Friday, December 18, 2015

Of the Worthies[1], She is One

For Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton.

By THLaird Colyne Stewart, December AS 50 (2015)

A mission have I set out on, to speak for Sangus[2] doth my pen,
And once writ down my mind you’ll ken, as praise I give like light at dawn.

A student of Egeria[3], who studies well the books and scrolls,
And tends to intellectual souls, in her garden of Miverva[4],
The magistra, by candle light, is held in awe by ancient words,
Her thoughts on wing like Clio’s[5] birds, and now inspired so she writes.

For many years she toiled hard, and many tomes made by her hand,
And freely shared across the land, and so inspired I the bard,
To sing of her and all her deeds, of she who wears a laurel wreath[6],
And yet who studies still beneath the statue of the nymph and seeds[7].

Of Nic’laa have I spoken of, mentor and friend and peer well famed,
And like Apollo[8] be she named, and may the Wolf keep her in love[9].

As Magistra Nicolaa is a twelfth century Anglo-Norman, I decided to write a poem about her as a grand chant. The gran(d) chan(t), also known as the courtois, was an Old French genre of lyric poetry devised by the trouvères in the 12th to 13th centuries. It was adapted from the Occitan canso of the troubadours. Like the canso it often explored courtly love, but it could also be used to expound on many other topics or themes.

Typically, a canso (and thus a grand chant) had three parts: the exordium (the first stanza where the composer explains his purpose), the main body of the text and then one to three envois (which were not always present). Except for the envois, the stanzas all have the same sequence of verses (each verse has the same number of metrical syllables). The envois took the form of a shortened stanza, containing only a last part of the standard stanza used up to that point.

Each stanza has the same internal rhyme scheme (so if the first line rhymes with the third line in the first stanza, it will do so in each successive one). I choose to do two quatrains for my verses, each using cross-rhyme where the last word in a line rhymes with the middle word in the adjacent line. For instance, in my exordium the word ‘on’ in the middle of the first line rhymes with ‘dawn’ (the last word in the second line), while the last word in the first line (‘pen’) rhymes with the middle word of the second line (‘ken’).

[1] A reference to the Nine Worthies. In the late medieval and early Renaissance periods, there were nine individuals that were thought to represent the ideals of chivalry (as it was then understood). These worthies would be depicted in art and invoked in literature. Three of the worthies were pagans (Hector, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar), three were Jews (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus), and three were Christians (King Arthur, Charlemagne, Godfrey of Bouilon).
[2] Roman god of honesty.
[3] A Roman nymph who was a goddess of wisdom and prophecy.
[4] Roman goddess of wisdom.
[5] Clio is the muse of history.
[6] Magistra Nicolaa is a member of the Order of the Laurel.
[7] A reference to Egeria, who lives in a garden.
[8] Greco-Roman god of knowledge and intellect.
[9] A request that Ealdormere keep Nicolaa in its heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment