What Do the Simple Folk Do?

GUENEVERE
What do the simple folk do
To help them escape when they\’re blue?
The shepard who is ailing, the milkmaid who is glum
The cobbler who is wailing from nailing his thumb
When they\’re beset and besieged
The folk not noblessly obliged
However do they manage to shed their weary lot?
Oh, what do simple folk do we do not?

I read an article in the spring about a guy who had been visiting his mother for a couple of weeks and while they were leaning in opposite directions politically, they found mutual enjoyment in watching old classic movies together on TCM (the Turner Classic Movie channel here in the US). I thought that was brilliant and so this summer, I have consciously been recording and watching many old classic movies as a form of self care. It has been fun to rediscover old favorites, catching things I have missed in the past, and I have loved being exposed to new actors and movies that I haven’t watched previously.  One movie that was on recently, was the 1967 version of Camelot with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris. Go ahead and giggle; however, this movie and play–and one song in particular–have a back story for me.

ARTHUR
I have been informed by those who know them well
They find relief in quite a clever way
When they\’re sorely pressed, they whistle for a spell
And whistling seems to brighten up their day
And that\’s what simple folk do
So they say
 
GUENEVERE
They whistle?
 
ARTHUR
So they say

(they whistle for a while)

My sister and I spent 4 years in middle school/junior high (6th-9th grades) rather than the usual 4 in high school and during those years I was a part of our school’s chorus program. We did a yearly school musical, of which I remember 3:  The Velveteen Rabbit (I was in the choir), Scrooge (I had the part of Joe the Pawnbroker), and Alice in Wonderland  (I was the voice of the Cheshire Cat), as well as a winter holiday concert and a spring concert. I also remember that our chorus teacher, Mrs. Weiner, loved Carole King and really got in to the music of Camelotwhich happened to be touring in 1981 with Richard Harris and had a run at Detroit’s Masonic Temple. I vaguely remember watching the movie in class–although I don’t remember the song the “Lusty Month of May”, so maybe we didn’t; however, I do know for sure that we attended the play as a class and had seats close to the stage. I remember being in awe of the performance and feeling that the actor portraying Lancelot was looking directly at me (be still, my 13 year-old heart!). Besides attending the play and that very hot Lancelot, I also remember learning the words to the duet by King Arthur and Genevere, “What Do the Simple Folk Do” and performing it at one of our concerts. The words and the meaning have stuck with me and when I have been in spots where I’m feeling ‘glum’ or ‘beset and besieged’, I have found myself humming this song.

Here is a longer version of the song, from the 1982 stage production with Richard Harris:

GUENEVERE
What else do the simple folk do
To pluck up the heart and get through?
The wee folk and the grown folk
Who wander to and fro
Have ways known to their own folk
We throne folk don\’t know
When all the doldrums begin
What keeps each of them in his skin?
What ancient native custom provides the needed glow?
Oh, what do simple folk do?
Do you know?
 
ARTHUR
Once, upon the road, I came upon a lad
Singing in a voice three times his size
When I asked him why, he told me he was sad
And singing always made his spirits rise
And that\’s what simple folk do
I surmise
 
GUENEVERE
They sing?
 
ARTHUR
I surmise
 
BOTH
Arise, my love, arise, my love
Apollo\’s lighting the skies, my love
The meadows shine with columbine
And daffodils blossom away
Hear Venus call to one and all
And taste delight while you may
The world is bright and all is right
And life is merry and gay

I’ve been feeling the doldrums at many points this past year and struggled to ‘stay in my skin’.  Much of my blogging has been a direct reflection of the upheaval of my world. Granted this whole blog the past 5 years has been about processing the numerous upheavals that life can through at you, but this past year or so has felt especially intense! While this blog is about searching for things that expand my world, it is also about searching for ways to cope and recognizing what seems to help.

I find it fascinating that Camelot doesn’t end the discussion on coping after the song “What Do the Simple Folk Do.” Instead, King Arthur seeks out Merlin and asks him, “What is the best thing for being sad?” And Merlin’s response is that you should “learn something”.

This was adapted from the following by T.H. White:

“The best thing for being sad…is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then…to learn.
Learn why the world wags, and what wags it.”
~ T.H. White, “The Once and Future King” (1939)

GUENEVERE
What else do the simple folk do?
They must have a system or two
They obviously outshine us at turning tears to mirth
And tricks a royal highness is minus from birth
What, then, I wonder, do they
To chase all the goblins away?
They have some tribal sorcery you haven\’t mentioned yet
Oh, what do simple folk do to forget?
 
ARTHUR
Often, I am told, they dance a fiery dance
And whirl \’till they\’re completely uncontrolled
Soon the mind is blank and oh, they\’re in a trance
A violent trance astounding to behold
And that\’s what simple folk do
So I\’m told
 
GUENEVERE
They dance?
 
ARTHUR
So I\’m told(they dance)
 

So, Genevere and Arthur list whistling, singing and dancing as some of the ways simple folk get through tough times. Merlin suggests learning. We all have our tool box of coping skills, but the challenge sometimes is getting into the dang box. Here are some of my tools:

My ‘Coping with the Doldrums’ Tool Box
  1. Writing this blog. The simple process of writing and then sharing my thoughts with an audience helps me process.
  2. Journaling. The process of writing for myself helps me to put thoughts on paper for my eyes only. Very therapeutic.
  3. Playing solitaire and doing Sudoku.
  4. Rowing with ROW.
  5. Watching classic movies. Some of my summer favorites: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Notorious, Rear Window, and North by Northwest.
  6. Listening to fiction on CD while I’m driving on errands or working around the house.
  7. Searching for ‘learning’ opportunities to expand my world and my grasp of it.
  8. Reading books and articles that help me look at the world with a new slant. Most recently, a post about the “10 Ways  You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Has To Be” really caught my eye. While Terry really has issues with #1-Ascribing Intent and #2-Being the Star of his own movie, I really have a problem with #3-Fast-Forwarding to the Apocalypse and #8-Allowing People to Steal My Time.
  9. Getting enough sleep.
  10. Talking to my parents and my sister.
  11. Watching panda videos.
  12. Walking the dogs.
  13. A nice glass or two of sangria or Menage a Trois red wine.
  14. Getting together with old friends–which I don’t feel I do enough of!!!!!
  15. Taking photos.
  16. Doing Ancestry/Family history.
  17. Meditation and prayer.
  18. Mentoring and supporting others like I’ve been mentored and supported over the years. The rub of this one is that I still look for that mentoring and support, but it is harder to find as we age. Maybe that is another one of the reasons I love ROW so much?!
  19. Swimming!!!!! And kayaking! And biking. And…
  20. Getting a handle on my stuff. Purging. Organizing. Spring Cleaning. Summer Cleaning. Fall cleaning. Winter cleaning. Knowing what I have–and where to find it–is so important.
  21. Listening to music.
  22. Holding my newest niece! 🙂

GUENEVERE
What else do the simple folk do
To help them escape when they\’re blue?
 
ARTHUR
They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do And that\’s what simple folk do
 
GUENEVERE (spoken)
Oh, no, really?
 
ARTHUR
I have it on the best authority.

BOTH
(sung)
Yes, that\’s what simple folk do

 

And so, what do you do? To help you escape when you’re blue?

3 thoughts on “What Do the Simple Folk Do?

    • Oh, thank you so much, Marie! 🙂 I loved how you tied all of today’s Weekly Round Up posts together honoring storytelling. That is the common thread in all of our writing, isn’t it?

  1. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: Honoring Our Stories | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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