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Book of Days – August 9 – Births of John Dryden and John Oldham
Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 10:17 AM

On this date, August 9, the 17th century English poets and good friends, John Dryden and John Oldham were born.  Dryden was born in Aldwincle near Thrapston in Northamptonshire on August 9, 1631. Jonathan Swift was a distant cousin. Dryden graduated first in his class from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1654.

John Oldham was born in Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire on August 9, 1653. He studied at St. Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford, graduating in May 1674. In the early 1680s, Oldham settled in London, where he became friends with Dryden. He died on smallpox on December 9, 1683, and was buried in St. Edmund’s Church in Holme Pierrepont. Dryden wrote today’s poem, To the Memory of Mr. Oldham, following his friend’s death.

Dryden died on 12 May 1700, and was initially buried in St. Anne’s cemetery in Soho. Ten days later, his body was exhumed and reburied in Westminster Abbey. He also became the subject of poetic eulogies, including Luctus Brittannici: or the Tears of the British Muses; for the Death of John Dryden, Esq. (London, 1700), and The Nine Muses.

 

 

To the Memory of Mr. Oldham

 

Farewell, too little and too lately known,
Whom I began to think and call my own;
For sure our souls were near ally’d; and thine
Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.
One common note on either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorr’d alike:
To the same goal did both our studies drive,
The last set out the soonest did arrive.
Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
While his young friend perform’d and won the race.
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
When poets are by too much force betray’d.
Thy generous fruits, though gather’d ere their prime
Still show’d a quickness; and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
Once more, hail and farewell; farewell thou young,
But ah too short, Marcellus of our tongue;
Thy brows with ivy, and with laurels bound;
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.



Auto-mo-bile in A-mer-i-ca! Chro-mi-um Steel in A-mer-ic-a!
Monday, August 7, 2017, 12:21 PM

Steven Sondheim made American Wealth Something to Sing About

Immanuel Kant imagined that even a society of devils driven by nothing but pure, rational self-interest would develop their own morality in order to keep the devils from stepping on each other’s toes.

But at the end of his essay The Impossibility of Secular Society, Remi Brague points out that far from being a harder case than humans, devils are easier.  Living forever, they have no need to put aside pure self-interest and raise children.

Writes Brague, “without new life, Kant’s [godless] peace won’t be perpetual.  And because his peace is perfect only if the players of the game see themselves and their lives in terms of their own rational self-interest, it’s not at all clear why they won’t cease to have children.  Indeed, many will say that it’s a positive duty not to reproduce.”

Eh, what need for “positive duty” not to reproduce?  While driving around Saturday morning and listening to a couple songs from West Side Story, I realized that Steven Sondheim figured it all out in America.  Given a choice between larger families or more wealth, Anita, the chorus, and the entire Western world has gone with the money.  (And these days, for all of Puerto Rico’s problems, Anita’s complaint “always the population growing”  isn’t one of them.)

But what a great song.  My heart almost bursts when Antia fans her arms and sings “Au-to-mo-bile” and “Chro-mi-um Steel.” But why? I guess it’s because growing up in the 70s and 80s I always heard this song as shouting back like nothing else at the godless, communist Soviet Union and its fellow travelers.  Sometimes I still do.  And I still love this song. But the story didn’t end there.

(more…)



Book of Days – August 7 – Commemoration of John Mason Neale
Monday, August 7, 2017, 6:58 AM

John Mason Neale, the prolific 19th century hymn writer and translator, died on August 6, 1866.  He is perhaps best known for his hymns and carols related to the seasons of Advent and Christmas, including his translation of O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Of the Father’s Love Begotten and his original carols, Good Christian Men, Rejoice and Good King Winceslas.

Neal was born on January 24, 1818 in London, to the Rev. Cornelius and Susanna (Good) Neale, daughter of John Mason Good.  His paternal grandfather, James Neale, was the founder of the London Missionary Society.  Thus, John Mason Neale came from a family of significant intellectual achievements and strong Christian faith.

By the age of 22, Neale was appointed chaplain of Downing College, Cambridge. He was ordained in 1841.  His literary works are voluminous.  Rather than listing them here, see the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Mason_Neale.  For a more extensive biography, along with a listing of the hymns he translated and wrote, see https://hymnary.org/person/Neale_JM.

