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Thursday, November 26, 2015

John Bunyan...

the author of Pilgrim's Progress, wrote this delightful intro to his soon-to-be famous book, which convinced me that 17th century Puritans could actually have had a sense of humor, and made me add Bunyan to my list of historical personages I would love to meet! (As an author myself, I can totally sympathize with his mixed emotions upon the concept of publishing!) For Thanksgiving, from a "real Pilgrim", "The Author's Apology for His Book"! ;) 

WHEN at the first I took my Pen in hand
Thus for to write; I did not understand
That I at all should make a little Book
In such a mode; Nay, I had undertook
To make another, which when almost done,
Before I was aware I this begun.
And thus it was: I was writing of the Way
And Race of Saints, in this our Gospel-day,
Fell suddenly into an Allegory
About their Journey, and the way to Glory,
In more than twenty things which I set down:
This done, I twenty more had in my Crown,
And they again began to multiply,
Like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly.
Nay then, thought I, if that you breed so fast,
I’ll put you by yourselves, lest you at last
Should prove an infinitum, and eat out
The Book that I already am about.
Well, so I did; but yet I did not think
To shew to all this World my Pen and Ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what: nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my Neighbor; no not I;
I did it mine own self to gratifie.
Neither did I but vacant seasons spend
In this my Scribble; nor did I intend
But to divert myself in doing this
From worser thoughts which make me do amiss.
Thus I set Pen to Paper with delight,
And quickly had my thoughts in black and white.
For having now my Method by the end,
Still as I pull’d, it came; and so I penn’d
It down, until it came at last to be
For length and breadth the bigness which you see.
Well, when I had thus put mine ends together,
I shew’d them others, that I might see whether
They would condemn them, or them justifie;
And some said, Let them live; some, Let them die;
Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so:
Some said, It might do good; others said, No.
Now was I in a straight, and did not see
Which was the best thing to be done by me:
At last I thought, Since you are thus divided,
I print it will, and so the case decided.
For, thought I, some I see would have it done,
Though others in that Channel do not run.
To prove then who advised for the best,
Thus I thought fit to put it to the test.
I further thought, if now I did deny
Those that would have it thus, to gratifie,
I did not know but hinder them I might
Of that which would to them be great delight.
For those which were not for its coming forth
I said to them, Offend you I am loth,
Yet since your Brethren pleased with it be,
Forbear to judge till you do further see.
If that thou wilt not read, let it alone;
Some love the meat, some love to pick the bone:
Yea, that I might them better palliate,
I did too with them thus Expostulate:
May I not write in such a stile as this?
In such a method too, and yet not miss
Mine end, thy good? why may it not be done?
Dark Clouds bring Waters, when the bright bring none.
Yea, dark or bright, if they their Silver drops
Cause to descend, the Earth, by yielding Crops,
Gives praise to both, and carpeth not at either,
But treasures up the Fruit they yield together;
Yea, so commixes both, that in her Fruit
None can distinguish this from that: they suit
Her well, when hungry; but, if she be full,
She spues out both, and makes their blessings null.
You see the ways the Fisher-man doth take
To catch the Fish; what Engines doth he make?
Behold how he engageth all his Wits,
Also his Snares, Lines, Angles, Hooks, and Nets.
Yet Fish there be, that neither Hook, nor Line,
Nor Snare, nor Net, nor Engine can make thine;
They must be grop’d for, and be tickled too,
Or they will not be catch’d, whate’er you do.
How doth the Fowler seek to catch his Game
By divers means, all which one cannot name?
His Gun, his Nets, his Lime-twigs, Light, and Bell;
He creeps, he goes, he stands; yea who can tell
Of all his postures? Yet there’s none of these
Will make him master of what Fowls he please.
Yea, he must Pipe and Whistle to catch this;
Yet if he does so, that Bird he will miss.
If that a Pearl may in a Toad’s head dwell,
And may be found too in an Oyster-shell;
If things that promise nothing do contain
What better is than Gold; who will disdain,
That have an inkling of it, there to look,
That they may find it? Now my little Book
(Though void of all those Paintings that may make
It with this or the other man to take)
Is not without those things that do excel
What do in brave, but empty notions dwell.
Well, yet I am not fully satisfied,
That this your Book will stand, when soundly try’d.
Why, what’s the matter? It is dark. What tho?
But it is feigned: What of that I tro?
Some men, by feigning words as dark as mine,
Make truth to spangle, and its rays to shine.
But they want solidness. Speak man thy mind.
They drowned the weak; Metaphors make us blind.
Solidity indeed becomes the Pen
Of him that writeth things Divine to men;
But must I needs want solidness, because
By Metaphors I speak? Were not God’s Laws,
His Gospel-Laws, in olden time held forth
By Types, Shadows, and Metaphors? Yet loth
