Monday, March 20, 2017

Springtime In the Northern Hemisphere


Early this morning the plane of our planet passed through the center of the Sun. The event creates an equinox , a day when the length of light and darkness are just about equal anywhere on the planet. This year I don't care to get more technical about the facts. It's the first day of Spring that matters even if the northeastern U.S. could get nailed with another snowstorm next week.



And when it comes to calendars and changing seasons, it's hard to beat the French Revolutionary Calendar (1793-1805) teasing us with the warmth and color of Spring. For starters the spring equinox marks the first day of the month of Germinal. Every day has a name appropriate for the season. A revolutionary idea, I'd say. So here are the fecund thirty days of Germinal (March 21 - April 19):

1. Primevere - Primrose
2. Plantane - Plane Tree
3. Asperge - Asparagus
4. Tulipe - Tulip
5. Poule - Hen
6. Bette - Chard Plant
7. Bouleau - Birch Tree
8. Jonquille - Daffodil
9. Aulne - Alder
10. Couvoir - Hatchery
11. Pervenche - Periwinkle
12. Charme - Hornbeam
13. Morille - Morel
14. Hetre - European Beech Tree
15. Abielle - Bee
16. Laitue - Lettuce
17. Meleze - Larch
18. Cigue - Hemlock
19. Radis - Radish
20. Ruche - Hive
21. Gainier - Judas Tree
22. Romaine - Lettuce
23 Marronnier - Horse chestnut

24. Roquette - Arugula or Rocket
25. Pigeon - Pigeon
26. Lilas - Lilac
27. Anemone - Anemone
28. Pensee - Pansy
29. Myrtille - Blueberry
30. Greffor - Knife



Here is some music for the season...










...and a poem







From the Appalachian Piedmont east of Atlanta we wish all of our readers a most enjoyable Spring 2017!


Sources

Illustration: 
Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix, 1830

Text: Wikipedia
Poem: William Blake, Songs of Innocence, 1789


Friday, March 17, 2017

Nat King Cole: Straighten Up And Fly Right


March 17 affords us an opportunity to not only celebrate a saint - the venerable Patrick - but also a king. The royal side of this pairing is the inimitable jazz pianist and singer, Nat "King" Cole, who was born on this day in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919.  Powerline's cultural observer, Scott Johnson, posted a fine tribute to the man in 2009 so I'm not about to try and improve it. On the other hand, I will point out that Cole had a significant link to Georgia through his association with Savannah's favorite son, Johnny Mercer. 


Nat King Cole (Gottlieb 01511).jpg


Mercer is credited with discovering Cole in 1943 and developing his early career with Capitol Records, an enterprise founded by Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn Wallichs the previous year. Over a five month period beginning in July 1943 Mercer produced five Nat King Cole Trio recordings. They were superb examples of jazz and popular music fusion that appealed to a broad American market. The recording sold in the millions then and remain embedded in American music history today. The songs are: Tea For Two, Body and Soul, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Sweet Lorraine, and Embraceable You.

Here is a sample of that history in sound from the trio before 1955:
















I would like to add another video to the mix. This one features Cole singing with Johnny Mercer. What a pleasure it is to watch these two extraordinary artists enjoying themselves in a fun performance on Cole's NBC television show from the 1950s.








Sources

Photos and Illustration:
Cole at the piano, June 1947, William Gottleib Photo Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Text:

Title, 1943 song written by Cole and Irving Mills
Glenn T. Eskew, Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World, Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2013.

St. Patrick's Day 2017




Happy St. Patrick's Day! Today's post could focus on the contemporary experience of St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. - the wearing of the green, the parades, the parties, the drinking songs. Instead I want to look back at the true meaning of the day, the religious aspects, that so often get lost in the worldly celebration. Of course, there's nothing wrong with celebration - we do live in the world - as long as it's done in moderation while we keep the origins of the day in mind. Enjoy.

If you do nothing else with this post, at least listen to the remarkably powerful hymn.





