Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chatham, again...



Actually, that's a photo of Surfside in Nantucket, but it will do...

The last time we went to Chatham I stopped in here for a quick post and all hell broke loose. This blog hasn't really fully recovered since. Anyhow...

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Oldest Song?

The Song of Seikilos - Supposedly the world's oldest complete musical composition (200 B.C.E. - 100 C.E.)



This might be old news to everyone else. Like with a lot of things these days, I'm clueless until my kids point out certain things to me. From the musician's description on the Liveleak link where the video was taken from:

"The Song of Seikilos", the first complete piece of written music in the entire world... This melody is an amazing musical legacy from ancient Greece; a precious remnant of a long-forgotten musical culture now forever lost in the mists of time... Although older music has been found, all that remains are either just pitiful fragments of the melodies, or the way the melodies have been notated in ancient times have so many modern interpretations that the actual melody is still mostly academic guess work. "The Song of Seikilos" is unique, as not only do we have the complete notation of the melody, but the notation is totally unambiguous - the melody played here, is the same as that which was first was written by the ancient Greek song writer, around 2000 years ago... In 1883, this melody was discovered again, inscribed in its complete & original form. It was found inscribed in marble on an ancient Greek burial stele, bearing the following epitaph:
"I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance".
It appears to be a touching love song in memory of the woman who lay buried below the burial stele, on which this haunting melody was inscribed. The translation of this song is:
"As long as you live, shine.
Let nothing grieve you beyond measure.
For life is short, and time will claim it's tribute"
It is played here on an an instrument strikingly similar to the ancient Greek Kithara... The instrument I am playing is a copy of an ancient Jewish Temple Lyre, the "Kinnor"... This was the original "Harp of David"... This clearly demonstrates the Hellenistic influence on ancient Jewish culture in this period - it is also known that King Herod often employed Greek musicians for various festivals around Jerusalem.

After listening to the first few notes I wasn't too sure I'd like it, but then there was a hook or two in the hauntingly beautiful melody that took a hold of me.

Here is a version on Youtube with images and vocals.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas 2008



It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav'n-born-childe,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in aw to him
Had doff't her gawdy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the Sun her lusty Paramour.

Only with speeches fair
She woo's the gentle Air
To hide her guilty front with innocent Snow,
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinfull blame,
The Saintly Vail of Maiden white to throw,
Confounded, that her Makers eyes
Should look so neer upon her foul deformities.

But he her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyd Peace,
She crown'd with Olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphear
His ready Harbinger,
With Turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing,
And waving wide her mirtle wand,
She strikes a universall Peace through Sea and Land

From Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity, by John Milton



The Angel that presided o'er my birth
Said, Little creature form'd of Joy & Mirth
Go love without the help of any King on Earth

From Notebook Poems, by William Blake

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Good Deed Goes... ?


Saint Edward the Confessor

The Shivering Beggar
by
Robert Graves



Near Clapham village, where fields began,
Saint Edward met a beggar man.
It was Christmas morning, the church bells tolled,
The old man trembled for the fierce cold.

Saint Edward cried, "It is monstrous sin
A beggar to lie in rags so thin!
An old gray-beard and the frost so keen:
I shall give him my fur-lined gaberdine."

He stripped off his gaberdine of scarlet
And wrapped it round the aged varlet,
Who clutched at the folds with a muttered curse,
Quaking and chattering seven times worse.

Said Edward, "Sir, it would seem you freeze
Most bitter at your extremities.
Here are gloves and shoes and stockings also,
That warm upon your way you may go."

The man took stocking and shoe and glove,
Blaspheming Christ our Saviour’s love,
Yet seemed to find but little relief,
Shaking and shivering like a leaf.

Said the saint again, "I have no great riches,
Yet take this tunic, take these breeches,
My shirt and my vest, take everything,
And give due thanks to Jesus the King."

The saint stood naked upon the snow
Long miles from where he was lodged at Bowe,
Praying, "O God! my faith, it grows faint!
This would try the temper of any saint.

"Make clean my heart, Almighty, I pray,
And drive these sinful thoughts away.
Make clean my heart if it be Thy will,
This damned old rascal’s shivering still!"

He stooped, he touched the beggar man’s shoulder;
He asked him did the frost nip colder?
"Frost!" said the beggar, "no, stupid lad!
’Tis the palsy makes me shiver so bad."


