arthurian

Medieval Lyrics
By Sarah Rooke, Archdruidess

Domna, pos vos ay Chausida (English translation in Bold)

Domna, pos vos ay Chausida  Lady, since I have chosen you

Faz me bel semblan     be gracious to me

q’ieu suy a tota ma vida   for all my life I am

a vostre coman    at your command

 

A vostre coman seray   I will be at your command

A totz los jors de ma via   all the days of my life

E ja de vos non partray   and will never leave you

Per degun ‘ autra que sia  for any other

 

Que Erecs non amet Henida   For Erec did not love Enid

Tan, ni Yseutz Tristan   nor Iseult Tristram

Con yeu vos, domna grasida   as much as I do you, gracious lady

Qu’ieu am sens engan   whom I love without deceit

Language:  Medieval French (Provencal), 13th Century – one of the few surviving troubadour songs from the Court of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

E! Dame Jolie

E! Dame Jolie     Hey beautiful lady

Mon cuer sans fauceir   I give you my true heart

Met en vostre baillie,    For you have no equal

Ke ne sai vo peir

 

Sovant me voix conplaignant  I often complain

Et an mon cuer dolosant   and suffer from

d’une malaidie    love sickness

dont tous li mons an amant   but all lovers

doit avoir le cuer joiant   who suffer this pain

Cui teilz malz maistrie  should be glad

Si formant m’grie    The sweet pain of love

Li dous malz d’ameir    brings me so much pleasure

Ke par sa signorie   and has such power over me

Me covient chanteir    that I have to sing

 

J’ain de cuer an desirant   She’s my hearts desire

Dou monde la mues vaillant  the bravest

Et la plus prixie    the wisest

Plus saige, ne mues parlant  and the noblest

n’a honor mues antandant  lover in all the world

ou mont ne cuit mie

Ne sai ke j’an die    What else can I say

Mais a droit loweir    except she should be praised

C’est la muez ensaignie   the wisest woman

c’on puxe trover    someone could find

 

Bien sai ke felon cuxant   I know that my enemies

m’ont estei souvant nuxant  have stirred trouble between us

Vers vostre partie   

Tres douce dame a cors gent  sweet beautiful lady

Por Deu, ne croiez pas tant  for Gods sake, don’t believe them

Ces gens plains d’anvie   they’re just envious

Ja si corte vie

Lor puist Deus doneir

K’il ne me puxent mie   so that they cant harm me anymore!

Vers vous plus grever!

Language:  Medieval French.  13th century.  This is a form of popular dance song.

 

Undrentide

Befell so in the comessing of May  It happened like this in early may

When mirry and hot is the day  When balmy and hot is the day

(And) oway beth winter shours  And winter showers have gone away

And every feld is full of flours  And every field is full of flowers

And blosme breme on every bough  And every branch is with blossom

Overall wexeth mirry enough  And everything is growing merrily

This ich quene Dame Heurodis  This same queen, Dame Heurodis

Took two maidens of prise   Took two maidens highly prized

And went in an undrentide   And all went together in the noontide

To play by an orchard side   To play by an orchard side

 

To see the floures sprede and spring To see the flowers unfurl and spring

(And) to here the fowles sing  And to hear the birds sing

They set hem down all three   They sat down all three

Under a faire impe tree   Under a grafted fairy tree

And wel sone this faire quene  And soon the lovely queen

Fell on slepe opon the grene   Fell asleep on the green

 

The maidens durst hir nought awake The maidens dared not wake her

Bot lete hir ligge and rest take  They let her lie and take rest

(So) she slepe til after none   And so she slept until after noon

That undrentide was all ydone  Untril that day midday was over at last

That undrentide was all ydone

 

