Catch That And Paint It Green, or, A Populist Parable

What it was, was that I got reminiscent with the Engineer this evening, now that I find that I am old enough to reminisce, and having recently enjoyed an online conversation with someone who played the krummhorn in her day — about half way between the bagpipes and the oboe my father once stuck into my face — I remembered the Lenten morality play.

These little dramas were the ancestors of modern theater, and the Society for Creative Anachronism — where I was once a court jester and performed various contortions and sight gags — occasionally produced one. The Lady Signy Dimmridaela, who had a krummhorn of her very own, scripted one for the penitent season.

It’s a joke. Possibly you know a version of it.

Scene 1: A church on the eve of Lent. Various parishioners utter their vows as to the Lenten austerities they plan to observe. Last of all, a little peasant swears to subsist only on beans and onions for the obligatory forty days.

Plaster saints and angels, portrayed en tableaux by living actors, cringe and wrinkle their noses.

Scene 2: Services within the cycle of Lent. At the end of every clerical exhortation, there is a sound effect to be produced by an aggressively voiced krummhorn.

Nearly asphyxiated parishioners converge upon the little onion-and-bean-eating peasant and thrash him within an inch — yea, beyond an inch — of his mortal life.

Scene 3: The Gates of Hell. The Great Adversary, Satan, toys with his prey, suggesting that they can escape by setting him a task he cannot execute. An avaricious man demands that all the riches of the world be set at his feet. They are — for a split second before his damnation. A power-hungry prince demands dominion over all the realms of this world — and has it, for a split second.

Then the little peasant reaches the head of the line and stares Great Satan in the eye. Hikes a hip, and lets loose a violent reverberation, a veritable cacophony in the finest etymological sense of the word. [Krummhorn eructation]
“Catch that,” says he, “and paint it green.”

And serenely, smugly, the little peasant ascends to Heaven…

So much for the princes of this world.

A blessed Lenten season unto you.


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