Cures at Edward's tomb: Illustration from the Anglo-Norman verse Life of St Edward the Confessor (c. 1230)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Favorite Places

Christmas Season on Bearskin Neck, Rockport MA


I'd really be out of my element if I ever left the Northeast. I'm a New Englander through-and-through (even though I eschew seafood, but that's a technicality). One of my favorite New England places in Summer or Winter or any season in between is the small town of Rockport on the tip of Cape Ann on Boston's North Shore, just past Gloucester (pronounced locally as "Glosta").



Last Saturday I took my two oldest daughters up there so we could finish up on our Christmas lists in the shops, boutiques, fudge & taffy makers', and artists' studios that run out onto to Bearskin Neck, which extends into the harbor. It's really nice up there this time of year. They have lit-up Christmas trees on all of the telephone poles, and on the weekend before the Gallery Stroll they have a big tree-lighting ceremony and Santa Claus arrives in a fishing boat.

Unfortunately, I didn't take the pictures for this post. I shamelessly pilfered them from elsewhere.

Man, it was cold after sundown, with the wind whipping in right off the ocean, but it was great. We went to the Fish Shack and warmed up with some good hot chocolate and dinner. Then we drove home and sang along at the top of our lungs to the really bad Christmas carols they play on the oldies radio station.



The only disconcerting note... It was really quiet up there. It was late in the afternoon when we got there, but I had no trouble finding a parking spot near the shops, and that's pretty unheard of. One of the local merchants told me that the week after Thanksgiving was brisk business, but that things had dropped off significantly. I saw some gallery and shop owners dozing behind their counters. Others, in a selling point specifically tailored to today's economy, were pleading the case that "art is one of the best investments you can make." I noticed that the artist who made splendid portraits of our kids last year had closed her studio (although I heard that she's still painting). You could feel a real pall of nervousness hanging in the air.



It has been sort of a tough Christmas season to get into, what with all the bad economic news, but still I feel hopeful about the new leadership coming in.

In addition, I've been working huge amounts of overtime this month trying to finish up some end-of-year commitments, so that's made it difficult to get in the spirit too. In fact, I'd better get back to work now...

Our first snowstorm was this weekend, which helps. Yes, White Christmas!

Here's a Christmas Playlist from our local classical music radio station.

(Click image below)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Avery Dulles SJ, R.I.P.

Avery Dulles has passed away at age 90



Brilliant man. The only American theologian who was made a cardinal without ever having been a bishop.

Biography

Online Archive

Video Lecture: When to Forgive

Thursday, December 11, 2008

El Clásico - December 13th

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona at the Camp Nou... My last soccer post for a while, I promise!


The essence of the rivalry set to Franz Ferdinand's Do You Want To?


Highlights from the 3-3 draw in October 2007, including a hat trick from the best player in the world (IMHO), Barca's Lionel Messi (Argentina).

Yes, I still think Messi is the best, even though he finished runner-up to Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2008 Ballon d'Or, the award for Europe's best player.

The Real-Barca rivalry has all sorts of political baggage around it to this very day, with Real having old links to the Franco regime, and Barcelona standing as a stark reminder of the determined and steadfast redoubt of the old Republic... Not to mention a bastion of Catalan nationalism. Hence, the Barcelona motto, "Más que un club."



This video is in Spanish, but non-Spanish speakers may be able to pick up a bit of what the former English star Gary Lineker had to say about how he stepped into something much bigger than he ever imagined when he signed up to play for FC Barcelona.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obligatory Christmas Consumerism Rant

Father John Kavanaugh SJ on the Abercrombie Culture



Last February I put up a post called Mall Dad, describing the travails of this middle-aged father's navigation of the treacherous shoals, pathways and byways of a suburban shopping mall with his two teenaged daughters. Now, in today's distressed economy, the owners of that commercial property are facing possible bankruptcy. In the meantime, work has stopped on the huge condominium and shopping mall construction project that was underway down the hill from where I work. Now there's a huge expanse of rubble, temporary fencing, dormant earth-moving machines, and enormous mounds of dirt just sitting there.

Before Black Friday, all of the retailers were forecasting doom and gloom and crying poor-mouth, predicting abysmal consumer turnout and warning of their imminent Chapter 11 filings.

Well, I guess the numbers were actually up this year from last. Go figure. When in fear and doubt, do what Americans do best. Shop. Never underestimate the insatiable American consumer's craving for cheap clothing, worthless trinkets, and annoying gadgets.

