General Bardic Studies for Liturgists 1

1.  Write two poems of at least 16 lines each appropriate for performance at a High Day ritual. One poem may be in free-verse form, but one must employ some form of meter and/or rhyme. Note in each case for which High Day the poem is intended.

Samhain Ancestor Poem

The ancient earth changes
As the seasons spiral round.
The autumn leaves dance
As they flutter to the ground.

The hearth fire burns warm
And keeps our hearts bright.
It helps guide us safely
Through the dark and quiet night.

To the ancient ancestors
Who walked this path before
With who we share our history,
Blood, bone, and so much more.

Guide us, awesome ancestors
And lead us down our way
Please accept our offerings
As we honor you this day.

Hestia Invocation for a Hellenic Ritual

Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth,
You who we honor both first and last.
You embody both hearth and home
And guide us with your warmth.
With your name, we ignite the hearth fire.
Come forth and dwell in this space.

Hestia, gracious goddess of home
Goddess of the living flame
You who keep the hearth ablaze
And inspire us with your light.
With your name, we start our rite.
Come forth and dwell in this place.

Through you, may our hearts warmed.
Through you, may our homes be bright.
Through you, may all who join be welcomed.
And through you may our intentions be pure.
Hestia, magnificent goddess,
Come forth and encounter this rite.

2.  Compare and contrast examples from the work of three poets in one cultural tradition from at least two historical eras. (minimum 300 words of the student's original essay material beyond the verses provided, at least one poem per poet)
There are many poets in the ancient Greek culture.  I am going to compare three Greek female poets, translated into English: Anyte of Tegea from the 3rd century BC, Sappho from 630 BC, and Erinna from 600 BC.  This comparison is done in an analytic method more than through poetics because they have been translated from Greek into English.  Poetry analysis is defined as “the process of investigating a poem's form, content, and history in an informed way, with the aim of heightening one's own and others' understanding and appreciation of the work” (Wikipedia) while poetics is “the scientific study of ‘artistic’ language” (Watkins 6). 

The Poems:
A Dolphin by Anyte of Tegea
No more, exulting in the calm seas,
shall I rise from the depths and thrust through the waves;
No more shall I rush past the beautiful prow
of a fair-rowlocked ship, delighting in the figure-head.
The dark waters of the sea dashed me to land
and I lie here upon this narrow shore. (Aldington).

Epigram by Erinna
I am the tomb of Baucis, a young bride, as you pass
The much lamented grave-stone you may say to Hades:
‘Hades, you are malicious’. When you look, the beautiful letters
will tell of the most cruel fate of Baucis,
how her father-in-law lit the girl’s funeral pyer
with the pine-torches over which Hymen sang.
And you, Hymen, changed the tuneful song of weddings
Into the mournful sound of lamentations.  (Plant)

Hymn to Aphrodite by Sappho
Shimmering-throned immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee,
Spare me, O queen, this agony and anguish,
Crush not my spirit

Whenever before thou has hearkened to me--
To my voice calling to thee in the distance,
And heeding, thou hast come, leaving thy father's
Golden dominions,

With chariot yoked to thy fleet-winged coursers,
Fluttering swift pinions over earth's darkness,
And bringing thee through the infinite, gliding
Downwards from heaven,

Then, soon they arrived and thou, blessed goddess,
With divine contenance smiling, didst ask me
What new woe had befallen me now and why,
Thus I had called the.

What in my mad heart was my greatest desire,
Who was it now that must feel my allurements,
Who was the fair one that must be persuaded,
Who wronged thee Sappho?

For if now she flees, quickly she shall follow
And if she spurns gifts, soon shall she offer them
Yea, if she knows not love, soon shall she feel it
Even reluctant
Come then, I pray, grant me surcease from sorrow,
Drive away care, I beseech thee, O goddess
Fulfil for me what I yearn to accomplish,
Be thou my ally. (Sappho)

