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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Two Poems by Alfred Noyes.....

the English Catholic convert who keen capabilities for spinning romantic yarns, rouse my imagination to flights of fancy. They are both about outlaws, and they both capture the longing for a world with free spirits and loyal hearts. The beautiful, archaic language and British resistence flare contained in these pieces is really something to make the heart flutter and then pound. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

A Song of Sherwood

Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake,
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves
Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June:
All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon,
Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist
Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.

Merry, merry England is waking as of old,
With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold:
For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Love is in the greenwood building him a house
Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs:
Love is in the greenwood, dawn is in the skies,
And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes.

Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep!
Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep?
Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold,
Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould,
Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red,
And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.

Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together
With quarter-staff and drinking-can and grey goose-feather.
The dead are coming back again, the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows.
All the heart of England his in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old
And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold
Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen
All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men--
Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day--

Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash
Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash,
The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly,
And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.

Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves
Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

The Highwayman

    THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
    The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
    The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    And the highwayman came riding—
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
    He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
    A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
    They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
    And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
                      His pistol butts a-twinkle,
    His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
    Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
    And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
    He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
    But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
                      Bess, the landlord's daughter,
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
    And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
    Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
    His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
    But he loved the landlord's daughter,
                      The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
    Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—
    "One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
    But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
    Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
    Then look for me by moonlight,
                      Watch for me by moonlight,
    I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."
    He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
    But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
    As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
    And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
                      (Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
    Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.
                                        PART TWO
    He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
    And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
    When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
    A red-coat troop came marching—
    King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.
    They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
    But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
    Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
    There was death at every window;
                      And hell at one dark window;
    For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.
    They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
    They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
    "Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
                      She heard the dead man say—
    Look for me by moonlight;
                      Watch for me by moonlight;
    I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!
    She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
    She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
    They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
    Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
                      Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
    The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!
    The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
    Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
    She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
    For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
                      Blank and bare in the moonlight;
    And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .
        Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
    Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
    Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
    The highwayman came riding,
                      Riding, riding!
    The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!
    Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
    Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
    Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
    Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
                      Her musket shattered the moonlight,
    Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.
    He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
    Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
    Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
    How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
                      The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
    Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.
    Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
    With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
                      Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.
                  *           *           *           *           *           *
    And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
    When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
    When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    A highwayman comes riding—
    A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

    Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
    He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
    He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
    But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
                      Bess, the landlord's daughter,
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Robin Hood is here again....

The Highwayman came riding....

Finding Wisdom and Loosing Their Heads....

seem to have been the main hobbies of our Saints of June selection. Retrieve a slushy from the ice box and get comfortable. This is some real food for thought , and you might need something substantial to wash it down in this hot summer weather.....

St. Anthony of Padua

    Anthony was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, during the late 12th and early century. He later entered the community of Canons Regular there, against his wealthy family's wishes. After he was ordained to the priesthood, Anthony contracted a strong desire to be martyred for the Faith. He came into contact with several Franciscans and, awed by their stories of foriegn missionary work and martyrdom, obtained permission to leave the Augustinian Canons and join the Franciscans. The would-be martyr tried to sail for Muslim dominated Morocco to preach the Good News, but first illness and then ship wreck prevented him from reaching his destination.

    Anthony went to Italy where he was universally recognized for his brilliance and zeal. His gift as a preacher and teacher inspired his superiors to send him on local "missions trips" in Northern Italy. Not only was he capable of making an impression with his inspired words, but he worked wonders such as healings and supernatural phenomena. One famous story tells how Anthony was rejected by the hard-headed inhabitants of a certain town. He responded by declaring that if the people would not hear the Word of God, he would preach to the fish. He did just that, and the finned listeners leapt out of the water in jubilation at his message. Another famous story tells how Anthony's Bible was stolen and his prayers brought about the repentence of the robber and the return of the precious manuscript, thus making Anthony patron of lost items. He is also said to have been visited by Our Lady and to have held the Christ Child in his arms. After his deathin Padua, Italy, miracles continued, and he was canonized soon after. The tongue of St. Anthony remains an incorrupt relic, and his feast is celebrated on June 13.
St. Alban

