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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sir Guy Carleton.....

1st Baron Dorchester, was a native of Co. Tyrone in present-day Northern Ireland who served in the British military with distinction and eventually became the Governor of the Province of QuebecHe gained the grudging respect of the French population of Quebec by implementing the Quebec Act of 1774, upholding their religious freedom and traditional customs. Called the “man of a thousand eyes”, he was  in charge of repulsing the American assault on the city in 1775. When Montreal fell to the rebels, Carleton barely had time to sneak out of the city dressed in civilian attire.
    In the midst of the subsequent siege, a woman from the American camp was secretly sent into town with letters addressed to the merchants of the city, promising them many benefits if Quebec was immediately surrendered. She also had a letter for Carleton, demanding the immediate submission of the city. Needless to say, he didn’t leap at the opportunity, since he was in a secure, well-fortified position. Instead, she was locked up in jail for several days, and then unceremoniously thrown out of town. He then ordered all those residing in Quebec who were liable to do military duty should take part in the defense. If they refused, they and their families had four days to get out of town, or otherwise suffer the penalty as traitors to the state.
    Major Preston, the British commander of the garrison at St. John’s, had no choice but to surrender the fort to the Americans. The rebels, so often derided by the British as "savages" who had no respect for authority, treated him with all the honor and decorum appropriate for a man station. Meanwhile, the American Major Meig, next in command after Benedict Arnold at Quebec, made British Captain Law his prisoner in the morning; however a few hours later, after the fortunes of war turned in favor of the British, Law made Meig his prisoner. They both dined together with great courtesy and lived up to the ideals of noblesse oblige.
    Over the course of the siege, General Carleton intercepted the letters between a wealthy Frenchman from Montreal who had joined the rebels and his family. After the local regiment he had raised for Montgomery was defeated and the American attack repulsed, he was captured and brought before General the governor. Carleton, displaying a cold veneer, inquired, “Sir, when did you last hear from your family?” The Frenchman replied, “General, I have not heard from them these three months.” After a lengthened pause, observing the man’s intense anxiety, Carleton quietly inquired, “Which way do you choose to go home, by land or water? If you choose to go by water, you shall have my barge; if you choose to go by land, you shall have my coach.”

    The unexpected reprieve completely broke down the Frenchman’s inhibitions, and he fell at Carleton’s knees sobbing, “O general, you are too good! You are too good!” He took his close call to heart, and remained faithful to the British regime from then on. Carleton also showed mercy to his American prisoners, making this declaration:

    “Whereas I am informed that many of his majesty’s deluded subjects of the neighbouring provinces, laboring under wounds and divers disorders, are dispersed in the adjacent woods and parishes, and in danger of perishing for want of proper assistance, all captains and other officers of militia are hereby commanded to make diligent search for all such distressed persons, and afford them all the necessary relief, and convey them to the general hospital, where proper care shall be taken of them: all reasonable expenses which may be incurred in complying with this order, shall be paid by the receiver-general. And lest a consciousness of past offences should deter such miserable wretches from receiving that assistance which their distressed situation may require; I hereby make known to them, that as soon as their health is restored they shall have free liberty to return to their respective provinces.”

    Later on, he had some of the American prisoners brought before him in small companies and addressed them:
    “My lads, why did you come to disturb an honest man in his government that never did any harm to you in his life? I never invaded your property, nor sent a single soldier to distress you. Come, my boys, you are in a very distressing situation, and not able to go home with any comfort; I must provide you with shoes, stockings, and good warm waistcoats. I must give you some good victuals to carry you home. Take care, my lads, that you do not come here again, lest I should not treat you so kindly.”

