Monday, April 30, 2007

Insights from Valerie on what to do when you're worried about something that you can't actually do anything about: Ora et labora. Thanks, Valerie! I needed to be reminded of that myself just now.
Short and sweet


Here lies the body of Jonathan Pound,
Who was lost at sea and never found.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

On Charles II

Here lies our Severign Lord and King,
    Whose word no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
    Nor ever did a wise one.

        John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here lies John Bun;
He was killed by a gun.
His name was not Bun, but Wood;
But Wood would not rhyme with gun, and Bun would.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here lies father, mother, sister, and I;
    We all died within the space of one short year;
They be all buried at Wimble, except I,
    And I be buried here.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here lies the body of Old Man Pease
Resting quietly 'neath flowers and trees.
But Pease is not here, just the pod -
Pease shelled out and went to God.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Limericks - the first is by Edward Lear, the rest are anonymous.

Said a great Congragational preacher
To a hen, 'You're a beautiful creature."
    The hen, just for that,
    Laid an egg in his hat,
And thus did the hen reward Beecher.

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
    Said the fly, "Let us flee."
    Said the flea, "Let us fly."
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

A handsome young noble of Spain,
Met a lion one day in the rain
    He ran in a fright
    With all of his might,
But the lion, he ran with his mane!

A girl who weighed many an oz.
Used language I dared not pronoz.
    For a fellow unkind
    Pulled her chair out behind
Just to see (so he said) if she'd boz.

(You have to say this next one with a British accent)

An opera star named Maria
Always tried to sing higher and higher
    Till she hit a high note
    Which got stuck in her throat --
Then she entered the Heavenly Choir.

A housewife called out with a frown
When surprised by some callers from town,
    "In a minute or less
    I'll slip on a dress" --
But she slipped on the stairs and came down.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

In honor of the birth of my firstborn, eighteen years ago

George MacDonald

Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.

Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes left in.

Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand strok’d it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.

Whence that three-corner’d smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs’ wings.

How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

"To a Young Lady"
William Cowper

Sweet stream that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My affection for Diana Wynne Jones got me started on Donne - one of his poems is the key to a problem in one of her novels, and she has a character who quotes or alludes to him regularly. He points out such details that I would never notice - but have been noticing them myself since reading this poem, "The Crosse":

Since Christ embrac'd the Crosse it selfe, dare I
His image, th'image of His Cross, deny?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen Altar to despise?
It bore all other sinnes, but is it fit
That it should beare the sinne of scorning it?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he flye his paines, who there did dye?
From mee no Pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandall taken, shall this Crosse withdraw,
It shall not, for it cannot; for the losse
Of this Crosse were to mee another Crosse.
Better were worse, for no affliction,
No Crosse is so extreme, as to have none;
Who can blot out the Crosse, which th'instrument
Of God dew'd on mee in the Sacrament?
Who can deny mee power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine owne Crosse to be?
Swimme, and at every stroake thou art thy Crosse,
The Mast and yard make one, where seas do tosse.
Looke downe, thou spiest out Crosses in small things;
Looke up, thou seest birds rais'd on crossed wings;
All the Globes frame, and spheares, is nothing else
But the Meridians crossing Parallels.
Materiall Crosses then, good physicke bee,
But yet spirituall have chiefe dignity.
These for extracted chemique medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve.
Then are you your own physicke, or need none,
When Still'd or purg'd by tribulation.
For when that Crosse ungrudg'd unto you stickes,
Then are you to yourselfe a Crucifixe.
As perchance, Carvers do not faces make:
But that away, which hid them there, do take.
Let Crosses, soe, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be his image, or not his, but hee.
But, as oft Alchemists doe coyners prove,
So may a selfe-despising, get selfe-love.
And then as worst surfets, of best meates bee,
Soe is pride, issued from humility,
For, 'tis no child, but monster; therefore Crosse
Your joy in crosses, else, 'tis double losse,
And crosse thy senses, else, both they, and thou
Must perish soone, and to destruction bowe.
For if the'eye seeke good objects, and will take
No crosse from bad, wee cannot 'scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sowre, stinking, crosse the rest,
Make them indifferent; call nothing best.
But most the eye needs crossing, that can rome,
And move; To th'other th'objects must come home.
And crosse thy heart; for that in man alone
Pants downewards, and hath palpitation.
Crosse those dejections, when it downeward tends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the braine through bony walls doth vent
By sutures, which a Crosses forme present,
So when thy braine workes, ere thou utter it,
Crosse and correct concupiscence of witt.
Be covetous of Crosses; let none fall;
Crosse no man else, but crosse thyself in all.
Then doth the Crosse of Christ work faithfully
Within our hearts, when wee love harmlessly
The Crosses pictures much, and with more care
That Crosses children, which our Crosses are.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

One of the more interesting, and even enlightening, things about living this agrarianish life is seeing the reality behind so many metaphors. The first time it happened, I was watching our goats eating. Goats, don't graze like cows, they browse - a little of this, a bite of that, a nibble here, a taste there. It was kind of funny thinking of all the times I've used that word while shopping or visiting a library and not realizing that it's actually a metaphor.

