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Courage, mes braves! Wednesday May 24, 2017

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here:]

When I was at school, my favourite hymn (I have never sung it since), went like this:

When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old
He was gentle and brave he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour he rode through the land

No charger have I, and no sword by my side
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride
Though back into storyland giants have fled
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
Against the dragons of anger the ogres of greed
And let me set free with the sword of my youth
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth

In my mind, I could see clearly that young knight galloping through the sunlit and verdant countryside, in search of giants to kill and dragons to slay. I pictured his white horse gaily caparisoned with a scalloped harness in scarlet and gold, his armour polished to a platinum gleam. In my imagination, he galloped blithely on forever; he never actually came across those giants and all the dragons stayed safely hidden from his sight.

So, the words of that third verse held for me no more reality than the first. If I did think about them, the dragons and ogres were something external – separate from myself – easily slain and with no blood spilled to sully my shining view of my own immaculate ego.

Real-life isn’t quite like that, of course, because the monsters live inside us, and they’re jolly difficult to kill.

So, my idea of courage, valour, bravery – all that, has changed. Courage is no longer charging over the barricades, or even steeling yourself to perform that single difficult act. Courage is demanded and found every single day.

Courage is finding the strength to get out of bed, to shower and to dress. Courage is getting the children’s breakfast, seeing them off to school with a smile and a wave. Courage is stepping outside your front door, to work or to shop; to meet people and face the world. Courage is seizing every drop of joy in that darkness and treasuring it as if a diamond found in a coalmine. Courage is just - keeping on keeping on.

I know many of you Moodscope users are housebound; not because of physical infirmity, but because of mental ill health. For you, the dragon guarding the door is ever watchful; opening one glinting eye and rattling his scales if you even get near. If you get past him, the ogres just beyond your garden path are legion. Just because they exist only in your mind, does not mean they are not real.

I want you all to award yourself for your bravery. You may not be that charging knight; but you are infinitely more courageous: you fight your dragons every day.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Christine Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 7:37am

thanks Mary for yet another helpful, insightful blog, I look forward to reading them on a Wednesday, I'm not sure that I have much courage, for everyday life, let alone fighting dragons and such! but I shall bear your words in mind and keep going, I know that your words inspire and aid me so thanks very much best wishes Christine X

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:27pm

Keeping on keeping on requires the greatest courage of all. It's defying that dragon every day. We may not be able to defeat it, but we tiptoe past it time after time after time. Never impugn your bravery, my friend.

Orangeblossom Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 8:22am

Thanks Mary for your blog. I found it thought-provoking & have noted the last verse of the hymn of which I have a vague recollection. The hymn writer had it spot on re our dragons. My dragons used to be embodied in certain people in my life but now I reckon that anger & greed are good ways of describing them. Also envy & despair! Somewhere in the New Testament it says don't let the root of bitterness take hold of your life. I battle hard to stop this from happening.

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:30pm

OB - yes, the worm of bitterness (worm as in medieval speak for dragon) can gnaw at our soul. But he likes dark enclosed spaces (he's a troglodyte dragon), so when you open your heart to joy - he's gone, flying out of there and off to find a dark hole to hide in! I wish you strength, courage and endurance in your battle.

Tutti Frutti Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 8:37am

Hi Mary
You made me smile this morning remembering that song which I haven't sung since I was about 9. I always loved it as it was much more rousing than any of the other hymns we got to sing in assembly. And as you say it is completely inappropriate as a hymn for young children as the actual religious meaning in the 3rd verse went straight over my head. So much so that I did a double take this morning on seeing that it is the dragons of anger. (Similarly I think the Lord of the Dance often gets sung at primary school where it is very unlikely to make sense!) You are quite right that there are lots of inner monsters to slay. I am pleased to say that I am doing a bit better with mine this morning than I did yesterday (when none of my troubles were far away enough).
Love TF x

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:33pm

It is a new battle every day, isn't it. Even when the monsters are the same monsters every day. They seem to renew themselves each night. Actually, mine are at their worst in the evening and during the night. If I could discipline myself to go to bed each evening at 9.30pm, I'm sure my own personal dragons would grow paler.

Sally Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 8:40am

Thanks very much, Mary! I too loved that hymn and its words. Very happy to revisit it, since I couldn't immediately recall the tune. And then I found I could enjoy listening and reading at the same time to your blog! It is a great analogy, something I find helpful, being a visual sort of person and very auditory too... ( I remember words spoken far better than on the page). Your comparisons make great sense, and always, an upbeat, positive portrayal. Not bad for someone with the difficulties you suffer with! Smiley face. Have a nice day, Mary and all Moodscopers.

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:34pm

Ah Sally, thank you for the smiley face - much appreciated. Glad you liked the song - AND that you listened to me! You probably doubled my listeners at one go!

