So things kept happening to get in the way of my properly apprenticing to Ollam Lanea (rainstorms, commitments, a pandemic), so when we finally were able to set a firm date, I lost my mind a little and decided to make her a gift for The Occasion. I decided to make her a book. Not any book — a book that contained two of her pieces, two of mine, and some other important items. Since I chose poems that incorporated our languages, I decided they had to be properly glossed. This is literally my third piece of calligraphy ever, my second with a proper pen, and I learned to bookbind over the summer by half-watching a dozen random YouTube videos. And because I knew Lanea would get a kick out of it, instead of documentation, I wrote a library catalog entry. I told you I lost my mind.
The Catalog Entry
Teach Folcadáin Bó Caitlin MS Ripton A.i
Inconsistently dated to both ~800 and 2021 (?)
The Apprentice’s Manuscript
The present volume contains 4 poems and some additional back matter (a short verse and a single sentence). Two poems, On Kings (ff. 2r-8v) and Song of Amergin (ff. 24r-29v) have been glossed by the original scribe. The glossing of On Kings indicates that the scribe was familiar with the language and attempted to keep a poetic translation in the gloss. However, they also excluded words that were the same in both texts, making it difficult to reconstruct the gloss’s original form. Inaccuracies in the glossing of Song of Amergin indicate that the scribe was not familiar with the language; E. Meredith (2021) has suggested that the scribe was attempting to combine two texts with only the vaguest understanding of Celtic languages.
ff. 2r-8v: On Kings
ff. 9r-15r: On Returning Home
ff. 18r-22v: You Call Yourselves Bards?
ff. 24r-29v: Song of Amergin
f. 31r: Gawain and the Green Knight (?) excerpt
f. 32v: Back matter
Decoration: 5 illuminations, of a horse between three lozenges (f. 1r), a bird (f. 16r), a raven on a pall between three Brigid’s crosses (f. 17r), a great black dog (f. 23r), and a golden winged shoe (f. 30r). There are additional small decorations throughout, most significantly a decorated O on f. 18v.
Irish, Old (?)
Materials: Pergamenata, Noodler’s Eel Black, Koh-I-Noor watercolor, FineTec gold and silver.
Dimensions: approximately 90 x 70 mm. No indication of trimming.
Foliation: ff. 32. There is one modern foliation sequence in the manuscript in pencil.
Layout: written in one column of four or eight lines to a page. All four-line pages contain glosses in a different language.
Script: Half-uncial. While the hand has similarities to the Book of Kells, as do some of the illuminations, the number of errors and uneven lines indicate an inexperienced scribe deeply in over their head.
Binding: Rebound in the first quarter of the 21st century by an enthusiastic amateur using green silk thread, cardboard, linen, leather, and PVA glue.
Unknown; bears indicators of both 8th/9th-century Hiberno-Saxon traditions (especially Northumbrian) and 21st-century Nacirema techniques from Piscataway Nation territory.
When I found out that Iselda de Narbonne was going to receive her Laurel, I may have demanded to make her mantle. I don’t know. It’s all a little fuzzy.
Due to life, the timeline on construction got a little tight, so the foundation seams were all machine sewn. However, every single visible stitch was hand-sewn, and the applique and beads were done entirely by hand. The fabric and thread is 100% silk. Every fabric used is a two-tone that shimmers when in motion, some more subtly than others. The pearls are glass Swarovski pearls.
I was asked to say something about the mantle as it was presented to her, but initially all I could think of was “A badass bard deserves a badass mantle, and I hope this makes you cry.” However, inspiration struck two nights beforehand, so I wrote her a poem that I read:
From sweet soil sprouts the laurel,
But limbs and leaves with labor grow
dewy drupes. Devotion and time
Furnished fruits fair to the ear,
Foliate and flourishing, brought forth
Verdant voices in choral concordance.
Now a mantle marks the mastership attained
Proclaims to peers: perceive this Laurel
with seeds of song to sow and nourish.
Amang ic seowede nihtlang ic sticode me foroft.
Æt þære wæfersyne wundormentles, þīn wopdropum ic ahope.
The last two lines, in Old English, translate directly to “While I sewed through the night, I stabbed myself often. At the spectacle of the wonder-mantle, I hope for your tears.” In other words, “I hope it makes you cry.”
Before Gideon ap Stephen was Laurelled at Ymir 2020, Mistress Rosalind asked me to translate the poem she had written to release Gideon from his apprenticeship into Old English. I happily did so — I love translations and find it a great challenge! Below is the text that I sent her; I also sent her a (very rough) recording for pronunciation. While I usually don’t use ċ (/ch/) or ġ (/j/) in my translations as they are entirely a modern conceit for transcription, I included them here to help indicate the pronunciation differences from c (/k/) and g (/g/) for performance.
Breostsefa = mind or heart, literally “the mind in the breast”
Cyneword-cempa for þære cuþre worulde
Cyneword-cempa = champion of fitting words
Rof for reþnesse in randgebeorh eadmede-folces
Randgebeorh = protection such as that afforded by a shield
Seldlic in feaxe stefn geofon-sidu
Seldlic = rare, strange, wondrous, extraordinary, having unusual good qualities Sid = wide, broad, spacious, and is specifically usually applied to the ocean, world, and universe
þurh wordcræft ond woþcræft þin gewald þu geseþe
Syntax of second half-line is “your prowess you show” wordcræft = the art of speaking and writing woþcræft = the art of poetry or song gewald = power, mastery (I chose it for the latter meaning)
Ure gomenwaþu to-gædere on geongum ond byrum
Syntax of second half-line is “of travels and times”; I chose to make plural because there was presumably more than one Byre has many meanings, but I particularly like the translation of “an event, a favourable time, an opportunity”
Nihtlangum leoþurunum listum ond sceaftum
Syntax of second half-line is “craft and creation” nihtlang = night-long leoþurun = counsel conveyed in verse (I thought this meaning was appropriate!) list = art, skill, cunning, craft, artifice
In early 2019, Master Eldred Ælfwald requested that Lady Kaaren Valravn create his court baron scroll (scroll information here). In turn, she asked Lord Ishmael Reed to write an original poem and me to translate the poem into Old English. Ishmael wrote the poem in the style of the 14th-century alliterative revival, which I then translated into Old English alliterative verse.
The prompt for Poeta Atlantiae in 2019 was too good to pass up: choose two poetic forms that are from locations at least 500 miles from each other. I chose the ghazal, from Persian and Arabic traditions, and alliterative verse, from Old English tradition. Kaaren Valravn kindly did last-minute calligraphy of both poems for my entry’s display, for which I am eternally grateful.