Skaldic Poetry and The Skaldic Project

Although my internship is over, I couldn’t resist sharing this new site I found with the rest of you. While looking for Arthurian manuscripts, I stumbled across a website called The Skaldic Project. On their homepage, they describe themselves as “an international project to edit the corpus of medieval Norse-Icelandic skaldic poetry.” They are also the writers of the series Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, a nine-volume compilation of Skaldic poetry. Five of those nine volumes have been published, and three are available on their website.

Now some of you are presumably thinking, “But wait. What is skaldic poetry?” I’m glad you asked! This is actually the topic of one of the pages on the website, linked here if you want to read more. In general, early Scandinavian poetry can be split into eddic and skaldic poetry. However, both these are modern terms.

There are several different ways to find what you’re looking for on the website. First, there’s an index of first lines.

The first lines are categorized by the first letter of the first line. The letters are on the left, and the number of first lines are on the right. If you click on a letter, it then brings you to a page where you can see all the first lines under each letter. An important note is that most letters with accent marks such as “a” and “á” are considered separate letters and lead to separate pages.

Once you go to each page, it brings you to a handy listing of all first lines starting with that letter. And if you accidentally clicked on the wrong letter, no worries! Simply click on the words next to the arrow up top that read “first lines,” and you’ll go back to the list of first letters.

Say you’re looking for all the poetry by a specific skald. There’s another directory listing all skalds alphabetically. Like the previous directory, you have to be careful about any accents on the name.

Also like the previous directory, you can see that the righthand column lists how many poems in the corpus are attributed to each skald.

If you click on the name of a skald, it redirects you to a page with additional information on the skald and poetry. If the skald’s poems are included in multiple different texts, these are all listed as collapsible headers. As always, on the righthand side there is a number of how many poems are included in each. At the bottom is any other relevant information about the skald.

There are additional directories for Manuscripts, Poems (including only named poems), Prose Works, and Runic Poetry. The first three are lists, just like the lists of First lines and Skalds. The latter, however, is split into several different sections.

If you are looking for any runic poetry, you can search based on period, region, siglum, or place.

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Mystery Monday: Stenent

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Sometimes it feels like obscure 16th C English names are the most obscure of all, their obscurity magnified by our familiarity with the language and context in which they occur. Such a name is today’s mystery name:

Stenent

Just, what, uh, hmm? Is it a scribal error? An editorial error? A weird made-up name? A transferred surname? (would be very odd, that). We have zero idea, which makes this a perfect mystery to include in our list. If you have any thoughts, please share in the comments! We’d love to know.

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Solution Saturday: Dywa

Every Saturday, we will revisit one of our Mystery Monday names that we have solved. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed their knowledge and expertise, whether commenting here or on twitter or via email. You’ve all helped solve a mystery!

Today’s name is one that we’d originally identified as feminine, but turns out to be masculine! The name is Dywa, and our thanks to Brian M. Scott who connected the dots from Dywa to Tiva to Protiva, a name which we also had an entry for, under the less-Latin/more-Czech spelling Protywa.

So there we have a part-solution, at least — we can combine the entries for Dywa and Protywa. In the comments on the post linked above, a suggestion is given for the origin of Protiva, which we will file away and follow up on and hopefully in the future an entry for Protiva will debut on the Dictionary.

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Hello, I’m Zeal-of-the-land Busy: Satire and Puritan Names

Earlier this summer, I did a lot of research with Dr. Uckelman about Protestant names and Puritan names. Much of the evidence supported Dr. Uckelman’s theory that Puritan names were less common than many believe, and definitely less common than the more general Protestant names that appeared across many countries. It seems England simply didn’t transform its naming pattern much more than any other Reformed country.

But why then, did these “Puritan” names leave such a distinctive mark on onomastic impressions? Certainly, they are distinctive enough to stand out in a person’s memory, but every culture has some proportion of distinctive names. Not every culture warrants books discussing the strangeness of their names, as in C. W. Bardsley’s The Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. 

