Ser Jaramey Slizzard

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The complete works of Otto Büchstein
“Are we done, then, brother and sister nights? Are we done?”
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Ser Jaramey Slizzard or, to give it its full title, Ser Jaramey Slizzard, that Fruty knyghte of the Isdere is an unfinished, mostly lost and certainly misguided operetta from that impenetrable Austrian plowwright Otto Büchstein.

It is notable for the line — one of few lines of dialogue in the fragment that remains — that has now entered the negotiators’ lexicon:

What is dull is never done.”

For all his baffling obliquity, Büchstein did have a knack for the occasional pithy aphorism.

Ser Jaramey Slizzard appears to have been assembled, as was Büchstein’s habit, from conflicting and dubious readings of financial mythology — this time, the legends and fables from the time of The Single Agreement, the First Men and the Children of the Woods. From this material Büchstein appears to have extrapolated an entire chivalric order of Swap Knights that are not reported in any other reliable source.

In any case, Ser Jaramey Slizzard is the story of a young ISDA Knight. The proceedings of that ancient order were, and remain, mortally secret, but the “Wording” — a sacred rite whereby fully-armoured ISDA knights are said to have wrangled canonical text through the medium of hand-to-hand fighting — has some mentions in the contemporaneous historical record. As an aside, this strikes us as plausible: phrasing as pained as ISDA’s can surely only come from martial combat: no sound mind, in a state of peaceable reflection could possibly perpetrate such tortured syntax.

The central drama occurs when a young Ser Jaramey confronts the elders of his calling during the Wording session convened to finally consecrate the definition of “Event Determination Date” in the 2014 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions.

Sadly, only a fragment of the libretto now remains, but it is reproduced below. Unusually, it is in English, apparently transcribed by longtime Büchstein antagonist, Winthrop Grumman, who took notes while the author mumbled incoherently from the depths of a malarial swoon in an opium den in old Mandalay.

The Grand Knight-Convenor of ISDA’ s crack CDS drafting squad surveys the wreckage across the mead-hall. At last, the hall falls silent. Echoed scuffles, bootfall and clankèd chainmail sublimate into the musty vaulted beams — perhaps a saucepan lid lazily circles. A curl of incense wafts up, the chimney smokes white and before the exhausted combatants there lies, upon a table, this careful calligraphic parchment.

Regolamento: Fine ninjas, knights and champions —
Brave chevaliers of our spidery art! Lay down your arms.
Though be you bruised and battered, soiled and scarred —
The meaty thrust and counterthrust that boiled within these cloisters
And lent heft to this most blasted of all Wordings
Is now done.
Triago, Herculio, arise! We are at one.
Holster thy syntactic catapults;
Demob that giddy mace of outlandish sophistry!
Behold, clandestine league, anoint the golden hour!
Apply thy merry unguents: our wranglement is at an end.
Grand Knight-Convenor: Are we — are we done, then? My brother, sister knights: are we done?

The rambunctious Ser Jaramey Slizzard, a young knight from the court of Milbank, stirs. He gets unsteadily to his feet. His countenance is dark.

Ser Jaramey: Prithee, the conch.
Grand Knight-Convenor: Denied.
Ser Jaramey: So be it, milord, but I shall speak. Now, As the case may, for the time being, be deemèd
Grand Knight-Convenor: No. This must stop now. The time for pedantry is over, Ser.

But the young knight is hot blooded, wild. We can hear him mutter the Swappist Oath.

Ser Jaramey: What is dull is never done.

The young knight draws, but the Aïessdiyé have seen all this before. They are faster. They anticipate his stroke and the watch commander, Inclusivia Libertardia cuts the young knight down with a blow to the back of the knees.

Ser Jaramey: Doth it befit our order, good lady knight
Our sainted equal guild of taker and of giver —
To strike so low a blow as that?

The young knight buckles.

Inclusivia: ’Twas the cheapest to deliver.

The company of knights of the Aïessdiyé escort Ser Jaramey away to the Protocolia where he will serve a period of nettance.

The Short Squeeze

Ser Jaramey Slizzard also involved a prescient reference to short-selling and is believed by many to be, or to document, the origination of ISDA’s famous “flawed asset” clause.

