Category: Time

Golden Dolphin Scroll Text for Esa inghean Donnchaidh

Esa inghean Donnchaidh was one of the first people I met in the SCA. and the memory of our meeting is engraved on my heart. We very quickly found out that we shared many interests (including dance, Scotland, the 14th century, and “early period” Britain). She’s also a fantastic researcher, doing masters-level (or higher!) research in her free time on women’s health and menstruation (you can check out her blog here and her website here). As a newcomer, she made me feel seen, welcome, and safe.

So when her Laurel, Beatriz Aluares de la Oya of the Spanish Seamstress, asked if I could find the time to write the words for Esa’s Golden Dolphin scroll in a tight turnaround, I thought I would rather gnaw off my own arm than say no.

Since the exemplar was from the Aurora Consurgens manuscript, specifically of “Bleeding Woman in Zodiac” / “Zodiac Menstrual Cycle,” I knew it was time for some iambic pentameter again! That said, the Aurora Consurgens manuscript is from the 15th century, slightly earlier than other recent scrolls I’ve written for, so I decided to use rhyme royal, a seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter with an ABABBCC rhyming scheme. Bonus: Geoffrey Chaucer first used this in the 14th century!

The poem itself has many nods and winks to Esa’s work, deeds, and path in the SCA. I am not going to explain them here, as they are for her pleasure to enjoy and discover.

The final scroll was calligraphed and illuminated by Baroness Ingegerd Kastanrazi.

The Poem

O Venus, shining morning star, your light
Cannot be curtly dimmed by sun or moon.
Your curving path inscribes a divine flight,
A warming sight, a wondrous heavenly boon,
That reddens, flickers, blazes. Your face festoons
The midnight sky with glowing mystery,
Luminous bleeding generosity.

This wand’ring star has brilliant earthly twin
Whose arduous work illuminates the shade.
With labors long in stony broch and glen,
Heavy tasks she welcomed, refined, and weighed,
Service, wisdom, and truth bound and displayed.
The wise women know worth in blood and bone:
Esa inghean Donnchaidh their beloved own.

For love of Esa are these words proclaimed,
From Stierbach’s gates throughout the kingdom decreed.
Justice done by gentle Eckehard and Jane
Who thus award, as sages have agreed,
A lady who aids in spirit, word, and deed.
Th’ Order of the Golden Dolphin awaits
Esa, newest member, to celebrate.

Done November 20th, A.S. LVI, at Holiday Faire.

Laurel Scroll Text for Esperanza Susanna Flecha

When Kolfinna Valravn asked me to write the scroll text for Mestra Esperanza Susanna Flecha’s Laurel, I jumped at the opportunity; I’ve admired Esperanza as both an individual and an artist virtually since I joined the SCA, and I was honored to be asked to write words to honor her and her art.

The exemplar that Kolfinna chose was by Caravaggio, which meant I would be looking at late period poetry (I had to write poetry for Esperanza. Had to.). I had already been writing a significant amount of late period poetry recently, especially iambic pentameter. I knew I was pretty locked in with iambic pentameter, but I wanted to change it up slightly, so I decided to go with the Spenserian stanza. This was created by Edmund Spenser in the late 1500s specifically for The Faerie Queene. It provided a good length for scroll text: nine lines per stanza would provide plenty of space in two stanzas, without overtaxing the scribe with verbiage. The form itself is still iambic but more complicated than a sonnet: the first eight lines are pentameter with the ninth being hexameter, and the rhyming scheme is a fun interlaced ABABBCBCC. Having taught this poem multiple times before, I felt comfortable with the form despite not being too experienced in it.

For the final (jaw-dropping) scroll, see Kolfinna’s website.

The Poem

Before proceeding further, hear these words:
The kingdom sings the praise of flowing quills
That smoothly flourishing, depict th’ interred,
Find in darkness and death delightful thrills.
Though dressed in fluffy plumes and gentle frills
No contradictions found in her bright cheer;
‘Tis black and white, the extent of her skill,
With swooping ornaments rightly revered.
Esperanza Susanna Flecha’s worth is clear.

The beauty of her art cannot be writ
With tines and tips in minims fat and lean.
Suitable rhymes and swirling strokes must flit
With brushstrokes painting proper peerage scene.
The will of Eckehard, King, and Jane our Queen,
Marked in pen and ink with gentility,
Is ornamenting her with leaves of green,
Gilding her with fame by royal decree.
All shall know that Esperanza a Laurel be!