Percy Scholes provides his interpretation of this phenomenon in his book, The Puritans and Music in England and New England.  

“I should suppose that the whole of this legend about Puritan names comes from the public’s acquaintance with that popular figure Praise-God Barebone plus dim recollections of Mr. Zeal-of-the-Land Busy in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair and perhaps one or two other characters of pre-and-post-Commonwealth plays” (115). 

“Praise-God Barebone,” one of the few real occurrences we can evidence of a Puritan name, is distinctive, but fairly tame in comparison to the over-the-top names people seem to associate with Puritans. This suggests to me that Scholes is more on the money with the influence of satire. He minimizes his interpretation of its influence, pointing to “dim recollections” of two or three plays, but we have evidence that Puritan names were mocked in satire much more frequently than this. 

Stephen Wilson also discusses satire against Puritans in The Means of Naming, and quotes Bardsley’s own discussion of plays by “Ben Jonson, Cowley, and Beaumont” (Wilson 195),  but Bardsley positions these satires as an effect of the Puritan naming trend, rather than a cause of its perceived prevalence. 

Bardsley suggests hypothetical names that probably inspired the satirists, such as “Search the Scriptures Robinson” (185), but provides no evidence that such names actually existed. Was Bardsley misled by the very satire he sought to study?

Let’s take a look at the plays Bardsley mentions. He interprets them as evidence for actual Puritan naming trends, but satire intentionally distorts and exaggerates the features of its targets. I think we should consider these plays as a possible explanation for why Bardsley and others could mistakenly see Puritan naming trends as more prevalent than they really were. 

Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist— “Tribulation Wholesome, our very zealous pastor” (Wilson 195)

Here, the inclusion of the epithet “our very zealous pastor” clarifies Jonson’s strong satiric intent. Pairing the name with an obviously satiric and exaggerated epithet– (I doubt any Puritans literally referred to their pastors this way)– indicates that the name is likely also exaggerated for satire.

Additionally, “Tribulation” is overtly negative, a common trait of Puritan names as defined by Bardsley; however, many recorded Puritan names were fairly positive, including “Believe, Increase, [and] Remember” (Wilson 194). These positive Puritan names rarely come up in discussions of Puritan strangeness, and tellingly, they rarely come up in satire either. 

Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair— “Zeal-of-the-land Busy” and child “Win-the-Fight” (Wilson 195)

These names sound like real Puritan names with their dashes and prescriptive sentiments, but they connote more power and initiative than many actual Puritan names do. They encourage their bearers to fight and work hard, whereas most recorded Puritan names focused on obedience to God. The closest real name I could find was “Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith” (Wilson 194), which emphasizes the religious nature of the fight with two words, “good” and “faith,” notably missing from the satiric version.

Jonson uses names that sound to the ear like Puritan names but lack the spiritually meaningful content. This allows him to show the ridiculousness of the Puritan’s seemingly grand and prescriptive names once religion is removed from the equation. But if the author intends to portray the names as ridiculous, we should hesitate to consider them indicative of real Puritan names. 

Abraham Cowley’s The Cutter of Coleman Street— “Fear-the-Lord Barebottle” based on the real “Praise-God Barebone” (Bardsley 190)

Cowley provides perhaps the most obvious evidence that satire greatly exaggerated Puritan naming customs by including a name based on a specific real one with comical exaggeration. “Praise-God Barebone” becomes “Fear-the-Lord Barebottle,” a name that more aptly demonstrates supposed Puritan naming customs than the real inspiration. The name is longer, now with the word “the,” better fulfilling the wordy nature often attributed to Puritan names. The sentiment also turns from positive and reverential to prescriptive and intimidating, indicating the harsh and severe nature people often assume in Puritan names. 

