katherine kerr of the Hermitage, her site


Period Style: [Coronation Planh] [Dickon's Lament] [Gawaine, the Green Knight]
Commemorative: [The Passing of the Crown] [The Trees of Southron Gaard]
Filk: [The Tale of Don Julio (cheap!)] [The Riverhaven Shanty] [The Herald's Song] [12th Night Challenge] [The Pen Gwynne War Songs] [Introduction to the Fair People of our Shire]

I enjoy writing songs, but many of them end up being for specific occasions so they only get sung once. For the most part, I use pre-existing music partly to make things easier and partly to get some resonance for the audience with the associations of the tune.

The Tale of Don Julio (cheap!)

The following pretty much tells the whole sorry saga as it happened over a number of events and Courts through AS42:

(To the well-known tune...The Cat Came Back)

Part the First, at Canterbury Faire

Sir Vitale wanted to find a tourney prize
Looked in the bargain bin, what fell beneath his eyes?
A bottle going cheap, Don Julio´s brew
Vitale felt right generous, and so he brought us two.

The tourney winners came up, but no-one took the wine
It sat there on the table, ignored by all the line
Vitale didn´t want it back, gave it to his B&B
We were overwhelmed by his generosity.

Chorus: The wine came back. We thought we had got rid of it.
The wine came back. No-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. We just couldn´t give it away.

We gave it to the King for his largesse chest
Said he could give it to the ones who´d pleased him best
The curtain fell, the people clapped, the King he gave a grin
And gave us two green bottles, much to our chagrin.

Chorus: So the wine came back. We thought we had got rid of it.
The wine came back. No-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. We just couldn´t give it away.

When Closing Court came round, we knelt before the King
Said we had a gift for him, to help his travelling
He saw the shape, knew what it was, his face turned slightly red
When he went that evening, he left it by his bed.

Chorus: So the wine came back. We thought we had got rid of it.
The wine came back. No-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. We just couldn´t give it away.

Part the Second, at Rowany Festival

We took the wine to Festival far across the sea,
Thinking that it might once more be a gift for royalty
Surely there´d be someone in need of chatisement
We kept our fingers crossed as we put it in His tent.

Chorus (quietly):Would the wine come back? We hoped we had got rid of it.
Not see it back. That had to be the last of it.
Don´t let the wine came back. Oh please make it go away.

His Majesty was late returning to His bed
But when He hit the pillow, found something hard beneath his head.
An evil green bottle, bearing liquid vile
And through the darkness shone Don Julio´s broad smile.

Chorus: So the wine came back. He thought He had got rid of it.
The wine came back. No-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. He just couldn´t give it away.

At Royal Court the King told the story of the wine
Told the folk assembled there about the vintage fine.
"Who could be more suited," He said, "to have this gift of me
Than Baron Gui and Aelflaed, our hosts of Rowany?"

Sir Gui responded bravely , "We´ve always liked good Dons."
Then hastily looked round to see to whom to pass it on.
He called the Baronial Champion, but he had somehow gone
So his squire took the hit for him - Collette received the Don.

(Their Excellencies of Rowany, being cultured people, passed on the wine with this four-person part-song interlude, to the fine tune Come Again)

A gift beyond compare,
A prize priceless and rare,
Passed on from hand to hand,
Behold this grog, largesse of Kings, so cheap,
So cheap white wine,
Vitale's legacy.

(And back to the original tune)

Collette asked of the Baron could she give the wine away
To a mighty fighter who had fought for her that day?
The King He blanched and looked around, rather desperately
For He´d been bought by Collette in the Auction Tourney....

Spoken: Oh yes....

Chorus: So the wine came back. He thought He had got rid of it.
The wine came back. No-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. He just couldn´t give it away.

(In AS XLVI, Her Majesty Margie of Glen More requested additional verses to chastise the Admiral of Lochac, who had been somewhat remiss in his duties...)

The Crown found out their Admiral hadn’t paid his tithe
They demanded silver, or else They’d take his life
Martuccio gulped and took a swig of a tipple close to hand
And found himself with Julio on a voyage of the damned.

The Spanish Don fought hard, within the Admiral’s chest
Called upon his kith and kin and those who loved him best
And out of the black darkness, stepped a swordsman with a sigh
(Spoken in the obvious accent) And said: My name is Don Pedro, you killed my father, prepare to die.

Chorus:So the wine came back. He thought he had got rid of it.
The wine came back. (Almost) no-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. He just couldn’t drink it away.