            Traditional methods of poetry comparison are very difficult when working with translated poetry. Rhyme, alliteration, and other sound devices are typically lost in translation, so instead we have to focus on other methods of comparison, such as poetic structure, subject, and use of metaphor or simile. We can also evaluate the overall “feel” of the poems. 
Anyte of Tegea’s poem “A Dolphin” is an interesting combination of epigram and epitaph.  An epigram is “a concise poem dealing pointedly and often satirically with a single thought or event and often ending with an ingenious turn of thought” (Merriam-Webster)while an epitaph is “something written or said in memory of a dead person” (Merriam-Webster).  This poem tends to move in a direction that is unexpected, describing the beauty and joy of a dolphin with lines like “I rush past the beautiful prow of a fair-rowlocked ship, delighting in the figure-head” (Aldington) before revealing that the dolphin has been thrown to the land.  Anyte’s poetry does not rely on metaphor or similes to express an idea.  It instead uses animated adjectives to paint a picture with her words, through the “calm seas,” “beautiful prow,” “dark waters” and other combinations (Aldington).  While the poem describes a darker subject matter, the poem does not necessarily leave you feeling sad, but instead impressed by the beautiful life of the dolphin.
            Erinna also tends to write in epigrams, and I have chosen a poem that refers to the death of a young bride, so while it is not an epitaph specifically, it is a similar subject matter.  However, while the style is similar, the approach to the subject seems quite different.  Anyte paints a beautiful picture of the misfortune, making it difficult to fully comprehend the sadness of the subject matter, while Erinna’s poem is much more angry sounding, describing Hades as “malicious” and fate as “cruel” (Plant).  There are no metaphors in this poem either, unless you view the presence of mythological beings as a form of metaphor.  Both of these poems are incredibly descriptive and allow you to visualize the experience because of the words they choose to use.  They also invoke an emotional response from the reader. 
            “Hymn to Aphrodite” by Sappho is very different than the other two poems in both poem and subject matter.  While the other two poems were focused on death and dying, this poem is a hymn written to a deity.  Sappho asks Aphrodite “Spare me, O queen, this agony and anguish, Crush not my spirit” (Sappho). Unlike the other poems, this poem does include some metaphor, describing her heart as “mad” and saying that her cares could be driven away, like a living creature.  The poem has a very different form than the others as well, for it is much longer and formatted very differently.  However, it is still very descriptive and uses numerous adjectives to describe the different subjects, such as  “Shimmering-throned immortal Aphrodite” and “fleet-wined coursers” (Sappho).  This poem does not necessarily bring up specific emotions when I read it, but it does give a very clear idea of the relationship between Sappho and Aphrodite.  Sappho seems to plead to the goddess for relief from her angst, while the goddess appears to mock her, asking “what new woe had befallen me now” (Sappho) making it seem like these requests are an annoyance to the Goddess.
            Overall, these poets are all unique in their methods, while also showing some similarities in the way that they choose to describe things.  They are very descriptive and easily show the emotion of the poet while painting a picture that allows for the reader to visualize exactly what the poet is expressing.
3.  Compare and contrast examples from the work of two poets of the same historical era from two different cultural traditions. (minimum 300 words of the student's original essay material beyond the verses provided at least two poems per poet)

Punctuality by Lewis Carroll
Man naturally loves delay,
And to procrastinate;
Business put off from day to day
Is always done too late.

Let every hour be in its place
Firm fixed, nor loosely shift,
And well enjoy the vacant space,
As though a birthday gift.

And when the hour arrives, be there,
Where’er that “there” may be;
Uncleanly hands or ruffled hair
Let no one ever see.

If dinner at “half-past” be placed,
At “half-past” then be dressed
If at a “qurter-past” make haste
To be down with the rest.

Better to be before your time,
Than e’er to be behind;
To ope the door while strikes the chime,
That shows a punctual mind.

Let punctuality and care
Seize every flitting hour,
So shalt thou cull a floweret fair,
E’en from a fading flower.  (Carroll 2)

My Fairy by Lewis Carrol
I have a fairy by my side
Which says I must not sleep,
When once in pain I loudly cried
It said “You must not weep.”

If, full of mirth, I smile and grin,
It says “You must not laugh;”
When once I wished to drink some gin
It said “You must not quaff.”

When once a meal I wished to taste
It said “You must not bite;”
When to the wars I went in haste
It said “You must not fight.”

“What may I do?” at length I cried,
Tired of the painful task.
The fairy quietly replied,
And said “You must not ask.”

Moral: “You mustn’t.” (Carroll 1)

To F --- by Edgar Allan Poe
Beloved! Amid the ernest woes
That crowd around my earthly path-
(Drear path, alas! Where grows
not even one lonely rose) –
my soul at least a solace hath
in dreams of thee, and therein knows
and Eden of bland repose

And thus they memory is to me
Like some enchanted far-off isle
In some tumultuous sea-
Some ocean throbbing far and free
With storms-but where meanwhile
Serenest skis continually
Just o’er that one bright island smile. (Poe 753)

A Dream by Edgar Allan Poe
In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed –
But a waking dream of life and light
Has left me broken-hearted.

