Posted on Oct 6, 2015 in All Blog Posts, History

“The very purpose of a knight is to fight on behalf of a lady.”

Thomas Malory

Fall hastens her steps in a leafy swirl of gold and crimson, as the scents of cider and cinnamon, wood smoke and pumpkins signal it’s harvest time. With a skip and a smile we saunter forth to enjoy the pleasures proffered at Reaissance Faires across the country.

In pseudo-Medieval villages and hamlets, we encounter blacksmiths and barkeeps, constables and country maids. Everyone from Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake and Shakespeare, to knaves, knights, and troubadours stroll the streets to delight and entertain. From storytelling to sword fighting, jousting to juggling, archery to axe throwing, candle making to glass blowing, we witness workshops offering chainmaille to cheese making, while minstrels and and fortune tellers transport you back in time. In this age of “sword and sorcery” taverns abound – the Whistling Pig, the Lance and Shield, the Pip and Vine – ready to fill your mug with mead or cider. You’ll find music, dancing, commedia dell’arte, and all manner of entertainment.

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Who among us hasn’t dreamt at one time, even if only in childhood, to be seen as a brave knight or fair maiden?  Whether Lancelot and Guenivere, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, or a knight at King Arthur’s Roundtable, these colorful, compelling characters capture our imagination. From the Sword of Excalibur to the magic of unicorns, we long to join in the adventure.

 

To enhance your viewing, English lute music of the Renaissance (1550-1630)

 

Crossed swords and crowns, alongside prancing unicorns – both set against a backdrop of fleur-de-lis.

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Crenelated borders and armored shields, lion insignias, and castled coats of arms anchor the corners of these handsome handkerchiefs possibly gifted by a gallant knight to his lady fair.

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“This was the moment he most loved about tourneying, that first glorious sortie with banners streaming, trumpets blaring, and the earth atremble with pounding hooves as hundreds  of knights came together in a spectacular clash of sound and fury.”
Sharon Kay Penman, Devil’s Brood

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Knights were devoted to king and crown, as this hankie attests. With borders and crowns highlighted in gold paint, I was delighted to find it in such good condition after 50+ years. Often the gold has long since washed away.

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These fanciful knights with helmet plumes flying and steeds skirted in full regalia seem to be showing off for one another, perhaps in an attempt to bolster flagging courage?

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“Masculinity must prove itself, and do so before an audience.”

Harvey Mansfield

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“Fight on brave knights! For bright eyes behold your deeds!”
Sir Walter Scott

For fans of George R. R. Martin’s epic Game of Thrones, this hankie is for you. The throng of warriors is almost too dense to navigate, but look closely and you’ll find field tents anchoring each corner and castles (pink!) in the center.

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“One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum.”
Sir Walter Scott

I love these Tammis Keefe creations featuring bold knights and castle walls that read like a maze. Her mastery of color and graphics, spiced with a dollop of humor make for grand images. Indeed, the fiery dragon soothes his scorched throat with a gentle cup of tea confirming this must be an English castle… The jovial jousters and chorus line of courageous comrades complete the scene.

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Decapitation was de rigueur in Medieval times, so we’re not too surprised to see a skull go soaring in this amusing castle keep.

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The deep chocolate brown backdrop helps the players visually pop in their turquoise, pomegranate and olive ensembles. The inclusion of hawk, horse, hunting spear, hounds and horns exquisitely dovetails with Sir Walter Scott’s Hunting Song. Absolutely smashing…

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“Waken lords and  ladies gay, On the mountain  dawns the day. All the jolly chase is here, with hawk and horse and hunting spear.

Hounds are in the couples yelling,

Haws are whistling, horns are knelling,

Merrily, merrily mingle they –

Waken, lords and ladies gay.”

Sir Walter Scott

 

Another splendid rendition of knights, knaves and maidens “on the green.”

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“After only a few moments in her presence,  he found himself wondering what dragon he might slay for her.”
Regina Scott, The Rogue’s Reform

 

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This handsome pair boasts simple but classic renditions of lion insignia and castles. The thistles adorning the border and the fleur-de-lis backdrop indicate this may be a joining of two royal houses from Scotland and France.

 

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Speaking of joining houses, let’s not forget the story of Young Lochinvar, penned by Sir Walter Scott, (who brought us The Lady of the Lake and Ivanhoe among other works). Young Lochinvar is obsessed with Ellen, who is about to marry the wrong man, “a laggard in love and a dastard in war.”  Lochinvar’s quest for Ellen’s hand was rejected by her father, so all are surprised when he appears at her wedding. Ever the gracious good loser, he explains he’s there to drink a toast to the bride and have one farewell dance. Hmmmmm. Lochinvar twirls Ellen closer and closer to the door, where outside his trusty steed awaits. In a burst of passion, bold Lochinvar absconds with Ellen, as the pair leap onto his horse and depart in a flash of pounding hooves. Talk about romantic. The theme of course is eternal, and has surfaced through the centuries in ballads, books, and in today’s world, the movies, exemplified by director Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, (1967) where Benjamin Braddock appears at the wedding (surprise!) of fair Elaine, and absconds with his true love, via city bus, no less, barricading the church doors with a crucifix! Passion is all about the grand gesture…

“Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never.”

Sir Walter Scott

This handsome gathering of lords and ladies may well have been in attendance at fair Ellen’s wedding.

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The simple line drawings above remind one of playing cards, and indeed, the kings and queens below are shown with their respective suits – spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.

