Another Poem – Even Through Flame

 

This was my entry for the bardic competition at Atlantia’s Spring Coronation.

 

Even through Flame

A peasant girl who cannot write

No noble lord or gallant knight

But God commands and I shall go

To save my country from her foe

My faith I’ll keep, my voices heed

And serve my Lord in word and deed

At Vaucouleurs, I make my plea

For armored knights to escort me

To Chinon where the Dauphin stands

And bring God’s aid into his hands

You mock and jeer at what I say

But still my voices I’ll obey

To prove the words I say are true

God’s message I present to you

The Dauphin’s forces fall this day

And lose their battle at Rouvray

In two days’ time, a message read

Confirms for you the things I’ve said

 

We ride to Chinon swiftly now

And I before the Dauphin bow

Though in the crowd he seeks to hide

My voices point me to his side

To prove that God has sent me here

I whisper secrets in his ear

That none could know, save God and he

This gives him cause to trust in me

To Orleans he sends me then

To break the siege and aid his men

I pray and raise my banner high

The armies clash and soldiers die

Nine days of battle fiercely fought

With steadfast faith is victory bought

God keeps His pledge, we turn the tide.

We break the siege and onward ride

To Reims our holy mission bring

To free our land and crown our King

 

What I have promised, I have done

Many great victories France has won

But at Compeigne, an ambush laid

Am I abandoned and betrayed?

My voices silent to my need

An archer drags me from my steed

I’m thrown into a tiny cell

Alone within a private hell

Unanswered questions, doubt and fear

For why should God have brought me here?

At last my voices speak at length

To succor me and give me strength

For all the trials I’ve yet to face

I ask for God to give me grace

 

From prison into court I’m led

For trial by those who wish me dead

All English judges who presume

To act as God and seal my doom

With subtle questions to ensnare

And oaths they wish to have me swear

With threats of torture they’d compel

And threaten me with death and hell

Unless I break my every vow

Deny my voices here and now

Tell secrets I have sworn to keep

I am afraid, but will not weep

 

When in their tricks I am not caught

They have me to the scaffold brought

Pages are placed into my hand

With words I cannot understand

But I must sign or die this day

I know not what the pages say

In faltering fear I sign the page

But in their eyes I still see rage

In four days’ time, the truth I learn

No matter what, they’ll see me burn

They steal the dress I’m told to wear

And leave my soldiers’ clothing there

I see that I was wrong to sign

To leave the truth I knew as mine

I dress myself in soldier’s clothes

Armed with my faith to meet my foes

And I recant from all their lies

To seek the fire that purifies

My secrets I shall never tell

Although you make me walk through hell

The saints have called to me by name

I’ll stand steadfast, even through flame

 

(8-syllable rhymed couplets, traditional form for French lais. Lais are primarily a 13th and 14th century form, while Joan lived in the 15th century. I thought a simple verse form, without a lot of metaphor or ornamentation was appropriate to represent Joan’s point of view, as a peasant girl who was praised for her simplicity and humility.)

Poetry Smackdown

My favorite thing at Atlantia’s Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival has got to be the Gyrth Oldcastle Memorial Poetry Smackdown.  A room full of smartass poets ragging on people from history and on each other.  It’s hilarious.  This year, I actually entered.  The format was two poems: an entry fee poem praising baronage, barony, king, queen, or kingdom; and a smack poem poking fun at a historical poet from a list.  This is my smack poem, in which I give Shakespeare some grief for screwing up the historical details of his plays, ripping off everything from everyone, and making up words.

Bashing the Bard

A Smack Poem for the A.S. 51 Gyrth Oldcastle Memorial Poetry Smackdown

By Lady Adriana Michaels

The crowning jewel of all the written word

The writer who puts others all to shame

Has stolen every story that he’s heard

And carelessly misspells his own damn name

 

Plays fast and loose with history as he wilt

With clocks in ancient Rome to strike each morn

Young Hamlet at a college not yet built

And Aristotle quoted ere he’s born

 

He makes up words to suit each poem’s need

With meanings mashed and stretched to make them fit

Producing scores of headaches as we read

And struggle vainly to make sense of it

 

But his worst crime, should he be charged upon it,

Has been inspiring me to write this sonnet

Documentation

Since Shakespeare is famous for his sonnets, I thought that was the most appropriate verse form to use when ragging on him. Traditionally, a sonnet is fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, with the rhyme scheme abab, cdcd, efef, gg, and my sonnet follows this pattern. I did use an extra syllable in the couplet at the end in order to use a feminine (two-syllable) rhyme, but Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 does the same thing throughout.

