For the longest time, I thought The Moody Blues were singing about knights in white satin. As a girl, but also well into adulthood too I understood the 1967 hit single as a tribute to Arthurian legend. Why, after all, such impressive crescendo if not for the likes of Lancelot riding into battle?
Maybe Lancelot didn’t wear white satin, per say, but I imagine he could have. Or maybe Sir Galahad did. Either way, the lyrics lend themselves to my misunderstanding:
(K)nights in white satin,
Never reaching the end,
Letters I’ve written,
Never meaning to send.
A legend like Lancelot never reaches the end. Like Dante reimagines the Greek hero Odysseus sailing off the edge of the world, so the rock song showed me Lancelot eternally crusading. And he is, as we’re reveling still in tales of Camelot. Or, as often in Lancelot’s case, we’re reveling still in tales of loyalty and love and their loss. Did he write to Guinevere? Or did she pen letters from her convent? To Lancelot? To Arthur? Even if she’d meant to send them, I doubt they’d have found their way to either lover.
When banished from Camelot and Guinevere, Lancelot went mad. Cause he loved her. Cause he loved her, oh he loved her.
The simple lyric’s repetition makes for an echo, as long-ago legends reverberate their way to us. Repetition itself is the stuff of epic story telling. How else could Homer have remembered so many thousands of lines of poetry if not for a few choice formulaic phrases?
I’m kind of disappointed to discover my Moody Blues mistake. My misspelling made for an epic.
But then epics are the stuff of mistake. Mistaken identity, mistaken love. Mistakes in the stories we call history, which tells us Arthur might have been a 4th or 5th c. Roman leader in Brittania or a celtic mythological figure, but not a grail-driven leader of 11th c. crusading knights. Epics hinge on mistakes in timing and mistake in time, too.
History’s and my mistakes aside, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a good story. I liked “Knights In White Satin.”
I’m similarly hesitant to tell my daughters that Star Wars isn’t real. At almost 6, Maia likely, mostly understands the difference between fantasy and reality. But The Moody Blues had me fooled until thirty-something. Why should I spoil the magic for her at 6?
And Star Wars could be real. Even if not George Lucas’s galaxy far, far away, there’s likely a galaxy far, far away that hosts such adventures. Even here, Star Wars kind of is real. John Williams’s score makes my heart beat a little faster. That’s real. How many of us teared up at the last line of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer? That’s real, too.
So I’ll let my daughters believe. Mundane details like proper spelling, authorial intent, and historical accuracy can come later.