Contributor Notes

Kit Fryatt

Kit Fryatt

Translator’s Note: The poems from “Erscotz” are versions, respectively, of a lyric by the Comtessa de Dia (fl. 1170s) and of an anonymous 13th-century Occitan song whose speaker is an unhappily married woman.  I used the texts in Songs of the Women Troubadours (eds Bruckner, Shephard, White) to make these adaptations.  They carry the broad sense of the originals, with the greatest departure, I think, being in the second stanza of the Comtessa de Dia’s lyric. I am generally interested in poetry written in synthetic language or idiolect, but I cannot pretend that I had any systematic method in writing these.  There are precedents for the analogy between Occitan and Scots – for example, Dorothy L. Sayers translates Sordel’s dialogue into a rather kailyard Scots in her version of the Purgatorio – but since like all analogies it is problematic, and I am not a Scots speaker, I decided to sidestep the problems by writing in a language that never was spoke. “Gospel from the Waning Middle Ages” emerged from the reflection that I seem to know a disproportionate number of people who are both early modern literature and blues geeks.  These are loose translations, carrying the broad sense of Pernette de Guillet and Villon’s originals.  The idiom of the Villon translation is a synthetic blues idiom, meant to suggest the koine that has emerged as the result of the commercialisation and globalisation of the music. “Lock” is a version of Paul Celan’s ‘Die Schleuse’, made with the help of Michael Hamburger’s and (especially) John Felsteiner’s translations. It attempts to suggest, with neologism, some of the grammatical complexity of Celan’s original. The words ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Jiskor’ are not words that I, a non-Jew, could articulate; nor could I embody the loss that is suggested in his ‘Schwester’. I have left them as (I hope) respectful ellipses, but I’m far from certain that I’m improving on the blank page here.








from, Erscotz



after the Comtessa de Dia (fl.1175)



I’m fashin

myself oor yon hauflin

wantin to ken

(& no to) my passion.

Bauldnes has me undone

& huggen peine

anicht, abed alane

aa day, neuth my naprin.



quhen we twind

armis & legges naikid

I airlie scryd

I have made

a pilwe-bere for your wille-wand

how quik you were, quick dwind

& scunnerit hard.


Douce chevalier

I wish you in my pouer

& in my armis, but fear

I’m threwen oor.

My lawfu bed is dour

& fort wi peine. I’d liefer

have you there

then ony ─ docile fere.







after an anonymous 13th century Occitan lyric, ‘Coindeta sui’


I am fine & my hert grues

mairit to neither lack nor loue

I’m gey quik as I’m keen

─I’m fine─

nippy sweetie wee bit quean

─I’m fine─

I bood hae a man

whae dulls my sherp-set blues.

I am fine.


Gin I said I loued that yin

─I’m fine─

ye’d ken me mad & put me doon

─I’m fine─

quhen I mind him I crine

come friendly flux, come ague.

I am fine.


Upon harmonious thocht determine

─I’m fine─

my ain kin dearie at length returnin

─I’m fine─

that hope alone cannae abandon

greetin & soughin for my jo.

I am fine.


These words set to airs sae fine

─I’m fine─

cannae be lang til they catch on

─I’m fine─

the kittle lasses all amang

my strain renew.

I am fine.





Gospel from the Waning Middle Ages



after Pernette de Guillet (c.1520-45)

Dark the night, cold the ground;

earth and sky departed sight;

noon split rocks, still was I blind

to known faces – poor plight –

but dawn’s successive light

dropping serene, prismatic

makes me quick

dervishing raise


his praise.




after Francois Villon (1431-1463)


Po lil mama this one for you

to say it to the maw of us all

god knows I’ve done you wrong

and made you cry & moan

running you all over town

but I ain’t got no home

in this world any more— tho

for all that, mama, neither have you.


The Ballad

Dame taller than the sky, broad

as earth, swamp mama

let a lonesome soul bide

(tho I mounted to a lotta

nothin at all) with you awhile.

You got goodness by the ton

gainst my lil parcel of sin

but (straight up) without you say

can’t no one get no salvation

so a believer I’ll live & die.


Go tell your son I belong to him

he gon wash me clean

pray for me like you done

for gypsy Mary & that dumb

teller who went on down

the crossroads & sold his soul

hope I never do nothin so damfool

so sweet pure mama, wise

& gentle home of the faithful

a believer I’ll live & die.


Papa never taught me how to read

I don know nothin at all

ifn a po old woman like me don read

the painted pictures on the wall

at church my soul be lost

thru nobody’s fault but mine.

Hell a-fright me lady I want

my golden robe and crown

can’t no-one but you make them mine

so a believer I’ll live & die.


Fine high-steppin girl, you mama to our

Redeemer, who live forever.

You & he one blood, his the power

almighty, yourn the body he dwell inside.

That flesh body he done sacrifice

that we won’t burn po misrable sinners.

& a believer I’ll live & die.







after Paul Celan (1920-70)


Up and over all this

your travail : no





A mouth which

thousandsharded it

lost –

lost me a word

that had stopped with me




lost me a word

that had searched me




the clough needs must

pour a word back intover the siltstream

& out away across to wreck