Tag Archives: Lohengrin

March 23—THE DATE to Remember Patrick Henry in 1775, but today ( March 23 2013) it’s been 30 Years Since Ronald W. Reagan’s Star Wars, 15 Years since James Cameron “I’m King of the World” announcement after winning Oscar for Titanic…in 1945 the British “Black Watch” Crossed the Rhein….in 1925 Tennessee outlawed the teaching of Evolution

Of all these events in the 20th Century, I remember the last two most clearly.  While Ronald Reagan’s “StarWars” Speech in 1983 was inspiring and uplifting (even as I listened to it over the one and only well-functioning TV then extant in the general neighborhood of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán in the lobby of the Hotel Mayaland, though I was living across the street at Edward H. Thompson’s old Hacienda….), James Cameron’s “I’m King of the World” arrogance has always stuck in my mind as the single most obnoxious Academy Award acceptance speech I ever was sufficiently unfortunate as to have listened to (and I listened to that one from Casa del Mar on Seawall & 60th in Galveston, Texas).  Now, fortunately, Cameron’s obnoxious speech never really hurt anybody, no matter how much of an anal orifice he proved himself to be.

But, by contrast, Ronald W. Reagan’s Star Wars (aka “Strategic Defense Initiative”) could be called the end of even the MYTH of limited constitutional government in the United States.  Reagan on this date announced, authorized, initiated, and launched the most TRULY offensive program of Corporate Welfare in World History, without real immediate consequence but VERY intimidating to the rest of the world.  The Strategic Defense Initiative gave Reagan the excuse all neocons wanted to turn his platform of fiscal responsibility and limited government on its head.  The greatest irony of Star Wars was that it was such an impractical, impossibly theoretical plan for military development, that the primary beneficiaries were University Communities—where billions and billions in research money were poured into the neighborhoods of places like Harvard University, University of California at Berkeley, the University of Texas, and Stanford, so that (in effect) Reagan bribed all the academics who normally and nominally would have opposed him to support his excesses of spending and enlarging the U.S. Government through the most reckless economic programs ever in World History…. Star Wars, gave a huge boost to the “peri-academic” research communities around Boston Loop 128, Silicon Valley, and along the unimaginatively renamed “Research Boulevard” (Highway 183) in Austin, all of which might have remained stunted or even stillborn without Reagan (the great enemy of Welfare for the Poor) granting open ended credit as welfare to the Rich….

On March 23 in 1919—two major events took place which would shape the 20th Century: the Bolshevik (Soviet Communist) Central Committee or Politburo formed in Moscow, while on the same day Benito Mussolini organized the Fascist Party in Milan, Italy and took the reigns as its leader.  

As the memorial of “days that will live in infamy” goes, those were petty benign compared with 30 years earlier when U.S. President Benjamin Harrison opened up Oklahoma to the “Sooners” who lined up at the state borders and raced to stake their claims, thereby closing “the last frontier” in the lower 48 states anyhow (and obliterating the last of even the very modest concessions to the dispossessed Five Civilized Tribes of the American South, 55 years after the Trail of Tears from Georgia & Alabama through Mississippi and Arkansas…. or 1868 when the University of California at Berkeley was founded…. (ok, maybe that date wasn’t all THAT infamous…. but Berkeley for a while was certainly the center of that great Countercultural movement which took place in the 1960s…. from which America and the World have never really recovered….). 

March 23 was a great day in Streetcar history (I’m writing this while seated by the window at the Trolley Stop Café at 1923 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans 70130).  In 1937 the Los Angeles Railway Co. started using PCC Streetcars (Presidents’ Conference Committee, replacing the famous old “Red and Yellow Cars” which once defined the Southern California landscape, from the time of Henry E. Huntingdon in 1901—-the LA Railway Co. finally went out of existence in 1958….in the wake of the ecologically and socially disastrous triumph of General Motors and the “car culture”). 

But forty years before Huntingdon’s trains started running in Los Angeles, in 1861, London began running its legendary tramcars, designed by the appropriately named “Mr. Train” of New York…. by some transportation history coincidence in 1922 the first airplane landed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., while the streetcar itself was patented on this date in 1858 by E.A. Gardner of Philadelphia—the first U.S. Patent ever was issued was granted on this date to Joseph G. Pierson for a Riveting Machine….

In 1806 March 23 was the date when Lewis & Clark arrived on the Pacific Coast, the final goal of their epic voyage which began two years earlier in Saint Louis….

