Entering Advent

“Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,/Exalted manna, gladness of the best,/ Heaven in ordinary, Man well drest ,/ The Milky Way, the Bird of Paradise,/Church bells among the stars heard. The soul’s blood./A land of spices. Something understood.”

George Herbert’s lines are not about Advent. The poem is called Prayer. But I have always associated them with the Christmas season. ... [Read More]

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First Run

O is it true? We’re supposed to get, maybe 8 inches snow by Monday! I dug out my cross country ski gear from behind my biking gear. There they alike in trembling hope repose!
Come quickly, my lord Frost!
I want to see how black the flowing streams and rivulets, and the pines, look against the snow. I want to see the shivering copper of the beech leaves looking somehow pink against the pristine sparkling landscape.
Elinor Wylie, the daughter of a governor of Pa born (and buried) not far from here, wrote a poem called Wild Peaches. Her lover tells her how wonderful it would be to live on
the Eastern Shore, what we call “DelMarVa”, where it never gets really cold, Nature is mellow and fruitful all year. She says:

Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There’s something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There’s something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.... [Read More]

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After the Feast


11 pm; my guests just retired to bed. I’m happy! The turkey was perfect. So was my pecan pie. One of our perennial guests, who, when we go around the table making toasts, usually contents himself with a laconic mention of turkey, surprised us all with a gracious and articulate expression of gratitude for our company! And all of our children gave heartfelt tributes ( which we parents reciprocated, close to tears!)

When dinner was over, we had an impromptu Christmas caroling session in front of the fire. ... [Read More]

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“Thanksgiving: A Sonnet”

…that’s the name of a poem I’m going to share with you, written by Malcolm Guite, an Anglican clergyman. As I may have told you, O Ratty, I like to subject my Thanksgiving guests to my recitation of a poem before my toast. (I totally deserve to indulge myself, okay, after working like a turkey all day to prepare the feast!)

There really aren’t that many Thanksgiving poems. This year I’m torn between lines from Perhaps the World Ends Here, by Joy Harjo, a Native American poet (the Indians have pretty much been scrubbed from Thanksgiving, remember when they were a big part of it?) and our present Poet Laureate! — and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Thanksgiving…1950 which might be her final poem; she died in October 1950 after sending this one off to the Saturday Evening Post. They are both poems by American poets that I’d recommend you read, O Ratty, if you like poetry and/or Thanksgiving.... [Read More]

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Monarch Butterfly

Okay, I do not get this. How can Prince Andrew be, like, fired? I mean, the whole point of a monarchy is blood descent, right? He has a divine right. He’s now only 8th in line, and I can’t be arsed, as the Brits would say, to work it out . But if those 7 people die or abdicate, he’ll be king. it could happen! Those are the rules.
He was always known as “Randy Andy”. People kinda liked that, as I recall.
Let me take this opportunity to state that I do not believe Epstein had “victims”. He had accomplices.
If some of the sex toys were underage, well, it begs the question: how did these gorgeous kids get into Epstein’s clutches? His guests of the ilk of Prince Andrew didnt want the diseased, addicted youth they mighta scooped up any weekend on the streets of San Francisco. They wanted beautiful, svelte, clean youngsters with strong gleaming teeth in their beds. That means some adult was responsible for those maidens and ephebes. And that adult sold ‘em to Epstein. And arranged their transport to his infamous island.
But so what? Plenty of English monarchs have assumed the throne with known perversities. If you wanna abolish the monarchy, okay by me. But if you’re not abolishing it: it’s too late now to change the rules.

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Uneasy Lies the Head that Dares the Crone

We seem to be in kinda a Gerontion mood today, witness our two dear curmudgeons. So I’ll join the hoary horde with a meditation prompted by the media speculation about Trump’s recent unscheduled visit to Walter Reade.

Lemme tell ya about Thor’s trials in the hall of Utgardsloki the giant. ( if you don’t mind, from now on I’ll call the giant Uggy). Much as I’d like to, I won’t detail the hijinks that ensued while Thor, Loki, and Thaljfi were en route. Skip to: they’ve arrived,the giants have feasted them, it’s after-dinner carousal time. Thaljfi and even the trickster Loki appear to fail at the two tests of prowess the giants assign them. Laughing they turn to Thor: “We have heard that you, at least, are of some considerable strength!” They give him three tasks. He appears to make only the very slightest headway at the first two: draining a drinking horn, lifting a pet cat.Then Uggy says, “I’ll call in my old nurse, Elli, and you may wrestle her. Surely the great hero of the Aesir can at least dispose of this weak old crone!” ... [Read More]

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If Courtrooms were like Congress

Bailiff: Raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Oh, and I should have told you: if you have any trouble locating your right hand, just let the court know, and we will recess until we can get you some help.

