The Old High Way of Love

Medieval-Love-Letter.png

Today I staged my annual finger puppet play Courtly Love. My sophomores are reading “The Miller’s Tale” this weekend, perhaps in the romantic glow of hurricane lamps, so I wanted them to get a peek at the concept before Chaucer skewers it.

I guess I could set my phone’s camera up in a stationary position and try to record Courtly Love as I did with the underappreciated finger puppet classic Freud, Jung, Hamlet, and Joyce, but Judy Birdsong assisted me in that production, and the absolute silliness of a 64-year-old man engaging in such childish behavior makes me hesitant to ask any of my friends to help.[1]

Anyway, here are still shots of the key scenes.

marriage

The marriage of Allyson and Gerontion

pining

Allyson pining

appearance

the arrival of Bayard singing Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely”

IMG_0894

Serenading her to improvised lyrics sung to the tune of “Louie, Louie”

[not pictured: an intermediary delivering a poem]

[not pictured: her refusal]

[not pictured: her acceptance]

the kiss

the consumation

Every year, the kids howl in laughter during the performance and clap enthusiastically at its conclusion. One student today naively suggested I could market the play and become a wealthy man.

The problem is that for the rest of the year, I’ll hear a constant refrain of “Hey, Mr. Moore, when are we going to have another puppet show? And all they have to look forward to his a human production of John Milton Dictates Paradise Lost to His Daughters.[2]

Anyway today after the play, I did something a little different. I projected onto the so-called “Smart Board”[3] Yeats’ beautiful lyric “Adam’s Curse.”

Here’s, as they say in the porn biz, the “money” stanza.

I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing

Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.

There have been lovers who thought love should be

So much compounded of high courtesy

That they would sigh and quote with learned looks

Precedents out of beautiful old books;

Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

Through Socratic questioning I coaxed that the rituals of Courtly Love became a sort of how-to-make-love manual as romantics like Romeo would “sigh and quote with learned looks” as he pined away for Rosaline, not to mention Willy B himself in his relentless pursuit of that flinty muse Maud Gonne.

Of course, now movies have replaced “beautiful old books” in this regard. We learn how to kiss (among other things) from watching cinematic stars lock lips.

I don’t see Chaucer with his ironic detachment, even as an adolescent, embracing those rituals of wooing, but then again, Chaucer never wrote lines more beautiful than these:

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;

We saw the last embers of daylight die,

And in the trembling blue-green of the sky

A moon, worn as if it had been a shell

Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell

About the stars and broke in days and years.

 

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:

That you were beautiful, and that I strove

To love you in the old high way of love;

That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown

As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Oh, my.

maud gonne

Maud Gonne


[1] Perhaps I should recruit one of my younger friends’ children?

[2] Picture Milton in shades, rocking back and forth like Stevie Wonder, intoning “Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit/Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste/Brought death into the world and all woe . . .”

[3 It’s constantly overreacting to my movements, jumping slides ahead when I merely saw the air with an emphatic gesture.

Chico, Feo, Folly Beach’s Cannery Row

Not to be over-self-congratulatory, not to be so much hipper-than-thou, but brothers and sisters, if you ain’t hanging at a proletariat bar at least once in a while, you missing out.

Chico Feo, my personal cannery row, boasts a clientele of regulars that rivals the characters in a Jerry Jeff Walker song.[1]

Last Sunday, for example, I spent a couple of hours conversing with Brandon, an official member of the Lumbee tribe of Robeson, North Carolina. In Summerville, when I was growing up, these Native American offshoots were targets of scorn, denigrated as “half breeds,” “Summerville Indians,” or “brass ankles.”

(If you got the time – or better yet you should make the time – read Jo Humphreys’ Nowhere Else on Earth and learn about the Lumbees and Henry Berry Lowery. We’re talking Robin Hood-meets-Swamp Fox Civil War swashbuckling. Also, vicariously, you experience the trials and tribulations of being that breed back then. It’s historical fiction at his finest.

Anyway, Brandon has the Confederate battle flag tattooed on his left side beneath his shirt somewhere (in honor of his father’s ancestry) and Indian iconography tattooed on right arm and fist (in honor of his mother’s).[2]. He also whipped out his official tribal ID card and explained what the dates signify on the tribal ring he proudly wears. The bad news is that I doubled the couple of All Day IPAs I had planned on and abandoned my essay-grading regimen.

The conversation began with me talking about the ‘60s history course I’m trying to teach, and he told me he was really into Nam, that his two favorite Viet Nam movies are Platoon and Apocalypse Now because Platoon captures the day-to-day grind of warfare and Apocalypse Now the insanity.

He should know. He’s served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brandon

Four days later, I met Brandon’s former roommate Kenny, who a few months ago had his motorcycle rear-ended in the wee hours on Arctic Avenue by some drunk woman supposedly going 70.[3]

It was touch-and-go for a good while, and after months of hospitalization, this was his first appearance back to Chico. The staff essentially abandoned their posts momentarily to shake his hand.

Kenny, too, has Indian tattoos, the word letters I-N-C-A tattooed on the space above his finger joints and knuckles on his left hand. He now lives with his fiancée Miranda just off the island and wears the beatific smile of a survivor. I stupidly told them how lucky they were, told them about losing Judy.

Believe me; they get it.

* * *

Best quotes of the week:

Me: Got this pal in NOLA with a one-room condo, so when you come to visit him, he’ll put you up in a hotel because the money he saves by having a one-bedroom condo saves him so much money he’s happy to foot hotel bills for his guests.

Jason: Got lots of friends living in cars saving all kinds of money, and they won’t even buy me a fuckin’ beer.


John, sitting at the bar, struggling to fetch his cigs from his pants pocket.

Jason: The ladies expect tight pants these days; if you can’t get your cigarettes out of your pants, so be it.


Walking Joel: Guess what my mom got at Harris-Teeter? Grapes, man, and you know what? They taste just like cotton candy! You close your eyes. Put one in your mouth, and I swear, even though it’s a grape, it tastes just like cotton candy.

John (cocking a skeptical eyebrow): So how many pounds of this stuff did she buy?

Walking Joel: Blocks, man. They come in blocks.

One more, Jude, please.


[1] I’m too lazy to look up to see if “clientele” is considered singular or plural. Calling Catherine Salmon, my very favorite grammar maven!

[2] And, yes, he is painfully aware of the paradox of the clash.

[3] Which frankly defies credibility.