On Saturday, I spent some time looking around the Ely Museum at the Old Gaol House, gathering information for a project I'm organising for the Fenland Poet Laureate.
The museum itself is fantastic, packed as it is with interesting local artefacts and historical knick-knacks. There's a great selection of Roman pottery, some lovely fossil finds, and some truly beautiful pieces of jewellery. But there was one piece in particular that caught my eye: a battered and slightly strange-looking Posy Ring.
In case you're not clued up on your Jacobian Jewellery - let me tell you that Posy Rings are gold rings with short, rhyming inscriptions on their inner surfaces. They were popular in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and were usually given as tokens love, friendship or loyalty.
The ring on display at the Ely Museum was found at Soham and dates back to the seventeenth century. The inscription reads 'No fancy strang shall make me chang', and the contractions of the words 'stranger' and 'change' reminded me of modern abbreviated text speak. This idea sparked a poem:
'No Fancy Strang'
Buried with the osiers,
My golden gift to thee.
Inscribed with words of love, my dear,
where none but us shall see.
Inscribed with words so dear, my love,
Your beauty without measure.
And though the gift's a precious one,
You are my greatest treasure.
The ring is of but little worth,
Compared to your sweet kiss.
It is your prize, and in return,
I ask you only this:
Please don't look too long upon
The words engraved therein,
For when it comes to rhyme, my dear,
I'm lost 'fore I begin.
But though a poet I am not,
My love is strong and true.
And so the verse within the ring
Was the best that I could do.
With spelling not yet standardised
At least I have excuse;
For, with the couplet form you see,
I'm playing fast and loose.
Perhaps it's avant garde, my dear,
To force the words to rhyme?
In which case, I'm a genius;
A man before his time.
For I've invented texting, love,
Four centuries too soon.
That's progress on your finger, dear!
That ring, so roughly hewn.
And though it may not make much sense,
I will not be deterred.
'No fancy strang shall make me chang'
I mean it. Every word.