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Sunday, August 9, 2009

She moved through the fair

Along the line of poetry, here is an old English folksong which I heard recently on a record by Loreena McKennitt, Nights from the Alhambra, a live performance.
I recommend, however ; that you listen to it performed by Alfred Deller, the man behind the resurrection of the counter-tenor voice. No-one sings this music like Deller, who has his faults, but whose voice can translate instantly the most subtle, changeable nuances of emotion into song.

"My young love said to me, my mother won't mind,
And my father won't smite you for your lack of kind.
And she stepped away from me, and then she did say,
It will not be long, love, 'til our wedding day.

She stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there,
And then she went homeward, with one star awake,
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

Last night she came to me, she came softly in,
So softly she came that her feet made no din,
And she laid her hand on me, and this she did say,
It will not be long, love 'til our wedding day."

This song is pretty straightforward, isn't it ?
But... do you UNDERSTAND it ?

When my mother married my father in 1952 she was a virgin. I know because she told me so, and knowing her the way I did, I know that she wasn't lying...
My father was an Ivy League military man who had fooled around with the Ivy League girls at school, but when he married, he wanted a virgin. He didn't really respect a woman (Ivy League or not...) who had slept around before her wedding. And both of them warned ME to be careful about sleeping around. They didn't approve of it at all. Basically, because they wanted to protect ME. Because they felt that in these circumstances, the WOMAN ends up getting hurt more often than the man. Biology oblige, as the French say.

The above is to indicate just how fast things have changed. The idea that I would be a virgin at my wedding was already unthinkable for me at 18.

But when I hear the song, I get a wistful feeling, thinking about how much I, WE have lost with our new sexual "freedom". I can hear, taste the desire between man and woman in the song. And their desire is not that cheap, tawdry ersatz that sells cars on the billboards, you can be sure of that...

And when I hear the song, I also understand, or think I understand just WHY some of the Muslim women are picking up the veil to hide their hair. Did you know that in Western Europe the women during the Middle Ages wore a form of veil ? The Middle Ages, when women in many cases enjoyed a freedom that they STILL have not attained in modern western society (re Regine Pernoud, a French historian who began dusting off the Middle Ages for us in France in the 1970's). And, ironically, Dink, the Catholic church was an institution that guaranteed women this freedom. It was not necessarily the oppressor that our one dimensional understanding of history, reduced to propaganda disseminated "en masse" by the history manuals, has led us to believe...

With any luck, you might be able to find Alfred Deller singing this song on youtube, where apparently you can find everything. If not, Harmonia Mundi has issued a coffret with most of his recordings. Enjoy !


SS said...

Beautiful post, Deb.


SS said...

Might enjoy another thought. I do appreciate Muslim modesty in dress, though not necessarily the veil which I don't generally find does anything for anyone. I also agree with Sarkozy on a more extreme form the Burkha which he said doesn't belong in France.

The modesty of Muslim's women's dress on the other hand is indeed to be praised. This as opposed to the dress of young Western woman who stretch muscles to reveal as much as possible. I find this generally unattractive, insulting to themselves, manipulative of male desire and generally remarkably hypocritical and unappealing. I'm glad I don't have a daughter for that one reason that in Western culture, even with the best upbringing, girls almost always embrace this conformity of dress and I would be having endless arguments with any child of mine that dressed in such an undressed manner.

Even as a young man I did not like this "undress"; a simple coquettish turn of color or lace is so much more attractive.


Thai said...

Another beautiful post Deb.

I will look for Loreena McKennitt and Alfred Deller on itunes as well.

re: Burkha

I tend to think of this as one of these zero sum issues: something is always lost while something is always gained... I won't go all conservation of information (energy) on you but that is just how I see it. ;-)

From my viewpoint on the issue, the problem is extremes in diversity, and in particular, how we maintain faith in each other in the face of such increasing diversity.

For I truly believe that only through extreme diversity and cooperation do we ever become a strong fulfilled society-citizenry. But I also see how hard it is to maintain faith in one another when we become stranger and stranger to each another.

And the problem we scientists have is that we see no support for the idea that externalizing this issue is either honest or changes anything.

For we do see the boundaries of our home that create the links between all of us. But we do not see beyond that boundary, nor do we see evidence that others who think they see beyond it actually do.

FWIW, I attended my first Jewish orthodox wedding last night (the daughter of a dear friend)- it is a culture I know nothing of.

In particular for this discussion however, the tensions that were both created and minimized by the separation of the sexes was truly beautiful to watch. I understand why orthodox peoples fight to keep this, even if I would never want it personally.

So thanks for reminding us of that as we push for unity and destroy diversity, something is always lost.

Debra said...

Lucky you, Thai, to get to go to a wedding... It must have been beautiful. I imagine that there was a canopy, right ?
I haven't been in a while, and I love weddings.
Whenever the cars go by with the horns honking, I try to get a glimpse of the bride...
Very sentimental of me.
I never wore the long white dress that my mother did, although I did model her gown at a church function when I was 20 or so.
I was married at the town hall, in a chic 1950's sky blue suit that one of my mother's best friends gave me.
My husband and I watched "Sabrina" the other night on DVD with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Very sophisticated comment about class differences, SS. You would like it, if you haven't seen it before.
The song could have been talking about Audrey Hepburn, she is SO beautiful, so alive (even though she's now dead).

Thai said...

Deb, Hell asked us to remain on topic so that is why I have not responded (that and I honestly do work for a living).

responding to your comments on SD

re: "I keep telling Thai (and others who are interested...) that human beings gotta create differences BETWEEN in order to think. When you get rid of a difference in one area, thus, the social body will recreate a difference in another area in order to compensate for the loss of difference."

I understand this- please think about my statement "the conservation of energy or information or risk (they are all the same)
in a closed system"
. IN this we are saying the same thing

re: home schooling. I didn't respond since after I commented I realized Hell did understand my point and has in effect been saying the same thing for years with his warnings about permagrowth and local.

You answered me to some degree with the statement "WHAT IF....
wages stagnated in part BECAUSE of the exodus of the white bourgeois woman into the working force ?"

I think this is a very valid point of view (you can even take out the words white bourgeois and the statement is just as valid.

I am not going to go into evolutionary theory again but remember, I keep saying: "the conservation of energy in a closed system (or conservation of information in a closed manifold) implies all change is zero sum".

All of science is tells us this simple fact, which our brains are trained to ignore because of its implications to our own cognitive dissonance.

Thai said...

Deb, notice how almost each point in this Oprah post on eating talks about the zero sum nature of change ;-)

Thai said...

Re: Marcus

The whole issue with him reminds me of a sphere; none of us can ever see the other side of it (unless of course we turn it over).

... Further some people will never realize there is another side to the sphere as it is simply too foreign for their brains to wait beyond the requisite 250 ms.

... come to think of it, did you ever see Kurosawa's film Rashomon?

SS said...

@ Thai

"come to think of it, did you ever see Kurosawa's film Rashomon?"

Interesting link very, I say he did it, of course I'm American land of simple certitude.



Debra said...

Yeah, Thai, mea culpa, I have been running away with the bit over on Hell's blog, and after my last comment this morning, I feel really guilty, so maybe we can come over here to discuss these points afterwards ? I'm going to create a post where we can continue to discuss over here, above.

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