Monday, November 4, 2013

The Boasting

I’m teaching a curriculum called Omnibus at a classical Christian academy. We are studying some of the world’s great literature, and among such is the classic, Beowulf.

I hated Beowulf when I was in high school, and I promised my students I would make it interesting for them. I found on the Internet another teacher’s plans in which the teacher challenged his students to create a “heroic boast.” As found in Beowulf (ll. 114-116, 173-198, 236-264, 630-649), such a boast consisted of three elements in which the speaker tells 1) who he or she is,  2) geographical origins such as place of birth and 3) why he or she is fit for the challenges ahead. In addition, it was to contain alliteration (repetition of initial sounds) and kennings (example: calling a the sea a “whale-road” and the sun a “sky-candle.”)

My students found it great fun and participated enthusiastically in making their boasts, which I encouraged them to embellish and exaggerate for effect (did you see the beowulfian alliteration there?) Only one student hesitated, saying she wasn’t sure if it was right to lie.

I asked her if she ever composed short stories, and if they were factual or from her imagination, and she then saw the point and raved about herself.

(Photo courtesy of Saavm from stock.xchng) 

Now, oh novelmatterians who likewise lie for fun and financial gain, let’s temporarily put aside all vestiges of proper Christian modesty for the sake of stretching our literary muscles. (God will forgive us this time—after all, anything we accomplish He has given us strength to do, right?)

I challenge thee to a duel!   A duel of beowulfian boasts!
And I begin with my own!

I am Celeste Latayne Colvett Scott,
key-striker of all genres
(many of which are somewhat marketable),
and curious seeker into all mysteries of souls and soteriology.

I was born in the City of Sacred Faith,
In a nunnery-nativity,
An early abortion escapee
And am descended from Daughters of the Revolution,
Thieves and thugs, and apothecaries and sharecropper agriculturalists
And musicians--honeytonk and harmonica;
And a considerable and documented number of crazies.

Life-tasks are mine for the taking.
Before me are life and death issues, literary and dreams.
I have been book-baked and trial-trampled:
Two times in burning theaters yet unscorched,
Swimming pool-perished and resuscitated,
And submerged in medicine-houses again and again
As payer, not patient; pray-er and palliative.
And I have continued in connubials for forty summer-returns.

I have climbed the guard tower at Guantanamo.
I have watched a fire extinguished in the engine of my sky-boomerang.
I have backpacked to the biggest state stone-mound, and back.
I have birthed babies, untimely ripped, unusual and extraordinary as adults now.

I once pecked at paper. Now pixels and MP3s convey my constructed conundrums.
I roar
I roar
I roar without fear of the future!

Now, be brave!  It's your turn!


Susie Finkbeiner said...

Okay. Okay. I'll bite. But this counts for NaNoWriMo, right?

I be Susie Marie of the Riggs line married into the Finkbeiner Family.
Writer of novels. Weaver of tales. Wonderer of words.

Wrought in the palm of Michigan's hand
Whilst blizzard blanketed the land.
Descendant of author and sometime postal worker,
Artist and most time administrative assistant.
Immigrants and Germans and Jews and Protestants
The leaves on the tree of heritage.

Trained in the classics.
Sophocles and Shakespeare and Dostoevsky.
Enamored of the Americans.
Steinbeck and O'Connor and Lee.
Studied their words. Stories. Craft.
Ventured my own.
Pushed it to fly.
Tried another. And another.
And more still to come.

Out from mire and wreckage.
Seeing glory and light and wonder.
Marveled by mercy and gobsmacked by grace.
Looking back to the thrashing,
The frantic struggle.
Writing it. The pain.
Tapping it out on keyboard. The tension of determination.
Scratching it on paper with pen of purple. The victory of daily waking eyes.

Katherine Scott Crawford said...

This is AWESOME. And what a perfect teaching tool, too. I skipped the class in which we learned Beuwolf (and the term paper) in high school, but I remember all my friends moaning and groaning about learning it. If only they'd had this!

Interestingly enough, it sounds much like Native American--and Celtic, too--"death songs": the songs a person and/or his or her friends sing as he or she is dying to account of all their deeds in life. Very cool.

Latayne C Scott said...

Susie, I love that!!! Great job!

