Saturday, January 28, 2017

Gorecki Symphony No. 3

Jen introduced me to this symphony.  It has three movements, the translated lyrics of which are included below.

First Movement

My son, my chosen and beloved
Share your wounds with your mother
And because, dear son, I have always carried you in my heart,
And always served you faithfully
Speak to your mother, to make her happy,
Although you are already leaving me, my cherished hope.

(Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery from the "Lysagóra Songs" collection. Second half of the 15th century)

Second Movement

No, Mother, do not weep,
Most chaste Queen of Heaven
Support me always.
"Zdrowas Mario." (*)

(Prayer inscribed on wall 3 of cell no. 3 in the basement of "Palace," the Gestapo's headquarters in Zadopane; beneath is the signature of Helena Wanda Blazusiakówna, and the words "18 years old, imprisoned since 26 September 1944.")

(*) "Zdrowas Mario" (Ave Maria)—the opening of the Polish prayer to the Holy Mother

Third Movement

Where has he gone
My dearest son?
Perhaps during the uprising
The cruel enemy killed him

Ah, you bad people
In the name of God, the most Holy,
Tell me, why did you kill
My son?

Never again
Will I have his support
Even if I cry
My old eyes out

Were my bitter tears
to create another River Oder
They would not restore to life
My son

He lies in his grave
and I know not where
Though I keep asking people

Perhaps the poor child
Lies in a rough ditch
and instead he could have been
lying in his warm bed

Oh, sing for him
God's little song-birds
Since his mother
Cannot find him

And you, God's little flowers
May you blossom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily

(Folk song in the dialect of the Opole region)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

corvi in hieme

I stepped outside to look at the glow of a clear sky at sunset and saw crows flying home. There is a roost of tremendous size south of here a mile or two, and I often see them winging home in small groups this time of day. They are beautiful to watch in flight.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

That's a poem by Robert Frost I first read and learned back in North Dakota. There aren't many days here that remind me of my winters growing up or those back home, but the weather has been reminiscent of both these last few days.

in the park II

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

--Matthew Arnold


in the park


Friday, December 02, 2016

on the sidewalk


Friday, November 11, 2016


I made a terrarium today.  It was quite a lot of fun to make--finding the items for it, putting it all together, and then watering it and looking at the miniature world.

It reminds me of something my mom and I made years ago when I was a kid.  We used a larger container--an aquarium, I believe.  And we used more plants than I did today.  But it was pretty much the same idea.

This one has two plants I bought at the mall, two varieties of moss I found outside (one growing on a tree and one on the ground), a large rock I found near the tree with the moss, two pieces from a geode that Aida smashed open awhile ago, a couple of twigs, and a metal D&D figurine.  I'd like to paint the figure at some point, but I like it as is, too.

It's very simple, but I like it.  It was fun to make, and I like looking at it when I'm sitting at the desk.  Having some vegetation in this room is a nice change.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

an august midnight in september

A couple nights ago I observed a minute spider traversing a web from the lamp upon my desk to another point near the desk's edge.  The spider was so tiny, a characteristic I note with interest because I also recently saw a very large, fast spider dance across the floor and underneath the desk.  Big and little, and both very spidery.

Watching the little spider maneuvering along it's delicate path reminded me of a poem by Thomas Hardy I very much enjoy.  Here it is:

An August Midnight


A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands...


Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
—My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Voices From the Past

Several weeks ago, I was looking online for recitations of poems written by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  After finding a few I enjoyed, I stumbled upon something remarkable...a recording of Tennyson himself reading Charge of the Light Brigade.  At first, I wondered how this was even possible, given Tennyson's era.  Ulysses, one of his best-known poems, was written in 1833. Charge of the Light Brigade chronicled an episode in the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 during the Crimean War, and was published before the year of the battle was over.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I remembered learning in school about anthropologists in the early 1900s using wax cylinders to make ethnographic audio recordings.  While Tennyson died before the 20th century began, he did live until the last decade of the 19th century. As I found out, he was just in time to be alive during the first recordings of sound. Thanks to a charitable post-war effort (more on that later) he was recorded in 1890, reading one of his well-known poems.

There's quite a bit of information available online concerning the development and history of this technology, and it makes for an interesting tale.  A very brief and incomplete summary goes something like this: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, utilizing tin cylinders that would soon evolve, with significant development by Alexander Graham Bell and his associates at the Volta Laboratory, into the wax cylinders famously used to make several recordings around the turn of the century, including Tennyson's recitation.

How Tennyson's recording came about is itself quite an interesting tidbit of history. While trying to learn about this, I read that thirty-five years after the famous Battle of Balaclava, many of the survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade were impoverished and seemingly forgotten. Somehow, this came to light and, during the subsequent public condemnation, a magazine initiated a charitable fund for the veterans.

