October Lament

This piece took a while to come together. When I originally workshopped it, I had the first and third verses and the melody pretty set, and I thought the same for the second. But after some feedback, the second verse came together to this version, and I think it works better than my original lines. Which is why we workshop and get feedback, eh? It felt, and still feels, a bit short, especially since I was going for a ballad (see “documentation” below), but every attempt at expansion ended up feeling forced and trite and smelled distinctly of cheese. This is another one of those I consider to be in the vein of “SCA traditional.” Hope you enjoy!

October Lament

E                                                                           A                   E
How many roads have you traveled, what hard days have you seen,
E                             C#m7                A         B
In the light and the shadow and the valleys between?
            E                                                     A                 E
Shall I watch for your coming, ‘neath the sun and the rain,
E                            C#m7             A           E
And when, oh my friend, shall I see you again?

For the winter was coming, and the trees whispered low
That you’d left in the night on the dark paths below.
With no news of your parting we searched all in vain,
When, oh my friend, shall we see you again?

Will you travel these roads and return in the spring?
Will the trees speak your coming in their new clothes of green?
Will you return to our memory in the sun and the rain,
And when, oh my friend, shall we see you again?

What’s in a Ballad or, The Documentation

A survey of 16th-century ballads returns a selection of songs that span a wide spectrum of topics from the sacred to the secular. Some tell a linear story, while others relate a casual encounter (“The vertuous maids resolution. Or The two honest lovers” 16??) or ruminate on a topic, such as death (“The lamenting lady’s farewel to the world” 16??) (Libraries). While this piece is much shorter than most of the traditional ballads that have survived, I have modeled its construction on the strong rhythmic sense, the aabbcc, etc., rhyme scheme, and the tune that moves along a melodic line with a late-period sense of progression and resolution.

When I perform this piece, I rarely give an introduction that includes more than the name of the song, and the fact that it is an original piece. I leave it to the audience to imagine to whom I’m singing. Is it a friend who has traveled temporarily? A loved one who is seen only rarely? A missed chance at a connection from long ago? Alas, the one for whom I sing this Ballad shall be seen again only in the words of my song and the memory of those who loved him.

References

Libraries, Bodleian. Broadside Ballads Online. n.d. 14 May 2020. <http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/&gt;.

Someday I will learn how to sing on a video without looking constipated …

The North Star or, The Privateer’s Compass

As the Bard of the Oaks (which position I held during 2019), I was very lucky to work for not just one great Baron and Baroness, but for their equal excellent successors. As I was getting ready to step down, the Baron requested I write a song for his lady. They had both started in the SCA with pirate personas, and the occasion was a Masked Ball with a piratical theme. He wanted a song that used the imagery of the North Star pointing home. It took a bit of time to get this song completed, and then there wasn’t enough time to debut it at the ball. I was then going to perform at an event in March … but of course The Plague arrived and exiled us all to our domiciles. I took the time of the delay to workshop the piece the the Mists Bardic workshop, and received some good feedback. I also sat down and wrote out the chords. Once I was comfortable I had the piece where it needed to be, I sent a private recording to His Excellency. His reaction to the piece, and Her Excellency’s, was one of gratitude, and I was glad to have been able to have the honor of making a gift of it to them. At the Baron’s encouragement, I then published the piece via Facebook (embedded below.)

Shortly after, I received a compliment in the form of a Bard requesting the chord sheet and lyrics. In the hopes that this song might strike a chord with a fellow performer, or just in case I need the lyrics and chords at some future time, I am setting them up here. I hope you enjoy it!

NORTH STAR, or, The Privateer’s Compass

By Lady Teresa of Attilium

CHORUS:

Bm7                                    C                             G
I hear your voice in the wind that fills our sails
             D                   G                       G/C                D
In the clear, bright dawn and the sun over our rails
              G                     D                     C                                     G
Like the seabird that flies o’er the waves that crash and foam
              G                                              C             D                G
Like the North Star above us, your light will guide me home.

VERSES

Verse 1
G                                       D                    C                            G
It’s been three months out and our journey soon will end
                                                            C                       D
And we’ll hit the misty shore our money for to spend
G                     D                          C                      G
But of all the treasure we’ve taken for our own
G                                                 C          D            G
Your light on the horizon, all others has outshone.

