[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on t he PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

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Random Acts of Poetry

Well, the poetry isn't completely random. It is the custom here in Insulae Draconis for each couple competing in coronet tourney to be heralded in with boasts. A couple of my acquaintance, Lord Esbiorn and Lady Catlin, were competing in the most recent coronet, and asked me to herald them in. I was delighted to help and for some reason decided that an Old English poetic style was suitable for a praise poem. On the other hand, I do like my iambic pentameter. So I did a combination.

The entrance boast for Esbiorn Jensson and Catlin le Mareschal is in two parts.

The first part is alliterative verse in the style of many surviving Old English poems. I rely heavily, nearly exclusively, on the work of John C. Pope and R.D. Fulk for my information concerning the forms, and the overview they provide in Eight Old English Poems is invaluable.1 The exact structure of Old English verse is unclear, although alliteration features strongly, and it permits of a wide variety of metrical forms. Since I am not actually working in Old English, I chose to emphasize the alliteration, and quite frankly not worry too much about either meter or rhyme. The tag line at the end - 'and foewomen' - serves not only to acknowledge the diversity of the list, but also breaks the form, allowing a less jarring segue into the second part.


Princess and Prince Now is presented
Harpelstanes hero Esbiorn hights he
Guardsman of silver Sovereign's soldier.
Of Drachenwald's sword-school stands he the highest
Praefect and preceptor proud leader of warriors.
Word fame is his for working of whiskey
For brewing of beer and coffee-bean beverage.
Comes now crafty Catlin she of clever fingers
Worker of wool-thread in wee little forms
So too a soldier guardswoman of silver
Strong sword-maid to stand on rapier field
Prowess is hers proud academy praefect
No less than her lord a lady of legend.
To mead-hall they journeyed joyous to join
The coronet contest for claiming a throne.
Proud Pol seeks an heir by prowess selected
Fair Catriona the raven ravishing ruler
No longer of right may reign over realm
Catlin and Esbiorn eagerly enter
The field and the fight the foeman to face - and foewomen.

The second part is a riff on two Shakespeare monologues, the prologue of Romeo and Juliet and the famous Saint Crispin's Day speech from Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii.

The Romeo and Juliet riff follows the form - iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of abab. I cribbed a few phrases (both alike in dignity, where we lay our scene, from forth the fatal loins) and modified the rest to suit the event. The phrases used from R&J are well enough known, especially the first couplet, to clue in Shakespearean aficionados that what is coming is pastiche or homage. (Or, as some might say, filk.)

Two fencers, both alike in dignity,
In Eplaheimr, where we lay our scene,
With helms that shine, yes even shine brightly,
Have come to lay their foes out on the green.
From forth the fatal loins of Harpelstane,
A pair of warriors come with intent to strive,
And by their blows they hope a crown to gain,
And help their native lands to grow and thrive.

For some reason, I got to that point and was reminded of Saint Crispin's Day, and thought that it would make a good ending to the boast, as it is one of the best endings to a monologue ever written in the English language. I started about halfway through with a pair of lines straight from the speech, and then wrote a bridge back to the lines 'But if it be a sin to covet honour / I am the most offending soul alive' which I recast in a more general vein to include all the fighters. Then, of course, 'we few, we happy few,' which needed to be tweaked to include the audience and spectators. And finally, since it was not, in fact, Saint Crispin's day, I needed a Saint whose name scanned. The Irish Saint Colman of Lindisfarne, seemed a good choice, as his feast day is 18 February, the day of the tourney itself.2

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
for honour will be done upon the field
and if it be a sin to covet honour
then who, I ask, would not a sinner be?
We few, we happy few, we band of stalwarts,
we shall remember deeds we see this day,
And folk across these islands now abed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here
to see the Coronet fought on this field
Upon Saint Colman the confessor's day.

1. John C. Pope. and R.D. Fulk, eds, Eight Old English Poems, 3rd edition, (Norton: New York, 2001), 129-158.
2. Colman on Catholic Online ; Colman on Wikipedia

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© 2017 Jeff Berry
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