one in a billion (siege) wrote,
one in a billion

A children's chant of smiths

Whitesmith, greensmith, brownsmith, black
Silversmith, goldsmith, runesmith, glass

Work at your forges, work at your script
Blow big bellows, Crucible glint
Cast and hammer, tongs and dip

Write out your pattern and cut it in
Work your metal until it's thin
Fold it and beat it again and again

Shape me a tool to make me clever [meaning skilled]
Forge me a sword to make me strong
Bend me a shoe to make me swift

Mint me a coin to make me rich
Write me a charm to make me bright [meaning lucky, smart/witty, wise; later variations used "wise" in this line]
Make me a jewel to give my wife

Whitesmith, greensmith, brownsmith, black
Silversmith, goldsmith, runesmith, glass


These are the common smiths of Medieval society:

Whitesmith: works tin and often zinc as well. Cups, plates, tableware, and lightweight pots and kettles were often made of tin or tinplate (which is a coating of tin over iron or steel). Whitesmiths are also called tinsmiths, tinners, or tinkers.

Greensmith: works copper (which turns green over time as it oxidizes). Copper was often used for small coinage or decorative work, mixed with minerals to make pigments, and alloyed with other metals to improve strength and ductility. It is also one of the first metals used to make tools and weapons because of how easy it historically was to find and work; apparently only gold and meteoric iron (fallen from the sky, not dug from the ground) were used earlier. "Bright as a new penny" refers to a freshly minted copper coin, which has a high albedo (reflects light well).

Brownsmith: also called bronzesmith, works bronze (which sounds like brown, and depending on the specific mix of metals in the alloy it can range in color from green to orange to brown to black), which was the favored metal for weapons and armor until certain cultures developed forged steel; bronze is also a common metal for casting statues and bells. (Thanks to [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith for reminding me that bronzesmiths are also called brownsmiths.)

Blacksmith: works iron, which is typically black ore until smelted (hematite, magnetite, and so on). High-carbon iron, like pig iron (unrefined metal poured out of a bloomery or crucible into molds called "sow and piglets" for their shape), is also typically black in color except where sharpened. Steel is brighter because much of the carbon has been burned off during the refining process to make a harder alloy with different properties. Forge steel is iron which has been heated, folded, and hammered repeatedly to drive off enough carbon to form a basic steel.

Blacksmiths and brownsmiths made tools, horseshoes, nails and fittings for construction and woodwork (things like latches, hinges, and so on), even buttons and buckles for shoes and clothing as the whitesmiths and greensmiths did. If you wanted weapons specifically, the local smith could forge arrowheads and swords, though in times of war some specialized in only weapons. The concept of "bearded" tools can be found in wooden plows with an iron blade, or iron and bronze shears or weapons with a steel blade; essentially, the harder material is bonded or welded to the softer to give a strong, sharp edge with a backing that had different properties. This lent flexibility to swords, cost-efficiency to plows, and so on.

Silversmiths and goldsmiths made metal jewelry, and often minted coins by stamping them in special press, keeping part of the metal as payment for the minting. Sterling silver is actually an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. Electrum or white/green gold is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, which can be produced artifically; electrum is also another name for German silver, also called nickel silver, which normally contains no actual silver.

Runesmiths work magic using special lettering and meaningful shapes; many kinds of smiths in fact worked with carved, cast, or embossed lettering and other shapes meant to hold meaning and/or power. Viking and Celtic swords and shields in particular often had marks of power on them.

Glass smiths include blowers and sculptors; they could make simple windows (small and dim in Medieval times), stained glass, and jewelry of many kinds and colors. Materials that create color in glass are even today often a trade secret -- in Medieval times, even the fact that soda ash is necessary for clear glass was secret. Stained glass art is made using specially shaped lead "cane" soldered together to hold the pieces of colored glass in place, so even glass workers used a kind of metal as part of their final product.

(This poem was channeled from my higher Self, inspired in response to [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith's poem "When the Road is Bent", featuring Romani smiths in an alternate-universe Frankenstein story.)

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Tags: channeling, poetry
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