Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Singin' 'bout Interspecies Transmogrification

Posting the photo from the Midwest Morris Ale in my last journal entry has gotten me reminiscing again. You might think it's a bit premature to reminisce about an event that took place less than two months ago, but in the Wacky World of Morris you reminisce about events pretty much as soon as they happen, and sometimes before. It's a self-mythologizing cult.

One of the reasons it is difficult to convey what it feels like to attend a Morris Ale is that the experience is one of successive Moments that don't cohere into a narrative. Instead they build up to create a feeling of a separate universe. I know there are many other situations that can feel like this, and no doubt you've experienced some of them.

Looking down the bar during the pub stop on Sunday afternoon's tour and seeing all the children downing their beverages, with a contented-weary happy hour look on their faces, was one such moment. I've been thinking about another, for no particular reason.

At one point during the weekend, in the dining area, I was sitting at a table with my friend Denise and a few others and I was moved to sing a sweet little song with a chorus of "Yay ho, little fish, don't cry don't cry; yay ho, little fish, you'll be whale by and by." It's got a pleasant melody and it was a satisfying thing for us all to sing but when we finished I noted that it's kind of a lie, since a fish is never going to turn into a whale no matter how successful he or she is at heeding the song's advice ("You go to fish school, but can't learn in a book, how not to get caught in the fisherman's hook").

Which got us thinking about other songs that involve crossing over from one species to another. It's not in any folk tradition, but of course there's "Swinging on a Star", so we sang that. (Or would you rather be a mule? Or would you rather be a fish? Or would you rather be a pig?)

But there couldn't be any others, someone said. Oh, well there's "The Two Magicians":

Then she became a hare
A hare out on the plain
And he became a greyhound dog
And fetched her back again.

(Or, sometimes, she becomes a duck and he becomes a waterdog. In other verses they turn into stars, thunderclouds, roses, trouts, flies, and in one particularly difficult cellular transformation, a quilt and a coverlet.)

Then we remembered the old chestnut "Roll Your Leg Over" which has both male and female narrator versions and a good deal of species crossing: If all the young laddies were fish in the sea, I'd be a minnow and let them eat me. If all the young lassies were cows in the pasture, I'd be a bull and I'd fill 'em with rapture. You get the idea. It might have been Lynn Noel who wrote the verse "If all the young laddies were dancing the Morris I'd have one on the verse and six on the chorus" but I suppose it's debatable whether that's technically a cross-species verse.

And then it was time to head off to some other event.
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