And yes, we did have a bottle of something labelled Don Pedro to hand over to the hapless Admiral. The story continued at the next Canterbury Faire:

The doughty ship the Cerebus went missing on the main
The Admiral’s fine Baron, he searched and searched in vain.
He came up with a story of krakens big and bold.
Martuccio rewarded him with a Don he knew of old.

Oswyn flinched in horror, for the Don had been his bane
And ordered execution so he’d never come again.
The Baron never spotted the switching of the sacks;
It was the Don’s twin brother who wrongly got the axe.

Chorus:So the wine came back. He thought he had got rid of it.
The wine came back. No-one would dare drink of it.
The wine came back. It just wouldn’t go away.

We're not sure if there's more to this story, but fervently hope not.

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Coronation Planh: a troubadour performance

For the Kingdom A&S competition at Midwinter Coronation ASXLI, I decided to write a troubadour lament for the "lost" king, which looked forward to the rise of a new one. Like many of my event-specific songs, it's doomed to be sung only the once….

It was my first Kingdom-level entry, so I went a bit overboard on the documentation. I ended up performing first-up in the cold darkness of a winter's night, which suited the topic, but not my voice particularly. However, I was judged to be a "competent musician", so that was a Good Result.

Brief Historical Setting

In period, a troubadour was a poet-musician associated with the languedoc region of southern France; the troubadour art-form flourished from the 11th to early 14th century, leading to the development of the northern French trouveres, German minnesingers and other comparable forms elsewhere in Europe both during this period and later. It has been argued that not only did troubadours describe the primary courtly ideals, they helped to shape, create and support them (Newberry).

The first feted troubadour was the 11th-century magnate Guilhelm d'Aquitania (aka William of Aquitaine) who was Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Poitiers, and Eleanor of Aquitaine's grandfather. He enjoyed a good rhyming poem or song in the vernacular -- very vernacular at times, as his very bawdy repertoire reveals -- and set the fashion for the southern songsters to follow.

While William is cited as the first, it is clear from his work that the troubadour style already had a body of work and tradition behind it, as Chaytor remarked in 1912:

Though the Count of Poitiers is the first troubadour known to us, the relatively high excellence of his technique, as regards stanza construction and rime, and the capacity of his language for expressing lofty and refined ideas in poetical form (in spite of his occasional lapses into coarseness), entirely preclude the supposition that he was the first troubadour in point of time. The artistic conventions apparent in his poetry and his obviously careful respect for fixed rules oblige us to regard his poetry as the outcome of a considerable stage of previous development. At what point this development began and what influences stimulated its progress are questions which still remain in dispute.

Almost 100 years after Chaytor wrote those words, the early history and influences of the troubadour development still remain in dispute; the works that have come down to us are still regarded with appreciation and awe.

Troubadour References

Bogen, Nancy; Coeur de Lion, Mon Coeur; Lark Ascending Chansons and Lieder I & II 2000-2001
Bonse, Billee A; Singing to Another Tune": Contrafacture and Attribution in Troubadour Song Ohio Statue University 2003 PhD Dissertation
Chambers, E.K.; The Medieval Stage ; Dover, 1996; originally OUP 1903
Chaytor, H..J.; The Troubadours; Cambridge University Press, 1912
Cohen, Joel; Peirol's Vielle: Instrumental participation in the troubador repertory; Historical Performance, 1990
Davis, Judith M.; Troubadours ; The Literary Encyclopedia, 2005
Rosenberg, Samuel, et al. ed. Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvčres: An Anthology of Poems and Melodies; Garland Publishing, 1998
Switten, Margaret. Music and Poetry in the Middle Ages: A Guide to Research on French and Occitan Song, 1100-1400; Garland Publishing, 1995
The Early Music Consort of London; Music of the Crusades; CD liner notes, Decca 1970

Yes, there were female troubadours

There are around 20 noted female troubadours who have left a very small corpus of fewer than 50 identified surviving works to present their ideas and interests; works by male troubadours, in contrast, number over 2,500 (Hale). Foremost amongst these trobairitz was Beatritz, the Comtessa de Dia, who wrote her passionate pieces on courtly love in the late 12th century. A number of her works, which cover a range of troubadour genres, are recorded, but only one retains its original melody (A chantar m'er). This is, in fact, the only trobairitz song with a known melody. Her enthusiasm for the artform may have developed as the result of a love affair with the troubadour Count of Orange, Raimbaut d'Aurenga; her chansons note how she longed to be in the arms of her lover, rather than be with her husband.

