So much has happened…

…and I’ve blogged about none of it! I’ve been pretty busy. Just last month I got certified as a live weapons marshal and feastcratted for the first time ever. Then, last weekend, I had the honor of winning Golden Lily’s bardic competition. 🙂 The first winner chosen was a bard who wrote a lovely song and delivered an excellent performace, but he was Trimeran and thus couldn’t commit to coming back and running the competition next year, which is one of the duties of the winner, so as I was runner-up, the title passed to me. The theme was “The Weather of Spring” and the poem I recited was an untitled, tongue-in-cheek response to the prompt. As it references Greek mythology, I chose iambic trimeter for the rhythm of my lines, as this was the meter that they typically used for less serious works.

Is it the flowers or Zeus
Responsible for spring?
For with the warm weather
A golden shower brings
An excess of humor
A face that swells full ripe
Full of the golden seed
That stretches the skin tight
With the unasked for child
Of the breeding season
Savage punishment in
Nature’s lovely treason
The whole length of my throat
Now a shredded sore hose
Head of rag, nose of rose
Cavities of my skull
Battered by unseen blows
And the worst of it is
Tis difficult to know
Whether this torment is
Fathered by the bloom, or
By great Olympus sent
For like fair Leda I
truly did not consent
To be invaded by
this airy golden rain
Though some do welcome spring
To me it brings but pain

I think it ends nicely here, but I also wrote a bonus stanza which I didn’t recite, but am nonetheless fond of. (The last four lines need work but I gave up fiddling with it when I decided not to include this in the final version.) 😛

Think upon Athena
Surely a child of May
Given that she sprang forth
From head divine that day
His phlegm her origin
His tears not sprung from mirth
His wheezing her labor
His mighty sneeze her birth
Indeed it does make sense
that thus is wisdom born
Needed for the late year
Beginning as a thorn
That drives us to madness
Though in further season
We greet it with gladness
Pollen does not well suit
But pays for suffering
We love the summer fruit
Born of relentless spring

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Fabliau

For Dreamstone A& S competition this year, I entered a poem to fit the French “Feast of Fools” theme, and won the Scholars Choice Prize! (It may have been because my entry was the only one that was theme appropriate, but hey, I’ll take it!) 😉 The fabliau was a genre of medieval poetry, most popular in France in the 12th-14th century, which dealt with bawdy subject matter and were generally humorous and silly. Fabliaux were usually based on common folktales that were in circulation throughout Europe at the time, and in French were formatted into octosyllabic rhyming couplets with a total poem length of 100-200 lines on average. I had a friend comment upon seeing the manuscript that my poem was rather long, but at 103 lines, its actually on the shorter side for a  fabliau. I based mine on a European folktale, The Snow Child. This folktale already had a fabliau written about it, but in French (L’enfant de Nieve), which I can’t read, so I felt pretty free in writing an English version without fear of inadvertent plagiarism. To make it a little more original, I added a twist ending and a punch line to the end of the tale to make it my own.

 

The Snow Child

 

Once there was a merchant free .

Lived him there in fair Picardy,

And had him there a fair sweet bride ,

Whose chaste modesty was his pride.

They loved each other both full well,

Though it must be said, truth to tell,

After a time found their love hard,

For their life was oft sore marred,

By the journeys he needs must take,

To tend the trade and riches make.

Long and far afield he must go,

To make their future fortune grow.

For this it was all well and good,

But true it must be understood,

When a fire is unattended,

Often that is swiftly mended,

By a wife who finds on her own,

The warmth that she has not at home.

Thus it was on one fine day,

As he returned in the month May,

From a two year trip to the west,

He found indeed that he was blest,

With a red cheeked and rosy son,

Who of years had not even one.

When in his face his wife did spy,

The ire that grew in his black eye,

She swift began to him proclaim,

That miracle last winter came,

To her as she walked out one night,

To view the gentle snowfalls sight.

As she looked up into the sky,

Gave she a huge and mournful sigh.

Into her mouth a snowflake fell,

And caused her belly soon to swell,

As in her large began to grow,

This magic child of winter snow.

