In Which Dr Rieppel hears a story about himself.

Reader, I read it to him.

But first I had to stand by a three-foot-by-four-foot poster with bits of my final paper for Ethics on it (with a picture of a lovely fourteenth-century window thrown in) from ten-thirty to noon and talk about it to anybody who might be interested. The posters were up all day, but I was supposed to be there to talk about mine at that time. Mine was in a corner and not a very popular topic (Aquinas’ statement of the Church’s teaching about women and the fact that the evidence doesn’t show that women were oppressed, quite the contrary in fact), so I only once had to talk to more than one person at a time. It turned out surprisingly less stressful than I’d thought.

Dr Zarzana was the first to come, and she stayed for about half an hour, and admired the bat I was working on (a nice tiny project for when I need something to do between talking bits). Two history professors came, one of whom is the Historiography teacher this semester. He asked me a question I hadn’t thought about at all, which I should have, because it’s important, so I’m going to be adding to the paper, like it isn’t long enough already.

The number of people who voluntarily told me which denomination they were from was surprisingly high. I concluded that this topic was good for starting theological discussions at about the time a provost or something from an important office and I had a conversation about the Resurrection.

There was also a guy who said he is Catholic but accepts all denominations as leading to God, because as long as we all worship the same God don’t all these arguments lead to a lot of useless division? And by the way he doesn’t believe Jesus is God. I pointed out that the Catholic Church holds as of great importance (and rightly so) that Jesus is fully God, so isn’t that a pretty big division there and one worth arguing about? No, he said, as long as we all worship the same God. Now that is by definition not the same God, but this point did not seem to make a significant impression on him. I wished for the six-foot-tall ghost of JP to show up about now, but he didn’t.

I stayed a bit more than half an hour late because a girl came just before noon and made intelligent remarks, but that was all right. I had a couple of hours for lunch and printing a new, not written-on copy of my works for later.

The next part was the most stressful of the day, and lasted the longest. I was the fourth of five readers, each with a half-hour slot, and we’d rehearsed three times to make sure we had our timing right. The first reader (who is personally creepy and whose writing style is practically profanity all the way through) went over time. Oh, and “dress professionally” we were told, and he wore a suit, but over it he wore his ancient fringy gray poncho, with the hood up, the entire time. The second reader was all right. The third reader was painful to listen to, both for the quality of her writing and the content (love at first sight in her last story! and such a superficial thing I don’t want to call it love, because the guy sees an albino, describes her at length, and decides he’s in love with her — that’s it). All became clear in one rehearsal when her introduction gave her first influence as “Christopher Paolini, authour of the Inheritance Cycle”.

I snuck out (as much as possible when I was in the front row), when she started her last part, partly because I wanted a bit away from the crowd to calm down before I went on, and partly because I couldn’t stand listening to it a fourth time.

Well, my people showed up and I stood around the corner listening to Dr Wilson read my introduction, and all at once Dr Pichaske was right behind me (with his Diet Pepsi) asking if it was safe to sit in the back. I don’t remember what I said.

I read three poems and the Dr Rieppel story, in the last of which I mention the doctor wearing a purple argyle vest. The teacher of the bad writing workshop was there for all the five readings, and it was gratifying to look him in the eyes almost the whole time I read a poem which came out of my frustration with his class — about “concrete details” and how that advice tends to focus on the wrong thing.

I was three paragraphs into the Dr Rieppel story, reading much too fast from nervousness, when Dr Rieppel entered, wearing his purple argyle vest. Olivia and I looked at each other. Well, that happened. When I got to that paragraph I left out the two adjectives, knowing I would have lost it had I tried to read the full phrase with him not only in the audience but wearing the exact article.

And by accident, in one of the last lines, I said Dr Rieppel instead of the name I’d changed his to.

I was done almost fifteen minutes early and had plenty of time for questions. One which I was not expecting, but the answer to which came more easily and naturally than anything I’d said all day, was, “You’ve mentioned Chesterson [sic] and how you like his outlook on life. Can you tell us more about him?” It was easy to give a brief version of his ideas and a few examples of what he wrote, and explain how he believed life was good and worth living even in a time in which it was fashionable to preach the opposite.

Then I really was done and I could go sit with Olivia a few rows back and the only thing left to suffer through was the final reading.

Or so I thought, because Dr Rieppel was suddenly right behind me saying, “Oh, that main character, completely absurd, so unrealistic, I don’t know how you wrote about him. Preposterous. He sounds so hard to get along with.” He added, “I’ve always found Chesterton a bit hard to read, all his ‘it’s not so much this as it is that’, which is okay once, but after five times in a row you go okay, whatever you say, but you’ve made me think I should try him again, and now I want to talk literature with you, but I’m also a bit wary of you now.” He put out his hand and after a brief moment where I forgot which was which I found my right hand and shook it. (As Olivia observed, he has very warm hands.)

The main thing in the last reading was a story from the point of view of a guy who shoots up a laundromat. (The writer is nice, I hasten to add.) For various reasons this was painful to listen to. In rehearsals she’d introduced it a certain way, but today she said what she hadn’t before: “This is the first story where I really understood what my teachers were saying when they talked about concrete details.” Olivia (who’d heard it in the dress rehearsal) and I had a bit of an indignant lightbulb moment.

