Sunday, 30 October 2011

Stupormarket Sweep

'Tossco - very little help!' - public domain.
Tossco - very little help! - public domain.

Some pious Sunday thoughts, for the Dean and Chapter of my local consumerist cathedral:

1) The customer tannoy is for informing us when you are about to close, or have set fire to your bakery again, or other matters of urgency. It is not for spamming all and sundry with the praises of your latest fancy mobile phone contract. You used to understand this better. Nor, if you persist on breaking into conversation or concentration in this manner, will it induce me to buy crap on autopilot with my brain out of circuit. It will induce me to bugger off!

2) Sharp invisible bits of plastic are even more unwelcome on the packaging of fresh meat than they are under other circumstances.

3) Nobody in the world eats 'meal solutions', except possibly those members of your marketing department who barfed up this dronespeak over your customers under the inspiration of one too many liquid lunches. What are we then, cully - 'consumer problems'? Cease and desist from this twin offence against the people and the language of old England, lest raging mobs be moved to pro-actively roll out a you-oriented kick up the arse solution toot sweet!

Thank you for your attention. We are passionate about improving your merchant service experience, and value your whatever. To hear this message again and again everywhere, just keep right on the way you're going!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Fair Is the Face and Dark Is the Heart

A poetic dialogue between Incomparable Cleïs and the moralistic philosopher Jeremias from my own Kateverse setting - where this is a translation from an original by the antique lyrist, stateswoman, and Cleïs fangirl Stateira Hetaira. The content is not otherwise universe-specific.

"Fair is the face and dark is the heart,"

a dialogue between Cleïs and Jeremias

Jer. Fair is the face and dark is the heart.
Beauty and grace end with seeming and skin -
Worm and corruption hold revels within.
Fair is the face, ah, but dark is the heart!

Cle. Fair is the face, aye, and dark is the heart.
Charms are our banners in daylight unfurled.
Hearts are the horrors we hide from the world -
Facing it graciously is our kind art.

Jer. Black is the death when white is the urn.
Flies buzz when hypocrites speak the world fair.
Ghosts fester foul as they fear the free air -
Black is the soul, Cleïs: white is the urn!

Cle. Black is our marrow - to light we must turn.
Artful decay brings red wine and rich food,
Fairer for sharing than raw tripes and blood.
Black are our souls, but how brightly they burn!

Jer. Foul is the heart though fair is the face.
Venus' eyes hide the charnel of Mars.
When he breaks through, who'll compare you to stars?
Fair make your heart, ere it shows in your face!

Cle. Foolish is heart that's unfriend to its face.
Brave is the heart that will fight from its hell.
Inwards must find what is fair from their shell:
Learning life's kindness is all our hearts' grace.

Jer. Dark is the heart caught deep in the clay.
Cle. Deck it with flowers, and dance in the day!
Jer. Fair is the face, but the spirit is sin.
Cle. Let it look out, while the stars soak our skin
By the banks of the wide Milky Way...
A Whisper. - Come in -

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Sallikin Cloud's Lullaby

Mediaeval cot and rattle reproduction from Walraversijde archaeological site - by user JoJan at Wikimedia Commons - released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence.

Reproduction of mediaeval cot and rattle c. 1465, from the archaeological site of Walraversijde in Belgium. By user JoJan at Wikimedia Commons, released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence.

A lullaby from Langdale in the Kateverse. It says quite a lot about the singer, who almost certainly invented these lyrics, but quite a lot more about local conditions before the anti-feudalist Rising.

Sallikin Cloud's Lullaby

Daddy's down the booze hole.
Gods are in the sky.
Everyone who'd hurt you -
None of 'em are nigh.

Squires are in their castle.
Wolves are in their wood.
Walls are round about us -
We are hidden good.

Don't you know I love you?
Don't you know I'm strong?
Nightmare's not to fear, dear,
With your Sis along.

Sleep, you little silly -
I will hold your hand.
Lie all night till daylight,
In a better land!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Bungle in the Jungle

Kateverse folksong set in some unspecified region of Melandra. Unfortunately, we learn next to nothing about the local cultures/ civilizations/ inspirations hereby, since neither the Northern narrator nor his Southron companion are exactly all about the culture.

The Bungle in the Jungle

Juba and me, in old Melandree,
We went down by the Wetwood, two rich boys to be.
The Dons only paid us in shavepence and stripes,
And so we jumped ship when our planning was ripened, for
Juba and me, in old Melandree –
A bungle in the jungle like you never did see!

Juba once heard, off a blackbird,
Of vine-strangled cities a promising word,
With cobbles of onyx and tin baths of gold,
And nothing but fancies our hands to withhold from 'em –
He said she said, Thieves should be sped
By rotten bad spirits that drove 'em till dead!

Juba and I said All my eye!
We'd pluck ourselves plenty, or else we'd know why.
He said Man it's dirty, I said Man it's hot,
The men said Bog off, till we paid one a lot to guide
Juba and me, through deep Melandree –
A bungle in the jungle like you never did see!

Thicket and mire hedged our desire.
The food that we'd bought set our arseholes on fire.
The guide said That's funny, but Juba said No,
And I fell down stairs as I amplified, Go away –
I hit my nut on a beam, but
We'd found out the ruins of Idunnowot!

What did we find? Treasure so fine?
Only ten buttloads of boiled plantain wine.
We drank it for sorrow, then drank it for mirth,
Then thought we'd stroll home o'er the pretty green earth (which sucked).
All of us three, up Shitty Tree -
We stumbled through the swamplands like you never did see!