I'm developing a growing appreciation for the writings of Fr. John Kavanaugh SJ, over at America magazine. Before the election I put up an editorial of his called John F. Kavanaugh SJ's Letter to Obama. His sensible centrism really appeals to me. He got a lot of attention in the news and throughout the blogosphere with that open letter, but what he has been better known for, for quite some time now, is his critique of untrammeled capitalism and the insidious effects of consumerism on our culture and on our children. In an interview, Fr Kavanaugh speaks a bit about what troubles him. Excerpts taken from this interview: St. Louis philosopher looks deeply at life: John Kavanaugh, lover of music, a keeper of friends - Catholic priest.

I ask what's been hardest for him, as a priest and as a man. He nods rapidly, thinks a minute, then sighs. "I get tired of divisions in the Catholic church, fatigued by them, and it possibly has a bad effect on me. I feel less at home with people on the far left and the far right." For Kavanaugh, being Catholic means committing yourself to follow Christ in the context of "a wonderful scripture and liturgical life, the example of great men and women of faith, and a beautiful but flawed tradition." If someone's Catholicism centers around being American or clergy or gay or respectable, that erodes the common ground. "Does the National Catholic Reporter acknowledge any sins that liberals commit?" he asks abruptly. "Does the [conservative Catholic press] acknowledge any sins that conservatives commit? Feminists commit sins as much as clerics. Reality is for us to discover and honor, not create and construct."

"One of the most seductive temptations of the believer is to identify the will of God with the will of the believer, and not the other way around. God's will is squeezed into patriotism, leftism, capitalism, feminism. ... How do we escape fooling ourselves?" His solution, he explains now, is to appeal not to anyone's individual perspective but to the very tenets of the faith. "What you do is shame the person -- that's a harsh word, but when you're talking about violence, power, sexuality, money, do people really want to say, What is the most Christlike thing to do?

In one of his "Ethics Notebook" columns for America, Kavanaugh recalls pleading with a student in desperation: "Is there any imaginable act that might qualify as objectively wrong no matter what the situation?"

The student thought a while, then offered cruelty to animals.

"That encounter," wrote Kavanaugh, "has sometimes led me to imagine a public announcement made to local media that on the following day, under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, I would do to a hamster and kitten what is done to second-and third-trimester human fetuses. Who could still the outraged protests?"

No culture has been able to strike the proper balance, he concedes, "but in the U.S., it's an even huger problem, because we're such individualist capitalists. My property, my rights, my perspective, my feelings, my judgment -- it just becomes impenetrable. How can people like that love, much less do ethics?"

The antidote, he believes, is openness to experiencing the other -- someone who's homeless, who's getting an abortion, who blew up a Federal building. "It might frighten us to try to get in the mind of Timothy McVeigh, but if we did, we'd understand our own evil impulses better," he remarks. "I think we're afraid that if we see why people can get into a certain situation, we won't have any judgment left. We can't face the terror of having to trust God and each other, having to change our beliefs or give up control."

And what about those politicized extremes tearing the U.S. Catholic church apart?

If we can focus on what pulls us together," he says slowly, "it will live."

"Consumerism, I think, is still the issue. Capitalism feeds us so easily, and some Catholics are utterly uncritical of it. But the consumer way of life looks at everything and everyone in terms of instruments -- as something to be used. And true love is not instrumental. You know it's present when you finally feel sure this person is not trying to use you.

"Look at a person who wants to die because he doesn't feel productive -- that's capitalism," he adds. "And why are we the most `capital-punishing' country in the world and also the most capitalistic?"


His most tart and biting criticism, however, was based upon the same thing I based the Mall Dad post on too - the culture incarnated in Abercrombie & Fitch.

Read his original article at:
Consuming Children: There's just one way to be, and if you're not, you're nothing.

Or read a condensed version at:

The world according to Abercrombie & Fitch

I recently made my yearly pilgrimage to Abercrombie & Fitch. ... Its quarterly 'megalog' has become a youth manual, (with its) close connection to teen culture and the smart college set.

