Saturday, October 15, 2011


There is a legend told of a certain king, who with his knights betook himself unto a cave high among the mountains; and there he gathered around him his knights, and there they fell into a long sleep, for they were weary with fighting. Yet they slept, and did not die, for they knew that the day would dawn when their country would once again have need of them.

And long years passed. And at the end of many years, came there unto the cavemouth a shepherd, seeking after a lost sheep. And he saw within the cave the king, and around him arrayed in a circle his knights; and swords were in their hands, and shields before them; and their raiment shone bright in the light of the shepherd's torch.

Then saw the shepherd a gilt horn, set high upon one wall of the cave, and beneath this horn were written the words: "To Awaken The Sleepers." And the shepherd was sore afraid, yet his curiosity was as great even as his fear; and he stretched out his hand, and he took up the horn, and he blew upon it.

And there was a great sound throughout the cave, and then a great silence.

And in that silence came a voice, that was deep and strong and yet oddly cadenced, for it was the voice of the King, and the King's dialect was not the dialect of modern men. And the King asked: "who blows upon the horn that waketh the sleepers?" Then stood forth the shepherd, those his knees trembled, and spake, though his voice trembled likewise, saying: "It is I who blew the horn."

And the eyes of the King opened, and there was in them a terrible lambent fire, and the shepherd fell to the ground.

"Rise," said the King, and the shepherd did as he was bidden. "Tell me," the King continued, while around him his knights continued in their long slumber, "do the ravens yet circle over this hilltop?" And the shepherd, who knew the hills well, said that this was so. Then waxed wrothful the King, saying, "Thou fool! Thou hast wakened us before the appointed time! While yet the ravens remain above, so must we remain below. Begone, fool, and do not return!"

This legend, in its various forms, has existed since early historic times - indeed, the prototypical story concerns the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus (Washington Irving was later to borrow from the same theme for his tale of Rip van Winkle), whose miraculous slumber and subsequent awakening is recounted in the Qu'ran, where its telling mirrors early Christian accounts from such writers as Gregory of Tours.

The Seven Sleepers, I should add, have no relationship to the Seven Sisters - unless, perhaps, you're a fan of Gematria.

A more modern Sleeper emerged in the 1990s in the UK, building on a partnership begun in a philosophy lecture between Louise Wener and Jon Stewart. Although they were subsequently joined by Diid Osman and Andy Maclure, making the band a four-piece, the Britpop outfit are remembered for Wener's androgynous, breathy, and confrontational presence - to the extent that the term "Sleeperbloke" was coined as the band rose to prominence, and denotes unremarkable persons making up the numbers in an operation. The original "Sleeperblokes" took this epithet in stride, cheerfully donning interchangeable "Sleeperbloke" T-shirts for live performances, one of which your chronicler caught while the band was on their It Girl tour. The album of the same name, released in 1996, was a Sleeper hit but hardly a sleeper hit, eventually going platinum.

Among the quirky tracks on offer on the 45-minute album was on entitled "Good Luck Mr. Gorsky." Here it is:

The unusual title recalls a legend involving the astronaut Neil Armstrong, who apparently uttered the cryptic eponym when he landed on the Moon. Since I'm not R-rating this blog, I'll be somewhat delicate in recounting it; the gist has a young Neil Armstrong losing a ball over a neighbor's fence and, in going to retrieve it, overhearing that gentleman - a Mister Gorsky - in a heated argument with his wife over a certain recreational activity for which his appetite is markedly greater than hers. As the story goes, the young Armstrong arrives just in time to hear the defiant Mrs. Gorsky aver that she will perform this particular service "when that little boy next door walks on the moon."

Although 20 July, 1969, must have been a sleepless night for Mission Control and the astronauts' families, not to mention excited viewers all over the world, Mr. Gorsky at least may be expected to have slept very well indeed...

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The story is apocryphal, of course. Those killjoys at confirm that no such words were uttered by Armstrong - although John Grunsfeld, a repairman on a Colombia mission to fix the Hubble space telescope, did call out "Good luck, Mr. Hubble!" in reference to this tale. Neil Armstrong was the first of just twelve men to have walked upon the Moon's surface - the last being Eugene Cernan in December 1972, almost forty years ago. At least, that's the official story...

1 comment:

Heather Henry said...

Wow, you've been gone quite awhile.
I remember hearing the story of Mr. Gorsky. I wondered if it was true or not. I usually take these stories lightly, it's hard to know what is real and what isn't these days.
Good to see you blogging again. Hope all is well.