When the reading was over, and people were clearing out or standing in knots talking, one of the more loony writing teachers said to me, “I love that idea you said, about the world being basically good.”

“No, no, not basically good — I said life is a good thing — but the world has a lot of bad in it. The point is that the good always wins in the end. But there’s a lot of bad —“

“Right, yes, brought into it by people who could be basically good if they made the choice —“

“Oh, if they choose —“

I wished for the three-hundred-pound ghost of Chesterton to crash through the ceiling and set her straight, but he didn’t.

Then she snagged Olivia and I went and gathered my things from where I’d left them in the front row.

Afterward Caleb and Isaiah and Olivia and I hung around above the cafeteria, where it was almost quiet, and talked about the last story and other things, which was probably the most relaxed part of the day for me.

Olivia had a piano lesson on Thursday, and she actually played a little bit. When she was done Dr Rieppel came out with her and expressed his delight once again that I had actually written about him, and said, “You know, I heard something, I think it was about Canterbury, and thought, that sounds like something I would say. And then I said to myself, don’t be so narcissistic, Dan, not everything in life has to be about you! Listen to the story. And then you got to the end, and it was!”

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“They aim these things at me,” said King Clode.

“Everything is aimed at me.” (Thurber’s The White Deer)

The video-introduction scheme has been scrapped, which means I had to write yet another introductory essay and do a powerpoint of pictures to go with each thing I’m reading. Due Thursday.

Dr P. offered me 500 dollars for an autographed copy of some of my writing, something he apparently does for the CW majors he considers good (he brought the precedents to show me).

I finished the poster presentation for the URC and sent it in, so I get to wash my hands of it until next week.

Another new thing for the senior portfolio reading: I have to arrange with two people to ask me questions I can answer in detail.

I just took the plunge and submitted three written things to two places. I have to find a few more to do that with.

And then I have to write a story of less than a thousand words for the Fiction Workshop. Dr Wilson liked TCoL but thinks it needs some work.

Three weeks till the end of all this and our Holiday Cheer concert! Anyone interested in hearing Sleigh Ride cheek-by-jowl with bits of the Messiah and J. S. Bach? Hooray.

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Hopkins paper

Here’s the literary paper I kept. The rest is fairly self-explanatory. I included the bibliography here because I know some of you might be interested in the sources, which at the time of this writing were all available on Jstor.

I don’t know whether I’ll post next week, what with the National Day of Gluttony and grandparents arriving today, and putting together the big poster for the URC and putting the finishing touches to the things I’ll read at the URC. But I hope to post some things, as I’ve got ideas, and a lot of historiography notes still to go through.

Hopkins’ Brute Beauty

Although Gerard Manley Hopkins lived and wrote during the mid to late Victorian era, when we think of Victorian poets he isn’t what immediately comes to mind. Partly this could well be because none of his work was published till after his death. It could also be because his surviving poems are not like his contemporaries’. One important difference of Hopkins is not only his distinct style but what he writes about (very Anglo-Saxon subjects, accounting for difference in time periods), which is not quite what his contemporaries were writing about nor how they were writing about them. It is possible, given his initial determination to stop writing after converting to Roman Catholicism, that he didn’t read a lot of contemporary poetry for fear it would tempt him into writing. Not only is the way Hopkins writes a good ‘update’ of Anglo-Saxon verse, but the topics he chooses he treats similarly to A-S ideas. For the sake of simplicity, when I speak of “English” or “Anglo-Saxon” words, I include both words with Old English roots and words taken directly from that language. The same goes for “French”, including both words of French derivation and literal French words.

Hopkins’ style is probably the most well-known thing about his poetry. He is known for inventing sprung rhythm, which is very similar to the rhythm of alliterating Old English poetry, and he claimed that to have been his model for it (see Norton Anthology, 1547). “The Windhover”, one of his most famous poems, is a good example of his plentiful use of alliteration: “I caught this morning’s minion, king-/dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding. . .” (Norton Anthology, 1550). An Anglo-Saxon audience would have appreciated and enjoyed the alliteration, without stumbling over it quite as much as our modern tongues tend to do. Hopkins, in a letter to Robert Brides about his sprung rhythm, said, “My verse is less to be read than heard. . . it is oratorical, that the rhythm is so” (Hopkins, qted in Walker Gibson, “Sound and Sense in G. M. Hopkins”). His most obvious diversion from his Anglo-Saxon model is that his lines rhyme, but that is a part of making is poetry palatable to a Victorian mind. Even if he wrote privately and not for an outside audience, he would still have stayed somewhat within the definition of the essence of poetry, which at the time would very likely have included rhyme either officially or in practice.