I used to think Don't cry over spilt milk meant not to regret the loss of such a little thing, but let me tell you, when we've worked so hard to get that milk, and especially when we only had one doe and the milk was very precious, I must say that I have actually cried over spilt milk.

Did you know that when you cut a chicken's head off, it really flops around like a chicken with its head cut off? Only I can't say it actually "runs around," which is what I always pictured. Running would denote some intent. It just flaps its wings and hops, in a wild, frantic randomness here and there.

I've seen the wanton devastation resulting from letting a fox in the henhouse, and I know the disgusting lechery of a young buck as well as the capricious behaviour of a bunch of capering goats.

But the most recent one is a word I'd rather not have learnt in such a personal fashion: the throes of death. One of our beloved goats died last week, with her head resting silently in Mike's lap, neck strecthing, legs circling slowly, as she strained uselessly in patient agony against the coming death, before taking one last long shuddering breath.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Most of my favorite poems tell a story - some of them use nonsense language, like "anyone lived in a pretty how town," some are bittersweet like "My Papa's Waltz," and some are fun and fanciful, like this one:

"The Duel"
by Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
        The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
        Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I wasn't there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
        While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
        Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind:   I'm only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
        Employing every tooth and claw
        In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don't fancy I exaggerate—
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
        But the truth about the cat and pup
        Is this:   they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.)

The first (actually, the only) poem I remember memorizing for recitation, and just about the only one I can still recite from memory is on everybody's "favorites" list, but I'm going to post it anyway - Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky."

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
        Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
        And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
        The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
        The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
        Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
        And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
        The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
        And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
        The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
        He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
        Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
        He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
        Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
        And the mome raths outgrabe.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Pied Beauty"
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
        And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
        With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                      Praise him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another favorite

"My Papa's Waltz"
by Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

... but here's one of my favorites

"anyone lived in a pretty how town"
by E.E. Cummings *

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Trying to play catch-up never works
In my education, I'm woefully behind in the poetry department, and, this being National Poetry Month and all, I've been reading quite a lot lately. Too much, it turns out.

In her post this morning Cindy says, "I am not unaware that this desire for peace is a sin." That reminded me of a poem and I was going to post it, but alas, I can't find it now - I thought it was Donne, but it wasn't in the anthology of English poets I thought I'd read it in, and I can't remember enough of it to google it. It was something about how, when God made man, he gave us all wonderful gifts, except for contentment, and he kept that back, knowing that if we were truly content with life here, we'd forget to be thankful to the one who gave us everything.

I don't actually agree with the sentiment since it's been my own experience that lack of contentment (with the sovereignty of God, ultimately) is caused by lack of thankfulness, but I was so proud of myself for having a poem to post, and quite disappointed that I can't find in the midst of all the poetry I've been reading lately.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
    Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel
    Into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
    Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot
    Through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today;
    Christ has burst his prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death
    As a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins,
    Long and dark, is flying
From his light, to whom we give
    Laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright
    With the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts,
    Comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem,
    Who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains
    Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,
    Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal
    Hold thee as a mortal;
But to-day amidst thine own
    Thou didst stand, bestowing
That thy peace which evermore
    Passeth human knowing.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

St. John of Damascus, 8th century
tr. J.M. Neale, 1853

Friday, April 13, 2007

Our Nubian doeling, Winter, had her first kids yesterday afternoon, after a short and uneventful labor.

The one on the right is the oldest by about two minutes. We're calling them Tom and Huck... for now. We've been known to change our minds before.

Mama Winter is doing fine. Isn't she cute?

What form of poetry are you?

I am heroic couplets; most precise
And fond of order. Planned and structured. Nice.
I know, of course, just what I want; I know,
As well, what I will do to make it so.
This doesn't mean that I attempt to shun
Excitement, entertainment, pleasure, fun;
But they must keep their place, like all the rest;
They might be good, but ordered life is best.
What Poetry Form Are You?

HT: Carmon

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Over at Favorite Apron talk has turned to hats for men, and it inspired me to set off again in search of information on the proper wearing of hats, no easy task.