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castle046 Playing cards purportedly originated in China in the 9th Century and later spread to Persia, India, and Egypt (with suits of polo sticks, coins, swords and cups) reaching Europe around the 14th Century. As you can see, our modern cards hail from images on French playing cards.Many European court cards represented royalty – kings, queens, and their attendants – knaves. French cards often depicted mythological heroes.

 

So there you have it, the kings, queens and knights of old still reside on our playing cards.

Knight’s Code

When a man is knighted by the King, he is first touched on the right shoulder with a sword:
“In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave.”
The sword then moves to the left shoulder:
“In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just.”
The sword returns to the right shoulder:
“In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the young and innocent.”
The swords rests on the left shoulder:
“In the name of the Maid I charge you protect all women.”
Endless volumes have been written on the orders of knighthood – in Wales, Ireland, England, France, Spain, Italy, etc. You could spend a lifetime immersing yourself in the literature coats of arms, rituals, castles, etc.. It’s a rich and colorful, complex and fascinating, not to mention sweepingly mythological era in history.

 

Just for Fun

Dare I mention another place you’re likely to find “all the king’s horses & all the king’s men” is at ye old omelette bar, after a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to reassemble Humpty Dumpty. Note his googly eyes, which were a popular addition to children’s hankies to help keep them momentarily distracted and amused.

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By the way, there is never any mention of Humpty being an egg, whether in James Elliott’s National Nursery Rhymes & Nursery Songs (1870), Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1872), or any modern day reference. Humpty merely told Alice his name fit his shape! (According to Knowledgenuts.com Humpty was actually “a cannon used by the Royalists during the English Civil War”, but an egg is more fun, don’t you think?)

Stay with us, you’re in for a treat……

Say Whaaaaat??

In 1954, Sylvia Wright wrote an article for the Atlantic, relating a story about a Scottish ballad she heard as a child in England called “The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray.” One stanza went:
“Ye highland and ye lowland/Oh where hae you been
They hae slay the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.

Sylvia was struck by the courage of a woman who valued love above all and died with her liege. Only years later did she discover the last line was actually: “They hae slay the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.”

Oooooooohhh…Oops! Smiling at her mistake, Wright coined the term “mondegreen*” to denote misheard, misunderstood phrases, song lyrics, etc. which we’re all guilty of from time to time. Since “Lady Mondegreen” seemed to dovetail with our lords and ladies theme, I’ve included a few here for your enjoyment.

“The ants are my friends/They’re blowin’ in the wind.”
…….Actual lyric: “The answer my friend is blowing’ in the wind” (Blowin’ in the Wind, Bob Dylan)

“Sweet dreams are made of cheese.”
…….Actual lyric: “Sweet dreams are made of this” (Sweet Dreams, Eurythmics)

“The girl with colitis goes by.”
…….Actual lyric: “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, The Beatles)

“All my luggage, I will send to you.”
…….Actual lyric: “All my loving, I will send to you” (All My Loving, The Beatles)

“Don’t chew on me baby.”
…….Actual lyric: “Don’t you want me baby?” (Don’t You Want Me, The Human League)

Are you going to starve an old friend?”
…….Actual lyric: “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?” (Scarborough Fair, Simon & Garfunkel)

“Baby come back, you can play Monopoly.”
…….Actual lyric: “Baby come back, you can blame it all on me.” (Baby Come Back, Player)

“Baking carrot biscuits.”
…….Actual lyric: “Taking care of business.” (Takin Care of Business, Bachman-Turner Overdrive)

“Four-legged woman.”
…….Actual lyric: “More than a woman” (More Than A Woman, The Bee Gees)

“Big ole Jed had a light on”.
Actual lyric: “Big old jet airliner.” (Jet Airliner, Steve Miller Band)

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Okay, we’ve all been there, so come on, share your Mondegreen with us. 🙂 🙂 🙂
I share one of mine at the end of the blog on Tea.

 

*Entire books are devoted to mondegreens  –  i.e. “‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” (Actual lyric: “Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky” from Purple Haze, Jimi Hendricks). You can of course find them on the internet (corsinet.com-brain candy).  The Mondegreens above came from both sources.

 

5 Comments

  1. 11-1-2015

    Great post…I always learn something new! I’ve heard of a malapropism but not a mondegreen. A recent mondegreen occurred in a Taylor Swift lyric – “got a long list of ex-lovers” was almost universally heard as “all the lonely Starbucks lovers”. There are now tee shirts with the mondegreen on it!

    • 11-1-2015

      LOVE it! We’ll definitely add it to the list. Your comment instantly brought to mind the image of Whoopi Goldberg trying to decipher the lyrics to Jumpin’ Jack Flash in the movie of the same name. It’s a great scene. Dare I share one more? I was in a pool aerobics class once and I think we were jivin’ to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Anyway, the girl next to me was singing “Caldonia, Caldonia what makes your big hair so high?” The correct lyrics are “Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?” I was laughing my head off because I was singing yet a third version, completely different from both of those, and I was waaaaay off. For the life of me I can’t remember what I sang… darn…

  2. 11-1-2015

    GREAT issue.

  3. 11-4-2015

    I hope Robert will get a kick out of these. For those of you reading this, Patricia’s brother is Robert Fripp, the amazing guitarist with King Crimson, and frequent studio musician for David Bowie. I’m sure he has heard his share of Mondegreens. 🙂

  4. 11-5-2015

    Your handkerchiefs and descriptions make me aware that both the simplest and most complicated things that are part of our lives all have a story. The stories come alive in song, in paintings and in these wonderful handkerchiefs. They are the inspiration for stories both true and imagined and you give them life.

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