Flytting Poem

A friend of mine, a Norse skald named Magnus Hvalmagi, issued a challenge to the SCA bardic community. Specifically, he issued a flytting challenge. Flytting is a formal challenge to compose poetry on the fly, kind of like the medieval rap battle. Well, I couldn’t let this one pass. I’m the Pocket Bard, damnit, and I will not allow some upstart skald get the last word! So I picked up the mic (as it were) and wrote a flytting right back at him. Well, sort of. I don’t write Norse poetry, but I do write in iambic tetrameter, and I have been reading quite a lot of saint lives lately, so I decided to use what I know. Here’s my response. And if anyone wants to pick up the mic from me, consider it officially dropped.

Flytting Poem
Katherine Ashewode
May 2013

Holy Spirit, hear my voice,
And with your aid, I will rejoice
In shaping words like St. Bernard
To decimate a northern bard
Who thought to speak without your leave
And now the lands will see him grieve.

Listen, Magnus, skald of ice,
And I will demonstrate the price
You pay for claiming you’re the peak.
There isn’t any grand mystique
In calling on the frigid snows
To work your rhymes as you compose
A paean only to yourself;
But stand upon the frigid shelf
And fiery tongue of Pentecost
Will melt away the winds of frost
You’re blowing in from northern lands,
Until like fine Egyptian sands
They swirl as ash before my feet
And leave you helpless to the beat
Of words the Spirit has supplied.
You can stand and boast with pride
As scholars did before the throne
Of King Maxentius, facing lone
St. Catherine: fifty men to one,
But though they strived, they were undone
By a single girl who bore my name,
And rest assured that soon the same
Will happen to a northern Skald
And all who watch will be appalled
To see a man who once was proud
Standing with his body bowed.
My wit’s as sharp as the sword of St. George
Drawn by my hand, still hot from the forge
To slice your verses verb from noun
Until your words are stricken down
And naught remains within the whole;
‘Tis then you’ll see how I control
The battle of our words and thoughts
And soon I’ll have you tied in knots
Like Andrew did with his third question
When he came in intercession
For a bishop who by hell was snared
When at his feast his food was shared
With Satan, who St. Andrew bested —
A saint of God is not contested.
So sit you at your mead-hall feast
And drink the grains till brewer’s yeast
Has blurred your mind and thoughts are thick
You jump and dance and make to kick
The cups that sit upon the table,
While I am out ensuring fables
Spread to all the worldly quarters
Where you’ll find my firm supporters:
South as far as St. Moses’ home
North to the lands where St. Bridget roamed
East to St. Barlaam, west to St. James,
There you’ll find that knights and dames
Have heard my word-fame, know my works,
And while you sit with your berserks
And boast about the lands of frost
I think perhaps you may be lost
For out my window, snow has vanished
Like your rhymes, it has been banished
To the realms where no men live
And so I think we must forgive
That you don’t know it’s Pentecost season
And folk are not all bundled and freezin’
But warmed by sun as snows disappear
My words are fire and summer is here!


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