Charge of the Light Brigade (William Simpson, 1855)

Three recordings were made for this philanthropic endeavor, a 19th century antecedent to We Are the World: Tennyson's recitation of his poem about the charge; a short speech by Florence Nightingale, who rose to fame during the Crimean War; and a rendition of the bugle charge from the battle performed by Martin Landfried, a veteran of Balaclava.

All three recordings have survived to the present day.  Listening to them is a rare treat; give it a try for an unexpected window into the past.

Martin Landfried playing the bugle charge as heard at the Battle of Balaclava.
Florence Nightingale speaking.
Alfred Lord Tennyson reciting Charge of the Light Brigade.


The text of Landfriend's comments before playing the bugle is as follows:

“I am trumpeter Landfried, one of the surviving trumpeters of the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. I am now going to sound the bugle that was sounded at Waterloo, and sound the charge that was sounded at Balaclava on that very same bugle; the 25th of October, 1854.”

Martin Landfried (William Avenell & Co, Brighton)

It seems there is some confusion concerning the bugler's name: the British Library Sound Archive records it as Martin Lanfried, while he is referred to as Kenneth Landfrey by the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University.  Other online sources record various spellings of his name.  However, an authoritative biography from a nonprofit historical organization in Britain, maintains his name was Martin Leonard Landfried. They have quite a lot of information about him, including that he was wounded in the arm at the Battle of Balaclava, but continued the charge until his horse was killed.  He wound up being sent to the barracks-turned-hospital at which Florence Nightingale treated the war's injured.


Here is the text of Florence Nightingale's recording:

“When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale.” (There were two recordings of this; perhaps one was a rehearsal.)

Florence Nightingale


And here is Charge of the Light Brigade (it is difficult to make out all the words in the recording without referencing the text):

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?  
Not tho’ the soldier knew
  Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:  
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them  
  Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell  
  Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
  All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke  
  Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
  Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,    
Cannon behind them
  Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well  
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
  Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?  
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder’d.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred!

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Sunday, September 11, 2016


I found this the other day on the sidewalk.  Makes me think of a duck and a Grecian helmet.  Aida told me it looks like a horse. I can see that.

Friday, September 02, 2016

a storm

The rain is dripping from leaves and limbs of trees, and now the sun is shining through broken clouds.  One of those storms that are very dark when seen on the horizon and bring hard, heavy rain just passed.  I opened the shade to better listen to the drumming of the rain, when I noticed a small, winged insect seeking shelter under the partially opened window pane, using it like a lean-to.

I thought, "I know how you feel," and this brought me real cheer.

Friday, August 12, 2016


I read yesterday about the current Perseid meteor shower, and went out around 11:30 last night to see if much would be visible in the night sky.  I wasn't sure I'd see much because there is a great deal of city light drowning out the starlight where I currently am.  Even the big dipper is a little vague at night, although it is visible, as are other bright stars in the sky.

I only stayed outside for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, but I was able to see three meteors.  The first two flashed near the horizon, while the third blazed overhead in a terrific streak of light and glittering dust.  It was incredibly beautiful.

Woodcut by Adolph Vollmy of the 1833 Leonid meteor shower  (after Karl Jauslin) c. 1889

It brought to mind a time several years ago when I was driving through the mountains of Utah or Idaho, I think.  I don't remember where it was for sure...I was headed somewhere for work.  It was late at night, and the area through which I was passing was heavily forested and desolate feeling.  Suddenly, the sky lit up with intense brightness and something streaked through the sky, crossing my field of vision and disappearing into the forest, which also lit up with the intense light.  It was really phenomenal, and almost a little frightening.

As I recall, I heard a short time later (maybe on the radio...I don't remember) that a meteor had landed in the area.  I sure don't remember the details, but I remember the way it looked and how awed I was by it.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Opening Lines

Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Acheans loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men--carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.

--from The Iliad


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

first lines of All That's Past

Very old are the woods;
     And the buds that break
Out of the briar's boughs,
     When the March winds wake,
So old with their beauty are
     Oh, no man knows
Through what wild centuries
     Roves back the rose.

--Walter de la Mare


Friday, April 01, 2016

equal night

Well, it is spring.  And it is very beautiful.  I listened to a chickadee calling this morning, reminding me of lying in bed in the early morning at home.  I took a walk and saw the brightness of some tulips and the dark green leaves of black-eyed susans.  Now, later in the day, the sun is warm and there is a light chill on your bare arms.

