“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

Okay – for all you non-SCA readers, keep those fingers in your ears.  Same song.  Second verse.

Your rant-of-the-day is going out to the men.  It will (and this should be obvious, as it is coming from ME) apply to a few women out there, but I am going to function on the premise that the vast majority of the armoured combatants in the Society are men.  And I am pretty sure I won’t fall too far off the mark.

Guys, we hit each other with clubs until we bruise.  That’s the bottom line.  The only thing that separates us from a bloody, pugilistic, underground, backyard, bare-fist fight clubs is the general lack of bleeding and how we choose to dress it up.

Unfortunately, too many of us take the term “dress up” far too literally.  Oh, we certainly look the part, all right.  We spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on brass-chased helmets, linen surcotes, custom leather boots and hand-made maile.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain level of self-respect demanded by this game, and you can tell how seriously a man takes himself by how he presents himself on the tournament field.  I don’t have much admiration for those who, given enough time and acculturation to our little game, present themselves in slabs of plastic pickle bucket. 

But I think far too many of us spend too much time perfecting the outward without so much as a glance inward.  And that is where we fail.  That is why I said that we where poor inheritors of the virtues of Chivalry. 

It is true that Prowess is a virtue in the Knightly class.  But prowess was meant to be pursued in the service of all of the other virtues of chivalry.  Prowess pursued exclusively for it’s own glorification progresses into the sin of vanity.  And vanity, at its worst, turns us into bullies who prey on the easy mark to rack up our scorecard and our reknown in our own eyes.  We avoid anything that could prove a challenge to our own self-conceit.  And what should be glory descends into infamy.   Prowess pursued in isolation becomes, not a virtue, but contemptible and cruel, the precise thing the code of Chivalry evolved to prevent.

Oh, we carry our favors upon the field, but too many do not carry them in their hearts.  When you do honor to your lady before a fight, do you think upon all those things she represents, the sacrifices she has made, the gift of attention she gives to you?  Do you fight with honesty and strive, knowing that she is there, watching you with pride and love?  Do swear to yourself to perform no act upon the field that will dishonor you, bringing whispers of disdain upon yourself, and by extension, the lady you represent?  Do you temper the brutality of the tournament with control, or do you vent your anger and frustration at defeat by throwing your helmet upon the ground and speaking ill of your opponent, so that the eyes around you turn away in embarrassment and disgrace? 

Do you leave your virtues upon the field?  When outside of the tournament, do you honor the gentle dedication and sacrifices of the ladies that strive with arts more gentle to gild your fierce appearance?  They, who with nimble fingers and bent heads, stitch the banners that proclaim our presence in the wind, who quilt the linen that cushions our blows, who keep the children safe from harm while we are pursuing our name upon the field.  How many of you offer the choicest portions to your lady at the table before taking your own?  Do you refill her glass when it is empty?  Do you carry her burdens and defend her against those that speak ill of her?  Do you praise her beauty and her diligence in your best voice?  Or do you criticize her and defame her in front of your fellows, thinking this enhances your image of manhood?  Do you speak harshly to the children and the elderly in her care?  The man who does not recognize the equal importance of women’s work denigrates his own.  He disgraces his Queen and his Kingdom.  He is worthless in the eyes of civilized society.

These words are harsh, but I am saddened by the lip service that so many give to the honor of our consorts.  Their behavior shows that they place the favor of their ladies on their sleeves, but they do not write their honor on their souls.  They are nothing above the savage brutes swinging clubs of bone and living in squalor, and deserve no more notice.

September 19th, 2006 at 11:58 am
16 Responses to “In Violent Glory”
  1. 1
    Sarah Says:

    Thanks, Bri.

    Thanks for sharing the veiw from the the unique perspective that you have- a combatant Lady Peer, serving and being served by a Knight. Between the two posts, you have articulated that beautiful relationship and the give-and-take of it all more eloquently and more clearly than I imagined could be done. You’re doing a great service just by speaking.

