The Real Meaning of Education

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The French essayist Montaigne’s words of wisdom regarding educating children cannot be lessened by the fact that it was intended as advice to a noble woman on making a gentleman of her son.  After all, he educated his own daughter so well that, unless her father was there, she invariably outshone everyone as the best educated person in any room.

For many years I have thought that cramming 20-30 children together inside our modern schoolrooms too easily leads them to overvalue the opinions of their peers and underappreciate the knowledge (and perhaps the wisdom) of their teachers.  We would do well to heed the advice of thinkers, particularly when they exhibit a singular amount of common sense as Montaigne always does, and jettison all of the fads, experimental cliques, and popular theories regarding something so vital as the education of our children.  Educating my own sons is not a game or a social experiment, nor is it anyone else’s responsibilty.  I have striven to live up to Montaigne’s ideals, and will continue to do so, for my boys’ sakes, for as long as I live.

“…the greatest and most important difficulty of human effort is the training and education of children….Upon the choice of a tutor you shall provide for your son depends the whole success of his education and bringing up.  A gentleman born of noble parentage and heir of a house which aims at true learning should be  disciplined not so much for the practical use he could make of it – so abject an end is unworthy the grace and favour of the Muses, and, besides, bids for the regard of others – not for external use and ornament, but to adorn and enrich his inward mind, desiring rather to form an able and efficient man than a learned man….I would have the tutor make the child examine and thoroughly sift all things,  and harbour nothing by mere authority or upon trust….Study should make us wiser….To know by heart only is not to know at all….A mere bookish knowledge is useless….the society of men, the visiting of foreign countries,  observing people and strange customs, are very necessary….they should be able to give an account of the ideas, manners, customs, and laws of nations they have visited….Let him examine every one’s talent – that of a herdsman,  a mason, a stranger,  or a traveller.  A man may learn something from every one of these which he can use at some time or another.  Even the folly and weakness of others will contribute to his instruction.   By observing the graces and manners of others,  he will acquire for himself the emulation of the good and a contempt for the bad.  Let an honest curiosity be awakened in him to search out the nature and design of all things.  Let him investigate whatever is singular and rare about him – a fine building, a fountain, an eminent man, the place where a battle was anciently fought, the passage of Caesar or of Charlemagne….In this acquaintance of men,  my purpose is that he should give his chief attention to those who live in the records of history.   He shall by the aid of books inform himself of the worthiest minds of the best ages.  History is an idle study to those who choose to make it so,  but of inestimable value to such as can make use of it….It is not the mind, it is not the body we are training: it is the man, and we must not divide him into two parts….”

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Michel de Montaigne, Of the Education of Children, 1575

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Sun Dance

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Walking on Sunshine, by JF, 2013

Beamin like mornin
sun on cherry blossoms, you
danced into my heart

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Dance of Death

Melencolia I, Albrecht Durer, 1514

Melencolia I, by Albrecht Durer, 1514

Death the white goddess
whirled with Grace, Reason, and Wit
tripping night away –
Love rebuked her with a prayer
while Bard sang and Beauty smiled

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Hargreaves Haiku

220px-a_young_hare_albrect_durer.jpg.jpeg

Feldhase (Field Hare), painted by Albrecht Durer in 1502

The hare jumps to hide
within the creekside thicket –
I sit on a stone

Waiting here alone
the icy wind blows my hair –
without her I’m lost

Zipping up my coat
I hike on through Burgess Field –
too damn cold for tears

Categories: Art, England, Exploration, Literature, Love, Nature, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of the Wearing of Rings in Ancient Times

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Prehistoric Native American Rings

Rings are interesting things.  Although I have gone through certain phases of my life wearing rings or not wearing any rings at all, the reasons folks have had for wearing rings throughout prehistory and history is a fairly new interest.  I suppose it started when I noticed that a Canadian couple I met in England wear their wedding rings on the ring fingers of their right hands, instead of the more common American practice of wearing them on the ring fingers of the left hand.  An interesting discussion of such things can be found on this blog : https://humanpast.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/rings-and-things/

