World War I Centennial

Today is Armistice Day a Century ago the Germans surrendered in Compiègne, France, to the Allied powers, ending the fighting on the Western front. This took place at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

In Flanders Fields

– John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
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Halloween poems

Well I was going to post something like Rossetti’s Goblin Market, but that really doesn’t seem like the most Halloween-ish of poems. Sure there are poems by Poe like The Raven and The Haunted Palace or even that great witch bit from Macbeth “Double, double toil and trouble”.  How about something we don’t know basically by heart. This is Black Cat by Rainer Rilke

Black Cat

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

Memorial Day 2018

Let us all take some time as we unofficially begin Summer, to remember what today is really about those soldiers who have died, a major part of the day is decorating soldiers graves with flowers. This Poem from Joyce Kilmer, the poet and soldier, is from his second collection of poems Trees and Other Poems. It has been set to music and has been included in The Army and Navy Hymnal.

Memorial Day by Joyce Kilmer

“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword.

Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy by Dante)

I made my way through Dante’s Divine Comedy, you know Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Now this epic narrative poem is considered the preeminent work in Italian and one of the greatest works of all of world literature. The poem is deep in medieval Christian theology and Thomistic philosophy specifically the Summa Theologica some call the poem “the Summa in verse”.  It is said to represent the soul’s journey to God. Now this was a tough slog for me to get through with all the footnotes in the work. Perhaps reading it in Italian might be better.

We begin with Inferno, on Holy Thursday night in the year 1300. Dante is 35 (half the Biblical lifespan of 70 years) and he meets Virgil who will guide him through the 9 circles of Hell until they meet and Satan in the depths of Hell. The various circles of Hell are seen as describing the recognition and rejection of sin, they meet and talk to several people through all the different circles leading up to Judas encased in ice and Satan himself. They pass the devil and make their way to the Southern Hemisphere and the Mountain of Purgatory.

In Purgatorio, Dante continues his journey with Virgil, it is Easter Sunday and they begin climbing up the Mountain of Purgatory which was pushed up from the circles of Hell. The different levels are based on the seven deadly sins.  At the top of the mountain is Earthly Paradise, the Garden of Eden, here Virgil is replaced with Beatrice, who asked for Virgil to get Dante. Beatrice is to whom Dante dedicated all his work.

In Paradiso, it is Dante’s journey with Beatrice we begin back in the Garden of Eden and explores through the 9 celestial spheres of heaven these are based on the cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and Theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love). The journey begins with the moon and then goes through the planets and the sun. Through this journey he meets many saints until he come before the Triune God appearing as three equally large circles occupying the same space, representing Father, Son and Spirit.

It’s one of those work that everyone need to read at least once in their life so you are bound to want to/have to read it at one point in your life or another.

Auld Lang Syne

In honor of the New Year, here is that classic poem/song from Robert Burns that no one remembers all the words, but pretends to. It was featured in the comic strip Flashbacks by Patrick M. Reynolds yesterday 31 December 2017 and I thought the story was interesting. It is an old Scottish song which Burns just transcribes the lyrics to it, or perhaps the first bit and he added on to it. It is a lot longer than most of us know it to be and if you have a chance take a look at the poem/lyrics and remember all the good and not so good thing about this year. Take some time between the Rose Parade, NHL Winter Classic hockey game and all the college Bowl games to reflect on your plans for this year as well.

Auld Land Syne (English)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 

On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Christmas means family and I hope that we all can be appreciative for all our relatives from grandparents to parents along with our aunts, uncles and cousins. I know getting together with family can be trying but we can all deal with it for a little while. I hope that each and everyone of you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas.  On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity is a poem by John Milton about the Nativity. Portions of the poem have been set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his  Christmas cantata, Hodie. 

