
from your camp last night?”

“I am glad that you
did not go away with him
willingly,” I said.

The very thought made
me feel faint; and yet it was
not impossible.

“We came from Morbus,”
I said, “and we are on our
way to Helium.”

“We are not at war;
therefore you should let us go
on our way in peace.”

Anatok and the
others watched me closely to
note my reaction.

You permitted six
savages to rout you and
all your warriors.

“You know nothing,” I
snapped; “and if I were you, I
should not even guess.”

“Jal Had, the Prince of
Amhor, has a hobby of
collecting wild beasts.”

I got only a
glimpse of two figures as our
ship passed above you.

They were very much
interested in me, but seemed
a little afraid.

“For that, he shall be
rewarded, then,” said Jal Had,
magnanimously.

“You do not even
know what John Carter looks like,”
taunted the red man.

“You have a fine sword
arm,” he said, which was high praise
from a green Martian.

His face was red with
anger, and I saw him raise
his fist to strike her.

And, if so, was it
within the power of man
to recover it?

“You mean,” I said, “that
you would like my brain in the
body of Vor Daj?”

Llana of Gathol:

I also recall
that I hoped he would see me
and not step on me.

“After all, I might
be considered something of
a ghost by Earth men.”

“The safety of Horz
is more important than the
life of any man.”

“There were lots of things
that those old fellows knew that
are lost arts today.”

You shall stay here with
me forever, as all the
countless others have.

His flabby mouth hung
open, revealing a few
yellow, snaggled fangs.

He had no nose; it
appeared to have been eaten
away by disease.

“You will sleep and sleep
and sleep, perhaps for ages
as have these others.”

I cut once, and the
foul head rolled to the stone floor
of the pits of Horz.

Women, rubbing their
eyes and looking about them
in bewilderment.

I stepped closer to
Kam Han Tor and laid a hand
upon his shoulder.

It was then that I
recognized him — Hor Kai Lan,
whose metal I wore.

“Now you may tell me,”
I said, “how you came to be
in the pits of Horz.”

I, Hin Abtol, take
what I wish from the lesser
peoples of Barsoom.

“I knew that something
would happen pretty soon, and
sure enough it did.

‘There is no reason
why I should accompany
you to the city.’

You cannot kill me,
and I know you would not kill
Llana of Gathol.

Perhaps I would, for
the truth of the matter is
that I like to fight.

I was awakened
later on by a shout and
a hideous roar.

This, I thought, is the
end, as the great carnivore
came racing at me.

“Hadn’t we better
stop,” I asked Xaxak, “before
your man bleeds to death?”

“Ban-tor has always
disliked me,” said Ptang, after
they had all left us.

Well, he was a brave
man; and because of that I
hated to kill him.

He was in deadly
earnest, fighting for his life
like a cornered rat.

As I stepped through the
entrance, a warrior barred
my way with drawn sword.

“If I fail in that,
I fail in all; for I will
not leave without her.”

I stepped to the sill,
measured the distance again
with my eyes — and jumped.

I wished the man who
won Llana of Gathol to
win her by himself.

He came to his feet
cursing like a true pirate
from the Spanish main.

I am in command
of this ship, and I intend
to stay in command.

His companion went
quietly; I guess he knew
what was good for him.

“You must understand,
however, that I am at
war with Hin Abtol.”

“I am sorry to
report, sir,” he said, “that they
both fell overboard.”

“Before I saw them
start coming to life, I thought
you Panars ate them.”

I held him there for
a moment, and then I tossed
him across the room.

The voice was not so
sweet now; there was just a faint
ring of steel in it.

“Don’t threaten; you have
already stored up enough
trouble for yourself.”

The voices seemed to
be constantly getting in
one another’s way.

I felt that Llana
and I could not have fallen
into much worse hands.

“I quite agree with
you,” said Ptantus, “and he shall
die when the time comes.”

“But you know yourself
that Ptantus will have me killed —
unless I escape.”

She thought that over
for a moment and then said,
“It would be treason.”

I knew what he meant;
because the same question had
been worrying me.

A soft hand caressed
my cheek and a voice, tense with
nervousness said, “Live!”