Indeed, said he, how blessed we are,

Upon us shines a lucky star,

That our family might still increase,

Though I travel and never cease,

My jouneys for our fire and meat,

I can return to a babe sweet.

And so it was the merchant came,

To raise the child that bore his name,

Until the boy was near full grown,

As if he was his very own.

His son he had of years fourteen,

But in life was like a bough green.

Because of this the trader said,

To the woman he hath wed,

Now that he is nigh a man made,

Tis time that he learn well to trade,

And so our horse I will equip,

That we may make a merchant trip,

To season him in worldly way.”

And once he did her fears allay,

They left apace that very week,

Together did the south coast seek,

Till he found an Italian port,

That dealt in trade of blackest sort.

Found the merchant a slaver there,

And sold to him his son and heir.

Making himself a profit thus,

He counted his shaming a plus,

And returned him home most well pleased,

With the vengeance he had seized,

From his wayward straying wife,

And thought him then well set in life.

Then he trumped his wife’s story well,

To her he did sweet retell,

Her own story, a winter’s tale,

Then told of how, in great detail,

In the southern sun one hot day,

Her son did sadly melt away.

But his success was not complete,

Indeed he found himself well beat.

He found him there upon return,

Another name for him to learn.

For in his abscence most prolonged,

Another child had come along.

He had himself a daughter now,

And again his wife did disavow,

Charges of her dishonesty.

For as she walked along the sea,

Sighing her sadness to the scree,

She tired as her hunger fierce grew.

She worried not, for she well knew,

That truely there can be no fault,

In swallowing a grain of salt,

To allay her strong hunger pain,

But knew not she would soon gain,

Another child, bonny and new,

For the salt was magical too.

At this the cuckold could say naught,

And felt that he was truely caught,

For now he could very well see,

She had achieved the victory.

Once more his anger did grow large,

And unto her he did so charge:

To you, wife, I do needs must tell,

That if you ever loved me well,

When next that heaven sent white mote,

Unto you doth swift approach,

Tremble upon your open lip,

My love, do not swallow—just spit!

Jueju: The Last Rose

Here’s the final form of the Lushi that I wrote for the Rose competition at Tournament of Foxes last year. I won’t go into a great deal of explication, as I’m currently mid-read on a book that was a serendipitous bookstore find, The Art of Chinese Poetry, that will be informing some modification on my attempts at a method of writing “faithful” (insofar as one can in a non-tonal language) original jueju/lushi in English. It corrects a couple important fallacies in the scholarship I was drawing on, though does confirm a lot of other points as well, so I won’t have to scrap everything, just rework it a bit.

The Last Roses

For the last time, I meet you in the rose garden.

Though seasons pass, quickly for all men,

To next spring, is a journey of ten thousand li,*

For these roses, will not bloom again

Anyways, on to the poem itself. I’m actually pretty pleased with this poem, as I was able to adhere to the strict formal rules while at the same times creating the thought/mood/affect that I wanted. The theme was roses, so of course I set the scene in a rose garden, used a traditional rhyme scheme of AABA, and followed the rules I’d laid out in an earlier post to build a five character (character meaning “major concept word” in this sense) line. I also followed the two character/ceasura/three character format, which looks a bit odd to my no doubt Western eyes, but reads nicely. Chinese formal poems like this tend to be square on the page, where the trend for English poems is to flow downwards. Hence:

The Last Roses

For the last time,

I meet you in the rose garden.

Though seasons pass,

quickly for all men,

To next spring,

is a journey of ten thousand li,

For these roses,

will not bloom again

^ has a more “appealing” layout that looks entirely different, and radically altered page flow, but reads exactly the same aloud. It conveys a mood that is more fluid and less formal. The above layout is (to me at least) reminiscent of how Pound poems look on the page, in that respect.

*a li is a unit of measurement that at various points in history has ranged from 1/3 km to 1/2 km. The unit “ten thousand” is often colloquially used in Chinese to indicate a number too large for measurement. Therefore, used in this sense, the phrase “ten thousand li” refers to an impassable or impossible distance. For example, a folk tale may state that a hero travels ten thousand li to reach a mythical land.