Trobairitz were not confined to the upper-class dilettante however. There are records of the minstrel's guild recognising women members in their own right, rather than simply as part of a spousal arrangement (Cyrus). One point to note is that, at all levels, they were composing and performing as women, not having their material published under male pen names, unlike in many other literary forms (Hale).

Trobairitz songs are said to be more direct and heartfelt than those of their male counterparts. They did not apparently feel the need to demonstrate their verbal virtuosity that dominated much of the male literary form or, as Chaytor says:

…the lady who composed poetry did so from love of the art or from the inspiration of feeling and therefore felt no need of meretricious adornment for her song.

Poet-Composers vs Performers

Technically, as a performer for the purposes of this A&S entry I should be regarded not as a trobairitz, in fact, but as a joglar (more familiarly rendered as jongleur, as the northern French would put it). Troubadours were the higher status, well-educated, often high-born poet-composers; joglars were their mouthpieces, the lesser-regarded performers who travelled widely to present a troubadour's works before audiences.

So it seems appropriate to be performing this outside my own Barony as the original troubadours and joglars were often characterised as wanderers. Although they are most commonly associated with southern France, they and their traditions spread throughout Europe and one, Elias Cairel, is said to have visited "most of the then known world" (Chaytor). Troubadours would travel with one or more joglars in their train, and gain all the glory for the presented material.

In 1273, Guiraut de Riquier appealed to Alphonso X of Castile regarding the "indiscriminate grouping of poets, singers, and entertainers of all degrees under the title of joglars" (Chambers), which led to the establishment of an artistic hierarchy. At the head came the doctors de trobar and the trobaires composers, followed by the joglars who were the performers (reciters, singers and instrumentalists) and last of all the bufos, or entertainers, such as clowns, mimes and acrobats. Joglars were also advised to add to their repertoire by learning the arts of "imitating birds, throwing knives, leaping through hoops, showing off performing asses and dogs and dangling marionettes" (Chambers). I regret that have neglected this side of the potential performance….

There are troubadour poems which berate poor unfortunate joglars for their lack of knowledge and skill . Peire d'Auvergne (1158-80) complained of the "violence" a poor joglar could do in garbling a song, and Guiraut de Cabreira wrote a long diatribe upbraiding his joglar Cabra for his ignorance, and detailing the many legends and poems which he expected a competent joglar to know.

Chaytor maintained that it was possible for a joglar to show sufficient compositional talent of his own to rise through the ranks to troubadour, and that a "troubadour who fell upon evil days might sink to the profession of joglar". There are records of the two functions being combined, although this doesn't appear to be common, so I can legitimately lay claim to being both (although I haven't seen any indication of lady joglars per se).

A Capella Performance

There is considerable debate as to just how much accompaniment a troubadour performance would have had. In the early development of the troubadour form, there are indications that the words were to be considered dominant over the music. Verbal declamation of the poetry may well have been unaccompanied, or possibly with a small amount of "mood music" at intervals to set the tone for the particular piece.

The focus on the poetic form and language has been suggested as indicating that troubadour performance rested largely on declamatory or unaccompanied song formats, at least through until the end of the 12th century (Cohen, Page, Chambers). Chaytor argued that the music of a poem was an element of no less importance than the words, citing descriptions of troubadour who were well-known for being good at composing one and poor at the other.

By the late 13th century, there are indications that it had become common for the poems to be set to music. This could be music written to match the composition or , where appropriate, to an older or extant tune. The latter contrafracture technique was done for a variety of reasons: on occasion to honour an earlier poem which had used that music, sometimes to drive home a satirical fleer. Variations on common tunes were also a feature of this musical form, in marked contrast to the conservative nature of the contemporaneous liturgical corpus.

The melodies used were not particularly complex, as the songs were monophonic (ie one part) and typically repeat basic stanza patterns to a single repeated melody. The Newberry Consort, in discussing Faidit's Fortz chausa es, states that it is "strophic, but not through-composed; that is, the performer sings the same music for every stanza of poetry". They see a certain casual nature in the relationship of the melody and the music in troubadour material when compared to liturgical music of the time, giving it an improvised quality.

While interpretation of contemporary musical notation presents difficulties, it appears that any instrumental accompaniment would have been as a repetition of the melodic line, rather than polyphonic.

