nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘kenning

keeping watch

with 4 comments

Some eleventh and twelfth century Scandanavian rune stones were established as memorials to family members.

The Bro rune stone in Uppland, Sweden, was raised by a wife, Ginnlög, in honor of her dead husband, Assur.  It also commemorates the building of a bridge (a causeway across marshy ground) in memory of Assur.

The stone is carved with two serpent bands, around an ornamental cross.  It says that Assur kept watch with a comrade Gæitir, as part of the Víkinga vorđr, a local defense force against Viking raiders.  The photo below is taken from:

http://www.arild-hauge.com/sweden.htm

Beginning in the 8th century, Viking raids were carried out regularly in England and Ireland.  Two well-known raids were on the monasteries at Lindesfarne in England (793 AD)  and Glendalough in Ireland (834 AD).

In the first stanza of the poem below is a poetic form called a ‘kenning’.  The ‘kenning’ is a figure of speech using two or more words to convey an idea or image.  It is usually associated with Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry.  For example, ‘silver sun’ is a kenning for ‘moon’, and ‘summer smoke’ is a kenning for the windborne seeds of milkweed.

'summer smoke' of Rough Hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum Michx.)

 

keeping watch

                        the Bro Stone, Uppland

~

          bitter is the wind this night

         which tosses up the ocean’s hair so white

          merciless men I need not fear

          who cross from Lothland on an ocean clear

                                         – Irish monk, 8th century

~

1.

on a calm night

under the shine of the silver sun

the shadow-self of dragon

square sail, glint of gold

swords polished and drawn

~

2.

these are signs:

     blue sky

     the white belly of a gull

     lifted on the thickness of air

     stalks of milkweed bent

     their summer smoke pushed inland

~

3.

no fear tonight

the wind bitter

the ocean tossed

Gætir, new leader of the watch

may sleep

I warm my hands

in Assur’s cloak, now mine

today I raised a bridge

and this sad stone

to my husband

my Víkinga vörđr

my protector from the raid

~

4.

bitter this night

but safe

no dragon-kind

from the Danish shore

yet will I watch

listen to the whisper of milkweed stems

rumors of Lindesfarne

and Glendalough

where the coil of a serpent

may strangle a simple cross   

~

© Jane Tims 2004


Written by jane tims

October 15, 2011 at 4:58 am

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