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First Word

At long last, Giueseppe’s patience is rewarded! Another issue of the Roundtable at last! I see my New Year’s resolution only made it through April although, now that I think on it, I said I’d try to do a monthly issue. If that’s the case, my intention is still resolute. It simply fails in practice.

Despite having things to say, I actually have to be inspired to produce a Roundtable. While keeping in touch with you is always a desire, sometimes I just don’t get that necessary spark to put hands to keyboard. The next thing I know, time has slipped by and I figure, oh well, maybe I’ll just wait until next month. What I’ve noticed though, is that I find myself in a self-feeding cycle. The longer the gap between issues, the more disconnected I sometimes feel with everyone. The more disconnected I feel, the less I want to do a Roundtable.

That pattern is especially enabled when I have a lot of work pressing upon me or have to travel a lot (both if which have been the case between April and now). Fortunately, I had several events take place to spark some new fervor for all things Corvus. The first was, of course, the Corvus work weekend at Lady Alys’ and Lord William’s house in Gastonia. Robert drove up with me and we met Rhiannon, Oshi, Sine, and Peter Hawkyns there.

Originally, I was supposed to be flying into Philadelphia for that weekend. But my plans changed and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get together with some of my housemates. It was wonderfully productive for Robert and me and we actually completed seven benches for the Corvus camp at Pennsic. It’s a project that I’ve wanted to undertake for the past few years but just never got around to it. I decided to give it a shot and it worked out just great. In fact, much to my surprise, every bench went right together when I tried them out without need of any trimming or fine-tuning. What are the odds?

It was so exciting to spend time with everyone that I came home completely jazzed to undertake several other dormant projects some of which we’ll see reach fruition at Pennsic.

In the two weeks that followed, despite quite a bit of modern work, I still managed to work on several SCA concerns although many were more administrative than artistic. Still, the residual high of having seen so many loved ones for an entire Saturday kept me enthused and I managed to plow through a variety of paperwork and web updates.

The enthusiastic spark gained from that time together was nicely fanned this past Saturday when I had a great afternoon of competing, anachronistic movie watching. I was home working on a project for the Coronation of Emer & Anton (which I’m autocratting) and kept flipping back and forth between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Anne of the Thousand Days. Disparate as these films may be, they both had me psyched to do SCA things. I guess it’s because they both get my blood flowing and when I have energy I like to create things (in the same way that watching Star Wars gets me excited to play D&D-- go figure). Being immersed in Pennsic prep and pre-Coronation work, it drove me to a fever pitch of energy that I employed in the creation of heraldic shields for our encampment. Yes, after ten years, I finally painted those stupid, wooden shields I’ve been hanging on to all that time. I wanted them ready for my second Pennsic. Lord knows, I am indeed a patient man!

I’ve included in this issue still another poem from the poetry duel between Mistress Ceridwen and myself. You’re probably asking yourselves, when will he ever run out of those tacky poems? Well, I still have several to go! So there! And, of course, there are the poems in my “Boke of the Duchesse” I’ve been writing for Niobe. It received another addition just last night! I’ll tortu-- I mean, treat you to those sometime soon! -- BRAN

The Trimarian Word

Greetings fellow Corvites! As I write this, I look back upon the month of May and realize that there is only one way to describe Trimaris - hot!

Miguel and I discovered that earlier in the month as we attended a demo hosted by the Shire of the Storm. The demo itself was probably about one of the best I've seen. We had approximately 10 pavilions set up, and advertised to the public well in advance. We had newspaper coverage, television, and even some radio play. We are hoping that we gain some new members to the shire. But even more important than that, we got some excellent publicity, and had a very enjoyable afternoon.

All else is quiet here down south, as we wait in anticipation for Crown Tourney weekend. This next reign will be a very strange one. Faced with the scheduling difficulty of Pennsic and Gulf War, the powers that be have decided to exchange Coronation and Crown Tourney dates. As a result, we will have our first and only 2½-month reign. Could be good. Could be scary. We'll see. Missing you guys all terribly! -- GIUSEPPE

Things to Consider

Mistress Rhiannon first mentioned this a few months ago on the House Corvus e-list, but I think it bears repeating here in the Roundtable.

"First, I think it needs to be emphasized (for our newer members, who probably don't know this) that there are 2 basic criteria which potential House Corvus members MUST meet.

