Thursday, December 25, 2008

[liege and life] minstrels and jongleurs

There’s this game on Facebook which the delectable Trixy involved me in and my persona is Sir James, Knight but apparently I’m also the Sovereign [interesting concept of feudalism].

The first thing I thought on seeing my “vassals” was that I didn’t particularly want any vassals. Vassals did have rights though and the social contract was that they were granted land to farm, in return for loyalty and war service.

Facebook, being an offshoot of DARPA, is clearly interested in people’s predispositions and I’m sure DARPA would say to the game player who can amass vassals and win wars: “You’re our boy.” [Or girl.]

In the late 90s, Richie Blackmore and his Candice Knight put out that album with feudal references and slight problems of chronology. One of the tracks was Renaissance Faire:

So I told her, "Yes", I knew her fear
As I felt the truth draw near

Told her back three hundred years [?],

Was the time that I held dear...

Gather ye lords and ladies fair,

Come with me to the Renaissance Faire

Hurry now, we're almost there...
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la,la, la, la...

Hear the minstrels play their tunes,
They will play the whole night through,

Special songs for me and you,

And anyone whose heart is true...

Have to smile at the automatic assumption by Richie Blackmore’s entourage [special songs for me and you] that they and we would be the lords and ladies. A moment’s thought would show that they’d be the wandering minstrels and we’d be freemen at best:

Most minstrels were wanderers; travelling from town to town and performing to all classes of people, performing for whoever paid them.

One day, a minstrel might play at a local fair, performing before the townspeople, the next he might call in at the town’s castle to provide a few night’s entertainment.

As a perpetual traveller, he had many tales to tell and was a source of news and gossip to those he stayed with.

It took a lot of skill, a singing voice and a willingness, nay, a necessity for them to stay on the road, picking up new material and adjusting their repertoire. The life was not too bad early on and the minstrels were eagerly awaited by all classes. Gradually though, the troubadour name fell into disrepute:

The success and popularity of these jongleurs attracted unworthy followers and imitators.

These low fellows, unable to obtain entrance to courts and baronial halls, donned grotesque dresses, stationed themselves in market-place or village green and supplemented their verses with coarse buffoonery, feats of legerdemain, tricks with monkeys, and doggerel appealing to a vitiated taste.

Philip Augustus and Saint Louis banished them from the country and the poets, finding the honored names of trouvère and troubadour trailed through the dirt, angrily denounced them as bastards, and ceased to provide them with verse.

The eventual problem with this life is that it had to end sometime and then what did an ageing minstrel do?

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