Done by Our Hand on November 20th, A.S. LVI, at Holiday Faire in Our beloved Barony of Stierbach.

A Memorial Poem for Duchess Denise Duvalier

I was touched when His Majesty Eckehard asked me to write a memorial poem upon the untimely passing of Duchess Denise Duvalier. While I had not had the honor of meeting her myself, her reputation proceeded her, and I wanted to write something that honored her and her legacy and gave comfort to those left behind. Because I also knew that the poem would be read before a tournament (originally the Rose Tournament at War of the Wings, then rescheduled to Crown Tournament), I also wanted to keep it short so that no-one was overcome before competing. I hope that I did her memory honor.

 

The Poem

To saddened hearts and aching souls we sing
Of sorrow slowly walking in our midst.
From loss and love does grief and mourning spring;
If tears should tender flow, do not resist.

We sing of tireless heart and thoughtful hand
That brightly bore the crown with grace in bloom
And planted joy and warmth across the land.
This royal Rose was plucked unkindly soon.

May mem’ry last forever and a day:
Cherish Countess Denise Duvalier.

Fiffaru, the Disaster Lyre

This is the story of the Five Calamities of Fiffaru, the Disaster Lyre.

In 2019, my friend Mattheus Dupuy showed up to a local practice with a Germanic lyre. He let me noodle on it, and I instantly fell in love. After letting me borrow his lyre for a bit, he offered to help me build an Oberflacht lyre using instructions from Michael J. King — my first woodworking project! In a day of woodworking, we managed to get the crosspiece cut, the body shaped, and over half of the soundbox hollowed out. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the router slipped and cut a large curve in the back before we noticed. This was the First Calamity. After talking about hollowing the whole thing out and slapping on a backpiece, we broke for the day.

The half-hollowed lyre, with the hole near the bottom solid section.

The lyre sat in my garage for nearly two years. With the plague marching the lands, I didn’t have access to the tools to finish it, and over winter I didn’t have a warm space to work on it, either. Then warm weather hit, vaccinations were imminent, and I felt the need to get this sucker done. I had an electrical drill, a coping saw, and pure stubbornness. I had neither a workbench nor wisdom. Despite this, over a weekend I managed to get the majority of the body cut out via strategic drilling and very difficult sawing. Unfortunately, as I started to hollow closer to the lyre’s arms, the lyre cracked where the two arms met. This was the Second Calamity.

Right before it cracked (yes, I was using a cardboard box to drill into)

I decided to peg and glue the headpiece when this happened, to provide stability (since I didn’t have a proper dowel to peg it with, I sliced up an old bamboo knitting needle). I spent a long time trying to find the best glue for the job, but I couldn’t find any recommendations, so I settled on standard wood glue. After finishing the headpiece, I glued the break, clamped it all tightly, and left it for a week or so.

Because I had limited tools and the structure had already been compromised, I decided to simply even out the hollowing and not even attempt to make the front and back boards flush with the frame.

The finished frame and soundboards, ready for gluing

I used wood glue to attach the soundboards, pressed the whole thing with some handweights, and let it dry.

Around this time is when I discovered the Third Calamity: mismatched holes. I had planned for a six-string lyre. Mattheus gifted me a bridge of bog oak for six strings, as well as a horn tailpiece, which I drilled for six strings. But I did my math wrong, and drilled only five holes in the headpiece, with no space to cram in a sixth. Luckily, I could skip one slot on the bridge, and I was able to fit a seventh hole on the tailpiece so that the strings could still be roughly equally-spaced. Thus, the lyre became a pentatonic lyre by accident.

This was not the only issue involving the pegs. I didn’t drill the whole way through, as I didn’t want them to be visible from the back; however, I made some of the pegs too shallow, and the leftmost one in particular had trouble going in. So, I decided to deepen some of the holes — and promptly went through the back on the leftmost. I managed to not do that on the other four, but this was still the Fourth Calamity.

Before stringing, I wanted to apply a finish. However, I couldn’t find any reccomendations for a finish that were newbie-friendly and non-combustible (hi, linseed oil!), so I decided to just use a mix of mineral oil and beeswax, which I already had on hand for wooden chopping boards.

