Friday, April 29, 2016

The Partimen of Rhodri ap Hywel and Colyne Stewart

By Master Rhodri ap Hywel of Calontir and THLaird Colyne Stewart of Ealdormere, March AS 50 (2016)


As part of my goal (this is Colyne speaking) of writing fifty poems during Anno Societatis 50, I decided I wanted to write a partimen. The partimen was a genre of Occitan and Old French lyric poetry composed between two troubadours. It is a subgenre of the tenso or cobla (a poetic debate). I reached out to see if anyone else was interested in taking part in the partimen and Master Rhodri of Calontir eagerly accepted.

The first speaker in the partimen presents a problem with two solutions and leaves his opponent to choose which solution to defend and then takes up the second option themselves. Therefore the debate is not based on conviction but simply for the sake of discussion. However, this distinction does not appear to have been seen in period, with troubadours and trouvères using both interchangeably. One of the most common themes in partimen was courtly love. Each speaker (sometimes the same poet, sometimes two different poets) contribute three stanzas and an envoi in which he appeals to someone to be his judge. In some poems the two participants appeal to the same person, but more often each participant chose their own judge.

Since Rhodri is from Calontir, and I am from Ealdormere, and both of our kingdoms share strong bonds of friendship, I decided to pose a dilemma in which I felt sure we’d both have opinions. Namely,which animal is more noble, the falcon or the wolf? (The falcon being the totemic beast of Calontir, while the wolf serves Ealdormere as the same).

The form of the poem was set as tercets (groups of three lines rhyming aab) written in trochaic trimeter (lines of three metrical feet switching between stressed and unstressed syllables). I chose this form as I do not usually write in trochaic meter so felt it would be more of a challenge.

The Partimen

There the strong beasts abound
Round the woods they fierce found
But which most noble be?
Wolf of fang and claw red
From whom all foes have fled
King of forest’s great tree?
Or be it the bold bird
Falcon feathery furred
God of blue sky made free?
This our dilemma be
Answer this is our plea
So ask I friend Rhodri.

Like days of winter’s end
Come words from Colyne friend.
Wisdom he seeks from me.
Joyfully I reply
My answer not denied
So this I now decree:
The wolf is strong indeed
Shall none say I mislead,
But in this he lesser be.
He watches falcons fly
Above his howling cry;
His wish to be so free.
But, like all falcon’s prey
Must watch until the day
When suffers falcon’s glee,
And the storm-cleaver strikes
With claws like soldier’s pikes
Then even wolf must flee.
So this claim I is true
But to friend Bryce I sue
Judge these words I do plea

Reply I must and will
Through paper ink and quill
To words by friend Rhodri.
Falcon lord, Wolfen king,
Which is best, Which takes ring?
Answer is lupine, thee
Must if are honest men
Take his side, only then
Will all of us agree:
For soaring bird on wing
Target is, for bow string,
Plummets down into tree,
While the grey wolf will stalk
Those who slew purple hawk
And with teeth sharp and free
Tear out the hunter’s throat
Rend his maille and surcoat
Pay no heed to his plea.
I claim this to be true
Frederick, master, you
Judge our words, blessed be.

The Judgment

As our judges Rhodri chose Master Bryce de Byram of Atlantia and I choose Master Fridrikr Tomassen of AEthlemearc (though he is referred to by an Anglicization of his name in the poem). Both judges elected to render their verdicts in verse. Master Fridrikr was the first to reply:

You call on me to stand and speaking true
an answer to your pleadings give to you
And now I say, good fellows never fear
for Rhodri stands and calls forth bravest hawk
Whilst Colyne enters with lupine friend to talk
and neither makes the answer sky-blue clear
Come gentle foes, who friends at end must be
and hear this Master, for whom the words direct
are hard, who speaks in kennings using their effect
to form the verse to make the hearer see.
My love for Ealdor Crown must hold and sway
And thus I claim that Colyne takes the day.

We still await Master Bryce’s verdict, and I will post it once it is received.

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