   Sir Guy also had the American General Richard Montgomery given a simple but decent burial after the battle. His knee buckles, his aid-de-camp’s gold broach, and several other personal effects were even returned to the Americans by the British. Montgomery had been greatly admired because of his courage, skill, and gentle mannerisms, loved by the Americans and respected by the British as a worthy opponent. Dr. Smith of Philadelphia wrote of him: 

    “O though swift winged messenger of destruction, how didst thou triumph in that moment! The stroke that severed Montgomery from his army deprived them of more than a member. It reached the vitals, and struck the whole body with a temporary death. As when the forked lightening, darting through the forest, amidst the black tempests of night, rends some towering oak, and lays its honors in the dust, the inferior trees which it had long sheltered from the storm stand mournful around. So stood the astonished bands, over their fallen chief! Nor over him alone, but over others, in their prime of glory, prostrate by his side.

    Such example of magnanimity filled even adversaries with veneration and esteem. Forgetting the foes in the heroes, they gathered up their breathless remains, and committed them to kindred dust; with pious hands, “and funeral honors meet;” so may your own remains and particularly thine, O Carleton, be honored should it ever be your fate to fall in hostile fields! Or if, amid the various chances of war, your lot should be among the prisoners and the wounded, may you be distinguished with an ample return of that benevolence which you have shown to others! Such offices of humanity, softening the savage scenes of war, will entitle you to an honor which all the pride of conquest cannot bestow.”

    While General Carleton's later cautiousness would be derided by some of his fellow officers and London politicians, he was one of the few British officers to make it through the war with the Colonies with his reputation basically unscathed. Furthermore, beneath a somewhat gruff and dour-faced exterior, he had a strong attachment to justice and a deep sense duty to his people. He even refused to return African slaves liberated by the British during the war and refused to break his word to them, in spite of the complaints of American officials.

   Carleton did everything in his power to rescue the Loyalists from America, vowing to “remain on duty until every man, woman, and child who wants to leave the United States is safely moved to British soil.” He also helped to settle these Loyalists in Canada so they could start their lives anew, where the United Empire Loyalist identity became entrenched and thrived. The present-day descendants of these original loyalists still hold of the privilege of using a special loyalist coronet on their coat-of-arms and the post-nominal UE after their names. The following lines are a testimony to their tenacity, and the legacy of a brave and generous British officer and gentleman: 

There where the Loyalists came
And the houses of men were few,
Little was all their wealth,
And great were the hardships they knew,
But greater the hardy faith
They kept unflinching and fine,
And chose to be naught in the world
For the pride of a loyal line

Not drooping like poor refugees they came,
In exodus to our Canadian wilds,
But full of hearts and hope with heads erect,
And fearless eyes, victorious in defeat 

Sir Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester

Monday, February 24, 2014

Origins myths.....

have sprung up for every nation recorded in the Annals of Man. And the older a country is the more colorful and campy the founding legends are bound to be. Based on the writings of two Welsh monks, Ninnius from the Dark Ages and Geoffrey of Monmouth from the Middle Ages, and immersed in the creative minds of ghost-adapters and plagiarists for over a millennium, Britain can certainly hold her own in the arena of yarn-spinning flights of fancy.

    The similarities between Greco-Roman mythology and British mythology are quite striking, revealing the vibrant Classical tradition that influenced British culture during the time of the Roman Conquest. And just possibly, the strong connection between the visions given to those who overindulge on Mediterranean wine and those who prefer one-pint-too-many of British beer. But I digress.

    To begin at the beginning, once upon a time, long, long ago, King Neptune, the god of the sea, and his wife, Amphitrite, decided to give their fourth son an island to rule over, so they mustered up a great council of underwater denizens to choose one for him. Countless islands were suggested and rejected, until finally a golden-haired, cutie-pie mermaid announced that she knew of a lush, vegetative island that would make a perfect present for such a prestigious little personage.

    She took Neptune there, and he was so impressed by the idyllic setting that he decided then and there this would make a perfect present for his son and promptly named it after him: “Albion”. Although the recipient of this gesture of fatherly affection was later had the singular misfortune to be pulverized in a tangle with Hercules, Neptune continued to look out for the interests of the island in his memory. He also muttered something under his breath about her one day ruling the waves, accompanied by a catchy little tune that would soon take on a life of its own.

