Saturday, September 30, 2006

Belated Friday Poetry Blogging: Naughty Medieval Edition

I haven't done Friday poetry blogging in awhile, in part because my Fridays this semester have been incredibly and annoyingly busy. We've had department meetings every freaking Friday and faculty research group seminars every other Friday. Yesterday was the first Friday I got to stay home and spent all of it putting together proposals to "mediate" two department classrooms. (To "mediate" is RBU's awful jargon for adding multimedia technology to the classroom. It cracks me up.) Argh.

So, as a result, I'm only getting to Friday Poetry Blogging now. On Saturday. To make up for it, I give you my favorite naughty-but-fascinatingly-complex "macaronic" (i.e., mixed language) poem from the medieval period, complete with explanatory footnotes. But for those of you who aren't medievalists or have never been to a Latin mass, don't let the footnotes intimidate you -- all you really need to know is that the Latin and Greek comes from the Mass, that it appears in the order it comes in the mass, and that much of it is chanted or sung. The rest you can probably figure out yourselves. In fact, I'm not even going to say how I read it, only that I often use it as an introduction to the Middle Ages for its mix of sacred and profane and its multilingual, multi-voiced qualities, and for its evocation of the sounds of the Middle Ages. It's also just a damn good and richly layered poem.

Read and discuss.


“Kyrie,” so “Kyrie,”

Jankin singeth merie,

With “aleison.”[1]


As I went on Yol Day in our procession,

Knew I joly Jankin be his mery ton.

Kyrieleison.


Jankin began the offis on the Yol Day,

And yet me thinketh[2] it dos me good, so merie gan he say

Kyrieleison.


Jankin red the pistil ful fair and full well,

And yet me thinketh it dos me good, as evere have I sell.

Kyrieleison.


Jankin at the Sanctus[3] craked a merie note,

And yet me thinketh it does me good – I payed for his cote.

Kyrieleison.


Jankin craked notes an hundered on a knot[4],

And yet he hakked hem smaller than wortes to the pot.

Kyrieleison.


Jankin at the Angnus[5] bered the pax-brede[6];

He twinkeled, but said nout, and on min fot he trede.

Kyrieleison.


Benedicamus Domino[7], Crist fro schame me schilde.

Deo gracias[8], therto – alas, I go with childe!

Kyrieleison.

-- Anon., 15th century



[1]Kyrie aleison” : also spelled “kyrie eleison,” Greek for “God have mercy” – sung during church service. [This stanza is the “burden” of the poem – a refrain repeated after each non-repeating verse.]

[2] “me thinketh”: it seems to me.

[3] “Sanctus”: Latin for ‘Holy’ – like “kyrie aleison,” part of a liturgical chant, sung during church service.

[4] “on a knot”: at a time

[5] “Angnus”: Agnus Dei, Latin for “Lamb of God” – the Eucharist, Communion

[6] “pax-brede”: tablet kissed during the medieval church service, first by the celebrant and his assistants, then by members of the congregation

[7] “Benedicamus Domino”: Latin for “Let us bless the Lord,” sung at the closing of church service.

[8] “Deo gracias”: also “Deo gratias,” Latin for “Thanks be to God,” said by the medieval congregation at the end of church service

3 comments:

HeoCwaeth said...

Kriste eleison.
Whoa, where'd that come from?
Damn you, Dr. Virago, and your reviving of mostly dead responsorial memories!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Fun! Thanks!

Karl Steel said...

What a hoot! And what a fun way to begin a semester.