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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Fawcon Carol


Falconry Book of Frederick II: Italian Miniaturist, 1240s, illumination (Biblioteca Apostolica, Venice)

Lully, lulley; lully, lulley;
The fawcon hath born may mak away.

He bare hym vp, he bare hym down;
He bare hym into an orchard brown.

In that orchard ther was an hall,
That was hangid with purpill and pall.

And yn that hall there was a bede;
Hit was hangid with gold so rede.

And yn that bed ther lythe a knyght,
His wowndes bledyng day and night.

By that bedes side kneleth a may,
And she wepeth both night and day.

And by that beddes side ther stondith a ston,
Corpus Christi
wretyn thereon. 

mak = mate 
may = maid

The Fawcon Carol: anonymous; text from E. K. Chambers: The Carol and Fifteenth-Century Lyric, in English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages (1945)
"This carol... probably of the fifteenth century... seems to have been suggested by some form of the legend of the Holy Grail. The Bleeding Knight is Christ, the 'may' is His mother, the 'falcon' is introduced apparently to suggest that the body of the person is a vision."

Edith Rickert, in Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (1914)

Falconry: French Miniaturist, c. 1180, illumination on parchment (Koninklijke, The Hague)

 Falcon: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 16th c., Gouache on parchment (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna)

Winter Landscape, Snow Effect: Paul Gauguin, 1888, oil on canvas, 72 x 92 cm (Museum of Art, Gothenburg)




Lully, lulley; lully, lulley;
The fawcon hath born may mak away.

A lovely carol on Christmas morning -- when "born" makes us think of "For unto you a child is born this day."

Meanwhile, Winter Landscape, Snow Effect giving way here to winter landscape, rain effect.


grey of rain cloud above shadowed green
ridge, golden-crowned sparrow’s oh dear
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

different conditions, given
origin of coordinates

components of gravitational
field, “matter,” that

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
sunlit white of gull on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Steve, every time I attempt to hobble out of the house the deluge resumes. This must mean something. Perhaps that I should no longer attempt to hobble out of the house. (Or that I ought to get better "coordinates"?)

The Fawcon Carol is surely one of the (perhaps two) best carols of the Fifteenth Century, which is saying something. Many are very wonderful. And this perhaps the most obscure.

The great expert on these things, E.K. Chambers, acknowledged the obscurity.

"This carol is in more than one way abnormal. The 'Lully' refrain seems inappropriate, since it is not a lullaby. And the chivalric setting is unusual. Oddly enough, three poems, evidently related to this carol, have come down to us in traditional forms. The earliest was reported by James Hogg, who was collecting material for Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border in 1802. The others turned up later in Staffordshire and Derbyshire. All are mainly in couplet form. The Scottish version has no refrain. In each of the English ones the couplets are preceded by a quatrain which may be meant for one. Between these two there is probably some relation, since each introduces a reference to the Glastonbury thorn, believe to have blossomed on the night of the Nativity. It has been suggested that the original carol had to do in some way with the legend of the Grail. This is rather a wild conjecture, since a Grail poem ought surely to have a Grail vessel in it, and there is none. Moreover, both English versions call the maiden the Virgin Mary. I do not myself see anything in the original but her grief for her son, imaginatively rendered."

TC said...

(As we can see, Chambers was disagreeing specifically with his scholarly predecessor and fellow expert Edith Rickert as to the phantom Grail reference.)

Nin Andrews said...

A beautiful bird, and that is an odd carol. Sad. Not sure I quite understand what it means . . .

But Merry Christmas all the same. Here it's the hush before the first big snow storm of the year. Or so I hear . . . forecasts being as unpredictable as the weather itself.

TC said...

Nin, yes, it's sometimes the best response to dwell in unknowing.

We saw on the weather channel the ominous white and green and yellow snakelike curving of Euclid up toward Lake Erie to be born... and thought of you.

(I imagined the pups in wee ski sweaters.)

tpw said...

Thanks, Tom. The carol is masterful, as are the visual works. I love the 15th century. Merry Christmas to you & thanks for providing us with all this amazing work throughout the year.

TC said...

Thanks Terry, for helping keep the side up -- and about the carols and the century, me too likewise.

There's a sublimely aethereal performance of Benjamin Britten's setting of this carol by a boy soprano with astonishing pipes:

Corpus Christi Carol, arr. by Benjamin Britten

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Thanks for this most unusual (and beautifully sung) carol.

Hazen said...

Interesting. Every narrative, story, tale, and myth that offers an alternate take on reality, the apologists of monotheism expropriate, then use to express the opposite of what the counter-narrative means. In this case they recuperate the story of The Fisher King and the Amfortas wound from which he suffers, the psycho-sexual affliction of the hyper male, the Top Dog in a system of patriarchy and hierarchy that has its vital source in monotheism, and which has sustained Western civilization for several thousand years, but which is now being replaced by something as yet undefined.

Mose23 said...

Britten's descending chords repeated match the spare beauty of the Carol perfectly.

Thanks, TC, for a post that fits this hard Winter very well.

TC said...

Indeed. The descending chords, the spare beauty, and the long descent that beckons. Beyond the hard winter... into something as yet undefined.