A sirventes by Gascoyne troubadour Uc de Lescura mentions a number of troubadours and their various specialities, the bulk of which focus on the poet-singer side of the equation, rather than the musical talent:

De mots ricos no tem Peire Vidal
ni'N'Albertet de sa votz a ben dir
ni'N Perdigon de greu sonet bastir,
ni'N Pegulhan de chansos metre en sal,
ni de gabar sos chans N'Arnaut Romieu
ni de lausar Fonsalada son fieu,
ni'N Pelardit de contrafar la gen,
ni'N Gualaubet de viular coyndamen.
I do not fear the elegant language of Peire Vidal,
nor Master Albertet's voice that says things so well,
nor Master Perdigon's composing solemn melodies,
nor Master Pegulhan's adding salt to his songs,
nor Master Arnaut Romieu's singing his lungs out,
nor Fonsalada's boasting about his possessions,
nor Master Pelardit's putting people on,
nor Master Guallaubet's playing the viola elegantly.
(Translation: Rosenberg)

Cohen has interpreted this and other evidence to bolster his argument that troubadour works were "conceived as essentially poetic experiences, and that musical context was by-and-large secondary to concerns of literary content and strophic form".

The above piece is one of the few to specifically mention an instrument in conjunction with troubadour performance. The translation uses the term viola, but the old French viular would be more accurately translated as vielle, a string instrument related to the violin. Chambers saw the primary function of the vielle or harp in early minstrelsy as intended "to assist the voice…in one of the many forms of poetry", with recitative, chant or plain story-telling being as much a part of a performance as actual song.

According to Cohen there is "no positive evidence for lutes, harps, hurdy-gurdies, or other string instruments, much less wind instruments or percussion, and no indication whatsoever from these sources that ensembles of instruments might have accompanied one singer".

Harps are represented in illuminations of what could well be troubadour/joglar performance, but that is subject to interpretation of what is being depicted. I could not bring my harp to Coronation, but append the arrangement I have developed for my performance piece to show the style of accompaniment that would have typically been used.

Using Another's Tune

Contrafracture was a recognised approach for troubadours who would "fashion lyrics after the poetic structure of a preexistent song, thereby allowing his work to be sung to that earlier melody" (Bonse, Switten). A number of contemporary sources attest to this, including the treatise on grammar and poetical form Las Leys d'amors (The Laws of Love) written in 1340 by Guilhem Molinier.

Troubadours themselves would acknowledge their use of an earlier tune with the phrase el so de ("to the tune of") in much the same way that later Elizabethan broadside ballads would be published with a note as to which well-known tune was to be used with the supplied lyrics.

According to Bonse:

Both theory and practice demonstrate that structural imitation came to be most closely associated with several specific genres-including the sirventes (moralizing piece), tenso (debate song), coblas (song of few strophes), and planh (lament)-whose poetic structures were commonly modeled after those of the canso, the dominant genre of troubadour composition.

Genres: Satirical and Sentimental

There are many recognised troubadour genres, each dealing with a particular aspect of love or life. The most common is the canso, later termed the chanson, a courtly love song; the enueg consisted of a list of people or things that annoyed the author; the gap was a challenge or boast; usually aimed at another troubadour focusing on the author's obvious talents and the target's lack thereof. The lais, or narrative poems, have become well-known through the works of Marie de France and the stories of the Arthurian romance cycle.

While the "service of love", as Chaytor puts it, formed the major preoccupation of troubadours, the service of vassalage was also important. Many troubadours composed material for patrons or overlords, from praise pieces to planh, or laments for a lost friend, patron or liege lord (cf the Latin planctus or religiously based mourning poem/song). There are numerous examples of these laments written by troubadours to mourn the losses of various king, and I have chosen to mirror this in my performance piece.

One such example that I have examined is Gaulcem Faidit's Fortz chausa es, which is a planh written in 1199 in the Provencal tongue, lamenting the death of Richard Lionheart.

I must tell and recount in song the
greatest misfortune and sorrow
that, alas, I have ever known and
which, henceforth, I shall always
regret and lament, for the head
and father of valour, the courageous
and powerful King of the English
Richard is dead. Alas! Oh God!
What a great loss and what pity!
What a harsh sword and how painful
is it to hear it! The man who can
endure this pain must, indeed have a hard heart.

(Translation: Music of the Crusades)

I have chosen to use this genre in conjunction with a troubadour piece attributed to Richard Lionheart himself, Ja nus hons pris. I've sung this over many years, and worked on harp accompaniment for it, and it is a recognised work within the troubadour corpus.

