Kage Baker taught Elizabethan English (also known as Language I when we had time for lots of classes) for the performers at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She taught it for most of 30 years; we team-taught at workshops, she and I, in a spiel I can still recite. Well, I can recite my half – I get stuck pausing for her lines here and there. We had worked out a class recitation that was half improv and half thesaurus.
There are adults now working Faires who learned Elizabethan as children learn natural language: playing in the straw at their parents’ feet and listening to us talk for hours every day. Most of the worthy folks teaching it now learned it from us; most of the guides available borrow from our research – which is right and proper, we stole some of it from older researchers.
For a generation of Faire, it was part of our life.
Sitting up tonight, going through old manuscripts as I have been, I found an old poem Kage wrote after an encounter on one of our mythic trips up and down California. Since it references Kettleman City and midnight, I can place it as during the time we still lived in Los Angeles and commuted to the Blackpoint Faire. And since I have just discovered that rehearsals have begun for the Casa de Fruta Faire, Dear Reader, this is a perfect time to share it with you.
Here ya go, kids.
Kettleman City at midnight
Is dark and hot and godforsaken
And why anybody would put a cow shed there, much less a McDonald’s, is beyond me, but anyway:
There behind the counter was this lady
Who must have been my mother’s age and her face
Was as familiar.
Holbein! That’s where she’d come from.
Same Tudor cast of features, all those calm women
White-coifed, hands folded, staring into centuries
With the same pale eyes.
Her hair was still corn-coloured and her skin
Was pink and fresh as if the air were cold,
Which it never is, in Kettleman City.
Wow, Lady, what are you doing here?
What happened to your embroidery, your prayerbook?
Maybe she lost them in the battered truck
That brought her, young, from Tulsa, or from Guthrie;
Or maybe her grandmother lost them in the covered wagon;
Or on the ship that sailed away from Bristol,
Long time ago.
She asked me Did I want lids on the coffee and Yes,
That was a genuine American Dustbowl voice.
Gosh. Heredity is amazing.
Fake Englishwoman that I am,
My father’s fathers sat around the lodge house
Discussing trade with visiting Algonquins;
She once walked all in a garden green,
But long ago she lost that far sweet land.
Listen to me, Lady, I’ll tell you something
Your blood has forgotten:
The Looord is muee sheparrd,
Uhee shall not waante …
@Kage Baker, 2010. All rights reserved.
Northern California Renaissance Faire -Casa de Fruta, Hollister CA, September 18th to October 17th 2010 http://www.norcalrenfaire.org/
Tomorrow: musings on steampunk – for real, this time