Warsong: Bryn Madoc’s Children

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated, I have been busy busy busy with regular life things on top of all the SCA things on my to do list. 🙂  A work trip to South Carolina didn’t help much, either. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing SCA things! Here’s a warsong for my barony that I wrote while I was bored at work one day. My friend Mathias, who has an excellent singing voice, unlike myself, performed it at our Barony’s 12th night celebration this January. Ideally this would be for two singers, male and female, with the first and last stanza’s sung in concert, with the rest alternating between the two. The 4th and 5th stanzas have dirty versions, with “dance” being substituted for the offcolor verb of your choice. 😉

Bryn Madoc’s Children 

Bryn Madoc’s children, purple and gold
Covered in glory when stories are told
We’ll take the black road, we’ll take the white road
We’ll take the south road that leads us to war 

Son of Bryn Madoc, doughty and strong
My heart beats in time to the war marcher’s song
I’ll take the high road, I’ll take the wide road,
I’ll take the straight road that leads me to war 

Bryn Madoc’s daughter, honest and brave
My foes fall back from my spear and my glaive
I’ll take the sharp road, I’ll take the fierce road,
I’ll take the red road that leads me to war 

Son of Bryn Madoc, bonny and bright
I’ll fight all the day and dance all the night
I’ll take the hard road, I’ll take the rough road,
I’ll take the rock road that leads me to war

Bryn Madoc’s daughter, southron’s delight
I’ll fight all the day and dance till first light!
I’ll take the wet road, I’ll take the salt road,
I’ll take the sea road that leads me to war 

Son of Bryn Madoc, never will yield
Steadfast stands my sword and my shield
I’ll take the hot road, I’ll take the dry road,
I’ll take the sand road that leads me to war 

Bryn Madoc’s daughter, quick to the fray
My kinsmen and I shall carry the day
I’ll take the cold road, I’ll take the snow road,
I’ll take the ice road that leads me to war 

Bryn Madoc’s children, faithful and true
We’ll not shirk when our service is due
We’ll take our lord’s road, we’ll take our queen’s road
We’ll take our king’s road that leads us to war

Poem: Rhyme Royal vs Bastard Quatrain

I originally wrote this poem in a form I’m calling a bastard quatrain; it would be long measure if I had an ear for meter, but my meter is pretty irregular, so probably the best way to describe the form is the bastard love child of long measure and redondilla (though I can’t find hard and fast confirmation as to whether the redondilla is actually meter-less or rather, made of trochees [In the extensive, rigorous ten minutes of Googling I did]). There was a poetry contest at the last Dreamstone, which had a Chaucerian theme, so they were looking for poems written in Rhyme royal, which is a 7 line stanza iambic pentameter form. I waited until the 11th hour to do a poem for it, so figured the easiest thing to do would be to adapt this poem. I ended up regretting the choice, as I much preferred the original form. I felt forcing the poem into a shape it didn’t “want” to be made the language stilted at times and the flow more awkward. I’m rather odd and superstitious about form, though. I feel like every poem has a shape it “wants” to be, and if you allow the poem to flow into that shape, you get a better poem out of it. In addition, rhyme royal is a form better suited to ornamentation, and I prefer simplicity in my work as a general rule.

Rhyme Royal Version:

The Reluctant Husband

With a heavy heart this morning of May,

I make my slow way to the chapel door,

For this morn is my wedding day,

And I shall tarry with my love no more,

For I walk towards a bride I abhor.

The ring silver seems a jailor’s hard chain.

There is nothing sweet in this parting’s pain.

It is the sweet Catrin that I do love,

Her kindly smile, her skillful lute playing,

Her voice as soft as the coo of the dove,

Not foul Roslyn with her donkey braying.

To buy her silence would be worth the paying.

It is hard fate for a man yet young to bear,

When he has known truly a love so fair.

