Thursday, April 27, 2017

First Sleep and Second Sleep

However, historical evidence, borne out by scientific studies, suggests that lying awake in the middle of the night was a normal part of the way our ancestors slept—so normal, in fact, that the night was broken into two chunks, “first sleep” and “second sleep.” The two sleeping periods were interrupted by an hour or two of quiet activity, in which people prayed, discussed their dreams, chatted about the day’s events, performed household chores, smoked, or had sex. Darker activities are also said to have been common during these late hours: jealous husbands alleged that their wives used the time to fly off to the witch’s Sabbaths; petty thieves took advantage of the darkness to steal from dockyards and orchards, among other crimes.

More here.

So perhaps Matins in the middle of the night for monks and nuns was not such an extraordinary thing to do.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Reeds but no Pipes

Clive Williams plays a knockout version of Morpeth Rant on the melodeon.  No hidden meaning or relevant connection to the day that's in it.  I just like the tune and the playing here is outstanding.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The English Hymnal

I've lost track of who cited  me to this piece on The English Hymnal.  It's a lovely read full of good sense about many things including communal singing in general.  I was interested at first since this was our little parish's first choice of hymnal.  Alas, the few copies we could find were too expensive for our budget.

The musical editor of The English Hymnal was the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This task came at an early stage in his career, and he told the story of how it began with an unexpected visit: 
It must have been in 1904 that I was sitting in my study in Barton Street, Westminster, when a cab drove up to the door and ‘Mr. Dearmer’ was announced. I just knew his name vaguely as a parson who invited tramps to sleep in his drawing room; but he had not come to me about tramps. He went straight to the point and asked me to edit the music of a hymn book. I protested that I knew very little about hymns but he explained that Cecil Sharp had suggested my name […] and the final clench was given when I understood that if I did not do the job it would be offered to a well-known Church musician with whose musical ideas I was much out of sympathy.
The rest of the essay can be found here.  It's worth a click and a read.

As something of an aside, Mr Dearmer is he of The Parson's Handbook fame.  And Cecil Sharp, aside from being the fons et origo of English folk music collecting was also one of the principal founders of the EFDSS.

Friday, April 14, 2017

And again . . . .

The world is on fire; and it looks as though they would like to condemn Christ anew, so to speak, for they keep bringing up endless accusations; they are trying to wreck His Church.  For the love of God beg His Majesty to hear our prayers in this regard; and I--wretch that I am--will also beg Him for the same thing, since His glory and the good of His Church are at stake. 
There is nothing I want apart from this.
S Teresa of Avila, -The Way of Perfection

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spy Wednesday

Luke chapter 22 beginning the first verse:

Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.
And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.
And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.
And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.

Here the Clerk of  Oxford gives us a Middle English poem in which Judas has an excuse (of sorts) for his betrayal.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Phoenix from the Ashes

Still making my way very slowly through H.J.A. Sire's Phoenix from the Ashes, a brilliant but not very optimistic book.  The progress would be a lot quicker if I didn't find something to highlight in almost every paragraph.

This isn't a review, if for no other reason than that I haven't finished it yet.  A short review can be found at the link above.  But I did want to give some sort of introduction before posting a few of my highlighted and underlined excerpts.  This isn't much of an introduction but it will have to do for now.

". . .how closely our time repeats the tide of barbarism which, in the fifth century, overwhelmed the security and culture of the Roman Empire. Despite the cushions of artificial progress that surround us,  our frontiers have been pierced and the standards of civilisation overthrown.  We are like the Romans in the kingdom of Theodoric.  The city still stands, recognisable in its main landmarks though battered by two destructive invasions; the toga is still worn by ancient nobles, beside the uncouth jackets of the invaders; the senate and consuls rehearse their solemn rites; but only the weak-minded deceive themselves.  The barbarians are in control.  Those who have not been taught to despise the greatness of the past are left to clutch, like Boethius, at the last tatters of literature and philosophy."  

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Earthquakes I Have Known

Ever since the destruction began last August I've been following news about the earthquakes in Norcia, principally Hilary's blogs, the bulletins from the monks, and assorted Italian sites with the help of and (Literalism isn't all it's cracked up to be; what's really needed is a translation service that does dynamic equivalence, if you'll pardon the phrase.)

We've sent prayers and a few bucks. And we ourselves have finally gotten something we've never had before, even living as we do 4 or 5 miles from one of the San Andreas fault's tributaries. We now have earthquake insurance. It's not great insurance. It doesn't cover everything, the deductible is rather high, and the premium is higher than we'd like. But if the house is flattened -- and we survive -- it'll be something to carry on with.

This is from Google maps and if you're using the Opera browser you can click on it and make it gigantic:

What you're looking at is 7th Street in Long Beach CA. The V.A. hospital is on the left and there's a shopping center on the right. You see how 7th Street is on one level and the CVS pharmacy drops down to a lower level? That's the fault line. I could probably drive there in 10 or 15 minutes depending on the traffic.

I rather enjoyed my first earthquake. That was the Tehachapi quake. I was four. It woke me up and bounced the bed around the room. I was delighted. I had no idea the bed could do that. When my mother rushed into the room to comfort me I asked when it would happen again. She assured me that it was all over now. You can imagine my disappointment. A ride like that on the mechanical horse at the supermarket cost a nickel. Nickels didn't come easy to four-year-olds in 1952.  This ride was free.

My grandfather's reaction was slightly different than mine but still became part of family legend. When my aunt ran into his room with "Oh, dad, dad, it's an earthquake!" his response was "Thank God. I thought it was a heart-attack."

In any event, my mother was wrong. It wasn't all over for good. There were aftershocks. Once again, I was in bed for the next big one. And now I wouldn't get up. My mother thought I was too afraid to get up. But, in fact, I now believed that, much like Santa Claus, the earthquakes wouldn't come unless I was in bed. I did get up eventually, albeit reluctantly, and life went on.

As did earthquakes in southern California. The next one I really remember was the Sylmar quake. By now I was in my 20s and no longer quite so sanguine about earthquakes. In my 20's indeed, but once again in bed. I remember being awakened -- or half awakened -- and looking up at the Grundig Satellit

on my headboard and thinking "If that falls on my head, it is really going to hurt." And then, rather than moving, I closed my eyes.

Yes, older but not appreciably wiser. At least not when half asleep. To be sure, it did not fall but the reasonable and prudent man really should have gotten out of the way.

 The picture below was in the Times the next day and gave me a dislike for driving under freeway overpasses that remains to this day.

The epicenter of the Whittier Narrows quake was probably the closest to our home. It happened when I was on my way to work. I was driving over a bridge across the L.A. River at the time and thought I had a flat tire. I got out to look and noticed that the entire lane of traffic thought the same thing. We had all got out to check our tires. At which point we all seemed to notice at the same time that the street lamps were still swaying. There was nothing else to do but continue on. And get off that bridge. The power was out here and there as were the traffic lights so it took a while longer to get to work. Memory says that we were sent home that day so they could check the structural integrity of the building. But I may be mistaking that for the Northridge quake a few years later.

Two things I do remember about the Northridge quake. The first was the impeccable good taste of that particular quake. Mary had -- still has -- quite a bit of Waterford. (Her father knew Somebody and got a really good deal on it.) But the quake didn't disturb any of it. All sorts of the cheap stuff, jelly glasses and dimestore stuff, went crashing down on the kitchen floor. It took a good while to get it all cleaned up. But none of the Waterford ever budged.

The other thing I remember about Northridge was that the home of a woman I worked with was damaged and red tagged. (Or was it yellow tagged? It was whichever of those means you can't go back in.) Well, she didn't want to sleep on a cot in a school gymnasium for who knows how long and she couldn't afford a hotel for the aforesaid who-knows-how-long. So we found out later that what she did was park her car in the street behind her house, walk through the adjoining back yard, and in through her own untagged and untaped back door to spend the night in her own house. I don't remember how that all worked out in the end but she apparently got away with it for a good long time.

We've had a few since but those were the really memorable ones. There was one out in the desert somewhere that we only got the tail end of.  I think I was working on the 18th floor then in the old Transamerica Centre. That building was the first of L.A.'s high rises and the builders had earthquakes in mind when it was built. Rollers are part of its foundation. (No, I don't know how that works either. But that's how it was explained to me.) We were far enough away from the center that we didn't feel a great jolt but it did start the building to swaying. Which it continued to do for quite some time . . . long after the actual earthquake had stopped. It was a very gentle sway but a few folks got quite nauseous.

Should you have an interest -- and you might if you read this far -- all of these temblors* have their own webpages thanks to Wikipedia:

Tehachapi  (They call it the "Kern County" quake.  But it's the Tehachapi.)

And now in the wake of Norcia, we have earthquake insurance.

(*All essays about earthquakes have to use the word temblor at some point. I think it may be statutory.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

A New Venture in Farming

A fascinating new enterprise is beginning on the Hebridean isle of Islay.  You can read about it here.

I suppose it is incumbent upon me to mention that this link was sent to me last Saturday, the first of April.

St Richard of Chichester . . . probably

No, I don't mean probably a saint.  Bishop Richard de Wyche is a saint all right. He was canonized by Urban IV on January 12, 1262.  And today is his feast day.


Well, the good old Catholic Encyclopædia says it is.  But there's been a whole lot of liturgical tinkering since the early part of the 20th century when the original Catholic Encyclopædia was printed.  And the old Roman Martyrology says so, too.  (But see above re: tinkering.)  Wikipedia says today sometimes is but that some folks keep it in June, Lent being well and truly over by then and a better time for keeping a feast day.  And then it says the Catholic Church still keeps it on 3 April and gives the text of St Richard's collect from the Ordinariate Missal, to wit:

MOST merciful Redeemer,
who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning,
a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor:
grant that, encouraged by his example,
and aided by his prayers,
we may know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly,
day by day;
who livest and reignest with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God,
world without end. Amen.
Except the Ordinariate calendar keeps his day on 16 June.

So take your pick.  Either day is a good day to honour a sturdy English bishop who didn't take any guff from kings or libidinous clergymen.

The good old Catholic Encyclopædia gives his life here.

Wikipedia's text is here.

This site gives a few additional facts and seems pretty certain he was a Dominican, wearing their habit.  (Perhaps 3d Order?)