For the Fallen - LaurenceBinyon - With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, There is music in the midst of desolation And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
The poem For The Fallen was written in 1914 by Robert Laurence Binyon, an English poet and playwright. He composed the poem while sitting on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic in Cornwall and thinking of the high casualty count the British Expeditionary Force had already suffered in these early days of World War I. The most well-known portion of this poem is its fourth stanza, which is used in Remembrance ceremonies the world over. In Canada, it is incorporated into the section of the Remembrance Day service called "The Act of Remembrance". The verse is recited, and everyone present repeats the final vow, "We will remember them." This part of the service also includes the playing of The Last Post and the two minutes of silence. The following is the 2014 national cenotaph service from Ottawa; the Act of Remembrance actually starts at the 56 minute mark.
I sometimes wonder just when we turn the corner from childhood and head off into the adult world. It's been a working theory with me that it's about the time we start regarding dandelions as weeds instead of flowers and, rather than delighting in blowing the dandelion puff, think of the amount of new weeds this activity will produce. After associating with the nephews and nieces however, I've decided that it's when rolling downhill becomes painful instead of fun.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. It is not now as it hath been of yore;— Turn wheresoe'er I may, By night or day. The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
-William Wordsworth Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
I'm not a big fan of Halloween and frankly, never was. Even as a kid I was in it strictly for the candy. I especially don't like how adults have now taken over an occasion which should be for and about children and made it into an excuse to wear risque costumes and party. I'm also not fond of horror movies: my favourite Halloween film is Arsenic and Old Lace. Which is, of course, amazing. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a clever, creepy film or story on occasion, but I can't stand the brainless gore-fests which generally get served up for Halloween viewing. That being said, it is fun to see the nephews and nieces enjoying dressing up for trick or treating; here are a few of my nephews, ready to hit the candy trail: Two are being ninjas (costumes sewn by me)
One being a bank robber, and the other a professor:
Below is a rendition of Robert Burns' 1790 poem Tam o' Shanter. Tam is a farmer who, after a night of drinking at the local pub, starts home through the woods on his horse Meg. Passing by a haunted church, Tam stumbles upon a coven of witches and goblins holding a dance, with the devil himself playing the bagpipes for them. The creatures at first don't notice him, but in his drunken state Tam eventually shouts something out, alerting them to his presence. They aren't pleased.
Shakespeare's Hamlet may seem an odd- and grim- source to draw a Christmas carol from, but one of the pieces our choir is singing in our concert is actually a selection from its first act, set to music. It is the opening piece in the 1989 choral Noel written by Canadian composer Nancy Telfer. The song is titled "The Bird of Dawning" and its lyrics are a passage spoken by Marcellus in scene one, atop the battlements at Elsinore Castle:
Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated, This bird of dawning singeth all night long; And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad, The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.
So what this passage is referencing is the previous appearance of Hamlet's father as a ghost. Marcellus says that the apparition disappeared at the crowing of the cock at dawn. The belief was that spirits could only travel about during the nighttime hours and would have to flit away at the first crow signifying dawn. There was also a legend at the time that, on Christmas Eve, the rooster- "bird of dawning"- would crow all night long, which kept spirits and demons and other unchancy things from being able to move about or do evil upon the earth on holy Christmas Day. I couldn't find a version of Tefler's composition online anywhere, so will post the Hamlet passage set to a different tune (frankly, I like ours better):
Well, the "underwater spy" birthday party was a rousing success, with several spy games being played, a turtle cake, an octopus hanging on the dining room light, and of course, the spy fish pinata. One of my niece's older brothers helped out by donning a spy outfit and making balloon fish and eels while walking about on his stilts:
After the party was over and all non-family guests had gone home, we decided to go hiking so as to enjoy the beautiful fall day and let the kids run off some of the excess sugar.
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting; It’s luring me on as of old; Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting So much as just finding the gold. It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder, It’s the forests where silence has lease; It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.
I had four days off work, and had a great time visiting family and spending time in the great outdoors, celebrating Thanksgiving. Packing up my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner: ham in pineapple sauce, banana bread, lemon meringue pie, and cup cakes:
Last night we watched the 1939 classic Gunga Din because my newest brother-in-law revealed that he had never seen it. Tsk. Some people just don't raise their kids properly. I already reviewed this film a few years ago so won't say much about it now, except that it was a ton of fun to see again. The last time I watched it, I included in my review the lyrics of The Roast Beef of Old England, which Sgt. Cutter sings at one point in the film. This time I think I'll include the text of Rudyard Kipling's 1890 poem which the film is based on:
Gunga Din BY RUDYARD KIPLING You may talk o’ gin and beer When you’re quartered safe out ’ere, An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it; But when it comes to slaughter You will do your work on water, An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it. Now in Injia’s sunny clime, Where I used to spend my time A-servin’ of ’Er Majesty the Queen, Of all them blackfaced crew The finest man I knew Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din, He was ‘Din! Din! Din! ‘You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din! ‘Hi! Slippy hitherao ‘Water, get it! Panee lao, ‘You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.’