We do not consider people who haven't been in the SCA for at least a year or that haven't already gotten their Awards of Arms (AoA) on their own merits. These two items are pretty much tied together and have a specific purpose.

It allows that: (1) we have sufficient time to assess where Joe Bob is headed and who they are (sometimes people can fool you with a first impression, especially when they really want something from you, only to become something totally different later). And (2) it allows them time to really get a feel for the SCA and be able to make a more informed decision about who and where they want to be in the Society."

To this THL Eldred added:

”A) Are already doing things. I was brought into the household with the understanding that we are service-oriented, but this applies to A&S as well.

B) Preferably, self-starters, but I don't mind having folks who can be inspired (they have to show this trait, though). I, for one am not always self-motivated, but with the right inspiration, I can do some really cool things.

C) Self-sufficiency to some extent is a criterion. That also means knowing *when* to ask for help!

D) Emotional stability--I think that's clear from my previous comments.

E) Fun to be around. This is a pretty subjective sort of criteria since everyone's idea of fun differs. I'm not much of a "party" person, so folks who are party people don't automatically seem like fun people to be around. I *do* like the party folks in the household, but that isn't what makes them fun for me to be around.

F) Integrity. This should go without saying, but...

G) Enthusiasm. OK, this may be amusing coming from me, but enthusiasm usually fuels more enthusiasm!”

I published these because I think that they help explain some of the things we’re looking for when considering new household members. It also gives us a few guidelines (and reminders). Of course, these aren’t hard, fast rules.

Every person brings their own, unique personalities to the mix here in Corvus and, certainly, we know that there will be exceptions to this list. Still, it helps to know that we all have some baseline notions from which to proceed when evaluating people on the consideration list.

I also think that I’ll use this as a springboard to put together a series of articles for the Roundtable about issues that affect members of our household. I’d also like to include articles about things we just assume everyone knows, but actually may not. Some of us have been in the SCA so long that we take certain knowledge for granted. We forget that everyone doesn’t have the same range of experience and, therefore, may miss out on some of the things both the SCA and House Corvus may have to offer.

For Your Consideration

Candidate 1 - Comments omitted from online version.

Poetry Corner


Most awesome vision, I tremble before your Majesty,
Some vengeful Apollo come to judge all my creation,
Hard in aspect, fulfilling rapturous expectation.
What a wicked world greets this divine scrutiny;
Naked, secret selves revealed to your terrible beauty.
During our Father’s Judgement, still I find fascination;
Gaping at the Sun, I squint with contrite adulation.
Could you share God’s great gift with a man so old and empty?
Sweet, loving, Lord, let your breath inflate skin hollow and flayed,
Put your hands near my face, pull me close, touch your lips to mine,
Fill me with the Passion all human souls know deep inside.
Here, at the world’s end, with all mortal achievement betrayed,
I know the joyfulness of having joined with the divine;
In the Heaven of your body, I’m content to reside.

--Bran Trefonnen (3/00)


Sixteenth century poetry would certainly seem to be dominated by William Shakespeare. And, I’ll admit, my first instinct when challenged to write a period piece highlighting this century was to go straight for the Shakespearean sonnet. As Shakespeare’s sonnets all deal with the topic of love, it seemed only natural to call upon the Muse Erato as the inspiration for this piece. What’s more, Shakespearean sonnets have a definite form, language, and structure that would make the construction of a sixteenth century work less problematic for me. What I thought would be the most difficult thing to do is finding the same passionate voice that Shakespeare’s words evoke. What I needed was a similar voice, something that resounded with a similar need. Frankly, I needed a voice other than my own.

While researching some background on the Muse Erato, I found that she was not only the Muse of love poetry, but also of mimicry. This seemed unusually serendipitous as I was seeking to write in a style and voice not really my own. Still, while I might be able to write like Shakespeare, I wasn’t comfortable writing as Shakespeare. While I find his sonnets to be profoundly beautiful, I couldn’t put myself in that same frame of mind. Perhaps, because I couldn’t see the face of the sonnet’s recipient in my mind’s eye. I didn’t know just to whom Shakespeare was writing and therefore couldn’t really put myself in his place. I needed a different voice then, one that still captured the essence of sixteenth century love poetry. When in doubt, always turn to Italy!

In the Fall of 1998, I took my grandmother to Italy so that I might share some of the inspiration I have always received from that place with her. While visiting St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, I was very excited to show her the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s work has always held an especial appeal for me and St. Peter’s had excellent examples of his efforts both in sculpture and in painting. The Sistine Chapel certainly provides the most excellent example of the latter.

However, en route to the Chapel, I was reminded that Michelangelo was also the consummate architect, having redesigned and rebuilt much of the Cathedral we see in Rome today. One of the rooms he specifically rebuilt is called The Muse Room. That recollection was just the “hook” my imagination needed to turn my thoughts to Michelangelo the poet.

The genius of Michelangelo as an architect, sculptor and painter was readily recognized by his European contemporaries. But, it’s only been recently, that he has also been acknowledged as the greatest Italian lyric poet of his generation. While Michelangelo had begun writing poetry in his late 20s, it wasn’t until 1532 that he met a young man that would affect his writings and mold the greatest body of his work. What turned him into this remarkable, sixteenth century Italian poet was his encounter at the age of 57 with Tommaso de'Cavalieri, a young Roman nobleman. Michelangelo’s collected poems are sonnets and madrigals inspired by his passion for Cavalieri.

Whether that love was ever physical is debatable and ultimately irrelevant. It was certainly 'metaphysical', and in their conceptual toughness and power these poems anticipate the work of the English poets who would follow in the next two centuries. The themes of Michelangelo’s sonnets are light and dark, cold and fevered, with thoughts of flesh and damnation, helplessness in the face of young beauty, hope for the divine countenance. This was the very passion for which I had been hoping. Moreover, thanks to continued research in this area, I could actually put a face to the object of this passion.

While immortalized in these poems, Tommaso de’Cavalieri also has another aspect. Michelangelo's contemporary, Aretino, has suggested that two of the great artist's lovers are portrayed in The Last Judgement, and names one of them as Tommaso. If Aretino is correct, millions have already admired Tomasso’s features, including myself and my grandmother! Some Michelangelo scholars believe that Cavalieri's features are portrayed in the principal figure, the Christus Judex - the Christ in the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement.

I actually have a copy of Saslow’s collection of Michelangelo’s poetry. But, Michael Sullivan's recently published translation of Michelangelo's Love Sonnets and Madrigals to Tommaso de'Cavalieri represents the first time that these poems have been gathered together as a group. As he notes in the excellent introduction to the book, "they constitute the largest sequence of poems composed by Michelangelo and the first large sequence of poems in any modern tongue... addressed by one man to another." More importantly, his parallel translations of Michelangelo’s original Italian sonnets with his own excellent translations gave me a keen insight into the tone, meter, and rhythm of Michelangelo’s original voice.

Like Shakespeare’s similar work, the majority of Michelangelo’s sonnets follow a definite pattern. Sonnets G59 and G88 are excellent examples of this style and I have included them below.

G 59
S'un casto amor, s'una pietà superna,
s'una fortuna infra due amanti equale,
s'un'aspra sorte all'un dell'altro cale,
s'un spirto, s'un voler duo cor governa;
s'un'anima in duo corpi è fatta etterna,
ambo levando al cielo e con pari ale;
s'Amor d'un colpo e d'un dorato strale
le viscer di duo petti arda e discerna;
s'aman l'un l'altro e nessun se medesmo,
d'un gusto e d'un diletto, a tal mercede
c'a un fin voglia l'uno l'altro porre:
se mille e mille, non sarien centesmo
a tal nodo d'amore, a tanta fede;
e sol l'isdegno il può rompere e sciorre.

G 59
If a chaste love, if a lofty piety uphold,
If but one fortune should two lovers share,
If one in bitter case the other care,
If one wish, one spirit two hearts enfold;
If two bodies make one immortal soul,
Raising both to heaven on wings matched fair;
If the innards of two breasts Love burn and tear
With but one single shot, one shaft of gold;
If each the other love and not himself apart,
With relish and delight to such degree
Each for the other impose a single lot;
Thousand thousand ifs were no hundredth part
Of such a bond of love, of so much loyalty;
And disdain alone can break it and unknot.

