Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Teaser for "GeirÞeyr" (Spear-Storm)

This full poem will make its debut on May 5th at Crown Tournament in the Barony of Delftwood (Syracuse, NY). It is a revision of a previous drapa (long poem with refrain). The purpose of revision is improvement, of course; in this case, the improvement has generally been in rhyme scheme, especially the internal rhymes. However, the one verse you will get today is somewhat different. My original thought was to try a quick experiment in runhendr, a verse form with rhymed couplets. Looking back at this one verse, I understood that I had been only partially successful. I had rhyme, but it was only partial or loose rhyme, where runhendr calls for exact rhyme.

In browsing the Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages website, I came across a metre called dróttkvætt runhendr, which may be best described as a hybrid form, with dróttkvætt length lines and runhendr rhyme. Here is an example, a lausavisr (loose verse) written by Bjorn Kálfsson, in approximately 1182:

Fant sék hvern á hesti,
hér's nú siðr enn vesti,
(leið eigum vér langa)
en lendir menn ganga;
hirðmenn skulu hlaupa,
hér esat gótt til kaupa,
(munka mǫrgu kvíða),
en matsveinar ríða.

This verse mocks soldiers fleeing on foot from a battle, for having left their horses behind:

Prose Translation: I see every servant on a horse and the landsmen walking; now here's the worst habit; we have a long way to go. The retainers must run and the cooks are riding; there's no good bargain here; I'm not going to fear much.

You can see the regular line length, the presence of some alliteration (though not as strict as classic dróttkvætt metre) and the addition of the end-rhyme.

This is the metre I aimed at in my revision. Below you have the original verse, which was written in late Spring 2011, on the left and the revised version on the right. The prose translations follow the verses.


Original Verse Revised Verse
Rúni minna rekka
rikis-faðirs sagna
hug-runr Munin halda
Hugin geirþey á-gætta
holt-græn brynjar  hafta
holt-græn riki heilsa
Bil-seim fríðust blása
Baldr-styr mattig beita
Rúni minna rekka
fǫður Mímirs drekkja
hugrúnar Munin halda
geirþeyar Hugin skalda
brynjar hafta holt-græn!
riki heilsa holt-græn!
Bil-seims fríðust beiddi
ok bága ljóna leiddi

Original verse: Counselor of warriors remember your ancestors' lessons.  Munin holds wisdom and Hugin praises battle [geir-þey  “spear breeze” > BATTLE].  The Sylvan army [brynjar  “mail-shirts” > WARRIORS > ARMY] joins; The Sylvan realm salutes!  Fairest queen [Bil-seim “Goddess of gold” > QUEEN] inspires!  Mighty king [Baldr-styr “God of war” > KING] leads!

Revised verse: Counselor of warriors remember your ancestors' lessons [Mímirs drekkja “Mimir’s drink > Wisdom giant’s drink > WISDOM]. Munin holds wisdom and Hugin praises battle [geirþeyar “spear storms” > BATTLE]. The Sylvan army [brynjar “mail-shirts” > WARRIORS > ARMY] joins; The Sylvan realm salutes! Fairest queen [Bil-seims “Goddess of gold” > QUEEN] inspires! Mighty king [bága ljóna “Fighter of men" > KING] leads!


The difference may seem subtle, but having the full rhymes makes a big difference in both appearance and sound. In this type of verse, form may trump meaning.

If you have comments or questions, you can leave them here, contact me at Facebook, or write me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Questions! Do We get Questions?

Yesterday, I posted a little bit of a whine about not getting comments on my poetry. A friend replied that she felt unqualified to comment. My response to her (and anyone else who feels the same way) is that ANYONE and EVERYONE is qualified to comment, whether it is a detailed comment on grammar, vocabulary, etc,; or a general comment (I like the part about the raven's beak, or why did you use the blood-goose metaphor?, or how do you do this or that?)

So, here is MY promise to YOU

If you post a comment or question, beit here, on my facebook page, or to my e-mail, I will reply here within 24 hours (I may be asleep when you post it, so give me some time, ok?).

To prove my word, here is a first question from Facebook.


