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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in poetry

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Midsummer: Watch Out for Fairies!

The longest day in the Northern Hemisphere is upon us: Midsummer has reached even up here in Scotland where the long days go on and on even when we don't have sun. We've had more than our share lately, which is a bit disconcerting.

I have been deep in Scottish fairy lore for a project I'm working on. It's not my usual bailiwick but I am enjoying the tour immensely. One of the unexpected delights (thanks to a recommendation of the Folk Horror Revival group) is A. D. Hope's A Midsummer Eve's Dream: Variations on a Theme by William Dunbar. I have mentioned the late medieval Scots poet in previous columns like A Headache in Medieval Scotland and A Meditation on Winter.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Riding with Nicnevin

The Scottish version of Hecate (at least according to some) rides with a company of 'weird sisters' in the night, with wild plans of mischief. No wonder I think of it now that Walpurgisnacht is upon us. There's a most interesting poem that offers us insight in to the beliefs of the past. 'The Flyting Betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart' is a humorous verbal battle. Flyting is probably better known amongst the Norse, but the Scots have that tradition of joshing verbal battles, too. Though a challenging text, the 16th century poet Montgomerie demonstrates well the variety and force of Scottish insults (seriously!) but there's also some interesting supernatural information that usually comes in the form of scurrilous suggestions like:

 Wih warwolfes and wild Cats thy weird be to wander

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Headache in Medieval Scotland

The long history of headaches and their relief could doubtless fill many volumes. Although at the forefront of medicine in many ways (at least for the tenth century) Ali ibn Isa al-Kahhal seemed to have run out of practical solutions when he suggested lashing a mole to your head (then again have you tried it?). Hildegard of Bingen might suggest a need for more viriditas or 'greening' in your life, for "green is useful and mellow" as we know.

But sometimes there was only the suffering. Medieval Scots poet William Dunbar captures that pain well in his short poem:

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Meditation on Winter

The medieval Scots poet William Dunbar is probably best known for his humour, but he offers A Meditation on Winter that captures the melancholy many feel at this time of year.

Into thir dirk and drublie dayis
Quhone sabill all the hevin arrayis
With mystie vapouris, cluddis, and skyis,
Nature all curage me denyis
Of sangis, ballattis, and of playis.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Winter Cold

As the solstice comes upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere our thoughts turn to surviving the cold. While it's considerably milder here in Scotland than it was while I was teaching in New York, cold it is and cups of tea provide welcome warmth. It's hardly surprising that people in the Middle Ages measured their lives in winters survived. In many ways the mid-winter celebrations offer a chance to celebrate that hope and restore it for the lean months ahead.

It's the perfect time to consider the Anglo-Saxon poem The Seafarer, which I think of as a companion to The Wanderer. Both elegiac poems that mourn a lost past, they celebrate the power of the comitatus, the loyal troop of warriors and find poetic resonance in the harsh world of winter.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál: 81-84

81.
At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mæki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
ís, er yfir kemr,
öl, er drukkit er.

At evening shall one praise the day / a woman, when you burn her / a sword, when you test it / a maid, when you give her [to a husband] / ice, when you cross it / ale, when it's drunk.

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