Eulogy is the word I'm looking for. "Elegiac poetry" is wisdom poetry, apparently. But it's sad wisdom, at least the ones I've read, so I had it confused. ...no, wait. "Elegy in a Country Churchyard"... bah, whatever an elegy or elegiac poem is, it is not a praise poem for a person. That's the word I need, and it's eulogy.
We have some extant eulogies:
- The Funeral of Scyld Scefling, the prologue to Beowulf. That was good king!
- Praise uttered about Beowulf after his defeat of Grendel and at his death
- A praise poem for Edgar's coronation, and a lament at his death. From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
- Project Gutenberg's Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In it are eulogies for Alfred (1036) and Edward (1065) as well as the above for Edgar. Unfortunately, the 19th century translator betook it upon himself to translate the original poems into rhymed couplets. I find it hard to believe that I do not have a copy of the Chronicle, but I think that may be the case. Perhaps it is time to remedy that.
These are all in "regular metre" according to Jeff Oplan in his Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry (1980); there are some other poems in the Chronicle in "irregular metre," whatever that might mean.
This group of poems [in the Chronicle], as far as we know without precedent in the written literature of the Anglo-Saxons, celebrates an event: they do not describe or tell the story of an event, but are produced on the occasion. They treat people (usually rulers) who are in the public domain, people known to audience and poet alike; they apportion praise and sometimes blame (...), they celebrate the deeds and achievements of their subjects, as well as their characters, in an elliptical, allusive, non-narrative style. They are, in short, eulogies, like those purveyed by Norse skalds and Xhosa iimbongi. (173)
Opland hypothesizes that the eulogistic form appeared (or reappeared) in England as the result of the Norse invasions and presence of Norse skalds (172-174). If necessary, some skaldic texts could then possibly be pressed into supporting service, but we have a pretty nice list of Anglo-Saxon ones.
Primary Divergences from Authentic Evidence
- Rhiannon was not a public figure.
- She was not a war-leader or martial figure.
- She was not a man. (There is an anti-eulogy to Modthyrth in Beowulf that may serve as a negative example for female eulogy.)
- Her virtues that I wish to eulogize may not exactly be the virtues of an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman.
- There appears to be no basis for dragging Greek allusions into the mix. (Although Opland notes that the scop who praises Beowulf, post-Grendel, alludes to Siegfried and another Germanic hero, so there is precedent for allusion.)
I don't think any of that is deal-breaking. This is a genuine eulogy, and so it must capture my genuine feelings for the departed. She and I were both, when you get down to it, modern people with modern values. I can cast as much of that as possible in traditional language and imagery, but I'm not going to write a fake eulogy to fit period conventions. The Hellenic additions are purely at the requirement of the competition, and it's very SCA to justify this as "My persona has poked around this Persephone legend and recast it in the terms of her own adopted culture."