Category Archives: #FlashFictionFriday

Keeping the Goliardic Spark Alive #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

This week has been a struggle, what with cooking a Thanksgiving feast for my extended family and trying to keep my wordcount output up for #NaNoWriMo, so today I am reprising an essay written in 2015, on irreverent humor, the Carmina Burana, and medieval frat boys. Enjoy!


Crazy humor at the expense of the establishment is nothing new. It’s part of the Human Condition. And to that end, I love goliardic poetry.

Carl Orff and his amazing cantata, Carmina Burana, catapulted me into the poetry of the Goliards. But who and what were the goliards?

During what we call the Middle Ages, noble and wealthy middle-class families had a tradition that the eldest son inherited everything, the second son went into the church, and the younger sons went to the crusades.

The old-fashioned practice of “primogeniture” or bestowing the rights of inheritance upon the eldest son, often leaving younger sons penniless, is responsible for some of the most ribald and hilarious poetry of the middle ages. This was because the church had far too many clergymen who weren’t all that enthusiastic about having been forced into taking the ecclesiastical path, and who became, for lack a better definition, medieval frat-boys.

There was such an abundance of well-educated clergy that most were unable to gain a decent appointment within the church, despite good family connections.

Having been educated at the finest universities of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and England these men weren’t content to spend their lives hidden away in a rural monastery painstakingly copying the great books written by others when they could be writing their own.

Going indie (or rogue) is nothing new.

They took their show on the road, going from town to town, protesting the growing contradictions within the church through song, poetry, and performance.

The disillusionment and disappointment they experienced regarding the hypocritical, abusive, greedy state of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of that time, was fertile soil for medieval mockery on a grand scale. 

Not unlike the current political climate here in the US.

Most goliardic poetry is written in Latin, as Latin was the language of commerce, and every educated person understood and read it. Remember, if someone could read, they were well off, and if they could read, they read Latin. Those were the people the indie was writing books for in the early Middle Ages.

Some of the goliards’ more popular church services when they would arrive in a new town included celebrating the annual Feast of Fools, a brief social revolution, where roles were reversed, and power, dignity, and impunity were briefly conferred on the lowest of the social order. Thus, the town drunk or the local fool would be made mayor for a day, feted and given the status of a lord for a day.

As you might imagine, the nobility was unimpressed with that particular “holy” festival, and rarely participated.

Even less popular with those in power was the Feast of the Ass. From Wikipedia, the holy fount of all knowledge: A girl and a child on a donkey would be led through town to the church, where the donkey would stand beside the altar during the sermon, and the congregation would “hee-haw” their responses to the priest.

So, I guess you could say the goliards were a traveling Monty Python type of show, painfully hilarious and sometimes too good at what they did for the censor’s comfort.

Their point was that too much emphasis was placed on the pageantry and trappings of faith in Medieval Europe.

But the disaffected goliards couldn’t run forever. Their satires were almost always directed against the church, attacking even the pope, and the church didn’t take that well. Heresy, during the Middle Ages, was not something you wanted to be accused of, as the famous heretic and collector of goliardic poetry, Peter Abelard would tell you. Yet, though he was harshly punished, he remains one of the most respected philosophers and freethinkers of the Middle Ages.

By the 14th century, the word goliard had become synonymous with minstrel, no longer referring to this group of rebellious clergymen. However, a century after the overabundance of bored poor-little-rich-boy clergymen that spawned the goliards had been squashed by the church, that tradition of irreverence was carried on by Geoffrey Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales.

For me, Orff’s cantata was a ‘gateway drug.’ From first becoming intrigued by the libretto to  Carmina Burana, I moved on to “the hard stuff,” studying modern translations of the works of an author who was highly influenced by goliardic poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer.

Of course, that meant I had to go to the source, learning a great deal about the roots of our modern English language at the same time.

Chaucer was unique, in that he wrote in Middle English, the vernacular of his time, rather than in Latin. Because of this, and the enduring hilarity of his works, Chaucer is considered the Father of English Literature.

The goliardic works that survive to this day still surprise us with how relevant the concepts put forth in those poems and tales are to contemporary society.

It is through the surviving literature and song that the truth of a past culture is discovered. The true nature of the common medieval man and woman survives in the rebellious, ribald literary tradition of the naughty clergy, the goliards.