The megalog, or catalogue, was what I was looking for. Close to 300 pages in length, it is divided into three sections. The first third of the book is made up of semiclad and unclad, usually contorted models with empty stares. This year's edition has text written by a postmodern Marxist—"the most important philosopher working today"—superimposed in bold print on the pages of bodies and vacuous faces. After such philosophical gems as "Back to school means learn sex," "A friend is someone I can betray with love" and "Sex has nothing to do with sin," the capitalist-shilling Marxist ends with "you can have critical theory and nudity and enjoy it too." (I know he's going to say it's all "irony." If so, he's still an ironist on the take.) Following a long middle section displaying clothes without models, the"megalog" presents little interviews with rock and movie stars, suggestions on how to star in a college porn film, insider reviews and recommendations of videos or albums and a sell-out advice by a college-based Catholic priest. The catalogue features a warning,"Editor's note: due to mature content parental consent suggested for readers under eighteen."

Most striking of all (in the store), however, were the two customers in line before me: a fiftyish grandma with her late twentyish daughter buying some cool Abercrombie & Fitch clothes for a pre-teenager, who would soon become another walking commercial in the commercial culture. Such are the ways of the consumer society: the older generation forming the younger first into consumers, then into promoters and then into products themselves.

One of the interviews in the A.&.F catalogue features Nikki Reed, the 14-year-old writer and star of "Thirteen," a movie that records the harrowing life of two "cool" kids... The review in Entertainment Weekly, written by Owen Gleiberman, merits further attention: "What's eerie about 'Thirteen' is the way that everything Tracy goes through hooks into a corporate advertising culture that has become nearly metaphysical in its impact: not just the clothes and the accessories or the standards of beauty, but the whole subjugation of identity and flesh to a dictate from above—the sense that there's just one way to be, and that if you're not, you're nothing."

In the 20,000 to 40,000 commercials a child sees every year, in the 60 percent more time our children spend in front of televisions than at school, in the fourth of our children under six who have a television in their own room, what is taking place is the formation of the child's judgment and identity. It is appropriate that some marketers call this phenomenon "branding," for it permanently marks and possibly even scars the little consumers' view of themselves and their world. The message is inescapable, whether you are shopping at Toys R Us or Abercrombie& Fitch, whether you aspire to slut clothes in imitation of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera or think you cannot live without a Hummer or a Rolex—you are what you consume and wear.This might be good for an economy that requires continually expanding consumption. Even the 27 million "tweens," between the ages of 6 and 14,serve its purpose, with the $20 billion they spend each year and the additional $200 billion in sales they influence. But there is a social, psychological and moral cost to consumerism's dream. One can slowly come to believe that everything is marketable and buyable, from identity and acceptance to happiness itself. With that belief as a foundation, it is not a big step to the conclusion that if you want to be real, you yourself must serve as a commodity too. In that case, the corporate dream becomes a personal nightmare. Your very being—your interior world, your relationships, even your purpose in life—has itself been consumed by consumerism
.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Equal Time for Internazionale

Another week of Fútbol over Football


Aún Estamos Vivos - The unofficial website of the Marco Materazzi Fan Club!

Inter Milan Defender Marco "Matrix" Materazzi.

It's December.

I should be posting about the NFL... Pats vs. 'Hawks this afternoon. I should be posting about that, shouldn't I? We're heading into the stretch towards the playoffs.

Well, all week Ryan Clark's hit on Wes Welker in the game against the Steelers last Sunday was the hottest featured video on Google. Five turnovers by the Patriots and a bunch of unbelievable drops by Randy Moss. I can't believe Foxboro fans had to sit in the cold driving rain for that performance.

I'm still not in the mood, even though the Patriots managed to wrest the lead (and the win) back today from the Seahawks with 2:45 left, and Wes Welker had a huge day.

So yeah, here's another fútbol post. I felt bad about posting up an AC Milan clip a little while back, considering that Cristina is an Inter Milan fan. After all, Inter is still leading Italy's Serie A ahead of AC Milan, so here's a tribute to two of Inter's aging stars, both of whom are currently in the doghouse of coach Jose Mourinho. Their days may be numbered.

Bicycle Kick Goal by Marco Materazzi



At the age of 35, Matrix may be headed for the end of his career. Coach Mourinho doesn't like him very much. Generally speaking, Materazzi is a defender most widely known for his egregious hacking fouls, but this clip shows that he's not without talent. There's a reason why he's been a stalwart the past several years on the the Azzurri, Italy's national squad.

He's so crazy I can't help but to like him.

Hernán Crespo Highlight Reel, set to Kryptonite by Three Doors Down



It looks like the 33-year old Argentinian striker and World Cup star Hernán Crespo will be leaving Inter very soon, perhaps for SA Roma. He hasn't had much playing time lately, and has never gotten on very well with Mourinho either, going back all the way to their days together at Chelsea in England's Premier Division. I think he still has a lot of great soccer left in him.