The Reverend Paul Prange, Chair of the Board for Ministerial Education, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has this to say about St. Patrick:

When it comes to St. Patrick, truth may be stranger than fiction.
Born in Scotland, he grew up as a Christian but was not too serious about his faith. His life changed suddenly at age sixteen when he was kidnapped by Irish pirates. For six years he labored as a slave, tending pigs and sheep. He began to value the Christian faith in which he had been raised. When he escaped from slavery, he made his way to the coast, got a job on a ship, and returned to his family in Scotland.
Back in Scotland, he could not get Ireland out of his mind. The love of Christ was compelling him to share with his former captors the promises of God that had come to mean so much to him while he lived among them. After studying the Bible for nearly 20 years, he went back to Ireland a free man, and he never left.
Patrick baptized thousands of people. He helped to organize congregations all over Ireland, and worked hard to train and ordain men to serve as ministers of the gospel. Among his converts were wealthy women who became Christians in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the royal family of the time, instructing them in the truths of the faith.
It is very unlikely that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. He probably did not wear green all of the time. But the historical truths of his life are inspiring, and cause us to give thanks to God for faithful missionaries.



Today's music is St. Patrick's Breastplate, a 19th century hymn based on words attributed to him.




St. Patrick's Breastplate


I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken, to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, 
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort 
and restore me.

Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
all that love me,
Christ in mouth of 
friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.




Our literary piece comes from the opening paragraphs of the Confession, one of two extant documents written by St. Patrick. The translation from the Latin in by Ludwig Bieler. 

I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.
I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people---and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers. 
And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.Hence I cannot be silent---nor, indeed, is it expedient---about the great benefits and the great grace which the lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven. 
Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name. 
For He Himself has said through the Prophet: Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. And again He says: It is honourable to reveal and confess the works of God. 
Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire. 
And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide, but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgement of the Lord Christ.

Here is a link to the remaining eight pages describing his journey from slave to missionary.



Sources

Photos and Illustrations:
oca.org

Text:
Prange comment, welslutherans site, Facebook
Confessions, catholicplanet.com



Thursday, March 16, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Primer - Thursday Edition






Bring my pipe and fill its bowl,
That I may puff to sooth my soul.
For it is sure to clear my brain,
And bring old memories back again.






And from the rich tradition of Irish literature we have this glimpse:


...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish Wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

If you know the author and book title you can have an extra pint of Guinness tomorrow.




Once again the Irish Rovers provide the music for today's post. For the last fifty years they toured the world with their ballads. In 2015-16 they performed their last world tour. The members live in both Canada and Ireland and intend to keep the Rover sound alive by attending music festivals and special events.








Sources

Photos and Illustrations:
Postcard from the author's family archives



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Primer - Wednesday Edition





About the "Luck of the Irish"....





Ireland is home to the earliest works written in a local language in Western Europe. Much of that early literature featured mythological themes in the form of chants, songs, and poems. The tradition there is a long one covering perhaps 1500 years. Here is a short poem from our time written by William Butler Yeats, Ireland's Nobel Prize-winning literary icon. Indeed, the past is never far from the present...or the future.


To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time


Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, where of stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded hy man's fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.


Come near, come near, come near - Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more bear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.




For today's music we look to Ireland not as a source but as a venue for one of the world's most beloved compositions, Messiah. George Frederic Handel composed his oratorio in London in less than four weeks. He chose Dublin as the site of the premiere because his works in the past year had met with a mediocre reception in London. On April 13, 1742 Messiah was greeted enthusiastically at its first performance. That enthusiasm spread quickly to London and throughout the western world. Here is the version of the Hallelujah chorus as it was performed in Dublin in 1742.











Sources

Photos and Illustrations:
Postcards,  author's family archives

Text:
Yeats poem, The Literature Network, www.online-literature.com



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Primer - Tuesday Edition


In preparation for a day when everyone is just a little bit Irish I thought it would be fitting to visit the family's postcard archives and share pieces of Irish culture with readers.












Here is the Song of Ireland written by the English singer-songwriter, Phil Colclough, and his wife, June. The performance is by The Dubliners featuring one of its founding members, Luke Kelly. Although his career was cut short by an early death in 1984, he is credited with saving much of Ireland's traditional music. His Wikipedia biography notes the "[he] remains an Irish icon and his music is widely regarded as one of Ireland's cultural treasures."