Here, a satiric, fictional version of a Puritan name better matches the Puritan name stereotype than the real Puritan name does. To me, that suggests that the cultural conception of Puritan names stemmed from the satire written about them rather than the other way around. Perhaps we would not consider Puritan names so onomastically significant and distinct from other Protestant names if not for the likes of Jonson and Cowley. 

Bonus question

John Fletcher’s Women Pleased— “Hope-on-High Bomby” (Bardsley 189)

Bardsley considers this play very strong evidence of Puritan naming trends.

“[There] is no exaggeration of name, for we have Help-on-High Foxe to face Hope-on-High Bomby. The Rector of Lydney would be about twenty-five when this play was written, and may have suggested himself the sobriquet. The names are all but identical” (189). 

I would disagree with this last point, as “Bomby” has arguably more comedic value than “Foxe,” but otherwise this is indeed an example of satire including a realistic Puritan name. Unfortunately, I am having trouble finding evidence of a real  “Help-on-High.” Has anyone found record of a person with such a name? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Citations

  • Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London, Chatto and Windus, 1888. Accessed via Internet Archive.
  • Scholes, Percy Alfred. The Puritans And Music In England And New England: a Contribution to the Cultural History of Two Nations. London, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1934. Accessed via HathiTrust.
  • Wilson, Stephen. “First Names 1500– 1900: I.” The Means of Naming. UCL Place, 1998, pp. 185-214. Accessed via ProQuest Ebook Central.

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Farewell to our interns!

September is here, summer is over, and we must now say farewell to our wonderful interns, Sidney, Adelia, Juliet, and K.J. Over the last couple of months, they have looked up etymologies, created place-holder entries, updated the Mystery Monday index and also went through ALL the comments that these posts have received either on the blog or on twitter and made a list of possibly-solved names for me to go through and review, converted all my random notes about possible sources into a Zotero library, made an extensive list of names found in Arthurian literature AND a list of the manuscripts that the various pieces of literature occur in, made a list of where in the Bible all our Biblical names are found, and looked up the spellings of those names in the Vulgate and in the Wycliffite translation, updated our list of events pages, read and summarised articles on Portestant and Puritan names, took over our social media accounts, wrote blog posts, adapted to remote working during a pandemic (and at least two multi-day power/internet outages), and took on the challenge of doing a research internship in a field about which none of them knew much at all before the beginning of the summer. There’s probably more that I’m not remembering at the moment!

It’s been truly great having them, and we wish all four the best of luck in their future endeavours. We are also super pleased that Adelia will be staying on at least through fall term, so look out for more posts from her!

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Mystery Monday: Raczko

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name is a masculine diminutive found in the Czech Republic:
Raczko

But what is it a diminutive of? One possibility is Radoslav, a moderately popular name throughout Eastern Europe. But perhaps something else that we haven’t thought of — do you have a suggestion? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Perteiza

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s mystery is from late 16th C Somerset, and is as far as we can tell a hapax legomenon: We’ve found three records of the name, all to the same person. Perteiza Batten, daughter of Launcellott was christened in Bruton in 1592 (that’s the instance we have in our data). She married Willm. Harlidg in 1608/9, and then in 1638, Wm son of Wm. and Perteza Harledg was buried.

A search of google returns no use of this as a name other than by this woman.

Where on earth did Launcellott Batten find this name? We searched the rest of the register to see if the names of his family members could provide any clue, but didn’t find much. He married Agnes Beastley in 1588, and their first daughter, Joan, was born a year later. Then came Perteiza, Mary in 1594, and Edith 1596. A fifth daughter, Elizabeth, was born and buried in 1599, and he himself died in 1608/9, a month after Perteiza’s marriage.

All the rest of the names are utterly unexceptional in 16th C England. Whither Perteiza? This may be one mystery we never crack.

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Solution Saturday: Liawiso

Every Saturday, we will revisit one of our Mystery Monday names that we have solved. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed their knowledge and expertise, whether commenting here or on twitter or via email. You’ve all helped solve a mystery!

Today’s solved mystery is the name Liawiso.

