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Book of Days – Pentecost Sunday
Sunday, June 4, 2017, 2:12 PM

Whitsunday is the British and Irish name for Pentecost Sunday, a contraction of White Sunday.  The origins of the name White Sunday are debated.  For today’s writing, John Keble’s Whitsunday, from his book of verse, The Christian Year.


Also included is a YouTube video of the musical setting for this poem, without singing:


And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts ii. 2-4.

When God of old came down from Heaven,
In power and wrath He came;
Before His feet the clouds were riven,
Half darkness and half flame:
Around the trembling mountain’s base
The prostrate people lay;
A day of wrath and not of grace;
A dim and dreadful day. Click to Read More!

Book of Days – June 3 – Ode to Billie Joe
Saturday, June 3, 2017, 10:48 AM

I’m sure some will find this a somewhat out-of-place writing for this series of posts, but I find Ode to Billie Joe to be a compelling work of poetry.  Country music songwriters are, on the whole, in my view, the best songwriters in popular music.  They tell stories, frequently compelling ones.  Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe is a particularly compelling one, a Southern Gothic, contrasting the suicidal death of a young man with the indifference of those discussing it and the mystery of what the narrator knew to be the cause, a mystery which remains unanswered.  Ode to Billie Joe was released 50 years ago this summer and as the open line dates the fictional events as having occurred on this date, June 3, I decided to post a YouTube video.  I am omitting the lyrics as they are, of course, still in copyright.

Book of Days – June 2 – Birth of Thomas Hardy
Friday, June 2, 2017, 5:00 AM

On this date in 1840, Thomas Hardy was born in Stinsford, Dorset, England. Today’s writing is his poem, The Darkling Thrush.


I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Insurance companies promoting assisted suicide
Thursday, June 1, 2017, 10:01 AM

“Death with Dignity” laws seemingly manipulated to force treatable patients into the terminal category long before it is necessary to do so.

The home-states for the two patients were California and Oregon. If the patients had been residents of Texas and Florida, then perhaps their treatments would have been approved. Those of you who live outside of the 6 states that currently allow physician-assisted death may want to contemplate Callister’s experience if you should ever vote on the matter. (h/t Legal Insurrection)

Book of Days – June 1 – The Battle of Belleau Wood Begins
Thursday, June 1, 2017, 6:14 AM

On this date 99 years ago, the Battle of Belleau Wood began.  It would last until June 26, when, after nearly four weeks of intense fighting, the United States Marines at last cleared the Germans from the Woods.  It has gone down in Marine Corp lore.  The Corp suffered 9,777 casualties, including 1811 killed in action. Today’s writing is Edgar A. Guest’s The Battle of Belleau Wood:

IT was thick with Prussian troopers, it was foul with German guns;
Every tree that cast a shadow was a sheltering place for Huns.
Death was guarding every roadway, death was watching every field,
And behind each rise of terrain was a rapid-fire concealed
But Uncle Sam’s Marines had orders: “Drive the Boche from where they’re hid.
For the honor of Old Glory, take the woods!” and so they did.
I fancy none will tell it as the story should be told–
None will ever do full justice to those Yankee troopers bold.
How they crawled upon their stomachs through the fields of golden wheat
With the bullets spitting at them in that awful battle heat.
It’s a tale too big for writing; it’s beyond the voice or pen,
But it glows among the splendor of the bravest deeds men.
It’s recorded as a battle, but I fancy it will live,
As the brightest gem of courage human struggles have to give.
Inch by inch, they crawled to victory toward the flaming mounts of guns;
Inch by inch, they crawled to grapple with the barricaded Huns
On through fields that death was sweeping with a murderous fire, they went
Till the Teuton line was vanquished and the German strength was spent.
Ebbed and flowed the tides of battle as they’ve seldom done before;
Slowly, surely, moved the Yankees against all the odds of war.
For the honor of the fallen, for the glory of the dead,
The living line of courage kept the faith and moved ahead.
‘They’d been ordered not to falter, and when night came on they stood
With Old Glory proudly flying o’er the trees of Belleau Wood.

Book of Days – May 31 – The Visitation
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 3:20 PM

Today is the current date on which many Western Christians observe the Visitation of the Virgin Mary with Elizabeth.  Traditionally, the Visitation was (and still is by some) observed on July 2 in the West.  For today, John Sheppard’s version of the Magnificat:

Daniel Moody’s No Country for Old Men
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 11:57 AM
Moss 300x155 Daniel Moodys No Country for Old Men

Worse is coming

Daniel Moody is an online friend of mine with whom I’ve maintained a correspondence for about ten years I’d guess.  Daniel is a brilliant man.  He lives in England and he’s long been trying to tell the world that it has reasoned itself into madness.

