I should, of course, have shared this a week ago, but life (and coordinating the completion and submission of Sing for the East) called my attention elsewhere. Still, last week at Roses included a small but meaningful milestone, as I got to watch a friend receive an award for which I had written the scroll text.
My friend Olivia Baker was awarded the Order of the Emerald, Concordia’s baronial award for excellence in persona. (That means attention to the historical details of your persona–how they should look, sound, and act.) Olivia had amply earned this honor by her painstaking Elizabethan presentation, singing, and of course, the fantastic Elizabethan event she created and ran last December.
Another friend, Katrusha Skomorokh, was assigned the scroll. (Scribes generally have the option to compose the text or find a volunteer to do it, depending on what is called for.) I was very pleased when Katrusha asked me if I would write the text for Olivia, since (a) I had been wanting to try my hand at a scroll text for some time, (b) Olivia has been a tremendous inspiration in my efforts to expand my own Elizabethan persona, and (c) I had just recently asked for Katrusha’s help on a project (the Sing for the East cover art), and she had delivered in spades.
Ultimately, I did what I could to honor Olivia’s devotion for Elizabethan authenticity by modeling my text on a period work, something scribes are very fond of. I chose Shakespeare’s Sonnet #5 for my source (you can read the original here):
Those hours, by her patient work, did frame
The lovely frock where every eye doth dwell;
She’ll play the tiger, to advance our game
And, most unfair, she fairly doth excel;
For never-resting hands sew garments on—
Olivia Baker will adorn with care;
Her friends will frost, and layer’d well upon,
Beauty o’er-cometh bareness everywhere:
Then good Queen Bess’s distillation kept,
Immers’d below the salt in halls of feast,
Beauteous court recalled from where it slept
To life, no mere remembrance in the least:
She hath distill’d all this, and so ‘tis meet,
An Em’rald show; her substance well shines sweet.
Adorned at the thirty-seventh Wars of the Roses
On this 28th day of May, AS LII
By Baron Jean-Paul DuCasse and Baroness Lylie Penhill
Some notes on the above:
- “She’ll play the tiger” in the first stanza is an attempt to capture Olivia’s leadership and force of personality without the sting of Shakespeare’s actual word, “tyrant”. I kept the sound and the spirit (and of course invoked our kingdom’s mascot). There’s a bit of awkwardness in my adaptation, as Shakespeare’s “tyrants” referred to “hours”, the subject of the sentence, and I’ve twisted it so “tiger” refers to “her” (Olivia)…but this is the learning curve.
- “Her friends will frost” and “layer’d” in stanza 2 are an attempt to tie the garb she creates for others to her surname, “Baker”, which is Olivia’s mundane profession.
- The third stanza is all about the Feast of St. Nicholas, where she brought Queen Elizabeth’s court to astonishing life (“distilling” her essence), including the separate feast tiers, above and below the salt as they were called in “Bess’s” day.
- In addition to my other debts to her, I should mention that Olivia has been my voice teacher, and wrote the text for my Troubadour scroll.
This was a wonderful opportunity to explore working from a period source on a small scale, and adapting the message to the form. I am pleased with the results, as Olivia and Katrusha both seemed to be (though it wasn’t the easiest thing to read in court, and I’ll have to remember that for the future). All in all…the things we in the SCA achieve together continue to fill my cup.