G 88
Sento d'un foco un freddo aspetto acceso
che lontan m'arde e sé con seco agghiaccia;
pruovo una forza in due leggiadre braccia
che move senza moto ogni altro peso.
Unico spirito e da me solo inteso,
che non ha morte e morte altrui procaccia,
veggio e truovo chi, sciolto, 'l cor m'allaccia,
e da chi giova sol mi sento offeso.
Com'esser può, signor, che d'un bel volto
ne porti 'l mio così contrari effetti,
se mal può chi non gli ha donar altrui?
Onde al mio viver lieto, che m'ha tolto,
fa forse come 'l sol, se nol permetti,
che scalda 'l mondo e non è caldo lui.

G 88
I feel as lit by fire a cold countenance
That burns me from afar and keeps ice-chill;
A strength I feel two shapely arms to fill
Which without motion moves every balance.
Unique spirit and my minds sole tendance,
Who is undying yet others seeks to kill,
I find one binds my heart, unbound his will,
And for who gladdens only I feel grievance.
How can it be, lord, that a face so lovely
Should work on mine in contrary fashion,
For who has no ill can hardly others harm?
To the glad life that's taken from me,
It behaves, save you forbid it, like the sun,
It heats the world and yet itself's not warm.

These contain the typical fourteen lines of this period’s sonnets with a slightly more unusual rhyme scheme, that of ABBAABBACDECDE. Furthermore, each of the fourteen lines has fourteen syllables, an elegant symmetry I admire. Wherever possible, I have attempted to keep the same stresses and meter as the originals, though, of course, my poem Christus Judex is already in English translation!


The Complete Poems of Michelangelo
John Frederick Nims, Editor. ©1998 by University of Chicago Press.

Love Sonnets and Madrigals to Tommaso De'Cavalieri
Michael Sullivan, Editor. ©1998 by Stanford University Press.

I Sonetti Di Michelangelo: The 78 Sonnets of Michelangelo with Verse Translation
J. A. Symonds, Editor. ©1997 by Interlingua Foreign Language AudioBooks.

The Sistine Chapel: Selected Scholarship in English, Vol. 2
William E. Wallace, Editor. ©1995 by Garland Publishing, Inc.

The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation
James M. Saslow, Editor. ©1993 by Yale University Press.

Notes on the Poem

Christus Judex is the name given to the Christ figure in The Last Judgement portion of Michelangelo ’s work in the Sistine Chapel on which he worked from 1536 to 1541. The image is very much like classical depictions of Apollo. If Aretino is to be believed, the Christus Judex is also a portrait of Tommaso de’Cavalieri. Hopefully, this will evoke a sort of literary ambiguity in the reader. Is Michelangelo addressing his comments in the poem to Jesus Christ or the more earthly Tommaso?

Line 2. Christ is often likened to Apollo in paintings of this era. In addition, as Apollo was the “leader” and patron of the Muses, I couldn’t resist a Greek reference (see: Image 1 below).

Line 7. An obvious play on words using “Sun” in several contexts simultaneously. Apollo is the Sun. Christ is the Son of God. This occurs again in capitalized words found in lines 1, 6, 9, 11, and 14… all of which may (or may not) have dual meanings.

Line 9. This alludes to Michelangelo’s own self-portrait included in The Last Judgement. In it, he is the flayed skin being held by Saint Bartholomew just below and to the right of the Christus Judex (see: Image 2 below).

Line 10. In lines where Michelangelo is being especially personal rather than poetic, I tried to simplify the language cutting down on syllables and elaborate stresses. This line is the most intimate and, therefore, is composed of all one-syllable Words, hopefully, increasing the forthrightness and urgency of the line.

Image 1
The image of the Christus Judex from The Last Judgement in Saint Peter’s Sistine Chapel.

Image 2
The image of Saint Bartholomew holding the flayed skin of Michelangelo.

Still More to Consider

Something occurred to me while I was driving home from the Corvus work weekend that Saturday. And I’m throwing it out to you because I’m not sure if it’s just me overlooking the obvious or am I trying to find something where nothing exists? As always, I appreciate your input.

Candidate 2 - Comments omitted from online version.
Candidate 3 - Comments omitted from online version.

Meanwhile in Caid...

Certainly, the greatest time I had while visiting California recently was having the opportunity to see Lady Medb Renata on her home turf! We met up for dinner my first night there and then got together another day and explored the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I’ll be headed out there again this fall to attend an SCA event and can’t wait to do something SCA-related! Of course, she'll also be at Pennsic!

Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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