Verse 2
And now the lookout shouts that he’s spied the far-off land
And the men send up a cheer, for our liberty’s at hand
As we bend to the sails and our ship leaps toward the shore
I swear once again that I’ll set to sea no more

Verse 3
But when we hit dry land, a whisper comes to ear
The call of the waves and my duty calls me clear*
And though I have pledged on the shore to dwell and stay
I know that to the sea my path will finally stray.

Verse 4
My duty to my King nor my Lady I’ll not fail
Though I turn my gaze once more to the wind and to the sail
And you promise me that you’ll guide me ever true
So I return to the waves, with the memory of you.

*Originally: “I must heed”

Me playing and trying to look like I’m not reading the words off a cheat sheet…

As a note: This is the sort of song I like to refer to as “SCA Traditional,” in that it owes its lineage to songs written throughout the history of the SCA that reflect the Celtic – sea shanty – folk music amalgamation of traditions that sometimes show up when we write. As such, there is less in the way of documentation, but there is precedent and a place for it in the SCA Bardic tradition.

A Priamel or, Don’t Be “That Lord”

When I started to generally ease my way back into the SCA, one of the goals and intentions I set for myself was to learn more things that my persona (late 16th-century German bourgeoisie) might have encountered. As I am interested in the Bardic arts, I decided to look for some German poetry forms, and chanced upon the “priamel.” I originally found it in Todd H.C. Fischer’s excellent encyclopedia of period poetry forms, Ossa Poetices. From there, I found the additional references I list at the bottom of the page. I recently entered this poem into the Poeta Atlantiae competition, and was gratified that people found it funny (although to be honest, there was a certain cheekiness in writing the poem about certain people in the Kingdom and then submitting it to a poetry contest in said Kingdom, but poking fun at important people is a documentable practice, so I stand by my complete and total lack of regret at doing so.)

I did receive some excellent feedback, particularly in the area of my documentation. One judge suggested that they wanted to see a documentation that would give them enough information to go and try their hand at writing their own poem. I’ve taken this under advisement, and I’m actually thinking of creating a class on writing priamels. Just one more thing on the old to-do list. In the meantime, here is my crack at writing this particular pithy poem-form.

A Priamel or, A Pithy Warning Upon Being “That” Lord

The bow that at self-glory aims
And finds itself a different fame;
The fencer who in preening wit
O’er lunges and ends up in the shit;
The steward who hastens to bend the knee
When a noble breaks wind in his company;
The pupil who his own lesson makes hard
Learns—never, ever piss off a Bard.

What is a Priamel, or The Documentation!

A priamel, according to William H. Race in The Classical Priamel from Homer to Boethius (Race 2): “…refer[s] specifically to a minor poetic genre composed primarily in Germany from the 12th to the 16th centuries.” The form consists of a set of short, pithy statements, sometimes paradoxical, wrapped up in a final, culminating verse that works similarly to a punchline. While certain historians have placed the priamel as a form within a developing continuum from classical times, the German form is more likely original to Germany in these centuries, and is a form that combines a “series of parallels ideas along with an artistic viewpoint and seeks to bind them to a central unity.”[1] These poems often lent themselves to a satirical theme, and the final stanza was often quite pointed.

My study of this form stems from an enthusiasm for learning about the poems and literature my 16th-century German persona might have encountered; as a popular “Volkspoesie,” or folk poem, it is likely I would have heard someone dash off a witty priamel or, perhaps, as a middle-class merchant family, been the butt of one.


[1] “Demnach ist das Priamel [ein Form] die eine Reihe paralleler Einzelheiten in bestimmten Formen mit künstlerische Absicht zu einer inneren Einheit zu verbinden sucht.” (Euling)

References

Euling, Karl. Das Priamel bis Hans Rosenpluet. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1977.

Race, William H. The Classical Priamel from Homer to Boethius. Boston: Brill, 1982.