If that sounds like Daniel is just picking up the C.S. Lewis or Chesterton torch, the answer is yes and no.  I don’t think Daniel reads much.  Years ago, I sent Daniel something by C.S. Lewis and he responded saying “Stella Morabito keeps recommending C.S. Lewis to me but I would rather not read him, for the same reason I have never read 1984: other people have written about the theory of the ‘abolition of man’, whereas we are witnessing it in practice. I want to write about the practice.”

And that’s about right, I think.  Chesterton and C.S. Lewis were among the early 20th century writers to point out where things were headed.  Daniel Moody means to announce our arrival.  I’d like to think we’ve arrived because maybe that’d mean things won’t get much worse.

But worse is coming.  I’m reminded of an exchange in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men .  Sheriff Bell and his deputy stand surrounded in the desert by gun-rattled corpses:

The deputy says, “It’s a mess, aint it Sheriff?”
“If it aint,” Sheriff Bell responds, “it’ll do till the mess gets here.”


Book of Days – May 30 – Romans breach the Second Wall of Jerusalem
Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 6:45 AM

On this date in A.D. 70, Titus and his Roman legions breached the second wall in Jerusalem, as the siege advanced.  Today’s writing is from Book V, Chapters 7 of Flavius Josephus’ The War of the Jews.



1. NOW, on the next night, a surprising disturbance fell upon the Romans; for whereas Titus had given orders for the erection of three towers of fifty cubits high, that by setting men upon them at every bank, he might from thence drive those away who were upon the wall, it so happened that one of these towers fell down about midnight; and as its fall made a very great noise, fear fell upon the army, and they, supposing that the enemy was coming to attack them, ran all to their arms. Whereupon a disturbance and a tumult arose among the legions, and as nobody could tell what had happened, they went on after a disconsolate manner; and seeing no enemy appear, they were afraid one of another, and every one demanded of his neighbor the watchword with great earnestness, as though the Jews had invaded their camp. And now were they like people under a panic fear, till Titus was informed of what had happened, and gave orders that all should be acquainted with it; and then, though with some difficulty, they got clear of the disturbance they had been under.


Book of Days – Memorial Day – The Bivouac of the Dead
Monday, May 29, 2017, 7:03 AM

My grandparents called this Decoration Day. Both of my Grandpa Laughlin’s grandfathers died as a result of their service as Union soldiers in the Civil War. His maternal grandfather died of disease at LaGrange, Tennessee, eight weeks before the birth of his only child, my great-grandmother. His paternal grandfather died after the war from an infection from his gunshot wound received at the battle of Antietam.

If you’ve walked through a national cemetery, you will often see plaques with stanzas from The Bivouac of the Dead, a poem written by Theodore O’Hara in honor of his fellow soldiers in the Mexican War who lost their lives. O’Hara also fought as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War.

I’ve posted a sung rendition. The complete poem follows.


The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
The warrior’s dreams alarms;
No braying horn or screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.


Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.


The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle’s stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war’s wild note, nor glory’s peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.


Like the fierce Northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,
Come down the serried foe,
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o’er the field beneath,
Knew the watchword of the day
Was “Victory or death!”


Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O’er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.


Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr’s grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation’s flag to save.
By rivers of their father’s gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.


For many a mother’s breath has swept
O’er Angostura’s plain —
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven’s scream, or eagle’s flight,
Or shepherd’s pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o’er that dread fray.


Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land’s heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil —
The ashes of her brave.


Thus ‘neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother’s breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.


Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.


Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor time’s remorseless doom,
Can dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

Book of Days – May 28 – Battle of Halys and Solar Eclipse
Sunday, May 28, 2017, 8:15 AM

On this date, May 28, 585 BC, during battle of Halys, a solar eclipse occurred. Our ability to date this eclipse makes the battle of Halys perhaps the earliest event we can precisely date. According to Herodotus, the eclipse was predicted by Thales of Miletus, making it the first solar eclipse in history to be predicted.

From Herodotus’ The Histories, 1.73-1.74:

“Afterwards, on the refusal of Alyattes to give up his suppliants when Cyaxares sent to demand them of him, war broke out between the Lydians and the Medes, and continued for five years, with various success. In the course of it the Medes gained many victories over the Lydians, and the Lydians also gained many victories over the Medes. Among their other battles there was one night engagement. As, however, the balance had not inclined in favour of either nation, another combat took place in the sixth year, in the course of which, just as the battle was growing warm, day was on a sudden changed into night. This event had been foretold by Thales, the Milesian, who forewarned the Ionians of it, fixing for it the very year in which it actually took place. The Medes and Lydians, when they observed the change, ceased fighting, and were alike anxious to have terms of peace agreed on.”

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