    Alban was a 4th century pagan Briton who lived in what is today the town of St. Alban's in Hertfordshire, England. He was on good terms with the Roman officials and possibly served in the Roman Army. When the persecution of Christians was unleashed by the Imperial government, Alban was asked by a friend to help hide a Christian priest from the authorities. Reluctantly, Alban complied. The priest showed such a spiritual depth and gentleness of character that Alban was converted to Christianity. When Roman soldiers raided Alban's home, he switched robes with the priest to allow him to escape and was arrested. Professing Christianity before the authorities and refusing to recant, Alban was tortured and sentenced to death.

    As he was led to the place of execution, crowds turned out to watch, blocking the bridge which the party had to cross. Not wishing to be hindered from receiving his martyr's crown. Alban knelt down and prayed for a miracle. As he did so, the waters of the river parted and the group was able to cross to the execution place on dry ground. The man prepared to execute him was amazed by the miracle and converted to Christianity on the spot. Then he too was sentenced to death. The second execution beheaded both of them and was struck blind. A spring gushed forth on the spot, and Alban is recognized as the first martyr among many in Britain. His feast is June 22.

St. Thomas More & St. John Fisher

    Thomas More, proto-martyr of English Catholicism, was indeed "a man for all seasons." He was a lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and Renaissance humanist. He served as the Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, and introduced the world to the concept of a perfect society known as "Utopia". He was also a devout Catholic and family man who sought to please God in all things. More's wry sense of humor and cutting common sense were legend, and his dilligent pursuit of knowlege and wisdom set him on a course first for worldly greatness, and then for the ultimate sacrifice.
    John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was a devout prelate with a humble and caring spirit. His loyalty to the See of Rome was outdone by none, and his strong moral convictions were shaken by none. He became the confessor of Margaret Beaufort, the pious grandmother of Henry VIII, and was renowned in Europe for his written arguments against the doctrinal misconceptions of Martin Luther.
    When King Henry VIII made clear his plans to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn, John Fisher spoke out on the Queen's behalf. Thomas More decided to keep silent on the issue. However, the situation took a fatal twist when Henry decided to break away from the Catholic Church and name himself "Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England". More and Fisher jointly refused to take the oath acknowledging the king's knew userped titles on the grounds of conscientious objection. Both men were locked in the Tower of London to await trial.

   Both were found guilty of treason, and executed, remaining strong in their convictions and in the Catholic Faith. Famously, St. Thomas joked about sparing his beird from being hacked off by the axeman since it was not guilty of treaons, and declared, "I die the king's good servant, but God's first." The feast of both English martyrs is celebrated on June 22, the same day that the feast of St. Alban, first martyr of Britain, is celebrated.

And let us not forget those Super Saints on which the Early Church was built:
St. John the Baptist (June 24) and Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29)!!!

All Ye Holy Angels and Saints, pray for us!

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Alban of Britain

St. John Fisher (left) and St. Thomas More (right)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

False Fronts.....

are applied far too often in today's world. Not to say they are anything new, but there is a sense that the revolution of extreme liberalism and destructive skepticism has gathered speed and will stop at nothing to get what it wants. Telling half-truths or trying to blind people with flashy displays is typical. Sadly, too many people are taken in by Styrofoam pillars and on-location motion pictures to take any real inventory on the actual situation.

     Hazel Whyte, the famous Scottish balladeer and song-writer, is a strong advocate of the Scottish Nationalist Party. She has an excellent taste in art, and her website serves as a gallery of famous Scots and Celtic designs. However, her slant on history is lop-sided at best, and she never lets an opportunity go by to take a jab at the Union. She claims that Scotland is the same as Ireland, except that the Scots gave up their fight against the "invading" English. She insinuates that the Scottish soldiers serving in the British army were used only as "cannon fodder" by the government. She also insists that the Scottish monarchy has been "dead" since the failure of the Jacobite rebellions and the deposition of the House of Stewart.