Shopping in an Atlanta charity shop recently, this lately dormant interest was reawakened by a serendipitous find.  What is evidently one of the classic works on rings is now happily in my possession, and is an amazing introduction to the history of rings up to that time.  Rings for the Finger: From the Earliest Known Times to the Present, with Full Descriptions of the Origin, Early Making, Materials, the Archaeology,  History, For Affection,  For Love, For Engagement, For Wedding, Commemorative, Mourning, Etc. (1917) by George Frederick Kunz is nothing if not an in depth treatise on the myriad mysteries of rings!

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Early Finger Rings

It seems that among the men of ancient Rome only senators were allowed to wear gold rings until later in the Empire when the cohesion holding together the social fabric began to melt and it became all the rage among all classes.  Also, prehistoric peoples of the  southwestern Native American tribes wore rings made of shell, some being incised with natural images like lightning and clouds.  Pre-columbian copper rings have also been unearthed in Indian mounds in Ohio, and a few stone rings, which I must presume were made of soapstone (steatite) have also been excavated in Kentucky, Tennessee, and other states.

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Kunz thought that the custom of wearing rings in the Occidental world derived ultimately from the Orient or from the  Egyptians, who reduced seals of rank worn about the neck or arm to rings for the finger.  From Egypt the practice spread to Greece and to the Etruscans, from whom the Romans adopted it.  There are even mythological tales of ring-wearing, such as the one in which Zeus freed Prometheus but commanded him to wear a ring made of one of the links of his Caucasian chain set with a tiny piece of the rock to which he had been chained.  In this manner his 30,000 year punishment could continue in a manner more healthy to his liver.  Yes, Prometheus had his own beast of burden, and it had nothing to do with alcohol!

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“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1937

Categories: Archaeology, Art, Artifacts, Cemeteries, Love, Museums | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Lonely Magpie

Magpie

The famous Scottish folk duo called the Corries, whose music I first discovered on my first visit to Culloden Battlefield before the turn of the century, have recorded many, many great songs.  Perhaps the most beautiful , though, is ” Turn Ye Tae Me.”  It was written in the 19th century by a friend of Scott, Wordsworth, & Coleridge named  John Wilson, who was a Scottish writer and academic.  Here is a link to that song as sung by the Corries, if you are interested in hearing the tune I played over and again while writing the following lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTctF1s3dsk  And here is another page with those original lyrics: http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2011/09/turn-ye-to-me.html.

——–

For Rowena Wherever She May Be

A Lonely Magpie

(Tune: Turn Ye Tae Me)

A lonely magpie haunts my dreams and sorrow is his only song

He’s missing his mate, his joy, his true love, and calls for her to come along

When will you come to me, why are we parted?

How will I live so brokenhearted?

Sweet was our song, its echoes I hear

Come home and sing again, my dear.

—-

The woods were dark and I was alone in them, then you were there and you smiled at me

Taking my hand you brought me to life again, and when I kissed you it set me free

Our hearts sang but one song and danced but to one tune

And the bright spear of joy was ours for a while;

Never a thought that we’d ever be parted,

And the music of happiness made us smile.

—-

Then in the dark I let go of your hand, and awoke without you like all was a dream

Deep in the woods I struggled to find you, but the moment had passed – not a trace could I see

White were the blossoms I placed in your hair

Smiling I saw Love in your eyes

Kisses as gentle as dew on a Rowan leaf

Forever I’ll love you – true love never dies

—-

A lonely magpie haunts my dreams and sorrow is his only song

He’s missing his mate, his joy, his true love, and calls for her to come along

When will you come to me, why are we parted?

How will I live so brokenhearted?

Sweet was our song, its echoes I hear

Come home and sing again, my dear.

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One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret,

Never to be told.

