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.

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