     Sir Sean Connery, famous for his role as Agent 007, is another famous proponent of the SNP. I would think that if he were as loyal to his cause as he claims, he would never have accepted a knighthood while the British government was "suppressing" his native land. But apparently he's made up for that by supporting his camp with financial aid, while other Hollywood hits have restricted themselves to producing motion pictures that stress Anglo-Scottish conflict and rouse anti-English sentiment. Now, Connery has been forbidden from financially supporting a British political party since he no longer lives in the UK. In response, he has made a flourishing declaration that he will not return to his native Scotland until it is independent from the UK. Instead, he will continue to live as a tax exile in....drum roll, please.....The Bahamas! Wow! Talk about a martyr for the cause! "Where's my umbrella drink???"

    Dougie MacLean, famed songwriter of modern Scotland, made his appearance at a SNP conference to "give everyone a lift" after hard weeks of campaigning. Therefore, he sang his own very famous "Caledonia" and the venerable "Scots Wha Hae". Of course, the lyrics of "Caledonia" really talk more about Dougie's melancholy mood swings while on tour away from home than about Scotland, and "Scots Wha Hae" has been hijacked from Robert Burns who was a part-time rebel, part-time government man, and all around survivor. But everyone wants to feed off of hype, and the ideas of "hope and change" are handed out and accepted far too easily in this modern world. The Nationalists want to make a point: They are Scottish, not British. They never have been British. They hate the thought of being British. Their culture is something "other" than British.
      I find it sad and disturbing when people slander the British identity or even go so far as to deny its existence among the Scottish people. The Nationalists can complain about environmental abuse, program cuts, and unpopular wars all they want, but these arguments are quite general and unsubstantial in comparison with the very real shared identity and national strength that they are spurning. Both England and Scotland have to deal with the effects of having nuclear waste dumped in their water and on their land. Both England and Scotland have to deal with program cuts because of government debt. Both England and Scotland have sent their young men to fight overseas in foreign wars. So why does Scotland have the right to have an exclusive self-pity-party?

     Anyone who studies history knows that England did not "take over" Scotland; they came together through mutual consent. Granted, bribery was present in the process to win the Scots politicians over, but it has been greatly blown of proportion and does nothing to disqualify the good results the union provided for both nations involved. Nationalists will try to deny it, or maybe they'll admit it and then discard the fact as being "irrelevant", but the proof is laid out in history. Complainers cannot take that away or scratch it from the books. Sure, the union was and is beset with various problems, but the same is true for all human institutions. Quitting on it at this late date is nothing less then selfish and cowardly.

    England shouldn't be placed in the inextricable place of "villain" in British history. Both English and Scots committed atrocities against each other during their years of medieval land-grabbing, and both English and Scots have viewed each other with mild distain since the union was brought together. But the SNP is a propaganda machine that benefits greatly from anti-English insinuations. They'll deny this is so, and yet there's no way to hide their agenda that appears in countless books, films, websites, and speeches. One of their favorite ways of doing so is by lamenting that the English used Scottish soldiers like animals during wartime.

    I'm just going to just blurt out some names and let you go figure: General John Forbes, General Simon Frazer, Major John Pitcairn, Major Patrick Ferguson, Sir John Moore, etc. etc. etc. These Scotsmen were part of the gentry and proud defenders the British institution. They were officers and gentlemen, and received the highest honors of the establishment. If they were around today, I have a strong inkling that quite a few Nationalists would be given black eyes and bloody noses for their trouble! The point is that saying all the Scots in the British military, the British government, or any organization of the union were simply "being oppressed" is ridiculous.