Darkwood Shanty

Last December, the Darkwood Baroness’s Masked Ball had a seafaring theme, with a nod to the new Baron and Baroness who, when first joining the SCA, had piratical personas. As I was leading the Bardic competition to find my replacement, I was able to name the tunes for the contest. One of the categories was “Twisted Sea Shanty.” Since it was my last command performance, I decided to write a shanty specifically for the Barony, and offer it as a token of time my there. It can be sung to many a shanty tune … including, apparently, Sponge-Bob Squarepants. Enjoy getting it out of your head!

Darkwood Shanty

Upon the horizon the gray cliffs do rise
Haul away now, the wind and the foam.
The strong oaks of Darkwood stand tall ‘gainst the sky
Haul away for Darkwood our home.

For many long weeks we’ve stood hand upon oar
Haul away now, the wind and the foam.
With our ship’s cargo full we’ll turn now for the shore
Haul away for Darkwood our home.

The harbor is sheltered from waves and from wind
Haul away now, the wind and the foam.
Our loved ones are waiting to gather us in
Haul away for Darkwood our home.

We’ll drink and be merry and dance through the night
Haul away now, the wind and the foam.
With a right willing heart we’ll greet dawn’s early light
Haul away for Darkwood our home.

And when upon shore all our money is spent
Haul away now, the wind and the foam.
It’s back to the waves and the sea air’s salt scent
Haul away for Darkwood our home.

A view from the Monterey coastal trail, looking out into the bay that served as the inspiration for this little ditty.

My Lady Mercy

My time as the Bard of the Oaks is now over, being taken over by the lovely and talented Sholeh of Susa. However, I am still working on getting the lyrics to the songs I wrote during my tenure up on the web. Eventually, I may even sit down and transcribe the melody into a lead sheet and then make a little video performance. Eventually … Anyway, this was a piece that was, as the info below notes, commissioned by the Baron of Darkwood, Carrek MacBrian. He was not yet the Baron, but had been elected, along with his Lady, Mercy Grym. He had pulled me to the side and asked if I would write a song for her, and of course, how could I turn him down? I had a chance to sing it for them at night around the Baronial tent, and though the performance was interrupted by the longest train whistle EVER, I think that I did please those for whom I sang this ditty.

My Lady, Mercy
Lady Teresa of Attilium
In service to His Excellency, Baron Carrek MacBrian

Late e’en when the seabirds call
I traveled on a road
That led me to garden fair
Some gentle hand had sowed.
And from its walls I glimpsed a view
Few others did obtain
And touched my hand unto the gate
That I might enter in.

First greeting me was green Ivy,
Who grew upon the stone
Embracing with her cool, dark leaves
The walls on which she’d grown.
I bowed to see her waiting there
With great sincerity,
The picture of her quiet strength,
Lady Fidelity.

Next came Heartsease, merry flower,
Tri-colored in its face
A carpet for the garden floor,
Most comforting its grace.
“Oh, happy flow’r,” I spoke to her
As on the path I went,
And smiled to think of her so well,
My Lady Merriment.

Tall Foxglove next, with bells of gold
And white stood straight and sure,
This beauty whose bold petals both
A man could kill or cure.
This stately bloom did nod her head
With calm civility,
And beckoned me along the way,
My Lady Dignity.

Amidst these pleasant flower beds,
A might Oak did spread
Her limbs o’er every fruit and flower
That rested in its bed.
For in her shadow none are feared
To lay their heads to sleep,
A nurturing eye o’er all her buds,
My Lady, Steadfast, keeps.

A Lady whose bright talent wove
A home to rest secure,
The hand that sowed these faithful blooms
Has made this to endure.
This garden is a place for all
To enter freely in
And find a welcome from her hands,
My Lady, Mercy Grym.

The bitter stalks of thyme…

One of the approaches to getting better as a bard in the Society is learning the poetry forms that my persona, a 16th-century German, would be familiar with. The goal is to internalize their structure until I can write one without referring to my poetry Bible, Ossa Poetices, by Todd H.C. Fischer. I would also like to start working on putting music composed in accordance with period structures to these lyrics, but that’s another project.

This is my first attempt at bar form, which includes an aufgesang made up of two “stollen” followed by an abgesang, with an overall pattern of AA (aufgesang) followed by B (abgesang) (citation: Fischer). It appeared in the September 2018 issue of The Drum, the newsletter of the Barony of Darkwood.