After wearing a hat to work every day for nearly twenty-two years in the Air Force, Mike wanted me to get him something to wear to the office where he works as a civilian in his retirement (hah!) and of course he needs something on when working out in the sun around here.

This latter was easy enough to find - we bought this leather one, which is especially nice for cool damp weather, at the local feed store.

And this one that he wears in warmer weather, was practically a no-brainer:

Notice that neither of these hats is a cowboy hat, which would have been by far the easiest thing to find. They are everywhere - the feed store, the Tractor Supply Store, Wal-Mart, gas stations, the mall... everywhere. But Mike doesn't own a single pair of cowboy boots, and since we own neither cows nor horses it's not likely that he'll ever own a pair. It's my opinion that man's hat (well, probably a woman's too for that matter, but we're talking about men's hats here) ought to go with his shoes, and his shoes ought to be appropriate to the activity at hand. Mike usually does his farm work in the rubber boots you see here, or in a pair of leather military issue boots, and the straw farm and leather outback hats seemed to be more fitting than anything else I've seen.

A harder task was finding something for him to wear to the office, and this is where I first started trying to find out what the etiquette is for what kind of hat to wear where. There's some information on proper behavior when wearing a hat - taking it off in church, for instance - but precious little about different kinds of hats and when and where it's appropriate to wear them.

My 1950s copy of Emily Post's Blue Book of Social Usage is not very helpful since not only is our lifestyle not formal, but we don't even live in a formal era. I'm not opposed to moving slightly in the direction of more formality, hoisting the culture up so to speak, but I certainly don't want my husband to look ridiculous - like he's in a costume or something. He doesn't even own a suit, so whatever hat I chose for him needed to be dressier than his farm hat, but still informal.

I don't have a photo of the first "office" hat I bought for him, but it was a straw hat along the lines of the one above, but smaller in scale - a narrower brim and such. For the fall, I finally hit upon this wool tweed driving cap:

Nice, isn't it?

His office "suit" is usually an oxford-cloth shirt (sometimes flannel as you see above), trousers, and burgundy oxfords or brown loafers, with a sweater (pullover or cardigan) in cool weather. Casualish, but nice.

But now it's spring again and I was still dissatisfied with his old warm-weather office hat, not to mention the fact that it was falling apart, being a pretty cheap thing, so I've been looking around again, asking the questions, What is the right style? and What is the right material?

My daddy never wore hats, but I remembered something he told me about my grandfather. Granddaddy was an engineer (that is, he drove a train) and a farmer, so he usually wore his pinstriped overalls and engineers cap, and boots, but he was also the mayor his small town for many years, and of course, the men of that generation always wore a suit to church. Daddy told me that Granddaddy had four dress hats: two felt ones (a black and a grey) for winter, and two straw ones (a black and an ivory) for summer.

So, armed with this informatin, I set off hunting for some kind of dress hat in straw. My mental image was of Bogart - a fedora of some sort. It took a lot of googling around, but I finally found something I really like - a Panama.

I chose this putty color over either black or ivory, thinking that those colors would be too formal.

Well. Another time, maybe I'll discuss actual hat etiquette - from an historical perspective, at least. There seem to be only about three rules for wearing hats nowadays, but I'm in favor of moving in a slightly more formal direction, and there's no reason to reinvent the wheel, now is there?
Look - a Dufflepud!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

"On the Resurrection of Christ"
William Dunbar

Done is a battell on the dragon blak,
Our campioun Chryst confountit hes his force;
The gettis of Hell ar brokin with a crak,
The signe triumphall rasit is of the Croce,
The divillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis ar borrowit and to the blis can go,
Chryst with His blud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungin is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The crewall serpent with the mortall stang,
The auld kene tegir with his teith on char,
Quhilk in a wait hes lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clowis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it wer so,
He maid him for to felye of that fang:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice wes dicht,
Is lyk a lyone rissin up agane,
And as a gyane raxit Him on hicht;
Sprungin is Aurora, radius and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorius Appollo,
The blisfull day depairtit fro the nycht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit Victour agane is rissin on hicht
That for our querrell to the deth wes woundit;
The sone that wox all paill now schynis bricht,
And dirknes clerit, our fayth is now refoundit.
The knell of mercy fra the hevin is soundit,
The Cristin ar deliverit of thair wo,
The Jowis and thair errour ar confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battell is done ceis,
The presone brokin, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeoun temit,
The ransoun maid, the presoneris redemit,
The feild is win, ourcumin is the fo,
Dispulit of the tresur that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

(Click here if you need translation or notes.)