One for Sorrow, traditional English nursery rhyme spoken every time one sees a magpie

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The Old Country: Another Take on Another Auld Song

Silly Wizard Wild and Beautiful (1981) LP Cover

I did not awake planning to write new words to another folk song today.  Instead, I made some coffee and stirred the ashes of last night’s fire to get it going, and sat down with a book on hunter-gatherers!  However, the playlist I chose this morning started off automatically with “Hame, Hame, Hame” – a gorgeous song recorded by the Scottish folk band Silly Wizard for their album Wild and Beautiful (1981).  The haunting tune is borrowed from “Tha Mi Sgith” (I am Tired), also known as “Buain na Rainich” “(Cutting the Bracken), which is supposed to be a song of heartbreak by a fairy after being separated from his human girlfriend.  The lyrics of Silly Wizard’s version made me consider how sometimes home is really not where you are from, but where the heart is.  So here is my attempt to express those feelings in words set to this tune, and here is a link to Silly Wizard’s beautiful rendition of “Hame, Hame, Hame,” – should you like a sense of the tune I was thinking of when I made this new version this morning as the sun was rising – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RND2KMlgP-w.

 

The Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Where the rose and the oak

And my bonnie Rowan tree

They are all blooming fair

In the Cld Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Where my Love and I did run

Through her forest new to me

Where my heart will ever remain

In the Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Where my Love still remains

Among her mountains green

And I am far away

From the Old Country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

For home is wherever she rests

O my bonnie Rowan tree

Though I am far away

In my own country

Hame, home, hame

Home I long to be

Hame, home, hame

In the Old Country

Categories: England, Folk Music, Love, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Girl I Left Behind: A New Variant on an Old Song

Cover of Sam Henry's Songs of the People, 2010 UGA Press edition

 

Listening to British folk singer Andy Irvine today, I was stuck by a song I had never heard before: “The Girl I Left Behind.”  This is neither the same song nor even the same tune as the famous fiddle tune “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” which is in every bluegrass band’s repertoire.   The song I was enjoying struck me, however, as having a very familiar tune itself, and with a little research I discovered that it is essentially the same music as “I’m a Good Old Rebel,” “Lily of the West,” and “Lakes of Ponchartrain.”  I am not certain when this song dates to, but I do feel that it could easily have an Irish origin and might be as old as the late 18th or early 19th century.  Perhaps someone can comment on that.  At any rate, the tale told in Irvine’s version of the song struck a chord in me (literally and figuratively! – here is a link to his wonderful version –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MQilZw1LZ8), and inspired me to try my own hand on a new variant.  Below are the results of today’s glorious obsession!

[Incidentally, Irvine wrote this in his liner notes accompanying the album Way Out Yonder (2000), on which his version of the song first appeared: “I’ve known the first part of this song since I was quite young.  I heard it on a Library of Congress Album sung by Mrs Pearl Borusky, who recorded it in Ohio.  I later heard the great Seamus Ennis sing it at a party in Peggy Jordan’s in Dublin.  I found this full version late one Summer’s night in Sam Henry’s Collection “Songs of the people”–How had I never seen it before ?”]

The Girl I Left Behind (2015)

There was a gentleman farmer at Everton Grange he dwelled

He had one only daughter in love with her I fell

She was so tall and brilliant, so funny and so fair

No other girl in England with her I could compare.

We rambled and we courted for two years near about

She showed me Merry Old England, its meadows, fields, and routes

Through Oxfordshire and Hampshire, Old London, and sweet France

The farmer’s daughter smiled on me, and made my heart to dance.

Then news from home it reached me and Lord it beat me down

And I knew that I must leave her and return to my own town

Over the hills and far away from England I must go

But to leave the farmer’s daughter it filled my heart with woe.

I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the main

She said her heart was ever mine, that we would meet again,

That we would meet on foreign shores, this greatly eased my mind

So we kissed and then we parted and I left my girl behind.