On March 23, 1808, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, became King of Spain—the Bonapartist dynasty just didn’t last very long, especially in Spain….it was a dud….for better or for worst…

But from the standpoint of this Blog, of Deo Vindice and Tierra Limpia, the most important March 23 in world history was surely 1775, when Patrick Henry declared “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” at Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. 

In terms of musical culture, the highlight of this date was in 1743 when Georg Friedrich Handel’s Messiah premiered in London (a second “premier”—the original performance having been in Dublin, Ireland….).  Handel is an inspiration to those of us who aspire to be “late bloomers” in life.  In 1743 Handel was 58, five years older than I am now, having been born on 23 February 1685, with only 16 years left to his life (he died on 14 April 1759).  To me, Handel’s Messiah is the most inspiring major “operatic” kunstwerk/work of music prior to Wagner’s first “Wagnerian” opera Der Fliegende Hollander which premiered a century later (in Dresden in 1843), even if Handel’s was not “gesammt”.   As magnificent, innovative, and stirring as Mozart’s Magic Flute and Don Giovanni surely are, or Beethoven’s symphonies, I think that a real connexion can be made between the compositionally epic scale of the Messiah and Der Ring des Niebelungen, for example, or Wagner’s Grail operas…(Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal).

A Prayer for True Memory and History on the 206th Anniversary of the Birth of Robert Edward Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, President of Washington & Lee University

Since December 9, 2012, I have been staying in the French Quarter, about a 20 minutes to half an hour leisurely walk to Lee Circle where a high pedestal support’s a statute of one of Virginia’s most famous sons, forever looking north because “you never turn your back on the enemy.”  My grandparents raised me to celebrate Marse’ Robert’s birthday and remember and study his life and heroism, both before, during and after the War Between the States.  I have never had any problem keeping his memory because I think he represents all the good values that were and ever could be called “American”—he was an exceedingly intelligent man of principles including loyalty and devotion, hard work, individual responsibility, skill and excellence.

This year I have not yet visited Confederate Memorial Hall, just south of Lee Circle.  It is probably the longest I have ever been in New Orleans without paying at least a quick visit, and there are many reasons for this but one is that it is no longer officially called “Confederate Memorial Hall” but has been recently rechristened “Louisiana’s Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall.”

Nothing is more insulting to Lee’s Memory or to the Heritage of the South in general and the Confederate States of America in particular than to refer to the War of 1861-1865 as “the Civil War.”  From the Southern adn Confederate standpoints, that War was as much the “American Civil War” as World Wars I and II were the “European Civil Wars.”   The analogy is fair enough only to the degree that after World War II, first the European Economic Community (E.E.C.) and then the European Union both sought to transform Europe into a new, single Continental Nation.  

The first movie ever filmed to be seen commercially by more than a million people was D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation”, released in 1915, based on a historical novel entitled “the Klansman.”  The new nation born during and after the War Between the States was a centralized Republic with a top-heavy Federal Bureaucracy modeled very generally on the economic controls imposed top down from the Imperial Central in the later Roman Empire in a manner which has come to be known as “Byzantine.”

On this 206th Anniversary of the Birth of Robert Edward Lee, son of  Governor Light Horse “Harry” Lee of Virginia, I pray that the honour and integrity of the South will be properly remembered, along with Lee’s individual, unique and irreplaceable, un-reproducable honour and integrity.  

I pray that people will start learning history more fully and accurately, and above all critically, with the understanding that the victors always write history, but that victory in war is not in fact justice in the eyes of God, despite what many of us, including many of us Southerners, believe about the value of “trial-by-battle” in the Mediaeval sense of “Justice by Duel.”  

Even in Mediaeval legal theory, Duels were ONLY fairly calculated to result in a decision by God when the two parties to the duel are equally equipped, armed, trained and skillful.  The armor and the horses had to be comparable and equivalent, and a weaker person had the right to appoint a “champion” to fight in his or her place, as Ilsa von Brabant famously did in Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin” which even preserved the notion of combat only coming “at high noon” so that the sun would be in neither combatant’s eyes at the outset.   The title of one of the finest Western movies about a duel, Gary Cooper’s “High Noon” (1950) also retains this reference to the equality of the Sun God (Shamash) who presided over such duels (judicially approved and jury-supervised “trials-by-combat”) even in Ancient Akkad, Asshur (Assyria), and Babylon.

