Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Audacity of 19th Century Hope

The following Christmas Hymn was written by EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS (1810-1876).

Sears was an Unitarian Minister.
He was born in Sandisfield, MA (not far from Pittsfield where I served (1984-2000).

He died in Weston, MA (not far from Cambridge where I served (2000 – 2006).

The hymn reflects the height of 19th Century “liberal optimism” about the perfectibility of human nature, with its hope that:

….. with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling.


That optimism was shattered when the two top European and Christian Powers (the United Kingdom and Germany) engaged in the blood bath of the Great War (1914-1918) - a war which shaped the rest of Century 20.

But, ignoring history, we still sing Sears’ hymn.

The song has a well loved tune “Carol” by Willis which is always used in the United States.

The equally loved tune “Noel” by Sullivan is preferred in the United Kingdom.



In England we pronounce “Babel” (stanza 2) as it rhymes with the word “babe”.

In these United States we pronounce it as it rhymes with the word “babble”


Here is the lovely, but all too sentimental text.


________________________________________
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Cats and Carols








Here are some photo’s of my cats. My friend Betsy took them last weekend.

Adelaide loves her “perches”, and the shyer Ada is happy enough when I hold her. The more so, when we are in black and white uniforms.


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“Away in a manger” is a Christmas hymn which is well loved in the United Kingdom and the United States (though with different tunes).


It used to be attributed to Martin Luther.

These days we know that the text comes from the greatest of all hymn writers. She/he is known as “Anonymous”.
I did not like this hymn when I was a child. It seemed to “talk down” to children.

In fact, many of the “Hymns for Children” shared that fault. They were written by adults - for children.

I much preferred the “grown up hymns”. One example is “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation”

When I first heard that hymn, at about aged 9, I was intrigued by two words: “Ponder anew”.


Those two words were magical for me at aged 9. They still are.

“Pondering anew” is one of the best of all human activities.

Back to “Away in a manger”. I cannot sing:

“The cattle are lowing,
the baby awakes.
But little Lord Jesus.
No crying he makes”.

Any little baby cries a lot. It’s part of the package.

So I sing

“And little Lord Jesus.
LOUD crying he makes”.

If the “little Lord Jesus” of the song is truly human, then surely he cried out loud!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

O Tannenbaum/The Workers' Flag

I was listening to our local Public Radio Station today and I heard an English Language version of the German Carol “O Tannenbaum”.

The English words seem quite banal, so the song seems much more likeable in German!

The song is not well known in England, but ‘tis very popular in these United States.

Maybe this is for two reasons:

First: Those songs with German origin are not very popular in England after two world wars.

Second: that the USA has many folks who are of German origin.



Folks of my generation in Great Britain know the tune, but not the song.

For it was the tune for the song of the labouring class: “The Red Flag”.

It is sung at every annual conference of the British “Labour Party”. This U.K. Labour movement always owed more to Methodism than to Marx. It was a party for working folks.

In these days British Labour Party members sing it with great embarrassment.


See below for details of the Tannenbaum song; and of the Red Flag song.

==========================================================

The following in blue italics is not my on work - I "lifted it" from the web.







TEXT: Ernst Anschütz, 1824
MELODIE: Volksweise (traditional)


O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur
zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Dein Kleid will mich
was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Trost und Kraft
zu jeder Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Das soll dein Kleid
mich lehren. English
O Christmas Tree


Literal English translation - HF

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves/needles!
You're green not only
in the summertime,
No, also in winter when it snows.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves/needles!

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
You can please me very much!
How often has not at Christmastime
A tree like you given me such joy!
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree,
You can please me very much!

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
Your dress wants to
teach me something:
Your hope and durability
Provide comfort and strength
at any time.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree,
That's what your dress should
teach me.



________________________________________
A Tannenbaum is a fir tree (die Tanne) or Christmas tree (der Weihnachtsbaum). Although most Christmas trees today are Fichten (spruce) rather than Tannen, the qualities of the evergreen have inspired musicians to write several “Tannenbaum” songs in German over the years. The best known version (above) was penned in 1824 by a Leipzig organist named Ernst Anschütz. The melody is an old folk tune. The first known “Tannenbaum” song lyrics date back to 1550. A similar 1615 song by Melchior Franck (1573-1639) goes: “Ach Tannebaum, ach Tannebaum, du bist ein edler Zweig! Du grünest uns den Winter, die lieben Sommerzeit.” - The English version above is a literal translation by your Guide, not the traditional English lyrics for the song. There are at least a dozen English versions of this carol.




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Text of the Labor Party Song


The workers' flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead;
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their life-blood dyed its every fold.

CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high;
beneath its folds we'll live and die,
though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.

Look 'round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise;
In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung,
Chicago swells its surging song.

CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high;
beneath its folds we'll live and die,
though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.

It waved above our infant might
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We will not change its color now.

CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high;
beneath its folds we'll live and die,
though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.

It suits today the meek and base,
Whose minds are fixed on self and place;
To cringe beneath the rich man's frown,
And haul that sacred emblem down.

CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high;
beneath its folds we'll live and die,
though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.

With heads uncovered, swear we all,
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark, or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn!

CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high;
beneath its folds we'll live and die,
though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

O Holy Night

Episcopalians/Anglicans have been quite snobby about the Christmas Hymn “O Holy Night”. It’s been a bit too flashy for our culture.


I was introduced to it some 45 years ago when my friend Kitty Draper would play it for us, and for her daughters Yvonne and Marilyn. She loved the Nat King Cole version, and so do I.

The first link below will tell you something of the history of this song. Note please the abolitionist sentiments of the American translator.

The, if you will, listen to the Nat King Cole version on youtube.

The text of the hymn follows.





http://hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/o_holy_night.htm


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVXgoNMCS-s





1. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Chorus

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

2. Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend.

Chorus

He knows our need, He guardeth us from danger
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

3. Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Chorus
Christ is the Lord, O praise His name forever!
His pow'r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow'r and glory evermore proclaim!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Comcast - a deceiving Company

I get my Internet service and T.V. via “Comcast”. It’s not that I care for this Company. But we are signed up with Comcast in these Condominiums.

So I am “stuck” so to speak.

I do not care for Comcast’s marketing methods, by which they are hawking their ‘phone service.

Here’s what I mean. Yesterday I received what appeared to be a Christmas card. It came from Delray Beach, a nice community on Florida’s east coast.

When I opened the envelope, there indeed was a Christmas card, accompanied by a ton of Comcast propaganda for their ‘phone service.

I do not wish to receive Christmas cards from vendors. I am ticked off that Comcast tried to fool me.

I have protested to them.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Danny Boy

It's safe to know that we all know the song "Danny Boy".

It's become a sort of unofficial Irish National Anthem.

The tune "Londonderry Air" or "Derry Air" is indeed from Ireland.

But the lyrics were written by an Englishman from Portishead, a town on the Severn Estuary - about 12 miles from my native Bristol.

Here is the scoop. You may cut and paste this article whic is from the Bristol Evening Post


http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/bristoltimes/tune-halvearticle-412050-details/article.html

Sunday, 7 December 2008

I sky dived today


I sky dived on Sunday Dec 7th '08. We took off from Sarasota Airport, climbed to 10,500' then I jumped - in tandem of course!

There was a free fall of 6,000' feet before John Ledbetter, my "tandem master" pulled the rip cord!

It was a wonderful experience. I did not experience a moment of fear, though I did feel nauseous on the way down.

The views were incredible. I was so happy that a number of friends met me on the ground. Ron and Charlotte brought champagne!

Here are some pics - not in sequential order.