In 2014 the Barony held our first Equestrian Championship. Lady Elanor Stanhope became our champion, and as her year of service neared its end I began to research poetic forms appropriate to her persona. As her persona is of a twelfth century Anglo-Norman noblewoman, I decided to try my hand at writing in French.
I don’t speak French.
More to the point, I don’t speak or read Anglo-Norman. So from the get-go I knew that the best I would have a fighting chance of accomplishing is, with the help of an old high school text book, writing in modern French.
For inspiration I turned to the circa 1300 Anglo-Norman romance “Beves of Hamtoun“.
Savarric le roi, notre seigneur et souverain;
Dalla, reine, notre étoile guidant;
Entendre mes humbles mots.
Je parle de Elanor Stanhope, chevalière,
Elle qui a prouvé sa maîtrise dans les arts équestres
sur de nombreux vaillants adversaires.
Sachez-le, vos Majestés , et entendre tout ce que les gens vous:
Elanor Stanhope sera à jamais connu
Comme le premier champion équestre de Glymm Mere.
My thanks to Master Eduardo Francesco Maria Lucrezia for proof-reading my French.
Savarric the King, our Lord and Sovereign,
Dalla, Queen, our Guiding Star,
Harken to my humble words.
I speak of Elanor Stanhope, horsewoman,
Who hath proven her mastery in the equestrian arts Over many valiant challengers.
Know this, your majesties, and hear this all people,
That Elanor Stanhope will forever be known the premiere Equestrian Champion of Glymm Mere.
It should be stressed that I composed the piece in French and then translated it into English, not the other way around. I felt this was important to the process because words in one language do not necessarily have a corresponding word with the same meaning in another language. I wanted to avoid using an English word for which there was no precisely comparable word in French.
With Elanor’s Charter I feel I got some things right: it said a bit of what I wanted it say about her accomplishments; it had a distinctly Anglo-Norman flavor; and the three stanza, three line structure is documentable to her persona’s time and place. However, the language was still not quite right (modern French versus Anglo-Norman) and the poetic form used was wrong, in that I had chosen a form used for lengthy tales and not one for praising individuals.