Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Leia Ascending

Maister Colyne Stewart, AS 53 (August 2018)
An elegy for a beloved dog, part of the family of Pasi and Jaclyn Paltanen.

All-father Odin     one-eyed watchman
Sings through sky-horn     shatters the calm night
Calls to him champions     curs of great valour
Hounds of honour     he would extoll
Claim to his company     captain his ghost-pack
Wolf-daughter wizened     wick low lit fading
Second-shadow     sky-bridge strider
Hound of honey-thieves’     hall, child-guard well
Lap-friend loyal     last duty now done
Comes to his hall     charges moon-ward
Emma earth-bound     eases her long-fate
Leia still listens     looking from high
Draugar and dvergar     dare not to enter
Bee-foe Bjarnscur     begotten watcher
Battles for bear-cub     bright star of night

Written in the style of the Ango-Saxon scops, using a variety of line types. The oral Old English versification tradition was brought to England from Germany by the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century. It therefore shares many (if not all) characteristics with Old German versification.

The lines of verse (which were not recorded in written form until the 8th century[1]) were alliterative, of variable length, and divided by a caesura. The third stressed syllable in each line had to alliterate with either or both of the first two, while the fourth did not alliterate. All vowels and diphthongs alliterated with each other. Sc, sp and st usually only alliterated with themselves. The disposition of stressed syllables is the same as the Sievers’ types described in Old German versification.

Synonyms and compound words were widely used (likely to assist with alliteration). Kennings, though not common, were sometimes used. Sometimes the words used could have multiple meanings (though whether this was done on purpose is open to debate).[2] Variation (using multiple names for the same subject within the same lines) was also used and poets would often reuse lines or word patterns from earlier poems by other poets.

The version of the poem below has the alliterative letters bolded, with the stressed syllables in italics. Synonyms, variation and kennings are explained in footnotes.

All-father Odin[3]     one-eyed[4] watchman
Sings through sky-horn[5]     shatters the calm night
Calls to him champions     curs of great valour
Hounds of honour     he would extoll
Claim to his comp’ny     captain his ghost-pack[6]
Wolf-daughter[7] wizened     wick low lit fading[8]
Second-shadow[9]     sky-bridge strider[10]
Hound of honey-thieves[11]     hall[12], child-guard[13] well
Lap-friend[14] loyal     last duty now done
Comes to his call     charges moon-ward[15]
Emma earth-bound     eases her long-fate[16]
Leia still listens     looking from high
Draugar[17] and dvergar[18]     dare not to enter[19]
Bee-foe Bjarnscur[20]     begotten watcher
Battles for bear-cub     bright star of night[21]

[1] Dance, Richard. “The Old English Language and the Alliteative Tradition.” A Companion to Medieval Poetry. Saunders, Corrine, ed. Wiley-Blackwell: West Sussex, 2010. p. 35.
[2] Ibid: p. 47.
[3] Odin, father of the gods.
[4] Odin had only one eye.
[5] Odin sounds his great horn.
[6] Odin calls to him dogs of worthy character.
[7] Dogs are descendants of wolves.
[8] A reference to Leai’s long life.
[9] Like many dogs, Leia enjoyed following her humans about. In particular, she spent a great deal of time with baby Emma, Pasi and Jaclyn’s young daughter,
[10] Suggesting Leia will answer Odin’s call and has crossed the rainbow bridge to enter Valhalla, the Norse afterlife.
[11] A kenning for a bear.
[12] Pasi and Jaclyn refer to their home as Bearhall.
[13] Leia was sometimes referred to as Emma’s nanny.
[14] Dog.
[15] Leia answered Odin’s call.
[16] Emma’s life will be easier for Leai having been in it.
[17] Scandinavian zombies.
[18] Scandinavian dwarves.
[19] Boogeymen dare not even enter Emma’s room.
[20] Leia was a Karelian beardog. The bee-foe is a name for a bear. Bjarn is Pasi’s name in the SCA, so Bjarnscur means Bjarn’s dog.
[21] Leia still watches over Emma.