Categories
angels literature quotations

American Civil War Reprise

This follows from my recent post of February 8th…

Sherman’s memoirs are the subjects and facts of history as it happened – the affair of generals and presidents although lesser mortals are recorded and considered also. But please allow me to record some views from more of a social history angle. I do so in the form of quotations from a book containing the writings of Walt Whitman who valiantly worked in the army hospitals looking after war casualties. Here are a few quotations which convey the reality of what I consider to be the first modern war. Modern in terms of use of technology and of public relations. A war that created a nation/society that still rules us in terms of power of suggestion – some weird mixture of Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

FIFTY HOURS LEFT WOUNDED ON THE FIELD
Here is a case of a soldier I found among the crowded cots in the Patent-office. He likes to have some one to talk to, and we will listen to him. He got badly hit in his leg and side at Fredericksburgh that eventful Saturday, 13th of December. He lay the succeeding two days and nights helpless on the field, between the city and those grim terraces of batteries; his company and regiment had been compell’d to leave him to his fate. To make matters worse, it happen’d he lay with his head slightly down hill, and could not help himself. At the end of some fifty hours he was brought off, with other wounded, under a flag of truce. I ask him how the rebels treated him as he lay during those two days and nights within reach of them—whether they came to him—whether they abused him? He answers that several of the rebels, soldiers and others, came to him at one time and another. A couple of them, who were together, spoke roughly and sarcastically, but nothing worse. One middle-aged man, however, who seem’d to be moving around the field, among the dead and wounded, for benevolent purposes, came to him in a way he will never forget; treated our soldier kindly, bound up his wounds, cheer’d him, gave him a couple of biscuits and a drink of whiskey and water; asked him if he could eat some beef. This good secesh, however, did not change our soldier’s position, for it might have caused the blood to burst from the wounds, clotted and stagnated. Our soldier is from Pennsylvania; has had a pretty severe time; the wounds proved to be bad ones. But he retains a good heart, and is at present on the gain. (It is not uncommon for the men to remain on the field this way, one, two, or even four or five days.)

Wednesday, February 4th.—Visited Armory-square hospital, went pretty thoroughly through wards E and D. Supplied paper and envelopes to all who wish’d—as usual, found plenty of men who needed those articles. Wrote letters. Saw and talk’d with two or three members of the Brooklyn 14th regt. A poor fellow in ward D, with a fearful wound in a fearful condition, was having some loose splinters of bone taken from the neighborhood of the wound. The operation was long, and one of great pain—yet, after it was well commenced, the soldier bore it in silence. He sat up, propp’d—was much wasted—had lain a long time quiet in one position (not for days only but weeks,) a bloodless, brown-skinn’d face, with eyes full of determination—belong’d to a New York regiment. There was an unusual cluster of surgeons, medical cadets, nurses, &c., around his bed—I thought the whole thing was done with tenderness, and done well. In one case, the wife sat by the side of her husband, his sickness typhoid fever, pretty bad. In another, by the side of her son, a mother—she told me she had seven children, and this was the youngest. (A fine, kind, healthy, gentle mother, good-looking, not very old, with a cap on her head, and dress’d like home—what a charm it gave to the whole ward.) I liked the woman nurse in ward E—I noticed how she sat a long time by a poor fellow who just had, that morning, in addition to his other sickness, bad hemorrhage—she gently assisted him, reliev’d him of the blood, holding a cloth to his mouth, as he coughed it up—he was so weak he could only just turn his head over on the pillow.