I pray that even under the Dark Skies of the Obama Presidency and all the propaganda coming out in this day and age, that a more just and inquiring notion of history will prevail in the collective, cultural memory of America, and that the virtue and dignity of the Southern and Confederate Constitutional position be realized and recognized, and the glory given to the Victorious Yankee North be tempered by the reality that northern industrialism produced the same identical level of misery and deprivation among white workers as was chronicled by Charles Dickens in England and Victor Hugo in France.  

I pray that people will understand that if we weep for Fantine and her plight in Les Miserables (published precisely in 1862, during the first full year of the War Between the States), we must also recognize the condition of “Free” labor in the North and Europe was in a hundred ways worse and more depraved than the plight of black slaves in the South.  If in no other, this is true in one major regard: only an insane slaveholder would really work his slaves to death, without caring for them as human beings, in that slaves were wealth and capital, and senselessly to destroy the life or health of a slave was like throwing gold into the sea or burning paper money backed by real gold (unlike the trash Federal Reserve Notes we use today).

By contrast, as shown in Dickens’ writings and Hugo’s, and as analyzed by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels and their followers, “free” laborers in the mid-19th Century in the North had no life-long security whatsoever.  

As soon as the “free laborer’s” strength or health should start to fail, that free laborer’s productivity declined or perhaps he was eaten up by the very machines he tended due to “assumption of the risk” by accepting employment.  The “Free Labor” capitalist therefore had a strong motivation to dismiss his worn out workers and throw them into the streets, a version of the “hellish life” captured in Les Miserables was worse than death itself. This reality was revisited (1998) by Joss Whedon in an Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called “Anne” in which the residents of Hell work in a 19th Century style factory until they are exhausted and old (in just a short time as it turns out) and thrown back out on the streets of modern Los Angeles to live as homeless derelicts.

All these realities need to be weighed against the supposed virtuous abolition of slavery. And accordingly, I pray that people will begin to think and remember and reflect not only about the history of the 19th century, but of the 20th and even our own times.  Were we the victors REALLY the more virtuous parties in World Wars I and II, for example?  In World War I, the answer is a fairly certain absolute NO.  In World War II, the mythology has grown into a reality and even a political constitution and ecumenical social theory so thick that it is almost impenetrable.  

But if we look, again, at the details, and if we dare to compare the early German rockets or “Buzz Bombs” sent by Wernher von Braun against London in 1944-45 with the American A-Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think we will see that the American weapons were a far more sinister manifestation of technology.  What about the senseless fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945 when the war was almost over?  

Then if we look at the Soviets, whom we supported, and what they did to their own populations (Stalin’s purge of “the Kulaks” for instance, beginning in 1928), was our side as a whole really better than the Germans?

Even if the worst stories are true about German antisemitism, “ethnic cleansing”, and other population reorganizations and purges, no one can state that the Germans actually moved or relocated anywhere nearly as many millions of people as the Soviets and their allies forcibly relocated from the German sectors of East and West Prussia, Silesia, Posen, Danzig, and Eastern Pomerania, even as millions of Poles were uprooted and moved East to replace the Eastern quarter of Germany, after 1945-46.  

The Germans of the Sudetenland were also expelled from their homes of time immemorial.  The thousand year old Eastern boundary of the German people was moved back across Poland and Czechoslovakia to fit Stalin’s plans.  Again, who was guilty of greater genocidal crimes?  Or did Stalin’s relocations of the Poles, the Belarus, the Ukrainians, and the Germans count for nothing?

An since the war, have not the Allied Powers faithfully reenacted the predictions of perpetual war as framed by George Orwell in “1984“?  Have not the Communists become indistinguishable from the Corporate leaders they supposedly fought to overthrow as Orwell similarly predicted in “Animal Farm“?  Is there not evidence that, at least since Pearl Harbor and possibly since the explosion of the Battleship Maine, the United States Government has staged more than a hundred years of False Flag attacks against its own people to make certain that this condition of perpetual warfare exists and that there are more and more justifications (like the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut most recently) to curtail the fundamental freedoms and liberties for which George Washington, and Robert E. Lee, spent their lives fighting?

I pray that Americans will start waking up and thinking about reality, and observe the contradictions inherent in all things, but especially in our official versions of history, and that we will work to examine our past, our present, and our futures to discover and establish deeper and more meaningful truths about the sad story which is the epic of human history.

May everyone in the World in fact look to Robert Edward Lee and the Confederate States of America as emblematic of justice defeated, of liberty lost, and of the dangers of using imbalanced thinking and propaganda as tools of social change. 