Feast of The Immaculate Conception



Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary, by Jean Bellegambe



When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be



No, woman, no cry
No, woman, no cry
No, woman, no cry
No, woman, no cry

Said said
Said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
Oba, ob-serving the hypocrites
As they would
mingle with the good people we meet
Good friends we have had,
Oh, good friends we've lost
along the way
In this great future you can't forget your past
So dry your tears, I say

No, woman, no cry
No, woman, no cry
Ee little darling, don't shed no tears
No, woman, no cry

Said, said,
Said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire light
As it was log wood burnin' through the night
Then we would cook corn meal porridge
Of which I'll share with you

My feet is my only carriage
So I've got to push on through
But while I'm gone, I mean...

Everything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright
Ev'rything's gonna be alright

So woman, no cry
No, no, woman,
No, woman, no cry
Oh, my little sister, don't shed no tears
No, woman, no cry

I remember when we used to sit
In a government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire light
As it was log wood burnin' through the night
Then we would cook corn meal porridge
Of which I'll share with you

My feet is my only carriage
So I've got to push on through
But while I'm gone...

No, woman, no cry
No, woman, no cry
Woman, little darling, say, don't shed no tears
No, woman, no cry
Yeah

Little darling don’t shed no tears
No, woman, no cry
Little sister, don’t shed no tears,
No, woman, no cry


Paul McCartney, under some pressure from John Lennon I'd say, denied later on that the song Let It Be was about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Riiiight. Sure...

Yes, his own mother's name was Mary, but methinks Sir Paul doth protest too much... I have a feeling that he, determined to do things his own way as usual, went through his own Catholic spirituality phase while the others were messing around with eastern mysticism.

And if co-opting Bob & the Wailers for the this post is too much of a stretch, I'll close with Gerard Manley Hopkins.



The Blessed Virgin Compared To The Air We Breathe

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that ’s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.

If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,
Laying, like air’s fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God’s and Mary’s Son.

Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.

So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Got Lindy Hop?

Feeling energetic today? Yes? Really? Could you keep up with this?


Scene from the film Hellzapoppin’ (1941)

William’s been posting up some stuff about jazz lately, and poking around on Youtube I happened to run across this clip.

The Swing era had the jitterbug, of course, but there was also the lindy hop, which took jazz dance to a whole different level.

The clip above comes from a 1941 madcap comedy called Hellzapoppin’, which was based on a 1938 New York stage play of the same name. The dance sequence features Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (aka the Harlem Congaroo Dancers), with choreography by Frankie Manning.

You have to get past the certain "Stepin Fetchit" quality it has to it, with the white characters showing up at the end to applaud their maids, cooks, and waitstaff, as if to say, “My, aren’t those colored boys and girls just swell dancers!” Just the same, for a piece of work done in 1941, I think it’s an amazing film sequence.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Hidden Meaning in The Twelve Days of Christmas?

Secret Catechism Song or Urban Legend?



Doorway to a secret dwelling for a Jesuit priest in a 16th century English home.

According to this website and a few others, The Twelve Days of Christmas was written as a sort of coded "catechism song" for underground Catholics suffering persecution in Elizabethan England.

Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the basics of their faith. In short, it was a coded-message, a memory aid. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, young Catholics could sing the song without fear of imprisonment. The authorities would not know that it was a religious song.

The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, but it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. i.e. the Church.

1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them.

The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.

2nd Day: The "two turtle doves" refers to the Old and New Testaments.

3rd Day: The "three French hens" stand for faith, hope and love—the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1 Corinthians 13).

4th Day: The "four calling birds" refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5th Day: The "five golden rings" represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

6th Day: The "six geese a-laying" is the six days of creation.

7th Day: The "seven swans a-swimming" refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

8th Day: The "eight maids a milking " reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.

9th Day: The "nine ladies dancing" were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

10th Day: The "ten lords a-leaping" represents the Ten Commandments.

11th Day: The "eleven pipers piping" refers to the eleven faithful apostles.

12th Day: The ‘twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles’ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

Interesting, but does this story ring true or not?

Snopes.com says No.

Others say Snopes is wrong.

In either case, whether the exact historical details of the origins of the song are true or not, I think someone was thinking in allegorically Christian terms when putting the thing together, and I think it's a pretty cool set of meditation points to bear in mind while singing it.