I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Garter blogging: back to the source

When I told a medievalist friend I was starting work on the Order of the Garter, he said something like, "oh, so that's a real return for you!" And I swear, I honestly had to think for a moment before I remembered that the topic of my PhD was the poem Wynnere and Wastoure, which features a long description of a prince and a king, presumably the Black Prince and Edward III, wearing garter robes of various kinds, as you'll see.

The poem was written between 1352 and 1370 (the Order was founded in 1348), and features an allegorical debate between Winner and Waster, or the principles of providential saving and courtly largesse, though over the course of the debate, the opposition between these two terms becomes radically destabilised, and it becomes harder and harder to offer easy definitions. It's a poem about how to manage the royal budget, perhaps.

After a dream-introduction, the poet describes his vision of two armies gathered and ready to fight it out. But the scene looks more like a tournament, or some kind of pageantry, and he describes the prince and the king who appear on a cliff top, looking down on the action. The poem features the first translation of the Garter motto (Honi soit qui mal y pense) into English: "Hethyng haue the hathell that any harme thynkes". Hethyng is something like "contempt, scorn" rather than shame as such.

The language is tricky; it's mid-fourteenth century, from a corrupt mid-fifteenth-century manuscript, of mixed dialect. So just an extract will do, I'm sure. I'm modernising yoghs and thorns, and also u and v. I'm also putting the key garter bits in bold type. The edition? Mine, of course. Ahem.

At the creste of a clyffe a caban was rerede [raised]
Alle raylede with rede the rofe and the sydes
With Ynglysse besantes full brighte betyn of golde
And ichone gayly umbygone with garters of inde [surrounded]
And iche a gartare of golde gerede full riche.
Then were th[er] wordes in the webbe werped of he[u], [worked in colour]
Payntted of plunket and poyntes bytwene [light blue]
That were fourmed full fayre appon fresche lettres
And all was it one sawe appon Ynglysse tonge, [saying, motto]
'Hethyng have the hathell that any harme thynkes'.
Now the kyng of this kythe kepe hym oure lorde!
... the poet describes a noble prince wearing the arms of the Prince of Wales...
And als I waytted withinn I was warre sone [peered]
Of a comliche kynge crowned with golde
Sett one a silken bynch with septure in honde,
One of the lovelyeste ledis whoso loveth hym in hert
That ever segge under sonn sawe with his eghne. [man] [eyes]
This kynge was comliche clade in kirtill and mantill,
Bery-brown was [the bleaunt] brouderede with fewlyes, [material] [embroidered] [birds]
Fawkons of fyne golde flakerande with wynges [flapping]
And ichone bare in ble blewe als me thought [blue material]
A grete gartare of ynde [gerede full riche]. [indigo] [adorned]
Fully fayly was that grete lorde girde in the myddis
A brighte belte of ble broudirde with fewles
With drakes and with dukkes daderande tham semede [quaking]
For ferdnes of fawkons fete lesse fawked thay were. [fear] [seized by falcons: falconed??]

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