Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Murder of the Innocents—The Coventry Carol

 The picture above could be of Aleppo to-day, it is Coventry 1940

Germany's most famous [and propagandised by both sides] blitz of the war waited for a full moon over Coventry on the night of November 14th 1940. Coventry was a large industrial city. The Germans firebombed and explosively bombed the city. The city was bombed form east to west, and then west to east for nine hours. The English had anti-aircraft guns, which were no defense. Most structures in the city were destroyed, especially the town centre, including St. Michael’s Cathedral. The death toll was officially 568.

To-day Coventry is England's 9th largest city, in the late mediæval/early modern period it was 3rd/4th/5th. During the 15th century, before the end of the War of the Roses, it was sometimes the capital until the Lancastrians were defeated. Coventry was then in Warwickshire, as was Stratford-upon-Avon.

England has been Catholic longer than it has not. In the 16th century, it was not sure which way it would go. Henry VIII introduced Protestantism, it reached an extreme form under the Cromwells. Catholicism was not legal until 1829. About this time caroling and Christmas made a comeback in the public sphere.

Coventry became a rich city through the wool trade, and dyers. Mediæval Europe, trades organised in guilds. These guilds were economic and social.  August in Coventry the shearmen and tailors put on a mystery play about the Nativity, about the Massacre of the Innocents, from chapter two the Gospel of Matthew. Herod was the protagonist. Herod will be always be remembered for his extra-ordinary wickedness. In theatrical acting, it is in portraying extremes of character, that the temptation to an over abundance of exuberance may fall in play; this does not always make for a good performance. Shakespeare has Hamlet coach actors not to overdo a part to excess, it causes ridiculousness.

 ...I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.

Now, Shakespeare was a recusant, some of his relatives were more public. He was born at that time, when the old religion was in eclipse, but not without hope and prospects of full return. All the old customs were not, yet, extinguished in the whole of England. As a child, he still was able to see some of the mediæval, mystery plays performed in cathedral and market towns. He would have seen an overzealous Herod perform.

There were three carols in that nativity play, the one now called 'The Coventry Carol' is about the massacre. Three mothers (in the play sung by men) sing a last lullaby to their doomed sons. [modern spelling]

    Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
    Bye bye, lully, lullay.
    Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
    Bye bye, lully, lullay.

    O sisters too, how may we do
    For to preserve this day
    This poor youngling for whom we sing,
    "Bye bye, lully, lullay"?

    Herod the king, in his raging,
    Chargèd he hath this day
    His men of might in his own sight
    All young children to slay.

    That woe is me, poor child, for thee
    And ever mourn and may
    For thy parting neither say nor sing,
    "Bye bye, lully, lullay."

This carol did not become well known until a BBC radio broadcast for Christmas 1940. It was sung in the ruins of Coventry's cathedral.   

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Strangers Speech

Last night, PBS aired a Shakespeare programme performed in April (400 year anniversary of death). Shakespeare was one of a team of writers who would have written the play, The Booke of Sir Thomas More. The censor would not allow such writing performed. Many commentaries on Shakespeare say that only a few signatures of Shakespeare exist, but the the British Library has this script in progress written in Shakespeare's hand. Some call this the "strangers speech", others call it "More's speech to the mob/crowd". May Day 1517 there were anti-immigrant (mostly Lombards) riots in London, More was sent out as deputy sheriff to deal with them. Here are the words Shakespeare gives him from Act II, Scene 4:

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….

Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.