We may be separated in time by centuries, but we are not too different from those ancestors of ours who survived the Dark and early Middle Ages by getting drunk and singing bawdy songs and poking fun at the establishment.


Credits and Attributions:

Keeping the Goliardic Spark Alive, by Connie J. Jasperson, first appeared on Life in the Realm of Fantasy on September 28th, 2015.

Wikipedia contributors, “Feast of the Ass,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Feast_of_the_Ass&oldid=796169305

(accessed November 24, 2017).

Image, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, ca 1559  PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

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#FlashFictionFriday: Reflections on the Water

A rough, log bench at water’s edge

Pictured in mind’s eye,

Reflections on the water

Of an evening long gone by.

I see us as we were that night,

Grandmother, lake, and me.

Flannel shirt over frayed housedress

Beside denims worn with style,

Philosophies and grand ideas

Beside wisdom without guile.

 

She told me why the stars were hung

In the inky sea above.

A brilliant ebb and flowing dance

A ballet of starry love

To cricket song and bullfrog drum.

But I was bored with country life

And lured by rattle and hum.

“What you seek you’ll never find

In neon glow and city block.”

I longed to leave that place behind

New paths I yearned to walk.

 

And now I stand on memory’s shore

With Grandma once again.

The lake, and shore, and skies above,

Have gone, and gone again.

And simple wisdom I have gained,

Reflecting on the lake,

Grandma’s wisdom still remains

In who I came to be

Though different paths I take.


Credits and Attributions

Reflections on the Water by Connie J. Jasperson © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Moonrise, by Stanisław Masłowski   PD 100 yrs [[File:MaslowskiStanislaw.WschodKsiezyca.1884.ws.jpg|MaslowskiStanislaw.WschodKsiezyca.1884.ws]]

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#FineArtFriday: More Things in Heaven

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5, by William Shakespeare


About the Eagle Nebula: Quote from Wikipedia:

The Eagle Nebula is part of a diffuse emission nebula, or H II region, which is catalogued as IC 4703. This region of active current star formation is about 7000 light-years distant. A spire of gas that can be seen coming off the nebula in the northeastern part is approximately 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometers long.[4]

The cluster associated with the nebula has approximately 8100 stars, which are mostly concentrated in a gap in the molecular cloud to the north-west of the Pillars.[5] The brightest star (HD 168076) has an apparent magnitude of +8.24, easily visible with good binoculars. It is actually a binary star formed of an O3.5V star plus an O7.5V companion.[6] This star has a mass of roughly 80 solar masses, and a luminosity up to 1 million times that of the Sun. The cluster’s age has been estimated to be 1–2 million years.[7]

The descriptive names reflect impressions of the shape of the central pillar rising from the southeast into the central luminous area. The name “Star Queen Nebula” was introduced by Robert Burnham, Jr., reflecting his characterization of the central pillar as the Star Queen shown in silhouette.[8]


Credits and Attributions

Quote from Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5, by William Shakespeare, [Public Domain]

The Fairy of Eagle Nebula  By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Eagle Nebula,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Eagle_Nebula&oldid=804691133 (accessed October 12, 2017).

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#flashfictionfriday: The Lilies Orange

I think upon the lilies orange

That grew beside the lake.

Such beauty there among the weeds

For loons and grebes to take.

The peace I found along that shore

Is gone and gone, I fear.

The thief of time has stolen it,

Gone these fifty years.

The lilies bring them back to me,

The lilies and the shore.

I see the high black hills beyond

Though I’ll walk there nevermore.

My childhood home, long gone.


Credits and Attributions:

The Lilies Orange, © Connie J. Jasperson 2017, All Rights Reserved

Orange Daylilies, By George Chernilevsky (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Hemerocallis fulva 2016 G1.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Hemerocallis_fulva_2016_G1.jpg&oldid=259430397 (accessed October 5, 2017)

 

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Watcher

 

She stares out the window of her lonely room, watching the street below through the rivulets of water; blue and grey, washed away. Azure blue, the sky briefly shows itself and sunlight temporarily blinds her. Dry, elderly eyes watch as dark clouds once again overtake the blue. Rain pounds against the glass.