Walking all the day, near tall towers where falcons build their nestsSilver winged they fly, they know the call of freedom in their breastsSoar Black Head against the sky, between the rocks that run down to the seaLiving on your western shore, saw summer sunsets, asked for more
I stood by your Atlantic sea, and sang a song for Ireland

Talking all the day with true friends, who try to make you stayTelling jokes and news, singing songs to pass the night awayWatched the Galway salmon run like silver dancing darting in the sunLiving on your western shore saw summer sunsets, asked for moreI stood by your Atlantic sea, and sang a song for Ireland

Drinking all the day in old pubs, where fiddlers love to playSomeone touched the bow, he played a reel, it seemed so fine and gayStood on Dingle beach and cast - in wild foam we found Atlantic BassLiving on your western shore, saw summer sunsets asked for moreI stood by your Atlantic sea, and sang a song for Ireland

Dreaming in the night, I saw a land where no man had to fightWaking in your dawn, I saw you crying in the morning lightLying where the Falcons fly, they twist and turn all in you e'er blue skyLiving on your western shore, saw summer sunsets asked for moreI stood by your Atlantic sea, and I sang a song for Ireland





Sources

Photos and Illustrations:
Postcards from the author's family archives


Monday, March 13, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Primer - Monday Edition


St. Patrick's Day is but four days away. To get everyone in the spirit for the big day we'll feature a primer of everything Irish over the next four days. Today we take a light-hearted look at country and bits and pieces of its culture.

In the late 19th century the Arbuckle Bros. Coffee Company of New York began issuing themed advertising cards in series to increase its business. I have over 300 of these cards that were collected by my ancestors over two generations. The company issued three cards with Irish themes and I'm pleased to post two of them in our St. Patrick's Day primer. The first one appeared in the National Geographical Series and did not have descriptive information on the reverse. The description below was issued with the card in the company's special promotional booklet entitled, Arbuckles' Illustrated Atlas of Fifty Principal Nations of the World [1889].




IRELAND, known to the Greeks by the name Ierne (Erin) and to the Romans by the name Hibernia, is the second largest of the British Isles, and is washed on the N. W. and S. sides by the Atlantic Oceand and separated from Great Britain by the N. Channel, the Irish Sea and St. George's Channel. Dublin, the capital, first mentioned by Ptolemy, is one of the finest cities in the Empire, and is situated at the head of Dublin Bay. A Lord Lieutenant is head of the executive government, and is assisted by a Privy Council and Chief Secretary.
Area, 32,531 square miles; population 1881, 5,174,836. Between 1853 and 1889 2,289,735 Irish emigrants landed in the United States.
The great central portion of Ireland is flat, and not less than 2,830,000 acres is bog, but much of the soil is of singular fertility. The climate is milder and moister than that of Great Britain, and clothes the plains and valleys with the richest pasture, procuring for Ireland the name of the Emerald Isle. The coast inlets, called Loughs, are many and of great extent. The lakes of Killarney, three in number, in Kerry, and under shadow of the loftiest mountains in the island, are widely famed for their romantic beauty. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, beans, peas. The live stock comprises horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. The most important manufacture is that of linen. Other industries are muslin sewing, lace making and woolen and worsted goods. There is a considerable amount of whisky distilling and porter brewing. The Shamrock (trefoil) is the national badge of Ireland.

Our second card comes from the Sports and Pastimes of all Nations Series. I think you'll enjoy the description from the reverse.



THE Emerald Isle from time immemorial has been the home of merry sport and gladsome enjoyment. Its people are hotheaded and quick to resent offence, generous to a fault, and forgiving to a degree, superstitious, devout and easy going.
The celebration of Hallowe'en, the 31st of October is a festivity that is looked forward to with keenest anticipation by all the young people of Ireland. Numerous are the games played. For instance apples are placed in a tub of water and each in turn tries to pick one out with his teeth. If successful it predicted luck in matters of love.
Another Hallowe'en game is Apple and Candle. On a stick 18 inches long, an apple is fastened at one end, and a lighted candle at the other. The stick is suspended from the ceiling by a string and then the string is swung backward and forward, while the players one by one try to catch the apple in their teeth.
Who shall describe the Irish jig. Into its engaging movements and attractive energy is infused much of the national spirit.
A peculiar sport of the Irish, and one very characteristic of the humor of the race is that of the "Greased Pig." Such an animal is anointed so that his hide is extremely slippery. He is then started to run amuck through the ranks of those participating in the play. These attempt to catch and hold his pigship with their hands--a difficult task. He who succeeds, walks off with the prize the squealing cause of the tumult and hilarity.
The Irish are famous boxers. Boxing is the art of using those natural weapons--the hands, in assault and defence. To be a good boxer one must be quick of eye, self-possessed, ready of device, agile and good-tempered.

