There is only one entry under “J” in William Packard’s The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices, but all is well. My inability to write anything illustrating the particular tradition described therein has led me back to an old mountain song my grandmother used to sing, to Peggy Seeger’s website, and, ultimately, to a new poem … and maybe even a series of new poems. Today’s device:
Jongleur: Roughly from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, throughout France and Tuscany and northern Italy, Jongleurs were entertainers (acrobats, actors, musicians, singers) who originally wandered from town to town offering their arts for a fee. Later, these Jongleurs became official fixtures of the various European courts as jesters, clowns, and reciters of poetry.
At first the Jongleur did not create his own poems but drew from a repertory of ballata and canti and chansons de geste, but by the twelfth century the minstrels or trouvères or Troubadours of Provencal and Tuscany were writing their own poems to be sung.
So, the Jongleur tradition is a tradition of sharing poems through song. Packard further explains, about the Troubadour:
The Troubadour poet (from tobar, to invent; also from trouvère, to find) usually sang of courtly love – the ethereal, extramarital praise of any Lady who inspired the poet to virtue and to moral excellence and achievement. Sometimes the Troubadour’s songs followed specific conventions, as the following list indicates:
canzo – song of love
balada – story in verse
plante – elegy or dirge for a lost lover
serenade – evening song
alba – dawn song, when lovers realize day has come and they must part
Yesterday, I shared a poem inspired by my grandmother. Most of the poems in my chapbook were inspired by her, and, lately, I have been thinking of her often. Today, in Packard’s work, I read about, among other things, poems to be sung, and I thought of my grandmother singing. The combination of Packard’s discussion about the Jongleur with my frame of mind today made me remember a sad song my grandmother used to sing: “The Ballad of Oma Wise,” sometimes known as “Omi” or “Naomi Wise.” The words can be found on Peggy Seeger’s site, linked above, and you can even hear a clip of Peggy singing part of the song if you visit her site.
In order to preserve the form of the poem and the line breaks, I have published it on my Writer’s Pages Annex blog, and you can read it here.
Thanks for reading.
[A quick note: I worked most of the day on this poem, then about 6:00 p.m., while preparing this post, I accidentally closed the poem without saving it. Ever. Not once. Oh, and I made that bonehead move after I wrote that excited first paragraph above about “all being well.” What you see is a reconstruction, a forced revision, and I can only pray the muses have conspired with the poem to make it something better than it was when I thought it was finished the first time.]