I was back home a couple weeks ago and there was quite a snowstorm.  The snow was wet and heavy, and several limbs broke from trees in the yard.  The Russian olive, silver maple, and juniper all had branches break.  The day before the storm, I was playing outside with my daughter in a short-sleeve shirt.  I guess it’s that time of year.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

A poem (#1052)

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

--Emily Dickinson

The above version is the one I read in a book at home; however, I've come across a slightly different version that seems more like Emily Dickinson's writing to me and appears to be the original.  I wonder who changed it and when.  I suppose the edited poem above was probably considered more readable because of the substitution of two less common words in the original (billows and checks), and the elimination of Dickinson's unique punctuation and capitalization.

I guess the word "checks" as used below was a term used at the time to refer to railway tickets. Knowing that usage helps with understanding the stanza.

While I was just looking for different versions of this poem, I came across something really neat--an image of the original manuscript in Dickinson's hand!

Here, then, is the poem:

I never saw a Moor --
I never saw the Sea --
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven --
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given --

[composed circa 1865; first published 1890]


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

T'ang poetry

Recently I was reading a book about Li Po and Tu Fu (now more commonly referred to in the West as Li Bai and Du Fu).  It is a collection of several poems translated by Arthur Cooper, with lots of historical and biographical background included, as well as notes about the individual poems.  I love a book like this--there are many layers to it and it is a joy to read.

Here is an excerpt from a poem by Tu Fu called Night Thoughts Afloat:

Drifting, drifting,
what am I more than
A single gull
between sky and earth?

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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

in the a.m.

It's a rainy morning here.  I woke early and drank hot coffee from a glass jar and read for a bit.  Then I took a walk to a post box to mail a letter.  Early mornings can feel really nice.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Fairy Tales

A couple of nights ago, I read The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen to my daughter.  I had never read it before, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
I found an old copy of Andersen’s fairy tales some months ago and picked it up with the idea of reading some of them to Aida.  It’s a neat old book with interesting illustrations by Arthur Szyk and twenty-nine tales translated into English by E.V. Lucas and H.B. Paull.  The Nightingale was the first one we’ve read.
I’m familiar with a few of the stories, having been exposed to them in various forms in my childhood; The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Princess and the Pea have been told and retold in our popular culture.  I’ve never read the original stories, though, and I’m completely unacquainted with the majority of the tales in this collection.  It’ll be interesting to see how some of the rest compare to The Nightingale.

The cover of the book has an illustration from The Nightingale.  “I will sing to cheer you and make you thoughtful too.”

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Monday, February 22, 2016

a model citizen

I'm still recovering from a physical problem and have reached a stage where I am able to be sitting more frequently.  For some time, I wasn't sitting at all--just lying down or standing.  Now, many days, I am sitting up to about twenty minutes at a time, several times a day.

It seems to me that I think better when sitting.  Well, maybe not better in general, but differently.  Different tasks seem to work better for me while sitting.  And now I can read in fifteen or twenty minute increments, which has been very nice.  I read a wonderful book called The House at Otowi Bridge: The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos by Peggy Pond Church.  I recommend it with gusto.

In addition to reading, I've been thinking about other pursuits I can do standing or while sitting for short periods.  Yesterday, I bought an old model kit of an airplane.  When I was a kid, my folks gave me a few models to build.  I especially enjoyed a robot one that I assembled and which subsequently broke because I played with it instead of leaving it on a shelf.  I'm glad I choose to play with the big, multi-jointed blue and grey robot.  Even after it broke into several pieces, I had great fun weaving it into the childhood mythologies I cooked up in my brain.  It seems a couple other robots were always on a quest to find the legendary robot that had been lost to the ages and lay hidden in pieces scattered across a world.

So, as I've been thinking of hobbies to try as I'm getting better, models came to mind.  I came across this kit and, although I'd like to try another robot, I think it will be fun to work on in short spurts.  Last night while reading through the instructions, I realized that some parts should be painted before assembling.  If I feel up to it, I'd like to get out and get some paint.  I'm going to look for some of that inexpensive craft paint and try to match colors with those suggested in the instructions.

The kit is a scale model of a 1973 jet manufactured for the French, West German, and Belgian air forces.  You have the option of building it as the French or the German version, which I think is pretty neat.  The photograph on the box is the French version.  The body of the plane differs only slightly; the colors are the big differences.

Anyway, I think it will be fun to give it a try.  Has anyone reading this ever put together a model before?  What was it, and did you enjoy the process?

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

verse LV

I muse, but in my musings I recall
The days of my iniquity; we're all--
An arrow shot across the wilderness,
Somewhither, in the wilderness must fall.

--from The Luzumiyat by Abul 'Ala Al-Ma'arri (973--1057 A.D.)


Sunday, December 06, 2015


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