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Tag: Easter

Wilde Easter

Monday, 22 April, 2019

As Oscar Wilde lay dying in Paris in November 1900, the priest who received him into the Catholic Church was Father Cuthbert Dunne. When the Dublin cleric ended his days in Mount Argus Monastery, the young Brendan Behan was living nearby in Kildare Road. Like Wilde, he also became a professional wit and, referring to that last-minute conversion, Behan commended Wilde for shedding his sins as life ebbed away. He also reminded the world slyly that the two of them had enjoyed their bisexuality:

“Sweet is the way of the sinner
Sad, death without God’s praise
My life on you, Oscar boy,
Yourself had it both ways.”

Oscar Wilde’s Easter Day was published in 1894, six years before that famous deathbed conversion in Paris. It’s a bitter-sweet poem.

Easter Day

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)


Happy Easter!

Sunday, 21 April, 2019

Frohe Ostern! Buona Pasqua! ¡Felices Pascuas! Joyeuses Pâques! Vrolijk Pasen!

Easter

Daffodowndilly

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”

A.A. Milne (1882 – 1956)


Buona Pasqua!

Sunday, 1 April, 2018 0 Comments

Easter Sunday dawns to the choir of Clare College Cambridge celebrating the Resurrection. Aurora lucis rutilat is a unique example of Venetian polychoral technique in motet form by the Franco-Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus. Happy Easter!


Sabato Santo

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 0 Comments

Questo è il giorno che arriva prima o poi nella nostra vita
quando la tenebra sembra vincere sulla luce,
ogni porta è chiusa e sbarrata,
il silenzio inghiotte ogni voce
e la morte sembra aver l’ultima parola.
Ma noi speriamo la luce al di là della porta chiusa!

Enzo Bianchi

Ma noi speriamo la luce al di là della porta chiusa!

For our friend Jim Martin, because we all hope for the light beyond the closed door.


Done is a battell on the dragon blak

Wednesday, 28 March, 2018 0 Comments

Easter approacheth. Time for a preparatory poem and our choice is a masterpiece of Scottish medieval verse, Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro (Christ is risen from the grave), by William Dunbar (1460 – 1520). This is one of the greatest of early Easter poems in English and it has one of the greatest of all opening lines: “Done is a battell on the dragon blak” (The battle against the black dragon is done). The theme is the Resurrection and Christ is cast in the role of a noble knight.

Some of the language is easily decrypted but the gulf between our 21st global century and Dunbar’s early 16th-century Scotland is apparent. Here’s how he depicts evil:

The auld kene tegir, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clowis strang

In modern English, this can be rendered as, “The old sharp tiger with his teeth ajar / Which has lain in wait for us so long / Hoping to grip us in his strong claws.” Those “clowis” give bite to Dunbar’s language, which is a miscellany of elemental sounds and delightful alliteration: “Whilk in a wait” is wonderful. By the way, here’s a modern translation of the poem. And now, a snippet of the original:

Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro

Done is a battell on the dragon blak,
Our campion Chyrst confoundit has his force;
The yettis of hell are broken with a crak,
The signe triumphall raisit is of the cross,
The divillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Chyrst with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungin is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The crewall serpent with the mortall stang;
The auld kene tegir, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clowis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The Dragon Blak


Bob Dylan: Trouble No More

Monday, 26 March, 2018 0 Comments

Back in 1979, Bob Dylan announced to the world that he had converted to Christianity. He then became a man of The Word, touring inexorably, performing concerts only of songs that expressed his born-again message. One of the concerts was filmed but the material was never released. There was talk in recent times that it might form basis for a documentary, but Dylan intervened and demanded the commissioning of a series of “sermons” to be preached between the songs before the film could be screened. The writer Luc Sante was contracted to compose the sermons and Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon was cast as the Preacher. Jennifer LeBeau was tasked, as they say, with directing the “gospel service.” The result, Bob Dylan: Trouble No More, will be shown on Good Friday night on BBC Four. Praise the Lord!

“She said, ‘This man, this man, He must be a prophet’
She said, ‘This man, this man, He must be a prophet’
She said, ‘This man, this man, He must be a prophet’
‘He done told me everything I’ve ever done'”


Unboxing Millie’s Easter cake

Sunday, 16 April, 2017 0 Comments

Great neighbour, great friend, great baker! Happy Easter! Beannachtaí na Cásca! Boa Páscoa! Frohe Ostern! ¡Felices Pascuas! Buona Pasqua! Joyeuses Pâques!