May ’63.—As I write this, the wounded have begun to arrive from Hooker’s command from bloody Chancellorsville. I was down among the first arrivals. The men in charge told me the bad cases were yet to come. If that is so I pity them, for these are bad enough. You ought to see the scene of the wounded arriving at the landing here at the foot of Sixth street, at night. Two boat loads came about half-past seven last night. A little after eight it rain’d a long and violent shower. The pale, helpless soldiers had been debark’d, and lay around on the wharf and neighborhood anywhere. The rain was, probably, grateful to them; at any rate they were exposed to it. The few torches light up the spectacle. All around—on the wharf, on the ground, out on side places—the men are lying on blankets, old quilts, &c., with bloody rags bound round heads, arms, and legs. The attendants are few, and at night few outsiders also—only a few hard-work’d transportation men and drivers. (The wounded are getting to be common, and people grow callous.) The men, whatever their condition, lie there, and patiently wait till their turn comes to be taken up. Near by, the ambulances are now arriving in clusters, and one after another is call’d to back up and take its load. Extreme cases are sent off on stretchers. The men generally make little or no ado, whatever their sufferings. A few groans that cannot be suppress’d, and occasionally a scream of pain as they lift a man into the ambulance. To-day, as I write, hundreds more are expected, and to-morrow and the next day more, and so on for many days. Quite often they arrive at the rate of 1000 a day.

Oh you who philosophize…

Categories
fire quotations

1863 A Sherman To Be

I’m in the middle of reading William Tecumseh Sherman‘s Memoirs Volume 1 and it put me in mind of the cards we used to get as kids in the early 60s. I think they were from bubblegum packets. They were pretty brutal pictures and it seems amazing now that something like that could be given away with sweets, though they were educational in a growing up sort of way. There was another series about a Martian invasion. I particularly remember one of the pictures being of a boy watching in horror as his dog is burnt to death by the raygun of a Martian.

Some time ago I found some of the American Civil War pictures on the internet and thanks to whoever put those up. I’ve selected a few of the images to show you what I’m talking about. Look away if you’re squeamish.

civilwar1

civilwar2

civilwar3

civilwar4

civilwar5

Sherman’s account does not dwell on such lurid details. Commanding officers cannot afford to be squeamish. For him it was a job that had to be done and his only interest was to make sure that it was done as well as he possibly could. Here is an excerpt from his account of the battle of Shiloh.

Then arose the severest musketry-fire I ever heard, and lasted some
twenty minutes, when this splendid regiment had to fall back. This
green point of timber is about five hundred yards east of Shiloh
meeting-home, and it was evident here was to be the struggle. The
enemy could also be seen forming his lines to the south. General
McClernand sending to me for artillery, I detached to him the three
guns of Wood’s battery, with which he speedily drove them back,
and, seeing some others to the rear, I sent one of my staff to
bring them forward, when, by almost providential decree, they
proved to be two twenty-four pound howitzers belonging to
McAlister’s battery, and served as well as guns ever could be.

This was about 2 p.m. The enemy had one battery close by Shiloh,
and another near the Hamburg road, both pouring grape and canister
upon any column of troops that advanced upon the green point of
water-oaks. Willich’s regiment had been repulsed, but a whole
brigade of McCook’s division advanced beautifully, deployed, and
entered this dreaded wood. I ordered my second brigade (then
commanded by Colonel T. Kilby Smith, Colonel Smart being wounded)
to form on its right, and my fourth brigade, Colonel Buckland, on
its right; all to advance abreast with this Kentucky brigade before
mentioned, which I afterward found to be Rousseau’s brigade of
McCook’s division. I gave personal direction to the twenty-four
pounder guns, whose well-directed fire first silenced the enemy’s
guns to the left, and afterward at the Shiloh meeting-house.

Rousseau’s brigade moved in splendid order steadily to the front,
sweeping every thing before it, and at 4 p.m. we stood upon the
ground of our original front line; and the enemy was in full
retreat.

Categories
angels music quotations

Bendicule

Here’s something I recorded on Christmas Day this year. A 5 minute guitar improvisation looped. It’s my final comment on the year but tells us nothing new.

I happen to be reading a book Lives of Roman Christian Women at the moment. For my seasonal offering this year here is the prayer of a remarkable woman, Macrina, which comes from the day of her death in about 380 CE.