He has caused trouble for some students in his intentionally picking out obscure Anglo-Saxon words like “silion” or “wimpling”, but he has not gone so far as to use only English words. If he were, he would not be able to say dauphin or chevalier, to take two obvious examples. Old English had no use for such soft sounds or excess vowels; dauphin would have appeared as something like “deofan”, which may sound similar but looks and feels very different. This is a small thing to note, but still important, because it changes the flavour of his poetry: it’s not quite as fossilized as straight Old English, rather, acceptable to a modern audience and mainly understandable. This is part of what I mean by his “updating” the style of Anglo-Saxon poetry, still keeping the essence of it as much as you can while writing in Modern English, but making it able to survive, or be revived. Perhaps some people consciously appreciate his judicious choice of French over English words or vice versa, though I think it’s the minority of his readers who stop to examine the roots of his vocabulary. But the words a writer chooses are important, especially in poetry. And sometimes, as strange as it sounds, whether it was the descendant of a Norseman in the 12th century who coined the term, or the descendant of a Germanic clan in the 7th, can be the most important criterion for choosing a word to get the right tone or feel across.

To take a single example, the first half of the ninth line of “The Windhover”: “Brute beauty and valour and act”. James Brophy, in a short article in Modern Language Notes on “The Windhover”, says we get the word brute from Brutus, who supposedly founded Britain. Brute, then, has an older sense much different from that in which we use the word today. “Layamon tells us, for example, that in ‘Brutland’ ‘ƿer wes moni god Brut,’ where ‘Brut’ is a synonym for knight” (Brophy, 674). Layamon is a bit late for the Anglo-Saxon era, but consider the origin of our word knight: cnecht, in Old English, with all the connotations of that word. It is interesting to compare them to the connotations of the similar word chevalier, which Hopkins also uses in the same poem. Brophy goes on to say that “The beauty of Hopkins’ falcon, then, if the linguistically erudite poet did intend this medieval nuance, is not simply wild or savage but also princely”, and calls the phrase “Brute beauty”, which alliterates, a kenning (Brophy, 674).

The other important way Hopkins’ poetry is similar to Anglo-Saxon literature is in the subjects and his treatments of them. The majority of Anglo-Saxon poetry is heroic in one way or another, though the many surviving riddles give us a good picture of the way the English viewed everyday objects. We may talk sentimentally about simpler, happier times and all that, but despite the omnipresence of war and death during the Anglo-Saxon era, life then was not without joy. Though the pagan worldview of the early English was inclined more to a sort of Stoic philosophy, accepting your wyrd and dying bravely, the conversion of the English gave their worldview more hope both for this life and the end of life (for example, because now death in battle wasn’t your best chance at a good afterlife, women had more to look forward to).

Here I run into a bit of a problem. I don’t have one good source to cite for this idea. I only have a year and a half of researching everything to do with the Anglo-Saxon era, at both ends. One result of all this research is an idea, hard to put into words, of the Anglo-Saxon atmosphere. Hopkins’ joy in the kestrel, his martial images, strike a chord very similar to that, something I can’t yet say much better than that it has the Anglo-Saxon “feel”. Or, again, his description in “Pied Beauty” of the “Landscape plotted and pierced — fold, fallow, and plough; / And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim” (lines 5-6), makes sense when you consider that during a large part of the Anglo-Saxon era, most of the population either farmed or did skilled labour of some sort with their hands. Further, in “Hurrahing in Harvest”, speaking of a time of year most of us would call fall or autumn, he says, “Summer ends now” (line 1). The Anglo-Saxon year had two seasons, summer and winter, so, for example, “Sumer Is I-Cumen In” is a song about spring. Though in other poems Hopkins distinguishes between spring, summer, fall, and winter, I take it as significant that in one case, at least, he seems to have taken the much older English view of the seasons. His comparison of a diving falcon to a plough-blade in “The Windhover” has been the source of much confusion for readers, but for a detailed and thorough explanation of it, from which I couldn’t pick out a certain single part because the whole hangs so together, see Frederick L. Gwynn’s article “Hopkins’ ‘The Windhover’: A New Simplification”. He does not mention explicitly the Anglo-Saxon way of looking at things in Hopkins’ work, but the facts and theories he mentions, about the agricultural metaphors which would have come easily to mind for the majority of an Anglo-Saxon audience, are worthy proof for my own side, could I but quote the entire article.

Though none of Hopkins’ poems were handed down by oral tradition, which would be a truly magnificent way of continuing the legacy of Anglo-Saxon verse which he tried to revive, the fact that none of his work came to light until after his death is still somewhat analogous to the fates of those anonymous or unknown poets who bore the seed of such lasting works as Beowulf, The Wanderer, or Andreas. We have already seen many significant similarities between his writings and works from the Anglo-Saxon era, and how he managed to bring the style forward, into an age which speaks Modern English, without losing the essence of it.

Works Cited:

Brophy, James. “The Noble Brute: Medieval Nuance in ‘The Windhover’.” Modern

Language Notes. Vol. 76, No. 8, 1961, pp 673-674.

Gibson, Walker. “Sound and Sense in G. M. Hopkins.” Modern Language Notes. Vol. 73, No.

2, 1958, pp. 95-100.

Gwynn, Frederick L. “Hopkins’ ‘The Windhover’: A New Simplification”. Modern Language

Notes. Vol. 66, No. 6, 1951, pp. 366-370.

“Gerard Manley Hopkins.” Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen

Greenblatt, Norton and Company, 2012, pp. 1546-1548.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Norton Anthology of English Literature. Norton and Company, 2012.

