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Image from tourist.com, Crevecouer-en-Ange, France

Image from tourist.com, Crevecouer-en-Ange, France

The cook and I did meet ‘neath the oleander tree
till the cuckoo stole his eggs away to Galilee.
Will the bread inside this oven ever rise?

The seaman brought a sturgeon with a rich pink spawn;
we fed each other roe paste till the cod was gone.
Will the bread inside this oven ever rise?

Till the cuckoo stole his eggs away to Galilee,
I’d hoped the stork would help me scrub the chimney.
Will the bread inside this oven ever rise?

We fed each other roe paste till the cod was gone,
no salty little pieces left to nibble on.
Will the bread inside this oven ever rise?

I’d hoped the stork would help me scrub the chimney
But he flew to Santiago for the Holy See.
Will the bread inside this oven ever rise?

No salty little pieces left to nibble on,
it’s time to light fresh coals beneath a different song.
Will the bread inside this oven ever rise?

~~~

The cossante is a Galician-Portuguese folk poetry form made popular in the 12th-14th centuries. Sung initially by women, it contains a weaving pattern known as leixa-pren, a dance term for two alternating lines of dancers and singers. With the rise of troubadours and jongleurs, the humble cossante found its way to royal courts where it became more formalized; but even when sung by men, they often retained the female narration. The oldest known fragments of folk poetry come from 10th century Aquitaine and may have been fertility chants, a theme I’ve scooped happily for this piece.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013

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