    Of course, the lower classes of Scotland, especially in the Highlands, were initially viewed as inferior and thrown into battle at a great cost. But low-class English soldiers, who were usually recruited from farms or off the streets, received no better treatment than their Scottish counterparts. Many had no choice but to join the military or starve, and they were often treated as almost sub-human, suffering from lack of necessities and sustaining heavy casualties in battle. This was the class system at its zenith, and it could be cutting and cruel. But the Nationalists are trying to advertise an upper class vs. lower class conflict as an English vs. Scottish one. The fact stands that the Highland soldiers went on to gain the respect and admiration of both their officers and comrades, forming some of the most highly honored regiments in the British military. It is a proud, hard-won legacy.

    Finally, the issue involving the "death" of the Scottish monarchy must be addressed. Evidently, Hazel has a very limited view of modern democracy to discount the Glorious Revolution and the Bill of Rights as if it had no meaning whatsoever. This is rather ironic since the Nationalists are always accusing the Unionists of being "fascists" and "anti-democratic" for opposing their "right to be independent". They blurt out clever and appealing maxims like "This is democracy in action", and "It's the Scottish people's choice", and "Why would you deprive us of our right to be a nation?!"

     First of all, the words "choice" and "independence" are not always positive and can have extremely bad results should a choice be ill-founded or if independence cuts one off from the past and the future. So when the Unionists try to educate people about the other side of the story, the Nationalists declaim them as weird creatures from the black lagoon of tyranny and anti-democracy. Sorry to say it, but the UK has been one of the main protectors of democracy, and trying to protect it from splitting up is trying to save the face of democracy. The idea that such a great democratic society might fall to squabbling and dissect at the hands of its own citizens is a rather embarrassing scenario, especially after those little incidences with Napoleon and Hitler, and we would like to avoid it, if at all possible.

    Secretly, many of us have sympathies with the Jacobites, wish they could have been victorious, and wonder what the results would have been. But to view the entire British monarchy as illicit since 1688 is being extreme. Even the Pope validated the House of Hanover by 1766, and the Papacy had been a staunch supporter of the Catholic Stewarts. Either Hazel Whyte is a Republican and against all monarchy (which would reveal the shelved intent of the Nationalists to do away with the Scottish monarchy along with the Union at a later date), or she has hopes of restoring one of the descendants of the Jacobites to the throne, which I highly doubt.

    As everyone knows, the British monarchy at this time has a totally different role from what it did in the age of the Stewarts, and knit-picking about royal legitimacy at this late date is just plain silly. But one thing is true about this institution so often maligned: The monarchy remains a symbol of tradition, continuity, and Britishness. Flawed as it is, it is an intricate part of the British experience and mind-set. It is a link of tangible symbolism that serves as a major connection between the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, and all the countries of the Commonwealth. Of course it makes sense that those who wish to pull Britain apart would attack a very visible source of national unity.
     When all is said and done, this entire vote and the future of the UK or the DK (Divided Kingdom) will depend upon the people who are currently not convicted in their opinions. The staunch Nationalists will vote "Yes", and the staunch Unionists will vote "No", but as always, it will be the waverers who will turn the tide one way or the other. Therefore I address you, the indifferent masses: Please consider all the factors before casting a vote against the preservation of the UK. Don't let the SNP insult your intelligence by leading you to the edge of a cliff using a cardboard carrot as bait. False fronts can be deceiving.

Don't Fall for This!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Gettysburg excursions......

last month revolved around two friends who came down from Pittsburg for a visit to Gettysburg. For the first outing, I met up with Jennifer to go and meet our mutual friend Britta who had recently moved to Pittsburg but was coming back to our area for a prom dance. The three of us met up at the Food Court in the Gettysburg Outlet and chatted over pizza, French fries, and an extremely well-done burger which Britta ate separately from the bun, according to her custom!

    Once we had completed our meal, we traversed the length of the outlet window-shopping. Frankly, I am not a major adherent of the supposedly favorite feminine pastime of shopping, unless of course it involves books or knick-knacks. Nevertheless, I dutifully followed along as my friends gazed fondly into store windows. We went into a shop which sold various assorted lotions, soaps, and candles. The concentrated aroma of the place was amazingly potent, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for scented candles, so I went over to the counter to bask in their aroma. Moving on, we went into a knick-knack store (huzzah!) and wandered aimlessly amidst the flashing, splashing, and dashing items arrayed on the shelves and on the ground.

