Tuesday, August 4, 2009

These things have titles now?!

I blame Allan, personally, for getting me addicted to a goddamned country song. It's "Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier" by Albertan singer Corb Lund and his band. The song is really just a list of cavalry engagements, with a passing mention to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the slaughter of four of those good boys a few years ago by a man with a rifle. So, call this a dirty confession if you will.

Yet...at the same time. It's interesting to look at these particular engagements in retrospect. The song discusses so many different battles and peoples, all unified by their use of the majestic equus ferus caballus in war. Until 1914, cavalry was the prime manner in which mobility was utilized in war; each conflict from the rise of Rome till the Franco-Prussian War has a horse soldier story. The most feared warlords of all time were horsemen - Alexander the Great's Companion cavalry; Attila's Hun warriors; Genghis Khan's horse archers. Salah-a-din's army consisted of light horsemen conducting raids on the too-armoured European knights, and Belisarius commanded legions of cataphracts. The list continues, on and on.

In addition to the importance of the horse soldier, there is also a certain romanticism attached to a cavalryman. We have a tendency to believe that the knights of King Arthur were of a certain level of mystery and chivalry; the stories of the Civil War refer to men like J.E.B. Stuart and Nathan Bedford Forrest as dashing and gallant. Given the unique importance granted to a cavalryman, there should be no real surprise that our social structure romanticizes them. The same phenomena applied to early fighter pilots once cavalry became suddenly and brutally obsolete in the First World War, and that romanticization switched to the fighter pilot's substitute of the 60s - astronauts.

Anyway, back to the point. This just made me think on how the importance of horses, which were dominant for over two thousand years, has shrunk so incredibly that now they exist in the western world. The occasional show seems such a sad use of such noble beasts in the age of machines. Amazing how quickly things have changed in our society.

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