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. “Hurrahing in Harvest.” Greenblatt, p. 1551.

—. “Pied Beauty.” Greenblatt, p. 1551.

—. “The Windhover.” Greenblatt, p. 1550.

Posted in Poetry, Research, Writing | 3 Comments

SUN, A. S. LIII

  When, at St Radegunde’s Fair in the second half of August, I learned about the prospect of an agricultural track at the Stellar University of Northshield, I asked two friends of mine at church who are interested in forms of farming similar to the medieval if they would like to attend with me. We had many hurdles to overcome, but the morning of November ninth, the day before SUN, saw me leaving the house with bags and baggage, headed for Wisconsin. Along the way I picked up Ariana, the only one who’d been able to come, and her luggage and other provisions. It would be her first SCA event.

  Despite being unable to come, or perhaps because of her apprehension of the dangers of me gallivanting across the land without her, Olivia wrote us detailed directions. These served us well until we crossed into Wisconsin, when we proceeded to get ourselves thoroughly lost. It was dark by now, and snow was blowing across the road, and as we bumped around rural roads our prospects were increasingly grim.

  We had already asked for directions at gas stations, but by eight o’clock found ourselves in a place too rural even for those, and we began to consider asking at houses. The first time we made sure the farmstead looked respectable, and the woman there was kind, but her directions failed us. We stopped at another house which had a light on, but no one answered our knocking. The third time we were desperate, and stopped at a house whose number was similar to the address we were looking for. A short woman in huge slippers, with smoke rising off her and who blew smoke out of her mouth when she talked (she was probably a gnome), came to the door.

  “Do you know where this house is?” we asked, giving the number, and explained we were supposed to spend the night there.

  “What’s the name?” she growled.

  Ariana looked at each other, and for the first time I realized that I did not know either the SCA or mundane names of our hosts. It had not previously occurred to me to worry about this.

  “I don’t know,” I said lamely, and since by this point she was about as suspicious of us as we were of her, we took our leave and went back to the road.

  After calling Olivia and Jenny and both sets of parents, we got Ariana’s father on the line, and eventually he got us on a road leading into Wilton (the road Olivia had had us on appeared, from his map, to have gone out of existence). Now we were closer to where we were supposed to be, and there was bound to be a gas station or open store we could ask for further directions at.

  The only open places on Main Street were the two bars, but the Post Office was unlocked and a light was on. Ariana and I decided to eat our supper in there, where we could be warm without wasting gas, and have another round of calling people.

  Jenny answered this time, and gave us the phone number of our host. We called it and learned that we were just two blocks away from site, where they were still setting up. “The road,” he said, “literally dead-ends into the community center parking lot. Think you can find us?” We thought we might.

  After wandering for an hour and a half in the dark, with blowing snow, it was actually that easy. Five minutes later we stumbled inside with our half-eaten sandwiches and muffins and had barely gotten down the stairs when the woman sitting in front of the kitchen said, “So glad you’re here! Have you eaten yet? There’s soup and bread and brownies right there.” Ariana looked a little stunned, and I said, “SCAdian hospitality. It’s the best.”

   Now we called home and explained that we were safely arrived, not to crash space, but to site, and called Jenny back (she was driving, but Amanda answered) and said the same.

  A handful of SCAdians in mundane clothes were visible in the main room, putting up a schedule on the wall behind a table which also had a huge black and gold Stellar University of Northshield banner behind it. I recognized Domina Berenice and Ealdred, and a few others I might have known if they were in garb.

   Other people came through, as the news that we were the two lost girls had spread, and congratulated us on our safe arrival and offered us food. After the second or third time Ariana’s dazed grateful look became a fixture.

   We helped set up chairs for a bit, and eventually one of our hosts (we were never quite sure how many people were sharing the house with us at any given time) came over and said, “I’m heading back now, so if you’re read to leave you can follow me. I’ve got the car with the trailer.”

  We were feeling a bit dead on our feet, so we went out. I remembered having seen two cars with trailers in the parking lot. A truck came behind us as we were pulling out and kindly stopped for us, and we followed it up the hill. It didn’t have the kind of trailer which hooks on by a hitch, but there was something on the back. Ariana and I did begin to wonder, as we followed it through town and out again, whether this was the right guy we were following, and whether we would turn out to have stalked a passerby to his house, and what then. Ariana later said, “It had to be the right one,” as if the alternative were so unthinkable that it was also impossible. Being less sanguine, and also worn out with driving in the dark on uncertain directions, I figured that if it were the wrong guy I would simply ask for crash space there and forget about the rest until tomorrow.

  Fortunately, after about half an hour, he put his turn signal on and turned left into a house with the very number we had memorized by now. Ariana and I cheered.

  It was now after eleven o’clock, and we brought in only our bedding and the bag with our clothes for the morrow. “Welcome to the Nest,” the man said as he opened the door for us.

  Jenny and Amanda arrived later in the night, and the others trickled in, but Ariana and I fell asleep so hard that even though we were in the living room right by the front door we didn’t notice anyone.