You O Lord have freed us from the fear of death
You have made the end of this life to be the beginning of our true life.
You allow our bodies to rest for a time in sleep and wake us up again at the last trumpet.
You have given in trust to the earth our earthly bodies which you have shaped with your own hand.
You have restored what you have given, transforming what is mortal and shapeless in us by means of immortality and beauty.
You have redeemed us from the curse of the law and from sin, becoming both for us.
You have crushed the heads of the dragon which seized us in its jaws, dragging us through the yawning gulf of disobedience.
You have prepared the way for the resurrection, smashing down the gates of hell, and have destroyed the one who had power over death.
You have given as a token to those who fear you the sign of the holy cross so that we can destroy the enemy and bring stability to our lives.
God eternal, at whom I threw myself from the moment I left my mother’s womb.
You whom my soul has loved with all its strength, you to whom I dedicated my flesh and my soul from my youth until this moment, give me as companion a bright angel who will take me by the hand and lead me to the place of refreshment where flows the water of repose in the bosom of the holy fathers.
You have cut through the flame of the fiery sword and allowed the man who was crucified with you and who threw himself on your mercy to enter paradise.
Remember me, too, in your kingdom when I am crucified with you, I who out of fear of you have nailed down my flesh and have feared your judgements.
Do not let the terrifying chasm separate me from your chosen ones.
Do not let the jealous one block my way.
Do not let my sin be revealed before your eyes, if I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of my nature.
You who have power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me so that I may draw breath.
Grant that I may come into your presence when I shed my body and that my soul, holy and without blemish, will be received into your hands like incense before your face.

Categories
jazz music quotations

jazz quotations 4

more in my series of quotations connected to jazz. these ones are not actually from downbeat.

So here you’ve got a case where I was playing with Fletcher Henderson, and Fletcher Henderson’s fellows always said to me, “You play those strange chords! Why don’t you just play like a piano player?” And I said, “Well, Fletcher plays piano, he likes the way I play, and hired me, and you just play horn, so you should shut up! I think a piano player would know what I’m capable of, and he likes what I’m doing; he ain’t saying nothing, so you should shut up!” So then it was a big problem. I put in my notice. I said, “I’m not going to put up with this, because I’m not what you would call a human being. I deal with precision, and if they keep on messing with me, they’re going to get an explosion.” I had to do something about it, it was irritating me. I said, I’ve got to do something to teach these humans don’t mess with me. So the next night I got me a straight razor, and I put it right on the piano, by one of the trumpet players, and I said, “Tonight, I’m going to cut somebody’s head off if they say something about my playing, `cause I’m very evil tonight, and I’m not going to take nothing from no human being. Off goes somebody’s head!” So he didn’t bother me no more. And then the next thing that happened, I just put my notice in. So I came back to see who Fletcher got to play piano. And he was down there directing. He had no piano player. And Fletcher said if I didn’t play, they wouldn’t have a piano. He said, “Come back on the stage!” So I went back on the stage, and Fletcher smiled, and I had my job back.

Sun Ra

I used to run into Paul Motian in the Sufi center in the late ’60s and early ’70s and we’d see Hazrat Inyat Khan speaking and this guy is a very, very high person. And he would stand up in front of the 40 or 50 people there who were into him and he’d just be looking out at people in the audience without saying anything for about three or four minutes, which is a long time if you’re waiting for somebody to speak. But he’d be like in the ozone but in a very special way, waiting for the words to come and being totally real and totally spontaneous with the people. And this is really beautiful to see. In fact, it’s the most natural state of human beings. Anyway, that’s kind of an analogy to what I feel about music, which is to say we’re really ourselves most naturally when we’re being spontaneous with each other, which is the best way to be in life anyways. You know, when you have a family, everybody is spontaneous with each other and sometimes a little brutally honest, but nevertheless it’s spontaneous so it cannot really be bad. And that is really my philosophical foundation, if you like, about how groups should be. And maybe this is why I always want great players. I need stimulation, I need them to kick my ass, as it were, and provoke me in some way that will push me to a place that I don’t know, that I’ve never been before.

John McLaughlin

It interests me more to have a human relationship with you than a musical relationship. I want to see if I can express myself in words, in sounds that have to do with a human relationship. At the same time, I would like to be able to speak of the relationship between two talents, between two doings. For me, the human relationship is much more beautiful, because it allows you to gain the freedom that you desire, for yourself and for the other.

