1

Turkey in the Straw

Something for the weekend.  Turkey in the Straw seems appropriate for the weekend before Thanksgiving.  The spirited rendition above is by the Skillet Lickers, a Georgia band of the twenties and thirties of the last century. Part time musicians, they made up in enthusiasm and faithfulness to the traditional music they played, what they may have lacked in technical skill.

1

Southern Soldier

Something for the weekend.  A rousing rendition of Southern Soldier by the 2nd South Carolina String Band, a group dedicated to bringing to modern audiences Civil War music played on period instruments.  Southern Soldier was immensely popular among Confederate troops during the latter part of the War and was one of their favorite marching tunes. Continue Reading

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Salve Regina and Hermann the Cripple

Something for the weekend.  Salve Regina.  Christopher Columbus was nearing the end of his voyage across the Atlantic 523 years ago.  He had a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.  Each night he would assemble the crew on his ship to sing the Salve Regina.  The hymn was written in the eleventh century by Blessed Hermann the Cripple, a truly fascinating figure.

Born on July 18, 1013, he was a son of Wolverad II, Earl of Altshausen.  He entered this world with maladies that would be considered overwhelming in our time and in the eleventh century entirely beyond hope: a cleft palate and cerebral palsy and spina bifida, or perhaps  Lou Gehrig’s disease or spinal muscular atrophy.  In any event he could barely move, and could hardly speak.  He was placed in a monastery at age 7, no doubt his parents fearing that all that would occur for their son for the remainder of his time in this vale of tears was that he would be made as comfortable as possible until his afflicted life came to an end.

Among the monks he flourished.   At twenty he took his vows as a Benedictine monk. He spent most of his life at the Abbey of Reichenau.  He quickly demonstrated that a keen mind, as well as a beautiful soul, inhabited his wreck of a body. He mastered several languages including Latin, Arabic and Greek.  His genius was catholic in its scope:  he wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry, mathematics and astronomy, a chronicle of events from the Crucifixion to his time and composed religious poetry.  He built musical instruments and astronomical devices.  Students flocked to him throughout Europe, drawn not only by his learning but also by his sweet demeanor.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of his role in the scientific renaissance sweeping through Europe in the eleventh century.

Going blind in his later years, he became a noted composer of hymns, including the Salve Regina.  Dying in 1054 at age 40, he was beatified by Pio Nono in 1863. Continue Reading

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Rising of the Moon

 

Something for the weekend.  I am in a disgusted mood at the papal events of this week, and when I am in such a mood it is time for a little Irish rebel music, and nothing fits the bill better than The Rising of the Moon.  The song, written around 1865, celebrates the Irish rising of 1798, when Protestant and Catholic Irishmen, with the help of a small French invasion force, launched a rebellion, probably the largest and most hard fought revolt against English rule in the history of Ireland.  Like all such Irish revolts, except for the last one, it was defeated and drowned in blood.  However, the Irish have ever celebrated their defeats even more than their victories, and The Rising of the Moon is a fitting tribute.

Oh! then tell me, Shawn O’Ferrall, Tell me why you hurry so?”

 “Hush ma bouchal, hush and listen”, And his cheeks were all a-glow.

“I bear ordhers from the captain, Get you ready quick and soon,

For the pikes must be together At the risin’ of the moon”.

At the risin’ of the moon, at the risin’ of the moon,

For the pikes must be together at the risin’ of the moon.

“Oh! then tell me, Shawn O’Ferrall, Where the gatherin’ is to be?”

“In the ould spot by the river, Right well known to you and me.

 One word more—for signal token Whistle up the marchin’ tune,

 With your pike upon your shoulder, By the risin’ of the moon”.

 By the risin’ of the moon, by the risin’ of the moon,

With your pike upon your shoulder, by the risin’ of the moon.

Out from many a mudwall cabin Eyes were watching thro’ that night,

 Many a manly chest was throbbing For the blessed warning light.

 Murmurs passed along the valleys Like the banshee’s lonely croon,

 And a thousand blades were flashing At the risin’ of the moon.

At the risin’ of the moon, at the risin’ of the moon,

And a thousand blades were flashing at the risin’ of the moon.

There beside the singing river That dark mass of men was seen,

Far above the shining weapons Hung their own beloved green.

 “Death to ev’ry foe and traitor! Forward! strike the marchin’ tune,

 And hurrah, my boys, for freedom! ‘T is the risin’ of the moon”.

 ‘T is the risin’ of the moon, ‘t is the risin’ of the moon,

 And hurrah my boys for freedom! ‘t is the risin’ of the moon.