  In the morning, as the four of us got dressed, we warned Ariana of the Court custom of previous reigns, as well as TRM Vladimir and Petranella III, of calling up those whose first event it was, or first court, into Their presence. I offered to escort her so she didn’t have to walk up alone. She said she probably wouldn’t go.

  Christiana gave me two pendants, which mainly consisted of a large blue bead and a golden tree, with delicate golden beads framing the blue ones. Myah, or Hrafnrun, had made them for all the members of Avonwood. I tied them onto the fringe of my belt.

  Derbail discovered that she didn’t have her Throat Coat tea with her, which would be important as she was teaching on Vocal Care for Heralds and Bards. The two of us were following the two of them to site anyway, and that was how one woman in early Irish garb, one in a blue-and-white particoloured quarterly cotehardie with long white tippets, and two in Anglo-Saxon garb (one of whom, the one without weird sleeves, had a puffy mundane coat on), walked into WalMart on a Saturday morning.

   While there, Derbail decided to pick up some sandwich meat, as people had brought bread and fruit but no protein for the lunch potluck. Before we left Christiana checked her tire pressure, gracefully half-kneeling in the parking lot with her tippets spread out.

  We arrived at site a little after nine. HE Rhys got the door for Ariana, as well as for Derbail and Christiana when they came in a little after us, their arms full. The line was long, but we got to the front at last, and paid and ran.    

  White carport tents with pointed tops made eight classrooms in the main room, four on each side of the open middle space for populace, and the stage was a ninth, mostly for dancing. Another tent had been set up outside for “Easy Camp Cooking” and the leatherworking class, and a space in the foyer served as another classroom.

  Ariana was bound for a class in the kitchen, and mine was “Anglo-Saxon garb: Looking fancy without the bling”. I found it already underway; Hrodwyn gave me a handout and pulled up an extra chair. Ariana slipped in a little later, and came up to get a handout (her class was canceled). Hrodwyn complimented her on her cyrtel’s herringbone weave, and we grinned at each other.

  Hrodwyn had a board on which she put examples of Anglo-Saxon garments getting increasingly fancy without jewelry or embroidery. The first was all natural browns, tabby-woven; the second, natural browns with each having a different pattern in the weave, which was already more interesting to look at; and of the third, of four different fabrics in different weaves and in different colours (saffron yellow, blue, green, and brown), she said as she put it up, “Ealdred would totally love this outfit, except he’d say it needs more pink.”

  Partway through that class I ran my fingers through the fringe of my belt to feel the pendants, and only one was there. Since the last time I’d looked I’d been in the car and walked outside and run around inside — it could have fallen anywhere and gotten trampled.

  Ariana and I went to the next class together, “Grocery Dancing”, with Christiana and Haakon and Derbail and another girl whose first event it was. I took my shoes off and went barefoot for that. Ariana left after the first half hour for another class, and another couple joined us and left again, so we went down to two couples and had to modify one dance which called for three.

  Around eleven o’clock I went to “Easy Camp Cooking” and found a dish in progress: beef cooked in vinegar, with almonds and garlic and a few other things, which was now cooked to the point where the recipe called for “many eggs” to be added, as well as lavender and cinnamon and saffron, and then egg yolks. I tied up my sleeves and offered to do the eggs, which meant I was separating whites and yolks over a metal bowl, by hand, in freezing temperatures. The wipes Sol had brought froze together and we had to use them over the fire.

  While the mixture cooked by the fire, we stood around and talked about camp cooking, and drank tea, and (in my case at least) inhaled a lot of smoke, as it could never make up its mind which direction to blow in consistently, and we went round and round the fire trying to avoid it.

  Then we forgot about it for a bit, and when Sol took the lid off the pot again, the meat was looking charred. The adventurous among us tried it, and though a lot of the garlic and almonds were stuck to the pot and the meat was unquestionably well-done and a little chewy, it didn’t taste bad at all. The spices were definitely there without being too strong, and the egg yolks were tasty, and most of all it was hot food to eat outside with frozen fingers. Everyone who tried it liked something about it.

   Since it was noon then, I went back inside to find Avonwood. Our potluck lunch was a small affair held off to one side on the stage. Ariana and Christiana and I did some people-watching, having a very good view of everyone from our place.

   I went next to “Intro to art history for the scribe” since the other two had to be in other places and we were all interested, and during it I began to doze off. I also lost track of time completely, and went to the tent for “Good King Richard?” an hour early, and couldn’t find the schedule (which I think was with Ariana, whom I also couldn’t find), so I decided to find the quietest spot I could and doze off properly.

  That spot turned out to be with the remains of lunch on the stage, and I curled up and closed my eyes. About two hundred people filled the air with noise all around me, and Haakon nearby was giving a “History of dance in the SCA”, but presently the noise faded and blurred.

  And then I realized the room was very quiet and I hadn’t heard the end of Haakon’s sentence, and I opened my eyes to see Ariana kneeling nearby, looking at me perplexedly over her schedule. I had actually fallen asleep.