As as sone (as) she gan awake  But as soon as she woke up

She cried and lothly here gan make  She cried aloud with hateful wailing

She froted hir honden and hir feet  Wringing her hands and feet

And cracched her visage, it blede weet And clawing her face, it bleed wet

Hir riche robe hie all to rett   She tore her rich robe into shreds

And was reveyed out of hir wit  And was driven out of her mind


The two maidens hir beside  Her two attendant maidens

No durst with hir no leng abide  Dared not stay longer at her side

Bot urn to the palais full right  But they raced to the palace

And tolde both squire and knight  And told the squires and knights

That her quene awede wold   That the queen had gone mad

And bold hem go and hir athold  And told them to restrain her

Knightes urn and levedis also  The knights and ladies also

Damisels sexty and mo   Damsels 60 or more ran to the queen

  

In they orchard to the quene hie come They reached her at the orchard

And hir up in her armes nome  And took her up in their arms

And brought hir to bed atte last  They bore her to her bed at last

And held hir there fine fast   And bound her tightly there

As ever she held in o cry   But she kept crying out

And wolde up and owy   That she wanted to be up and away

Medieval English.  Falling asleep under an enchanted tree, Queen Heurodis comes under the spell of the fairies.  As she sleeps, she is shown the wonders of the Land of Magic.  When she awakes, she is returned to reality, with the promise of ‘Wherever you are, you will be fetched away one day’.

 

Miri It Is

Miri it Is while sumer llast   Merry it is while summer lasts

With fugheles song    With the song of birds

Oc nu neheth windes blast   But now draws near the winds blast

And weder strong    And strong weather

Ei, ei! What this nicht is long!  Alas, how long this night is

And ich, with wel    And I, most unjustly

Michel wrong

Soregh and murn and fast   Sorrow and mourn and fast


Language:  Medieval English.  13th Century

All Turns to Yesterday

I have wist, sin I couthe meen  Ever since I can remember
That children hath by candle light  Children by candlelight
Her shadewe on the wal iseen  Have seen a shadow on a wall
And ronne therafter all the night And have chased it all night
Bisy aboute they hath ben   Busily they have tried
To catchen it with all here might  With all their might to catch it
And whom they catchen it   And when they expect to catch it

It best wolde wene    It shoots quickly
Sannest it shet out of her sight  Out of their sight
The shadewe catchen they ne might This shadow never shall be caught
For no lines that they couthe lay  In any trap they lay
This shadewe I may likne aright  This shadow is the likeness
To this world and yesterday  Of this world and yesterday

Language:  Medieval English

Adam Lay Ibounden

Adam lay ibounden   Adam lay in bondage
Bounden in a bond   Slave to a contract
Foure thousand winter   Of four thousand winters
Thought he not too long   Thought he not too long
And all was for an apple   And all because of an apple
An apple that he tok    An apple that he took
As clerkes finden    As our priests say
Wreten in here book   Have found in their book

Ne hadde the apple take ben  But if that apple hadn’t been taken
The apple taken ben    If that apple hadn’t been took
Ne hadde never Our Lady   Our Lady would never have been
A ben Hevene Queen    The Queen of Heaven
Blissed be the time    So blessed be the time
That apple take was    That the apple was taken

Therefore we moun singen   Therefore we all sing
"Deo gracias!"    Thanks be to God

Language:  Medieval English.   15th century.

bar

Women in the Arthurian Myths
By Sarah Rooke, Archdruidess

In order to look at the women in Arthurian myth, we must first understand the different aspects of the Goddess.  In the Pagan tradition, everyone will be familiar with the Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother and Enchantress (I do not like the title crone, as I believe it to be discriminatory to older women).

In the meditation tape ‘Initiations of the Lake’ by Caitlin Matthews, there are 9 aspects for the women in the Arthurian myths, for example:-

The ‘Initiation of the Cauldron’ which is set in the Underworld, and which represents Inspiration, warrior hood, and the presiding Goddess of the Cauldron:

KUNDRY – Ugly, represents the stars and destiny, gives star vial

DINDRAINE – Young, represents nature, gives the green shoots of life

RAGNALL – Ugly, represents wit and honour, gives sword

The ‘Initiation of the Round Table’, which is set in the Middle World and which represents Originality, queenship and the presiding Goddess of the Land:

IGRAINE – Matriarch, wears red, represents inheritance, gives the seed jar

GUINVERE – Young, wears white, represents life, gives the mirror and comb

MORGAN – Enchantress, wears black, represents challenger, gives horn

The ‘Initiation of the Nine Pointed Star’, which is set in the Upper World and which represents Imagination, the priesthood, and the presiding Faery Queen:

ARGANTE – Wears dark blue cloak, represents song of the heart, gives crown

NIMUE – Wears indigo, represents fulfilment of projects, gives key

ENID – Wear white, represents well of the heart, gives silver branch.

