How Is It, Why Is It

From The Known Words 2, long out of print and replaced by The Known Words, which doesn’t include this (among others) due to it being not of sufficiently high standard:

I’ve mentioned the royal tantrum of some years back a few times now. Basically what happened is that some royalty tried to ban an activity that they saw as unsafe and unchivalrous. This would have been fair enough, but for two things: first, they didn’t stop to consider that what they had seen of the activity was not the whole picture, and second, they made official and widely-disseminated statements that the people who engaged in the activity were all thugs and criminals. Although I’ve never engaged in the particular activity, this arrogant behaviour got my goat something chronic, and I was very vocal in my opposition to the change, and the makers of the change.

Fortunately, crowns never sit for long on the same heads, and their next wearers got to work reversing the ban and undoing much of the public relations fiasco. And I cooled down eventually too, enough to take the advice of one Geoffery the Quiet and write a song that told the story in a stylised and slightly fairytale form.

I’d better explain the presence of the three knights in this tale. I wanted to include three well-known knights from Lochac’s rich history, but finding ones who could be recognised unnamed was a challenge. I settled upon Sir Brusi Anderson of the Shetlands, one of the most accomplised war leaders in Lochac, Sir Gregory of Loch Swan, permanent member of the Queen’s Guard, and Sir Agro Agwesi, who loves to tell the tale of The Man Who Would Not Die. I must emphasise that I chose these three not because of some imagined evil in their souls – they are three of the most honourable men in Lochac, in fact – but purely because they are all characters who can be recognised and raise a smile of familiarity in the midst of the song. In particular, I do not believe any of these were involved with the events that led to the creation of the song. Call this poetic license and leave it at that.


One night, amid the floating mist, a lady to a tavern came,
To sit among the folk so free and talk of love and life.
This fair young maid had ne’er been kissed, nor played at more than childhood’s game,
But longed for more from destiny than spinster, nun or wife.

How is it, why is it, horses fly and fish can walk?
How is it, why is it, tell me why and talk.
How is it, why is it, ring the bell and touch the sky,
How is it, why is it, gently, tell me why.

She fell amongst a rowdy crowd of knights and squires, drinking hard,
Who thought to steal her goodly name with mugs of strongest ale.
But she could see them laughing loud and stayed she closely on her guard,
And turned their thoughts to gold and fame and bade them tell a tale.

A highland knight, with silver helm, a story for the lady told,
Of how he’d fought a wall of men to save a lady’s life,
And how of all within the realm this knight was named most brave and bold
For unbeknownst to any then he saved the king’s own wife.

A shetland knight, with arms of rust, his sage advice to all revealed,
Of leading armies large and small and bearing home the prize,
And how no gold could buy his trust, or lead him from the glory field
For only honour’s golden call could stir his blood to rise.

And one more knight, clad all in green, a tale of heroes now relayed,
Of one, a man who would not die and bested every foe,
And how he came to intervene, against this lord who did not fade,
And with his trusty sword held high he dealt the fatal blow.

But one who wore no silver cord, he placed his hand upon her waist,
And led her to a corner dark, and whispered fast and low:
“If all this talk of steel and sword has left you with a rusty taste,
“Then pay no heed to dogs who bark and here I’ll tell you so.”

“The men who like to swing their lengths of firm unyielding tempered steel,
“Would like to stop the rest of us from joining in the game,
“But there are more important strengths than those an armoured glove can feel,
“And if you also see it thus, we welcome you the same.”