Category Archives: Poems, prose & song

Novemberish

November in New York

Novemberish: adj. “Belonging to or characteristic of November; dismal, gloomy.” Earliest use found in Robert Burns (1759–1796), poet. (OED)

“Round, and round, and round they go — Mundell’s ox that drives his cotton-mill is their exact prototype — without an idea or wish beyond their circle; fat, sleek, stupid, patient, quiet, and contented; while here I sit, altogether Novemberish, a d-mnd melange of fretfulness and melancholy; not enough of the one to rise me to passion, nor of the other to repose me in torpor; my soul flouncing and fluttering round her tenement, like a wild finch, caught amid the horrors of winterand newly thrust into a cage.”

– – From a letter written by Robert Burns to Mrs Riddell, Woodley Park, November 1793

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The origins of Hallowe’en

halloweenpumpkins

The word Halloween (or Hallowe’en) dates back to about 1745, and although it describes a pagan holiday, its name has a Christian origin. It means “hallowed” or “holy” evening and derives from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Evethe evening before All Hallows’ Day: the Eve of All Saints, which fell on the last night of October. This, the last night of the year in the old Celtic calendar (dating back to the 1550s), was Old Year’s Night, a night for witches. The Scottish word for “eve” is even, and hence the contraction e’en or een. “All Hallows'” is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, referring to the mass day of all saints), but “All Hallows’ Eve” wasn’t recorded until 1556.

The Roman Catholic Church’s official name for All Saints Day (otherwise known as All Hallows’ Day) on November 1 is Solemnity of All Saints’ Day, but it is also called “Hallows” or “Hallowmas” (Hallowmas being shortened from Hallow’s mass). Happy Hallowmas Eve …

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Halloween
by Robert Burns Continue reading

The sands of time

Posted in memory of my dad, Brian Barder, who died last month.

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A PSALM OF LIFE

WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

“Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling

Myanmar, Bagan

Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, yesterday started reciting lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Mandalay” while inside a Myanmar temple during an official visit to the former British colony. He was on a live mic (and on camera) at the time, being filmed for a Channel Four documentary; the British ambassador, Andrew Patrick, who was chaperoning Johnson on the visit to Yangon’s sacred Shwedagon Pagoda, was quick to remind him that citing from the colonial-era poem was inappropriate. Here’s the poem in full: Continue reading

A source for Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote about faith and the staircase?

Martin Luther King Jr. / Wikimedia Commons

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

When you search for that sentence on Google, you’ll get about 3,700,000 results — most of which attribute the statement (sometimes as a paraphrase) to Martin Luther King Jr. But can anyone find a source for that citation? I have searched on the King Institute web site — probably the most comprehensive collection  “of King’s most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts” — and found nothing resembling that sentence.

Can anyone shed any light on the history of this famous quotation?

Many thanks to Bronwyn for raising this interesting query.

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