Saturday, March 8, 2008

Miscellaneous Observations, and some half-assed research

Richard and Robin Nursery Rhyme
First of all, there’s two versions of the last two lines:

Robin and Richard were two pretty men,
They laid in bed till the clock struck ten;
Then up starts Robin and looks in the sky:
"Oh, brother Richard, the sun's very high!
The bull's in the barn threshing the corn;
The cocks on the hayrick blowing is horn"


You go before, with the bottle and bag,
And I will come after on little Jack Nag.”

Somewhere there is a forum with an individual complaining about how “inappropriate” this rhyme is for their child, but I can’t find it again. I did find a fiction piece with the same title in Harper’s Magazine from December 1894- with the subjects “artists” and “bachelors”, I’d eat my hat if it’s not about (or inspired by) Wilde and co. But I don’t feel like paying for a year to read this one piece. *tears hair* Do any of you beautiful friendly readers have a subscription? It would be totally amazing if you could email me the PDF.
Google searches come up with Robin Hood and Richard Lionheart. The closest there is to even a discussion of this rhyme is a comment on one site that this is a “lost” rhyme with an unknown history.
After a short trip to the library, at least I have an “around by” date now: 1765, the year Mother Goose’s Melody: or, Sonnets for the Cradle was first published (first Mother Goose published ever, actually). Quote: “What lazy rogues are these to lie in bed so long, I daresay they have no clothes to their backs, for Laziness clothes a man with rags.”
Supposedly later versions have Alfred and Richard, “two lazy men”, instead, but this book (The Annotated Mother Goose, Baring-Gould, 1962) has an extreme lack of clear citations. The shift in terms in a later version may indicate some editor had the same hunch as me, that the two men are in a relationship. I can’t find any other evidence for the Alfred and Richard claim in my admittedly limited resources. Although, on that note, NAU finally has JSTOR access! Whee!

On a totally unrelated tack, this is a very interesting quote from John Keay's India: A History, referring to the medieval Muslim conquests in India (1293~1310) by Ala-ud-din Khalji:
"Among Cambay's seized assets the most prized was a Hindu captive who would add particular lustre to the Khalji sultanate. A eunuch and a slave, he quickly espoused Islam but retained the nickname 'Thousand-dinar Kafur', presumably a reference to his original valuation. 'His beauty,' says Barani, 'captivated Ala-ud-din' who thereafter trusted him implicitly and appointed him a Malik-naib, or senior commander."

Barani is Ziau-ud-din Barani, an important contemporary historian.

The other thing I'm sharing because it's hilarious. It's taken from the notes on Robert D. Tobin's essay in Outing Goethe and His Age, edited by Alice A. Kuzniar.
"13. This incident may have origins in the adventures of the two Counts Stolberg, with whom in 1775 Goethe first visited Switzerland and who enjoyed bathing in the nude so much they were eventually asked to leave the country (Eissler 1:373)."
The "incident" in question is Werther's narcissistic admiration of his friend Frederick's nude bathing body in Johann Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. This note has no other context or explanation, which is why it's so funny.

The same essay inspired me to look up Goethe's Roman Elegies ("...August Wilhelm Schlegel objected to a passage in Goethe's tenth elegy that, in a list of great warriors, included Frederick the Great along with Alexander, Caesar, and Henry IV, who would gladly exchange their victories for a night in bed with the speaker's lover." Tobin 98) The context is clear that the shared trait is intentional on Goethe's part, except for Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, who was/is called the Great, but I can find no evidence of him having homoerotic inclinations. The gender of the speaker's lover in the Elegies is fluid, sometimes female and sometimes appearing to be a representative Cupid, who would be a third party except for passages describing him as the object. The original objection would seem to indicate a larger understanding of the lover as male. Was there ever a German tradition (queer or mainstream) of Henry having had male lovers? I don't know.

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