"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lewis Carroll - Dreamland


When midnight mists are creeping,
And all the land is sleeping,
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away.
Lo, warriors, saints, and sages,
From out the vanished ages,
With solemn pace and reverend face
Appear and pass away.
The blaze of noonday splendour,
The twilight soft and tender,
May charm the eye: yet they shall die,
Shall die and pass away.
But here, in Dreamland's centre,
No spoiler's hand may enter,
These visions fair, this radiance rare,
Shall never pass away.
I see the shadows falling,
The forms of old recalling;
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away.


Lewis Carroll


 

Monday, December 16, 2013

John Greenleaf Whittier - Barbara Frietchie


Introduction
http://myweb.northshore.edu/users/sherman/whittier/abolitionist/ft_barbarafrietchie.html

"This poem was written in strict conformity to the account of the incident as I had it from respectable and trustworthy sources. It has since been the subject of a good deal of conflicting testimony, and the story was probably incorrect in some of its details. It is admitted by all that Barbara Frietchie was no myth, but a worthy and highly esteemed gentlewoman, intensely loyal and a hater of the Slavery Rebellion, holding her Union flag sacred and keeping it with her Bible; that when the Confederates halted before her house, and entered her dooryard, she denounced them in vigorous language, shook her cane in their faces, and drove them out; and when General Burnside's troops followed close upon Jackson's, she waved her flag and cheered them. It is stated that May Qnantrell, a brave and loyal lady in another part of the city, did wave her flag in sight of the Confederates. It is possible that there has been a blending of the two incidents." - JGW


Barbara Frietchie

Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn.

The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,

Fair as the garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,

On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain-wall;

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,

Flapped in the morning wind: the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.

"Halt!"--the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
"Fire!"--out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word.

"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.

All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet.

All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;

And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.

Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall's bier.

Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;

And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!


- John Greenleaf Whittier



* * * * * * * * * * * *


Commentary on Barbara Frietchie

As a Quaker during wartime, Whittier struggled to write patriotic poetry that wasn’t warlike, he heard a story that inspired such a poem. It was the story of Barbara Frietchie. As in many of his “historical” poems, Whittier used poetic license. When it became controversial, he wrote an introduction:

“This poem was written in strict conformity to the account of the incident as I had it from respectable and trustworthy sources. It has since been the subject of a good deal of conflicting testimony, and the story was probably incorrect in some of the details. It is admitted by all that Barbara Frietchie was no myth, but a worthy and highly esteemed gentlewoman, intensely loyal and a hater of the Slavery Rebellion, holding her Union flag sacred and keeping it with her Bible; that when the Confederates halted before her house, and entered her dooryard, she denounced them in vigorous language, shook her cane in their faces, and drove them out; and when General Burnside’s troops followed close upon Jackson’s she waved her flag and cheered them. It is stated that May Quantrell, a brave and loyal lady in another part of the city, did wave her flag in sight of the Confederates. It is possible that there has been a blending of the two incidents.”

The incident took place in Frederick, Maryland, when the Confederate troops marched in. That morning there had been 40 Union flags flying, but by noon, when the Confederate troops entered, they had all disappeared.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic window the staff she set, 
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.

He orders his men to fire on it, and

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.


She leans out the window and says the words that school children were to remember for generations:

“Shoot if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

And the reaction of Stonewall Jackson is just as memorable:

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word:

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” He said.

All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Barbara represented one of Whittier’s favorite themes: the effectiveness of non-violent action.



* * * * * * * * * * * *


Background of Poem - Barbara Fritchie

Last modified on 8 November 2013 at 17:50



For the play based on this historical character, see Barbara Frietchie.

Barbara Fritchie in 1862
Barbara Fritchie (née Hauer) (December 3, 1766 – December 18, 1862), also known as Barbara Frietchie, and sometimes spelled Frietschie,[1] was a Unionist during the Civil War. She was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and married John Casper Fritchie, a glove maker, on May 6, 1806.

Biography

She was a friend of Francis Scott Key and they participated together in a memorial service at Frederick, Maryland, when George Washington died. A central figure in the history of Frederick, she lived in a house that has, in modern times, become a stop on the town's walking tour. According to one story, at the age of 95 she waved the Union flag in the middle of the street to block, or at least antagonize Stonewall Jackson's troops, as they passed though Frederick in the Maryland Campaign. This event is the subject of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem of 1864, Barbara Frietchie. When Winston Churchill passed through Frederick in 1943, with President Roosevelt on their way to Shangra-la (nowCamp David), he recited the poem from memory,[2] an excerpt of which follows.
"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;
"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.....
Barbara Fritchie died at the age of 96 and was interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Frederick City, Maryland.

Barbara Fritchie House and Museum

The Barbara Fritchie House and Museum is located at 154 West Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland. It is a 1927 reconstruction, based on the original house, which was washed away during a storm.[3]

In Her Honor

One of the Mid-Atlantic states' top ten horse races was named in her honor; it is one of only seven Grade I or Grade II races run in the state of Maryland. The Barbara Fritchie Handicap is an American race for thoroughbred horses, run at Laurel Park Racecourse in Laurel, Maryland each year. A Grade II race, it is open to fillies and mares age three and up, whose owners are willing to race them seven furlongs on the dirt. It offers a purse of $300,000, and has been run since 1952.

Authenticity of poem

The flag incident in the poem likely never occurred, however, as Barbara Fritchie was sick in bed that day. She told the housekeeper to hide all valuables to prevent looting, and to take in the U.S. flag that hung outside, but it was never moved, and as a result was shot up by the Confederate troops. Accounts differ as to how the legend that inspired the poem arose. The flag, a symbol of the need for myth in times of war, may be seen in the Barbara Fritchie House and Museum.

History disproves the poem with the fact that the Confederate troops never passed by her house. Although they were within range of sight, they would only have been heard by Mrs. Fritchie if they had yelled to her at the top of their lungs.

The troops marched south on Bentz Street and turned west on Patrick Street. To have passed Barbara Fritchie's house, they would have needed to turn east and march a minimum of 1000 feet to have been at her door.[4]

The woman who inspired the poem, and who was brandishing the flag in front of the Confederate troops, was actually Mary Quantrell who lived on Patrick Street.[5]



Monday, December 9, 2013

Trumbull Stickney - "In the Past" (poem)

In the Past

There lies a somnolent lake
Under a noiseless sky,
Where never the mornings break
Nor the evenings die.

Mad flakes of colour
Whirl on its even face
Iridescent and streaked with pallour;
And, warding the silent place,

The rocks rise sheer and gray
From the sedgeless brink to the sky
Dull-lit with the light of pale half-day
Thro’ a void space and dry.

And the hours lag dead in the air
With a sense of coming eternity
To the heart of the lonely boatman there:
That boatman am I,

I, in my lonely boat,
A waif on the somnolent lake,
Watching the colours creep and float
With the sinuous track of a snake.

Now I lean o’er the side
And lazy shades in the water see,
Lapped in the sweep of a sluggish tide
Crawled in from the living sea;

And next I fix mine eyes,
So long that the heart declines,
On the changeless face of the open skies
Where no star shines;

And now to the rocks I turn,
To the rocks, around
That lie like walls of a circling sun
Wherein lie bound

The waters that feel my powerless strength
And meet my homeless oar
Labouring over their ashen length
Never to find a shore.

But the gleam still skims
At times on the somnolent lake,
And a light there is that swims
With the whirl of a snake;

And tho’ dead be the hours i’ the air,
And dayless the sky,
The heart is alive of the boatman there:
That boatman am I.


- Trumbull Stickney, 1874-1904


 

Trumbull Stickney - "And, the Last Day Being Come, Man Stood Alone" (poem)

And, the Last Day Being Come, Man Stood Alone

And, the last day being come, Man stood alone
Ere sunrise on the world’s dismantled verge,
Awaiting how from everywhere should urge
The Coming of the Lord. And, behold, none

Did come,—but indistinct from every realm
Of earth and air and water, growing more
And louder, shriller, heavier, a roar
Up the dun atmosphere did overwhelm

His ears; and as he looked affrighted round
Every manner of beast innumerable
All thro’ the shadows crying grew, until
The wailing was like grass upon the ground.

Asudden then within his human side
Their anguish, since the goad he wielded first,
And, since he gave them not to drink, their thirst,
Darted compressed and vital.—As he died,

Low in the East now lighting gorgeously
He saw the last sea-serpent iris-mailed
Which, with a spear transfixèd, yet availed
To pluck the sun down into the dead sea.


- Trumbull Stickney, 1874-1904