  2. 2
    Sarah Says:

    er. That was supposed to be “speaking your mind”. I’m not sure what happened there.

  3. 3
    Rixende Says:

    Bri- If I wasn’t at work I’d be crying right now. I can honestly answer yes when I ask myself if my husband does these things. I often say that I can count on two hands the number of fighters I know who truly, I can see it in their eyes when they talk of their inspiration, mean it.

  4. 4
    Cinnkitty Says:

    Harsher words that could never be truer. Thank you for this, Bri. It touches upon many of my emotions and yes, it DID make me cry.

  5. 5
    Sheila Says:

    Wow, I want to live in that world. That idea, that dream.

  6. 6
    Bambi Says:

    Thank you for this, I hope that by reading this we can spread it to others by our words and actions.

  7. 7
    Kat Says:

    Wow. I need to share this with my husband.

  8. 8
    Gwyneth Says:

    I can say honestly that Marvin does all the things that you say a fighter should do – and not only in the SCA, but in his daily life. It is easy to be the consort of such a man.

  9. 9
    Aron Says:

    Having read Sarah’s original blog, Bri’s two blogs, and all the commentary, I would like to add one bit of extra perspective.

    I am have not been a heavy fighter in a long time and never fought in a Crown Tourney, so I have nothing to add about that. I have been a light fighter now for a little over 3 years. My wife, who will soon by my ex-wife, is not a SCAdian. She hasn’t been to an event since long before I authorized with a rapier.

    There is this lovely custom we in the SCA do at the beginning of a tourney fight. We make our salutes, and one of those salutes is to the one whose token you bear. The one you fight for. Your consort. Your mate. Time after time, touney after tourney, I have stood there and made no motion as my opponent turned and made that salute. What else was I to do? I wasn’t fighting for anyone’s honor by my own.

    While it’s certainly nothing insurmountable or pschologically crippling, it feels LONELY! It’s the proverbial “third wheel” feeling, with everybody watching. I have envied those of you who had someone to fight for, or someone fighting for you.

    If you have someone that shares your hobby as well as your life, don’t take that gift for granted. No matter if you’re standing inside the field or outside of it, appreciate what you’ve got and let your partner know that you do. It may or may not make anybody fight better or worse, but it’s got to be better than just standing there.

  10. 10
    Erin/ Naqid Says:

    Thats very moving, Bri and worth more the just striving for.

  11. 11
    Sheila Says:

    Many ladies who don’t have partners who play or just don’t have partners would be honored to allow fighters to fight for them.

  12. 12
    Marvin Says:

    Aron, my friend I had that problem for some time before I met Gwyneth (yes, there was a time before…). The way I solved it was to find a lady for the day – usually I would ask the seneschal or marshal of the local group if there was a lady that didn’t have a fighter in the list. I fought for sixty-something grandmas and six year-old girls and everything in between. I would make a show of it and no one ever turned me down. I still do this on occasion with my lady’s blessing when I travel without her – and then I have two salutes to make!

    A couple of years ago, I ran into one of those little girls that I fought for so many years ago. She introduced me to her husband and daughter as ‘her fighter’. Cool, huh?

  13. 13
    Kat Says:

    Marvin, I think you did that for me a long, long time ago.

    Aron, you could always fight for your chieftain 😀

  14. 14
    Kayley Says:

    Aron has two chieftains to fight for…lol! But then again, I do have a man who fights, and does carry my favor on the field and in his heart. He knows there are times when I can not be at the side of the field when he is fighting, due to a particular class or meeting held at the same time, but he also knows that when that class or meeting is over, I will make my way back to the field.
    That being said, Bri, your words still inspire me to be an even better consort to my guy…I don’t want to think of him standing on that field, looking around for me so that he can make his salute and not finding me…that thought is enough to break my heart.

  15. 15

    In those circumstances, I always salute the Queen.


  16. 16
    Amalric Says:

    I always salute my lady, even when she is not able to be at the list field. I do it loudly and with love in my heart!