The bitter stalks of thyme

The bitter stalks of thyme
With yellow-flowered grace of rue
In neatly planted gardens grow
‘Neath tears of joy and sorrow, too.

For we met in our prime
When spring did shower us with grace
And where these lowly herbs took root
We planted roses in their place.

Then let these summer flowers
Grow strong and sturdy with each day
And in the chill of autumn hours
Their colors strong and bold will stay.

Someday we’ll hand in hand
Tread frozen paths of winter’s halls
And memories of garden rose
Shall mute the strains of nighttime’s call.

So, let us follow thyme
Where rue and roses grow with ease—
Though tender shoots give way to gray,
From springtime’s warmth to winter peace.

Raise Your Banner (Song)

Raise Your Banner Music & Lyrics
Lyrics: Katie Blanchard
Music: Rachel Brune

In honor of the then-incoming Sultan Dietrich and Sultana Una of Atlantia, we wrote this song for the Spring 2018 Coronation with the intention of singing it in the Performing Arts Competition. We practiced it quite a bit, but didn’t get as much time to put it together as I would have like, and ended up in a situation where we had two false starts before bowing out. Oh well.

There is no particular period form we used to write the song, although I tried once again to fit it into a modal pattern with varying success. The lyrics were very loosely based on the themes of encouraging those who fought to do so with honor. While I didn’t find many extant examples of songs that fit our SCA construct of fighting to earn a throne, there are examples of songs that encouraged men to take up arms in one Crusade or the other, or songs by minstrels praising those who fought in tournaments or jousts(1). This song could be said to be inspired by such.

Also, we might have biffed it at the actual competition, but later that week, we made it all the way through and didn’t sound half bad. Of course…

_______________
(1) Tournaments and Jousts: Training for War in Medieval Times, by Andrea Hopkins.

 

Siege of Paris (Song)

Siege of Paris Music & Lyrics
Music: Teresa of Attilium & Ashley Hill
Lyrics: Katie Blanchard

Background: We wrote “Siege of Paris” for a Bardic performance at Ymir 2018 in the Barony of Windmasters Hill. The theme was “Vikings versus French,” and we wanted to write a song about the Viking sieges of Paris. We decided to tell the story by having the first two lines of each verse sung from the French perspective, and the second two lines from the Viking, with all the singers coming together to find common ground on the chorus. Katie did some research and decided that while the Vikings sieged Paris in a series of attacks spanning from 845 to 885 C.E., we didn’t have a century to sing the song, and so she collapsed the century of Vikings attacks down to one for the sake of artistic expediency.

We tasked my friend Ashley to help us get a modal harmony going on the chorus. This was the first song we all wrote together, and while it doesn’t strictly follow a documentable period structure, we decided it was pretty close and we would work on more authentic compositions later.

The PDF document above has the link to the sheet music and lyrics. Here is a video of Voices of Attilium performing at Ymir 2018.

 

In which I share a villanelle…

Last September, I took a class at the University of Atlantia entitled “Writing Villanelles Like a True Villain.” As part of the class, we were given an exercise to write a villanelle. I’m always up for trying new and difficult forms of poetry, so I took a stab at it. To make it extra new and difficult, I decided to try writing it in iambic pentameter (even though villanelles are typically all about the rhyme scheme and have no set rhythm.)

As I pursue the Bardic Arts, I’ll be sharing that process here on the blog, and so I present my first (but not last) villanelle!

For Jennifer, when I think of her

Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep,
The red-winged blackbird sings his song so clear,
Your memory I cannot fail to keep.

The rains come swift. The currents running deep,
From streams that overstepped their banks, appear
Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep.

The autumn leaves across the valley creep,
The seasons march, ne’er pausing year to year–
Your memory I cannot fail to keep–

It catches me. When snow is piled deep
And high around the door, I feel you here
Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep.

The springtime comes, sheds green along the steep
Valley walls. I walk them with you near,
Your memory I cannot fail to keep.

I close your book, my eyes too dry to weep,
The words you wrote still echo in my ear.
Whene’er I have a moment’s chance to sleep,
Your memory I cannot fail to keep.