Well they fought for poor old Ireland, And full bitter was their fate

(Oh! what glorious pride and sorrow Fill the name of Ninety-Eight).

Yet, thank God, e’en still are beating Hearts in manhood’s burning noon,

Who would follow in their footsteps, At the risin’ of the moon!

 At the rising of the moon, at the risin’ of the moon,

Who would follow in their footsteps, at the risin’ of the moon. Continue Reading

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Heia Safari!

 

Something for the weekend.  Heia Safari!.   The lyrics were written in 1916 by noted German painter of African wild life Hans Aschenborn, and became immensely popular.  When Paul Emil von Lettow Vorbeck wrote his memoirs, he entitled the book Heia Safari (Hurray Safari).

Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck doubtless would have died an obscure retired German colonel but for the outbreak of World War I.  Taking command of the troops of German East Africa he made up his mind that he would help the German war effort by holding down as many Allied troops in Africa as possible.  This seemed like a large task for a man who commanded  2,600 German nationals and 2,472 African soldiers in fourteen Askari field companies.  The other German colonies in Africa were conquered swiftly by the Allies, but von Lettow-Vorbeck had a deep streak of military genius in him that had hitherto been unrecognized.

He defeated the initial Allied attempts to take the colony and expended to 14,000 his mostly native force.  He declared that “We are all Africans here.” and lived up to that claim by appointing native officers, mastering their language and treating his troops fairly, without loosening the strict discipline he applied to Germans and natives alike.  He proved a master of guerrilla war and improvisation, often arming, clothing and feeding his men from the stores of defeated Allied forces sent against him.  The Allies would pour 250,000 troops into a campaign that lasted the entire war.  He became a hero in Germany as news of his exploits spread, and the British grew to respect and admire a man who fought successfully against very long odds.

He ended the war undefeated, he and his men in northern Rhodesia, the only undefeated German force of the War.  He and his officers were given a tumultuous parade in Berlin in 1919.  Deeply conservative, he entered German politics after he retired from the Army in 1928 and served as a member of the Reichstag.  He fought against the rise of the Nazis and Hitler, who he despised.  When Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to Great Britain, knowing in what esteem the British held their old foe, the old soldier allegedly told Hitler to perform an anatomically impossible act.  (After World  War II a nephew confirmed this in substance, but mentioned to his British inquirer that he had heard that his uncle had not been quite that polite to Corporal Hitler.) Continue Reading

The Ship That Never Returned

 

Something for the weekend:  The Ship That Never Returned.  Written in 1865 by Henry Work, who the same year wrote Marching Through Georgia, it enjoyed immense popularity.  I can’t help but imagine that many of the listeners at the time were thinking of all the ships and men lost in the maelstrom of war in the preceding four years.  The song is sung by Tom Roush who has developed quite a following on YouTube with his heart felt renditions of 19th century songs.

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Internationale

 

Something for the weekend.  The Internationale being sung in Spanish in Havana.  This is dedicated to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and the Babalu Blog, the go to blog for all activities in Castro’s island gulag, tells us why:

Diplomacy does not seem to be Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s strongpoint. The archbishop of Havana behaved badly to a group of anti-Castro activists who were distributing a statement on a proposed amnesty law for political prisoners to diplomats attending 4th of July ceremonies at the home of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, head of the US Interests Section in Havana.

The cardinal’s harsh comments came shortly after a musical group — clad in colorful Prussian blue uniforms with white caps — had finished playing the last notes of the national anthems of Cuba and the United States on their wind instruments and after a brief welcome by Mr. DeLaurentis.

Relaxed officials and accredited diplomats working in Havana were chatting with dissidents, musicians and Cuban intellectuals — they had been invited to Independence Day celebrations — as waiters served red wine, beer, fruit juice and canapés.

Activists Egberto Escobedo and Jose Diaz Silva approached Ortega, who was chatting with a group of bishops, to hand him a list of fifty-one political prisoners whose release the Forum for Rights and Liberties — a group led by Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and Berta Soler — had been requesting every Sunday for twelve weeks in the face of intense harassment by police.

“I don’t want you handing me another list. Send it to the ’worms’* broadcasting on the radio from Miami. If you keep bothering me, I’ll have them call the police,” responded Ortega angrily.

Diplomats, guests and foreign journalists were taken aback. His outburst was the talk of the evening.

“He seemed more like a Stalinist commissar than a compassionate agent of the Lord. We assumed the Catholic church was supposed to welcome all of us. But for some time now there has been a faction of the Cuban church that has not only turned its back on dissidents but has attacked us nearly as forcefully as the government,” said Victor Manuel Dominguez, a poet and freelance journalist.

An official from a western embassy, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed the opinion of his mission that “all that is being asked of Ortega is that he at least listen to a person’s demands, even if he does not agree with them.”

The Cuban archbishop’s verbal hostility stems from statements he made on June 5 to Cadena Ser, a Spanish radio station, in which he said that there are no longer political prisoners in Cuba.

This statement provoked a harsh response from activist Jose Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez. Antunez and other activists — including Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Angel Moya and Berta Soler — were present during the cardinal’s tantrum.

“This is what one would expect from a society in which religious institutions that supposedly welcome all believers turns its back on dissidents. But this is what is happening. Intellectuals and a certain segment of the clergy remain suspiciously silent in the face of Sunday assaults on activists and the Ladies in White,” said Rodiles. Continue Reading

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Fortnight For Freedom: Dixie

Fortnight For Freedom 2015

 I have always thought `Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it. [Applause.] I presented the question to the Attorney General, and he gave it as his legal opinion that it is our lawful prize. [Laughter and applause.] I now request the band to favor me with its performance.’”

Abraham Lincoln, requesting the playing of Dixie when a crowd came to the White House after Lee’s Surrender.

Something for the weekend.  Well, after the Confederate flag madness of this week, the only appropriate song is Dixie.  One of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite songs, it now may become an anthem of a new movement against the suffocating political correctness that is threatening the freedom of our land.  Bob Dylan’s rendition of Dixie prior to the world going crazy:

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Pollution

 

Something for the weekend.  In honor of the Green Encyclical, a bit of Tom Lehrer.  Living through the Sixties when I was a kid was bad enough.  Little did I know that I would have the “joy” of reliving the Sixties in my fifties.  The only thing that Marx, Karl not Groucho, got right was that history frequently does repeat itself:  the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

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May 23, 1865: Grand Review

Something for the weekend:  Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Doubtless many men who fought in the Civil War thought, and dreaded, that the War might go on forever.  Now, however, it had ended with Union victory.  Some European powers speculated that the United States would now use its vast armies to take foreign territory:  perhaps French occupied Mexico, maybe settle old scores by taking Canada from Great Britain, Cuba, held by moribund Spain was certainly a tempting target.  But no, the armies had been raised for the purpose of preserving the Union.  Now the men in the ranks were eager to get home, and the nation was just as eager to enjoy peace.

One last duty remained however:  an immense victory parade in Washington.  On May 23, 1865, the 80,000 strong Army of the Potomac marched happily through the streets of Washington on a glorious spring day.  For six hours they passed the reviewing stand, where President Johnson, the cabinet, General Grant and assorted civilian and military high brass, received the salutes of, and saluted, the men who had saved the Union.  Most of the men had hated the Army, and were overjoyed to be going home, but for the rest of their lives they would remember this day and how all the death and suffering they had endured over the past four years had not been in vain after all.    Almost all of them were very young men now, and many of them would live to old age, future generations then having a hard time picturing them as they were now:  lean, battle-hardened and the victors of the bloodiest war in the history of their nation.  When they died iron stars would be put by their graves, and each Decoration Day, eventually called Memorial Day, flags would be planted by their graves, as if to recall a huge banner draped over the Capitol on this day of days:

“The Only National Debt We Can Never Pay, Is The Debt We Owe To Our Victorious Soldiers.”   Continue Reading

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Arise Ye Russian People!

The Russians are celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany this weekend.  It is fair to say that in that defeat the Soviet Union did the lion’s share of the fighting, the Soviets suffering more than twenty million war dead.  For all their heroism and suffering , the Soviets were still enslaved to a tyranny just as bad as the Third Reich, with that system now extended throughout Eastern Europe.  This cold fact is why Churchill entitled the final volume in his World War II history:  Triumph and Tragedy.

The clip from the  film Alexander Nevsky at the beginning of this post underlines the tragedy for the Russian people of World War II.   A true work of genius by Sergei Eisenstein, who somehow pulled off the feat of making a film about an Orthodox Saint, an aristocratic Prince and pillar of the Church, and ladling it with Communist and anti-religious propaganda, and yet having the final result not be laughably absurd.  The film was among the first efforts of Stalin to rally traditional Russian patriotism against the looming threat of Nazi Germany.  Poor Eisenstein found himself in the doghouse soon after the release of the film due to the Nazi-Soviet pact.  After the onset of Operation Barbarossa, the film was once again released and played to packed houses throughout the war.  The Russian rallying song in the film was composed by Sergei Prokofiev.  The lyrics roughly translated are :

Arise, ye Russian people,
to glorious battle, to a battle to the death:
arise, ye free people,
to defend our beloved country!
All honour to the warriors who live,
and eternal glory to those slain!
For our native home, our Russian land,
arise, ye Russian people!

