Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dancetty

From Heraldry, a slender book written by Julian Franklyn, with drawings by Alan Keith-Hill.

I began reading the book in earnest while waiting on line to get into the (small and overrated) Alexander McQueen exhibit. Fittingly, I began the book while standing across the way from a 15th-century statue of Saint Bavo, a Norwegian man carrying a book bag.

The author remarks in his introductory material how appealing the language of heraldry is, how musical. I found this out myself before turning from the back matter to the introductory note where he writes, "each term in its turn is a glittering gem, every sentence a poem. The auditory pleasure of Heraldry is as great as the visual." Indeed reading aloud the Blazon of Illustration portion of the book brings to mind Dylan Thomas and e.e. cummings.

By "visual," Franklyn means the shields; there are also the words themselves.

Argent, a saltire engrailed sable charged with another invected of the field, debruised by an orle azure guttée d'eau: on a chief of the third, three leopards [sic] heads erazed proper.

Gules, a chevron vairy Or and azure, cotised argent, between three roses of the last barbed and seeded proper.

Argent, crusily-fitchy sable . . .

Gyronny of eight ermine and gules . . .

Sable, two bendlets raguly between as many hawks argent . . .

Gules, three bendlets dancetty Or.

Sable, a cross parted and fretty between . . .

Barry-nebuly of six argent and vert . . .

Argent, on a bend sable, four crosses clechy voided and pommetty of the first . . .

Per fess dancetty argent and sable . . .

Per fess nebuly; in chief checky azure and Or . . .

Azure, in base barry wavy of four argent and of the first
. . .

The thing to remember about dancetty is how many times people with little or no knowledge of heraldry have almost seen it, on the front of Charlie Brown's shirt (truly in the early 1950s, when the line of zigzags had no more than three peaks).

Of course there is more to say about the profusion of y words and the migration from French to English, but I'm not going to address that in this post.

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