Witness: I…I….... [Read More]

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The Next Bog Thing

The Dems know they’re losing the impeachment battle. I wasn’t sure of that before, but now I am, because we’re witnessing the metamorphosis of their attack.
Has there ever been such a brilliant sobriquet for the entrenched bureaucrats of the deep state as “The Swamp”? Cuz you see, the river god, Proteus, from which we get “protean”, had the following MO: he could change form with dizzying rapidity, transforming in the very grip of his adversary from, say, a man, to a slippery, writhing eel! That often achieved his goal of escaping the mortal who had grabbed him. Which people kept on trying to do, because, if the adversary held on until daybreak despite the unnerving and rapid transformations, Proteus had to “prophesy”, meaning he had to surrender some boon or some important piece of information to his dogged adversary. Something TRUE. They’d hang out by bodies of water, rivers, streams, even marshes (swamps) at night, waiting for him to emerge, they’d brave the awful struggle, fight with a god! just so they could get this precious nugget of infallible wisdom.

Yesterday the Dems’ allies in the media began the metamorphosis. They’re readying us for the idea that Trump must be removed from office because of mental incapacity. I saw one headline: “White House Doctor Says Trump May Have Suffered a Series of Small Strokes”. Oh my God! I was almost shocked into loosing my tenacious hold on the monster’s tail—until I read that this “White House doctor” was B. Hussein’s physician, and a prime advocate of Obamacare. He hasn’t been anywhere near Trump. And today Newsweek has a long article that an “anonymous source” (him again!) in the WH says Trump has trouble remembering things he’s said. Oh, y’mean like poor demented Slimy Jim Comey? ... [Read More]

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Lamia Entertain You!

Thanks, @seawriter, for the review of Lackey’s To The Waters And The Wild. I spent a few fun hours in the world of this YA fantasy. Narnia on steroids ( and, uh, also on hormones..)
If anybody else is going to read it, I don’t think I’ll be spoiling the plot if I reveal th@5 one of the characters is a lamia: a magical beast whose true form is of an evil hideous serpent who preys on mortals, but who always appears to us as a young maiden of heart-melting beauty, until it is….too late!

So that made me think of other lamiae I have encountered, specifically in Coleridge’s great poem Christabel. The eponymous heroine is praying alone on the grounds of her father’s castle, in the hour before dawn, when she hears a piteous cry and discovers the lovely Lady Geraldine, faint with terror and exhaustion after a churlish attack upon her person. Christabel naturally asks her back to the castle, and has to practically heave her through the gate (cold iron, a bane to all fey creatures, as we know,but poor Christabel misses the clue.) They go to her own bedroom because the castle staff are asleep and can’t be roused to prepare a chamber. And then…Geraldine looses her mantle, lets it fall, revealing her ugly scaly barbed side!
“In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell/Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!” she intones, meaning the poor girl will never be able to speak of what she is seeing. Nor of what they are doing, which is not described, except that when Christabel wakes she thinks “Sure I have sinned!!…”... [Read More]

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Richard IV

The skeleton of Richard III of England was discovered a few years ago, ignominiously reposing beneath a public garage, (making him the “par-King, hee hee, sorry!) Of course there’s been a school of revisionist thought about the monarch Shakespeare so unforgettably villainized. But the deformed despot has, generally, been someone we love to hate.

And so has our last American Richard: Nixon. ... [Read More]

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The Craft

O Ratty, if you appreciate the actor’s craft, please go see the movie The Good Liar . Helen Mirren and, especially, Ian McKellen, are….I would say superb, but that’s so trite. It is a display of consummate skill. I’ve never seen her onstage, but I did see him do Lear. It was compelling, but..in a movie, every shot is a closeup, and these two people, every moment! manage consummate and mesmerizing control over every muscle in their faces, every message in their gazes. It’s not to be missed.

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Who You Talkin’ To?

“It is morning. I awake from a bed of silence./Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep./The walls are about me still, as in the evening, I am the same, and the same name still I keep.“. —Conrad Aiken, from Senlin’s Morning Song)
(Before I begin let me just comment on how I Loove the second line of the verse above! Shivers! But it’s the last line, about the continuity of consciousness, that I want to write about.)

Civil Westman’s posts about anaesthesiolgy made me think of this: I underwent a routine and better-left-unnamed screening procedure a few years ago, under sedation (Ya think!?). The tech who administered the drug had said, you will hear what we say and respond, like if we ask you to turn over, but you won’t remember anything. Great, since this isn’t the kinda thing you wanna enshrine in your memory album for later fond review.... [Read More]

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Holey Ship!