Ja nus hons pris
Richard Coeur-de-lion, 1194
Ja nus hons pris ne dira sa raison
Adroitement, se dolantement non;
Mais par effort puet il faire chançon.
Mout ai amis, mais povre sont li don;
Honte i avront se por ma reançon
Sui ça deus yvers pris.
Truly no captive his story can tell
Aptly unless it be sadly as well
But with a struggle a song he can sing
Many my friends but what poor gifts they bring
Shame be to them if for ransom I wait
Here for two winters long.
Know ye my liegemen and barons so true
Gascon and Norman and Englishman too
Not one among you whatever his case
Would I have suffered to pine in disgrace
Wanting a ransom yet here I must face
Bondage or death e're long.

Chaytor refers to this as a lament, but I suspect that it is more likely a sirventes, as the full piece has a satirical edge to it that is not typical of the more emotional planh genre.

I wanted to match the occasion of Coronation and so chose to treat the melody of Ja nus hons pris as supporting a planh, focusing on the loss of the "old" king. I decided to include a small metaphorical reference at the end of the piece recognising that a new king was "on the horizon" as it were. Topicality was something which the troubadour, or more accomplished joglars, would throw into their works, sometimes extemporaneously.

Given that troubadour were all about entertaining their audience and singing in the vernacular, it seemed appropriate to ensure that the words I used were in the current vernacular, so I have chosen to use my own lyrics but retain the tune in troubadour contrafracture fashion to produce a performance piece designed to be listened to and -- one hopes! -- appreciated by the audience provided at Coronation.

Coronation Planh
katherine kerr of the Hermitage , AS XLI
Hear the sad story that I have to sing
For I must tell of the loss of our king
Gone from among us though beseeched to stay
His time had come, and our king's passed away
Into the night, from his vows now released
And so our hearts are breaking.
Dark falls the night now for we've lost the sun
That shone upon us. Our king's day is done
We'll e'er recall him, do honour to his name
But when night's blackest then bright shines the flame
A dragon's fire lights the sky to the east
For now a new dawn is breaking.

(Mistress Rowan was kind enough to describe it as "poignant".)

Poetical Form and Treatment

Ja nus hons pris follows a recognised troubadour style -- there are almost 1,000 recorded variations of stanza usage! -- with two coblas (or stanzas) of 6 line. The original work presents a coblas unissonans, where the coblas repeats the same rhyming scheme from verse to verse (eg raison, non, chancon, don etc). This is somewhat trickier in Modern English than in medieval French, though I suspect that Chaucer's English would have provided ample rhyming material to match this feat.

As the A&S requires a performance piece, rather than a composition entry, I decided against the additional polishing required to match the more demanding schema, and modelled it on the song's translation, which uses an AABBCD pattern. (I did get comment back that I should have more closely followed the original French form, which seemed outside the scope of performance per se.)

The final two lines of each coblas are designed to echo each other, with the same word repeated as the last word of the final line (the cauda) and introducing a deliberate dissonance. In Ja nus hon pris this is the word "pris"; in my contrafracture it is "breaking".

I have tried to use similar language to Faidit in my Coronation Planh. As a performance piece this does present some difficulty, as modern sensibilities would be more likely to find grief expressed in this fashion over-the-top and risible. As a consequence, I have downplayed the more mawkish material that sprang to mind, while still trying to retain the essence of the planh.

This would be considered a form of trobar leu or "light" effort, which was a form that deliberately chose language that was open and accessible to the listeners. Trobar leu was in marked contrast to the trobar clus, which used "closed" language with lots of allegory and allusion to ensure that the piece remained obscure. The latter approach was no doubt politic practice when it comes to writing about your undying passion for someone else's spouse!

I liked the comment by the 13th century Italian troubadour Lanfranc Cigala:

I could easily compose an obscure, subtle poem if I wished; but no poem should be so concealed beneath subtlety as not to be clear as day. For knowledge is of small value if clearness does not bring light; obscurity has ever been regarded as death, and brightness as life.

That holds true for more than just troubadour poetry…. .

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Dickon's Lament

Where are the arms that held me tight
And rocked me in my crib?
My mother's arms so warm and white
That held me 'neath her rib?

O hush now child, be still, be still
Those arms will hold no more
They carried a bow against the foe
For your mother's gone to war.

Where are the eyes that once held mine
With love and pride and joy?
My mother's eyes that brightly shone
To see her own wee boy?

O hush now child, be still, be still
Those eyes will shine no more
Down arrow's length they've spent their strength
For your mother's gone to war.