Finally, it was time for stringing! I had purchased a bunch of guitar string sets, so I chose the best selection of nylon strings from those. I was a little at a loss for how to attach the tailpiece, but other lyres I had used employed either fishing line, fake sinew, or plastic-wrapped wire. I had some of the latter available, so I strung it up, but upon tensioning the strings this snapped, being sliced through by the horn tailpiece (the Fifth Calamity). I tried a few fixes, then took some files to the holes and smoothed them out. I no longer trusted the wire, though, so I wrapped part of the tailpiece holes with silk thread and fingerloop braided a tie. It held.

Fiffaru’s final form!

By this point, I had decided to name the lyre Fiffaru, which translates to Five Calamities (from fif and fær, which pluralizes to faru). Despite being the Disaster Lyre, it sounds pretty good! While I don’t have a performance video of this, please enjoy the first recorded noodling upon it:

 

Overall, I’m quite proud of Fiffaru, and its name is rather tongue-in-cheek. This was my first woodworking project, and my first instrument! At the end, I have a pretty beautiful instrument that sounds nice and will hold up well as it’s dragged to events, and because of the calamities I now have a dedicated pentatonic lyre. It’s an overall win!

Finally, in addition to the plans from Michael J. King, I found a few additional websites useful:

First Calligraphy

Layout and practice

I was so excited to do calligraphy for the first time! I calligraphed a beautiful scroll blank by Adelaide Halfpint inspired by the Ormesby Psalter (1250-1330).
While I had practiced a similar script (Batarde), I practiced the script from the Ormesby Psalter for this scroll, meaning that I learned a new hand for my first calligraphy! I used standard scroll text, as I didn’t want to hyperfocus on my own words the first time I calligraphed something.

 

Scroll being presented in court. Photograph by Kolfinna Valravn.

 

A Poem from the Populace for Hakon hábrok

When Hakon hábrok was placed on vigil to consider joining the Order of the Chivalry, I joined the Worthies to speak as a member of the populace. I was deeply honored to be asked to deliver this speech, and since Hakon is also a bard, I had to give it in verse. The verse itself is fairly loose Old English alliterative verse; I played with both line-length and alliterative structure to best suit the message.

Text

From Ealawynn Maeru,        alias Ela –
Gracious greetings,     guests and friends.
Peers do plead   their pieces of wisdom,
but I proclaim proudly          for the populace.
What should the chivalry     show us in deeds?
What weighs more worthy  than wielding arms,
swift swords       swinging ably,
all adversaries     overwhelmed in battle?
No – a knight      must be more—
prowess is purely         part of the whole.
So what should the chivalry show us in deeds?
Listen, with silent lips and unlocked ears.
Contemplate, consider,        and consult counsel;
weigh wisdom    and wield caution.
Ignore self-interest;     favor insight—
then speak, and lead.
This calling of chivalry is an arduous quest.
Many folk fail     this formidable task.
But Hakon hábrok       holds these!
Contemplation, counsel,      consideration, and discernment:
if these uncommon attributes      are the essence of chivalry,
then I call Hákon hábrok      “knight.”
Elevate him         to that order promptly.
The populace praises it        as proper and just.

Video

Coral Branch Scroll Text for Lucy of Wigan

When Korrin Valravn asked me to write the text for Lucy of Wigan’s Coral Branch (AoA-level arts award), I lept at the chance, as Lucy is a dear friend.

Korrin had already selected the exemplar (a copy of Dante’s Inferno, MS Vat. lat. 4776, fol. 13r;  Canto 4, ll. 64-87). This is a version of the Inferno with intensive planned glossing by Jacopo della Lana that had come up in conversation with Lucy when talking about glossing on legal texts. Glossing my own poem would be weird for a scroll, though, so Korrin brilliantly suggested I write a story to take the place of the glossing. To preserve the structure of the glossing and the layout of the exemplar, I decided that the story would incorporate lines of the poem.

The poem itself is hendecasyllabic meter (eleven syllables per meter) in terza rima (a rhyme scheme of ABA, BCB, CDC, etc.), which is the same structure as the Inferno. The prose interpolates lines of the poem in place of each glossed line in the original. Each section is approximately the same length as its respective gloss, which I achieved by taking a rough count of words in the exemplar and editing myself heavily. While the three animals in the poem (leopard, lion, and wolf) are pulled from the first canto of the Inferno, I twisted them towards Aesop’s Fables while also pulling heavily from forest episodes in chivalric romances. I also included an oblique reference to Dungeons and Dragons, as Lucy and I play together.

