Middle Ages Rabbit Trail

September 10, 2010 @ 6:51 pm | Filed under: , , , ,

In no particular order, some books and links we’ve been enjoying this week:

Adam of the Road. Newbery-winning middle-grade novel by Elizabeth Janet Gray. We’re only on chapter three so I haven’t much to share about it yet, but it’s delightful so far. Young Adam’s father is Roger the minstrel, and Roger has been off at a respected minstrel school in France while Adam’s attending school at St. Alban’s. And now Roger’s coming back, and I’m guessing from the title that Adam’s hopes will be fulfilled and he’ll be accompaning his father on a journey. Loads of good rich detail here, including, in today’s chapter:

Sumer Is Icumen In,” a very old English round which I remember learning in a college poetry class. We had to memorize it in Middle English. (I can also still recite the opening of The Canterbury Tales, thanks to Prof. Kraus.) The modern English translation of “the bullock sterteth, the bucke verteth” had, naturally, my nine- and twelve-year-old daughters in hysterics. Scatological humor has no statute of limitations.

I only knew it as a poem, not a musical round, so of course we had to turn to YouTube for help. Here’s a pretty rendition, and here’s a sound file with sheet music for two parts.

Beanie reread the St. Alban chapter of Our Island Story to refresh her memory of that tale, since the book opens on the feast of St. Alban in the town of St. Albans. On a walk, Adam and his friend Perkin pass the crumbling remains of the old Roman buildings from centuries past, and we found pictures of these at Wikipedia.

We’ve been reading bits of Gombrich’s A Little History of the World as well as sections of The Rule of St. Benedict. I looked all over for our copy of The Sailor Who Captured the Sea, a lavishly illustrated picture book that tells the story of the Book of Kells, but it hasn’t turned up yet. (We read it a few months back, though. It’s around somewhere.) Sister Wendy’s The Story of Painting has a nice section on the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

We keep returning to this Society for Creative Anachronism Flickr pool for illuminated manuscripts. I am repeatedly astonished by the lovely things people can make. Beanie shares my fascination and is eager to try some of the tutorials at the Gutenberg School for Scribes, another SCA gem.

I had the pleasure of seeing this scroll (scroll down, no pun intended) up close in real life at our visit to Sandra Dodd’s house in Albuquerque last month. It’s a marvel. (I am still kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures during that visit. It was a good lesson for me—I kept my camera close at hand for the whole rest of the trip!)

Yesterday, by chance, Rilla pulled Barbara Cooney’s picture book Chanticleer and the Fox off the shelf, based of course on the Chaucer tale. We meant to read that (again) today but we got distracted by our old timeline, the one Jane and I began in New York in the year 2000 and which graced our wall for the four years we lived in Virginia, filling up with colorful entries. It has been in a roll on top of a cabinet the whole time we’ve lived here in California because I couldn’t find wall space for it. Too many bookcases! But today it occurred to me that it would fit in the living room/dining room if we stretched it all the way across the fireplace. It just barely fits—the dinosaurs wound up tucked behind some bookshelves, but we know they’re there.

ETA: More links & books I forgot in the comments.

Related posts:
Books about the Middle Ages
Heraldry & Illumination Links

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16 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Melissa Wiley says:

    Also inspired by Phoebe’s thoughts on sewing medieval garb for her gang!

  2. Melissa H says:

    Oh, I have been wanting to make a go down the hall or around the room timeline of everything. Mostly for me (my knowledge of history is downright embarrassing) but I could use the kid as a cover 😉 I’d love to see a photo of your timeline now that it’s back on the wall!

  3. Mamalion says:

    And is Gombrich working for you? I was disappointed to find that none of my kids enjoyed it. We LOVE Hillyer, and I was hoping for a little older rendition, but no such luck. We also didn’t care for Genevieve Foster’s books.

  4. sarah says:

    Dreat boiks! Er … i shouldn’t type one-handed while lying down. I meant to say, great books! We miss our timeline. I’d love to see a picture of yours.

  5. Kathryn says:

    Small world … dh works in St Albans, and we nearly bought a house there back in 1991. It fell through at the last minute and we ended up here instead. It is a lovely city – very expensive though! Large parts of the abbey church (now an Anglican cathedral) were built using bricks from the ruins of Roman Verulamium. You can see them in the tower and the darker coloured section of the building around it. There is a nice clear picture on the cathedral website: http://www.stalbanscathedral.org/. We once went on a homeschooling group field there where we got to do fun things like dress up and act out the story of St Alban and make “medieval” floor tiles.