QUESTION: "I would like to know, do you write in norse language first then translate or do you write in English first?"


Short answer: I start with an English idea, think in English, then Old Norse, then back to English again.

Long Answer: My general routine is to have a topic in my head, then "gather my troops" by hunting down images and words from the Old Norse dictionaries & databases (Cleasby-Vigfusson's dictionary is on-line, as is the Skaldic Poetry database which has a comprehensive list of kennings). Then I build the poem, thinking in English and finding words in Old Norse to "fill in the blanks".

After I've got the lines roughly written, I work on the grammar (using the on-line New Introduction to Old Norse grammar and my copy of the Syntax of Old Norse).

Finally, I translate the poem back into English. I do two forms of transltion: the Word-by-Word is for those who want better undersnd the vocabulary. The Prose Order is to get the over-all meaning to the readers.

Without the interwebs, I'd never attempt this madness. A searchable dictionary and kenning list is invaluable, and the on-line grammar makes things much simpler.

So there you are. Hope this helps. Thanks for the question!


Ok, now it's YOUR turn. What's your question?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For Our King

It's only fair....

Since I wrote a verse for Her Majesty, Kallista, earlier this week, it's only fair that I write one for His Majesty, Andreas. I don't want to cause jealousy, after all. So, here you go:

Old Norse Verse Word-by-Word Translation Prose Order Translation
Vannt sigkrónu hvennær
vegmaðr hugsa degum -
Hár þá haslstangir
hristaskjala lézt af.
blóðdrukkinn var biðan
bragning Yggjar gæsa
Fyrir eik fagrbúin
frægða sigrast dag sá.
Won you crown victory when
stately man, I recall day
Hár then hazel-poles
shakers of shield slaughtered;
blood-drunk were biding
hero Yggr’s geese.
For oak beautifully dressed
glory you won day that.
I recall the day when
you won crown victory, stately man;
Then, Hár of hazel poles, you
slaughtered the shakers of shields.
Yggr’s biding geese
were blood-drunk, ruler.
That day, you won glory for
The beautifully dressed oak.


Kennings Used

Hár haslstangir > Har of hazel-poles > Odinn of the lists > ANDREAS
Hristaskjala > shakers of shields > WARRIORS
Yggjar gæsa > Yggr’s geese > Odinn’s goose > RAVEN
eik fagrbúin > oak beautifully dressed > KALLISTA


Please, give me your thoughts, either in the comment box below or at my e-mail.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another Morguhn verse (or Two Couplets Revised)

Good morning! Last summer after my annual vacation at the Pennsic Wars, I wrote a post that has two couplets I wrote while on vacation. It is time for revision of these verses into a full verse.

The couplets with the translations I provided are as follows:
Verse One

haslaði á holm-gang
holinn-menn fyrir gull-hringr

Challenged (he) to holm-gang
bragging-men for gold-ring-the

Verse Two

röskar Morghun rauð-harr
ræti hamingja leitinn

brave Morguhn red-haired
rode (his) fortune seeking
When I looked at these couplets, I saw definite strengths, but considerable weaknesses in three areas: internal rhymes in the first lines, syllable counts, and inflections. These three are difficult, but can be overcome with practice. That caused me to revise these couplets and to expand them into a full verse. That verse follows.


On Morguhn

Old Norse Verse Word-by-Word Translation Prose-Order Translation
Rǫskr Morguhn rauð-harr
ræti auðna leitinn;
létta skellihlátr
lǫngun ofan ǫnda.
Skora karpinn sverðum
á sártíð fyrir dýrðum
sjaufjald krúnas sinnum
sló menn inni hǫsldala.
Brave Morguhn red-haired
rode fortune seeking
lightened roaring laughter
longing up spirits.
Challenged bragging swords
to wound-hours for treasure;
seven crown's times
slew men in hazel-dale.
Brave red-haired Morguhn
rode seeking (his) fortune;
Roaring laughter lightened
longing spirits up.
Bragging swords (he) challenged
to wound-hours for treasure;
Seven times (he) slew men
in the crown's hazel-dale.