Ah! What is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?

That holy dream – that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.

What though that light, thro’ storm and night
So trembled from afar –
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day-star? (Poe 769-770)

Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll have been two of my favorite poets since I was a child.  They both have a reputation of darkness and potential madness, but I have chosen poems that show a different side of them.  Poe is an American poet and author who lived in the 1800s during the American Romantic Period.  Lewis Carroll was an English poet and author that also lived during the 1800s, which was the “Victorian Era” in British history. 
After choosing these poems, I was quite surprised to find how similar the writing styles of the two poets were.  These poems were originally written in English, which makes it easier to analyze some of the phonetic figures such as alliteration and rhymes, where the “equivalence tokens” are speech sounds, sequences, and features (Watkins 29).  These poems are similar in rhyme, stanza length, tone, and metaphor usage.  However, the language style and use are quite different. Both poets tend to use end rhyme in their poems, with only slight differentiation in the actual rhyme scheme. All of the poems use an ABAB type rhyming scheme except for “For F---“ by Poe, which uses an ABAABAA rhyme in the first stanza and an ABAABAB rhyme in the second stanza.  Carroll uses some occasional alliteration in his poetry, such as “Better to be before your time” (Carroll 2) along with the consistent imbiatic rhythm to make his poems have a very singsong type sound.  Poe’s rhythm is quite different because there does not appear to be a defined pattern.  Each line is different in length, which also makes it much less melodic than those works of Carroll.   The stanza styles of the two poets are quite similar, both using quatrain stanzas.  However, in “To F---“ Poe uses septets instead.
Carroll frequently uses similes in his poems, such as “And well enjoy the vacant space, as though a birthday gift” (Carroll 2) as well as metaphors.  The poem “My Fairy” speaks of a fairy that is consistently contradicting the behaviors of the poet.  This fairy could be a metaphor for numerous things, but is obviously a reflection of Carroll feeling like he was being corrected constantly by some person or group of people. Poe also frequently uses both similes and metaphors in his poetry, such as “And thus the memory is to me like some enchanted far-off isle” (Poe 753) and “What could there be more purely bright in Truth’s day-star?” (Poe 769-770). 
Overall, I think that these two poets have much more in common than they have different.  The poetic elements that they chose to use are consistently similar, while there is quite a distinction between the two when it comes to the actual writing style and vocabulary they chose to use.
4.  Compare and contrast two mythological or folkloric tales from two Indo-European cultures. Include a discussion of the use of narrative point-of-view, the element of time, and any relevant issues of religious (or other) bias influencing the narrative. (minimum 600 words)
Slavic – Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Beautiful
            The story of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga is one of the many tales that the popular story of Cinderella was based on.  Vasilisa was born to a merchant and his loving wife.  She was a beautiful girl that continued become more beautiful and delightful, as she grew older.  However, when Vasilisa was still very young, her mother grew ill and passed away.  On her deathbed, Vasilisa’s mother presented a doll to her daughter and told her that the doll would care for her and help her as long as she took care of it in return. 
Vasilisa’s father soon remarried, but his new wife despised Vasilisa.  When Vasilisa’s father travelled away to sell his wares, her stepmother would treat her like a slave.  She would frequently send the girl into the woods with the hope that Baba Yaga would abduct the child.  However, Vasilisa kept her little doll with her and the doll protected her.  It would help her do the chores, and feed her when she was hungry.  One night, the stepmother put out all of the lights and forced Vasilisa to visit Baba Yaga and ask her for a light.  Vasilisa arrived at the old woman’s cabin and was forced to do chores for three days straight, but with the help from her doll she managed to get everything done.  Baba Yaga asked her how she did it, and when the girl revealed her secret Baba Yaga sent her away with a lighted skull with eyes made of coal.  Vasilisa returned home and upon seeing the skull her stepmother burned away. 
Vasilisa set out to look for work and found safety in town with an old woman.  She made beautiful linen with the help of her doll.  She asked the old woman to sell the linen, but the old woman instead decided to give it to the Tsar.  The Tsar was so impressed with the fabric, but no one could make the linen into anything fitting for royalty, so he began to search for the person who made it.  He found the old woman who had given him the cloth and begged her to make the linen.  She admitted that she couldn’t do it, but knew who could do it.  She gave the linen back to Vasilisa, and she managed to make beautiful clothing for the Tsar.  He was so impressed that he wanted to meet the maker of the beautiful fabric.  “He was so overwhelmed by Vasilisa’s beauty, and married her there and then” (Time-Life Books 107).
