Monday, June 27, 2011

Where have I been

I know, I know......Why haven't I turned out some NEW poetry? What's with these "re-runs"? I have no excuses, nor explanations, except that my Muse has been on an extended vacation --- maybe in Guantanamo for all I know.  This may sound lame,but nothing has been strong enough inspiration to overcome various "real-life" that keeps me from writing.

Anyway, you didn't check in here for my kvetching.

So, two things.  Today, I begin writing the Konungs saga vestermarki ("The Saga of the King from the Western Borders").  It is my attempt to present poetry in the form where scholars most often find it - as part of a saga (long prose story).  I intend to write a few chapters from what would be a very long saga of the Four Shires on the Western March.  Each chapter will feature poetry, part of a flokkr of verses concerning the Shires and the Unification of what would later be known as Æthelmearc.

Second, two new verses (new to you, anyway!)  No explanations, just verses and translations.  Enjoy!  and please COMMENT!

Verse One:

Friðrek ræsir fremð inn
Frisi gráskegg vissin
haf-skip siglir  hlyðir 
humra til Austur rumlend.
Metendr leiða morgum
morðáls til villi-borgar;
öskranfossdœl ásetta
ískaldr reista dísasalr.

Grizzled grey-beard Frederick the Frisian advancer of honor, you sailed the warship from the lobster-slopes [OCEANS] to the Eastern lands.  You lead many testers of the battle eel [SWORD > WARRIORS] to the wild hills; you settled in the ice-cold valley of the roaring waterfall; you built a temple.

Verse Two:

from the Hœna flokkr eggja-gæzlumaðr

Hklaka mattigs óðar hylð þu
hauka tal þelli-hringa flokkr

Heppin bóru bana hœnaar
hviti-kjöt eggjaveðr mittings

Prose order:

Hlyð þu mattigs óðar hklaka-hauka; tal þelli-hringa flokkr. Heppen hviti-kjöt bóru mittings eggjaveðr bana-hœnar.


Hear my mighty poem, Klucking-hawk; I tell of the fir-ring of the flock (>woman> chicken). Well-starred (>lucky, fortunate) white-meat (>chicken) brought a mighty edge-windstorm (>battle) to the bane of hens (fox).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Early Runhendr: The Four at the Bridge


Here's a little "ditty" for you in English from the legend and lore of Æthelmearc!


At Coopers pond our scene
On field hill great ravine
battles twixt warring foes
dragons come tigers go
dwarves elves, aetheling men
fight on hill, then in fen
two bridges they must cross
and from them foemen toss
Four heroes join the throng
dance to valkyrie’s  song
brave Boris, Haakon's kin
with Oak tree tall, then thin
green Morguhn, duke soon knight
young Willem, Fridriks wight
to fight at Pennsic war
a bridge to bathe in gore
To battle dwarvelords here
who rose from Calontir
our four men form a host
a half-tonne of pot roast
fiercesome  fighters four
who out-fought many score
whom many feared and yet
in battle they can't get
Thru spear storm’s din they stood
no action turned the mood
beneath the sun's harsh stare
they broil to pot roast rare
they glare at Calon herd
who at our heroes jeer
til thrice-king angry roared --
By Thor! His Grace was bored!
On three, charge! Morguhn said!
On three, Duke Morguhn lead!
thru Calon wall they sped
dwarves fell neath Willem's tread
Binder detached a head
Boris laid the dead to bed
surly sword-elves fled
Norns snipped their ghastly threads

Bodies from bridgehead flew
of hammer-dwarves and crew
three stout swordsmen tried
to gain brave Morguhn's side
then marshall's whistle shrilled
twas time to count the kill
whence from the corpse pile fell
came giggles straight from hell!
That pile our heroes tore
dead heads they tossed and more
to find His Grace they sped
whose laugh fills all with dread
Out Dead Things marshall cried
waked corpses moved aside
but Yngvar's Bane denied
raise blades... I've Not Yet Died!
Thrice-king rose without sound
took his stance, held the ground
foes fell from mortal wound
some bled stumbled swooned
til thirteen dwarvelords came
with arrows spears took aim
cowards felled brave duke
thus honor they forsook
Battle quit, bridge lay red
with raven wine from dead
treasure wasted armies fled
bloodswans songs bring dread
bloodstorm ends with many slain
corpses burn, across the plain
O'er blood fest ravens play
fast fried heroes...have it your way!
Even comes battles ends
armies leave, foes now friends
all dead risen head home
some to camp, some to roam
to beer and mead and songs
to spouses, cheering throngs!
Join me in beery toast
to half-tonne of pot roast!