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

Cake 4


Easter, 1916 and 2016

Monday, 28 March, 2016 1 Comment

Five years after the poet William Butler Yeats had immortalized the Irish rebellion of 1916 with the phrase “A terrible beauty is born,” the brothers-in-arms of the Easter uprising were at each other’s throats in a merciless, ruinous Civil War. And every decade since, the island of Ireland has been traumatized by eruptions of a terror that robs and murders in the name of the 1916 rebels. Beauty fades, looks change, idealism decays.

How did the idealism of 1916 turn into barbarism and then into dogmatic nationalism of the most dreary, backward kind? In the London Review of Books, Irish writer Colm Tóibín explores the history of Easter 1916 in “After I am hanged my portrait will be interesting.” At the core of Tóibín’s article is the conundrum of the rebellion. Did the rebels intend to take power in Ireland by force of arms, or was the entire exercise a form of sacrifice in which a small group of idealists offered themselves up to inspire a larger number? “What happened on Easter Monday in Dublin is open to interpretation,” writes Tóibín. “As a military event, it makes almost no sense. Taking St Stephen’s Green, rather than Dublin Castle, suggests poor planning and lack of strategic thinking.” Indeed. Instead of capturing the city’s arsenal or barracks, the rebels occupied a post office, a bakery and a public park. This was revolution as performance art.

The historic blood donation of 1916 led to partial independence, but it legitimized the notion of Irish republican “martyrdom” and this malign concept has left a trail of death, division and distrust in its wake. The poet Yeats saw beauty in the idealism of Easter 1916, but he also noted the terrible nature of the fanatic heart. The subsequent ten decades of intermittent violence on the island of Ireland have proved him right, sadly.

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)


The Easter bells enlarge the sky

Sunday, 27 March, 2016 0 Comments

The poetry of Sir John Betjeman is marked by nostalgia and humour. Loneliness, however, is unusually bleak, but it expresses a quintessential British stoicism, which is fitting for an Easter that is being celebrated in the shadow of loss and sorrow.

Loneliness

The last year’s leaves are on the beech:
The twigs are black; the cold is dry;
To deeps byond the deepest reach
The Easter bells enlarge the sky.
O ordered metal clatter-clang!
Is yours the song the angels sang?
You fill my heart with joy and grief –
Belief! Belief! And unbelief…
And, though you tell me I shall die,
You say not how or when or why.

Indifferent the finches sing,
Unheeding roll the lorries past:
What misery will this year bring
Now spring is in the air at last?
For, sure as blackthorn bursts to snow,
Cancer in some of us will grow,
The tasteful crematorium door
Shuts out for some the furnace roar;
But church-bells open on the blast
Our loneliness, so long and vast.

Sir John Betjeman (1906 – 1984)

Easter


Edible Easter Leporidae

Sunday, 5 April, 2015 0 Comments

It was Georg Franck von Frankenau who first mentioned the traditional role of the Leporidae family (hares and rabbits) in connection with Easter. That was in 1682 and he was commenting on customs in Alsace in De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs). Fast forward to the 20th century and James Laughlin recalls Easter in Pittsburgh:

“I liked

Thanksgiving better be-
cause that was the day

father took us down to
the mills but Easter I

liked next best and the
rabbits died because we

fed them beet tops and
the lamb pulled up the

grass by the roots and
was sold to Mr. Page the

butcher”

Easter


A multitude of thorns

Friday, 18 April, 2014 0 Comments

Thorns

“Listening to the Gospel on Palm Sunday, it struck me that many people criticise Pontius Pilate for his role in the affair while letting the multitude go scot free. Pilate did what little he could to dissuade them from the extremely unpleasant course of action on which they were set, but the multitude kept shouting for a crucifixion. Pilate could not have done more without provoking a riot. The crucifixion when it happened was a victory for direct democracy against the effete, liberal paternalism of Pilate.

If I am right, and the crucifixion be seen as an early victory for the principle of direct democracy, then it must follow… that good men should struggle to confound and frustrate the multitude whenever possible.” Auberon Waugh (1939 — 2001)