  6. Penny in VT says:

    We enjoyed Adam of the Road here, and can I tell you I thought you wrote ‘Middle Aged? in your post title. I was expecting a book list about … well, I don’t know what – but it would have been interesting! Not that this one wasn’t… lol

    We also enjoyed Jim Weiss’ audios about the middles ages, and, of course, David Macauley’s Castle. Aliki’s A Medieval Feast (or something like that) was interesting too. Lots of good stuff for this tie period!

  7. Penny in VT says:

    Sorry about all the typos. I had been awake approximately 2 minutes when I wrote that. It shows.

  8. Ellie says:

    I read this as “middle aged” rabbit trail and I thought, oh — she’s feeling middle aged … And see here, you haven’t written about visiting Sandra Dodd!

  9. Melissa Wiley says:

    Well, I *did* get bifocal contact lenses yesterday. So I’m on the middle-aged rabbit trail, all right… 😉

    Re visiting Sandra: it was such fun! My post about the visit (day two of our trip) has been sitting in drafts for two weeks now. Will I ever finish? Sandra invited us to stop at her place on our way east, since our route was taking us right through her town. She made a fabulous monkey platter for my kids. That was the day I lost my voice—utterly—and couldn’t speak above a whisper. We had a wonderful time there. I’ll try to get that post finished!

  10. Melissa Wiley says:

    Kathryn, how very cool!! Thanks for the links. Can’t wait to show the pix to the kids.

    In the reenactment, how does the head-rolling-into-the-well part happen? 😉

  11. Melissa Wiley says:

    Mamalion, we’ve only read a tiny bit of the Gombrich so far—started in the middle, fall of Rome, Attila the Hun, and then this week the “Starry Night” chapter about St. Benedict. So far they are liking it, in these wee doses at least.

  12. Hannah says:

    Very cool. We’re starting back into the Middle Ages as well, and Ian (10) is really enjoying Greenleaf Press’s Famous Men of the Middle Ages. I’ll try him out on Adam of the Road. Can’t wait to get into all the other great books and visit the Renaissance Fair (hopefully in costume) this fall.

    That “Summer is Icumen In” song … argh this is bothering me … where did I just read that? It was in a book I read aloud to the girls and I had no idea how to sing it. This is going to bug me until I remember. Maybe I’ll go take a shower; that’s where I do my best thinking. 🙂

  13. Melissa Wiley says:

    Hannah, Famous Men of the Middle Ages is a delight, isn’t it! The Nibelungen chapter launched us on a Siegfried/Valkyries trail last week & early this week. I forgot to include that above! We’ve been reading the Siegfried chapters in installments, looking up art online, and listening to bits of the Wagner.

    Young Adam sings Sumer Is Icumen In in Chapter 2 of ADAM OF THE ROAD. That’s where we came across it.

    I also forgot the little side-exploration of the Four Horsemen that cropped up when we were looking at illuminated manuscripts online. There was a Pale Rider decoration on one page—a Dies Irae, I think, on Wyn the Wayward’s site, a modern SCA scroll—and Beanie was intrigued, and that led to looking up more examples of depictions on old manuscripts, and reading the Revelation passage, etc.

    Oh and a cool example of what Mental Multivitamin describes as synchronicity/serendipity/synthesis: yesterday when we were looking at Sumer Is Icumen clips on Youtube, the sidebar showed a number of links to Dies Irae clips.

    Oh how I love a good rabbit trail!

  14. Amy C. says:

    Hooray! We’re stcking a toe into the Midde Ages here, too. l love the suggestions. I’m especially glad for the reminder about “Summer is Icumen in” and must recommend one of my favorite romps through history: Richard Thompson’s “1000 Years of Popular Music.” This CD was the result of a Playboy Magazine survey, asking several musicians to name the top ten songs of the millenium. Thompson took the question seriously. 🙂 The CD and DVD performance ranges from “Summer is Icumen in” to “Oops I did it Again” with plenty of enjoyable stops in between.

  15. Keri says:

    Pics of your time line pretty please and maybe a little bit of how to?

  16. Kathryn says:

    I think they glossed over the head-in-well bit. Health and safety doesn’t permit the actual killing of children even in the cause of a good story. They settled for a bit of dramatic dying instead :).