Continue Reading

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The Lasting Impact of Abraham Lincoln

 In this temple
As in the hearts of the people for
whom he saved the Union
The memory of Abraham
Lincoln
Is enshrined forever 

Inscription above the Lincoln Memorial

Something for the weekend.  Lincoln and Liberty, Too.  The mortal remains of Abraham Lincoln were laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois a century and a half ago this week.  This is a good time to look at the impact of his life, a life more consequential for his country and the world than that of any other American except for George Washington.

1.  Lincoln ended slavery.  That is a simple three word sentence but what an accomplishment it was.  Slavery, a world wide institution, had existed in the American colonies since their foundation.  By the time of the Civil War the institution was two hundred and fifty years old and had tainted American history from its inception.  It tainted everything it touched, and, in the ringing words of Lincoln:

I hate [indifference to slavery] because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world-enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites-causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty-criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.

Slavery was such an entrenched institution in the South that only a mammoth Civil War, with atrocious blood-letting, brought about the conditions that ended it.  In four short years Lincoln lanced the boil of slavery, and if that were his only accomplishment that alone should ensure that his name will be honored by endless generations of Americans.  Critics of Lincoln often pretend that the South would have abolished slavery.  There is no evidence to support that belief, and much evidence to support the contention that slavery was an immensely strong institution and getting a new lease on life by having slaves work in factories.  Vast slave empires arose in the twentieth century, and the Confederacy, if it had won the Civil War, might now be regarded as a harbinger of the future on the issue of slavery, rather than as a rear guard defense of the past.  There is nothing inevitable about history, which is a human creation, and Lincoln ending slavery had global ramifications, and if he had failed opposite global ramifications might likely have occurred, which would have reverberated to this day.

2.  Lincoln preserved the Union.  There would be no United States today but for Lincoln.  There would be two or more nations where the United States of America now is.  Daniel Webster, in his immortal reply to Hayne in 1830 stated:  “Union and liberty, now and forever, one and inseparable.”  For this country and this world I believe his comment was prophetic.  Without a united America I suspect that this nation would not have successfully led the fight against Nazi Germany and then prevailed in the Cold War over the Soviet Union.  I think it all too likely that in addition to the United States and the Confederate States, there would have been other successor states to the original United States.  Allow secession once, and in times of national stress it would have been a “remedy” trumpeted by ambitious demagogues.  The founders of the Confederacy feared this, the drafters of the Confederate Constitution voting down South Carolina’s proposal that a right of secession be set forth in the Confederate Constitution and instead included in the preamble of the Constitution that they were forming a permanent federal government. Continue Reading

3

The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

Something for the weekend.  I Am a Rebel Soldier sung by Waylon Jennings.  Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, follows, in part of his poem, a Confederate Georia cavalry unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Black Horse Troop.  On the way to Appomattox they met their destiny guarding the rear of their expiring Army.  I have always thought this was a fitting tribute to the men of that Army who endured to the end.

Wingate wearily tried to goad
A bag of bones on a muddy road
Under the grey and April sky
While Bristol hummed in his irony
“If you want a good time, jine the cavalry!
Well, we jined it, and here we go,
The last event in the circus-show,
The bareback boys in the burnin’ hoop
Mounted on cases of chicken-croup,
The rovin’ remains of the Black Horse Troop!
Though the only horse you could call real black
Is the horsefly sittin’ on Shepley’s back,
But, women and children, do not fear,
They’ll feed the lions and us, next year.
And, women and children, dry your eyes,
The Southern gentleman never dies.
He just lives on by his strength of will
Like a damn ole rooster too tough to kill
Or a brand-new government dollar-bill
That you can use for a trousers-patch
Or lightin’ a fire, if you’ve got a match,
Or makin’ a bunny a paper collar,
Or anythin’ else–except a dollar.

Old folks, young folks, never you care,
The Yanks are here and the Yanks are there,
But no Southern gentleman knows despair.
He just goes on in his usual way,
Eatin’ a meal every fifteenth day
And showin’ such skill in his change of base
That he never gets time to wash his face
While he fights with a fury you’d seldom find
Except in a Home for the Crippled Blind,
And can whip five Yanks with a palmleaf hat,
Only the Yanks won’t fight like that. Continue Reading

3

O Sacred Head

Something for the weekend.  O Sacred Head Now Wounded.  The lyrics of this hymn derive from the latin poem Salve Mundi Salutare.  The authorship is open to doubt although I agree with those who attribute at least part of the poem to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, based upon stylistic similarities with portions of his other writings.    The sanctity and eloquence of Saint Bernard alloyed with the musical genius of Johann Sebastian Bach makes a potent combination indeed.

On a personal note this hymn has always moved me as no other does.  I had it played at my son’s funeral and when I depart this Vale of Tears I have requested that it be played at mine.  It reminds me that God died for me, something I find absolutely stunning.  Love and sacrifice begin and end with God, who regards each man as if there were no other.

21

The Crossroads of Our Being

 

Something for the weekend.  The opening of the Civil War documentary, to the tune Ashokan Farewell, that premiered twenty-five years ago this September.  As the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws to a close, what strikes me most is the immensity of the conflict and the huge changes it wrought in American life.  One can spend a lifetime studying this conflict as I have, and still find, almost daily, new pieces of information.  Shelby Foote, and it took a gifted novelist I think to write an epic history worthy of this huge, sprawling event in American history, put it best: Continue Reading

2

The Church’s One Foundation

Something for the weekend, The Church’s One Foundation.  This is a repost from last year since it seems like a good hymn for Lent.  Written by Church of England minister Samuel J. Stone, it is sung to the tune Aurelia by Samuel S.Wesley.  I have always enjoyed this hymn and I have cherished the memory of Stone for it, and for this poem The Soliloquy of a Rationalistic Chicken: Continue Reading

Faces of Lincoln

Something for the weekend.   This video purports to have in it every known photograph of Mr.  Lincoln.  The songs in the video are Lincoln and Liberty Too, perhaps the most stirring campaign song in American history, Dixie, ironically a favorite song of the President of the Union, and the haunting Ashokan Farewell.  A fitting video in the weekend before we observe the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Lincoln’s last birthday in this Vale of Tears.

January 31, 1865: Passage of the Thirteenth Amendment

Something for the weekend.  Battle Cry of Freedom.  After the fall elections in 1864 passage of the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery was inevitable.  In 1864 the Thirteenth Amendment passed the Republican controlled Senate with an overwhelming majority of 38-6.  In the House the Amendment failed 93-65, thirteen votes shy of the two-thirds necessary for passage.  In November the Republicans in the House gained 46 seats and would have a majority of 134 when the new House was seated.  Nonetheless, the Lincoln administration was eager to undertake another vote in the House when the old Congress came into session after the election.  Lincoln made direct emotional appeals to several Democrats in favor of the Amendment.   Favors and appointments were offered to Democrats who switched their votes.  The Amendment passed 119-56.  Black spectators cheered after passage and several members of Congress openly wept.  Here is the text of the Amendment: Continue Reading

2

Seven Cities of Gold

Something for the Weekend.  After hearing this week that Pope Francis plans to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, while he is in this country later this year, the musical score to the heavily fictionalized account of the first missionary journey of Serra, Seven Cities of Gold (1955) seems appropriate.

In 1955 Hollywood told the story of the 1769 expedition to Alta California in the film Seven Cities of Gold.  Michael Rennie gave a very good performance as Father Serra and Anthony Quinn gave an equally fine performance as Governor Portolla.  Of course Hollywood could not remain completely faithful to history, and a fictional hunt for the Seven Cities of Cibola was given as the reason for the expedition.  A love story between an Indian girl and one of the Spanish officers was also grafted on to the story.  In spite of the usually Hollywood twisting of history, the film is accurate in its depiction of the goodness and charity of Father Serra and his zeal to spread the Gospel.  One scene from the movie has him denouncing the greed of the Spanish soldiers and their desire to exploit the Indians: Continue Reading

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Battle of New Orleans-The Song

 

Something for the weekend.  On January 8, 2015 we reached the 200th anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, so Jimmie Driftwood’s Battle of New Orleans seems appropriate.  Driftwood, when he was a teacher, wrote the song in 1936 to help his students differentiate between the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War.  After Driftwood became a full time singer and composer, he often sang the song.  Johnny Horton made it a mega hit in 1959 with his rendition.

After it became a hit, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, visited Newfoundland.  The song was banned for the term of her visit by the provincial government.  My sainted mother who loved the Queen, but also had to the full the Irish rebel spirit, used to regale me with tales of the lengths that Newfies went to make sure that the song was played continuously during the Queen’s visit as a result!

Newfies were hanging record players out of their windows, the volume cranked up full blast playing the song. Her comment on this fiasco is that if the idiots in government hadn’t attempted to ban it, no one would have been playing it. I think my attitude towards government began to be forged by this example of folly related to me at a very young age at my mother’s knee!

 

Continue Reading

3

I Saw the Light

 

Something for the weekend.  I Saw the Light by Hank Williams.  Written by him in 1948 at age 25, it coveys the hunger for salvation that was always a part of Williams’ brief and tragic life.  Dead before he reached 30, Williams was a great talent, and he threw it all away with alcoholism and addiction to drugs, which shattered both his personal and professional life.  His life typifies what Christ spoke of in this parable:

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

However, that is not all there is to say.  This song has brought comfort to millions as they call upon Christ in this Vale of Tears.  I hope it weighed heavily in the balance when Williams appeared before the God he clearly loved.

5

Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.  Written by the ever prolific composer Anonymous in 16th century Germany, it quickly became a favorite hymn of both Catholics and Protestants in that time and land of religious strife, and that is a good message for Christmas.

Continue Reading

2

God of Our Fathers

Something for the weekend.  God of Our Fathers.  Written in 1876 to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it reminds each American how fortunate we are to live in this land.

 

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

America is a wonderful place, even when we acknowledge her flaws.  I think one of the best tributes to America is contained in Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, when he describes Daniel Webster addressing the Jury of the Damned: Continue Reading

Mini-Abe to the Rescue

Something for the weekend.  Mini-Abe to the rescue, to the song Up Where We Belong, played at the conclusion of An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), a good ending to an otherwise forgettable flick.  This is one of a series of Mini-Abe commercials that highlights the delightful eccentric daffiness that often adds charm to an otherwise miserably misgoverned state.

Mr. Lincoln has long been a fixture in Illinois tourism commercials.  Here is one from the late eighties:

Continue Reading

6

For All the Saints

 

“There are no real personalities apart from God. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerers have been; how gloriously different are the saints.”

CS Lewis

Something for the weekend.  It being All Saint’s Day, For All the Saints seemed appropriate.  Written by Anglican Bishop William Walsham How in 1864.  Ralph Vaughn Williams in 1906 wrote the music, Sin Nomine, the tune of Sarum being used up to that time.

All Saints Day reminds us of all those holy men and women whom God, in His infinite mercy, sends us as torches to light our path in a dark world.  Filled with God’s love and grace, they make golden the pages of our histories with their lives and witness.  Feeling the lure of sin just as much as any of us, they turned to God and reflected His love to us.  They come in all sorts of humanity:  men and women, all nationalities, wise, simple, warriors, pacifists, miracle workers, saints whose only miracle was their life, humorous, humorless, clergy, laity, old, young, united only in their Faith and their love for the Highest Love. Continue Reading

5

Elections

Something for the weekend.  The score to the movie Lincoln (2012).  Go here to read my review of this masterpiece.  One hundred and fifty years ago there was little doubt now that Lincoln was going to be re-elected and the Union was going to win the War.  The Civil War had just a little over six months to go, as did Lincoln’s life.

After he was re-elected, Lincoln on November 10, 1864 responded to a serenade outside the White House with this brief speech:

It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.
 
On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralized, by a political war among themselves?  But the election was a necessity.
 
We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
 
But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidates of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason, can receive most of the people’s votes. It shows also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now, than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men, are better than gold.
 
But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.
 
While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.
 
May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?
 
And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders.

Continue Reading

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Picture on the Wall

Something for the weekend.  Picture on the Wall.  Written in 1864 by Henry Clay Work, it captures the overwhelming tragedy of each of the 650-800,000 deaths in our Civil War.  One victory that can be claimed by each of the fallen, North and South, is that after the terrible trial of the Civil War our nation has never repeated that fratricidal struggle.  Perhaps the lessons that Rossiter Johnson hoped would be learned from the War were learned: Continue Reading

Abraham’s Daughter

 

Something for the weekend.  Abraham’s Daughter.  One hundred and fifty years ago the presidential election was in full swing.  I doubt if this song was popular with either the Republicans or the Democrats since it mentions both Lincoln and McClellan, the two opposing candidates.  The composer Septimus Winner, yep, that was really his name, was probably a partisan of McClellan.  After McClellan was removed from command by Lincoln after Antietam, Winner was arrested for treason after he published “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People’s Pride”, a song which sold an astounding, for those days, 80,000 copies in its first two days on sale.  He was held until he agreed to destroy the unsold copies.  Nonetheless the song featured in McClellan’s campaign for president in 1864, and Grant’s campaign used it when Grant ran for president with the lyrics changed to be praising him.  Here is that song: Continue Reading

Scotland the Brave

 

Something for the weekend.  Scotland the Brave.  I have always loved orchestral versions of this song, but I find the lyrics insipid.  Therefore I was happy to find the above version with lyrics worthy of the tune.

Let Italy boast of her gay gilded waters
Her vines and her bowers and her soft sunny skies
Her sons drinking love from the eyes of her daughters
Where freedom expires amid softness and sighs

Scotland’s blue mountains wild where hoary cliffs are piled
Towering in grandeur are dearer tae me
Land of the misty cloud land of the tempest loud
Land of the brave and proud land of the free

Enthroned on the peak of her own highland mountains
The spirit of Scotia reigns fearless and free
Her green tartan waving o’er blue rock and fountain
And proudly she sings looking over the sea

Here among my mountains wild I have serenely smiled
When armies and empires against me were hurled
Firm as my native rock I have withstood the shock
Of England, of Denmark, or Rome and the world Continue Reading

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Adagio for Strings

 

Something for the weekend.  Composed by Samuel Barber in 1936 as the second movement in his String Quartet, Op. 11, the Adagio for Strings seems appropriate for the weekend before we observe the thirteenth anniversary of 9-11.  The piece always conveys to me sadness mingled with elements of hope.  As we survey the march of the jihadists in the Middle East today I confess that I find it easier to hear the sadness in the piece rather than the hope.  However, God often gives evil a moment to strut about on the stages of our lives, and to seem unbeatable and inevitable, often just before it is beaten and left to join the terrors of the past.  Whether the present calamities will play out in that fashion is, as always, entirely up to the actions each of us take as we play out our lives and destinies.

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United States Merchant Marine

Something for the weekend.  Labor Day weekend seems a fitting time to recall again the United States Merchant Marine.  The civilian fleet that carries imports and exports to and from the US, during war time it becomes an auxiliary of the Navy to ship troops and war supplies.  Officers of the Merchant Marine are trained at the Merchant Marine Academy, founded in 1943, at King’s Point, New York.

Technically civilians, one out of 26 merchant mariners died in action during World War II, giving them a higher fatality rate than any of the armed services.   Members of the Merchant Marine were often jeered  as slackers and draft dodgers by civilians when they were back on shore who had no comprehension of the vital role they played, or how hazardous their jobs were.  Incredibly, these gallant men were denied veteran status and any veteran benefits because they were civilians.  This injustice was not corrected until 1988 when President Reagan signed the Merchant Marine Fairness Act.  Some 9,521 United States Merchant Mariners were killed during World War II, performing their duty of keeping the sea lanes functioning in war, as in peace.

August 23, 1864: Secret Cabinet Memo

Something for the weekend.  We are Coming Father Abraham, written by Stephen Foster in 1862.  Few songs better conveyed Northern determination to win the War.  However, by August 1864 that determination seemed to be wearing thin.

 

With the War stalled both East and West Union morale was faltering.  On August 22, 1864 Lincoln received a letter from Republican party chairman Henry J. Raymond suggesting that Lincoln offer peace terms to Jefferson Davis on the sole term of acknowledgement of the supremacy of the Constitution with slavery to be dealt with at a later date.   Lincoln’s morale remained unshaken, but he was a veteran politician and could read the political tea leaves as well as any political prognosticator.  That he read defeat in the tea leaves is demonstrated by what has become known as The Blind Memorandum.  Lincoln sealed this document and on August w3, 1864 asked his cabinet officers to sign it unread.  They complied.  Here is the text:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

A. Lincoln Continue Reading

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Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Something for the weekend.  Leaning on the Everlasting Arms sung by Iris DeMent.  Anthony Showalter wrote the hymn in 1887.  He had tragically received two letters from former pupils who told him that their wives had died.  In his letters of consolation he referenced  Deuteronomy 33:27:   The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, which became the theme of his hymn.  Showalter wrote the refrain and Elisha Hoffman, at the request of Showalter, wrote the remaining lyrics.

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There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding

Something for the weekend.  On the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I, There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding, one of the more popular songs of the Great War, seems appropriate.  Stoddard King wrote the lyrics and Alonzo Elliott composed the tune.   Two Yale seniors in 1913, they wrote the song during some idle time and sang it before their fraternity.  The lyrics of the song seemed eeriely on point during the coming War: Continue Reading

What Wondrous Love

Something for the weekend.  A moving rendition of the hymn What Wondrous Love Is This by Bobby Horton, who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War era music to modern audiences.  The lyrics were first published in 1811 during the Second Great Awakening, a huge religious revival that swept  the nation.  The hymn was written either by that most prolific song writer Anonymous or by Alexander Means, the historical record is unclear.  The tune comes from that hit of 1701,The Ballad of Captain Kidd.

Few hymns are better than this one in powerfully, and simply, conveying the eternal truth of Christianity:  God, the great I AM, became one of us, walked and taught among us, and died for us.

Here is another rendition I have always liked, combining the hymn with another work of art that wordlessly conveys the core of Christianity, the Pieta: Continue Reading

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America and Marian Anderson

Something for the weekend.  Only one song is appropriate I think for a Fourth of July weekend:  America.  Written by a Baptist minister, Samuel Francis, and set to the tune, ironically, of God Save the Queen, the song was first performed on July 4, 1831 at Park Street Church in Boston.  Near the end of his life, Francis was proposed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, for an honorary degree from Harvard.  Harvard turned this proposal down on the grounds that Smith had not written the tune.  The reply of Holmes was memorable and prophetic:  His song will be sung centuries from now, when most of us and our pipings are forgotten.

The rendition at the beginning of this post is by Marian Anderson, perhaps the most gifted songstress of her generation.  A devout Christian, this granddaughter of slaves was denied the opportunity by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939.  In 1939 the District of Columbia was controlled by committees of Congress.  Democrat segregationists rigidly enforced rules of segregation in the District.  Blacks were rightly upset that during a performance by Miss Anderson, if it had been held at Constitution Hall, they would have been required to sit in the back of the hall.  The District of Columbia Board of Education, controlled by Democrats, declined to allow Marian Anderson to perform in the auditorium of a white school.  To her credit, Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband arranged for Anderson to give her unforgettable performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday.

During the war years, Miss Anderson spent a large part of her time entertaining troops.  In 1943, at the invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she sang before an integrated audience for a Red Cross benefit.  The always gracious Miss Anderson remembered the event:  When I finally walked onto the stage of Constitution Hall, I felt no different than I had in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt that it was a beautiful concert hall and I was very happy to sing there.” Continue Reading

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Marching Along

Something for the weekend.  Marching Along by William B. Bradbury.  Bradbury was a human song writing machine of the 19th century.  Of all the songs he wrote, doubtless the best known is the tune for Yes, Jesus Loves Me which I frequently sang as a child.  He wrote that tune the same year, 1862, that he wrote Marching AlongMarching Along, appropriately enough, was a favorite marching song of the Army of the Potomac, and they sang it endlessly during their marathon marches of the Civil War.

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Jesus The Water of Life

Something for the weekend.  One of the most powerful depictions of Christ on film from the movie Ben Hur (1959).  A wonderful melding of music and dialogue as Christ goes silently to the aid of Ben Hur and gives him water.  The wordless encounter between Christ and the Centurion was amazing, as the Centurion’s face registers bewilderment, shame and curiosity as he has a totally unexpected encounter with the Divine.  Whatever the actor who played the Centurion was earning that day, it wasn’t nearly enough.

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Anchors Aweigh

Something for the weekend.  Anchors Aweigh.  The fight song of the United States Naval Academy, it was composed in 1906 with music by Charles A. Zimmerman and lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles.  Universally regarded as the song of the United States Navy, it has never been officially adopted, although that has not stopped it being loved by most of the sailors who have served in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club. Continue Reading

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Major Dundee

 

 

Something for the weekend.  A musical medley from the movie Major Dundee (1965).  Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

Here is a fan made trailer for the restored edition that was released in 2005 that included much of the footage that was cut over Pekinpah’s protests:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMh8RtN2Y1Q Continue Reading

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Voice of the Guns

Something for the weekend.  In no war has artillery played a greater role than World War I.  It was therefore appropriate that Frederick Joseph Ricketts, the British Sousa, under his pen name Kenneth Alford, wrote a march, Voice of the Guns, in 1917, his tribute to British artillerymen.

The song is featured in a sequence of Lawrence of Arabia where General Allenby, portrayed by Jack Hawkins, and Major T. E. Lawrence, portrayed by Peter O’Toole, are discussing strategy: Continue Reading