Thursday, July 21, 2016

Minerva and Mars Debate Their Worth (Proelio verborum gladiisque—A Clash of Words and Swords)

By THL Roselyne de l’ Estrangere and THL Colyne Stewart
Written as part of the Medieval Debate Poetry class at War of the Trillium, July 2016 (AS 51)

I.                   Prolocutio [Prelude]

There once arose a fine debate—
The Gods of War, which was more great?
Mars, with his courage, sword and axe?
Minerva, with her greater tact?

[Enim contentio erumpit:
Quis aptior, di belli, sit?
Minerva maiore dolo,
Aut Mars virtute, gladio?]

[A debate broke out, indeed:
The gods of war, who was most fit?
Minerva, greater in guile,
Or Mars, with his courage/strength, his sword?]

            II.     Minerva

Oh, Mars, bold brother, god of war,
Who comes to hall adrape in gore,
What right claim you to sit that seat
At Father’s side, by mead and meat?
That is my place, that is my chair,
Begone, go back to battle’s lair.

         III.     Mars

Honour is mine, 'tis good and right,
By Jupiter to sit each night.
War is a sport for manly heart;
To weave, like you, is woman’s art!
It is for men to spill men’s blood;
Why has this not been understood?

         IV.     Minerva

Poor Mars, who thinks with little sword,
Believes his worth as mighty lord
Is one and all tied to his sex
And bellows while his muscles flex.
But war is more than savage skill—
There must be justice in each kill.

            V.     Mars

Justice is obvious to me—
Before my sword all cowards flee!
Why not upon my sex rely?
My rivals all are sure to die!
If you think not my view is right
Put off your toils, and let us fight!

      VI.   Conclusio [Conclusion]

So fight they did, the sparks did fly,
Till Jupiter called from the sky,
“My children, you must not compete,
For that is Juno’s promised seat.”

[Flagravit bellum, furenter,
Rex donec dixit Iupiter,
“Nolite pugnare, fili!
Sedem Junoni promisi!”]

[Battle broke out, furiously
Until King Jupiter said,
“Do not fight, (my) children!
I have promised the seat to Juno!”]

At War of the Trillium in 2016, as part of the Trillium War School, THL Colyne Stewart taught a class on medieval debate poetry. Tough various scholars have differing opinions on just what qualifies as a “true” debate poem, but for the purposes of the class a debate poem was any poem wherein two or more different points of view expounded on a topic (with two or three being the most common). The points of view in debate poetry were expressed by speakers which could be almost anything, including people, inanimate objects, personifications (of emotions, seasons, etc.), or religious figures. Sometimes a judge or judges would be invoked to settle the debate.

The class was a practical one, so the students paired up to write their poems together. As there was an uneven number of students, Roselyne was paired with Colyne.  The class decided to all write on the same subject to see how different approaches could be taken with the same theme. The subject selected was Athena debating Ares (Roselyne and Colyne decided to go with the Roman version of the gods). The class agreed to all write couplets in iambic tetrameter. Roselyne and Colyne elected to write their stanzas in six lines, with an introduction and conclusion of four lines. They also elected to invoke a judge, and decided to have the judge not agree with either of the debaters.

After the fact, Roselyne translated the prelude and conclusion into Latin which followed the poetic conventions agreed upon as well as a new literal translation back into English.