    Next we went to a bargain book store and scoured the shelves for anything of literary value and low cash. Whilst my friends lunged for the fiction, I chose the non-fiction section in search of historically-oriented gems. Unfortunately, the pickings were slim, and the only thing that caught my attention was a giant paper-back called The Patriot's History of the United States. I flipped through it and saw that it did mention some stuff about the connection between the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution. The price wasn’t bad, but I had no real desire the lug the tome around all day, so I let it slide.

    After finishing our meandering, we went over to the hotel across the street where Britta’s family was staying and soon after descended into the basement floor where the hotel pool and hot tub were located. I am not much of a water person due to some unpleasant swimming lesson experiences and the antics of my crazy cousin at the beach when I was a toddler. Hence, I just decided to sit alongside the watery basins in a lawn chair, observing the panoply of swimmers coming to indulge in the pleasures of chlorine-saturation while my friends dangled their legs in the hot tub.

    We returned to the hotel room and lounged on the sofa talking about books and movies for a while before returning to the streets. We went into a shoe/jewelry store where Britta bought a necklace on sale, and then we returned to the Food Court and shared a cinnamon sugar hot pretzel. (By the way, if any of my readers ever come to Gettysburg, you really must get one of these! The sweet and salty sensations that strike your sense of taste are sheer bliss ;-) After finishing our treat, we finally parted ways, making a pact to do so again when we all returned to the same locality.

    My second excursion was to the more historic section of Gettysburg, and by far my favorite part of the town. My father and I were going to "Gettysburg Days", when the native denizens of the area bring forth their trash and treasures exhibit in the streets and parking lots in hopes of making some degree of monetary gain. Being a professional antique hunter, my dad makes attending an annual ritual, and I tagged along with him this time in order to meet my pen-pal, Mary, who was coming to Gettysburg from Pittsburgh to visit family. This would be our first meeting, and I was a tad bit nervous at first. But the sense of discomfort soon melted away when we got to talking!

    We rendezvoused at her grandmother's Christian book/gift shop and then headed out with my dad to sample the delights of the streets. Church parking lots were loaded with paraphernalia parishioners had accumulated throughout their lives and now felt the need to rid themselves of. There were paperback books, VHS movies, plastic snow globes with dancing penguins, and also a stand serving hotdogs. Beyond the parking lots, there were a fair amount of professional antique-ers on the streets selling their truly valuable wares that had sat collecting dust in antique malls for far too long.

    Since Mary and I collect similar things, such as royal collectibles and historical books, it was fun searching together. The best thing I was able to locate was a giant Bonnie Prince Charlie cookie jar - which happened to almost as expensive as the reward put out for the capture of the Young Pretender when he was on the run in the Highlands, persuading me let him go “like a bird on a wing”! Our hunger soon took priority and we went into a diner where we enjoyed getting to know each other better over a basket of chicken fingers and fries, although neither of us felt the urge to consume the accompanying sauerkraut.

    Moving on, we went into an antique shop and scoured the book shelves for anything of mutual interest, but most of the literature was about the American Civil - I mean we were in Gettysburg, after all! We did manage to locate a book on castles, one on naval battles, and another on the Hundred Years' War, but the prices were a little high for our liking. We headed to another antique shop and continued our search, managing to locate a few "Royal Year" books and a photograph of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. We also enjoyed looking at the Civil War era dresses on display.

    After a little more adventuring abroad, we returned to the Christian shop and picked up Mary’s younger sister, Katie, to take her for a snack. My father and I had scouted out a church bakery sale, but when we arrived all the cupcakes and cake slices were already gone, and the doors were barred against us. Then my dad noticed a sign on the outside of a building which read "Popcorn and Water", so we decided to enter. It turned out to be a theatre in which a production of Charlie Brown, the Musical was underway. Back stage, we purchased some popcorn, brownies, and bottled water, and sat out back listening the muffled voices of the young performers singing the anthems of the Sunday Comic Superstar. Admittedly, we got a good laugh at our rather interesting position as outsiders looking in!