And Katherine, very perceptive insights. I'd like perhaps to include more about my faith, if it were to be sung as a death song.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Latayne, you're amazing. plain and simple.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I love this! Your boast put me on my feet, cheering and exalting. I have tried a little rhyme like Suzie but am not up to her standards! Ah! I need me some Beowulf! Then I'd get the rhythm....

I am Henrietta forged on the banks of the Sea of the Franks,
Shield Warden of Warriors who tossed and crossed greater
sea monster-mills to conquer the Light Crushing Continent.
A Voortrekker Valkyrie
in my ancestral tree met a spot-furred feline in her kitchen, wrapped her hands around its throat and choked the breath from its lungs.
When I foray in Fish Creek I warn the wares and the wolves to run for their lives lest a similar fate befall them.
I have gripped the Globe Girth 7 times and my feet have moved on 3 different Mantle Riders.
I charm the Chromatic Champions of Melody and divulge their deep mysteries to manifold munchkins in secret sessions of faith.
I am a fantasy builder, a wringer of wrath and wrapper of love, a conjurer of character and plot.

Latayne C Scott said...

Love it, Henrietta! I think you need to 'splain some of them, though!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Corrections: (because my mind won't let go)

Grappled the Globe's Girth seven times since my birth.
Hitched my hut to Mantle-Riders, three.

And that part about Fish Creek (that's the place Megan and her munchkins went bear hunting with bows and arrows) was weak. How about:
Fend for myself on Canadian Veld.

Megan Sayer said...

Haha, these are so much fun! I love it.

Here's my contribution:

I am Megan, descended from the warrior tribe of the Crooked Nose, but rent from history's page and born in darkness under the shadow of Wellington, the Great Rocktroll.
I have fought the Giant Nab and won back his coveted treasure, then harnessed the metal eagle and soared my tribe to grander lands beyond the stretch of dreams. We have stood now on giant sods and worn the coveted ears of mouse.

Okay so I ignored all the rules and wrote it how I wanted, but gee it was fun! Thanks for the chance to play today.

Latayne C Scott said...

Sharon, mwah, mwah, mwah. Love you dearly.

Henrietta, I like the revisions. You have a fertile mind, girl!

Megan, it was such a pleasure to meet you recently. And your boast makes me appreciate you even more!

Latayne C Scott said...

Those of you who wrote cryptically, would you like to explain?

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful!

qv: Beowulf means "the bear", it was a battle-title.
Arthur means "the bear", it was a battle title.
there was a historic Wiglaf alive around 512 in Britain who claimed descent from one of Beowulf's companions...the Pictish name: Guinevere is in fact the title of a priestess who being the daughter of the last king would choose the new king and marry him. There is a hint of this having happened sometime in the early-mid 400s right around or soon after the Romans left Britain. Guinevere's nearest matching name is: Wealthrow.
It is just thinly possible that Beowulf and King Arthur have a common story root.
Can't cite the site where I found this as it comes up 404...

Latayne C Scott said...

Interesting tie-in! Thank you!

Jennifer Major said...


I am Jennifer, born in Spring, in a time of darkness. I am descended from great warrior tribes of distant and disparate lands, the Celts, the Cree and the forged Metis. I and my kin were left under a tree and rescued by those who should have been more, but gave just enough that I know what makes a lifetime cold or warm.
I have stood at heights that ailed my mind and heart and swam through rivers so mighty, none will ever know all its source, other than to say that in its depths, tribes still walk who will never see the world.
I say what I wish to be, and be what I know I can.

No time will take my King from me, as the star are His toys, and I am His friend.

Latayne C Scott said...

Love it, Jennifer!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Late night explanation?

Sea of the Franks:Frankensee

Shield Warden of Warriors:armour bearer

sea monster-mills: the Ocean

Light Crushing Continent: Africa.

A Voortrekker Valkyrie: Afrikaans pioneer woman

Spot-furred feline: leopard.

Wares and the wolves: Canadian wildlife.

the Globe Girth:the equator

Mantle Riders:continents

Chromatic Champions of Melody:piano keys

manifold munchkins:students

Secret sessions of faith:.piano lessons.

I am a fantasy builder, a wringer of wrath and wrapper of love, a conjurer of character and plot: Writing is all about emotion.And lying:)
Does this help? Thanks for the fun!

Latayne C Scott said...

Great! Thank you so much!

Latayne C Scott said...
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