Sunday, 6 October 2019

Aurelia Gabriana, Order of the Pelican, 2018

It was with honour when I, a humble poet, wrote to you once before on behalf of the crown. As you know, when I write I insert poetic quotes in my work, and try to create elegance in my words so that they would charm the ear. Now I move my pen to write to you again, Aurelia Gabriana, a woman of nobility whose righteousness is respected by all, at the bequest of our esteemed monarchs, Basiléus Evander and Basilissa Marioun, while we mark the anniversary of the passing of Emperor Leto II in the fifty-third year of our koino̱nía. Therefore, my friend, I need another kind of writing, another kind of urbanity in my words to speak on their behalf. I need a tongue—to tell the truth—that is filled with esprit. This then is the truth of things, in direct words. St. John Damascene once wrote of passions which could be overcome by virtues. They, our sovereigns, hold that you are an exemplar and paragon of those said merits. The first of these is the desire to serve, as you have done in so many ways. The second, compassion, which you show to all. Furthermore, your goodwill and love for all people; your joy; your patience and perseverance. Lastly is your way of doing good in secret; of despising boastfulness; and your humbleness. Therefore, due to these decent and noble traits, Evander and Marioun wish it known that they would raise you up so that henceforth you shall be known as a member of the Order of the Pelican. Your service shall stand a testament and will shine in glory through all eternity. This they told to me while the artisans of the kingdom gathered for the Queen’s Prize Tournament, in the Canton of Skeldergate.

Words by Maister Colyne Stewart, in the manner of a 12th century Byzantine epistle, as described by Margaret Mullett in the Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Letters of this period would have been around 400 words long, to fit on one page. They lacked formulaic openings and closings, and often were undated. They were written in elaborate prose, with an emphasis placed on the relationship between the sender and the recipient. Letters would have been sent by couriers and were often accompanied by poems, perfumes, gifts or food (the symbolism of the accompaniment sometimes connected thematically to the letter’s contents). Letters at this time letters would have been written in Greek

I based this wording in part on a letter by Niketas Magistros (a high ranking official in 10th and 11th century Byzantium (as quoted in Floris Bernard’s “Humor in Byzantine Letters of the Tenth to Twelfth Centuries: Some Preliminary Remarks”) and St. John Damascene’s “On the Virtues and the Vices” as collected in the Philokalia (a collection of spiritualist writings written between the 4th and 15th centuries).

Koino̱nía, is Greek for communion and community.

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