    We returned to Mary’s grandmother's bookstore and checked out the array of Christian books, films, signs, bookmarks, name cards, games, and fossil rocks for sale. It is a really lovely store, with friendly people and a friendly atmosphere. I found a book about providential incidents in the American Revolution and came across the name of a Methodist preacher, John Fletcher, who served with John Wesley on the circuit and opposed the Revolution. I later found out that Wesley himself was a Tory, and both of them wrote tracks supporting the king. In fact, King George III was so pleased with Fletcher's track, he offered to reward him. But Fletcher replied that the only thing he wanted was more grace.

    Anyway, when the time finally came to part, we took a group shot and made plans to try getting together again when Mary is back in the area. I am deeply grateful for having these opportunities to spend time with people I care about and who are fun to be with. Such experiences and memories make life more enjoyable and full, smooth out rough times and sweeten bitter ones.

"Welcome to Historic Gettysburg" Road Sign


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thoughts upon the image death......

are often the most profound thoughts people conjure up in the course of their lives. Therefore, I'd like to include three of my favorite near-death quotations in this post. The people who wrote/spoke these are three Englishmen, two of whom were great thinkers and one of whom was a great fighter. All of them had a flare for dramatics and faith in God. Although they were not saints, and were in fact far from it, I find their words to be an inspiration, and perhaps you will too.
     When Isaac Watts, the great English hymnist and Non-Conformist theologian, became gravely ill with a lingering sickness that would eventually claim his life, he began to ponder why God allowed him to continue on in the world rather then allowing him to go immediately to his eternal reward. He was recorded as speaking the following paragraph of frustration and ultimate resignation: 

“I have been ready to say within myself, why is my life prolonged in sorrow? Why are my days lengthened out to see further wretchedness? Methinks the grave should be ready for me, and the house appointed for all the living. What can I do further for God or for men here on earth since my nature pines away with painful sickness, my nerves are unstrung, my spirits dissipated, and my best powers of acting are enfeebled and almost lost? Peace, peace, O Thou complaining spirit. Dost thou know the counsels of the Almighty, and the secret designs of thy God and thy Savior? He has many deep and unknown purposes in continuing his children amidst heavy sorrows, which they can never penetrate or learn in this world. Silence and submission become thee at all times.”

- Isaac Watts (1674-1748) 

    As Dr. Samuel Johnson the famous English essayist and lexicographer, was preparing to receive Anglican Last Rites on his death bed, he wrote and recited this prayer, which he asked God to accept with a spirit of humble submission, knowing that his sins and failings were many and great:
“Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now as to human eyes, it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in His merits, and Thy mercy; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance; make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity; and make the death of Thy Son Jesus Christ effectual for my redemption. Have mercy upon me, and pardon the multitude of my offenses. Bless my friends; have mercy upon all men. Support me, by Thy Holy Spirit, in the days of my weakness, and at the hour of death; and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    Just before the epic naval Battle of Trafalgar which saved Britain and Europe from Napoleonic domination, Lord Horatio Nelson, Admiral of the British Fleet, wrote the following prayer in his diary. Since his youth he had been of a religious inclination, and despite his less than sterling personal episodes, he did not hesitate to turn to God in his hour of greatest need:

"May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may his blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen."

- Horatio Nelson (1758-1805)

    As most of you probably know, he won the battle and died in combat that very day. For more information on Lord Nelson, please check out a new website for teens about this very interesting and influential figure in British history. One of the contributers on the site is also a commenter on this blog. Here is the link:

   Now to bring this post to a proper conclusion.....

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen."

Isaac Watts

Dr. Samuel Johnson

Lord Nelson