Juba and me, in old Melandree,
We came back from the Wetwood, poor beggars were we.
We lost blades and britches, the guide lost our pence,
And Juba complains that we still smell intensely bad:
Misery me, in old Melandree –
A bungle in the jungle like you never did see!

The big Southron tough guy whinging incessantly about dirt and bad smells abroad is a well-established trope in my Europeanly bath-sceptical North. The proverbial 'Shitty Tree' is idiomatically Shit Creek, and originally a reference to the impaling stake.

There is no mass slave trade in known areas of the Kateverse; foreign attitudes towards Melandra and Melandrans don't map well onto those displayed towards sub-Saharan Africa and its peoples in our world; and this song's general spirit of, "Let's not go there, it is a silly place!" is wholly typical of its Morgander sources.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Jolly Saturday

Saturnus - Polidoro Caldara da Caravaggio (16th century) - public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Saturnus, by Polidoro Caldara da Caravaggio (16th century) - public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kateverse folksong - probably about contemporary with Dame Catherine Tynde, but very definitely not on the same side. People have been burned in Morgander and Selquay for whistling the tune to this revolutionary anthem.

Jolly Saturday

When jolly King Saturday ruled every land,
All men were equal and all men were grand.
Now lords scrap for tinsel where men strove for grain,
And gold blooms from blood where it swelled once from rain,
Oh and hey, hey, King Saturday!
They've thrown us in hell, won't you fetch us away?

When Saturday's children killed Saturday's reign,
Fire on the mountain was drought in the plain.
Every god's bully-boy brawled for a crown:
Trampled the crops and the crop-tenders down,
Oh and hey, hey, King Saturday!
Where are our heroes to fight them today?

Heroes of Hector's day stood against gods:
Heroes of pedigree can't stand for odds.
My lord ain't no Hector - he’s barely a man –
It's high time we showed him what common clay can!
Oh and hey, hey, King Saturday!
We're more than our fathers who failed you, today!

When jolly boys rise up across our fair land,
Saturday's gospel our joy and command,
Peasants and lords shall change pleasure and pain:
Gold shall our fields bloom after red rain,
For it's hey, hey, King Saturday!
They threw you in hell, but we'll fetch you away!

King Saturday is the Titan-God Saturn of the Golden Age. Hector the Hold-Fast of the Kateverse is not our Hector of Troy (though several parallels exist) but a famous champion of the weak, god-bothered, and oppressed. The thumping sexism of this song is partly of its day, but at least equally because Saturnists Have Certain Issues.

As the rest of the song suggests, their ideology is not in every respect a repellent one.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

"Lovely Creature of Earth"

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs - Frederick William Burton, 1864 - public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Meeting on the Turret Stairs, or Hellelil and Hildebrand (1864), by Frederick William Burton. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The end of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland draws nigh. Just completed the second, unexpectedly long chapter of the Young Duke and his beloved enemy, back at Garcastle waiting for the Grey Wolf to come riding home from Langdale. Now I've blocked in every moment of time: nothing can happen now but the last negotiation to avoid a ruinous war which nobody wants or can be sure how to step back from, and the final culmination of a forty-year family feud. Again and now until the end, my grey-gold Kate must take centre-stage, and bear the weight of the tale on her aching old shoulders, where Katy Elflocks great as the green hills and the black sky cannot. But this Garcastle segment, given wholly to her antagonist the Duke, has been needful, and reshaped parts of the ending I'd long thought set in stone.

And there is that romance that animates it. It is a romance that, even in the moment of its greatest triumph, is not very obviously fortunate in its stars. It is also one without which it would have been hard, mighty hard, to manage the forthcoming descent into the fire.

The final two chapters await, and the epilogue. This backfill has left me six weeks behind my summer schedule, and ahead lie the grand crises of the book. Realistically, I'll do well to get this whole draft completed before December. That will make it almost exactly four years since I got my first idea of it, a true winter's tale from root to crown.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Cock and the Cat

Just to make sure that my blogging for this month can only go uphill, here is a shamelessly bogus folksong which the Kateverse would spit out like a bowl of warm mouthwash. I make no excuses for it except a bad fit of what-the-hell.

The Cock and the Cat

There was a cat so sleek and proud,
Her name was Pretty Pussy.
She met a rooster red and loud,
And he was none too wussy.

"Good morrow to thee, Chanticleer,
And step aside before me,
For dost thou flout thy mistress here,
To redder rags she'll claw thee!"

"I am a game and fighting cock,
Nor bow to any moggy,
And if thou'lt meet in battle’s shock,
I'll leave thee red and soggy!"

Then each made good upon their word,
Red cock and ready ratter –
Her lightning claws caught not the bird,
Nor might his spurs come at her.

So she's become a tiger fierce,
Each tooth a savage sabre,
And he a loathly cockatrice,
To end her lively labour.

Then she's become a mirror smart,
And he a stone to smash it,
And she a frost to break its heart,
And he a rain to wash it,

And she a bird to drink the rain,
And he a cat to catch it,
And then they change shapes round again,
And cry, "No more of that shit!"

She rose as maiden clear as stars,
And he as manxome fellow,
And, as bright Venus and red Mars,
Into embrace they fell, O!

Her poniard found his occiput
Just as his shiv her kidney,
So Pretty Pussy down was put,
And Cocky snuffed it, didn’t he?

The moral this was made to show
Is neither cute nor clever –
It's cocks and kitties come and go,
But dickheads are forever!

This was loosely inspired, if such be the term, by The Two Magicians, though the protagonists' agendas here are... predictably divergent.