My definition of bard

Dave & Laura McKinstry dalm at
Thu Sep 7 19:39:00 PDT 1995


Like Erin, I call myself a bard, and I personally define "bard" by what I
do, as well as what I understand the purpose of bards to have been (though
the kings have, in the absence of bards, found other advisors, so it is
rarely possible to be a true bard in the historical sense.)

My persona is Irish, and one of the examples I follow are the bards that
advised kings - so well, in fact, that Queen Elizabeth was known to say
"Kill all bards, where and when you find them" and also had their harps
burned - as many as 1500 at a time.  I don't know if it did much for the war
she was waging, but it sure made the bards scarce for qute some time.  Much
was lost.

Also, there was O'Carolan, who was a noble that fell blind, therefor learned
to play a harp, and went from place to place playing his music for patrons,
from whence we get his "Planxtys" (the most apparently sensible translation
of which is "Thanks be to you.")

Finally, the Irish storytellers and songsmiths who went from town to town,
bringing news of the crop in Sligo, or the hanging in Kildorry.  Or the man
who singlehandedly saved an entire town from being overrun by enemy
soldiers. See the flash foreground scene early on in "Rob Roy" where, after
Rob has come back from chasing a small band of rogues off, his friend tells
the tale to the children of the village with fluorish. Notice there are
adults standing around behind the children, just as interested in the story.

I consider my task not only to entertain, but to educate, and to bring
history alive.  I expect, once I am skilled enough, to lend my services to
the kingdom to sing ballads to the populace (it was once just the nobles who
were taught history, but this is, after all, the SCA, so we all deserve the
education) and teach us of OUR history.  I've begun crafting a ballad
regarding a momentous event that came to fruition at our last crown list,
and have begun another about the insignia on a coat of arms that has been
imbued with a great deal of meaning by the lord that bears it. WHile I will
always play the minstrel as well, wandering from camp to camp and palying
songs for those who wish it, it is in our history, and the telling of it,
that I find the most reward.  This is us.  This is what we do.  This is who
we are. What are we but a gathering of people if we don't know our history?
THe usurper to the crown in Trimaris that was played out a year ago over a
three-day weekend; the dragon that has threatened a southern barony for
months on end. I will create songs to commemorate those events that I find
important, and those events I witnessed, those events I am aware of and
amazed at, that no one else has recorded.  THen I will sing them that others
may learn of them.

I see it as a blend.  Bring music and entertainment into people's lives, and
educate them while they aren't paying attention to the fact. And, of course,
get them dancing in the evenings. THen sing lullabies to the children at the
end of the day. And if you find a patron, by all means, camp with them and
accept their food! Then write them a Planxty. 

Lark of Cire Freunlaven

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