In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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In the Garden- An 1899 Excerpt

This time of year I am besotted by the garden, and have great difficulty staying indoors for any length of time at all. In fact, anything on my horizon that doesn’t need to be fed or planted seems dim and distant:-). In the evenings, I read garden-related things, and make long lists of things to plant, prune, or pluck the next day.

One delightful old book I enjoy in the spring is Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim. This little gem was published in 1899, and I would definitely identify Elizabeth as a kindred spirit. Here are a couple of passages for you: Continue reading

Literature- It’s Central to Literacy

“Literature in its most comprehensive sense is the autobiography of humanity.” Bernard Berenson

“This is old stuff– how can it be relevant to my life?” I’ve heard this objection from both students and adults, as I’ve spoken through the years on the importance of reading and literature. I’ve been thinking more about literature and its place in life as I’ve worked on refining my high school literature series. I’m more deeply than ever convinced of literature’s importance, and yes- relevance- in every area of life.

With a strong foundation in literature, it becomes possible to put life into words. We read of the experiences of others, and they become our own; we are able to place our own experiences in perspective; we can grasp the significance, beauty, or tragedy of an event in a way that is impossible for a person who lacks fundamental literacy. We learn by example how to clearly express feelings, describe experiences, and empathize with others. Literature not only teaches us how to communicate, it also gives us a common basis for understanding one another.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his 1970 Nobel lecture, said,

“The sole substitute for an experience which we have not ourselves lived through is art [and] literature… From man to man, as he completes his brief spell on Earth, art transfers the whole weight of an unfamiliar, lifelong experience with all its burdens, its colours, its sap of life; it recreates in the flesh an unknown experience and allows us to possess it as our own.”

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In Memory of Old Yeller- 199?-2007

He was old and his sweet muzzle was white, but we weren’t really ready to say good-bye. But as we prepared to tuck in for the night last evening, I realized that I hadn’t seen Old Yeller for a good part of the day. He usually divided his time between indoors and out, but he loved the deck on a cool, sunny day. We stepped outside to search, and there he was, lying on the brick walkway, as if asleep.

I’ll miss seeing him trot down the path toward the creek, tail waving. I’ll miss his excited puppy dance when he comes in feeling particularly frisky (as he sometimes still did). I’ll miss his diplomatic skills with visiting dogs– he’d greet them with waving tail, and escort them around the yard, as if showing them the sights. I’ll miss seeing him bestow sloppy kisses across the cat’s faces. I’ll probably even miss the occasions when we all exclaimed, “Old Yeller! What have you been rolling in?”

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Coleridge on Math; Music for “Kubla Khan”

I have been coping with computer disasters of astonishing magnitude over the last week or so, but I had to share this wonderful quote with you. Leave it to a poet to tell the truth so very vividly!

“I have often been surprised, that Mathematics, the Quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few and so languid– Frequent consideration and minute scrutiny have at length unraveled the cause– Viz– That, though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved: whilst Reason is luxuriating in its proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily traveling over a dreary desert.” (From a letter written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to his brother George, March 31, 1791. He follows this quote with a very funny poem on math.)

Coleridge’s images tend to stick in my mind, and I don’t always care for them, but if you like his classic “Kubla Kahn,” I think you’ll enjoy Juergen Matthias Shroeder’s website with an original symphony inspired by the poem. Shroeder provides an illustrated trip through “Kubla Khan,” with clips of the symphony along the way. He explains which instruments are used, and how each illustrates a portion of the poem. It’s a wonderful lesson in how art, music, and poetry are intertwined.

Read more on “Kubla Khan.”