  It was one-thirty and the next thing on my list was the “Good King Richard?” class. Ariana didn’t have anywhere to be just then, so she came along. Judging from the title I’d thought it was on Richard I, but it turned out to be Richard III, a very different person. At two o’clock we thought we had another class, but for some reason (possibly cancellation) we didn’t just then. However, between 2:30 and 4 I wanted to go to four other classes, “The old measures: dances from the Inns of Court”, “Enlightening Delights” (A&S documentation), “The Tacuinum Sanitatis: Keeping clean in the middle ages”, and “From picture to pattern: How to make the thing”. Ariana had no pressing engagements either, so we stood by the stage and tried to decide. Christiana looked over our shoulders and said, “You can pick up the handouts from the documentation one afterward — it’s mostly how to write a research paper. Definitely go to from picture to pattern. Seamus is going to Tacuinum Sanitatis, so he can take notes for you.” In the end Ariana decided to go too, so I went off to learn how to make things from pictures.

  Classes ended at four, and while people set up the thrones for Court in the front half of the room, people gathered in the back for Berenice’s A&S Town Hall. Berenice was the SUN Chancellor and had questions about how well the populace thought the event worked.

   When the Town Hall got done I caught Mistress Eithni and and asked if I might have handouts from her Enlightening Delights class, and we went round to the side hallway where she had hung her bag on the empty chair rack. Ariana came and found me there. We had just finished when from the main room we heard a shout. “All rise for Their Dread Stellar Majesties, Vladimir and Petranella the third, and Her Royal Highness Aibhilin!” Several barons and baronesses were in attendance, and we watched the long procession from the side door. TRM wore matching sable and gold garb with peacock blue underneath, very shiny. When they had all taken their seats, His Majesty said, “You may take your ease,” and we snuck in and went around to the first tent. Christiana waved to us and pointed out a couple of open seats by an aisle, and we took them.

   The herald was our host Matthias, a tall thin man with a grey beard, who, in a red and black gown slit up the sides and a red Phrygian cap, looked like an elongated gnome himself. “Their Majesties request the presence of Christoforo Alfonso Pallavincino da Firenze,” he said.

  Nothing happened.

  “Is he not here?” someone asked. “But he was here earlier.”

  “He knew this was coming,” Her Majesty said.

  We waited for another bit. There was a stir in the back, but Foro did not emerge.

  Her Majesty said, “While we are waiting for His Lateness, we can take care of another item of business.” Some old laws were being taken off the books and a couple of new ones put on. The herald managed to invent five different pronunciations of the phrase “cut and thrust”, but on the very last iteration it came out perfectly.

  Partway through the reading of the laws, Foro finally appeared at the end of a row of chairs a bit behind us. When the herald finished Foro came forward and made an elaborate bow at the end of the aisle.

  “Here you are at last,” Her Majesty said graciously.

  His Majesty stood up, taking the sword from an attendant, and unsheathed it. When he planted it on the cushion, Foro knelt and placed his hands on the hilt, and TRM put their hands on his.

   Foro was the newly appointed Kingdom Chronicler, and he had to be sworn in. The herald read the oath, pausing at appropriate places for Foro to repeat the words. “I here swear fealty and do homage to the Crown of Northshield; to well and loyally administer my office.” The last sentence did not lend itself to being broken up and the herald read it all at once. “I will diligently serve this crown and kingdom, uphold its laws and customs, guide by my example all the people of Northshield, and in all things comport myself with the dignity” (here Foro glanced up at His Majesty) “befitting one who holds my office.” Foro paused before going on, and Her Majesty leaned forward and hissed, “Just say it!” Foro repeated the words, and ended, “Here, by my honour and my heart, swear I, Christoforo Alfonso Pallavincino da Firenze.”

  When TRM replied they left the herald behind, not needing prompting. “We accept your service and leadership, and will rely on you to advise us wisely. As you hold your office in good faith we will act toward you respectively in all things, protecting you with our aid and rewarding you with our love. But may all your strength fail you” (His Majesty’s voice was very stern as he said this) “and the world turn against you if you should break your solemn oath.”

  “For the Kingdom Chronicler, Vivat!” the herald instructed us, and we cheered appropriately.

   Their Majesties next requested the presence of Princess Aibhilin Fionn. That lady, being seated right next to TRM, stood up and turned toward them. Her Majesty beckoned her onto the cushion.

  Their Majesties gave Her Highness a scroll announcing her status as Countess. Usually the consort of a ruler becomes Count or Countess automatically upon stepping down, but for some reason this seemed not to have happened, and naturally she was excited.

  TRM handed out a few more awards, and made an announcement. Usually before Gulf Wars they took a muster of fighters, of course, but this year they also wished to take a muster of the people in the arts and sciences who contributed things, because although many people went to War for the fighting, many others go to teach or learn or simply practice and share the peaceful arts. Her Majesty explained that therefore they planned to choose an arts and sciences champion, and at War would escort the champion to where they dropped off their work, to show how important this is. They would also take a muster of the youth fighters, because everyone matters.

  Something involved His Majesty saying, as a passing comment, “the allegéd people in authourity over us, the Us Government (who shall be dealt with shortly)”, with a dismissive turn of his hand.

  Someone was called up for an award, but was absent. “Can I accept it for her?” asked one of the Baronesses seated with TRM.