Straightway I flew from Londontown unto Americay

My mother she was so relieved to see me on that day

My father and my sons rejoiced when I came down the line

But the girl I left behind me was always on my mind.

We wrote each other when we could but things were not the same

She moved off to another place far from our haunts and hame

A new life beckoned and off she flew, the sun upon her shined,

But I was far away without the girl I left behind.

My business settled at home I flew to see my bonnie bird

But her heart was cold and hurting when my words of love she heard

She said she didn’t love me now and a new love I should find

As my tears fell down away she walked – the girl I left behind.

Since then across wide oceans I’ve traveled o’er the earth

I’ve roamed and rambled this wide world over to soothe my aching heart

But my tears still fall like the storms of Thor and she’s always on my mind

I’ll always love the farmer’s daughter – the girl I left behind.

Now, compare these lyrics written today with the traditional lyrics sung by Andy Irvine:

There was a rich old farmer lived in the country nigh
He had one only daughter on her I cast my eye
She was so tall and slender so delicate and so fair
No other girl in the neighbourhood with her I could compare.I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the main
She says it makes no difference if you’ll come back again
She promised she’d be true to me until death’s parting time
So we kissed shook hands and parted and I left my girl behind.

Straightway I sailed from old Ireland to Glasgow I did go
Where the work and money was plentiful and the whiskey it did flow
Where the work and money was plentiful and the girls all treated me kind
But the girl I left behind me was always on my mind.

One day as I went walking down by the public square
The mail boat had arrived and the postman met me there
He handed me a letter which gave me to understand
That the girl I left behind me was married to another man.

I stopped and gazed around me my heart was filled with fear
O oftentimes she promised me that she would prove sincere
On the Sunday of our parting ‘twas on the Book she swore
That she would wed no other man and she vowed it o’er and o’er.

I advanced a few steps forward full knowing these words to be true
My mind being bent on rambling I didn’t know what to do
My mind being bent on rambling this wide world to see o’er
I left my dear old parents perhaps to see no more.

Straightway I sailed to old New York strange faces for to see
Where Handsome Peggy Walker she fell in love with me
My pocket being empty I thought it was full time
For to stop with her and think no more on the girl I left behind.

One day as I sat musing she says my boy don’t grieve
For I have money in plenty to support both you and me
Your pocket will be laden hard labour you can give o’er
If you’ll agree to marry me and rambling go no more.

Well if should agree to marry you I would be much to blame
Your friends and your relations would look on me with shame
And I mean to see my parents before that they resign
And to bid farewell and a last adieu to the girl I left behind.

Well if all that you reveal be true our friendship’s at an end
Since first you came to this country I’ve always proved your friend
You had my money at your command when fortune seemed to frown
And my boy’s cause I still maintained when others ran you down.

At this my heart it did relent for what she said was true
And I promised for to marry her, oh what else could I do ?
Now Peggy’s mistress of my heart she loving and she’s kind
But the perjured vows I’ll ne’er forget of the girl I left behind.

“But let’s remember, there are four parts to our definition of a folk song: anonymity is important – nobody knows who wrote it; age; travel; change.  When you have these four elements, when you can test a song by these four criteria, I think you can tell whether a song is a folk song or not.”

Frank M. WarnerFolk Songs of the Eastern Seaboard: from a Collector’s Notebook, 1963

Categories: England, Folk Music, Ireland, Love, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Paul, Who Died in the Philippines in 1945

Previously I wrote about my great uncle Dee Douglas, who served in the European theater against the Germans, and his lost love Rosemary of Manchester, England (https://ramblingmuser.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/to-r-h-in-manchester-with-love-from-georgia/).  Another tale that must be told is that of his brother Paul, who died in the reinvasion of the Philippines during MacArthur’s 1944-45 campaign to free those islands from Japanese tyranny and oppression.