    Centuries later, the future of the island would be secured when a Trojan prince named Brutus started experiencing a series of deplorable family problems. When still in his mother’s womb, a soothsayer predicted he would cause the death of both his parents and, as a booby prize, win great honors for himself somewhere along the line. His mother died giving birth to Brutus, and when he grew to agile manhood, he accidentally shot his father in a hunting accident and was exiled from his home after being branded an incorrigible jinx.

    With his options limited, he what all future heroes do and set sail on an around-the-world odyssey in search of adventure, picking up a new wife and an assortment of followers along the way. Among the crew there was a party of Trojans who had been enslaved in Greece before being rescued by Brutus. In honor of their liberator and to denote themselves as his groupies, they decided to call themselves “Britons”.

    Eventually the Trojan Prince stopped off at the deserted island of Malta (then called Leogetia) in hopes of finding inner peace and, perhaps, a home for himself and his people. He located a temple there dedicated to the Goddess Diana, the patroness of stags and archery. Considering his past hunting woes, he decided she might just be the one to set his painful course aright. So he made her an offering of wine and the blood from a white hind, turned his eyes towards her statue, and repeated nine times:

  O powerful goddess,
Terror of the forest glades,
Yet hope of the wild woodlands,
You who have the power to go in orbit through the airy heavens
and the halls of hell,
Pronounce a judgment which contains concerns the earth
Tell me which lands you wish us to inhabit
Tell me of a safe dwelling-place where I am to worship you
down the ages,
And where to the chanting of maidens,
I shall dedicate temples to you

    After making his request and promise, he fell into a deep sleep on the outstretched hide of the white hind. About the third hour of the night, Diana made her appearance and response:
Beyond the setting sun,
Past the realms of Gaul,
There lies an island in the sea,
Once occupied by giants
Now it is empty and ready for your folk
 Down the years this will prove to be an abode suited to you and
your folk;
 And for your descendants it will be a second Troy
A race of Kings will be born there from your stock
And the round circle of the whole earth will be subject to them
    This sounded like fair enough by any standards, so he and his merry band of companions headed off to take the Goddess up on her generous offer. They stopped on the side of the road in Gaul to get directions and indulge in a dose of French sunshine before moving on to their foggy domain claim. The locals gave rave revues about their intended destination, corroborating that it was practically uninhabited and ready to be staked out. And so the crew forged ahead to their “island paradise”.

    After rowing ashore to the British mainland, Brutus supposedly stepped onto a stone which the inhabitants of Totnes, Devonshire, still proudly acknowledged as the “Brutus Stone” to this very day. Presumably, he would be pleased that his memory has been literally “set in stone” and imprinted in “Top 10 Places to See” pamphlets, but at the time of his landing, he had bigger issues to consider.

    It became increasingly apparent that both the Goddess Diana and the would-be World Travel Agents in Gaul were slightly inaccurate regarding the issue of giant population still available for comment. Brutus and his band soon came face to face with quite a few of these colossal men tromping around in a very malevolent mood. It was said that their race had descended from the daughters of Emperor Diocletian (apparently a different one from the great persecutor of Christians, or otherwise transplanted back into mythological prehistory by Doc Who’s ever-reliable TARDIS) who had been banished to Albion after plotting to do away with their husbands. Once on the island, they had mated with like-minded demons and given birth to a slew of baby giants, the ancestors of the ones Brutus and company encountered.

    Despite the odds, the exiled Trojans succeeded in slaying or subduing all the gargantuans, chaining up particularly ferocious specimens in various tourist-friendly locations, from Glastonbury to Guildhall. The leader of the giants, Gogmagog, met his fate at the hands of Corineus, Brutus’s trusted second-in-command, who hurled him over a cliff at Plymouth Hoe (which has appropriately been dubbed “Gogmagog’s Leap”) where he smashed to smithereens on rocks below. Corineus followed up this epic achievement by wiping out the giants of Cornwall. Of course, there was that issue with a beanstalk later on, but we needn’t spoil the success story for now.

