Canterbury Faire – and a Poem

One of my little annual rituals is driving five and a half hours from Dunedin to Amberley for Canterbury Faire – a week-long SCA event that is the largest of its kind in New Zealand (aka the Crescent Isles). Although my involvement in the SCA is less active than it used to be, largely on account of the medieval re-enactment scene being quiet in Dunedin, I still generally attend Faire. 2018 was my tenth visit since 2007 (in that time I have only missed 2014 and 2017).

As I note on my SCA page, my major interest within the group is medieval-style poetry. In the case of Faire, I am also one of the usual suspects making endless amounts of Turkish Coffee at the makeshift tavern – though this was the first Faire when I didn’t drink out my coffee subscription. Why? Simple – with Amberley sweltering in 30 degrees Celsius and above for days, it was simply too damn hot. I spent most of last week sheltering from the the hammer-blows of the sun, and drinking copious amounts of water (and reading books while I was at it – no internet, remember?).

I also composed a piece of occasional skaldic verse, in dróttkvætt metre – as applied to English. Traditional skaldic verse, as opposed to the more loose alliterative verse of the Eddas (or Beowulf) is a straitjacket of a poetic form, which the Norsemen themselves actually compared to shipbuilding – it is that engineered. Personally, I find attempting it an interesting challenge, even though the result doesn’t really comply with what we would think of as good poetry today.

So:

Bright the end of brand so
Brave for one who craves the
Fame of future times and
Fears not furnace tearful;
Learning things of thorns and
Thistles grasped with fists of
Steel, the stern blaze calls for
Stronger hearts, ye song smiths.

The piece was inspired by  a fellow attendee’s sketch art. No prizes for spotting the weather puns.

Oh, and as a footnote, this form of skaldic verse does actually appear in Wise Phuul – it is the poem delivered by the Chancellor at the anniversary banquet. The only other time I have encountered an attempt of the form in a fantasy novel is in The Broken Sword, by Poul Anderson (1954).

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