April 3rd, 2007


It's culture, I tell you

Corund's Song of the Chine

. . . from The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison

Eddison's great fantasy work is set in a world of perpetual war -- a cross between Renaissance England and Viking Scandinavia, with overtones of Greek myth. This song -- which Eddison lifted from "An Antidote against Melancholy," published in London in 1661 -- is sung in the great banquet hall of Carce before King Gorice XII and all the lords of Witchland, as the chine course is brought to the table. (Chine is the meat connected to the backbone. It probably refers to a rack of beef in this case.) BTW, "Witches" is merely the name of their national identity; only King Gorice does any sorcery.

Now was the chine served in amid shallots on a great dish of gold, borne by four serving men, so weighty was the dish and its burden. Some light there glowed in the dull eye of Corsus to see it come, and Corund rose up with brimming goblet, and the Witches cried, "The song of the chine, O Corund!" Great as a neat stood Corund in his russet velvet kirtle, girt about with a broad belt of crocodile hide edged with gold. From his shoulders hung a cloak of wolf's skin with the hair inside, the outside tanned and diapered with purple silk. Daylight was nigh gone, and through a haze of savours rising from the feast the flamboys shone on his bald head set about with thick grizzled curls, and on his keen gray eyes, and his long and bushy beard. he cried, "Give me a rouse, my lords! and if any fail to bear me out in the refrain, I'll ne'er love him more." And he sang this song of the chine in a voice like the sounding of a gong; and all they roared in the refrain till the piled dishes on the service tables rang:

Bring out the Old Chyne, the Cold Chyne to me,
And how Ile charge him come and see,
Brawn tusked, Brawn well sowst and fine,
With a precious cup of Muscadine:
How shall I sing, how shall I look,
In honour of the Master-Cook?

The Pig shall turn round and answer me,
Canst thou spare me a shoulder? a wy, a wy.
The Duck, Goose, and Capon, good fellows all three,
Shall dance thee an antick, so shall the Turkey:
But O! the Cold Chyne, the Cold Chyne for me:
How shall I sing, how shall I look,
In honour of the Master-Cook?

With brewis Ile noynt thee from head to th'heel,
Shal make thee run nimbler than the new oyld wheel;
With Pye-crust wee'l make thee
The eighth wise man to be;
But O! the Old Chyne, the Cold Chyne for me:
How shall I sing, how shall I look,
In honour of the Master-Cook?

Surely I'm not the only one . . .

So there I was, buying some windshield wipers for my truck at Pep Boys. The attendant rang me up and said, "That'll be Fifteen Eighty-Eight." To which I, of course, immediately replied, "Defeat of the Spanish Aramada!" He looked puzzled, and the woman next to me at the other register made some disbelieving snort or other.

Come on: haven't you ever found yourself responding to something that way? I can't be the only one who responds to requests for $16.66 with "Great Fire of London!" or to the amount due $10.66 with "Battle of Hastings!"

'Fess up, now.

All of the above examples are actual experiences of mine, not hypotheticals.
saxon cross

The Red Foliot's Dirge for King Gorice XI

Here's another from The Worm Ouroboros. This time, it's taken from William Dunbar (late 15th Century), "Lament for the Makaris: quhen he was seik."

I that in heill was and gladness
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feblit with infirmitie: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance here is all vain glory,
This fals world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Feynd is slee: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary,
Now dansand mirry, now like to die: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

No state in Erd here standis sicker;
As with the wynd wavis the wicker,
So wannis this world's vanitie: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Unto the Death gois all Estatis,
Princis, Prelattis, and Potestatis,
Baith rich and poor of all degree: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the knichtis in to field
Enarmit under helm and scheild;
Victor he is at all mellie: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That strong unmerciful tyrand
Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,
The babe full of benignitie: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the campion in the stour,
The captain closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewtie: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He spairis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awful straik may no man flee: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Art-magicianis and astrologis,
Rethoris, logicianis, theologis,
Them helpis no conclusionis slee: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In medecine the most practicianis,
Leechis, surrigianis, and physicianis,
Themself from Death may nocht supplee: --
Timor Mortis conturbat me.