Thanksgiving draws on apace! Do you know the name of the Pilgrim Fathers’ tiny ship?
Trick question, because there were two. Before the Mayflower, they sailed on the Speedwell.
William Bradford had established a colony of expat Englishmen in Protestant Holland, in Leiden. The tolerant Dutch had welcomed them. But as 1620 approached, there were…issues, which eventually led Bradford’s group to hazard all in order to get even farther away from their gracious King. The Puritans were concerned that their children were, as Bradford wrote, “getting the reins off their necks” and, (rather ungratefully, it seems to me) that the colony was losing its English identity. (He was right about that; not everybody left Holland, and the descendants of Bradford’s Leiden contingent today are as Dutch as your proverbial uncle. ). Plus, the Thirty Years War, a partially-owned subsidiary of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence, was about to begin, and King James had hinted to Holland that if it wanted England’s support or even its neutrality vis à vis Spain, it had better give him back control over the English Separatists it was harboring. (That’s right: a quid pro quo.)
William Bradford and his faithful set sail from Holland in the Speedwell, which was to meet up with a group of their co-religionists and a larger ship, the Mayflower, at Southampton harbor. Both ships were under contract to carry the pilgrims to His Majesty James’ colony of Virginia, slightly North of Jamestown, and to remain there for one year, after which time they’d sail back to England .
Both ships did set out from Southampton in September 1620. But after a few days the Speedwell was discovered to be leaking. Both ships turned back, the Speedwell was patched up, they set sail again. And again the Speedwell’s crew reported that she was unfit, takin’ on water!. Both ships turned back once more. This time, the Speedwell’s captain and crew regretfully declared her catastrophically unseaworthy, incapable of the trans-Atlantic crossing.
Those of her passengers who still wanted to go crowded onto the Mayflower. And not surprisingly, after two weeks of tossing about on the briny deep with the crew intoning “Aaargh, matey, we’re going DOOOOWN!” Some decided not to re-embark, like: “Bye! Write us if you find America!”
Bradford actually rejoiced in this winnowing of his followers, likening it to Gideon’s drastic reduction of Israel’s fighting forces in Judges 7. The Mayflower sailed off into immortality, alone.
(But dont let me hear you call ‘em “refugees”! They had them(somewhat grudging) permission of the King, a commercial charter from the Plymouth Company, a fishing venture, and a slight majority (52 to 50) were not Puritans.)
The rest is Thanksgiving history!
But lo! Back at Dartmouth Harbor in the Old Country, the Speedwellwas having a miraculous recovery from her marine-blue flu. She felt much better as soon as the Mayflower’s sails had vanished over the horizon.
Turns out, her captain and crew had repented them of ever signing that contract to go to America and stay there for a whole long year. (I don’t know, maybe the short trip from Holland to Southampton proved to be quite enough of the Puritans’ company!) The crew had faked the Speedwell’s unseaworthiness, feigning impossibility of performance to get out of their contractual obligation! Released, she subsequently sailed gaily off on many other long ocean voyages.
I hope you’ve enjoyed making the acquaintance (or re-acquaintance) of the Speedwell, the Mayflower’s pernicious little sister ship.

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Miles to Go

It’s almost Thanksgiving, so I thought maybe the Mischief would find it entertaining to revisit one of our few stories about the Pilgrim Fathers, other than the emblematic feast.

Have you recently, or ever, read Longfellow’s The Courtship of Miles Standish? It’s a laffriot!
All the main characters are people who had arrived on the Mayflower almost exactly a year before the action transpires. But only Priscilla Mullins was a Puritan. Standish was a Catholic, who had come along to be the colonists’ military commander, and John Alden, a cooper, had been recruited because of his trade.
When the poem opens, it’s the day before the Mayflower is going to set sail for England, having fulfilled her contract to stay for one year in the wilderness. Miles Standish and John Alden are in their joint quarters, and Miles, the elder in Longfellow’s version, is contemplating his well-polished and oiled armor, musing aloud about how if you want a task done right you should do it yourself. Mm m h’mmm, says John, who is writing a letter home describing the charms of the beautiful Priscilla Mullins, whose entire family died during that first haggard year.
But wait, what?!? Did Miles Just ask John to propose marriage to Priscilla, on Miles’ behalf? He did! Aren’t you the man who just said “do it yourself,” asks John. Yeah ( or “yea”) admits Miles, but…you’re so much better at fancy talk than I am, and besides I have so many military duties. She’ll understand. ... [Read More]

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