The Anglican Communion remembers John Mason Neale on this date, August 7, as his date of death falls on the Feast of the Transfiguration.

For today’s writing, I’ve chosen Neale’s translation of Gloria, laus et honor (All Glory, Laud, and Honor) written by Theodulph of Orleans around A.D. 820.

 

 

All glory, laud, and honor
to you, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
You are the King of Israel
and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming,
the King and Blessed One.

The company of angels
is praising you on high;
and we with all creation
in chorus make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
with palms before you went;
our praise and prayer and anthems
before you we present.

To you before your passion
they sang their hymns of praise;
to you, now high exalted,
our melody we raise.
As you received their praises,
accept the prayers we bring,
for you delight in goodness,
O good and gracious King!



Book of Day – August 6 – The Transfiguration
Sunday, August 6, 2017, 1:29 PM

August 6 is the date on whch many Christians commemorate the Transfiguration of our Lord. The Espiscopal Church assigns Psalm 99 for this feast. The Miles Coverdale translation of Psalm 99 is today’s writing.

 

 

PSALM 99.

Dominus regnavit

THE Lord is King, be the people never so unpatient : he sitteth between the cherubims, be the earth never so unquiet.

2 The Lord is great in Sion : and high above all people.

3 They shall give thanks unto thy Name : which is great, wonderful, and holy.

4 The King’s power loveth judgement; thou hast prepared equity : thou hast executed judgement and righteousness in Jacob.

5 O magnify the Lord our God : and fall down before his footstool, for he is holy.

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among such as call upon his Name : these called upon the Lord, and he heard them.

7 He spake unto them out of the cloudy pillar : for they kept his testimonies, and the law that he gave them.

8 Thou heardest them, O Lord our God : thou forgavest them, O God, and punishedst their own inventions.

9 O magnify the Lord our God, and worship him upon his holy hill : for the Lord our God is holy.



Book of Days – August 3 – The Birth of Rupert Brooke
Thursday, August 3, 2017, 3:05 PM

On this date in 1887, the English poet Rupert Brooke was born in Rugby, Warwickshire, England.  He is perhaps best known for his poem, The Soldier, which is the writing for today.  The poem was published in 1914, just as World War I was beginning.  Brooke himself was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant, participating in the Royal Naval Division’s Antwerp expedition in October 1914. In the winter of 1915, he was part of the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force headed for Gallipoli, where, presumably, he would have participated in that famous campaign of the Great War, but he didn’t survive to do so. He developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite and died on April 23, 1915 on board the Duguay-Trouin, a French hospital ship moored off the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea.  With the expeditionary force scheduled to depart immediately for its mission, Brooke was buried in an olive grove on Skyros.  Thus, his now famous poem gained a personal application, making it all the more meaningful to us today.

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
      That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
      In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
      Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
      Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
Blank 
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
      A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
            Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
      And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
            In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.



Book of Days – August 2 -The Battle of Cannae
Wednesday, August 2, 2017, 4:58 PM

On this date in in 216 B.C., Hannibal Barca and his Carthaginian army of approximately 50,000 men defeated approximately 86,400 Romans under the command of consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus, killing between 53,500 and 75,000 Roman and allied infantry and 2,700 Roman and allied cavalry and capturing another 10,000.  Among the dead were Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Hannibal suffered the loss of 5,700 total Carthaginians and allied forces.  It is considered by many one of the greatest tactical victories in military history and one of the worst defeats ever inflicted upon the Romans.

Polybisu and Livy provided differing accounts, including of the total loses on both sides.  What follows is an excerpt from the account of Polybius.