On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity
By John Milton
This is the month, and this the happy morn,
      Wherein the Son of Heav’n’s eternal King,
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
      Our great redemption from above did bring;
      For so the holy sages once did sing,
            That he our deadly forfeit should release,
            And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.
That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,
      And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heav’n’s high council-table,
      To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,
      He laid aside, and here with us to be,
            Forsook the courts of everlasting day,
            And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.
Say Heav’nly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
      Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
      To welcome him to this his new abode,
      Now while the heav’n, by the Sun’s team untrod,
            Hath took no print of the approaching light,
            And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?
See how from far upon the eastern road
      The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet:
O run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
      And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
      Have thou the honour first thy Lord to greet,
            And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
            From out his secret altar touch’d with hallow’d fire.
It was the winter wild,
While the Heav’n-born child,
         All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in awe to him
Had doff’d her gaudy trim,
         With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the Sun, her lusty paramour.
Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
         To hide her guilty front with innocent snow,
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,
         The saintly veil of maiden white to throw,
Confounded, that her Maker’s eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.
But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-ey’d Peace:
         She, crown’d with olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphere,
His ready harbinger,
         With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;
And waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.
No war or battle’s sound
Was heard the world around;
         The idle spear and shield were high uphung;
The hooked chariot stood
Unstain’d with hostile blood;
         The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sate still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.
But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
         His reign of peace upon the earth began:
The winds with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist,
         Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The Stars with deep amaze
Stand fix’d in steadfast gaze,
         Bending one way their precious influence;
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
         Or Lucifer that often warn’d them thence,
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And though the shady gloom
Had given day her room,
         The Sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferior flame
         The new-enlighten’d world no more should need:
He saw a greater Sun appear
Than his bright throne or burning axle-tree could bear.
The shepherds on the lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
         Sate simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they than
That the mighty Pan
         Was kindly come to live with them below:
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep;
When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
         As never was by mortal finger strook,
Divinely warbled voice
Answering the stringed noise,
         As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heav’nly close.
Nature, that heard such sound
Beneath the hollow round
         Of Cynthia’s seat, the Airy region thrilling,
Now was almost won
To think her part was done,
         And that her reign had here its last fulfilling:
She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all heav’n and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
         That with long beams the shame-fac’d Night array’d;
The helmed Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim
         Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display’d,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes to Heav’n’s new-born Heir.
Such music (as ’tis said)
Before was never made,
         But when of old the sons of morning sung,
While the Creator great
His constellations set,
         And the well-balanc’d world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the welt’ring waves their oozy channel keep.
Ring out ye crystal spheres!
Once bless our human ears
         (If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time,
         And let the bass of Heav’n’s deep organ blow;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to th’angelic symphony.
For if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
         Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckl’d Vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
         And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering Day.
Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
         Orb’d in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,
Mercy will sit between,
Thron’d in celestial sheen,
         With radiant feet the tissu’d clouds down steering;
And Heav’n, as at some festival,
Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall.
But wisest Fate says no:
This must not yet be so;
         The Babe lies yet in smiling infancy,
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss,
         So both himself and us to glorify:
Yet first to those ychain’d in sleep,
The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep,
With such a horrid clang
As on Mount Sinai rang
         While the red fire and smould’ring clouds outbrake:
The aged Earth, aghast
With terror of that blast,
         Shall from the surface to the centre shake,
When at the world’s last session,
The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his throne.
And then at last our bliss
Full and perfect is,
         But now begins; for from this happy day
Th’old Dragon under ground,
In straiter limits bound,
         Not half so far casts his usurped sway,
And, wrath to see his kingdom fail,
Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
The Oracles are dumb;
No voice or hideous hum
         Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
         With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance or breathed spell
Inspires the pale-ey’d priest from the prophetic cell.
The lonely mountains o’er,
And the resounding shore,
         A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
From haunted spring, and dale
Edg’d with poplar pale,
         The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
With flow’r-inwoven tresses torn
The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.
In consecrated earth,
And on the holy hearth,
         The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint;
In urns and altars round,
A drear and dying sound
         Affrights the flamens at their service quaint;
And the chill marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.
Peor and Ba{:a}lim
Forsake their temples dim,
         With that twice-batter’d god of Palestine;
And mooned Ashtaroth,
Heav’n’s queen and mother both,
         Now sits not girt with tapers’ holy shine;
The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn;
In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz mourn.
And sullen Moloch, fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
         His burning idol all of blackest hue:
In vain with cymbals’ ring
They call the grisly king,
         In dismal dance about the furnace blue.
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian grove or green,
         Trampling the unshower’d grass with lowings loud;
Nor can he be at rest
Within his sacred chest,
         Naught but profoundest Hell can be his shroud:
In vain with timbrel’d anthems dark
The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipp’d ark.
He feels from Juda’s land
The dreaded Infant’s hand,
         The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside
Longer dare abide,
         Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.
So when the Sun in bed,
Curtain’d with cloudy red,
         Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to th’infernal jail,
         Each fetter’d ghost slips to his several grave,
And the yellow-skirted fays
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-lov’d maze.
But see, the Virgin blest
Hath laid her Babe to rest:
         Time is our tedious song should here have ending.
Heav’n’s youngest-teemed star,
Hath fix’d her polish’d car,
         Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending;
And all about the courtly stable,
Bright-harness’d Angels sit in order serviceable.