Many thanks to those who tracked down variants of this name (including a connection to the Latin Libentius!) and independently identified it with Gothic liufs, Old High German liob, liab ‘dear, loved’. This name will appear in the next edition, under the header Liebizo!

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Searching for Arthurian Manuscripts: German Edition

One of the projects my fellow interns and I have been working on is making a list of names in Arthurian literature and finding relevant manuscripts. A couple weeks ago, my fellow intern Adelia made a post about the website arthurianfiction.org. This website has been invaluable when we’re looking for manuscripts. However, the information isn’t always the most up-to-date. However, when it comes to German manuscripts, I found the website handschriftencensus.de. Unfortunately, the website is entirely in German.

Now, if you’re like me and don’t speak a lick of German, that might be discouraging. But not to worry! I’m going to go through how I’ve been using it to find manuscripts. A huge perk of learning how to use this site is that you don’t have to look through a bunch of German-language websites to find the manuscript you want. If you can find the manuscript on the Handschriftencensus website (literally “manuscript census”), it often includes a link to any digitization.

On the front page of the website, you will see the following header:

hc 1

You’ll see that I’ve highlighted the section titled “Verzeichnisse” (“Directories”). If you hover over this, you’ll see the following options:

hc 2

Here you want to click on the option “Autoren/Werke” (“Authors/Works”). This will bring you to a long page that has all works in alphabetical order. The title of each is often in the format Author’s name: Name of work. Next to each title is a number in parentheses followed by the word “Eintrag” or “Einträge” (“Entry”/”Entries”). This tells you how many manuscripts the Handschriftencensus has on record for each work. As an example, we’re going to look at Gottfried von Straßburg’s Tristan.

hc 3

Since I knew the title of the work that I was looking for, I used Ctrl+F to search for the word “tristan.” If you are using a Mac, this might be Command+F instead. In parentheses next to the title, it says “30 Einträge,” which lets us know that there are 30 entries on the site. When we click on the name of the work, it brings us to a page with all the manuscripts listed.

hc 4

The entries are color-coded depending on if they are a more complete manuscript or a fragment of one. From here, I’m clicking on the entry “Berlin, Staatsbibl., mgf 640” to go to the information page. The information page appears as follows:

hc 5

As you can see, I have certain words highlighted. The first of these, Aufbewahrungsort, tells us where the manuscript is located and under what shelf mark.

The next, Inhalt, tells us what the manuscript contains. In the case of this manuscript, there are several different works within it. When there are multiple works, the Handschriftencensus lists in which part of the manuscript each work can be found. I’ve underlined in red the relevant portion of this manuscript.

The third, Entstehungszeit, tells us when the manuscript was written. This manuscript has a specific year, 1461, but often the year is an approximation. You might see something like “2. Hälfte 14. Jh.,” “2. Drittel 13. Jh.,” or “um 1300.” If the entry says “um 1300,” this means it was written around the year 1300. If it says “13. Jh.,” this means it was written in the 13th century. “Hälfte,” “Drittel,” and “Viertel” mean “half,” “third,” and “quarter,” respectively. Put this together and you get that “2. Hälfte 14. Jh.” means the second half of the 14th century, or 1350-1400.

The final one, Abbildung, is where any relevant links are put. For this manuscript there is a hyperlink on the word “Codex,” which will bring us to a digitization of the manuscript.

All screenshots and highlights are my own.

Busch, Nathanael, and Jürgen Wolf. Handschriftencensus, Philipps-Universität Marburg, 2017, http://www.handschriftencensus.de/.

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Mystery Monday: Omelki

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name is a 16th C Swedish masculine name recorded in Finland:

Omelki

This one is a true mystery: We don’t have any names that resemble it, no clue what it’s origin might be, and even searching for the string on google gets nothing useful. We know the chances that one of our readers will know something about the name are small, but we’re not going to pass up the opportunity to ask! If you have any thoughts at all, please share them in the comments!

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