As I have written a thousand times if I’ve written it once: Chattel Human Slavery was abolished everywhere in the world (as an openly and officially legal institution, anyhow….) between 1790 and 1930. ONLY in the United States of America did the abolition of legal chattel slavery result in war, and what a coincidence that this happened 13 years after the Communist Manifesto, in a Republican Administration with so many German Communist refugees from Europe in charge, and with Karl Marx’ official blessings and endorsements—none of facts which are EVER taught in American Middle or High School history classes…

St. Stephen, the First Martyr, and my own personal favorite Carol….about the Martyred Saint Wenceslaus of Bohemia

LIFE OF ST. STEPHEN THE PROTOMARTYR OF ALL CHRISTENDOM

St. Stephen was martyred in Jerusalem about the year 35. Tradition calls him both the first Christian martyr (or “protomartyr”) and the first “deacon” of the Christian Church.

All that we know of the life, trial, and death of St. Stephen, derives from the Book of Acts, Chapters 6 and 7.  In the long chronicle of Christian martyrs, the story of Stephen stands out as one of the most moving and memorable.

Although his name is Greek (from Stephanos, meaning crown), Stephen was a Jew, probably among those who had been born or who had lived beyond the borders of Palestine, and therefore had come under the influence of the prevailing Hellenistic culture. The New Testament does not give us the circumstances of his conversion. It would seem, however, that soon after the death of the Messiah he rose to a position of prominence among the Christians of Jerusalem and used his talents especially to win over the Greek-speaking residents of the city.

The earliest mention of Stephen is when he is listed among the seven men chosen to supervise the public tables. We recall that these first Christians held their property in common, the well-to-do sharing what they possessed with the poor; and at this time, as always in the wake of war, there were many “displaced persons” in need of charity. We read in Acts that the Hellenists, as the Greek-speaking Christians were called, thought that they, particularly the widows among them, were being discriminated against at the public tables. The Apostles were informed of these complaints, but they were too busy to deal with the problem. Therefore seven good and prudent men were selected to administer and supervise the tables. The seven, on being presented to the Apostles, were prayed over and ordained by the imposition of hands. Associated in these charitable tasks with Stephen, whose name heads the list as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” were Philip, known as “the Evangelist,” Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas-all Greek names. The title of deacon, which came to be linked with their function, derives from the Greek verb meaning “to minister.” These men served the Christian community in temporal and charitable affairs; later on they were to assume minor religious offices.

Stephen, already a leader, now began to speak in public with more vigor and, “full of grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.”  By this time a number of Jewish priests had been converted to the new faith, but they still held to the old traditions and rules as laid down in Mosaic law.  Stephen was prepared to engage in controversy with them, eager to point out that, according to the Master, the old law had been superseded.  He was continually quoting Jesus and the prophets to the effect that external usages and all the ancient holy rites were of less importance than the spirit; that even the Temple might be destroyed, as it had been in the past, without damage to the true and eternal religion. It was talk of this sort, carried by hearsay and rumor about the city, and often misquoted, intentionally or not, that was to draw down upon Stephen the wrath of the Jewish priestly class.

It was in a certain synagogue of Jews “called that of the Freedmen, and of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians and of those from Cilicia and the province of Asia” that Stephen chiefly disputed.  Perhaps they did not understand him; at all events, they could not make effective answer, and so fell to abusing him. They bribed men to say that Stephen was speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God. The elders and the scribes were stirred up and brought him before the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish tribunal, which had authority in both civil and religious matters. False witnesses made their accusations; Stephen defended himself ably, reviewing the long spiritual history of his people; finally his defense turned into a bitter accusation. He concluded thus:

“Yet not in houses made by hands does the Most High dwell, even as the prophet says…. Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; as your father did, so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you have now been the betrayers and murderers, you who received the Law as an ordinance of angels and did not keep it.”

Thus castigated, the account is that the crowd could contain their anger no longer. They rushed upon Stephen, drove him outside the city to the place appointed, and stoned him. At this time Jewish law permitted the death penalty by stoning for blasphemy. Stephen, full of “grace and fortitude” to the very end, met the great test without flinching, praying the Lord to receive his spirit and not to lay this sin against the people. So perished the first martyr, his dying breath spent in prayer for those who killed him. Among those present at the scene and approving of the penalty meted out to Stephen was a young Jew named Saul, the future Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: his own conversion to Christianity was to take place within a few short months.

The celebration of the Feast Day of St. Stephen is December 26, the day after Christmas, aka “Boxing Day” “Two Turtle Doves” in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  Despite the close association between Saint Stephen and Saint Wenceslaus of Bohemia in the Anglo-American mind, owing to a 19th century hymn, Saint Stephen the Protomartyr is NOT the Patron Saint of Hungary, who was in fact another King/Martyr who lived in the eleventh century after Saint Wenceslaus of Bohemia died in the tenth.

GOOD KING WENCESLAS (King/Duke “Herzog” of Bohemia, reigned 924-935)  To the tune of the well-known 19th Century Carol, it is possible to sing an older verse:

“Christian friends, your voices raise.

Wake the day with gladness.

God Himself to joy and praise

turns our human sadness:

Joy that martyrs won their crown,

opened heaven’s bright portal,

when they laid the mortal down

for the life immortal.”

[Words: Saint Joseph the Hymnographer, 9th Century, translated from the Greek. Music: “Tempus Adest Floridum” (“Spring has unwrapped her flowers”), a 13th Century spring carol; first published in the Swedish Piae Cantiones, 1582.]

Saint Wenceslaus’ Day:  September 28, Patron Saint of Bohemia, Czech Republic, Prague, lived approximately 907-935, canonized around 985.

Patron saint of Bohemia, parts of Czech Republic, and duke of Bohemia frorn 924-929. Also called Wenceslas, he was born near Prague and raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla, until her murder by his mother, the pagan Drahomira. Wenceslaus’s mother assumed the regency over Bohemia about 920 after her husband’s death, but her rule was so arbitrary and cruel in Wenceslaus’ name that he was compelled on behalf of his subjects to overthrow her and assume power for himself in 924 or 925. A devout Christian, he proved a gifted ruler and a genuine friend of the Church. German missionaries were encouraged, churches were built, and Wenceslaus perhaps took a personal vow of poverty  Unfortunately, domestic events proved fatal, for in 929 the German king Heinrich I the Fowler (Heinrich der Voegler, reigned 919-936, immortalized as Der Deutschen Konig, the just king who sets the trial-by-combat over accusations against Duchess Ilsa von Brabant in Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin”, tomb recently archaeologically discovered) invaded Bohemia and forced Wenceslaus to make an act of submission.

This defeat, combined with his pro-Christian policies, led a group of non-Christian nobles to conspire against him. On September 28, 935, a group of knights under the leadership of Wenceslaus’ brother Boreslav assassinated the saint on the doorstep of a church. Virtually from the moment of his death, Wenceslaus was considered a martyr and venerated as a saint. Miracles were reported at his tomb, and his remains were translated to the church of St. Vitus in Prague which became a major pilgrimage site. The feast has been celebrated at least since 985 in Bohemia, and he is best known from the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” (Anglicized spelling of Wenceslaus).

Though it was an Anglican priest, scholar, and hymnist John Mason Neale (24 January 1818 – 6 August 1866), chaplain of Downing College, Cambridge, and member of the Anglo-Catholic “Oxford Movement” and “Society of Saint Margaret” (to both of which both my parents were great adherents) wrote the words to the carol “Good King Wenceslas” which he published published in 1853, the music published in Sweden at least 300 years earlier (and possibly, as noted above, much more ancient still, dating back perhaps to the 13th century).

This unique “Christmas carol” makes no reference in the lyrics to the nativity or, really, to Christ or Christmas at all in its modern, popular form.  “Good King” (i.s. Saint) Wenceslas reigned as King of Bohemia in the 10th century, long before Prague became the second or third city of the Habsburg-Austrian Empire.  Good King Wenceslas was a Catholic and was martyred following his assassination by his brother Boleslaw and his supporters, his Saint’s Day is September 28th, and he is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. St. Stephen’s feast day was celebrated on 26th December which is why this song is sung as a Christmas carol.

The carol, and legacy of Saint Wenceslaus, owes its popularity to the concept of giving in meaningful ways at Christmastime, especially to the poor, especially by the rich.  Whether its mid-Nineteenth Century composition is in any way related to the movement sometimes called “Christian Socialism” is a different topic.

1. Good King Wenceslas look’d out,
On the Feast of Stephen;
When the snow lay round about,
Deep, and crisp, and even:
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gath’ring winter fuel.

2. “Hither page and stand by me,
If thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence.
Underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

3. “Bring me flesh, and bring me wine,
Bring me pine-logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together;
Through the rude winds wild lament,
And the bitter weather.

4. “Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know now how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page;

    Tread thou in them boldly;
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
    Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

5. In his master’s steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.

Alternative last four lines supposedly by author Neale. although I have never heard it sung this way .

Therefore, Christian men rejoice,
Who my lay are hearing,
He who cheers another’s woe
Shall himself find cheering.