Will any sober man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault
The highest Wisdom. No, he rather stoops,
And seeks to find out what by Pins and Loops,
By Calves, and Sheep, by Heifers, and by Rams,
By Birds, and Herbs, and by the blood of Lambs,
God speaketh to him. And happy is he
That finds the light and grace that in them be.
Be not too forward therefore to conclude
That I want solidness, that I am rude:
All things solid in shew not solid be;
All things in parables despise not we;
Lest things most hurtful lightly we receive,
And things that good are, of our souls bereave.
My dark and cloudy words they do but hold
The Truth, as Cabinets inclose the Gold.
The Prophets used much by Metaphors
To set forth Truth; yea, whoso considers
Christ, his Apostles too, shall plainly see,
That Truths to this day in such Mantles be.
Am I afraid to say that Holy Writ,
Which for its Stile and Phrase puts down all Wit,
Is everywhere so full of all these things,
Dark Figures, Allegories? Yet there springs
From that same Book that lustre, and those rays
Of light, that turns our darkest nights to days.
Come, let my Carper to his Life now look,
And find there darker lines than in my Book
He findeth any; Yea, and let him know,
That in his best things there are worse lines too.
May we but stand before impartial men,
To his poor One I dare adventure Ten,
That they will take my meaning in these lines
Far better than his lies in Silver Shrines.
Come, Truth, although in Swaddling-clouts, I find,
Informs the Judgment, rectifies the Mind,
Pleases the Understanding, makes the Will
Submit; the Memory too it doth fill
With what doth our Imagination please;
Likewise it tends our troubles to appease.
Sound words I know Timothy is to use,
And old Wive’s Fables he is to refuse;
But yet grave Paul him nowhere doth forbid
The use of Parables; in which lay hid
That Gold, those Pearls, and precious stones that were
Worth digging for, and that with greatest care.
Let me add one word more. O man of God,
Art thou offended? Dost thou wish I had
Put forth my matter in another dress,
Or that I had in things been more express?
Three things let me propound, then I submit
To those that are my betters, as is fit.
1. I find not that I am denied the use
Of this my method, so I no abuse
Put on the Words, Things, Readers; or be rude
In handling Figure or Similitude,
In application; but, all that I may,
Seek the advance of Truth this or that way.
Denied, did I say? Nay, I have leave,
(Example too, and that from them that have
God better pleased, by their words or ways,
Than any man that breatheth now a-days)
Thus to express my mind, thus to declare
Things unto thee, that excellentest are.
2. I find that men (as high as Trees) will write
Dialogue-wise; yet no man doth them slight
For writing so; Indeed if they abuse
Truth, cursed be they, and the craft they use
To that intent; but yet let Truth be free
To make her sallies upon thee and me,
Which way it pleases God. For who knows how,
Better than he that taught us first to Plow,
To guide our Mind and Pens for his Design?
And he makes base things usher in Divine.
3. I find that Holy Writ in many places
Hath semblance with this method, where the cases
Do call for one thing, to set forth another;
Use it I may then, and yet nothing smother
Truth’s golden Beams: nay, by this method may
Make it cast forth its rays as light as day.
And now, before I do put up my Pen,
I’ll shew the profit of my Book, and then
Commit both thee and it unto that hand
That pulls the strong down, and makes weak ones stand.
This Book it chalketh out before thine eyes
The man that seeks the everlasting Prize;
It shews you whence he comes, whither he goes,
What he leaves undone, also what he does;
It also shews you how he runs and runs,
Till he unto the Gate of Glory comes.
It shews too, who set out for life amain,
As if the lasting Crown they would obtain;
Here also you may see the reason why
They lose their labour, and like Fools do die.
This Book will make a Traveller of thee,
If by its Counsel thou wilt ruled be;
It will direct thee to the Holy Land,
If thou wilt its directions understand:
Yea, it will make the slothful active be;
The blind also delightful things to see.
Art thou for something rare and profitable?
Wouldest thou see a Truth within a Fable?
Art thou forgetful? Wouldest thou remember
From New-year’s-day to the last of December?
Then read my Fancies, they will stick like Burrs,
And may be to the Helpless, Comforters.
This Book is writ in such a Dialect
As may the minds of listless men affect:
It seems a novelty, and yet contains
Nothing but sound and honest Gospel strains.
Would’st thou divert thyself from Melancholy?
Would’st thou be pleasant, yet be far from folly?
Would’st thou read Riddles, and their Explanation?
Or else be drowned in thy Contemplation?
Dost thou love picking meat? Or would’st thou see
A man i’ th’ Clouds, and hear him speak to thee?
Would’st thou be in a Dream, and yet not sleep?
Or would’st thou in a moment laugh and weep?
Wouldest thou lose thyself, and catch no harm,
And find thyself again without a charm?
Would’st read thyself, and read thou know’st not what,
And yet know whether thou art blest or not,
By reading the same lines? O then come hither,
And lay my Book, thy Head, and Heart together.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jean Vauquelin...