This poem was written in 2008, before I moved on to Old Icelandic poetry.  It is written in an Old Icelandic form called runhendr, In Old Icelandic and eddaic poetry, end rhyme scheme is seldom  considered necessary.  Indeed, in drottkveitt, or Court Poetry, end rhyme is never used purposefully.  However, there is a form of poetry common to Iceland that does use end rhyme, runhendt (runnng rhyme).  In The Structure of Old Norse Drottkveitt Poetry, Kari Ellen Gade says:

"Not until the end of the tenth century, in Egil's [Skallagrimsson] "Hoflauðsen" [Head-Ransom] does end rhyme play a constitutive part in skaldic metrics.  This new meter, runhendr, which consists of lines with four syllables dispenses with the internal rhymes altogether and replaces it with end rhymes..... It is clear that runhendr meter represented a bold break with the established norms for the composition of skaldic poetry, and that this innovation was most likely the result of foreign [most likely English or Irish] influence.”

It should be noted that in the Prose Edda, Snorri Sturlusson identifies many different types of runhendr, including one with six syllables in a line.  While runhendr is unusual in Old Icelandic poetry, it is far more accessible to modern ears than dróttkvætt. [See my earlier posting for an example in Old Icelandic of this verse form]

This poem is the story of a true event at Pennsic 13 or so, when a line of four men: Boris Dragonsbane, Haakon Oaktall,  Morguhn Sheridan, and Wilfred Altmarker - charged through a Calontir shield wall & died gloriously.  It is ever so slightly embroidered, as such legends become over generations of the telling.  The next to last verse is partially borrowed from the Magnusdrapa, where the poet speaks of ravens pulling corpses from a burning house (fast fried corpses).  It was just too good to pass up.  In the poem, I have used fewer kennings than might be expected, in order to keep the flow of the narrative intact.  Among those used are: 
spear storm - battle 
Yngvar’s Bane - Morguhn Sheridan (for the classic battles between the two great knights of Æthelmearc)
bloodswans - ravens
bloodstorm - battle 
blood fest - battlefield
raven wine - blood
half tonne of pot roast - the line of four fighters who tipped the scales at just over 1100 pounds. 



Monday, June 13, 2011

A Manuscript


As some of you know or may have guessed, I've been working on a large project for some time now.  The poem is finished (until I decide to revise it --- maybe next year, definitely not before September) and ready for presentation in August.  It has been put into a manuscript by a very talented scribe name Jean Valentine (or, in the SCA, Matilda Bosville de Bella Aqua).  She calligraphed it in a proto-Gothic hand, following the various models that you can find in the Old Icelandic - Norse manuscripts of the  Arnamagnæan Institute.

This is the manuscript that Matilda produced.  Feel free to look, but not to download, please.

It is a beautiful piece and I'm looking forward to actually having it in my hands :)

Who knows, with his inspiring me (and having other paperwork I really should be doing), maybe the Muse will return from her little vacation this week!


Friday, June 10, 2011

Dissolute Lifestyle, Part Three


Back again, this time with an erfidrápa (a poem in praise of the dead) which I wrote about two years ago.  Once again, the subject is His Grace, Duke Sir Morguhn Sheridan, of whom I wrote in the previous posting.  This poem was an attempt to bring all of the qualities of the Icelandic dróttkvætt metre in English. This is a difficult task because English is largely an uninflected language, as opposed to Icelandic, which is highly inflected.  This can reck havoc when you are closely counting syllables.  You on't have flexibility in word order either.  A second hurdle is that accents in English often fall on the second rather than first syllable of a word.  This can make it difficult to follow the need for a trochee in the last slot in the line.

