How to Write to the Crown

In my role as a territorial baroness, I am often called on to compose letters to the Crown of the Midrealm. When I was invested, my predecessors gave me good advice on how to do this, and I would like to share it — along with my own knowledge, gained from experience — with the populace generally.

In this post, I’ll be talking about how to write to SCA royalty. I’ll discuss what information to include as well as how to make your letter sound beautiful and more “medieval”.

But first: Why do we do this?

The more special you make your letter, the more special They will feel to receive it. Continue reading

Five Chinese Poems

Some time ago, I acquired a fan, because sitting in court in summer is hot, and also because one needs a fan in order to whisper behind it. The particular fan I purchased has several poems written on it in Chinese characters.

(As I suspected based on the forms of the poems, it turns out that they are in Chinese — as opposed to Japanese, Korean, etc. — but now I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Front of Fan

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Warrior Ethics in Japanese War Tales

Today I get to talk about one of my favorite literary genres: the Japanese war tale!

War tales (gunki monogatari) are books of Japanese prose fiction about wars and other military conflicts, primarily written in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (though some of those I’ll discuss are even older). Usually written by anonymous authors or compiled from oral tradition, war tales depict actual historical events and characters in a fictionalized way. Although they’re not always completely historically accurate, war tales are valuable resources for medieval Japanese ideas about specific historical events, the overall meaning of those events, and values about warfare and the people involved in warfare. Continue reading

Piae cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum… and Neale & Helmore

Last night we received our first big snowfall of the year, and that means it’s time to talk about Piae cantiones!

Why should you become familiar with Piae cantiones? Only because it’s a incredibly rich source of medieval Christmas music, some of which you already know. And because it’s easy for modern musicians to read and understand. And because of its importance to the history of religious and school music in Scandinavia. And because what other medieval Finnish music do you know? Continue reading

Altas undas que venez suz la mar

For fun, I’ve written a singable translation of a little piece that has been attributed to my favorite troubadour, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras. It is almost certainly not by him, since it is not at all his style, but it is cute nonetheless.

Sadly, I cannot find any information about the original tune for this piece. It might not exist anymore. I was able to find a couple of recordings of people singing these lyrics to different tunes, however. Perhaps these tunes are composed by the performers?

Having given up on finding an extant 12th-century tune for these lyrics, I’ve decided to simply place them here, sans music. Here are the original lyrics, if you’d like to compare – as I said, they are very cute.

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Pos sabers no.m val ni sens

Another piece from our friend, Guiraut Riquier. I’m so enthusiastic about this guy’s passion for form – and the sincerity of his words – that I want to keep exploring his work!  🙂

In this one, Guiraut experiments with a circular form in which the final line of each stanza is the first line of the next stanza (and the final line of last stanza is, of course, the first line of the poem). In addition, odd-numbered (1, 3, 5) and even-numbered (2, 4, 6) stanzas have an inverted structure: the rhyme pattern of the first half of the odd stanzas is the same as the rhyme pattern of the second half of the even stanzas, and vice versa. Yet the two halves of each stanza are connected because they share a rhyme throughout (lines 2, 4, 7, and 9).

Guiraut employs the same form in the melody. In general, lines that rhyme share melodic information. And he also echoes the two-half structure: In the manuscript, he uses a special sign to indicate that Verses 1, 3, and 5 should be sung as written, but Verses 2, 4, and 6 should be sung differently. For the even-numbered verses, the singer begins on line 6 of the tune and, after reaching the end, returns to the top of the page to eventually end on line 5. I’ve never seen instructions like that for a troubadour piece before, so I am super-excited!

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