The Lost Verse of Kent's Call

Wrapped in mail, never clinking

Today it might seem ludicrous that anyone, on hearing Kent's Call would not notice the omission of the "skin" from the logical pattern that she established. We must keep in mind, however, that at the time of the reformation in theory (the late 1990's AD by most accounts), the fragment of chant now traditionally printed preceding the text of the Call was neither codified, nor written down. Each of the listeners in the audience would know a different version of the chant. Many of them, presumably including the one on which Kent based her speech, did not include the verses describing the "lost ones" and the "skin." Most historians agree that our current version dates from earlier than Kent's Call, but that by the time Kent made her speech, it had been largely forgotten or corrupted. It was re-introduced in connection with Kent's Call by historicist scholars or ignorant publishers who, having knowledge of the lost ones, ignored or were ignorant of the environment in which Kent called the people to her banner.

In our version of the chant, there is an implicit warning against creating the creature without the "skin." Historicists and the popular media have often used Kent's ignorance of this warning to lay upon her blame for the suffering the world endured while the beast was skinless. Given a powerful set of tools, and the ability to access those methods and means developed over history, the generation of creators following Kent created a sort of "intellectual eclecticism." They used large numbers of unrelated methods, ideas, and forms without consideration of taste, sensitivity to the user, the combinatorial effects of mixing the elements, or, indeed, any application of balance, judgement or propriety.

The results of this situation, were, of course, tragic, and no-one would attempt to lessen the suffering of those subjected to that horror. It is, however, almost as reprehensible to blame Kent, and deny her her place in history, for not having the information at hand that might have averted the tragedy. Kent spent her entire life working to build the creature, dying a few hours after the last of the original clans had been integrated. She set up the monastic orders that tend to the growth and care of the beast, established the rules for inclusion, managed the politics of the clans, and generally was responsible for making the beast live, that Cohen might heal it.

If we are to be historically accurate, we must acknowledge that it was not until Cook and Lawrence discovered those ancient manuscripts on subtlety, judgement and balance, the "lost ones" of the chant, that the knowledge of the skin was available for inclusion. We must remember that when the keepers of the beast attempted to fit them into the creature, it was patently impossible, a situation that the rules of Kent had never predicted. It might be argued that the keepers of the beast, in their rejection of the manuscript because it "didn't fit" caused considerable harm. The more ancient version of the chant was, by then, discovered, but, again, it was not widely accepted. It was not until the three data of the negative effects of the beast's rampages, the ancient chant, and the ancient manuscripts were brought together (by what was arguably sheer coincidence) on the desk of the man now generally accredited with all of the benefits which have accrued from the beast's labours, your mister Price's Cohen, that it was possible to heal the beast.

It is for these reasons that I found your mister Price's editorial entitled "Academics Playing with Fire: Spectre of a monster in celebration of Kent's Call," unenlightened and, frankly, scandalous. When an editor of a major newspaper can write a half page editorial on a subject about which he has obviously done no research or deep thought, an editorial likely to reach hundreds of thousands of readers, and primarily composed of falsehoods, I wonder seriously about that editor's, and that paper's, commitment to truth and justice. I do not wish to minimise the contribution that Cohen's fortuitous insight had on the history of design, but I do not believe we can ignore Kent's lifetime of service, her vision, and her dedication because of that insight.

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
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