Everyone living has troubles and worries and pains and griefs, if not when they are younger, then certainly by the time they are a little older.  Perhaps this a reminder to myself that as painful as life can be at times, there is much greater grief and pain.  This is certainly not to say that today’s heartbreak is not actual heartbreak or that today’s tears are not genuine tears.  But the death of a 25 year old boy is something that his family never ever forgets, even though neither I nor my mother ever even met him.

I have several primary source letters to transcribe regarding this, as well as photographs of Paul’s personal effects inherited by my mother, so if you will check back over the next few days, I will add them here.  For starters, here is the letter written to Paul’s parents after his death on January 17, 1945 by his company sergeant.

Co. A. 103rd Inf.

A.P.O. 43

March 5, 1945

Phillippines

 

Dear Mr, Mrs. Douglas,

It has been a custom for us in this unit that when a comrade passes away to write to his folks and pass the information we have about his death.

At the time your son was killed, I was his Platoon Sgt. having lost my platoon leader a week before.  So seeing that I was the one in his charge and was there when it happened, I will write down every thing that happen on that bad day of Jan. 17th.

I was given orders to from a line across a river and protect the rear of the companys while they were crossing the river.  We were just getting into position when we were fired upon by a group of Japs.  We all ran into our position and as Paul was running to his a Jap was hid a short distance from where Paul was going – the Jap being well hid in bamboo patches was not seen by any of us or by Paul.

The Jap fired and his shot entered your son’s right side under the shoulder and came out on his left side – killing him instantly.  A few of us made a run where Paul layed but was fired on.  We made three attempts and finally reached him while the rest of the boys gave us supporting rifle fire.  Two of his comrades really put themselves in danger to reach him.  That’s how a good your son Paul was to all of us.

I and many in our company have known your son for a long time.  And I must say, Paul had always been a very good soldier, never gave any of us any sort of trouble and whenever anything turned up, Paul would be willing to help.

We will all miss him as you do too.  No doubt it was a bad shock to both of you but I’m sure that his death was not one of suffering.  And his fine conduct as a soldier no doubt brought him to God.  At our first service for our fallen comrades I and all remembered him in our prayers and also you and Mrs. Douglas.

In closing, I am wishing you and all the very best of luck and health.  May God bless you all.  And if Paul’s personal effect doesn’t reach you within the next month or so, please write me and I will see to it that they are mailed to you.

May God be with you,

2nd LT. ROLAND A. LECLAIR

CO. A. 103rd INF. A.P.O. 43

c/o P.M.S.F. CALIF.

You will notice that I’m in a different company now, being promoted to 2nd LT.  I was transferred to this unit, but I still miss my former CO. F.

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PFC Paul Douglas of Coffee County, Georgia;  KIA on January 17, 1945 in the Philippines, and awarded a posthumous Purple Heart

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The Gift of Spring

One early spring day when I was about 22, I saw a Robin Redbreast, and heard his cheery and happy call echo through the woodland and fields.  As there were no other birds to be seen at that moment, I was unprepared for what happened next.  It seemed to me that every native bird of Georgia suddenly appeared and began singing: cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, and all of their friends.  And it struck me then that they had all just been waiting for the herald to announce that Spring had finally arrived!  This idea filled me with such joy that within five minutes the following words had assembled themselves on the page in front of me.  It was a gift; something that flowed through me.  I have long thought of having it published, but it has languished in darkness long enough and needs to be as free as the beautiful bird of Spring that inspired it.

Song of the Robin Redbreast, Spring’s Herald

Hark! O ye beings who inhabit the earth!

Let winter’s woeful wail give way to dance and mirth!

For I the Redbreast, Herald o’ the Spring,

Throw back my head, stick out my chest, and sing:

‘Tis Spring!  ‘Tis Spring!

Let all the earth rejoice!

‘Tis Spring!  ‘Tis Spring!

Let every bird give voice!

‘Tis now time for motherhood,

That gift of greatest worth!

Sing a song of simple joys,

And sing the song of Birth!

Robin Redbreast

The American Robin, Affectionately called the Robin Redbreast

Categories: Literature, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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