A Decoding of the Heart - Severus' Sorting song.


The Sorting Hat's Rowling's, his song here's mine, apart from the tune, which is by Gilbert and Sullivan, and frankly, I only want it to borrow, not keep. Drives you nuts.

When I say this song is 'mine', I really mean it. Polysyllabic rhymes that scan take a LOT of work, and as Bertolt Brecht tells us, WORK DEFINES OWNERSHIP. If anyone is shabby enough to use this song without my permission and without acknowledging the borrowing, they'll be hell to pay. I've no objection at all to its being used - fanfic's not about originality, and it's fine to let things circulate (though discerning readers will note how intertwined this is with certain ideas in "Decoding") - but remember: WORK BY OTHERS should not be hidden and claimed for oneself.

On which note - MORRIGHAN came up with the first two lines of the last verse, and supplied the word 'foibles' in the first one when I found I had to change a whole line because 'Lethe' has two syllables, not one. BLACKLETTER gave me the Latin for the Ravenclaw verse.

So, here is another snippet, faithful readers, to make up for my long absence. (Hello, are some of you still out there? Are you no longer faithful? Please reveiw. I need encouragement.) I couldn't resist posting this the minute I finally resolved the Ravenclaw verse and the last one. It's part of the "Why Slytherins Are Sexier" scene - that'll be one hell of a chapter.

Incidentally - I have posted a challenge as chapter 2 of "WSAS". A few takers so far - any more? Go on, I dare you!


A little background: the Sorting Hat has not written its own songs for nearly forty years, and only intermittently since 1066, when he argued, quite reasonably, that after six decades of finding rhymes for 'ambition', 'wise' and 'brave' and 'loyal' he was getting bored, and he'd go insane if he had to start it all over again in French. (History test for the non-British here...btw, I think of the Hat as male. He's a divider and selector with a lot of conservative power...) The Hat was inspired by the Pearl poet to pen two or three fine Alliterative versions in the 14th century, and Chaucer was the model for an excellent song in the early 15th. His most sustained production was during the time of Marlowe and Shakespeare, during which he produced no less than five songs in blank verse. He rather lost his energy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for want of inspirational models - the one based on Keats was condemned for being a bit riské - and so he left the versifying almost entirely to Hogwarts' staff, until one of them complained that poetry writing wasn't in their job description whilst it was one of the Hat's raisons d'être. It was only after a disastrous attempt at Concrete Poetry, which left the teachers as well as the students of 1962 completely baffled, that the Hat was officially relieved of Song duty for good.

The staff at Hogwarts now take it in turns. Professor Flitwick did the delightful ditty in Harry's first year. McGonagall was responsible for the rather earnest effort of year four. The Hat's favourite remains the one Professor Snape wrote in his first year of teaching - a sinister little number to the tune of "Mac the Knife" that had half the firsties sneaking back to the boats; and the other half (mostly Slytherins and Ravenclaws, with whom it was a cult hit) tormenting them with their Lotte Lenya/Louis Armstrong impersonations:

I'm the Hat that

Reads your mind - dears,

And there's no-thing

You can hide.

I will put you

In your place, where

Seven years you

Shall abide.

The Headmaster henceforth preceded his Sorting Song requests to Severus with the words "Something nice and cheerful. The new students get so very nervous.." The Hat doesn't agree. He loves doing Lotte Lenya impressions. And he can. She had a very deep voice.

Anyway, in the year of "Decoding of the Heart", it is once more Severus' turn, and he has done something Cheerful with a vengeance - indeed a malicious glee. He HATES the tune of "Modern Major General" from "The Pirates of Penzance", and this is as near as he's ever got to saying 'up yours' to Dumbledore (who is very fond of G and S, of course, and thinks Severus is an intellectual snob to dismiss them).

"I AM the very MOdel of a MOdern major GEN-er-al" is what's known as a 'patter song': it is sung very fast. People were so impressed with the hard work the Hat obviously put in to singing it right that they asked for an encore. Plus they didn't follow a word the first time round.


When Hogwarts' founders Snuffed It at the start of the millennium,

Their rivalries and foibles didn't cross the Lethe's banks with them;

For Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw and Slytherin and Gryffindor

Bequeathed me their authority to pick the House you're suited for.


Let other schools set entry tests and quiz your personality,

A Sorting Hat gets access to your innermost reality.

Your aptitudes and certitudes and psychoanalytical

Complexities will indicate which path will prove so critical.


Now Gryffindors are fêted for persistent feats of bravery,

And Righting every Wrong from Third-World Debt to House-elf Slavery.

They'll throw you in the thick of fine adventures that should not missed

If you can stick their heartiness and aren't too individualist.


The Hufflepuffs are loyal, fair, hardworking and meticulous,

Which makes up for the fact that Helga's surname was ridiculous.

You'd never cheat or take short cuts for laziness is criminal,

An excellent philosophy when praise you win is minimal.


The wise Rowena Ravenclaw creamed off the intellectual,

The scholarly, the witty and profoundly ineffectual,

Whose credo "Cogitamus ergo sumus" makes the best hot air -

And if you didn't get all that, don't panic, I won't put you there.


The virtues of the Serpent's house are swathed in deepest mystery,

But only slaves to simpleness would shun its chequered history,

With drive that sends you far in life and calculating brilliance-

A Slytherin, for good or ill, will make the greatest diff-er-ence.


But now my tender audience I'm sure that you have heard enough

Of Slytherin and Ravenclaw and Gryffindor and Hufflepuff,

My job's to get you Sorted and I'll brook no bribes or threats or tears,

Just put me on and trust me – I've been doing this a thousand years.



The Latin in the Ravenclaw verse means "We think therefore we are". Plural version of "Cogito ergo sum".

The nods towards Muggle culture and concerns was thoroughly approved of by the Headmaster - and Hermione. They were delighted to hear firsties asking each other what the Third World was and where the House-elves lived, and regarded the Millenium Sorting Song as representative of Post Voldemort Political Correctness.

The Sorting Hat song of 1999 may not have achieved quite the popularity Professor Jordon's Rap version would in 2006 (anyone care to write it?) but it did make it to the footnotes of "Hogwarts, A History" as 'One of the only Songs in which the description of the Houses is not wholly positive."

A few of the teachers were a bit miffed that Slytherin got the best press. Especially when all the most interesting-looking students (cunning enough to foreground their greatest ambitions when under the Hat) were Sorted to Slytherin. Professor Snape said he was only making up for having the scum dumped in his House every year - a view hotly denied by Professor Spout, who said SHE got all the hopeless ones.