The Slaughter At Cannae

Though he had been from the first on the right wing, and had taken part in the cavalry engagement, Lucius Aemilius still survived. Determined to act up to his own exhortatory speech, and seeing that the decision of the battle rested mainly on the legionaries, riding up to the centre of the line he led the charge himself, and personally grappled with the enemy, at the same time cheering on and exhorting his soldiers to the charge. Hannibal, on the other side, did the same, for he too had taken his place on the centre from the commencement. The Numidian horse on the Carthaginian right were meanwhile charging the cavalry on the Roman left; and though, from the peculiar nature of their mode of fighting, they neither inflicted nor received much harm, they yet rendered the enemy’s horse useless by keeping them occupied, and charging them first on one side and then on another. But when Hasdrubal, after all but annihilating the cavalry by the river, came from the left to the support of the Numidians, the Roman allied cavalry, seeing his charge approaching, broke and fled. At that point Hasdrubal appears to have acted with great skill and discretion. Seeing the Numidians to be strong in numbers, and more effective and formidable to troops that had once been forced from their ground, he left the pursuit to them; while he himself hastened to the part of the field where the infantry were engaged, and brought his men up to support the Libyans. Then, by charging the Roman legions on the rear, and harassing them by hurling squadron after squadron upon them at many points at once, he raised the spirits of the Libyans, and dismayed and depressed those of the Romans. It was at this point that Lucius Aemilius fell, in the thick of the fight, covered with wounds: a man who did his duty to his country at that last hour of his life, as he had throughout its previous years, if any man ever did. As long as the Romans could keep an unbroken front, to turn first in one direction and then in another to meet the assaults of the enemy, they held out; but the outer files of the circle continually falling, and the circle becoming more and more contracted, they at last were all killed on the field; and among them Marcus Atilius and Gnaeus Servilius, the Consuls of the previous year, who had shown themselves brave men and worthy of Rome in the battle. While this struggle and carnage were going on, the Numidian horse were pursuing the fugitives, most of whom they cut down or hurled from their horses; but some few escaped into Venusia, among whom was Gaius Terentius, the Consul, who thus sought a flight, as disgraceful to himself, as his conduct in office had been disastrous to his country.

Histories. Polybius. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh. translator. London, New York. Macmillan. 1889.



Book of Days – July 26 – The American Expeditionary Force First Arrives in France
Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 10:48 AM

One hundred years ago today, the American Expeditionary Force began to arrive in France, joining the Allies in the Great War.  Three weeks earlier, at the tomb of the French hero of the American Revolution,  the Marquis de La Fayette, American Colonel Charles E. Stanton uttered his famous quote:

America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here.

It would be another four months before the American troops entered combat.  Back home, American’s were supporting their troops.  In April 1917, George M. Cohan wrote the most popular of the songs for the First World War, Over There.  It was registered with the Copyright Office on June 1 of that year and introduced to the public that fall.  It would sell more than two million copies. It is the writing for today:



Book of Days – July 25 – Death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 1:01 AM

On this date in 1834, the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge died at the age of 61.  Today’s writing is Coleridge’s great epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

For the text, see The Rime of the Ancient Mariner



Book of Days – June 24 – Fall of Stirling Castle
Monday, July 24, 2017, 10:22 AM

On this date in 1304, Stirling Castle fell to the forces of King Edward I of England, who had laid siege to the castle in April of that year.  Stirling Castle was the last holdout in Edward’s effort to gain control of Scotland, in a six-year effort that began with his defeat of William Wallace during the battle of Falkirk in 1298.  Unable to achieve surrender of the castle, Edward had commissioned his chief engineer, Master James of St. George, to design and build what is believed to be the largest trebuchet ever, which was named Lupus Guerre (or War Wolf in English).  The massive siege engine required 30 wagons to transport when disassembled and was estimated to measure between 300 and 400 feet in length (that is, at least the length of an American football field, perhaps as much as 1/3 longer).  It took five master carpenters and 49 laborers three months to build.  It was capable of accurately hurling missiles that weighed up to 300 pounds.

The castle’s governor, William Oliphant, surrendered on this date in 1304 and was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  He ultimately switched sides in the War of Scottish Independence, supporting the English, along with most of the rest of Scotland, William Wallace being the exception. In 1309, Oliphant was back at Stirling Castle, now in service to King Edward II of England.  In 1312, he was captured by the forces of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, and sent into exile to the western isles, where he is believed to have died as a Scottish prisoner.

I could find no public domain poetry related to the Siege of Stirling Castle in 1304 nor to War Wolf.

Edward I and James of St. George Book of Days   June 24   Fall of Stirling Castle

King Edward I of England with his chief engineer, Master James of St. George



Book of Days – July 22 – Birth of Emma Lazarus
Saturday, July 22, 2017, 1:01 AM

On this date in 1849, American poet Emma Lazarus was born in New York City into a a large Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jewish family.  She is best known for her poem “The New Colossus”, written in 1883 to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  In 1903, Lazarus’ poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted to the pedestal.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


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