The uniform ’e wore Was nothin’ much before, An’ rather less than ’arf o’ that be’ind, For a piece o’ twisty rag An’ a goatskin water-bag Was all the field-equipment ’e could find. When the sweatin’ troop-train lay In a sidin’ through the day, Where the ’eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl, We shouted ‘Harry By!’ Till our throats were bricky-dry, Then we wopped ’im ’cause ’e couldn’t serve us all. It was ‘Din! Din! Din! ‘You ’eathen, where the mischief ’ave you been? ‘You put some juldee in it ‘Or I’ll marrow you this minute ‘If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!’
’E would dot an’ carry one Till the longest day was done; An’ ’e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear. If we charged or broke or cut, You could bet your bloomin’ nut, ’E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear. With ’is mussick on ’is back, ’E would skip with our attack, An’ watch us till the bugles made 'Retire,’ An’ for all ’is dirty ’ide ’E was white, clear white, inside When ’e went to tend the wounded under fire! It was ‘Din! Din! Din!’ With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green. When the cartridges ran out, You could hear the front-ranks shout, ‘Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!’
I shan’t forgit the night When I dropped be’ind the fight With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been. I was chokin’ mad with thirst, An’ the man that spied me first Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din. ’E lifted up my ’ead, An’ he plugged me where I bled, An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green. It was crawlin’ and it stunk, But of all the drinks I’ve drunk, I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din. It was 'Din! Din! Din! ‘’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ’is spleen; ‘’E's chawin’ up the ground, ‘An’ ’e’s kickin’ all around: ‘For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!’
’E carried me away To where a dooli lay, An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean. ’E put me safe inside, An’ just before ’e died, 'I ’ope you liked your drink,’ sez Gunga Din. So I’ll meet ’im later on At the place where ’e is gone— Where it’s always double drill and no canteen. ’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals Givin’ drink to poor damned souls, An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din! Yes, Din! Din! Din! You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din! Though I’ve belted you and flayed you, By the livin’ Gawd that made you, You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
Incidentally, Rudyard Kipling is portrayed in the film as being a journalist who is traveling with the British troops in India. He writes the poem after the events of the movie, and the film closes out with the reading of the last verse over the body of Gunga Din, starting from, "So I'll meet 'im later on..."
Well, we've turned the corner into fall, there's a chill in the air in the mornings, and soon the leaves will begin to turn colour. I've always loved this time of year, so have never understood why so many of the poems and songs about autumn are sad and/ or depressing. After I re-read William Blake's "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" this week, I continued on and read some more of his poetry, including his "To Autumn"- a nice, cheerful celebration of the onset of fall:
O AUTUMN, laden with fruit, and stain'd With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit Beneath my shady roof, there thou mayst rest, And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe, And all the daughters of the year shall dance! Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
"The narrow bud opens her beauties to "The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins; "Blossoms hang round the brows of morning, and "Flourish down the bright cheek of modest eve, "Till clustering Summer breaks forth into singing, "And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.
"The spirits of the air live on the smells "Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, roves round "The gardens, or sits singing in the trees." Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat; Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
I've also been trying to catch up on some sewing projects which I meant to do during the summer and didn't; here's an autumn table topper I made recently:
It's also time to get some baking done- have made some blueberry cobbler and apple pies... I'm being so domestic!
I sewed a toy lamb for one of my nephews who just had his first birthday (given to him along with a book, naturally). It turned out okay, though I wasn't completely happy with the face... I think that maybe I set the eyes too high. In any case, it's kind of cute and met with my nephew's unqualified approval, which is all that matters. Speaking of lambs...
The Lamb Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee Gave thee life & bid thee feed. By the stream & o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing wooly bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice! Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee, Little Lamb I’ll tell thee! He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb: He is meek & he is mild, He became a little child: I a child & thou a lamb, We are called by his name. Little Lamb God bless thee. Little Lamb God bless thee. -William Blake
The above poem "The Lamb" is found in William Blake's 1789 Songs of Innocence. It is a poem which is written in the form of a posed question and then an answer. The voice in the poem is that of a child, which is fitting because it is a work about innocence and child-like faith. It's in the form of a question posed and then answered by the child. At first the question seems quite literal: the child asks a little lamb if he knows who made him, gave him life, and cares for him. Then the question becomes rhetorical as the child answers his own query, and the lamb becomes a metaphor for Jesus the Lamb of God. As the speaker refers to Jesus as the Christ child and as the Lamb, the pure, gentle, peaceful nature of God is emphasized. This seems very straightforward- almost simplistic- unless one realizes that Blake's "The Lamb" is meant to be read juxtaposed with his poem "The Tyger", found in Songs of Experience, written in 1794 and published in a single volume with Songs of Innocence. In "The Tyger", we find an echo of the child's question "who made thee" in the opening verse: "What immortal hand or eye,/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" And then, in the fifth verse: "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Blake reminds us that, if the making of the lamb displays the gentle, loving attributes of God, the creation of the tiger- beautiful, powerful, and dangerous- represents other less peaceful aspects. The creator who made the cute, fluffy lamb also formed the fierce and deadly tiger; the God of love and mercy is also the God of power and judgement. You don't get one without the other. "The Lamb" as you might discern from the title Songs of Innocence was intended to be sung and has been set to music several times. I sang it once in the choir at my old church, to the tune composed by Sir John Tavener in 1982. Here is a boys' choir singing that version: