Archive for December, 2012
24 Dec 2012

Christmas Eve

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For a picture of Christmas Eve, in the olden time, we can desire none better than that furnished by Sir Walter Scott in Marmion:

On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then opened wide the baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And Ceremony doffed his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair.”
All hailed, with uncontrolled delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down!

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubbed till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s-head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where the monster fell
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas-eye;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce,
At such high-tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.

24 Dec 2012

Es ist ein’ Ros’ Entsprungen

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Es ist ein’ Ros’ Entsprungen is an early German Christmas carol and Marian hymn performed in a harmony written by Praetorius in 1609 by the Dresdner Kreuzchor.

24 Dec 2012

Wall Street Journal Christmas Eve Editorial

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Vermont Connecticut Royster (1914-1996)

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent tradition, going back to 1949, of publishing the following editorial in the issue nearest preceding Christmas:

(excerpt)

In Hoc Anno Domini
December 24, 2012

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression — for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s….

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont C. Royster and has been published annually since.

23 Dec 2012

King’s College Choir: “Once in Royal David’s City”

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23 Dec 2012

Killinick Harriers Crossing a Drain

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The comments on YouTube were interesting, featuring a good deal of concern for the safety of the horses.

Myself, I think the crossing would be accomplished better in general if one chose with some care and attention the point to be attempted, and then approached with speed and momentum (and grim determination) on one’s side. In these kind of unpropitious circumstances, I think one should follow the example of Jack Mytton, cry “Now for the Honour of Shropshire!”, direct one’s horse at the intended jump point and just go for it.


Henry Alken and T.J. Rawlings, From “Memoirs of the Life of the Late John Mytton, Esq. of Halston, Shropshire.”: Now For the Honour of Shropshire, Rudolph Ackermann, 1851.

Hat tip to Siobhan English.

22 Dec 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Thank You Notes

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Alexandra Petri imagines the epistolary reactions of the grateful recipient.

22 Dec 2012

Dance Partner

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22 Dec 2012

“The Muse”

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Gabriel de Cool (1854-1908), The Muse, 1895

Gabriel de Cool had a heck of a name, and he seems to have been principally a painter of nudes. This muse is certainly not the Muse of History, Dance, or of Epic Poetry. This muse looks more like the muse of absinthe, hashish, Symbolist Poetry, and kinky sex. The image is obviously kitsch, but it is the very successful, totally corrupting, kind of kitsch that makes you want to look again, and enjoy doing it.

Hat tip to Madame Scherzo.

21 Dec 2012

The End is Here!

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Hat tip to James Coulter Harberson.

21 Dec 2012

The New Age of Faith

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Richard Fernandez contends that our liberal friends have not given up religion, they’ve just turned to worshiping different gods.

One conclusion that might be drawn from disparate vignettes is that the fault line running through families and societies in the Western World today consists of those who think the world should save them and those who think everyone should pay their freight. Broadly speaking these two groups of people are fighting over the meaning of words and social relations.

One side sees “rights” as the ability to do anything they want and be free of the consequences. The Universal Right is the right to a free lunch which gives rise to derived rights like the right to wear any kind of pants they like and to stab any parents who may object. And if it actually comes to stabbing it will be the knife’s fault. That it should be a person’s responsibility is unthinkable. The opposite side sees a transactional universe in which everything has a cost and nobody has a reasonable expectation to a free lunch.

They are killjoys. Individual responsibility — as opposed to the duty to the deity — is an old and incredibly secular point of view. We live in a new age of Faith. Only the old gods are dead but religion itself is doing a land office business. The psychological appeal of Barack Obama and Steve Jobs lies precisely in having taken over the places formerly occupied by Jesus, Moses and the Buddha. Some teenagers seriously believe “they have made a paradise on earth right now” so that celestial place bands like Coldplay can blast out their angelic melodies on the Ipad, of course.

Religion hasn’t declined in the modern world as much as changed its business address from the traditional churches to the event stadiums. Christmas — which itself had roots in pre-Christian holidays — first became Xmas or now The Holidays. Perhaps the only reason that Mohammed still holds a place of esteem in heart of multitudes is that the Prophet had the foresight to enjoin his followers to shorten any infidel who suggested toppling him from a place of honor by a whole head. In the Muslim world, unlike the place formerly known as Christendom, knives and firearms are much sought after objects. They too have a thing problem, but in a wholly different way.

In any case the newly religious look to God to fix things whenever something breaks. In the Islamic world they turn to Allah of course and in Blue Christendom to Obama. And so with bated breath the Twitter feeds are speculating on what new gun control measure the President will propose to fix the latest school shooting. He’ll save us from ourselves, that’s for sure. And then there’ll be another button or app in the teenager shrine to Obama and Jobs.

20 Dec 2012

A Description of M.R. James

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Montagu Rhodes James (1862-1936), Provost of Kings College 1905-1918 and of Eton 1918-1936.

The hero of Shane Leslie’s “The Cantab” (1926) is matriculating at King’s College, and having forgotten the name of the college’s Provost attempts to get the Dean to mention his name:

“Again Edward sought a line on the mysterious Provost. How was he to know and venerate him? The Dean answered, ‘The Provost is essentially himself. Though a Deacon, he has reformed this College and made it tolerable to a layman. He knows all the ghost stories of the last thousand years. He walks in the paths of medieval Apocrypha and finds relaxation in obscure Hagiology. You may overhear him humming the Archbishops of York backwards, or counting the Spanish Cathedrals in feet. He is likely to be consulted when those Books are opened with which we are threatened on the last day.’ The Dean leaned back with a grey smile.”

20 Dec 2012

WWII Carrier Pigeon Code Cracked

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Remember the WWII carrier pigeon found mummified last month in a chimney being repaired in Surrey?

It seems that the coded message from Sgt. Scott in Normandy has already been deciphered.

Redorbit:

A Canadian World War II enthusiast says that he has deciphered the message after realizing that a code book held the key to the encryption. Gord Young, editor for the history group Lakefield Heritage Research, says the 1944 note uses a simple World War I code to give information about German troop positions in the area around Normandy, France. …

Young, however, said that the code is not complex, and that people who are trying to decrypt it are “over thinking.”

The code, according to Young’s account, belonged to 27-year-old Sgt William Scott, who was placed in Normandy to report on German positions. Scott was killed a few weeks later and buried in a Normandy war cemetery. …

According to Young, the decrypted message reads:

    “Artillery observer at ‘K’ Sector, Normandy. Requested headquarters supplement report. Panzer attack – blitz. West Artillery Observer Tracking Attack.

    “Lt Knows extra guns are here. Know where local dispatch station is. Determined where Jerry’s headquarters front posts. Right battery headquarters right here.

    “Found headquarters infantry right here. Final note, confirming, found Jerry’s whereabouts. Go over field notes. Counter measures against Panzers not working.

    “Jerry’s right battery central headquarters here. Artillery observer at ‘K’ sector Normandy. Mortar, infantry attack panzers.

    “Hit Jerry’s Right or Reserve Battery Here. Already know electrical engineers headquarters. Troops, panzers, batteries, engineers, here. Final note known to headquarters.”

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