 

There is no shortage of traditional Irish music and we're happy to enjoy it with this post of The Dubliners's definitive version of the 17th century song, Whiskey In The Jar:






Thursday, March 2, 2017

Happy Birthday, Tom Wolfe


The author in his Manhattan apartment

His earlier works seem written as much for entertainment as for traditional reportorial honesty and often involve not only the writer's observation but also his participation. And there are those long daydream passages of vivid description that end with a quick snap back to reality. As he worked more and more in fiction his style retained muted elements of the "wildness" that made his early "journalism" amazingly popular into the 1990's. Today the first wave of Gonzos - a term coined around 1970 by Hunter S. Thompson to describe a wing of New Journalism advocates - is all but gone, save for Tom Wolfe who turns 86 today. Wolfe remains it's most famous surviving member in the U.S. It's been a long way from The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby to tackling the Great American Novel for Wolfe. He's always been quite happy interpreting the American experience as an outsider looking into other worlds and he's certainly surpassed Thompson and others in his school with a matured Gonzo style.


Wolfe's novel latest, Back to Blood [2012], was only marginally successful and may lead us to speculate on what the future holds for a successful writer whose life has entered the twilight years. Most of us would like to think there is more compelling reading to come from such a wise observer. Let's hope so, but better we should leave prediction to heaven and immerse ourselves in the great wealth of observation of the American experience Tom Wolfe assembled for us.



These days Wolfe's work - especially the novels - still make news but I believe we should always remember his entertaining journalism, especially the work that chronicled our cultural history in the critical years from early 1960's to the mid-1970's. In those years he wrote the following titles:

The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby
(1965)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)
The Pump House Gang (1968)
Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970)
The New Journalism (1974) edited with E.W. Johnson
The Painted Word (1975)
Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine (1976)


He capped the 1970's with, The Right Stuff, his fascinating look at the nation's first astronauts, the Mercury Seven, and program that put most of them into space. Although he had already achieved fame as a writer the publication of The Right Stuff and the film by the same name that followed in 1983 ensured his place in American literature.




In 2012 Wolfe took on the immigration theme and the Cuban-Americans community dominating the scene in Miami. Back to Blood hit the market with high expectations but performed poorly. This article reprinted from New York Magazine appeared with the release of the novel and remains a pleasing blend of biography and book. So what does the future hold for a successful writer whose latest non-fiction work, The Freedom of Speech, appeared in August 2016? Most of us would like to think there is more compelling reading to come from such a wise observer. Let's hope so, but better we should leave prediction to heaven and immerse ourselves in the great wealth of observation of the American experience Tom Wolfe assembled for us. 




Sources

Photos and Illustrations:
Wolfe, New York MagazineText:
wikipedia.org

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

National Day Of Wales: St. David's Day 2017


Just why is a Welsh national flag flying at our front door today?

In the Christian world in the west March 1 is celebrated as St. David's Day. He was born in Wales in the 6th century, attained sainthood in the 12th century, and today is recognized as the patron saint of Wales. Dewi San (St. David) died on this day in 569 and buried in the cathedral bearing his name in Pembrokeshire. I doubt there could ever be a better day to celebrated the National Day of Wales than March 1. 



Welsh national flag design first appeared in the 15th century





German traditions may remain strong in my family, but I'm equally proud to say that I have Welsh ancestors thanks to the bloodline introduced by my grandmother's parents. They immigrated to the United States from Cardiff, Wales, in the early 1870's. Although I don't remember my grandmother - she died before my second birthday - my father always reminded me of her Celtic pride and Welsh ancestry expressed especially in a love for song and singing.










Wales is a small, ancient country located southwest of England between the Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea south of the Isle of Man. The nation has a rich cultural heritage beginning with Celtic peoples in the early Iron Age. Its isolation has left them with strong genetic identifiers as the "last of the 'true' Britons." There are only 3 million people living in Wales today. Historically, the population was never large but there was a limited diaspora beginning two centuries ago particularly with the Industrial Revolution and its need for coal. Only half of one percent of Americans claim Welsh ancestry. I'm pleased to be among them.



Sources

Photos and Illustrations:
Welsh flag, public domain image, Open Clipart Library

Text:
wales.com
wikipedia.com

Ash Wednesday 2017


Today, Christians around the world are marked with ashes and made so very much aware of sin and death. At the same time through bread and wine they experience the Light of Life and begin forty days of prayer and abstinence leading us to Christ's death and resurrection.

Although the ashen cross we bear today will fade over the hours we can take hope knowing that God's love for us will never fade.





Psalm 51


Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness; According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences.Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged. Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and stablish me with Thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness. Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew Thy praise. For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings. The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon Thine altar.


English Book of Common Prayer, 1662


Here is Gregorio Allegri's (c.1582 - 1652) Miserere , the famous Latin setting of Psalm 51:







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