Ode to Birka

This contrafact (new lyrics to the tune of Thomas Campion’s “My love hath vowed”) was written in early February of 2020 and performed a few weeks later, for the second round of the East Kingdom’s Queen & Crown’s Bardic Championship, where I was selected as Queen’s Bard.

Ode to Birka

© 2020 words by Eric Schrager

(Tune of “My love hath vowed he will forsake me” by Thomas Campion, song #5 from Philip Rosseter’s A Book of Ayres, 1601)

My hotel vowed that they would take me,
But claim now they have no room.
What of the promise they did make me?
Bunk-mates I must find, or doom!

If I cannot trust their clerk (a
Man who gave to me his word),
I will go no more to Birka.

At last, perusing silken riches,
Lace and leather I traverse.
(In troth, for all my skill with stitches,
None shall e’er repair my purse.)

Thirteenth-century beads (or circa),
Dread expenses thus incurred,
Where else can I find but Birka?

Shops, classes, fighting, songs and fencing,
From me, ever time doth fleet.
In two mere days these joys condensing—
Oh! Did I forget to eat?

Now methinks the bar’s a perk! A-
Vail shall I till vision’s blurred:
Heavily to drink at Birka.

At home, I face my last misfortune:
Hacking cough and fever’d blood.
Curse all those flatt’ring, smiling merchants!
I’ve contracted Birka Crud.

If this plague means I can’t work on
All my fabric, that’s absurd!
I will go no more to Birka.
I will go no more to Birka.

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Notes

The intention behind the piece was to provide the sort of humorous surprise that I had brought to court with several of my filks, and which I knew Queen Margarita De’ Siena delighted in, while at the same time embracing period music and a full musical experience. (This idea was suggested to me by my teacher, Peregrine the Illuminator. “The Binding of Isaac” is a more serious piece that also uses this tune. I’m tempted to file this piece under Filks rather than Bardic, so I’ll cross-reference it in both pages.)

I opted for a sideways tribute to the annual Market Day at Birka event, a big shopping event held each January in a hotel in New Hampshire. I always tell my wife I want to go with her, and she always tells me I’ll be bored by the shopping and overwhelmed by the crowds, and that I’ll come home sick because everyone catches whatever winter bug is going around: the infamous “Birka Crud”. (If you want the full deep dive on how this piece was created, it’s in this post.)

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