Various other authors have their own views of the roles of women in the Arthurian saga.  For example, the most debated is that of Morgan le Fey. Morgan le Fey, the very surname means of the feys, the fairy folk.  According to DJ Conway in 'Celtic Magic’, she had three aspects, Elaine the Virgin, Morgause the Mother and Morgan le Fey the Enchantress.  Morgan le Fey, the very name strike fear into the hearts of men.  She is a Welsh death Goddess, the British equivalent if you like of the Irish Morrigan, the female version of Merlin in the myths.  She is said to be able to curse any man, though her power also lies in her sexuality.
The half sister of Arthur himself, Morgan is said to have placed a spell on him and falling into her charms, they slept together.  This resulted in the birth of Mordred, the son of Arthur, and that most famous of battles which resulted in the death of Arthur and the sword Excalibur being returned to the Lady of the Lake.

I believe that in the Middle Ages, writers such as Thomas Mallory give this rather destructive persona to poor Morgan le Fey due to the view of women at that time.  To this we must look at the station of women in society.

On the CD entitled ‘Bella Domna’ by the group Sinfonye, the musician Dr Stevie Wishart has this to say:

‘The courtly lady was worshipped as an obtainable lover; she had all the virtues of beauty and courtesy as well as being from a higher social sphere than the lovelorn knight.   In reality women suffered extreme discrimination.  For St Jerome she was the gate of the devil, for Aquinas a necessary object needed to preserve the species and to provide food and drink.  Her elevated status in the poetry of courtly love was a result of artistic sophistication cultivated during the latter twelfth century, a time when on Occitania, women obtained increased territorial and governing powers’.

The most famous lady being from this time, Eleanor of Aquitaine of course.  Eleanor ruled from 1170 in Southern France where she established her court along the troubadour lines.  What would happen is that say a lady or knight takes a liking to a knight or lady of the court; they would get a troubadour to write a song or dance to attract their attention.  The knight or lady in question would then get their troubadour to write a song in return.  Since the story of Arthur was also already well known by that time, many songs would adopt an Arthurian theme. 

However, there were other stories around at this time. Like the ‘Romance of the Rose’, which though was a widely accepted poem as the role of men and women, came under fire from the lady authoress Christine de Pisan in the 14th century.  Famous for describing how a young knight falls asleep and enters a lovely garden, at the centre which was a beautiful rose, which represents a young maiden the writer had fallen in love with.  Unfortunately, it was never finished and various writers tried to, resulting in various debates on what the story was about.  Some had taken a negative view of women and this resulted in Christine’s attempts to pit the record straight, as it were.  Eventually Christine responded in such a way to the harsh criticisms in such works as the City of Ladies, by giving a positive light on the role of women that the matter was dropped in time.

The Church also had a part to play in all this, scholarly writers aside.  The Virgin Mary was the image that they wanted the ordinary woman to aspire to.  Saintly and divine, any distant memories of the Goddess was seen as being form of the devil and had to be dealt with as such, hence the burnings at the stake.

Is it any wonder then, that the Wise Woman of Morgan, with all her knowledge of magic and enchantment was transformed from being the equal of Merlin into something dark and foreboding?  This image has persisted to this day.  Look at any modern film version of Arthur, such as Excalibur and Merlin, and you will see Morgan, and those characters like her, portrayed in this manner.

The Arthurian legend also has links to the Mysteries of Cerridwen through the bard Taliesin, who took up residence at Camelot.  The Winter Solstice is called in Gaelic Alban Arthurian, the Light of Arthur, and coincided with our modern Christmas Day though in the Druid Tradition it is regarded as the birth of Mabon, the Golden Child, as well as that of Christ.