Rain beats down, and passersby on the street below vainly seek shelter beneath newspapers and fragile umbrellas, dodging under awnings, leaping into taxis waiting to whisk them away to distant places where the rains of March are just a rumor.

She looks down at the black of her dress. In her mind she sees him in the casket, looking as if he’d merely fallen asleep.

Her damp woolen coat lies on the bed, where sixty two years of her life were spent with him. Sixty two years of quarrels, of passion, sixty two years of love and jealous anger. Sixty two years of ties that bound them more securely than the mere vows of marriage two young people once took ever could.

Slightly ajar, the door of the closet reveals his clothes, suits and slacks hanging ready for the man who will never again wear them. The book he was reading rests on the nightstand by his pillow.

She stares out the window of her lonely room, watching the street below through the rivulets of water, blue and grey; washed away.

The sky weeps tears that faded blue eyes refuse to shed.


Credits and Attributions

The Watcher, by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2013-2017, Originally published on Wattpad March 21, 2013.

The Plaza After Rain, Paul Cornoyer, PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

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#FlashFictionFriday: Copper Starbucks Cup

 

I carry my coffee in a Starbucks cup

To the silver minivan,

A kid-hauler, a family bus,

An old lady’s junk hauling van.

I carry my coffee in the copper colored cup

And hit the road again.

 

The smoothness of the new highway

Matching grayness of the sky

The scent of coffee in my cup

Feeding birds take wing and fly.

My coffee and the Starbucks cup

Passing cows and llamas by.

 

My copper colored Starbucks cup

Hurtling south, or north I go.

Grandma’s on the road again

Get in the van, let’s go.

Coffee, cows, birds, and fog

She can’t be stopped, you know.


Credits and Attributions

Copper Starbucks Cup © 2017 Connie J. Jasperson

image: Copper Starbucks Cup © 2017 Connie J. Jasperson (author’s own photo)

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#flashfictionfriday: Foggy Autumn Morning Sunrise

September first has come to stay,

Summer’s moving on,

Cold and chill the break of day,

But we still greet the dawn.

Webs are hung with mist and dew,

Sparkling on the lawn,

I drink coffee on the porch with you,

And watch the rushing throng.


Foggy Autumn Morning Sunrise, © Connie J. Jasperson 2017, All Rights Reserved

Foggy Autumn Morning (sunrise) Arto J [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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#FlashFictionFriday: Lord Byron: Manfred, a Theater of the Mind

Bad poetry can be written by anyone, but writing great poetry takes a certain genius. Words are bent and shaped by poets to evoke meanings, bent and formed into precise shapes. We novelists and writers of short fiction have the luxury of creating a long narrative. In poetry, the author intentionally limits space, forcing the poet to write within narrow constraints. Thus, allegory, allusion, and indirection are common motifs in poetry.

Poetry doesn’t always rhyme and it frequently involves complicated aesthetics that are both auditory and visual. This is because the reader may not always be reading the poem aloud, and so the visual art of the piece comes into play.

Sometimes, poetry is long, epic in actuality. Consider Manfred, by George Gordon, Lord Byron (From Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge): Manfred: A dramatic poem is a poem written in 1816–1817 by Lord Byron. It contains supernatural elements, in keeping with the popularity of the ghost story in England at the time. It is a typical example of a Romantic closet drama. (end quoted text)

Byron himself referred to his works as “closet dramas,” since they were intended more for the theater of the mind than the actual theater.

Excerpt from Manfred

When the moon is on the wave,
And the glow-worm in the grass,
And the meteor on the grave,
And the wisp on the morass;
When the falling stars are shooting,
And the answer’d owls are hooting,
And the silent leaves are still
In the shadow of the hill,
Shall my soul be upon thine,
With a power and with a sign.

Though thy slumber may be deep,
Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
There are shades which will not vanish,
There are thoughts thou canst not banish;
By a power to thee unknown,
Thou canst never be alone;
Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
Thou art gather’d in a cloud;
And for ever shalt thou dwell
In the spirit of this spell.

Though thou seest me not pass by,
Thou shalt feel me with thine eye
As a thing that, though unseen,
Must be near thee, and hath been;
And when in that secret dread
Thou hast turn’d around thy head,
Thou shalt marvel I am not
As thy shadow on the spot,
And the power which thou dost feel
Shall be what thou must conceal.