Despite these problems, I feel that I got this poem about right.  In it I present visions of Morguhn (winning crown the first time, becoming a duke, defeating the Calontir shield wall in the Charge of the Four, being knighted, the third crown in the East, ruling in AEthelmearc, facing death), much as a shield-poem would be constructed by taking the conceit of describing a decorated shield.

One final note - there are two stefs (four line choruses) interspersed in the poem.  Each ends with the line "Morguhns ǫnd ofar lǫndum".  This roughly translates to "Morguhn's spirit over the land."

Here is the poem.  I hope you enjoy and comment, please!

Morguhn drapa  inn Langferðamaðr
(Drapa for Morguhn the Long Road Walker)
(Pennsic 38, July-August 2009)
Met in boldest battle
Better sword not yet found
Great duke merry mighty
Morguhns ǫnd ofar lǫndum
Saw I flame haired fighter
Field stand never yielding
Brash youth green clad granted
Great knights swift deaths eight-fold
Fought from dawn til dark fall
Dragon tors'd fed corse hawks
Conquered Manfred mighty
Made Rowan his first queen
Saw I fiercesome fighters
forty seeking glory
Grass clad Morguhn mighty
Mowed down those who stood there
Met there turquoise tyger
Tribesman Randall gliding
Shadows minion stalwart
Stood til Morguhn slew him
Laughter rang out loudly
Light heart sang in bright eyes
Keep his memory mighty
Morguhns ǫnd ofar lǫndum
Saw I Dragon's doomsman
Delve lords guide to Hel's door
Crossing river's rock span
that roaring Calon horde kept
Four great giants joined there
Jarred loose rock-scarred foeman
Charging woeful warriors
Wedge from rock's edge threw them.
Saw I Pennsic pastures
Potent Gavin great king
Brought his knights to kneel there
Noble Morguhn summoned
Round his waist the white belt
Wedded spurs to high boots
Chain of gold was given
Green clad lord thus knighted
Saw I lord of leaf'd round
Longed to hear the swan's song
Soaring heaven highward
Hied to tourney's violence.
Verdant Morguhn met there
Mighty western belt-lord
Ronald's head was hewn there
High born Morguhn won crown.
Met in boldest battle
Better sword not yet found
Great duke merry mighty
Morguhns ǫnd ofar lǫndum
Saw I realm made royal
Ruled by Princes truly
Leaf clad leaf lord led them
Loved by clear-voiced Meirwen
Four times stood he stalwart
Staid by none nor laid low
Fairly reigned by right hand
Ring lord by his prowess
Saw I oak-strong Aethling
Evil's eye struck death blow
Stood the berry browed lord
Brave til battles ending
Long road walker wanders
Whither no wight follows
We go to join his journey
Gentle Morguhn leads us
Laughter rang out loudly
Light heart sang in bright eyes
Keep his memory mighty
Morguhns ǫnd ofar lǫndum

(The next time - another in "the Great Man" series)

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Dissolute Lifestyle, Part Two