Where is the voice I held so dear
That sang me to my rest?
My mother's voice, low, sweet and clear
The voice that I loved best?

O hush now child, be still, be still
That voice will sound no more
In lullaby or battle cry
For your mother's gone to war.


I wrote the lyrics of this piece for my son Dickon, who was three weeks old at the time of the Pen Gwynne War (AS28) wherein I fought (and died) in the mixed combat. Some months later Pagan le Chaunster (now known as Dame Alys de Wilton), put it to music. It sounds a bit like When Johnny Comes Marching Home, in the honorable tradition of Child ballads that all sound self-similar. If you'd like to try and figure out the tune, try saving my 16-century printed rendition of it; bear in mind the inital clef mark straddles the position of C.

The lament is in traditional Scottish call-and-answer form, for two people, one in the part of the baby boy and one in the role of nurse. It sounds great now that Dickon is old enough to sing his part.

I had intended at some stage to produce an illuminated manuscript form of this and, on discovering of Alys' impending laurelling, was inspired to produce it as a printed Elizabethan broadsheet which sparked a whole new area on which to spend my time. You can read about the printing side of this project here.

The rest of the material on this page is in roughly chronological order, but I'm playing favourites with this -- unlike the others below, this one has been sung more than once! More of the Pen Gwynne War songs here and more about the War reporting here.

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The Riverhaven Shanty

Tune: Bound for South Australia

In Riverhaven is our home
Heave away, haul away
We'll e'er return though far we roam
Glad our home port's Riverhaven

We rowed the river to St Floz
Where Laurels cluster round in droves

To Mordenvale we poled a log
But they had the wrong kind of grog

We beat downwind to Rowany
When there's no mud then it's dusty

Cold Polit lies far from the sea
It's not our kind of Barony

Crossed to Stormhold upon the main
It's hot, it's cold, it's wet again

For Innilgard we set our sail
But found their focus on things mail

Shipped to Aneala way out west
But we like our eastern waters best

Yon Ynys Fawr we sailed to seek
Their local llingo's hard to speak

Dropped anchor in Ildhafn's port
Whose merchants are the brigand sort

Took the whale's road to Southron Gaard
But found the leaving much too hard

In Riverhaven is our home
Heave away, haul away
We'll e'er return though far we roam
Glad our home port's Riverhaven


I asked Mistress Glynyhvar what we should bring with us when she kindly offered to host us at our first Rowany Festival (AS39). She didn't want anything so I thought a song might make a good gift. Given she and Sir Aggro have the pirate encampment, an Australian shanty seemed an appropriate choice to filk.

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The Passing of the Crown

Tune: based on The Burden of the Crown

For twenty years we've gathered
in Caid's royal name
Our peerage and our people
have earned their share of fame.
For twenty years we've laughed and cried
as the crescent moons shone down.
So raise a glass and shed a tear
for the passing of a crown.

In twenty years we've grown
and passed the banner on.
Our stories and traditions
that have helped us carry on.
From the times of "happy memory"
Feasts and tourneys of renown.
So raise a glass and shed a tear
for the passing of a crown.

What will the future bring us
'neath Lochac's stars of gold?
There'll be tourneys, courts and feasting
as in the days of old.
For we share The Dream together
the Known Worlde around.
So raise your glass and shed no tears
at the passing of this crown.
So raise your glass and shed no tears
at the passing of this crown.


I admit it, this is pure sentiment, but I felt that the change-over of kingdoms from Caid to Lochac in AS38 was something that needed to be marked, that the grief involved (for some) needed to be acknowledged, and that we all needed to be reminded that we do share the fabric of the Dream, embroider it how we may.

I sang this as a toast at the change-over feast, to dead silence which I decided to take as a compliment. (Memo: don't try to hold sustained notes the first time you've ever worn an Elizabethan corset!)

It's got a bunch of obvious symbolism in it. For those who don't know Caid tradition, the ceremony for the Order of the Dolphin (kingdom service award) mentions that it was first given "in the second year of Caid, during the reign of Prince Gregory and Princess Vivian" at which point it is traditional for the populace to chorus in unison "of happy memory". I don't have documentation for this, but it happens....And I chose to use The Burden of the Crown as the music because, for those who know the song, it would help produce the intended feeling of sadness tinged with looking towards the future.

Update: I sang this at the bardic evening at my first Rowany Festival (AS39), when asked to do a song from our lands (I don't know any Caid songs per se). It was a magical moment to have a large tentful of people join in softly on the final repeating two lines, real tear to the eye stuff.

