Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Domesticity: Chess

This is last week. I'm sitting across from my husband, both of us cross-legged on the sofa with a chess board between us. We're down to a pitifully small number of relatively impotent players. Both Queens are gone.

The hubby moans, "I want my queen back". Wife starts to chuckle as she moves her pieces in closer.

"Offer me anything I ask for." Hubby starts to chuckle too
"Anything you want."
"I want my queen back!"

Quoting Princess Bride in a chess game. Worst mockery of chess ever.
Also, we are probably close to the worst players ever.

How Camelot Should Have Ended: Little Musgrave

When I first came across this ballad while listening to Planxty's album, "The Woman I Loved So Well", I was not a little taken aback. Rather say, horrified. I do not like tales of adultery, though I'm by no means unused to running across them in traditional folk music. This sin, like any other, is part of the fabric of history. Nevertheless, there were lines from the song I could not put out of my mind, specifically the footpage's declaration, "although I am m'lady's page, I am Lord Bernard's man."

I ran into the tale again while skimming my collection of Francis Child Ballads and was again intrigued. There is something different about this ballad than most folk ballads that deal with infidelity. I had a sense of what it was but could not put a finger on it.

About a month ago, my husband and I went to see a production of the musical "Camelot." I had never seen it before and was quite struck by Arthur's vacillation in the case of Guinevere and Lancelot's adultery. In the musical's portrayal, Arthur not only acknowledges his knowledge of the affair without interfering in any way, but actually wishes to warn the 'lovers' of surprise by another party. When the pair are exposed and Guinevere is condemned by the court, Arthur cannot seem to find any way of reconciling his respect for the judicial system and his love for his wife except by encouraging his rival to engage Arthur's own knights in a bloody battle to rescue her. In the end, Arthur forgives his wife, but seems to adopt almost an "you couldn't help being in love" attitude toward the pair.

I myself couldn't help feeling a little disgusted with the Arthur of Camelot. As a husband, he failed his wife. Before the affair even began, Arthur allowed his wife to flout his authority when he believed she was acting foolishly. He saw the attraction between Guinevere and Lancelot begin, but did nothing to separate them or address inappropriate behavior. If he had believed that adultery was mortal sin, surely he had a responsibility to prevent his wife and the knight he admired from imperiling their souls. Instead, he essentially sheltered them from any consequences. Then, when their affair was exposed, he again relinquished his responsibility to act. Being king, Arthur had the authority to pardon his wife or commute the sentence of death to something like enforced convent entry, since he did not have the will to see her die. But he couldn't seem to figure out how to use that authority. Rather he failed not only his wife, but his people in encouraging the attacker and failing to support his knights.

To me this whole mess seems to spring from the Camelot Arthur's skewed sense of justice and mercy. To him, the merciful and "civilized" thing to do is not to punish (separate) Guinevere and Lancelot for something they couldn't help (falling in love). To him, justice is played out when he allows the sentence of the courts to stand, but encourages a foreigner to violate his boundaries and by much slaughter prevent that sentence from occurring. Merlin's education obviously did not include a course in logic.

But back to Musgrave.

When I saw "Camelot" I realized that Lord Bernard is what Arthur should have been. The "Ballad of Little Musgrave" is how "Camelot" should have ended.

( Click on the links above to hear the song or see the Child Ballad variations)

Not a verse into the ballad,we know there's gonna be trouble when "Musgrave to the church did go to see fine ladies there." Our suspicions are confirmed when Lord Bernard's wife invites Musgrave to a special bower of her own in Bucklesfordberry, unbeknownst to Lord Bernard.

So far, these two would be lovers have all the favorable circumstances, but Lady Bernard's footpage happens to overhear. In some versions of the ballad, he is offered gold to keep the secret, in some not, but in any case, the foot page considers his allegiance to Lord Bernard primary, and spurns reward and danger to carry the news to his master.

Lord Bernard is shocked and promises the footpage great rewards (versions vary as to what the reward is) if his tale is true, but certain hanging if he has lied and maligned his wife. Lord Bernard rides for Bucklesfordberry, forbidding his men to wind horns, for fear Musgrave will take flight.

But just as the adulterous couple were betrayed by the footpage's higher (and proper) allegiance to Lord Bernard, Lord Bernard is betrayed by the friendship (and improper allegiance)] of one of his men with Little Musgrave. This man "blew his horn both loud and shrill: 'away, Musgrave, away'."