It is interesting that the Pre-Raphaelites ventured into the realms of illustrating the Arthurian theme during the Victorian era.  Paintings such as Queen Guinevere by William Morris, Morgan le Fey by Frederick Sandys, the Lady of Shalott by John Waterhouse, the Accolade by Edward Blair Leighton., the Bower Meadow by Dante Gabriel Rosetti and the Belle Dame Sans Merci spring to mind.

During the Victorian era, a huge resurgence in the gothic or medieval style came about due to the works of Ruskin and Pugin as a result in the fascination with the legend of Arthur.  Just as in the past, so a new interest has been brought forth with the legends of Arthur for today’s world. There have been countless films from Hollywood, mini series, programmes, and documentaries on television that still mark our interest with the Arthurian saga.

Also the worlds of literature abound with Arthurian myth, the most famous being that of the ‘Mists of Avalon’ series by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  In the Mists of Avalon, Morgaine (as opposed to Morgan) was gifted with the Sight, She was priestess, enchantress, wise woman, healer and formed part of a quartet along with the pious Guinevere, the ambitious Morgause, and Viviane, the Lady of the Lake.

William Shakespeare also recognised the character of Morgan’s the Fairy Queen as Titania in his play ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’, however it must be noted that to the Bard, Queen Elizabeth I was the Faery Quene in his eyes, her court being very much based around the mythos and that culture of Gloriana.

Dion Fortune also touched on the character of Vivienne Lilith Morgan le Fey in her novels ‘The Sea Priestess’ and ‘Moon Magic’.  In these books, Morgan le Fey is simply a title of the daughter or priestess of the Goddess in two incarnations.  Vivienne being in the first book and Lilith in the second book.

The character of the Fairy Queen still continues to fascinate me.  In the mini series Merlin she was Mab, Queen of Darkness. A corruption of the name Medbh or Maeve, the Witch Queen of Connaught who tricked Chu Chulainn in that most famous of battles in Ireland.  Another corruption is that of the name Modron, whom according to Caitlin Matthews in ‘King Arthur and the Goddess of the Land’ is none other than the Morrigan, washer by the ford, and forever virgin and queen.

According to DJ Conway’s book ‘Celtic Magic’, Mab means ‘queen wolf’, she is an Irish Celtic fairy queen whose name means mead (the red sort), her activities include sexuality, fertility, war and revenge.

Murry Hope notes in ‘Essential Woman’ that this is a feature one often sees in certain warrior queens/goddesses, in that her powers rests not only in war but in sex also, the Egyptian Sekhmet and Celtic Morrigan being prime examples.  However, we must remember that certain female warriors weren’t all bloodthirsty and sex mad, Joan of Arc, the Greek Goddesses Athena and Artemis who were all virgins come to mind here.

Solara writes in ‘Starborne: A Remembrance for the Awakened Ones’ regarding the abuse of power.  Women had to accept their shadow side just as the men did, and this resulted in the dark goddess aspect coming to the fore, initially seen in the Amazons.  So a transfer of power took place with the men ruling, but they proved just as bad as the women.  For true empowerment to take place, we us embrace both sides of our natures. Solara writes:  ‘The Shadow side of women could be perceived as the dark witch goddess immersed in magic, manipulation and heartless seduction – not exactly the image most women would want to identity with’.

The character of the fairy queen is further personified by Nimue/Vivianne/Argante or the Lady of the Lake.  She who can walk between the worlds between this world and the next, she who gives Excalibur freely to Arthur so he can defend Britain against her enemies.  She who according to legend was regarded by Merlin as his sister and helped him when he was undergoing his madness in the wilderness.  It was She who in the end, placed Merlin in his crystal like cocoon and Arthur, along with the Knights of the Round Table in a hidden cave where they lie sleeping to this day, ready to be awakened to defend Britain.  And herein lies the mystery, as we look to the Goddess of this Land for the answers that we seek…….

Further reading:
Andrea Hopkins - Most Wise and Valiant Ladies

Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment

Andrea Rose – The Pre Raphaelites

home
arthurian