10 September 2008

Carmina Burana -- The Tavern Song

Went down to the Maryland Renaissance Festival last weekend. Two day pass - Saturday and Sunday.

Hurricane Hanna hit us on Saturday. It was sublime.

The only folks at the festival are the people who work there, the absolutely freakish die-hards, and MJ and I. So there we are, sitting in a tavern with a few dozen folks tapping feet and mugs and pounding on tables and ladies dancing jigs and men hooting and bagpipes and bass drum blaring out a beat as the clouds circle and wind and rain rip holes in the dirt paths. We are in the 1530's. We are in the tavern.

In taberna quando sumus,
non curamus, quid sit humus,
sed ad ludum properamus,
cui semper insudamus.

When we are in the tavern,
we have no cares, whatever the earth may be,
but let us be hasty to the games,
which always make us break a sweat.

This snippet of a tavern song from the Carmina Burana is an excellent indication that our Medieval forebears knew where to find a little respite from the sludge of life. Written sometime in the 13th century, the Burana manuscript contains love songs as well as admonishing moralistic lyrics, but it's the drinking songs that really bring the period to life.

In the tavern, there's playing and drinking and living indiscreetly...

Quidam ludunt, quidam bibunt,
quidam indiscrete vivunt...


It's a place where nobody's afraid of death because everybody's on the side of good ol' Bacchus.

Ibi nullus timet mortem,
sed pro Baccho mittunt sortem.

This isn't the scary, judgmental Middle Ages... this is the Age of the Gothic -- party time and prep for the coming Renaissance!

This is an age in which tavern goers will raise a glass and sing together:

Bibit hera, bibit herus,
bibit miles, bibit clerus,
bibit ille, bibit illa,
bibit servus cum ancilla,
bibit velox, bibit piger,
bibit albus, bibit niger,
bibit constans, bibit vagus,
bibit rudis, bibit magus.
Bibit pauper et egrotus,
bibit exul et ignotus,
bibit puer, bibit canus,
bibit presul et decanus,
bibit soror, bibit frater,
bibit anus, bibit mater,
bibit ista, bibit ille,
bibunt centum, bibunt mille.

What a night that must have been all those years ago. Drink poor man and rich man, known and unknown, boy and dog, sister and brother, old woman and young mother, this one that one, a hundred, a thousand...

I think it is the sense of being together -- the physicality of community -- that we've steadily been losing to Internets and Skype and iPhones that bodes poorly on our future. Facebook is not a tavern. Of course this has all been said before. But even as I write this post and consider the silliness of what I type, some Gothic or Renaissance DNA-thingie somewhere in my spine compels me to long for song and dance and spitting in the face of a hurricane -- a bunch of friends and strangers alike all bundled together with nowhere else to go. And because there is no where else to go, no webpage to turn to, no text to answer, we turn to one another and address the truth of the short time we all have together.

2 comments:

R said...

fantastic, Shelly. just fantastic.

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