Ornette Coleman

Categories
birds literature quotations

quotations 5

There is much talk of a design in the arras. Some are certain they see it. Some see what they have been told to see. Some remember that they saw it once but have lost it. Some are strengthened by seeing a pattern wherein the oppressed and exploited of the earth are gradually emerging from their bondage. Some find strength in the conviction that there is nothing to see. Some…

Thornton Wilder

Then he walked down Broadway with his hands in his overcoat pockets, wearing a smile which embraced all the stream of life that passed him and the lighted towers that rose into the limpid blue of the evening sky. If the singer, going home exhausted in her cab, was wondering what was the good of it all, that smile, could she have seen it, would have answered her. It is the only commensurate answer.

Willa Cather

He’s always first. When the end of night approaches, silence is broken by the one off key. The one off key, the bird who never tires, awakens the master singers. And before first light, all the birds in the world begin their serenade at the window, sailing over the flowers, over their reflections.

A few sing for love of the art. Others broadcast news or recount gossip or tell jokes or give speeches or proclaim delight. But all of them, artists, reporters, gossips, wags, cranks and crazies, join in a single orchestral overture.

Do birds announce the morning? Or, by singing, do they create it?

Eduardo Galeano

announcing the morning

Categories
fire literature may micromuseum quotations sea

Micromuseum 10

Another book addition to the micromuseum catalogue. This one dates from 1977 and is a beguiling publication. I had this book lying around (on top of a fender twin reverb to be precise) because I was going to do this post about it and a friend was round and she kept being drawn to it. It’s a poem illustrated with artwork. The poem is quite long and is by Wallace Stevens. Its inspiration was Picasso‘s painting vieux guitariste aveugle. Stevens’ poem is called The Man With The Blue Guitar and Hockney’s etchings are entitled The Blue Guitar. The project was devised by Hockney in the summer of 1976 while he was on holiday on Fire Island, New York.

To give some sort of notion of the book I have selected a few random clips of verse and scanned 3 of the illustrations. The concept of a great poem illustrated by great art is a strong one. There are probably some other books like that around, I will investigate, but if there are I can’t imagine that any could be better than this. I’ll let you know.

Things as they are have been destroyed
Have I? Am I a man that is dead

At a table at which the food is cold?
Is my thought a memory, not alive?

hockney01

Slowly the ivy on the stones
Becomes the stones. Women become

The cities, children become the fields
And men in waves become the sea.

hockney02

Dew-dapper clapper-traps, blazing
From crusty stacks above machines.

Ecce, Oxidia is the seed
Dropped out of this amber-ember pod,

Oxidia is the soot of fire,
Oxidia is Olympia.

hockney03

Finally, these are the last words of the book.

Type set in 11pt. Electra Linotype
Printed in England on Abbey Mills laid paper by the Scolar Press
Published by Petersburg Press, London and New York

Categories
jazz music quotations

Jazz Quotations 3

This is the 3rd in my series of jazz quotations drawn from the Downbeat archive. My choices are commentaries and also reflect my own life and concerns.

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not claim any of the creation of the blues, although I have written many of them even before Mr. Handy had any blues published. I had heard them when I was knee-high to a duck. For instance, when I first started going to school, at different times I would visit some of my relatives per permission, in the Garden district. I used to hear a few of the following blues players, who could play nothing else-Buddie Canter, Josky Adams, Game Kid, Frank Richards, Sam Henry, and many more too numerous to mention-they were what we call “ragmen” in New Orleans. They can take a 10¢ Xmas horn, take the wooden mouthpiece off, having only the metal for mouthpiece, and play more blues with that instrument than any trumpeter I had ever met through the country imitating the New Orleans trumpeters.

Jelly Roll Morton

I took a job playing in a tonk for Dago Tony on Perdido and Franklin street and Louis used to slip in there and get on the music stand behind the piano. He would fool around with my cornet every chance he got. I showed him just how to hold it and place it to his mouth, and he did so, and it wasn’t long before he began getting a good tone out of my horn. Then I began showing him just how to start the blues, and little by little he began to understand.

Now here is the year Louis started. It was in the latter part of 1911 as close as I can think. Louis was about 11 years old. Now I’ve said a lot about my boy Louis and just how he started playing cornet. He started playing it by head.

