The Art Of Eloquence

Speaking in a period tongue is difficult at best, and even the best of us cannot keep it up for very long. I am not refering to talking in a foreign language, but speaking forsoothly. Actually it is a foreign language in many ways. It certainly doesn’t roll off my tongue easily. But I can perhaps suggest some ways to learn to sound medieval.

My best recommendation is to read period books, even if its just to get an idea of how people spoke. Shakespeare is an excellent source. The “Book of the Courtier” by Castiglione is also excellent reading. One of the first things I noticed was that the use of metaphor and analogy abounds in these writings. “Thy smile uplifts as the dawn of a summer day.” You tended to elaborate on topics by making comparisons to other objects. In a strange sense, this manner of speaking can still be seen today. The South is known for having very strong roots in classical European culture. Consider how Southerners treat insults and honor. It is still a deep rooted part of the culture. The South is also known for metaphors in its speech. “He’s holding on like a tick on a coon dog’s tail.” This sort of speech pattern immediately denotes someone born below the Mason-Dixon line.

Speaking in metaphor is not as difficult as it may sound. It mainly requires you to think about what you are about to say (something we should all do anyway and a lot of arguements can be avoided) before you say it. Most verbs and adjectives can bring to mind an animal or object that personifies that word. Below is a brief list of some words that easily lend themselves to metaphor.

crafty, cunning Sly as a fox’s smile
witty, quick Sharp as an embroider’s needle
delicate Fragile as a robin’s egg
smooth, supple Silken hose match not the feel of thy garb
bright, cheerful Thy smile is finer than a songbird’s tune
loud, piercing No angel’s trumpet can match that herald’s voice

It takes practice, but try occasionally to throw a compliment using a metaphor or simile. When admiring someone’s new dress, sword, chair, think of a metaphor, and then use it. You will find it adds a flavor to your speech that others enjoy and helps bring the feel of the Middle Ages to life.

There is another trick I use to aid in my speech as well as my actions. In the Book of the Courtier by Castiligone, proper courtiers should appear refined, and have a noble bearing. In this he said that all your actions should be graceful. For someone as clumsy as myself this has been a true challenge. The trick I have discovered to appear graceful is to be deliberate. If you walk, or talk as if you have a purpose, it lends to grace. This is not to imply that someone should be pompous. That is acting as if you are important. The trick is to act as if the person or persons you are interacting with are important.

The best example I can use is when I flirt. I freely admit I am a tremendous flirt. But when I flirt with a lady, my intention is to make them feel as if they are the most beautiful creature that ever walked the face of the earth. I do this by giving them my sole attention. When I speak, I talk as if my words are for their ears alone. If I kiss their hand, I focus on their eyes and slowly, deliberately take their hand to place a gentle kiss. This focusing of my attention to one person should carry over to even brief interactions like during dancing Hole in the Wall.

Speaking and behaving eloquently is not easy and requires practice. It is also difficult to keep up for any length of time. The rewards are worth ever bit of effort it takes. Whatever your personna, the most noble people I know are the ones who make grace a part of their every action.

Lord Kirk Dragomani
Provost, Ad’E