Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Explanation of Romance

In days of old when knights were bold and you couldn't get a good copy of Playboy for love or money, young men and women were forever taking it in their heads to charging around the countryside in the name of something called 'Romance'. Romance had something to do with love, but absolutely nothing to do with the Ancient Romans, who for some odd reason it was named after.
For the Romans, love was a simple, uncomplicated affair that happened between pretty little girls far too young to be going out with rich, wrinkled men much too old to be doing anything with anyone. 'Love' produced lots of babies, although this was frequently at the expense of the mothers. It is also why the Romans conquered the world.

Romance, however, was much more mysterious. It involved rosy-lipped young maidens with a penchant for swooning and limber-limbed young laddies forever plighting their troth. There were the occasional knights-in-shining-armour, who would vouchsafe 'this' and 'that' and 'what have you' to ladies in brick-constructed symbols of phallic oppression, who did funny things with wimples and handkerchiefs, (things which eventually led to the modern system of flag-communication; but we're getting ahead of ourselves here.)
It's odd, thinking back on all this now. It doesn't really seem to have a point. In fact, it did have a point, and that point was inevitably lustful swains ravishing swooning maidens by the light of the silvery moon. I'd like to go into more detail, but can't, as this is a family blog.
Things got pretty complicated. occasionally, a swain who worked as a swine-herd would seduce a swooning maiden by the light of the silvery moon, but would get mixed up, so that a swain-herd swoon would seduce a swining maiden by the light of the silvery moon. If that wasn't bad enough, some limber-limbed laddies would start plighting vouchsafes, and swooning troths, which confused everyone.
Many of the popular songs about this period represent this confusion. One Romantic bard penned a delightful ditty for harp and crumhorn entitled 'Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree' with which he hoped to seduce his lady-love:

Underneath the spreading chestnut tree,
I loved her, and she loved me.

Unfortunately, he found - too late - that it was not a Spreading Chestnut Tree at all, but a mere sapling: and a poison ivy sapling, at that.
Another rosy-lipped maiden spent a whole night beneath the silvery-moon waiting to be ravished by her whey-faced paramour. For his part, he seemed to be fond of nothing more than sitting by the window and sighing. In the end, she gave up, and wrote the famous song 'Some day, my prince will come' in her frustration.

Well, those heady days are over now. Nowadays, knights don't ride forth on gleaming white palfreys anymore. For one thing, there's no decent palfrey-refuelling stations for miles around; and for another thing, palfreys are bad for the environment. Besides, knights-in-armour prefer to use the tram (which is inconvenient for duelling, but good at getting you where you want to go, or at least within reasonable distance to it.)


Hooch said...

I love the muddled-up fairy-taleness of this post. Keep up the good work, TimT. Have you read Alice?

TimT said...

Thanks! I personally reckon it owes more to Disney than fairy tales - but I had fun writing it.

Oh yeah, I've read Alice!

Hooch said...

oh dear God! don't get me started on Disney !!!(bagging the bejeesus out of it, that is! about sucking the life and soul out of Winnie-The-Pooh! *shudder* [read the original - it's awesome])...but I s'pose you've got to start somewhere. *sigh*

There seems to be a kind of 'Fairy Tale' subconscious (or what Terry Prachett calls 'white knowledge) in our culture which I find very intriguing.

Your next stop: Brothers Grim. (I'd highly recommend the story entitled 'the golden key' - but perhaps you need a warped sense of humour to appreciate it. 'Clever Alice' (also Grimm) is also quite a gem).

Sorry to get so longwinded. Just ignore me.

TimT said...

Oh, I've read Grimm! But that was my point, I'd say the language in this draws less from fairy tales, and more from a Disneyfied retelling of fairytales - hence the use of odd terms like 'Palfrey', 'Paramour', 'whey-faced', 'swain', etc - they're archaic, but they're the sort of words you'd expect to find in a Disney retelling of a fairytale than a Grimm fairytale.

Anyway, minor point. Glad you like it.

hooch said...

sorry to completely miss your point.

love the language.

hate Disney retellings.

very cool that you've read Grimm.

TimT said...

Well, I think it was a minor point I was making anyway. It would be futile of me to try offer an explanation for a post I'd written, sort of like one of those awful modernist poems you read where you end up spending more time in the footnotes than in the poem itself.

I reckon the writing should be able to stand on its own.

Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive