While browsing one of the second-hand book-stalls at my local market, as I am wont to do on a Saturday morning, I found… THIS!
The cover caught my eye immediately: while my school crest has changed over the last hundred years, the school name – Wanganui Girls’ College – hasn’t. (The spelling of ‘Whanganui’ has changed, but that’s a don’t-mention-the-War kind of thing). Continue reading “Treasure Trove: This Really Cool ‘Prize Bound’ Book Awarded By My Old High School Nearly A Hundred Years Ago”
I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.
Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:
This short orchestral work was composed by George Butterworth (1885-1916) in 1913, and has become the best-known and most widely-performed of his small output. It’s a charming little work in the English Romantic tradition which is based on a number of folk songs, most notably a less-than-charming tale of a country lass who falls in love with a sailor, becomes pregnant and runs away to sea with him only to suffer a difficult labour. Dying, she asks her lover to throw her and the baby overboard, where they both perish. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: The Banks of Green Willow, by George Butterworth”
I read an interesting comment online recently which expressed the opinion that Christians who criticise modern worship music must be sad, lonely people who hate all music and live alone in silence with their dog. It’s probably fairly obvious from this blog that I in fact enjoy a wide range of music, including Christian music, but nonetheless I could level a number of criticisms against much (but by no means all) of the modern Christian repertoire. My key complaint, however, is the volume. Modern worship music, performed with modern electronic amplification, is often far too loud for comfort. And it’s not just me saying it…
One of my favourite hymns strikes a very different note, and it’s perhaps no wonder that it was written by a Quaker, as silence forms a key part of Quaker worship practise. The hymn is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, and it was originally written as the climax of a poem by agriculturalist, journalist and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier of Massachusetts in 1872. It is traditionally sung to F. C. Maker’s tune ‘Rest’.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
Also, I don’t have a dog. I have a cat. And chickens.
Recently on a Christian Facebook community page I belong to people were asked to name their favourite psalm. Out of about a dozen responses, something like half cited the 139th Psalm.
Its popularity is perhaps understandable: although towards the end it takes a sharp turn for the vengeful, with a cry to God to ‘slay the wicked’ and the ‘bloodthirsty’, the majority of the psalm is filled with a sense of joy and awe that the God of the universe would know and care for each one of us personally. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: Psalm 139”
As you may have gathered from my recent post on Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, Spring is already nudging its way to the forefront here in Whanganui, and the first sunny Sunday afternoon saw me blissfully out pottering in the garden. Years ago as a child I read the second to last verse of Dorothy Frances Gurney’s ‘God’s Garden’ on a garden ornament and, enchanted, committed it to memory. Those lines return to me frequently whenever I have the chance to get out and enjoy my own little slice of paradise.
The Lord God planted a garden
In the first white days of the world,
And He set there an angel warden
In a garment of light enfurled.
So near to the peace of Heaven,
That the hawk might nest with the wren,
For there in the cool of the even
God walked with the first of men.
And I dream that these garden-closes
With their shade and their sun-flecked sod
And their lilies and bowers of roses,
Were laid by the hand of God.
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,–
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
For He broke it for us in a garden
Under the olive-trees
Where the angel of strength was the warden
And the soul of the world found ease.
Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932) is little known today, and the second to last verse of this lovely poem is often quoted alone and unattributed, but she was the daughter and wife of Anglican clergymen, a convert to Catholicism with her husband in 1919, and a writer of both poems and hymns.
Recently my grandmother turned 90. It’s not easy to choose a present for a ninety-year-old, as they tend to have more or less everything they need (what my grandparents need most of all is one another: when my grandmother was in hospital with a heart condition a few years back she remarked that she missed my grandfather at night because she had no-one to put her cold feet on. “I don’t mind,” my grandfather replied, “because at least I know she’s there.” They’ve been married for almost seventy years.). But in a moment of inspiration my sister and I hit on the idea of a bottle of sherry. Continue reading “A Special Drop: Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry”
This piece is another of those things I never would have discovered without the Culture Project. Bach (Johann Sebastian) composed six cello suites between 1717 and 1723. They’ve been described as “monophonic music wherein a man has created a dance of God.” It’s a beautiful description of beautiful music. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G”
Excuse the poor quality of these pictures: they caught my eye and I had to share.