  Whoever it was, Her Majesty explained, while the Baroness knelt before them, “is known for her great skill in working jewelry, a subject near and dear to my heart, as you all know,”

  “And near to my pocketbook,” His Majesty added.

  “As well as armour,” Her Majesty went on smoothly, “no less dear to his heart.”  

  At last they got to the part of Court where, “Their Majesties request the presence of any for whom this is their first event or first Royal Court.” A few other people began to move forward. People all around us started telling Ariana, “That’s you,” and “It’s your turn, go up!” Seamus, in front of us, turned around and encouraged her; Christiana came up from a couple of rows behind; I took her hand; together we finally convinced her to come. I walked beside her to the end of the aisle, curtsied, and let her go. There were three others, and she ended up right in front of His Majesty.

  Their Majesties said something about the importance of welcoming newcomers, especially young folk, as they would carry on the kingdom after the currently established folk were dead and gone, and they gave each of them a mug.

  “For the future of Northshield,” the herald said as TRM dismissed them and they turned around, “Vivat!”

  Avonwood was well represented elsewhere, as Domina Berenice called up the teachers who’d travelled farthest, Ladies Rachel and Derbail. (Derbail took Lady Rachel’s arm and pranced up the aisle with her.) Berenice gave them each a travel bag with SUN’s sunburst on it, which contained, she said, “all the necessary toiletries, so that wherever they go they will not lack.”

  Presently the herald began, “There being no further business, the Court of Vladimir and Petranella,” and we all stood up in anticipation of the recessional. But someone whispered something to him, and he said, “Oh, sorry, one more thing.” We all sat down, and they handed out another award or whatever it was.

  “Now, there being no further business, the court is closed,” the herald said, and we rose again. The usual cheers followed.

  “Long live the King!”

  “Long live the Queen!” They swept by us.

  “Long live the Prince and Princess!” we said just as HRH passed us, smiling.

  “Long live Coile Stormeill!”

  “Long live Jararvellir!”

  “LONG LIVE NORTHSHIELD!”

  We began to dismantle Avonwood’s space and collect our things, including my spinning, which had spent all day on the table, as I never got a free moment. Other Avonwood folk discussed plans for supper. Ariana and I had already decided to go back to the Nest and eat our supper in quiet, shower, and go to bed at least somewhat earlier than we had the night before. The others decided to go to a Mexican place.

  Ariana was now extra visible on account of Court, and several people as they passed through stopped to welcome her and ask if she were having fun, or in the case of one lady known to me, to compliment her on her wise words in somebody’s class. Ariana thanked her, a little dazed by now from all the sudden attention, and Christiana said, “That was Baroness Samia.”

  Ealdred stopped near us at some point, wearing his Pelican hat, and I leaned across the table and said to him, “You’re actually wearing something on your head. That’s got to be one of the first times I’ve seen you do it.” I had earlier told Ariana that he was an especially notorious stealth peer.

  “Well,” he said, taking it off and studying it, “hats from this period are hard to come by, and it’s about the only thing that actually covers my ears and keeps them warm. When I was going to get it, part of my elevation outfit, I said to somebody we could do it like this, two weeks before the event. Then we had to order the trim, which arrived four days before the event, and it was sewn on in the car on the way to the event — I wasn’t the one doing it. And it actually fits.”

  Before we left, I asked Berenice if a pendant like my remaining one had made its way to the Lost and Found, but it hadn’t. Hrafnrun said she could make another one without much trouble, and would pass it on to me by Jenny.

  Ariana and I followed Christiana and Derbail back to the Nest, where they changed into mundane clothes before going out to eat. The two of us sat on the couch and discussed the day’s events a little. We touched on the topic of going garbed to WalMart, and Ariana confessed that it wasn’t her favourite part. “I like being different,” she said, “but I don’t like to show it.”

  Jenny laughed. “This is the wrong crowd to say that in.”

  We had supper by ourselves and showered at our leisure. Seonag told us about her history in the SCA, how she and her husband had met there, and about the Great Dark Horde, their household (all of which was new to Ariana, but I knew a little), and her friendship with Elashava. We went to bed at ten and fell asleep almost immediately.

  The next day while Christiana and Derbail were dressing for the second day of SUN, we were dressing for church. For my part, as always, elements of medieval clothes carried over, with long sleeves and a long skirt, and on the spur of the moment I added my belt, so I could still wear my Avonwood pendant.

  We met Seonag on Friday night and hugged her goodbye on Sunday morning.

* * * * * * *

Post-script: After getting off the right road twice on the way back, once involving a freeway, and all the stress that comes with that, I have a deeper understanding of and sympathy with Gabriel Syme’s remarks below (from The Man Who Was Thursday). When roads don’t match up the way they’re supposed to so often, when all of a sudden you come to an intersection and there’s the sign for the road you want and you can even turn onto it in the right direction without hesitating — well, by the end of it Ariana and I began to cheer.

“An artist disregards all governments, abolishes all conventions. The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway.”

“So it is,” said Mr. Syme.

“Nonsense!” said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. “Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!”

“It is you who are unpoetical,” replied the poet Syme. “If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!”

“Must you go?” inquired Gregory sarcastically.