Roman - Minerva and Arachne
            Minerva was the goddess of wisdom and the daughter of Jupiter.  Arachne was a mortal that was extremely skillful in weaving and embroidery.  One day while weaving, Arachne decided to brag about her skills, saying “Let Minerva try her skill with mine.  If beaten I will pay the penalty” (Bulfinch 108).  Minerva was quite offended by this boast, but decided to approach Arachne secretly to try to dissuade her attitude.  Minerva appeared Arachne disguised as an old woman and warned Arachne to humble her attitude, but Arachne ignored Minerva’s warnings and challenged the goddess once again. Minerva revealed herself to Arachne, but the woman, while embarrassed, still refused to revoke her statement, so the contest began. 
Minerva weaved the scene of her contest with Neptune, and how she defeated him to win over the city of Athens.  Arachne weaved many images depicting the failures and errors of the Gods.  Minerva was incredibly offended and destroyed the fabric.  With a single touch, the goddess made Arachne feel shame and humility.  Arachne was so deeply disgraced by these emotions that she hung herself.  In learning this, Minerva revived the woman and instead turned her into a spider to live out her days.
            The two myths that I am discussion are “Baba Yaga and Vasilisa” from the Slavic culture and “Minerva and Arachne” from the Romans.  I have very briefly summarized these two tales above, touching on each of the important events but leaving out much of the detail to prevent doubling the length of this submission. However, both of these myths have a large amount of detail included in their original form, especially when describing the beauty of Vasilisa and the weavings of Minerva and Arachne. 
            Both of these myths are told in the third person omniscient perspective, which means that we are able to see the thoughts, emotions, and motives of each character involved.  This type of story telling is frequently used in mythology and allows us to have insight into every character instead of focusing our understanding on a single perspective.  Both of these sagas also include a moral of sorts, encouraging people to behave appropriately or find themselves facing consequences.  Arachne is boastful and abrasive in her opinion of her skills, and because of that she was punished being told “Live on then, and yet hang, condemned one, but, lest you are careless in future, this same condition is declared, in punishment, against your descendants, to the last generation!” (Ovid).  Similarly, Vasilisa’s stepmother is cruel to her, and is destroyed by Baba Yaga, while Vasilisa goes on to marry the Tsar because of her beauty and kindness.  These types of myths were used to show people that behaving appropriately was rewarded, while negative interactions could be severely, and eternally, punished. 
            The element of time is quite different for these two tales.  The story of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga begins with the birth of Vasilisa and quickly moves into her teenage years, watching her grow more beautiful and graceful through the years.  This section of the tale is told very quickly, taking only a few sentences to tell.  The actual interaction with Baba Yaga, which takes place in just a few days, takes up a majority of the story, taking several paragraphs to describe the interactions and outcomes.  The story then returns to a very quick ending, describing the happy ending once again in just a few sentences. 
            In the tale of Arachne, the entire myth seems to take place in a rather short period of time, lasting from the insult to Minerva, through the contest, and ending with the punishment that Arachne receives for her arrogance.  However,  the level of detail and dialog included make it so that this myth is nearly as long as the myth of Vasilisa, which spans a time period of many years. 
            Both of these myths seem to be quite well preserved in their original form, and I did not sense a lot of religious bias included in them.  I chose these myths because they both show the results of powerful women, one who is gracious and kind and one who is overly boastful, and the results of those interactions.  While there is not a clear religious bias included in these myths, there does seem to be a cultural bias to them.  These myths reinforce the idea that a woman should be beautiful, gracious, and “well behaved” in her skills in order to be perceived in a positive light by the Gods or society.  The woman who is arrogant and abrasive is punished for her attitude, while the woman who is beautiful and graceful is rewarded and ends up marrying her very own Prince Charming. Whether that is the intention of these two tales or not, I cannot definitively say, and looking at each my separately this type of bias does not seem to be blatantly obvious.  It is only when the two are viewed together that this type of social behavior reinforcement becomes apparent. 


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Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch's Mythology Illustrated. Avenel Books, 1979.
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—. Epitaph. October 2014 <>.
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Watkins, Calvert. How to Kill a Dragon. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
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