“I’ll finish you off
all right, slave,” he came back, “if
you’ll stand still and fight.”

I think that by this
time Motus had gone quite mad
from pain and terror.

One of my shoulders
brushed a body, but I reached
the tree in safety.

Rojas and I walked
hand in hand so as not to
lose one another.

I knew that I had
chosen wisely, but I was
still most unhappy.

I continued to
wait; no one spoke; the silence
became oppressive.

“You must be very
tired, John Carter; you have
had no sleep all night.”

I hope that you will
like it here and that you will
be very happy.”

I was flying no
colors, and when they hailed me
I made no response.

John Carter and the Giant of Mars (by John Coleman Burroughs):

Eight powerful legs
carried the creature forward
in great, leaping strides.

“One of Pew Mogel’s
spies,” John Carter muttered as
he rose to his feet.

Then a great, heavy
body dropped on John Carter
from the wall above.

Carter turned his head
and saw above him the face
of a great, white ape.

He hit the stone floor
in a long roll, protecting
his head with his arms.

How long he groped his
way around the walls, there was
no way of knowing.

However, there had
been the woman’s scream that he
had heard earlier.

From head to foot there
was apparently not a
hair on his body.

At the man’s feet crouched
a great, four-armed shaggy brute —
another white ape.

The white ape, who had
risen, once more squatted down
at his master’s feet.

The creature planted
his great, pendulous lips on
those of the princess.

Joog’s fetid breath
blasting across his face was
ample evidence.

Carter tried vaguely
to ease the awful pressure
that was crushing him.

It was uncanny
to hear words issuing from
the mouth of the beast.

There was a moment’s
silence in the entrenched guns
of the enemy.

It pained him to leave
Dejah Thoris; yet he knew
she was in safe hands.

Then he opened wide
the throttle of the quiet
radium engine.

There was a pause; then
the giant raised the right arm
high over his head.

No malagor would
stay within sight of its most
hated enemy.

“The rats came to in
midair after my men shoved
them out of the ships.”

And Skeleton Men of Jupiter:

They are constantly
abandoning one theory
for another one.

Now, for the first time,
I obtained a fairly good
sight of my captors.

Fourteen thousand five
hundred miles in a little
more than a minute!

“Your education
is to commence at once,” he
said, with a wry smile.

All this had taken
place at an altitude of
some five thousand feet.

The fellow differed
in appearance not at all
from other Morgors.

“We could not die in
a better cause,” said U Dan,
much to my surprise.

We shall doubtless all
die together,” he added
with a hollow laugh.

Much to our surprise,
Vorion proved not at all
a bad companion.

“I cannot see that
the means you adopted are
of great importance.”

“You intend to kill
me anyway; so your threat
finds me indifferent.”

I determined to
teach him a lesson that he
would not soon forget.

I wished that I had
some means of determining
which were really good.

We were given swords
and herded together at
one end of the field.

That’s all from Edgar Rice Burroughs. But this reminded me of another thing. A while ago I was looking for a source of good haiku I could feed through a learning algorithm so that Haiku Detector could sort the good haiku from the bad, and what I found was a contest to write a haiku to be sent to Mars on the MAVEN probe. So naturally I looked for unintentional haiku in all the text I could find about MAVEN. I couldn’t find any long, technical documents, and most of the descriptive pages about it were short, so all the haiku I found were in MAVEN team blog entries. Here they are in reverse chronological order:

From this one:

This is a tricky
test on Earth because of the
gravity down here.

And another blog entry:

I laughed out loud as
I wrote this because it is
never this simple.

And this one:

From start to finish –
cradle to grave – it will have
been a full twelve years!

This one:

But if the spacecraft
enters safe mode, we can’t make
the observations!

The very first blog entry has three very excited haiku:

But occasionally
I’m reminded of how cool
the work really is.

I get excited
all over again when I
see their eyes light up.

It’s both the most fun
and most satisfying job
that I’ve ever had!

I’m not sure if any of these are suitable for the competition, but I’ll probably submit one anyway. The deadline’s July 1, so if you want to submit a haiku, do it soon.

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