Copyright © 2008, John F. Raffensperger
What is NATIONAL TROUBADOUR DAY? NTD is a day of singing and making merry, a day of bar songs and puns. The people’s slogan on this day is “To every man a trollop, in every hand a mead!”
The sad and frightening events are still remembered for their shock, and are now taught at schools in only the most liberal precincts, and thus may be nearly forgotten. On Twenty-Third October, in the tense and hysterical aftermath following King Henry VIII’s murder of Anne Boleyn, the National Royal Musicians went on strike in protest.
And the English churls heard of it, by proclamation of the National Royal Conductor, so they went to find solace with their mates in the pubs.
And the American bumpkins heard of it, by swift cargo ship full of stout, so they went to find solace with their friends in the saloons.
And the European jacques and yokels and boers heard of it, by sworn affidavit of a trembling Scottish swain adrift at Skudesnaes, so they went to find solace with their amis, freunde, and chavarim in the taverns.
And a Moroccan peasant heard of it, by wayward carrier pigeon, and he put the message in every copper pot he sold, until the whole world knew, all the way to the Chinese nóngmín. Thus, hicks and oafs and rustics everywhere went to find solace with their comrades at the inns and bars and public houses. And even some hopeless scholars sought comfort with their colleagues in the clubs.
And the question on everyone’s mind was what to do. They sought commiseration from their symphonies and orchestras, but returned quickly to their public houses with heavy hearts.
And so all commoners in all lands agreed by international acclamation (as no vote was needed) that Twenty-Third October would be recognized and declared as NATIONAL TROUBADOUR DAY.
The tradition, as practiced and celebrated in the years to come, was for troubadours and buskers of any ilk to learn a new bar song. Fragments of opera or ballad may substitute, but the song should be rowdy and high-spirited, of chivalry and courtly love. And the troubadours dress with brightest costume and wooden sword, and they visit the shanties, homesteads, and public houses, to cheer the labourers and hillbillies with their humour and ringing melody. If the folk find their song pleasing, they may ply the troubadours with mead and crumpets and anything fried, and even offer modest copper coin. If the folk dislike the troubadour’s song, they may play tricks on the cad, as to remove his chair when he sits, or to salt his crumpet. A troubadour may dare a pun, the best of which are rewarded with hot chips wrapped in paper of the day’s sad news; the worst puns are paid for with just the wad of oily paper, well-aimed. The dairies and tobacco shops sell songbooks with bawdy cartoon, all mead is half-price, and royalty lock their doors.
- The jester is, of course, the natural symbolic twin of the king, and can speak in humour that which the king should not. (Thus are jokers “wild,” with occasional ability to solve political crises.) Who, then, can ignore the irony that William Somers, Henry’s court jester and a man of tremendous integrity and discretion, was dared by the malevolent Sir Nicholas Carew to call Queen Anne “a ribald,” thus incurring the King’s threat to kill with his own hand the great jester?
- Jane Seymour, Henry’s wife following Anne, died on 24 October of puerperal fever. Thus, troubadours traditionally nap all day 24 October, and wash their costume on 25 October.
- Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the English Parliament on NTD 1605, but was delayed by the ineptitude of Hugh Owen, who was in the pay of the Spanish Netherlands. A traitorous conspirator sent warning to Lord Monteagle, who received it on 26 October, and the gig never went down.
- The first battle of the First English Civil War occurred on NTD, 1642, truly a foreboding and ominous event. The tragic war was eventually lost to the Puritans, who had no use for jesters, much less troubadours.
- The remarkable Punch and Judy was developed by Oxford scholars to commemorate NTD, but the academics got the date completely wrong as 9 May. To this day, P and J is performed by a professor.
- Many historians have tried to reconcile NTD with the older Feast of Fools (itself a grand day outlawed by the Council of Basel, and again by Queen Mary I), but FoF is in fact a completely different philosophy.
- NTD 1815 In the article “Burning Instruments,” Sir David Brewster (whose more astringent ancestor led the Mayflower) investigated the Buffoon’s Needle theory, but did not consider it practical. However, it sparked an idea that produced awesome scientific results: invention of the kaleidoscope.
- NTD is the feast day of Saint Manlius Severinus Boethius, an incisive critic of Aristotle. Boethius introduced the threefold classification of music: musica mundana, musica humana, and musica instrumentalis. The great novel A Confederacy of Dunces was based on his life.
- NTD 1893 Birth of Gummo Marx, the inspiring American dramatist.
- NTD 1910 The hypocritical New Zealand government Mondayised this revered feast, on the excuse that seamen were off one day at one port, then another at their next, thus taking excess holiday. The government desecrated NTD further by renaming it Labour Day.
- Investors have always been nervous on NTD. NTD 1929 saw the first signs of panic at the NYSE, precipitating the Depression.
- NTD 1930 The first miniature golf tournament was played in Chattanooga, Tenneesse. It was an eminent day.
- NTD 1946 World leaders chose this day to convene the UN for the first time, in Flushing Meadow, NY. Whoosh!
- NTD 1950 Death of Al Jolson.
- NTD 1959 Birth of “Weird Al” Yankovich, the esteemed American composer of polkas.
- NTD 1965 Commemorated by the soaring hymn “Henry the Eighth,” by Herman’s Hermits.
- NTD 1991 Mole Day is heralded among chemists between 6:02 AM and 6:02 PM. Some theorize that scholars were attempting to distract from the true nature of NTD, but this is false. According to citizens who know the goings-on, teachers actually assign ‘Creative Writing’ projects that have nothing to do with chemistry, but cause students to resent the science.
- On the morning of NTD 2004, in Eggwater, Alabama, a singing multi-cultural protest troupe demanded that the true story of NTD be revealed. The incident was violently repressed by sheriff’s deputies (undoubtably Anglican) wielding trenchant parsnips. Not even rumour of this scandal has been whispered beyond this brave commentator.
Quote: “One three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth of all things happen on NTD.” – ascribed to Peter the Immune.
MODERN TRADITION: Today, on NTD, as troubadours are nearly extinct, men may feel reduced to singing in their showers. But you can prepare for this important event by practicing your song in places where merriment is usually in short supply, as in dentists’ waiting rooms, libraries, snobby apparel stores, and even elevators, any place that has the dispiriting hush of assumed authority or inhibiting decorum. The most effective preparation is to sing scales, as low as you may and as high as you can, generously lubricating your throat, and your friends’ throats, with mead and fries. Then find a new song, and whether you sing it high or sing it low, follow your heart, and remember NATIONAL TROUBADOUR DAY!