This time, as promised, a contrafactum for a fallen hero.  In the SCA, one of my closest friends was Duke Sir Morguhn Sheridan, who passed away about two and a half years ago.  He was three time King of the East, twice Prince of AEthelmearc, and twice King of AEthelmearc.  He was, in many ways, the epitome of the chivalry that the SCA holds dear.  After he passed, I wrote a song for him.  It is to the tune of Seminole Wind, as performed by James Taylor on his “Covers” album.  The lyrics follow:
Lord of Chivalry
(Seminole Wind)
It is said in days of old
Men went searching for fame untold
Spurs of silver and chains of gold
The Lords of Chivalry
They kneel to kings and an oath they speak
Save the poor protect the weak
Honor for the right they seek
Til the world's time shall cease
Ride Lords of Chivalry
Ride til the people of the land are free
Evil hears your battlecall
And flees for it dares not stay
Ride into battle with banners bright
Drive away darkness, bring the light
Ride into the glorious fight
For a gold chain never fades
From the East a young man rides
With flaming hair and laughing eyes
A soaring soul and a battle cry
A true lord riding free
He rides for glory and he rides for fame
His ladies' honor and a noble name
A wild spirit whom none can tame
A Lord of Chivalry
Ride Lords of Chivalry
Ride til the people of the land are free
Evil hears your battlecall
And flees for it dares not stay
Ride into battle with banners bright
Drive away darkness, bring the light
Ride into the glorious fight
For a gold chain never fades
The kingdom's glorious service called
In the list, at war, or in the hall
With love and laughter let all recall
The Paragon of Chivalry
For the honor of his ladies the Crown he bore
In times of peace, on the field of war
His fames resounds in legend and lore
The Lord of Chivalry
Ride Lord of Chivalry
Ride til the people of the land are free
Evil hears your battlecall 
And flees for it dares not stay
Ride into battle with banners bright
Drive away darkness, bring the light
Ride into the glorious fight
For a gold chain  never fade
In final battle with the dauntless foe
He fought to his last, stood toe to toe
At Valhalla's Gates, the gods now know
The Lord of Chivalry
His joy in battle his heart's desire
In death let the glory of his life inspire
His memory brings our souls to fire
The Lord of Chivalry
Ride Lord of Chivalry
Ride til the people of the land are free
I still hear your battlecall
Where you've gone I cannot say
Ride into battle with banners bright
Drive away darkness, bring the light
Ride on forever, our valiant knight
For a pure heart never fades
No, a true knight never fades
(the next time, more of what a friend calls “The Great Men Series” - an erfidrapa for Morguhn)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Steps Leading to a Dissolute Lifestyle, Part One

[While I'm waiting for new inspiration to hit for the Old Icelandic poetry, an explanatory posting]

So, many of you may be asking, how does a singer/poet descend into the abject moral poverty that causes him to become a skald?  What inequities could possibly cause him to follow such a profligate, derelict, lifestyle?
Honestly, it all begins with a hook (just as the songs and poems do).  In my case, the hook was baited with applause.   I enjoy performing and, in the Society for Creative Anachronisms when I joined 35 years ago, the preferred performance form was the contrafactum or “filk song”.  Essentially, a contrafactum is the borrowing of a song from the one sphere and making it suitable for another sphere by applying new lyrics.  Tunes that are popularly known become new songs.  In medieval times, the most popular transformation was from sacred to secular;  in my writing, the usual transformation is from folk/country music to the SCA.  In other words, I take a folk song and apply SCA-appropriate lyrics to it.
Most contrafacta that I write (and most that others write) are silly.  However, at times, they can be serious, even mournful.  I have written two such contrafacta.  The first, written some 33 or 34 years ago, is called “Behold, I Give You the Kingdom”.  It is a song that a Prince might sing to his lady upon having won the Crown for her. (For those not acquainted with the SCA, every six months or so, in each “Kingdom”, a tournament is fought to determine who will reign as King and Queen.  It is not unusual for a fighter to fight for many years before winning this tournament.  Victory is often a hghly emotional moment.  In this lyric, I refer to “AEthling” and “AEthelmearc” my home Kingdom.  I’m given to understand that the song is sung elsewhere with appropriate Kingdom names inserted.)  The tune it is set to is “Behold, I Give You the Morning” by Tom Paxton.
Here are my contrafactum’s lyrics:
Wake my love the morning sun grows ever bolder
Time has come to take the robes upon your shoulder
I go to claim the Crown then I’ll await you.
Now I’ll place the robe upon you
Grant you the title that I’ve won you
Behold, I give you the Kingdom
I Give you the Crown
Think of years of toil and sweat, the days of dying
then of victory triple-sweet with banners flying
The Aethling Crown awaits you for your honor
Look upon the glorious land of peace and beauty
Keeping AEthelmearc strong and proud, that is our duty
Gaze upon the splendor we’ll be ruling
Come, my love, and join me in our time of glory
Let the bards and balladeers begin the story
You are my Queen, I am your servant truly.
(The next time: A contrafactum for a fallen warrior)