Poem

Hear, how midway in the journey of our lives,1
great merit and worth were discovered that we,
King Anton and Queen Luned, must recognize.

In Atlantia’s northern lands, fair and free,
dwells Lucy of Wigan in Roxbury Mill,
where with modesty she makes marvelously

her diverse delights with dedicated skill.
To list them all is a task most punishing
she creates with fiber and food — and more still!

Knitting and naalbinding, weaving and sewing —
sparing time for a dance, for Lucy loves balls —2
then to the garden, as greens need gathering.

Oft from her kitchen tempting fragrances call:
desirable dishes waft deliciousness,
while smooth libations sate all friends in her halls

Her subtlest arts remain; these are priceless:
We exclaim her judgment, mirth, and courtesy,
but the greatest of all her gifts is kindness.

Now induct her into that high company
of the Coral Branch! It is justly called for,3
and done by our hand and our Royal Decree,

For Lucy we laud, adulate, and adore,
in Anno Societatis Fifty-Five
on April the Tenth at Valencia Court.

Prose

Hear, how midway in the journey of our lives,
of that time when Lucy of Wigan was seized with a need to adventure, setting forth from the safety of her manor.

In Atlantia’s northern lands, fair and free,
Lucy set forth down the straight way into dark woods, until she came upon a leopard trapped in vines. Parched and near dead, it begged her to share her cordial, but Lucy knew a sip would not sustain the leopard — so she cut it free. It thanked her for her kindness, and she went onward. Soon she came to a lion weeping under a willow-tree. Once a prisoner, it had paid for its freedom with its mane. She could not bear its distress, so she sat—

Knitting and naalbinding, weaving and sewing
with her diverse skills creating a new mane for the lion. Fastening the mane around the lion’s neck, she assured it of its handsomeness, with or without a mane. She left him gladly preening into a pond. As night grew closer, she came upon a starving wolf lying in the path. It whimpered pitifully, and Lucy was reminded of her own stomach rumbling when

Oft from her kitchen tempting fragrances call,
enticing her to taste the fine fare before it was finished. Kneeling, she offered a meat pie to the hungry wolf, who gladly took it. Soon it fell asleep, and she went onward. At last, she found herself in a grove where starlight reflected from every surface, for each leaf was of silver, bronze, and gold, and each branch of amber, diamond, and coral.

“Her subtlest arts remain; these are priceless,”
a sweet voice sang out; a luminescent figure stood in the middle of the grove. “You entered a forest, thick-crowded with troubles.4 Though you could have passed without a trace, you stopped for each creature that needed you, helping as you could.

For Lucy we laud, adulate, and adore;
A poet among poets would not have words to describe all you have done for those you have helped. You have done many works, with fiber, food, and flower.” The forest glowed gently around the figure, who plucked a twig of coral from a nearby tree. She extended it to Lucy, who knew then that the moon had come down to test and reward her. “But moreover, you were kind.” 

Footnotes

1 Hear, how midway in the journey of our lives: This line is taken almost exactly from the first line of the Inferno, which begins (depending on the translation) with “Midway upon the journey of our life.”
2 Lucy loves balls: This is a joke that started at the first Pennsic Lucy went to, where she was very excited about the number of dances in the evening. We’ve all rather leaned into it.
3 of the Coral Branch! It is justly called for: This line and the following verse had to be changed, as to get me to attend Court for my Pearl, Korrin told me that Lucy was receiving her Coral Branch a week before she actually did. I had written the poem to include the date and the previous event, so I had to revise a few of the lines. Luckily, they were fairly straightforward to revise, and actually improved the final verse!
4 a forest, thick-crowded with troubles: This line is an adaptation from Canto 4, l. 64 of the Inferno (a line from the exemplar), which is sometimes translated as “a forest…thick-crowded with ghosts.”

Final Scroll

Calligraphy and illumination by Korrin Valravn

Resources

Dartmouth Dante Project. Dartmouth College. https://dante.dartmouth.edu/

Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. The World of Dante. http://www.worldofdante.org/inferno1.html