[Bards] Bards in the SCA - Questions

Jay Rudin rudin at peoplepc.com
Tue Aug 17 21:21:23 PDT 2010

> I also write a bit of original verse.  And I don't mean the 'free verse'
>that many call poetry these days.  I mean with meter and/or rhyme, and I
>enjoy learning and using the old forms.

Great -- come play.  

> I told him that I hadn't really, that I wasn't sure
> what a bard was these days, in the SCA.

This ain't Wales, where you have to show seven generations, and perform in 24 meters, to become a bard.  Stand up and perform.  If they listen, you're a bard.  If they applaud, you're a good bard.  If they offer you booze, you're a great bard.

>We traded emails so that he could tell me more about it.  His name is
>Thomas.  I don't think he gave me his last name, but I'm told that he was a
>previous baron of Bryn Gwlad.

That's Master Thomas of Tenby, a Welsh bard, who has the highest accolades in the arts for his bardcraft.

>As far as I understand it, the Anglo-Saxons had no bards.

Where, exactly, do you think Beowulf came from?

Use of the word "bard" often leads to misunderstanding, since the English word "bard" means a public performer or poet, while the Gaelic word "bard" meant a sort of religious performer.  Angl;o-Saxons had bards in the English sense, but not the Gaelic sense.  As long as you're speaking English, yes, you can be an Anglo-Saxon bard.  More properly, you'd be called a scop (pronounced shope) or skald.  But since Ansteorrans speak English, you would be one of the bards.

What they did not have is rhymed verse, or meter as we think of it.  (That was brought to the island by Chaucer, after reading Petrarch's poetry).  The Anglo-Saxons used alliterative verse, where the beat exits as two strong beats before and after the middle of the line, but syllable count doesn't matter.  Here are the first few lines of a poem I wrote in praise of Ansteorra's greatest Ango-Saxon bard.  Note the alliterative element -- the syllable with the third beat starts with the same consonant sound as one of the first two beats:

Hwaet!  I will speak     of a Saxon scop
Cedric the Fiddler     famed for his bardcraft
Who stands high in honor.     I speak as a warrior 
Who longs for the telling    of tales in battle
My will is made strong     by his stories of battle.
Deeply he drinks      the draft of Odin
The Raven-lord’s booty      that brings bright speech.

(The last two lines are a kenning, a cultural reference that Saxons would understand, based on the myth that Odin, in the form of a raven, stole bardic inspiration, in the form of mead, from the giants, transporting it in his beak.  Some slopped out and fell to earth, which is where our bards (scops, whatever) get their inspiration.

> If working with verse but having no ability to
> sing could lead to a bard-like pursuit, I'm willing to give it a try in the
> SCA.

Absolutely.  I've been a bard for thirty years, and cannot sing.  Come play, come listen, come learn, come perform.

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin

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