    With no further ado, Brutus renamed the conquered island “Britain”, after himself, and ruled as king for twenty-four years. He also founded a city on the banks of the River Thames that was called Troia Nova (New Troy) and fulfilled his promise to Diana by building a temple in her honor – supposedly on the present-day site of St. Paul’s Cathedral! A slab said to be from the pagan altar became known as “London Stone” and was monopolized as a mystical power-play by those who had high hopes of controlling the city as a matter of diehard tradition.

    When Brutus fell grievously ill and lay on his deathbed, he proceeded to divvy up his parcels of conquered shireland into four parts. His first son, Locrine, received what is now England; his second son, Camber, went away with Wales; his third son, Albanact, secured Scotland; and Brutus’s bosom companion, Corineus, collected Cornwall (named after the inheritor, and also meaning “Horn of Britain”).

    In of spite of the king generous efforts to make all well and good through equal distribution, he just couldn’t seem to shake the strain of bad luck that had plagued him throughout his life. As a last instruction, he insisted that Locrine should marry Corineus’s daughter, Guendolen. Sonny-boy wasn’t particularly thrilled with his daddy’s match-making abilities, but he obediently submitted to the last wish of The Great Jinx.

    In spite of this, Locrine continued to keep company with Estrildis, his princess mistress who had been captured from an enemy tribe during battle. He built a cozy little love nest in an elaborate tunnel to hide her away from his unsuspecting wife. But when Estrildis gave birth to a baby daughter named Havren (the Roman rendering of the name being “Sabrina”), Locrine got a bit too giddy about being a new-found fatherhood and impulsively banished Guendolen from his presence so could spend more quality time with his tunnel-dwelling family.

    Needless, to say this didn’t go over well with the in-laws. In retaliation, Guendolen led her tribe to do battle against her husband and the land devolved into a state of civil war. Finally, after the pendulum of winning and losing swung back and forth repeatedly, Guendolen prevailed and Locrine was killed in battle. Being the forgiving sort of person she was, she also ordered his mistress and now ravishingly beautiful teenaged daughter to be drowned in what was later called the River Severn, in memory of Sabrina. The daughter came to be worshipped as a goddess/river nymph and is immortalized in the 17th century poet John Milton’s “The Nymph of the Severn”:

There is a gentle nymph not far from hence
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure;
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father, Brute
She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
Of her enraged stepdame, Guendolen,
Commended her fair innocence to the flood
That stayed her flight with his cross-flowing course
The water-nymphs, that in the bottom played,
 Held up their pearled wrists, and took her in,
Bearing her straight to aged Nereus’s hall;
Who, piteous of her woes, reared her lank head,
And gave her to his daughters to imbathe
 In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel,
 And through the porch and inlet of every sense
Dropped in ambrosial ails, till she revived,
And underwent a quick immortal change,
 Made Goddess of the river…..

    And so, as in King Arthur’s Camelot, things in mythological Brutus-land descended to the pits of depravity because of the onset of royal hanky-panky (abbreviation RHP, for short. It will resurface repeatedly with equally disastrous results). There is no better point at which to switch gears from misty mythology to human history than on this observatory note.

His memory "set in stone"!

Friday, February 14, 2014

St. Valentine's Day.......

is one of the many pagan festivals taken by Christians and transformed into something so much more. The process makes sense, since Christ redeemed humanity and with it the beauty of her traditions. It is natural that men should think on life, death, rebirth, love, culture, and the heroes who have gone before. Hence, we have holidays. Hence, we have holy days.