Herculio: How now, Ser Jez: how fares thy short?
Ser Jaramey: Squeezèd.
Unwarily I trod the basest range
And sold there what I borrowed:
A common stock of dismal prospect.
Herculio: A manful punt for so scant a likely gain?
Ser Jaramey: Aye but, I thought, yet safe enough —
That laggard scrip, housed around in bricks and mortar,
Whose hawkery of pre-loved flickish playthings
Casts surer shade across the purgatorial chapter
Than e’er it might upon some distant hea’enly host.
Forsooth, the surest thing was up: its only way was down.
Herculio: Oh? Did it not turn out so?
Ser Jaramey: A noisome band of amateurs did twist its price.
That vapid instrument prescribed a path most inopportune.
Herculio: A sideways move perchance?
Ser Jaramey: How might I wish!
Nuncle: It went to the moon.
Ser Jaramey: Th’ eternal roiling gears, as if by unseen hand
Propel the market’s ebb and pop
But gripp’d anew by retail flippancy
The Gods lampoon’d my tightly-modelled globe
And abruptly did my traded prospects drop.
Nuncle: When the GameStop stops, stop.
Herculio: How fares thy mark-to-market now?
Ser Jaramey: Sadly low, and presently moist, or damp —
Herculio: “Damp,” you say? I never heard a portfolio get wet!
Nuncle: Yet ever’y other one is under water.
Herculio: Now I catch the drift. How deep is “down”?
Ser Jaramey: More fathoms than I can fathom.
And now the one who wrote my swap hath taken ill,
Though he be to the good and I be in the hole.
Herculio: Ill? What malady afflicts a man so thickly profited?
Ser Jaramey: His payments due to other banks
In sum well ’cross the starry Threshold, lie in arrears.
Sans grace or composition; absent cleansing force majeure
He’s in default, and bang to rights.
Herein, my dilemma: Do I close my book, as is my right
And bear the funded pain of outward cashflow —
Or hold my peace, keep powder dry and stay the course
To expiry in earnest hope that, ’twixt now and then
Vicissitude should salt away my losing marks?
The latter course, of course, appeals, save this:
I, by lights of our compact, must pay what is confirm’d
While my oppugnant customer — the very one in breach
Revels in churlish delinquency. It feels unjust.
Herculio: Canst thou not, with merry words
Assuage this awkward detriment?
A simple term, to wit: “whilst man defaults
He may not seek performance”?
Ser Jaramey: Alas, that lance doth fetch aslant
Upon the voiding sheen of law.
No feint, nor jibe, nor fulsome thrust of cunning covenant
Could adjourn our present debt short of its terminance
That canny phrase would fall away:
A null, a nought, a preference rudely voided.
And thus, our right demis’d. No more
Than had we ne’er inked it in the first place.
Nuncle: Hold that thought. There’s something in ’t yet.
Empty is as empty does, Sirrah. One cannot pick an empty pocket.
What rights a man hath never had cannot be stole.
Ser Jaramey: ’Tis an empty supposition, Fool.
Mere riddles cannot make us whole.
Nuncle: Hold on: if wholly the whole’s a hole
Who’ll hold the whole hole holy?
Ser Jaramey: Holy moly.
Herculio: See here: this meagre tract: not ninety words
Wrapp’d about with preliminal nicety and
Stamp’d as for affixation to a servic’d boiler
Conceals a clever trick.
Ser Jaramey: What kind of onion’d witchery is this?
Nuncle: Who soaps an assignee with unfreighted tropes of conjury
Tricks only his frail self-examinership.
Herculio: Hear me, though. This rider taps a stranger science
Than thy sequestrator’s astrology.
Should constellations, ill-aligned, by morbid glint
Throw misadventure upon one side — call him, “A”
Whilst upon the other — that one, “B” — by present value judg’d
Calumny befalls his pretty box of bets
Nuncle: As long in extant tenor as they are short of market nous.
Herculio: Thus poor Party B confronts a cleffèd stick:
Close-out apace, but fund afull his bishèd speculation —
Or stay in play, pray the stars parlay his losing stake
But meantime pay away what’s due sans hope of reciprocation?
Ser Jaramey: No more or less, Herculio: that is my dilemma.
Herculio: Then this nifty rider sees you right.
It purporteth not suspension
Nor egregious snatch of weakling rights —
Nor any term alike that’s imperilled by a bust.
The charmèd scheme is this:
A payment “stopped” did not but start:
’Twas ne’er there to set aside.
Nuncle: Salt tears, o’er un-spilt milk, are seldom cried.
Herculio: One cannot abrogate that which,
By careful shape of precedent, was never yet applied.
Nuncle: Less an asset flawed than an assetted flaw.
Ser Jaramey: But where’s the thread
By which this cunning trap is sprung?
Nuncle: Aye, there’s the jape. The tripwire lies unstrung.

See also