Friday, December 23, 2016

the word for the day is — Gleichschaltung

Germans like compound words. The fascist period of German history had added words to the dictionary. Our word of the day literally is 'equal switching', some historians are using the word 'forcible coordination'. There were institutions prior, they were co-opted, replaced, had a parallel substitute, or additions to change the focus. I was reminded of this by an article i read to-day with the foto attached. For some of us Christmas is the birth of the Saviour of the World, for some it is a time of family and social celebrations, for some it is a money making opportunity; for the Nazis it was another vehicle of propaganda. The Christian aspects were shadowed by Teutonic paganism, and of course — the party. This replacement of current things by new things should be weighed by what purpose. The loyalty of say, ah, um, 'Fox' listeners and their disdain for other media to the point of rejecting all that does not currently align with their agenda is to be noted. We have entered a new chapter of American history.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I went to the picture show last night, the eighth time this year. The last time i went that frequently was in college. Before the movie, i saw a young man walking his dog, a good looking, happy animal, half poodle, half golden retriever. He was white and named, 'Heisenberg'. He was not uncertain, not after the physicist, but a fictional chemist.

Jackie about the assassination is an instant in historical time worth considering. It had elements of the surreal in the experience, the presentation in the film was not linear. There are moments of meaning to ponder (even moreso now when a buffoon is to seize the presidency). The movie is not great, but important. Natalie Portman will be nominated as best actress, and i would not be surprised she wins awards, although satisfactory, her portrayal is not exceptional in the least. The best acting is by John Hurt as a priest. William White? [reporter] is an interesting character also; he seems to belong in another film. The funniest line in the movie is "and i don't smoke".  The film has Jackie mention the Birchers in Dallas, and Bobby says a quick thought about what could have been and will not be. The record plays Camelot, very good motif.

At the end of the movie we see Jack (at the end of the White House tour programme). For those of us, who can remember the historical personages, he is the only actor catching the sound of his portrayal. Those voices are still remembered by many of us.

Jackie asks a driver does he know who is James Garfield, and then William McKinley. The time from McKinley's death to Kennedy's is almost exactly the time from Kennedy's death to now.

Jack Valenti, an aide to Johnson, was a shit in the movie. Valenti would become the long time spokesman for Hollywood.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Wade oval and lagoon

Wade Oval is surrounded by three museums. It is a park of trees and grass. I am late in posting, during the first weekend in December there was a winter's celebration involving Cleveland Art Museum. Forty exploded plastic pop dandelion puff balls were attached to ten feet pvc electrical pipes, a triumphal arch, a few of the plastic Cracking Art Collective animals, wooden tables and chairs were some of the items placed on the green oval.

On the other side of the art museum, the entrance closed for the winter, one was free to walk without seeing much of anyone. Interesting views were there to be seen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Tuba Christmas

Tucker Jolly conducted his 37th Tuba Christmas (2 performances Saturday at Akron U's performing arts center). Some 450 of the tuba family came, only one had played in all 37 (we here won't go in detail why 38 is not fortunate, but unusually prevalent). They played each carol once, and then again with audience singing. No one knew the words to the Coventry Carol. Many people came with sleigh bells (so many that the introductions were drowned out); there is a television joke that fits here, the one about needing more cowbell, one expected a bobsled to swoosh by. Christmas carols are a French idea, and we are familiar with great German ones. It is a splendid thing. About a third of the audience dressed in red. Santa hats, and reindeer antlers were visible. Some of the tubas had light strands, at least one had a small Christmas tree. If you spy the foto carefully, there is an instrumentalist in pink bunny pajamas, an Union soldier, Santa Claus, and one in a Dickensian suit.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Water is Life

A collective of artists, DC 2 Standing Rock painted two murals in Cleveland. supra W.44th & Lorain, infra 5714 Outhwaite. The first they did on Wednesday the 30th, the second on the 1st. #NODAPL #WATERISLIFE #MNIWICONI  They will be painting in Cleveland, Flint/Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. They expect to be in North Dakota with the Standing Rock Sioux on Monday. The sidewalk on 4th has televisions (in some fotos they may look as part of the painting). The teevees read 'media blackout', since this is an under reported story.

The governor of Ohio, John Kasich, had sent 37 Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers to help keep the Indians at bay. They were sent on October 29th, and returned on November 14th.
Behold I will stand there before thee, upon the rock Horeb: and thou shalt strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink. Moses did so before the ancients of Israel: — Exodus xvii. 6.

But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. — John iv. 14.