LP Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 9:04am

Hi Mary,
Courage is something that I haven't thought about very much, but would help myself and others on so many levels.
Being alert to fears starting to creep in and having the courage to challenge them.
Courage as I make difficult decisions.
I will grasp that (s)word and hold it in mind to dismiss worry and fear from clouding sunny days.
Thank you for sharing that beautiful hymn. Wishing courage and strength to you and all. LP xx

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:34pm

LP, thank you. I so appreciate your comments.

Geoff Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 9:38am

Thank you, Mary, for reminding me of a much loved hymn from my chldhood. Despite my upturn in health over the last few months, I still find courage in short supply. However, I keep trying and that, in some way, is the courage I use each day.

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:36pm

Every day is a new battle, Geoff. Facing every day makes you stronger than you think. I wish you power and might in your struggle and - I'm there with you. I've got your back and you can have mine!

Valerie Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 1:50pm

Lovely hymn,not heard of it before.We walk past numerous people every day,speak to them,share a bit of banter,totally unaware of the inner sadness and despair they are struggling with.As you say,when you are at your lowest, just maintaining the most basic standards is like climbing a mountain.Moodscope is humbling,reading about people like you Mary.You are a remarkable and painfully honest woman,I take my hat off to you.x

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:41pm

Valerie, your comment made me smile! I am not sure if my honesty is painful for you or for me! In my experience, too much honesty is sometimes painful for the listener as they don't want to hear it. They would rather live with the comforting lie that everything is alright. Far too often we let people around us assume everything is alright, when we are desperately struggling with our back against the wall (reminds me of an Alan Parson's song.... must look that one up!). My honesty with you Moodscope folk is declared because I want you to know you are not alone in the fight. We are an army, and the enemy needs to be acknowledged in public, not fought in shamed silence. We are heroes, and we should be proud.

Lex Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 2:16pm

Love that hymn, and such a good word. Thanks, Mary!

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 3:41pm

A joy, as always, my darling Lex.

Another Sally Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 4:05pm

Thank you Mary, I haven't thought of that hymn since I left school. I remember I enjoyed it too and I think I got the correct tune in my head. I don't feel that I face dragons daily, but perhaps that I have to drag myself through each day. Will walk with my head held high and not be beaten by this lethargy.

The Gardener Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 5:12pm

Don't know that hymn. School memories are alive - can see our mistress in village school now. She was very devout, and hat assembly, playing her fiddle - would not think hymns were cheery. But, much more entertaining, she had a wooden sort of 'captain's' chair with arms. She had one leg on the seat - showing, to our joy, purple directoire knickers one week and pink the next. Later, I speculated that if hung on the line they could balloon off. A stupid aside. Here people wish me 'bon courage' all the time. I am called 'courageous' but, to me, undeserved. Things I do which people marvel at are Hobson's choice - it's the only wat open to me. Keep on keeping on, in fact. One 'dragon' was asking for help - with charity 'do's', even knocking at doors selling poppies. I am certainly not shy - just hate asking for favours. Mr G, and me now, have distributed posters for the local music festival - when I first did it I had to steel myself to ask for such a simple favour.

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 7:07pm

You always have away of making me see things so clearly - those pink and purple knickers! And - it may be Hobson's choice, but your choice is to go on with it smiling when you can, and with grace. That's courage indeed.

The Gardener Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 5:19pm

Mary, re-read blog. typos above. My idea of the worst job would be Mormons, Jehova's Witnesses and those doing cold calls - knowing that abuse will often be their welcome. My 'dragon' is facing them and getting rid of them - hate being rude.

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 7:06pm

My dragon too, Gardener! We English detest rudeness. I am reminded of George Mikes' wonderful little book "How to be an Alien", in which he says that, on the continent, if told an obvious untruth, one would say, "Monsieur - you are a liar, and a dirty one at that!" In England one says "I say, that's rather an unusual story, isn't it." My own preferred response is the icy "indeed?" Preferably with one lifted eyebrow - except I have never been able to master that skill (my 12 year old daughter has it and I am deeply jealous!)

Jane Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 6:53pm

"Courage mes Braves!" - Your title made me laugh because according to my late father, that is only part of the quote. He explained that in some historic military conflict French troops had arrived at a place where there was a single outdoor toilet. Needless to say there had formed a huge queue. One soldier entered and did not reappear. Time passed and those who remained were finding it almost impossible to wait any longer.
In desperation, the officer in charge approached the rickety shed and pressed his ear to the door.
Beaming, he turned to the waiting men and shouted "Courage mes braves! J'ai entendu le papier!"

I wondered where you found the quote and if you knew the whole thing.

Jane Smart

Mary Wednesday Wed, May 24th 2017 @ 7:01pm

Thank you Jane - oh how marvellous! That one made me laugh out loud! No, indeed I did not know it was even a quote, so I am educated as well as amused.

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