Unfortunately for the pair, Lady Bernard convinces her lover that the horn is a shepherd lad and Musgrave wakes up to find my lord at the foot of the bed.

Lord Bernard confronts Musgrave with the evidence of his current position and orders him to "rise up," dress, and fight him, offering Musgrave his best sword. Musgrave wounds Lord Bernard, but is promptly killed. Lord Bernard then confronts his lady who bitterly denies any obligation to her husband and essentially defies him. Hearing this, Lord Bernard deals death to her also.

At the heart of this ballad is the question of fidelity and of honor. In these matters, Lord Bernard is set against Lady Bernard, but so also is the little footpage set against Lord Bernard's unnamed knight. The foot page recognizes his duty to my lady, but acknowledges that first and foremost his duty is to my lord. The unnamed knight ignores his duty to Bernard for the sake of his friendship with the guilty Musgrave.

Lady Bernard cares naught for her obligations as a wife, nor for the honor of her husband, nor for the honor of her lover. She makes this very clear. Lord Bernard is conscious of his responsibility to his wife, and of his responsibility as the local justice. He threatens to punish the page severely if he has falsely accused Lady Bernard, thereby indicating that her honor is dear to him. When he finds Lady Bernard's adultery, he gives her a chance at repentance. When she shows no remorse, he deals the judgment he is authorized to give. Even in her death he acknowledges her station by having her placed uppermost in the grave and mourning her death. He does similarly with Little Musgrave, refraining from striking him down where he lay, bidding him to dress and determine the matter with a sword.

Lord Bernard has a few things to teach King Arthur about duty and fidelity. He knows that the honor of a knight is tied up in carrying justice forward, and not in allowing unfaithfulness to run unchecked. He does this in such a way as allows the lovers each a chance in turn. Unlike Arthur, Bernard does not sacrifice the difficult course of action for the sake of love of his lady and finest knight. In the end, Lord Bernard acknowledges the lovers as the best night and fairest lady in the realm, but that does not stop him from dealing justice.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Water is Wide

I'll start out satisfying my recent blogging impulse with a brief post about the song my husband and I used as a sort of theme for the secular part of our wedding. "The Water is Wide" is derivative of an old, old song, the original of which itself has been lost. In the Child Ballads there are several related but dissimilar songs. "The Water is Wide" is also related to "Oh Waly, Waly."

The modern version I've chosen to learn is as follows:

1. The water is deep, I can't swim o'er,
And neither have I wings to fly.
Build me a boat that will carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.

2. There is a ship, and she sails the sea.
The sea's sae deep—as deep can be—
But not so deep as the love I'm in...
And I know not how I'll sink or swim.

3. I leaned my back against an oak,
Thinking it was the strongest tree,
But first it bended and then it broke,
And that's the way love treated me.

4. I reached my hand into the thorn,
Thinking the fairest flow'r to find.
I pricked my finger to the bone
And left the fairest flow'r behind.

5. Oh love is handsome and love is kind,
Gay as a jewel when first it's new.
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like the morning dew

(Sometimes, two additional verses are included, as follows. These I often omit, as we did at our wedding.)

6. Must I go bound while you go free?
Must I love a man who doesn't love me?
Must I be born with so little art
As to love a man who'll break my heart?

7. When cockle shells turn silver bells,
Then will my love come back to me.
When roses bloom in winter's gloom
Then will my love return to me.)

The best commentary I have on this song is found in what I wrote to my husband when we were choosing songs for our wedding reception:

Here's what I've been writing to help me think about this song, as I would like to give some sort of verbal and/or written explanation:

The Water is Wide
At first glance, this song may not impress the listener as being particularly happy or relevant to a wedding. It has a mournful, sober approach. But on deeper inspection, these lyrics deal quite realistically with the reality of marriage and speak to our hopes for our married life.

The Water is Wide relates two principles – the insufficiency and transience of the passion of love and the necessity of the boat which will carry the couple as they labor together.

Love alone is a poor support for us. Like the oak, which the singer thought “was the strongest tree,” it bends and breaks when one relies on it and like the rose for all its beauty, it pricks one’s finger when one grasps for it.

The feelings of love we have for each other are both overwhelmingly deep, but also shallow and transient against the test of time and hardship. Sentiments and passions are “gay as a jewel, when first it’s new.” But unguarded and unnourished “love grows auld and waxes cold and fades away like morning dew.”