Winter: My Secret

Since we begin Winter today I though it was perfect time for a poem this one is from Christina Rossetti, she is the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Christina Rossetti is best known for her poem Goblin Market as well as the words to the Christmas Carols In the Bleak Midwinter and Love Came Down at Christmas. This is another one of her poems I’ve posted a few in the past.

Winter: My Secret

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I;
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,
And you’re too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there’s none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today’s a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to everyone who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro’ my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro’ my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring’s an expansive time: yet I don’t trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro’ the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there’s not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess.

Veterans/Remembrance Day and Martinmas

It is apropos that the feast for one of the Patron Saints for Soldiers falls on 11 November, better know to those as Remembrance Day or as Veterans Day. That saint is Martin of Tours who was a Roman soldier who as the famed story goes cut his cloak in two and gave it to a beggar in the middle of winter, here the story diverges as in one account Martin had a dream that night of Jesus wearing the half cloak and another has the cloak being miraculously restored. After he was a solider Martin became a monk and eventually became the Bishop of Tours. The feast of St. Martin is bigger in Europe than in America. This is also the day that at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month of the year 1918, an armistice was signed which ended the “war to end all wars.” (WWI).  Let us all keep in our mind this week all those who served and all those that have fallen.

We Shall Keep the Faith by Moina Michael

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Total Eclipse

So Today is the day the solar eclipse is happening and talk about the excitement it seems like every channel is going to be offering coverage and follow the eclipse as it travels across the US. NASA is even live-streaming it. NPR has compiled a playlist for tomorrow and it is a great compilation if you have Spotify click on into it. Now I am sure there will be other eclipse related episodes of television shows and movies being broadcast as well today from The Simpsons and Wonder Years to perhaps even that Twilight movie. Often times in films and movie eclipses mark a big change coming and perhaps that is the cards for us as well.

Here is a poem for today written a long time ago but about this event. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a popular poet from the turn of the century (1800s-1900s) who is perhaps best known for writing the  line “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone”.

A Solar Eclipse
by: Ella Wheeler Wilcox

In that great journey of the stars through space
About the mighty, all-directing Sun,
The pallid, faithful Moon, has been the one
Companion of the Earth. Her tender face,
Pale with the swift, keen purpose of that race,
Which at Time’s natal hour was first begun,
Shines ever on her lover as they run
And lights his orbit with her silvery smile.

Sometimes such passionate love doth in her rise,
Down from her beaten path she softly slips,
And with her mantle veils the Sun’s bold eyes,
Then in the gloaming finds her lover’s lips.
While far and near the men our world call wise
See only that the Sun is in eclipse.

Summer begins

As Summer begins let’s begin with a simple poem.

Summer Song by William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
sky-blue
where would they carry me?

While I was looking up this poem there were several websites that were already trying to crown a “Song of the Summer.” Sure the season of Summer began on Memorial Day but we’ve still got more than half the summer left so how can we decide what the song is now. Billboard offers the top 10 list since 1958 but this really is a new thing. The Huffington Post offers their own suggestions as to what it might be and even has some guidelines as how to pick the song which includes what has to be my favorite “rule” “by the end of Summer, the entire world must never want to hear it again.” If you don’t care what the song of this Summer is TimeoutNY offers a playlist of the top 50 best songs about summer, this is by far a list that I would fire up at any summertime party.