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A lance is unsheathed, a warning breathed,
The battle lines starkly drawn
Now slashes of red begin to spread.
The innocent suffers on.
What monstrous spawn has settled upon
This field of unblemished snow?
Think evening recall or drumbeats withal
Or lacework that's knotty also.

It's a plain old riddle this time. The answer is a single English word.

I really ought to mention that my plain old riddle involves multiple definitions of the same word and a cryptic-style clue. Sorry about that.

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    $\begingroup$ Love the rhyme and rhythm in this. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 5 '16 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ Added the wordplay tag. Feel free to remove if it doesn't fit. :-) $\endgroup$ – Ankoganit Sep 6 '16 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor I was re-reading Edgar Allan Poe recently. That gave me the form. The English title of "Men Who Hate Women" gave me subject. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Sep 6 '16 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Hugh Oh, I love Edgar Allan Poe! The Raven has such a wonderful rhythm to it. Have you read his Philosophy of Composition? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '16 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor Yes, but it was ages ago. Thanks for the link. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Sep 6 '16 at 16:24
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Since you said it is the same word and you used multiple meanings, maybe it is:

tattoo

A lance is unsheathed, a warning breathed, The battle lines starkly drawn Now slashes of red begin to spread.

The tattooing needle would be unsheathed and perhaps the artist would warn their client to keep still. Lines of course being tattoo lines, and blood does flow from them.

The innocent suffers on.

The client is innocent, yet they suffer.

What monstrous spawn has settled upon This field of unblemished snow?

A tattoo of a demon or some such?

Think evening recall or drumbeats withal

The tattoo of a drumbeat.

Or lacework that's knotty also.

Tatting is knotted lacework.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to puzzling.stackexchange! Great answer. In addition to drumbeat, in the military the word can mean an evening signal to return to quarters. The last line breaks the word in half: "lacework also". $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Sep 6 '16 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ The title refers to a well known saying about the depth of beauty. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Sep 6 '16 at 8:33
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Could the answer be

CHILDBIRTH,

specifically

by Caesarean section?


A lance is unsheathed, a warning breathed,

The surgeon baring their scalpel and preparing to begin the operation.

The battle lines starkly drawn

Lines on the mother's body for the incisions, later scars.

Now slashes of red begin to spread.

Self-explanatory.

The innocent suffers on.

The unborn baby's suffering may be what caused the Caesarean section to be necessary in the first place - and as soon as it's born, it begins to cry.

What monstrous spawn has settled upon
This field of unblemished snow?

A baby could be called "human spawn", and once born it might be laid upon a spotless white sheet, like a field of snow.

Think evening recall or drumbeats withal

Childbirth might happen at any time of day, perhaps involving surgeons called out in the evening. Drumbeats could refer to the heartbeats of the newborn (thanks @Areeb for help with this clue).

Or lacework that's knotty also.

Perhaps the baby will be dressed in lace clothing? This line might also possibly refer to the umbilical cord. After the operation, the mother needs to be sewn up again, which may require the tying of knots after stitching (thanks @bg6471 for help with this clue).

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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking lacework was the stitching up afterwards, which I guess would be tied in knots upon completion? $\endgroup$ – bg6471 Sep 6 '16 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @bg6471 Oh, that's much better! Thanks - I'm feeling more confident about this answer now :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '16 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ it could be the cleansing of saidin... $\endgroup$ – JMP Sep 6 '16 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ Ingenious. Not the answer I was looking for. Good enough to make me worry about broadness. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Sep 6 '16 at 5:30
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I was thinking of

a grader

A lance is unsheathed, a warning breathed,

The fountain pen is drawn, with a sigh of displeasure with the exams still to review

The battle lines starkly drawn

The lines written by the student

Now slashes of red begin to spread.

The grading started mistakes are corrected with red ink

The innocent suffers on.

The poor students waiting for their results

What monstrous spawn has settled upon

The sadistic teacher finding someone to give a bad grade...

This field of unblemished snow?

...this student that submitted a blank page

Think evening recall or drumbeats withal

Grading is can be done in the evening, after class, while listening to music (a bit of a stretch for this one)

Or lacework that's knotty also.

Grading and making comments on the work of a student is difficult, "knotty"

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1
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Could it be

Nits? also referred to as lice/louse

A lance is unsheathed, a warning breathed

either the lance is the spikes of hair (if you zoom in on them they look like long spikes) a warning breathed could be when people tell you not to go near them (they have lice)

Now slashes of red begin to spread.

I know someone who, with really bad lice, got deep red gashes all across their head as they burrow into the skin. it's really nasty. it could also refer to the removal of lice (which, often using sharp combs, can make red lines)

The innocent suffers on.

self explanatory.

What monstrous spawn has settled upon

self explanatory, lice work by the eggs landing in your hair and then spawning

This field of unblemished snow?

the human scalp is white like snow, or it could refer to the white, snowy solution people spread through their hair to help remove lice

lacework that's knotty also.

knits (nits are a synonym for lice) knitted clothing is a knotty lacework

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Is it:

Jousting

A lance is unsheathed, a warning breathed,

The weapon of a Joust is a lance, the Joust begins with an 'oh-yey'

The battle lines starkly drawn

There is a fence between the two Jousters

Now slashes of red begin to spread.

The battle has commenced, first blood is drawn

The innocent suffers on.

The crowd gasp

What monstrous spawn has settled upon

Who won?

This field of unblemished snow?

the maiden's fair heart

Think evening recall or drumbeats withal

The successful Knight dwells on his victory

Or lacework that's knotty also.

Not sure

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