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The Herald's Song

On the 12th day of Christmas, the herald gave to me:

12 lions dormant
11 panthers enflamed
10 trout embowed
9 salmon naiant
8 eagles displayed
7 talbots saliant
6 serpents gliding
5 rampant boar
4 doves volant
3 wolves vorant
2 harts courant
a pelican in its piety
(asleep with head down)
(flames coming out of the mouth)
(bent over)
(with wings outstretched)
(dogs leaping forwards)
(rearing up side-on with forefeet in the air)
(devouring prey)
(running, with antlers on head)
(pulling at feathers on its breast)

Alternative version: On the 12th day of page school, the herald showed to me:


This was a piece of audience interactive silliness I wrote for a 12th Night Challenge, incorporating some of the common charges used in our Barony (rampant boar for Baron Sigurd Hardrada, panthers enflamed for Baroness Eleonora van den Boegarde, lions dormant for my lord Bartholomew Baskin).

I picked audience members at random to come up, and handed them a slip which said what creature they were and what they should do when their line was sung. Everyone ended up singing along and many of the rest of the populace cheerfully undertook the actions as well. You could be really mean and not give them the instructions and see how they do....

One of these days, I'll get the page school to make masks and we'll do a special masked version. We'll need to have a few more children around for that! But I can just see the pieces of red paper taped around the panther mask mouth blowing nicely for the flames.

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The Trees of Southron Gaard - A Riddling Song

Let's go to the forest, o come take my hand
I'll show you a clearing where two fine trees stand
From saplings I've watched them grow straight and so tall
In tempest and storm wrack they bend but don't fall.

In summer they shade us, leaves fluttering gold
In autumn their strong white limbs break the wind's cold
In winter's black night waves a star at their head
And springtime brings blossoms snow white and blood red.

They shelter the small things, tower high 'bove the rest
In our part of the forest, these two are the best
And now is revealed their stature in truth
For one's Sir Sebastian, the other Sir Ulf.


I wrote this for the first knighting to be held on these shores, some 15 years after the founding of the SCA in these lands. Ulf said he started to wonder about the metaphor and decided he'd sussed it when I got to the bit about "snow white and blood red", his heraldic colours. The tune is something fairly simple I put together based on nothing in particular. Yet another "oncer".

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Gawaine, the Green Knight

Tune: Robin Hood and the Tanner

Come gather around and I'll sing you a tale
With a hey down down a down down
I sing of the young knight Gawaine
The wonder he wrought
From the challenge he sought
When he first entered King Arthur's train.

At Yule time there rode within King Arthur's hall
With a hey down down a down down
A giant of emerald hue
An axe he presented
And asked who consented
To trade him a hard blow or two.

The knights who were there they looked down at their toes
With a hey down down a down down
Not one would stand forth for the call
Then Gawain he asked
To be given the task
Though newly he'd come to the hall.

The stranger he said "You may strike me one blow"
With a hey down down a down down
Gawaine he swung with good cheer
The head it was spliced
But bounced back in a twice
And said "My turn comes in one year."

The year went by fast and Sir Gawaine rode off
With a hey down down a down down
To seek out the magic green knight
He came to a keep
In snows that were deep
And asked might he stay just one night.

The lady, his host, was lusty and fair
With a hey down down a down down
And Gawaine had quite caught her eye
She came to his bed
Entertaining she said
With much honoured, and offered, all night.

Unknown to him she'd been sent by her lord
With a hey down down a down down
The magical foe that he sought
To test the youth's will
For honour or ill
As a different challenge he fought.

And how was it that Gawaine was able to hold
With a hey down down a down down
And not dally away the long e'en?
The youth was untried
Twas but horses he'd ride
His foe weren't the only one green.

I wrote this to perform at a feast based on a theme of King Arthur. The tune was based on Robin Hood and the Tanner, a traditional song as performed by St George's Canzona on Minstrel Songs and Dances for a Medieval Banquet. I suspect that the punchline may be a tad subtle.

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12th Night Challenge

At 12th Night in AS26, we had to draw a set of words and include these in some kind of entertainment. My words were ring, jewels, brawl and palace, and here is how I used them:

On the 12th day of Christmas, my leige lord gave to me:

12 ladies singing
11 archers pinging
10 knights a-hacking
9 torturers racking
8 maids a simpering
7 hound dogs whimpering
5 gold rings
4 casks of jewels
3 kegs of mead
2 tuns of wine
And he wondered why there was a palace brawl

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The Pen Gwynne War Songs

As originally introduced in the Pen Gwynne War monograph from AS30:

One of the milder of the Pen Gwynne battle songs to survive the ages, these verses by katherine kerr of the Hermitage suggest that some form of accommodation was reached at the last. She names the major battle leaders of the invaders, adding to the tally provided by other songs. The tune is based on the ancient Welsh song Men of Harlech.