And a magic voice and verse
Hath baptiz’d thee with a curse;
And a spirit of the air
Hath begirt thee with a snare;
In the wind there is a voice
Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
And to thee shall night deny
All the quiet of her sky;
And the day shall have a sun,
Which shall make thee wish it done.

From thy false tears I did distil
An essence which hath strength to kill;
From thy own heart I then did wring
The black blood in its blackest spring;
From thy own smile I snatch’d the snake,
For there it coil’d as in a brake;
From thy own lip I drew the charm
Which gave all these their chiefest harm;
In proving every poison known,
I found the strongest was thine own.

By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
By thy unfathom’d gulfs of guile,
By that most seeming virtuous eye,
By thy shut soul’s hypocrisy;
By the perfection of thine art
Which pass’d for human thine own heart;
By thy delight in others’ pain,
And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
I call upon thee! and compel
Thyself to be thy proper Hell!

And on thy head I pour the vial
Which doth devote thee to this trial;
Nor to slumber, nor to die,
Shall be in thy destiny;
Though thy death shall still seem near
To thy wish, but as a fear;
Lo! the spell now works around thee,
And the clankless chain hath bound thee;
O’er thy heart and brain together
Hath the word been pass’d–now wither!

 

And a “theater of the mind” is what Byron’s work sparks in me.

The Poetry Foundation says this about George Gordon, Lord Byron:

In his dynamism, sexuality, self-revelation, and demands for freedom for oppressed people everywhere, Byron captivated the Western mind and heart as few writers have, stamping upon nineteenth-century letters, arts, politics, even clothing styles, his image and name as the embodiment of Romanticism.


Sources and Attributions:

Quote from: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lord-byron © 2017 Poetry Foundation, accessed August 25, 2017

Manfred – Lord Byron. Poem originally published 1816, portion republished March 2, 2015 by Hanson, Marilee, accessed August 25, 2017|Hanson, Marilee. “Manfred – Lord Byron Poem” https://englishhistory.net/byron/poems/manfred/, March 2, 2015

Wikipedia contributors, “Lord Byron,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lord_Byron&oldid=796893308(accessed August 25, 2017)

Lord Byron in Albanian dress, painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813. Venizelos Mansion, Athens (the British Ambassador’s residence) via Wikimedia Commons, accessed August 25, 2017.

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#FlashFictionFriday: Oregon Sunset (reprise)

We sat on the beach near the fire,

Two old people bundled against the cold Oregon sunset.

Friends we’d never met fished the surf,

Children and dogs ran at waves’ edge.

Red sky, red mist, red sunset. Fire, water, wind, and you.

 

Wind whipped my hair, gray and uncut,

Tore it from its inept braid,

August wind, chill inside my hood, but I remained,

Pleased to be with you, and pleased to be on that beach.

 

The sea roared loud, filling my ears,

My blood and

My heart,

And where ever you are that is my beach,

My ocean, my sunset.

 

Mist rose with the tide, closed in and enfolded us,

Blotting out the falling stars and,

Laughing at our folly,

We dragged our weary selves back to our digs,

Rented, but with everything two old people needed.

 

The gas fire warmed me

And you warmed me,

And these memories warm me now

When snow blankets our inland valley

And Oregon seems far, far away.

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#FlashFictionFriday: Winter in the Northern Garden (reprise)

 

In winter, my Northern garden

Languishes, ragged and shabby,

Unlovely, decaying, and

Uncomfortably aware she’s grown old.

 

The remains of Summer’s glory beckons,

Begging to be told she is still beautiful,

Still young and fascinating,

Still the object of desire.

 

Ever the gallant gentleman,

Winter obliges, and with a kiss

Ice crystals decorate each twig and branch

Gracing her with radiant beauty.

 

Ruby-red barberries set against crystalline diamonds,

Ice catching the light, scattering it.

Jewels decorating decrepit limbs,

Dazzled, we bow to her wondrous splendor.

 

Beneath the litter of leaves dead and brown,

A new Spring waits,

Lurking in the wings, biding her time,

Politely allowing the old dame one last encore.


Credits and Attrributions

Winter in the Northern Garden © Connie J. Jasperson 2017, first appeared here on February 17, 2017

Suburban Garden, the Geograph project collection © by Ron Shirt and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

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