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 …

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.