Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Whither the Warriors?

Those who know me -- you know who you are -- know that, buried down beneath all the built-up cynicism, the feigning self-deprecation, and the creeping contrarianism, lies a hopeless romantic.  This makes me unsuitable for many things, and suitable for few, but no matter.  Somehow we romantics manage to make our way in the wide world, despite the machinations of smaller men and women, who do not understand us, and as a result, both marvel at and fear us. 

Yet as we live in a world of small men and women, the romantic must needs find a way eke out a living, and maybe even to become comfortable (a dangerous thing for the romantic).  As I enter my third month of unemployment (in the conventional sense), I find that comfort eludes me, the physical needs of life outweighing everything else.  In order to live in this society -- which I mostly dislike -- I must, again, allow myself to become subservient to it.  And so, with the aim of making myself more "presentable" -- that is, only an individual up to a certain point -- I shaved my beard today.

What does this mean?  For many, or most, I suspect, shaving a beard elicits little if any real thought about meanings.  I can grow a full beard in about two weeks.  But cutting off this symbol of masculinity, this symbol of wildness, this symbol of defiance -- a fawning Celt conforming to his Roman conquerors -- I feel should only be done if the man feels the need to express himself thusly.  The cutting of the beard due to societal pressures and mores, well... that not only speaks volumes about that particular society, but about the ability and willingness of the man to stand up to it, to defy it.

I caved.  I cut the beard.  No doubt this will garner much approval from the brainwashed, eager as most of them are to see others conquered like themselves -- misery loves company.  This is not to say that all who shave are craven; many men choose the clean-shaven look because they like it that way, not because of any societal pressures.  I salute them. 

So today my inner barbarian rails, but knows there are other ways to sing the song of defiance, to walk the warrior's path in this wretched, wicked country.

     Nay, look down on the road
     From the ancient abode!
     Betwixt acre and field
     Shineth helm, shineth shield.

     And high over the heath
     Fares the bane in his sheath;
     For the wise men and bold
     Go their ways o'er the wold.

Now the Warrior hath given them heart and fair day,
Unbidden, undriven, they fare to the fray.
By the rock and the river the banners they bear,
And their battle-staves quiver 'neath halbert and spear;
On the hill's brow they gather, and hang o'er the Dale
As the clouds of the Father hang, laden wtih bale.

     Down shineth the sun
     On the war-deed half done;
     All the fore-doomed to die,
     In the pale dust they lie.
     There they leapt, there they fell,
     And their tale shall we tell;
     But we, e'en in the gate
     Of the war-garth we wait,

Till the drift of war-weather shall whistle us on,
And we tread all together the way to be won,
To the dear land, the dwelling for whose sake we came
To do deeds for the telling of song-becrowned fame.
Settle helm on the head then!  Heave sword for the Dale!
Nor be mocked of the dead men for deedless and pale.

                                       William Morris, The Roots of the Mountains

Wassail, friends.

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Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"