Wednesday, 20 March 2013


Bard, Bardic, Federico Andreotti, The Serenade
Federico Andreotti's The Serenade


Noun. Middle English.
[Gaelic bàrd, Irish bard, Welsh bardd, from Celtic (whence Greek bardos, Latin bardus).
 First used in Scotland and as a term of contempt, but idealised by Sir Walter Scott.]

1(a) Any of an ancient Celtic order of minstrel-poets, who composed and sang (usually to the harp)
verses celebrating the achievements of chiefs and warriors, recording historical events,
traditional lore, etc. In Wales specifically a poet honoured at an eisteddfod. ME

1(b) A strolling musician or minstrel. Scots archaic LME

1(c) A minstrel or poet of any other oral tradition, as an Anglo-Saxon scop, a Scandinavian scald, etc. M18

2(a) Any poet; especially a lyric or epic poet. literary. M17

2(b) the Bard (of Avon) Shakespeare.

bardic adjective of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a bard. L18
bardish adjective (somewhat derogatory) = bardic. E17
bardism noun the art or practice of bards. E18
bardling noun a young or inexperienced poet, a poetaster. M18
bardship noun the office, dignity or character of a bard. L18

The combination of beautiful music and lyrical poetry is a powerful one. In fact, in games like Dungeons & Dragons where bards are a common character class, bards are supposed to be granted their powers from the magic of their music. I can't remember where, as a child, I first came across the word bard, but it stuck with me, both as a noble and romantic profession and a fascinating word, overflowing with history and lore.

The importance of lyrics is often relegated in modern music, with anthemic riffs and repetitive (often meaningless) lyrics favoured. However, evocative lyric-writing can be the difference between a good piece of music and a great one, and there are many musicians that infuse profound meaning and emotion into their words, weaving stories, scenes and feelings with profound bardic skill. Dire Straights' song Romeo and Juliet is one such example, arguably one of the most romantic songs ever written. In fact, I would go so far as to say its sublime interlacing of beautiful melody and lyrical storytelling would have the approval of The Bard himself.


  1. I first read about bards in the Asterix comic books. :)

    Oh, and can I just say I love you for posting music I grew up with?

    1. You can, and I love me for posting music I grew up with too : o )

    2. "may I" is probably more grammatically correct, isn't it? You've no idea how embarrassing it is to make stupid mistakes when actually, you knew how to do it better. Makes me feel like a stupid foreigner trying too hard ><

      Anyhow, yay for all the love! *throws paper hearts in the air*

    3. "Can I just say" is perfectly acceptable, Bibi. Your English is a lot better than you give it credit for.

      AND ... I know *exactly* what it's like to make stupid mistakes, being both a non-native Spanish speaker and someone that's currently learning a third language : o )

  2. We are all over bards in my world. I can't say when I first encountered the word but one of my first memorable bards with Fflewddur Fflam from the "Chronicles of Prydain" by Lloyd Alexander (the books not the cartoons - I still haven't seen those). I still love the books and the girls and I regularly check out the audio version from the library - it is narrated by James Langton, even my husband enjoys it. Alexander based the chronicles on the Welsh myth cycle the "Mabinogion."

    I love the 'poem' songs of Lloreena McKennit. I am particularly fond of "The Lady of Shallot" and "The Highwayman." Her voice can begin grating on the nerves though. I would say "American Pie" is a bardic rock song as is a lot of what Styx sang. That is assuming that you believe a song takes you on a journey and doesn't just rely on "anthemic riffs and repetitive (often meaningless) lyrics" as you suggest, which seem to occur in almost every genre of music today.

    I took a fabulous Shakespeare course in college and learned to love The Bard (and Kenneth Branagh, incidentally). The girls and I participated in a group with a few other homeschooling friends and put on (a very abbreviated) "Romeo and Juliet." It was neat to watch the kids glom onto Shakespeare and really own him.

    You describe the job of a bard as a noble and romantic profession as well as a great word full of history and lore. I think your romance with the word also describes one of the most important role of bards - transmit history in a way that captures the listeners with the grandeur (romance), nobility, and importance of the past.

    I could go on but I will zip it.

  3. I like that it was originally a term of contempt, that's pretty great.

    1. I like all the derivative words too, especially the witheringly condescending 'bardish' and the quaint and rather charming 'bardling' ... aww : o )