is an unsung French hero who I stumbled across in my research of the French and Indian War. I know I have been totally remiss in posting as of late (magazine overload, lol!), but with France so much in the news and in the focus of all our minds due to the recent tragic events in Paris, I thought it would be apropos to share something about French courage and resilience.

     The year was 1760. The place was present-day Canada. General James had just led a successful assault against the French strong-hold of Quebec, and captured the city for the British. But the French weren’t ready to give up their claim to New France just yet, and they put up a gallant struggle to reclaim the province.

     One hero of France from his period was Jean Vauquelin. Born in Dieppe, France, in 1728, he was the son of a captain in the merchant marines. He served as a privateer during the War of Austrian Succession and was an active and inspired commander during the Seven Years’ War. In command of the 30-gun frigate Arethuse, he managed to run British Admiral Edward Boscawen’s blockade of Louisbourg, pick up vital dispatches from Governor Drucour, elude the British ships for a second time, and return to France.

    After the fall of Quebec to the British, Vauquelin mustered a small naval division to resupply Levis’ army during the Battle of Sillery. However, British ships reached Quebec first, and Levis decided it would be prudent to retreat to Montreal. Unfortunately, the order to go back up the river never reached Vauquelin, communications between the army and the navy being hampered by bad weather. On the morning of May 16, 1760, the British ships launched a surprise attack on the French supply ships. One of them was run aground by the enemy, but Vauquelin successfully protected a large French fleet of bateaux from being assaulted.

    Then he continued to fight a difficult rearguard battle with his flagship the Atalante facing off the British ships Diana and Lowestoft that lasted for nearly three hours. The British ship Vanguard under the command of Andrew Knox destroyed all of the lesser French transports, and only the small sloop of war La Marie was able to escape in one piece. Nevertheless, Vauquelin boldly fought on, slamming the British rigging with shot and tearing down the foretopmast steering sail of Diana.

    But even as the French sailors on Atalante cheered the havoc they were wreaking on the enemy fleet, they came to realize that their own ship was badly damaged and practically immovable. With both gunpowder and morale running low, the defiant Vauquelin had the French colours nailed to the mast and continued to lead his men, sword in hand, until the power completely ran out. Then he finally ordered the mizzen mast chopped down so that his surviving crew could use it as a raft to reach the shore. Meanwhile, he and his officers maintained their positions on deck, the French flag flying brazenly overhead, and Vauquelin standing proudly in front of the mast bearing the colours of his nation.

    After the surrender was finally enacted, the British commander, Commodore Robert Swanton, was so impressed with his fierce courage and skilled seamanship that he asked the French commander if their any personal favors he might like. Vauquelin responded that he wanted to be given parole to return to France and defend his actions as soon as possible. Swanton saw to it that he got his wish. Unfortunately, as soon as he set foot in his native land, government officials, in a display of unparalleled audacity, had him seized, thrown into prison, and court-martialed for losing the French fleet.

    Happily for him, Captain Vauquelin was eventually vindicated and promoted to the rank of fire-ship captain and then lieutenant commander. He went on to command several more ships in his lifetime and took part in a project to colonize Guiana for the French. He died at Rochefort, France in 1772. In Canada, he is remembered by French-Canadians and Anglo-Canadians cunning and courage and memorialized in a bronze statue in Old Montreal, which just happens to glare defiantly upwards at a statue of Lord Horatio Nelson at the top of the hill!

Vive La Jean Vauquelin!