Kennings Used

karpinn sverðum > bragging swords > FIGHTERS
sártíð > wound-hours > BATTLES
hǫsldala > hazel-dale > LIST FIELD



As always, I hope I got the grammar right. There are times when the inflections I use may be inadvertently incorrect. If you see a mistake, please let me know.

I keep coming back to this theme, The Legend of Morguhn, because it has some universal truths in it: chivalry, courtesy, prowess, and fate. I only know that these verities bear further consideration. If you have suggestions on different topics I can use to explore these ideas, please let me know through comments.

Finally, any other comments you have - questions, remarks, likes and dislikes - are very important to me. You can use the box below, or you can e-mail me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

For Queen Kallista

Yes, it's about time --- I know, I'm late. I started this on Saturday last at the Coronation of Kallista and Andreas, Queen and King of Æthelmearc. The verse is relatively straight forward, except that praise lines for Her Majesty are inserted between lines of action. In any case, here is the poem.


Old Norse Word-by-Word Translation Prose-Order Translation
Sverðtré hvattu svartbrynn
(svanni grœngeils fannvit)
á frágǫrðum frœkligum
(fríðast, sváss ok bliðust).
Drjúgtmanna bjoða dróttningu
(dreglaðr raftré fegna
rauðharr verndar ratitosks)
rausnarkona hraustviðs.
Sword-tree you prompted black-browed
(swan of green-glen snow-white)
To surpassing feats valiant
(most beautiful, sweet, and gentlest)
Crowds proclaim you queen
(ribbon-trimmed amber tree joyful
red-haired friend of squirrel)
magnificent lady of the valiant woods.
You prompted the black-browed sword tree
to valiant surpassing feats
o snow-white swan of the green glen
most beautiful, sweet, and gentlest.
Crowds proclaim you queen,
magnificent lady of the valiant woods
Joyful ribbon-trimmed amber tree -
red-tressed friend of the squirrel.


Kennings Used

Sverðtré svart-brynn > sword tree black-browed > ANDREAS
grœngeils > of the green-glens > SYLVAN GLEN
svanni fannvit > swan snow-white > KALLISTA
raftré > amber tree > KALLISTA
hraustviðs > valiant woods > AETHELMEARC


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reykvellir (Reek-seether)

Yes, volcanos. Two volcanic photos that appeared at the APOD blog inspired me for these verses. Once again, these are pretty kenning & heiti heavy.  The kennings and heiti are explained in my notes at the end.


This is of an Ecuadorian volcano, but it's STILL nifty

This is of Eyjafjallajokull, during its 2010 eruption


Old Norse Word-by-Word Prose-Order

Borgar liðdrjúg berg-buis
byrræfr braut niðr dýrligt
ok gilja inni gullin,
glóa seyðir Hveðrungs.
Bó­­­tar jǫrðhrist bergklædd
bǫls darka élsólars;
brandar fuðra brenn-steinn
ok bróta duna Hlóriðs

Fortress mighty of mountain-dweller
breeze-roof broke up glorious
and gullies in golden
glow fire-pits of Hveðrung.
Boots earthquakes rock-clad
trouble's stomp of storm-sun;
brands flame of brimstone
and breaks thunder of Hlórið.

Mountain-dweller's mighty fortress
broke up the glorious breeze-roof
and Hveðrung´s fire-pits
glow in golden gullies.
Storm-sun´s trouble´s rock-clad
boots stomp earthquakes;
brimstone brands flame
and Hloriðd's thunder breaks.

Vaðil flæddi váðvæng
velland neðan eld-fjall;
reykvellir er rǫkvið
ropað yfir snóplaxu.
Jotunn brunnum átfrek
ǫska fretar mǫkku;
strangtvið þa er stráfall
strjúpi ǫskeld uppvarp.

Wading streams flow perilous
molten down fire-hill;
twilit reek seether
belches over snow-plains.
Giant burning voracious
ash farts clouds;
strong-woods when straw-fall
bleeding-trunk fire-ash throws up.

