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)