Come listen ye all to my tale
Of battles that'd make thee quail
Clash of sword and clink of mail
In the Pen Gwynne War.

The peaceful folk of this fair isle
Heard a tale that raised their bile
Of penguins kept in durance vile
'Gainst all natural law.

Came we to assistance
Organised resistance
Took on the foes and dealt them blows
With enthusiasm, courage and persistence.
As we charged across the field
With sword and bow and spear and shield
We saw our foemen start to yield
In the Pen Gwynne War.

Invaders from across the seas
Ended up on bended knees
Crying out "Don't kill us please,
We'll surrender now."

Robare and Cristia came to fight
With Glynafer and her noble knight
Jacques and Brian added their might
But it weren't enow.

Hail to Southern Reaches!
Lochac has naught to teach us
Our heavies, lights and would-be knights
Had no problem rearranging all their features.
Victory for all intended
Western and Southern, all wounds are mended
And we all are best befriended
That's our final vow.

This song mentions the participation of elements of the Swift Flight Light Infantry Company in the Pen Gwynne War, in the typically jocular and irreverent fashion that appears characteristic of battle songs of that archer band. The song is set to the best-forgotten, but aptly named, tune Little Arrows.

There's a light, an archer light
Shooting arrows in the blue
And he's aiming them at someone
But the question is at who?
Is it me? Is it you?
Hard to tell until you're hit
But you'll know it when they hit you
'Cos they hurt a little bit.

Here they come falling out of the blue
Little arrows for me and for you
Here comes Swift Flight again
Here comes Swift Flight again

Little arrows in your armour
Little arrows in your hair
When you're at war you'll find those little arrows everywhere
Little arrows that will hit you once
And hit you once again
Little arrows that hit everybody every now and then

Oh, oh, oh the pain…

Some folks run, others hide
There ain't nothing they can do
And some folks put on armour but the arrows go straight through
So you see there's no escape
So why not face it and admit
That you love those little arrows though they hurt a little bit.

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Introduction to the Fair People of our Shire

This was written for the visit of King Patrick (AS26), and sung to the tune of The Ash Grove. One of these days I might update it. Do note that the spelling of the names is purely phonetic in this one.

Good even good gentles
We bid thee welcome
To this the Shire
of the Southron Gaard
I'll tell you of some of
the people around you
Forgive my singing
I am no bard.

We arrive at the door
and find a troll waiting
It demands money
What are we to do?
Hand over our gold
to this fearsome creature
none other than treasurer
Madelein de Toulouse.

The seneschal looks strange
Has no knightly armour
He's lacking a doublet
No codpiece or hose.
He's Matsuyama
A Japanese samurai
Not one of those.

The cry of oyez
Marks where our herald
Martin ap Cadwallader
Takes to the floor.
He has two announcements
A notice, three changes
Is anyone listening?
Oh dear, try once more.

Morgana de Maar
Handles the fighters
She sees to their comfort
Looks after their need.
The Steel Knot Company
Looks for her guidance
She give it them gladly
Hard trading indeed.

Over there in the corner is Wulf Zeelander
He is our Shire constable
Mighty and strong.
You may have heard tell of
His staff of office
A rod with a knob on
'Bout 10 inches long.

Oh what is that squealing,
that screaming, that shrieking
It sounds like the cloven fruit's
Passing again.
I don't think she knew
What she was getting into
When she gives the fruit to
Thorfyrd Hakonsen.

Rowena le Serjent's
A marshal, an archer
A poet, a seamstress
An artisan too.
She is well known
For cooking imagination
Did you see what went into
Tonight's meaty stew?

There's an empty space
At one of the tables
Could it be that Gwylhyfydd
Is late once again?
He once was on time
To battle with Callum
Fought bravely but became
The latest of men.

Did you see that fellow
Stand in something sticky?
That one over there
The one with the hair.
Well, we did warn
Edward Discalciate
What happens when you walk
Around with feet bare.

Oh what is he saying
I feel I should ken it
Comprehension's beyond me
I'm tied up in knots.
Ah, there's no worry
My ears are quite healthy
Tis just Lugh Macdhur
A-practicising Scots.

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