Molten wading-streams flow
down perilous fire-hill;
twilit reek seether
belches over snow plains.
Voracious giant farts
burning ash clouds;
when bleeding trunk vomits
fire-ash strong wood straw-fall.


Kennings and Heiti Used

Verse One

Borgar berg-buis > fortress of Mountain-dweller > VOLCANO
byrræfr > breeze-roof > SKY
seyðir Hveðrungs > Hveðrungs (a heiti for LOKI) seether (fire-pit) > VOLCANO CRATER
bǫls élsólars > trouble of the storm-sun > TROLL
bó­­­tar bǫls élsólars > the boots of the troll > TREMORS
brandar brenn-steinn > brands of brimstone > LIGHTNING
Hlóriðs > heiti for THOR

Verse Two

Vaðil flæddi velland > wading streams molten > LAVA
reykvellir > reek-seether > VOLCANO
Jotunn átfrek > giant voracious > VOLCANO
stráfall > straw-fall > PERISH, DIE
strjúpi > bleeding-trunk (spoken of a neck after the head is severed) > VOLCANO CRATER



Please, tell me what you think.......

Monday, April 2, 2012

In re Ball's Pyramid

A friend posted this photo on FaceBook yesterday:


Ball's Pyramid is a volcanic stack located off the coast of Australia. I have tried to imagine how it might have appeared to a Norseman, had he, not Lt. Ball, discovered it.


Old Norse Verse Word-by-Word Translation Prose-Order Translation
Ǫndru rísa unnheims
eldast at aesirs veldi
sævar-haukar skræktan
settisk á viðu kletta.
Sunds-mist kald-ráðs sókngífrs
sníða egg-skarp hríðrot
stapi-dreka stǫpla
stormar yfir mjǫrkva.
Ski rises wave-world
ancient to gods realm
sea-hawks shrieking
perch on mast rocky.
Sound-mist evil-minded battle-witch
slices edge-sharp stormy
steeple-dragon dashes
storms over murky.
The ski of the wave-home
rises to the ancient gods' realm
shrieking sea-hawks
perch on rocky mast.
Evil-minded battle-witch´s sharp-edge
slices stormy sound's mist
the murky storm dashes
over the dragon's-steeple.


This poem is pretty kenning-heavy, so  a brief reminder about kennings would seem to be appropriate. A kenning is a circuitous metaphor, a re-naming of a thing. kennings can range from simple, with an adjective added to a noun to form a heiti (a single noun that renames without an adjective) or a sankenningar (an adjective plus the referent noun) to a rekit (chased or driven ... three or more kennings strung together). For the most part, the kennings you find in my poetry are sankenningar or kenningar (simple two words, a noun distantly related to the subject plus a descriptive).

Other sources for learning about kennings are:

Frank, Roberta. Old Norse Court Poetry: the Dróttkvætt Stanza. Cornell: 1978.

Gade, Kari Ellen.  The Structure of Old Norse Drottkvætt Poetry.  Cornell: 1995.

Guðrun Nordal. Tools of Literacy. The Role of Skaldic Verse in Icelandic Textual Culture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. University of Toronto Press: 2001.

Lee, Alvin A. Gold-hall and Earth-dragon: Beowulf as a Metaphor. University of Toronto: 1998.

Snorri Sturulson.  Edda. Everyman Press: 1995.

Any way, here are the kennings I used in this poem:

Ǫndru unnheims > ski of the wave-home > boat > ROCK (a tvikent - combining 2 kennings:   
          Ǫndru - ski - BOARD and unnheims - of wave-world - SEA, thus a BOAT)
aesirs veldi  > gods' realm > SKY (a kenningr)
sævar-haukar  > sea-hawks > BIRD (a sankenningr)
viðu kletta  > mast rocky > RIDGE (a kenningr)
Sunds-mist  > mist of the sound > FOG (a sankenningr)
sókngífrs  > battle-witch > axe > ROCK FACE (a kenningr)
egg-skarp  > edge-sharp > AXE BLADE (a sankenningr)
stapi-dreka  > dragon's steeple > ROCK (a kenningr)
mjǫrkva stormar  > murky storms > STORMS (a sankenningr)