“I tell you,” went on Syme with passion, “that every time a train comes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and that man has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word ‘Victoria,’ it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed ‘Victoria’; it is the victory of Adam.”

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I return to the haunts of men

Or at least to these haunts, from a very different sort of haunt, which I haunted mostly in garb. I have now gone to Wisconsin and returned again, alive, without a parent or sibling with me. (Of course, we had Olivia’s directions, which mostly worked.) Ariana and I had numerous adventures — you’ll get the tale later. In full, or almost in full, depending. I have a lot of school this week. I might abbreviate accounts of the classes and offer the notes separately, or only to those interested, or not at all. And since the many ways we managed to get lost don’t always concern the SCA part of the story, I’m skipping the boring details of which ramps we missed unless they are actually important.

(The main thing this week is that I have to write a paper and then turn it into a poster for the Undergraduate Research Conference by Friday, which is definitely going to be easy of course, and then our grandparents promptly arrive and stay for a week, and. . . yes. The weekend was far from being stress-free, but it was a different kind of stress, and Saturday it was nice to have a break from most of the things which have been threatening to tumble down on me all semester.)

Ariana appeared to have fun, despite not finding the SCA to be her home quite the way many of us have. I came away from the day of classes thinking of a lot of things I want to make, though mostly I need a cloak and mittens. Once again I’ve found myself at a winter event wearing two layers of cotton.

Posted in SCA

Historiography notes, part I

A novel takes its foundation from documentation, but is free to build on it with what could or would have happened as long as its interpretation of people shows them acting according to what we know of their characters. We usually demand of our textbooks that they not take such liberties with might-have-beens or even legends. What makes a good novel makes a bad textbook and vice versa — their ends are different, so the means chosen to achieve them will naturally be different too, from organization to how we introduce material to how strongly we paint one side or another as good. But good textbooks and good novels will complement each other.

The past is anything that happened; History is what survives, which necessarily includes some kind of interpretation, because the people who preserved a thing judged it important to keep around, and chose to record some things and not others. Because people turn anything into a story, we structure our records and histories as stories too, highlighting beginnings and middle and endings in the slices of history we put in a book, even though you can plop it into the running stream of time and have almost all such distinctions fade.

The professor hoped that by the end of the class, if we understood anything, “You will understand that to any historical project you bring who you are, you see it through your eyes, you interpret it in something that fits how you view the world.”

In Hofstetter’s historiography class, he said, we got a long overview of what people in other times thought of history, in their own words; here, it’s recent (20th century) and local (one book on Midwestern historians). With both ways of teaching the class you get to see various ways of thinking and can take instruction from those who came before.

On the first real day of class, Prof. K.  told us about the Standards of Professional Conduct for historians. 

  1. Read documents with an eye to learning what their authours were like, don’t assume they’re like (or unlike) you. An “imaginative understanding” is essential, to us a phrase from Carr, I think.
  2. Look for the preponderance of evidence: in which direction, if any, do the primary sources seem to wave? Look also for who’s absent. Also, if writers from different perspectives agree on something, it probably happened. When you find silences in written records you’re obligated to dig their stories up if at all possible by other means — art, literature, grave finds. . .
  3. Share ideas and take criticism of them.
  4. Historians have an obligation to the greatest accuracy they can achieve with the sources they have. If others come to light after your death, succeeding generations can hardly fault you for not having known about them, but if you ignore sources you know exist, that’s a different story. No cherrypicking. Seek as much evidence as you can, and take account of all you find. Historians have freedom to interpret, but at the same time a duty to interpret carefully and honestly.

This line was in with the Standards but I’m not sure if it was meant to be one of them or if it was a jotted-down rabbit trail: A fact becomes history when an historian rescues it from the dustbin of time because it gave him an idea (and other people eventually take notice) which changes the way he sees the era.

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Well, I’m back.

Hallo again. Apologies for the absence. But last week I woke up a little before my alarm and ready to get up (not with the bounding energy my sister’s known for, but still) not only one but three days. I can’t remember the last time before that that it was easy to get out of bed. And a certain increase in energy has come with that, which means, if it lasts, look for a lot of posts. I may even type up those notes for y’all. *

In British Lit. this morning, for which we read a bit of Piers Ploughman, Dr Pichaske pointed out how some characters are concrete and others abstract, and added, “I wonder who’s a Lady Meed that I know?”

David pointed at me emphatically, saying, “Sophia, it’s definitely you.”

“And you’d have to be Hunger,” I replied, and he laughed.

Reading of late has included things like these:

Sir Orfeo, a medieval Orpheus in the Underworld without cancans and with eucatastrophe, so how could it be better?

The Monsters and the Critics, which is good, and funny, because Tolkien gets to make fun of people misinterpreting things. The last paragraph is especially moving. And there’s a whole appendix of linguistics to have fun in.

And, unlike most of these, a rabbit-trail from Fall Break, which I didn’t get very far down, but far enough to discover this.

A bit of news on The Colour of Life: for the senior portfolio I have to submit things to publishers, and I’m hoping to do that or a part of it.

* For any Texans reading this

Posted in Fiction, Poetry, Reading, Research, The Colour of Life | 1 Comment