Against all the perils of love and cynical disappointment in marriage is set the boat. Whether or not the early development of the song intended the metaphor, a boat has historically been viewed as a metaphor of the Church. Though the waters of love or hardship be wide or deep and despite our lack of swimming skills or wings to pass over or through the ship of Christ’s Church, in which we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and peace, in Jesus’ Name, will carry us over, even in the times when we “know not if [we] will sink or swim.”

I'm Gonna Start Blogging Again!

Hey Guys,

It's been awhile. But now that I'm married, not in school, and "settled down" (irony) I think I'll start blogging again. Particularly, I'd like to take a closer look at folk songs and tales here on the blog. My goal is to write a short commentary/analysis here once every week or two. Hopefully, this endeavor will assist me in my bardic aspirations. I'd also like to update the "Bedside Manners" every week or so with something new I'm learning. I'm well aware that I do not have time to write long, well-revised posts, so I'm going to have to accept less polished writing from myself. That said, here we go! :D

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shared Associations -- An Example from Married Life.

Friday, about 2:30pm. Hubby,in bed, still sleeping off the night shift. Wife,wanting to be close but not wake the hubby, enters with book and stretches out on the other side of the bed. Begins to read. Grows more and more amused. Chuckles sporadically.

Husband begins to stir. Wife chuckles again. Husband rolls over.
"What are you laughing at, Wife?"
"This book."
"What book is that?"
"'The Three Musketeers'"
"Who is that by?"
"Alexandre Dumas. It's full of, um, lots of sword-fighting and killing. I'm only into, like, the third chapter and I think five people have died already."
"Ohhhh." Husband chuckles and begins to sing. "'The first one he came to, he ran him through amain. And the second one he came to, he served him just the same...'"
Wife chuckles. "Exactly like that, though the others don't flee."

Thus the association is fast made between "The Three Musketeers" and the "Jolly Soldier".

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Post, Finally

So what it's ten pm on the night before clinical? I'm gonna write a blog post, since I haven't done that in like a bizillion years.

I actually made a New Year's Resolution this year; after my usual fashion of waiting until two weeks post-New Year's. I thought I'd blogged it, but apparently not.

This year I resolve to learn assertiveness. I've spent too long being passive or passive aggressive and bottling everything all up until I burst out in anger or absorb a bunch of disappointment and hurt over things that I never told anyone I wanted for fear of rejection in the first place. My depressed thoughts have got DYSFUNCTIONAL and MALADAPTIVE written all over them.

I plan to learn to say, "No," when I can't do something, instead of sort of mumbling about it and ending up over-committed.

I plan to learn to tell my loved ones when I would like them to do something, instead of hinting, vaguely hoping that they'll notice, and feeling disappointed and guilty when they don't.

I plan to learn to take responsibility for my own actions, behavior, and feelings, without taking responsibility for others' actions, behavior, and feelings which are beyond my vocation or control.

I plan to learn to appropriately confront people with whom I have a conflict instead of talking about the conflict with everyone but them.

I plan to learn to address problems to the appropriate authority, with proposed solutions, instead of bemoaning the problem, my helplessness and frustration.

I plan to learn to eliminate false, self-injuring, 'automatic thoughts' which tear down my self-image and destroy the joy God has given me in who He has made me to be. I additionally plan to learn to put the best construction on the words and actions of my family, friends, colleagues and supervisors at work and school, rather than allowing myself to become more and more insecure by assuming negative connotations.

I plan to learn to stop making self-deprecation my automatic fall-back when others give me attention, reduce discomfort by other methods, and learn to appropriately respond to compliments.

I plan to learn to prevent myself from becoming tense and anxious whenever I anticipate my parents, teachers, and other authorities observing and evaluating behavior on my part that they have not specifically sanctioned. (E.g. There's no reason I should get a pounding headache, almost burst into tears, and feel extremely guilty and trapped when an authority says they wish to talk to me about something, when a parent hears me singing a new folk song, or a fellow student corrects a minor mistake in a clinical technique.)

And so the list goes on. Some of these non-assertive, pathological thoughts and behaviors have grown with me since childhood. Some have emerged insidiously since the onset of adolescence or the beginning of nursing school. I do not want these dysfunctional processes to control or define me.

I want to be a self-disciplined, self-controlled, self-aware Christian woman who can use her body, mind, and behavior consciously and deliberately in service to her neighbor within her vocation. To this end I make my resolution, petitioning the aide of Almighty God, who does not abandon me even when I feel irrationally alone and excessively guilty, but who strengthens and upholds me and will preserve even my fragile mind to life everlasting, along with my body and soul.