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…

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(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.

In which we make my spouse a gambeson…

Poof! You’re a gambeson!

No, not quite like that. Rather, my spouse has lately decided to seriously begin learning SCA heavy armored combat. He’s currently working around a shoulder injury, but he is pretty sure this is an activity he wants to pursue long term. The group we’re in has loaner armor, but he’s been wearing a sweatshirt (sometimes MY sweatshirt) and some pants under it. I decided that I would get him started collecting his own kit by making him a gambeson. So he could leave my sweatshirts alone.

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Resources

For this project, historical accuracy was less important than finding a pattern that I could easily create to fit him and that would fit my barely-more-than-rudimentary sewing skills. I found an Instructable by (username) Rune Cutter, entitled “How to Make an 11 Cent. Padded Gambeson.” That is, 11th Century, not the amount of money you will spend on this project. The step-by-step instructions seemed pretty clear, so I took into account the warning that you needed some basic sewing skills, and decided to try it.

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The Progress

Everything I needed for this project was available at Joann’s. I purchased several yards of quilted cotton, four packages of bias tape (only needed two), and some green thread to match. I already had pins, pens, rulers, etc. I bought heavy-duty needles for my sewing machine, but ended up not needing them.

IMG_0209Where I Followed the Instructions. I used Rune Cutter’s sketched pattern and dimensions to make the neck. The pattern is scaled for a 5’10” fighter; my spouse is 5’9″, but built like the tanks he used to command. I took Cutter’s advice and double-checked my pattern before cutting it out. I also used the general pattern shape, sleeve extensions, and the idea of using bias tape around the neck, sleeve ends and bottom of the gambeson. I found his instructions to be clear and understandable.

Where I Varied A Bit. This is how I double-checked the pattern. While the sketch shows some general measurements, I needed to take four more in order to get it sketched IMG_0239properly: my spouse’s waist, chest, arm scye and forearm. I added two inches of ease to the chest and waist, and probably could have added one more. After finishing the neckline, to include sewing the bias tape to finish the edge, I then pinned along the lines I drew on the cloth.  This allowed me to get him to try it on before I started sewing. If you’re doing this for someone other than your spouse, you could try basting it so you don’t stick them with a pin. Or not.

My sewing machine was packed away, so I started sewing the seam by hand. I don’t know why. I was just too lazy to pull the sewing machine out. That got old pretty quickly, so the next day, I got the sewing machine from its closet, threaded it up, and sewed the seam. Keep in mind, I hadn’t yet cut the fabric. I had my spouse try it on one more time, then I cut a quarter inch seam around the top layer and a half inch seam around the bottom layer. This allowed me to flat-fell the seams, which I did by hand. Some of the cotton was fraying even a short time after cutting, and the quilting was fluffing out, so finishing the seam this way seemed like a good idea.

One note–if you do the sleeve extensions in the Instructable, don’t forget to leave yourself a seam allowance. Like I did. Ugh. Re-cut. And this fabric is not cheap. I think I’m going to make a cowl out of the mistake.

IMG_0242Also, I think I got away with not needing the heavy duty needles because I didn’t stitch the bias tape over the fabric, except for the bottom where I sewed along the inside seam and then handstitched it down on the outside. This is how I’ve finished most of the quilts I’ve made, and this was a similar process.

 

Would I Make it Again?

Probably. This was a fairly easy project, and I would be happy to make one for a friend, as long as they bought the fabric for it. I might try tackling a more involved gambeson later, but for now, this will get him started. He hasn’t yet had a chance to fight in it–nursing a shoulder injury–but I’m looking forward to finding out how it feels when he’s moving in it, how it breathes, and how long it holds up after a few months of weekly practices. I’ll let you know!

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