Monday, October 11, 2010

Sometimes Gypsies Wear Motley

by William Bliss Carman

THERE is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;

And my heart is like a rhyme,

With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.

And my lonely spirit thrills

To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;

We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame

She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

Since it is October, I think it's high time for an ode to gypsies. In my life I have wanted to be a gypsy more than anything else, except possibly a writer--or a mermaid. Gypsies have all the fun, as you can see.

If you are a gypsy, you can do things that ordinary people only dream about. For example:
- You can keep a monkey as a pet.
- You can wear long, swirly skirts and lots of bangles.
- You can dance in public to a banjo and a fiddle and a tambourine.
- You can have your own horse.
- You can eat your meals around a campfire while laughing and singing with all your friends and family.
- Your clothes can clash horrifically, and no one will judge you.
- You can go barefoot all the time.
- Your hair can be in snarls, and people will think it's pretty.
- And best of all... you can live in one of these wagons, (also called Vardos):

For more photos like these, you can visit this flickr link, and become drunk on love for gypsy life.

The more I think about this fascination, the more I see how it has trickled down from childhood and affected my life now. The way I dress, the way I write, the way I hope. My character is as influenced by the things I loved as a child as it is by the things I love today. Sometimes I think I haven't grown up much at all, I've only piled knowledge and experience onto my childhood self. That underneath this mask of twenty-something, ambitious, mature (ha!) young woman, I'm actually just a little girl who loves gypsies and mermaids and puppies.

Your turn! What has been alluring to you all your life? The adventurous gypsy life? The cutthroat high seas? The fairy tale world of castles and knights and princesses? Have those tastes carried over into your adult life and continued to shape the person you are today?

If you could spend a month living any other kind of life, what would it be?


  1. To add to owning your own horse, it would be a Gypsy horse to pull that wagon...better known as Gypsy Vanner horses and they are absolutely gorgeous.

    I think I would have a motley (hee hee) mix of fairy tales for my dream world. Dragons and unicorns and all the old stuff, but also the pirates and teleportation stuff. Basically I just want whatever is in my head to become real. And yes, it shapes who I am as an adult. (I might be strange, but it's me!)

  2. Ohhhhh, yes! I'd love a Vanner horse! I'm still working out a way I could make this lifestyle work in modern times... But don't worry. I'll think of it!

    And I'm with you, Amie. It would be so nice to inhabit ALL the places and dreams you've loved. And wouldn't that be an interesting world? If it included all the best things? Thank goodness for the ability to imagine...

  3. Wow, I love this poem; about a week ago I spent HOURS searching for it and couldn't remember the title...also, I thought the author was Vachel Lindsay for some reason. Thank you so much for posting it and clearing up my confusion!!

  4. "Your clothes can clash horrifically, and no one will judge you."

    Sometimes I wish you were a gypsy so I wouldn't have to judge you.

    Also, I love the poem.

  5. I was a Gypsy for Halloween in kindergarten, and as a kid I wanted to be one. Then I learned more about the way the Romani are perceived by others, and it opened my eyes.

    I know your post was written out of love, but if you were Romani-Gypsy, you wouldn't be allowed to go wherever you want, you'd be shunned and told you were stupid and dirty and a thief. There are so many other stereotypes (like the ones you posted, no offense) about what it means to be a "Gypsy", that this is how they are perceived by almost everyone. In many Eastern European countries, Romani women resist going to hospitals to give birth, for fear of being sterilized by the doctors there. This was a standard policy in Czech hospitals for decades.

    One of my favorite bands, Gogol Bordello, sums it up in the song Break the Spell:

    "You love our music, but you hate our guts/ I know you want me to ride the back of the bus."

    I wrote a (trunked) novel where the main character was Romani-chal, and I learned a lot about the way the European Union, especially, treats Romani, who have very few supporters. Frankly, it is quite frightening.

    Every time I hear someone use the word "gypped" I cringe and tell them it's as bad as saying you "jewed someone down" on a price. But even the president used the word gypped on television without receiving much backlash for it because so few people are willing to speak up for them.

    Rant over, I'm sorry to have rained my preachiness on your beautiful post, but I feel the need to speak my mind on this subject, as it is such an important one to me.

    Love your pictures, and it would be amazing to live in a vardo for a month, traveling from town to town. It would be wonderfully inspiring!

  6. Tere: Thank you for sharing. In my fascination with gypsies, I also have come across the things you mentioned, and seen evidence of the persecution heaped onto the Romani people over the years. I'm sorry if my post led you to believe I had disregarded that history, or worse, that I myself am judgmental toward that race. That was never my intent.

    I romanticize nearly everything in my life, and gypsies are no exception. You are completely right that if I were actual Rom, I would be judged for much more than just clashing--and probably would not be very happy at all. But then, being a pirate was never very romantic (quite the reverse), and neither was being a medieval princess. Both were dirty and violent and difficult. The truth is that the world is a hard and cruel place... but that is what makes the imagination so alluring. We can inhabit the best of those worlds without experiencing the hardships they actually contain. I'm very sorry if my post offended you, and I'm glad you commented. Thank you for stopping by.

    Faith: Yay! How funny that you were looking for this poem. I'm very glad you found it here!

    Ash: Thanks. You always hit the nail on the head.

    Nick: I like your comment best. Yes, I do have a typewriter. But poor Luna doesn't get much use with this high-tech laptop in the house.

  7. Totally not offended, Hanna! But I know I've been sensitive about the subject since I finished that novel last year. Making myself really understand the hardships that my characters went through changed the way I think about the culture, and myself.

    I guess I'm not as much of a romantic as I thought! ;)