Sources:

Clarke, Charles and Mary Crowden, “Words Shakespeare Coined,” From The Shakespeare Key. http://shakespeare-online.com/biography/wordscoined.html

Pressley, J. M., “Shakespeare’s Source Material.” http://www.bardweb.net/content/ac/sources.html

 

“Shakespeare’s Plays Were Full of Anachronisms.” https://www.copyediting.com/shakespeares-plays-were-full-of-anachronisms/#.WLMHC28rKpo

Theriot, Lisa. “Sonnet More Like Shakespeare — Five Things He Does You’re Probably Not Doing.” http://www.ravenboymusic.com/sonnet-more-like-shakespeare-five-things-he-does-youre-probably-not-doing/

Dandelion Garters

With the wool I dyed with dandelions last year, I made a pair of knitted garters.  When I do garters, I knit them in the round on two needles.  It’s like double knit, except that you just move the purl stitches over to the other needle instead of actually purling them.  Knitting Women has an overview of the technique.

Why do I knit garters like this?  The short answer: The Attack Laurel told me to.  Long answer: She briefly mentions knitted garters on her Extreme Costuming page. I wanted to make some, so I asked her about them, including how fine gauge the ones she’d seen were. She emailed me back and mentioned the knitted garters at the MFA, which she said were probably done on 0000 or 00000 needles, knit in the round on two needles.  If you look at the picture, you can see that the pattern is on both sides, which definitely suggests to me that this was the technique used.  (If they were knit flat, you’d have a weird looking reverse side, which would be the wrong side of the colorwork.)  They could also have been knit in the round the usual way, with 4 or 5 needles, but I think that would be really awkward for something this narrow.

The garters I made are not nearly as fancy or as fine gauge, although I would like to do fancy colorwork garters at some point.

dandelion-garters

 

Baking Experiment – Cinnamon Blueberry Cakes

I’m hoping to enter the Atlantian Royal Baker competition in February, so in addition to working on the Anglo-Saxon spice bread, I also want to make a plausibly Anglo-Saxon sweet.  I’d like to do a yeast-risen cake with fruit, probably strawberries, and honey.  My first experiment is based on this Elizabethan lemon cake recipe, which is based on A.W.’s Book of Cookrye (1591) and The English Huswife by Gervase Markham, 1615.  Definitely later time period than I want.  I substituted honey in for the sugar, since the amounts of sugar available in Anglo-Saxon England were *tiny.*  (Bede apparently had some in his spice collection.)  I doubt lemon was available, but I need to actually check into that.

I used blueberries, not because they’re time and place appropriate, but because I had fresh ones right off the blueberry bushes at my house.  If I can get my hands on bilberries or lingonberries, I may make another version with a more appropriate berry.  Strawberries are also a contender.

My recipe for this go-round is:

  • 3 Tbs. warm beer (I used a honey lager)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 Tbs.)
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ~2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Cinnamon (a stick about one and a half inches long)

Mix the yeast and the beer and make sure it bubbles.  Since it’s only three tablespoons, you need to drink the rest of the bottle.  (I can’t have booze in any quantity, but my husband was kind enough to drink it for me.  Such a team player!)

In a stand mixer, combine the honey and butter until it’s well mixed.  Then, mix in the yeast, gently. Beat the eggs separately and add those in.  Once the wet ingredients are mixed, add the salt and slowly add the flour.  Inn at the Crossroads’ original recipe calls for *about* two cups of flour, and they note that you should use just enough to get a smooth, thick batter.  For me, two cups did the trick.

Then I added the blueberries.  I didn’t actually measure, but I’d say two or three cups.  The batter isn’t all that sweet, so it needs lots of berry goodness.  I also added freshly ground cinnamon.  Pro tip: trying to grind cinnamon with a wine bottle or a wooden spoon is a fool’s errand. *But* a blender can easily substitute for a spice grinder.

The original recipe calls for 15-20 minutes at 350.  As you’d expect, the blueberries added to the bake time, and it took 25 minutes.  I served them warm from the oven, drizzled with honey.  They had a nice texture, somewhere between a muffin and a cupcake, and having the blueberries cooked definitely added to the sweetness.  (Drizzling honey over top didn’t hurt either.)  I may play a bit with spices and/or nuts, but I think this worked pretty well.  The tiny hint of beer is kind of nice, especially since I used a pretty mild-tasting beer.

Blueberry Cakes

Dyeing and Baking

I finally finished my first experiment in natural dyeing. Shepard’s wool dyed with dandelions and alum. I’m pretty happy for a first try, though I didn’t get quite as deep or bright a color as I wanted. To start with, I don’t think I had near enough dandelions, and plan to try again with a gallon freezer bag full. Secondly, I’d been collecting a few at a time and keeping them in the freezer, but the bag was starting to smell funky and they had turned brown even in the freezer. So I don’t think they were as fresh as they needed to be. (The white paper is just for color balancing and comparison.)  I’m already collecting more to try again.Dandelion Yarn

I’m also working on another attempt at the Anglo-Saxon spiced beer bread.  This version uses the standard bread recipe I’m working with, subbing 1 bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale for the water and adding in 1/4 tsp each of cloves, pepper, and cumin, as well as a teaspoon of coriander.