    The Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia took place on February 15, and day before, the 14th, was dedicated the Juno, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses, patroness of women and love. The associated custom of young men drawing a girl's name from a jar to be paired with her for the festival added to the romance of the event. Sometimes this pairing would last for the whole year until the next festival came round. Folklore also claimed that birds started to mate on February 14, bringing new hope for the coming of spring.

    And now we get around to the saint whose name made the charts. Little actual evidence exists about St. Valentine, but there are legends galore. It is said that the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed all marriages and engagements in Rome because he was having difficulty recruiting men for his army who had wives and sweethearts. Enter Valentine, a Christian priest, who defied the emperor's order and continued to marry couples in secret. Eventually, he was found out and arrested by the authorities for performing forbidden Christian ceremonies. When the they tried to force him to offer incense to twelve pagan gods in return for being released, he refused without hesitation.

    Realizing that Valentine was a learned man, his jailer asked him if he would be willing to give lesson to his his blind daughter, Theodora. Valentine agreed and soon befriended the intelligent young woman who quickly took to learning about Roman history, the world of nature, and arithmetic. He showed her more love than she had ever been shown by her father or anyone else. Having since been regarded as a reject from society, "cursed by the gods", she was intrigued by the Christian religion, which told of a love that went beyond surface and reached the soul. Later, Valentine's intercession and Theodora's own growing faith in Jesus resulted in the miraculous restoration of her sight.

    Valentine was eventually brought before the Emperor Claudius to make his case. Claudius was initially impressed by the priest's spirited defense, but when he went so far as to try to convert the emperor, he was hauled back to his cell. While there, he did manage to convert a guard and 47 members of his family to Christianity! Also, before he was taken away to be executed, he sent Theodora a farewell message signed: "From your Valentine". He was tortured and executed on Feb. 14, 269 A.D, near a gate later named Porta Valentini in his honor. It is said that Theodora came there to grieve for him, and planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave as a symbol of their friendship and love.

     So this month of St. Valentine, remember that true love is not just about romance, although that certainly is part of it. It's also about the the transcending love that God has shown to us, and the love that we are charged to show one another. In essence, we must love everyone because God has loved us all first, no matter physical or mental states, no matter our sinful natures, no matter our states in life. He comes to bring us grace to turn away from sin, to make us whole in our spirits, and to see Himself in everyone around us. That is the true meaning of St. Valentine's Day.

    To conclude this post, here's a poem from our friend, Mack, on St. Valentine -- and the quirkiness of modern-day remembrances! ;-)

St. Valentine Unleaded

A priest obscure and poor in the long ago

Benignly smiled upon the young, and sought
To join young lovers in happiness, and so
He gave a boon (as Chaucer’s Parsoun taught)
And kindly dowered many a poor-born bride.
And blessed young marrieds to their wedding bowers
Hand in hand, heart with heart, and side by side -
We remember his martyrdom with gas-station flowers.

St. Valentine, ora pro nobis! 


Monday, February 10, 2014

A poem for this past Superbowl......

from our dear friend, Mack in Texas! And it is a penetrating analysis of the football frenzy that swept the nation, if I do say so myself.....;-)

Super-Servile Sunday

O sink not down to that corrosive couch,
Docile before the Orwellian screen
That regulates the lives of the servile,
Dictating dress and drink, demeanor, dreams;
Declare your independence from the sludge
Of vague obedientiaries who drowse
Away that empty lives in submission
To harsh, diagonal inches of rule,
Poor weaklings chanting tainted tribal songs
In chorus hamsterable, huddled, heaped,
While costumed in their masters' liveries,
And feeling little while thinking even less,
The very model of the State's non-men,
Predictable and dull, submissive ghosts
Crowded, herded in cosmic cattle chutes,
Reflected in dim, noisy nothingness.

But you, O you, be not of them, but be
A wanderer in the moonlight, one known

To God and to His Holy solitude

Super Bowl Trailers 2014
"Docile before the Orwellian Screen....."