Monday, 28 February 2011

Maple of the Whitewoods

Nyssa sylvatica, the black tupelo in autumn - by Jean-Pol Grandmont - released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Kateverse folk song. This one is from further afield than usual, hailing from the Freegarths of Starkady across the western ocean. Something like Vinland, something like the Russias, and something like the old Euro-American colonies, the Freegarths are the source of dragon-weed, dyes, spices, and tall tales told to credulous Easterners. I have one half-finished fairy-story set there, and it appears to be told by a credulous Easterner.

Starkady is Large. This is a wanderer's song from one of the colonies that don't do serfdom, and it's a little bit country. It came to me as I was taking a much-needed Sunday constitutional. I passed by a tousled cedar that was young and natty in my childhood, and Elizabeth Moon's fictional marching-song Cedars of the Valley began to play in my head. This very different ditty was the eventual upshot. It's sung quite fast, to some kind of plucky stringed instrument.

Maple of the Whitewoods

Maple of the Whitewoods, with honey in your sap,
Your camps are mighty cosy, but I miss my true love's lap!
Leshy of the maples, don't lead my feet to roam -
Your blizzards I can bear 'em, but my love is cold at home -
Ayoh, ayah!

Redwood of the Skyfalls, you rise to heaven's shore.
You tempt me to rise with you, but she tempts me all the more!
Leshy of the redwoods, don't lose me in the sky -
Your angels I can hear 'em, but I hear my true love sigh -
Ayoh, ayah!

Nyssa of the Gaygroves, with colours out of mind,
All wonders wind around you, but my love and I are twined!
Leshy of the nyssas, don't bind me with your charms -
Your planets I can hold 'em, but they ain't my lover's arms -
Ayoh, ayah!

Stonewood of the Badlands, the tree that stands a tomb,
Your shades are mighty scary, but I've dared a deeper gloom!
Leshy of the stonewoods, if you should drink my soul,
My love will come with all her kin, and smash you all to coal!
Ayoh, ayah!

Birch beneath my homeyard, the birch I love the best,
My flight has been a long one, but I'm coming back to nest!
Lady of the birches, as silver-sweet as they,
I'll bring our marriage-portion, and I'll never more away -
Ayoh, ayah!

Where are the equivalent of the American First Nations, or for that matter the Central Asian nomadic cultures, in Starkady? Loosely speaking, they exist and it's complicated. Most of what I think I know about them is probably wrong.

Nyssa is the black tupelo, or something very like it. I made that the vernacular name because it scans, and because it makes sense in a world once conquered by a guy with a Greek name, and in no way because I am any kind of raving fanboy. Planets is here a purely Starkadian concept which I nearly translated, less happily, as dreamworlds or visions. It would sound exactly as weird to any of the characters in my existing stories as it does to us.

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