Monday, 8 March 2010

Haughty Horn

This is an unexpected addition to my occasional series of 'Good Songs Not to Sing in Front of Golden Kate'. The fault is threefold. Firstly, I've been spending way too much time in those countries lately. I nearly caught myself talking in Northdales idiom once about lunchtime. Secondly, I had a weekend binge on folk music, with high place given to Fairport Convention's Heyday and to Empire and Love, the second album from the mighty Imagined Village project. Thirdly, I stayed at my keyboard five minutes too long this morning, and had to make a forced march to the station. I found myself doing so in time to a jaunty folky tune of indeterminate origin. Round about the end of my workday, these lyrics obtruded themselves upon me.

They appear to derive from a border-ballad tradition, some ways to the north-west of the setting of Three Katherines. So far, the region's entire contribution to the story is that once in The Deed of Katy Elflocks, the wicked witch had a contingency plan involving bolting to a dodgy tavern in that quarter. As to the song, the eponymous... hero... appears to be a vague recollection of some long-deceased border lord. His nemesis is, as far as I can tell, just somebody the bard really thought ought to have existed. But who shall say he knoweth?

Haughty Horn

Haughty Horn was a man alone.
He could fight, he could shite, he could brag to the bone.
There never was lad who spoke so high
Whenever a Border lass went by.
He'd speak her fierce, with a fearful frown:
"You'll find no man in the cowards' town.
You'll braver be than a Border lord
When on Grimshaw leas you shall dare my sword!"

Larkin Loll, he was strange to fame.
He was small, he was dark, and he had no shame.
He had no lines in a gilded scroll
To say that the Gods were the dads of Loll.
He sent to Horn, and he sent it curt,
"Will you come out, man, from your mammy’s skirt,
And meet on the morn with a Border boy
For to dance our blades on the slopes of Sloy?"

Haughty Horn said he would not stoop.
He called from the roof of his chicken-coop,
"My dad was Mars, and his dad was too,
And it's shame on their names if I meet with you,
When a million men to their doom I've brung
In the songs that a thousand bards have sung -
So I’ll meet no deedless, beardless boy
For to drink his blood on the slopes of Sloy!"

So Loll ran off to the witchy wood.
He did some deeds, and he did right good.
He killed a giant with the nib of his pen,
And he kicked him up, and he killed him again.
He rode back singing proud and free
With the Elf-King's daughter sat on his knee:
"Oh, now will you meet with a Border boy
For to cross our stars on the slopes of Sloy?"

Haughty Horn said he did not care,
But he begged to note he was not aware
That Larkin Loll was of such degree
As to come so bold with the likes of he.
"My mam's so proud, and her mam was too,
And they'll die of shame if I'm splashed with you,
So I'll beat no bloodless, beardless boy
To disgrace my race on the slopes of Sloy!"

Then Loll spoke up, both free and proud.
He spoke his words, and he spoke them loud.
"My dad was Cassand Rule-the-World.
My mam was Cleyse with her hair all curled.
And so say I, with every man,
Who treads in their track, and who does what he can.
Run along, hound Horn, on your hands and knees,
And bury your pride on the Grimshaw leas!

"What's Gods or bloods, to a Border boy
With his love on his knee, and his heart all joy?"

1 comment:

  1. The weak fifth line in Horn's second excuse should, I now see, read:

    "My mam's Proud May, and her mam was too,"

    which elevates it to a more Horn-like level of logic.

    Proud May is a legendary character I have just discovered - a maiden so pure and proud that, having found fault with every suitor up to and including the Emperor, she capped it all by rejecting Great Jove, on the grounds that his father Saturn was a felon doing hard time in Tartarus. She died a virgin, some say under the protection of Vesta (whose hearth even Jove durst not, for hospitality-related reasons, meddle with).

    To somebody like Horn, this is the very acme of virtuous womanhood, unless of course it includes the ludicrous impertinence of thinking him not good enough. Whether he considers such a folly more to be pitied or blamed, is outside the scope of this giving a damn.

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