The fair Catrin has skin as soft as morning dew,

A waist as slim as a lily’s thin stem.

Of sores and spots Roslyn has not few.

Her breath is as rank as the fetid fen.

Upon her brow there sits a ponderous wen.

Catrin’s head has fine gold and silver hair.

Ruth Ann’s dirty brambles cannot compare.

Catrin’s step knows a sweet and gentle grace,

While foul Roslyn naps through the dance,

Blue flies and gnats lighting upon her face.

I guess I could ask Roslyn to prance.

I would prefer to fall upon a lance.

Instead I ask of God to deliver,

A swift quick death or a stronger liver.

Fairest Catrin’s wit is most keen and true

She has no match within a scholar’s duel

If you ask foul Roslyn for two and two

She’ll think you a tormentor rather cruel

I could believe she swapped her brains for gruel

I could believe she had plenty to start

Since she’s eaten enough to fill a cart

Catrin kens well how to please a young man

Lifting him to heaven with softest touch

While foul Roslyn doth kiss as best she can,

Sadly, she seems to slobber over much.

Black hairs about her lips cluster and clutch,

But in fairness and honesty I must tell,

In truth, always she has kept them brushed well.

No more shall I believe that love can last!

No more shall fair Catrin close swive to me1

It has become a dream of the sweet past,

Our fond embrace beneath the linden tree.

Though it seems most cruel, our love is not to be.

For, of years Roslyn has twenty and four,

And fair Catrin has (alas!) two and four score.

Bastard Quatrain Version:

The Reluctant Husband

It is with heavy heart this morn,

That I approach the chapel door,

For this morn is my wedding day.

I shall tarry with my love na’more!

The silver ring seems jailor’s chain.

Tis hard fate for man young to bear,

Marriage to a woman so foul,

When he has known a love so fair.

It is fine sweet Kathrine that I love,

With golden locks light as air.

Not lumbering fat Rosamund,

With a bramblepatch for hair.

Fair Kathrine possesses skin soft,

Fresh and clean as morning dew.

Foul Rosamund’s face, never washed,

Sores and spots she has not few.

Fair Kathrine is as slim and sweet,

As a green slip of lily stem.

Fat Rosamund is foul and round,

A sink-pool in the fetid fen.

Fair Kathrine’s dance step has no par.

Her steps are quick and full of grace.

Foul Rosamund naps through the dance,

Flies lighting quick upon her face.

Fair Kathrine’s wit is quick and keen,

None can match her in a learned duel.

Ask foul Rosamund for two and two,

She’ll think you a tormentor cruel.

Fair Kathrine kens how to please a man,

Bringing him to heaven with a touch.

Foul Rosamund’s kisses are wet,

She slobbers and drools overmuch.

One last time I held Katharine close,

Beneath the bowing linden tree,

And she refused me once again,

As I begged her to swive to me.

With sore heart, I bid her farewell,

For our love is not meant to be:

Of years Rosamund has one and eight,

And fair Kathrine has eight and three.

Poem: Oglacha

This is a poem I wrote for a Danelaw that had an Irish theme, Cattle Raids to be precise.  The oglacha is an apprentice version of the dan direach form, which is allowed more liberties. I attempted to follow dan direach conventions as strictly as possible, with the exception of meter, my Achilles heel.

Oglacha for a Fall Day

Sundered stones scudding across the sere sky

Skystorm clouds clad the clear cold day

Day calm like this I can see to a bold high heaven

High heaven far flung for other men made

Men made for the coppery clang and clash

Clash and clamor of a Cooley cattle raid

Raid red rough and bright brilliant

Brilliant shields shining sunbright

Sunbright underneath a distant dawn

Dawn here had the calm air chill

Chill cold simple scent of slaughterhouse

Slaughterhouse smell of warm wet animals

Animals sickly steaming above the cool stone

Stone sluiced savage, close clung with messages

Messages marking high heaven indeed is for other men

Men unweary, men unlike this troubled troubadour

Troubador troubled by the lonely lowing

Lowing lost kyne cast upon the sundered stones.