Tag Archives: 2013

Advent: Away in a Manger variation

When I was growing up, I learned three tunes for “Away in a Manger.”

Two of these versions are fairly common, but I have only ever heard one rendition of my favorite. It is from an album you will hear me reference more than once in this series. It is “Home for Christmas,” and it is a compilation holiday album produced by The Book of the Month Club back in 1982. Individual tracks can be found on other albums, but the whole is tough to find. You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

“Away In a Manger,” as sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt, is a very different song. Instead of being mild and sweet (sometimes too sweet for my tastes), it is haunting. You can buy their rendition here, on the Shout For Joy album.

Away in a Manger
by unknown writer, misattributed to Martin Luther

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Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.

I love thee, Lord Jesus. Look down from the sky!

And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care

And take us to heaven to live with thee there.

.

Listen here:  Away In a Manger, sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt

Even with the poor quality of the recording (taken from an album loved nearly into nonexistence), if this doesn’t give you chills, I will be very much surprised.


Advent: O Magnum Mysterium

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love Christmas. Not the commercialism, insanity, or kitsch associated with it, but the time with my family, the music and carols that I like (usually not the ones heard in department stores), the food, the warmth, the giving and the sparkles.

My ideal Christmas is simple, intimate and serene. I like time to contemplate the birth of my Savior and its surrounding events, and I like time spent with kith and kin.

In the spirit of this kind of Christmas celebration, I decided to have my own little Advent Countdown on my blog. As music is one of my favorite aspects of this holiday, I will post some of my favorite carols through December 25th. I wanted to do this daily, but time simply will not allow. Therefore, I will confine myself to three posts a week, plus one extra for Christmas Eve. This leaves me with a lot of beloved songs un-shared, but perhaps I can make this a yearly tradition.

May these posts bring you joy!

First, a song that I grew up with, one that captures some of the Great Mystery that surrounds the world we live in. Creation is strange and familiar, patterned and unpredictable, lucid and murky.

O Magnum Mysterium

by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

.

O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.
Alleluia!

.

Translation:

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!
O blessed is the Virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

There is a more extended version of this song to a different composition, but this is the version that moves me the most. Just listen to the following performance by New York Polyphony:

Video © New York Polyphony

For more beautiful Advent music, visit Patty Mitchell’s blog Oboeinsight and her Advent Series. Her starting choice is one of my all-time favorite songs of any kind, Veni, veni Emmanuel.


Writer’s Dirge

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To create a thing,
to hold it,
to read it,
to see it,
and never to know it.
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The dread word stands in my way.
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“Impossible.”
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Only if I could forget it, forget myself, forget every pen-stroke, key-stroke, moment of inspiration and frustration; only then could I know this thing as itself.
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I have the misfortune to be inside, looking out; never outside, looking in.
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Perhaps readers envy the intimate knowledge writers have of their own work. When I was younger, I might even have been guilty of such misunderstanding.
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Now I know better.
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I am too close to the canvas to ever see the picture. No amount of earthly time can give me the distance I need because the picture itself is indelibly engraved in me.
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Never  will I walk up to a shelf, see a title or a cover that interests, lift this story up, and judge it as the thing it is.
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Knowing a thing too well can mean not being able to know it at all.
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The implications are overwhelming, ironic, and inescapable. I cannot know my own work save in brief glimpses through the eyes of others.
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That is how it is, and how it must be, and I must accept it and continue.
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The joys of writing and the chance of giving something precious (as many books have been to me) to someone else, are far greater than this little shard of horror. But there will always, I think, be a part of me that is sad that I cannot split myself in two and read, as only a person other than me can, my own work.
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It is not that I think my work great, or that I worry it is bad. I have spoken of that already. It is my simple desire to know it.
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I want to write a book, and read it too. But I have discovered a sad truth of writers.
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The stories we can never read, are our own.
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Internet Archive Fire

Hold on, let me put on my librarian glasses.

~O-O~

Ok. Whether on not you have noticed, I mentioned and linked different parts of the Internet Archive in past posts, and I keep a few links to it in my sidebar.

Normally, I would just set back and let you find your own way there. But that was before the fire.

Yeah, I said Fire. I don’t often think of internet things as being flammable, but they are, after all, housed in buildings in some form or another.

The good news is, no one was hurt. The bad news is, a building belonging to a not-for-profit that, in my opinion, is a great benefit to humanity, burned down, and some materials went up with it (but thankfully no data). You can read all about it here.

I am going to donate to help them recoup. I feel what they are doing is vitally important to preserving our history and I think they do an amazing job. I will tell you a little about what they do, and let you decide whether to visit their site, or even donate yourself.

I first stumbled across Internet Archive when I was in college. I was concerned about the ephemeral nature of websites. A remarkable amount of human history plays out online, now, and then a url changes, or a server goes down, and poof! A chunk of history is gone. There is little chance that someone has a second copy sitting in a trunk in the attic.

Then I discovered Internet Archive, and learned that they had been archiving websites since the 90’s.

Allow me to put this in context with a personal story.  I first put my writing up for public scrutiny on a site called Elfwood. Then, one day, Elfwood crashed and we lost months of data. We all thought it was gone beyond recall, and one of my friends had also suffered a computer-crash around the same time.

The result was that she lost a piece of writing.

A little while later, when I discovered Internet Archive, I thought “what if…” and I searched their database (amusingly called The Wayback Machine). After searching for a while, the files are hit and miss sometimes, I found my friend’s work and I shared the link with her.

So remember, when you return to that link you’ve saved, and find that it leads nowhere?  All might not be lost. Copy the url and take yourself over to the Wayback Machine.

Internet Archive has started collections of internet ephemera connected to big events as they happen. They also preserve a lot of the random bunny trails of humanity that historians of the future may find far more interesting than we do now.

But that isn’t all! My own library contracts with Internet Archive to preserve our State websites and online documents. It is the most efficient way to preserve and provide access to our state’s online history. Many other institutions contract with them as well.

Internet Archive is also a lot of fun. I suggest going to explore, because you will find things I haven’t, but I go there to watch old movies that are in the public domain, listen to music, enjoy audio-books (Librivox partners with Internet Archive to produce free public domain audio books!), books, podcasts and Old Time radio shows. They even have a software archive!

If you have ever heard of Open Library, that is them, too. In short, they have something for pretty much everyone, and unlike for-profit companies, they believe strongly in the freedom of information.

So wander off to Internet Archive and poke around for a bit. I hope you will be surprised and pleased by what you find.

Librarian out.


Voice Week Day 4

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Voice Week Day IV! The Empty House Comes for You!

Or not. In all honesty, it probably just sits there. Go read what the others are writing as well. Shoo!

A slip, a trip on leaves and I was down. A bad fall. Panic, freezing me one moment, had me on my feet the next. No stopping!

Skirt, wet, wrapped around my legs. Too slow, no hope. But then I saw a house! I tried to shout, but a sob came. Better shot for a trespasser than hunted in the dark. I ran to the porch, hammered the door.

I would cry! Beg! Let me in! But the door fell open. One deep breath had me inside.

Nobody home, but what did that matter? I turned and barred the door.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 5


Voice Week Day 3

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The Empty House rides again! Or somesuch nonsense sequel name. My third installment for Voice Week! If you are enjoying this, you can read more if you click the above link, or even participate in it yourself!

Not even a dog came t’ answer my shout. Takin a chance, I walked on to the porch. Nobody s’much as looked out the winder. My knock weren’t answered, neither, so I made the cust’mary shout, again, then went on to talkin.

“Sir? Ma’m? I been sent up here t’ check on you. Seems you ain’t been to town in a while.”

Nothin. I knocked again, then pushed, and the door ground open. Not good. I raised my lantern. Inside looked for all the world like they’d tidied up after supper, then turned to smoke.  Nothin missin but the folks and a fire in the grate.

~


Fireworks Day

“Remember, remember! The fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and plot; I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot!”

The quirkiness of the history and celebration of this holiday fascinate me. Melpomene has some thoughts to share, as well as the whole rhyme, which I have never heard!

Egotist's Club

Also known as Guy Fawkes Day, and the Fifth of November. (As in, “Remember, remember . . . “)

Guy Fawkes is most know for being the one person caught in reference to the “Gunpowder Plot”, which was meant to blow up the British Parliament and thus restore a Catholic Monarch to the throne. Fawkes was tortured into describing the plot, and then carted off to execution.  However, before he could be hung, drawn and quartered he committed suicide by jumping from the gallows.

In defense of Catholic theology and reason, I must emphasize the point that Fakes was raised as in the Church of England. All of which clearly left poor Guy confused about right and wrong and intent versus consequence. Neither suicide nor murder have ever been condoned by us Papists. Or Anglicans, as far as I know. However, Guy, being as loopy as he must have been…

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Voice Week Day 2

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And it is time for another installment of the Empty House saga for Voice Week! All mystery and no answers! Don’t forget to check out the other participants!

So, I tossed a meatbone by the porch and waited. Nothing happened, so I snuck up-side the place and checked a window. It was so damned dark that I couldn’t case the inside, but it had an empty feeling, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, since no dog came for the bone or my ankles, I went round and checked the chimney. It was dead cold, and I just knew my luck was in.

I was right, too. The door wasn’t even locked, which did worry me a little, but it was worth risking. I opened up my lantern and  set to work.

~


Voice Week Day 1

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This year, I am participating in Voice Week, a writing contest invented by BeKindReWrite. This contest involves writing about the same situation from the perspectives of five different characters (or narrators/perspectives) and posting one a day from November 4th to November 8th. Each piece can only be around 100 words long, and in that space I am supposed to establish a unique voice that tells you something about the character. I have a hard time adapting my vocabulary to voices, so this ought to be a good stretch for me.  Also, you can go to the main page linked above to read and comment on the work of others who are also participating.

The scene or situation which I took on was an empty house. I hope you find it entertaining!

They give me assignments no one wants, and this seemed no different. I shouted at the edge of the yard, according to local custom, and no one shot me, but no one answered, either.

Cautiously, I mounted the porch and shouted again, identifying myself. There was no answer. By this time, I was actually curious. I knocked, and then slowly opened the door.

Once out of the moonlight, my eyes adjusted to their native dark and I saw an empty, but orderly room. I thought that finally there might be something interesting going on. They gave me the assignment, they were not going to take it from me.

~

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5


The Listeners

For the Halloween season, have one of my favorite poems. I do not like to be scared, but there is something in mystery and a chilling thrill that I have always loved. This piece walks that line as well as anything I have ever read. Enjoy!

Picture by Patrick Garrington on Public Domain Pictures http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=34018&picture=church-door

Picture by Patrick Garrington on Public Domain Pictures

The Listeners
by Walter de la Mare (1873–1956)

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.
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Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

P.S. This is my 100th blog post! Blue Blistering Barnacles!


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