Bread! Part 2 – The first few attempts

Because beer is a likely source for baking yeast, but because modern beer doesn’t contain enough active yeast to bake with, I’ve started my experiments by taking my friend Alex’s standard, tried-and-true bread recipe and substituting beer for the water. On the first attempt, I didn’t have the first clue what Anglo-Saxon beer was like, so I bought a six pack of Sam Adams Cold Snap for no other reason than that it looked yummy.

First Attempt

My first attempt was straight-up beer bread, using the basic, modern bread recipe and subbing beer for the water the recipe calls for.  It was perfectly respectable sandwich bread, but didn’t actually taste like beer.

Second Attempt

For the second attempt, I upped the beer quantity to “the whole bottle.” Now, I had beer bread that tasted beery.  And it was pretty good.

Third Attempt

This is where I decided to start playing with spices.  I picked three I like and had on hand from Bede’s collection: cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.  For a four-cup loaf, I used the following recipe:

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • One bottle of Sam Adams Cold Snap
  • 1 tablespoon of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 a tablespoon each of cinnamon and cardamom and a heaping 1/4 teaspoon (because I didn’t have a 1/2 teaspoon handy) of cloves

It baked at 350 for 25 minutes, then an additional 15 at 300 to finish.

It smelled absolutely amazing, but didn’t have as much of a spice flavor as you’d expect from the aroma.

Fourth Attempt

The fourth attempt is currently rising in the bread machine. (Why yes, I am cheating with the bread machine dough cycle.  Eventually, I’ll make a loaf by hand, but my general thought is that it’s primarily a labor-saving thing rather than something that dramatically changes the finished product.)

This uses a recipe much like the third, but with Newcastle English Ale instead of Sam Adams and doubled spices. Oh, and slightly less butter.

  • 2 cups bread flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • One bottle of Newcastle English Ale
  • 2 teaspoons of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (because I was out of honey)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon and cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cloves

I switched to a 50/50 ratio of bread and AP flour because I had the impression that bread flour was a modern cultivar. But at this point, I’m not entirely sure.  I would be willing to bet money that modern bread flour is higher-gluten than Anglo-Saxon wheat flour, whether it’s the same species or not, just because of the amount of time there’s been to select for that trait in bread wheat.

For an Anglo-Saxon bread, sugar probably shouldn’t go in it.  (According to Hagen, it was known, but very rare, and used more as a spice than a sweetener.)  But, since it’s not there for sweetening so much as feeding the yeast, I’m not terribly concerned.

The Newcastle Ale was the only “ale” I could find at the local liquor store, although it turns out that modern ale and medieval ale are not remotely the same critter.  Medieval ale doesn’t use hops, and doesn’t keep very long at all (Regia Anglorum).  It’s also pretty weak so it might actually not add tons of flavor to the bread.  I do have grand future plans of conning my home-brewer brother into helping me whip up a batch and making bread with it.

Update on the results of the last attempt to come. So far, I can say that it rose nicely and smells fantastic.

Bread! Part 1, Basic Research

My latest thing (because I needed more hobbies) is baking. Specifically, I’m trying to make a plausibly Anglo-Saxon bread. I’m starting with Ann Hagen’s A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food and A second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink and will use her bibliography to find additional sources.

So far, what I have is this:

Yeast

Yeast-risen wheat bread was certainly known at the time. Yeast sources would’ve been either barm from ale-brewing, a sourdough starter (either captured wild yeast or saved from the last time you made bread), or dried yeast. Yeast could be dried by spreading the liquid yeast source on a platter or tub, letting that layer dry, and repeating until you had a cake of it. Birch sticks could be dipped in a yeast mixture and allowed to dry. (Hagen, 15-16)

Flour

Lots of grains were eaten in Anglo-Saxon England, including barley, wheat, rye, and oats. Wheat was best for bread-making, particularly if you could afford to sieve it finely enough to get white flour. (Hagen mentions that “germ and bran dilute the bread-making qualities of flour” (16) and I would hazard a guess that that’s based primarily on getting a higher proportion of gluten. Gluten is found in the endosperm of the grain, rather than the germ or the bran. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

I want to find out a little more about the different varieties of wheat, since that makes a difference too. I’m not sure what kind would’ve been grown at the time.

Loaf Shape and Size

Hagen mentions illustrations showing round loaves that look similar in size to a modern medium loaf. There seem to have been two vaguely standard sizes, since she notes a lot of sources referring to set quantities of small and large loaves (in rents, wills, etc.).

Flavoring

This is an area I need to dig into much more. Leechdoms (which I need to get my hands on) mentions a cake with cumin and march seed, and there are mentions in wills of “well-seasoned” loaves that appear to be for religious feast days (Hagen 19-20).

Flavorings would of course be limited by what was available at the time and place. In 735, when he died, Bede left his spices to the other monks. This was “said to include lavender, aniseed, buckwheat, cinnamon, cloves, cubebs, cumin, coriander, cardamom…cypress roots (galangale), ginger (raw and preserved), gromic, licorice, and sugar” (Second Handbook, Hagen, 182-183). So I think I can reasonably use a combination of spices from that list for a “well-seasoned” bread.