Willie Bunk Johnson

A hundred people would crowd into one seven-room flat until the walls bulged. Plenty of food with hot maws (pickled pig bladders) and chitt’lins with vinegar, beer, and gin, and when we played the shouts everybody danced.

Willie The Lion

What attracted Bird to Gil was Gil’s musical attitude. How would I describe that attitude? ‘Proving’ is the most accurate word I can think of.

Gerry Mulligan

When Bird did hear my music, he liked it very much. Unfortunately, by the time he was ready to use me, I wasn’t ready to write for him. I was going through another period of learning by then. As it turned out, Miles, who was playing with Bird then, was attracted to me and my music. He did what Charlie might have done if at that time Charlie had been ready to use himself as a voice, as part of an overall picture, instead of a straight soloist.

I remember that original Miles band during the two weeks we played at the Royal Roost. There was a sign outside-‘Arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, and John Lewis.’ Miles had it put in front; no one before had ever done that, given credit that way to arrangers.

Gil Evans

Categories
fire literature quotations

Charlus

To go back, now, to the remaining events of the year 1719.

The Marquise de Charlus, sister of Mezieres, and mother of the Marquis de
Levi, who has since become a duke and a peer, died rich and old.  She was
the exact picture of an “old clothes” woman and was thus subject to many
insults from those who did not know her, which she by no means relished.
To relieve a little the seriousness of these memoirs, I will here relate
an amusing adventure of which she was heroine.

She was very avaricious, and a great gambler.  She would have passed the
night up to her knees in water in order to play.  Heavy gambling at
lansquenet was carried on at Paris in the evening, at Madame la Princesse
de Conti’s.  Madame de Charlus supped there one Friday, between the
games, much company being present.  She was no better clad than at other
times, and wore a head-dress, in vogue at that day, called commode, not
fastened, but put on or taken off like a wig or a night-cap.  It was
fashionable, then, to wear these headdresses very high.

Madame de Charlus was near the Archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier.  She
took a boiled egg, that she cracked, and in reaching for some salt, set
her head dress on fire, at a candle near, without perceiving it. The
Archbishop, who saw her all in flames, seized the head-dress and flung it
upon the ground.  Madame de Charlus, in her surprise, and indignant at
seeing her self thus uncovered, without knowing why, threw her egg in the
Archbishop’s face, and made him a fine mess.

Nothing but laughter was heard; and all the company were in convulsions
of mirth at the grey, dirty, and hoary head of Madame de Charlus, and the
Archbishop’s omelette; above all, at the fury and abuse of Madame de
Charlus, who thought she had been affronted, and who was a long time
before she would understand the cause, irritated at finding herself thus
treated before everybody.  The head-dress was burnt, Madame la Princesse
de Conti gave her another, but before it was on her head everybody had
time to contemplate her charms, and she to grow in fury.

Saint-Simon Memoirs

Categories
quotations

Gutenberg 3

A few days ago I was just reading the passage below, probably late at night and thought it was so good that I had to make it the first of a new set of quotations from Gutenberg-downloaded texts as I have in the past see short list following.

Now this is the bit I was reading and then I’ve selected some more excerpts – I hope they’re ok for you. If not, catch you next time round.

David LivingstoneLast Journals

_29th October, 1866._–We marched westwards to Makosa’s village, and
could not go further, as the next stage is long and through an
ill-peopled country. The morning was lovely, the whole country bathed
in bright sunlight, and not a breath of air disturbed the smoke as it
slowly curled up from the heaps of burning weeds, which the native
agriculturist wisely destroys. The people generally were busy hoeing
in the cool of the day. One old man in a village where we rested had
trained the little hair he had left into a tail, which, well plastered
with fat, he had bent on itself and laid flat on his crown; another
was carefully paring a stick for stirring the porridge, and others
were enjoying the cool shade of the wild fig-trees which are always
planted at villages. It is a sacred tree all over Africa and India,
and the tender roots which drop down towards the ground are used as
medicine–a universal remedy. Can it be a tradition of its being like
the tree of life, which Archbishop Whately conjectures may have been
used in Paradise to render man immortal? One kind of fig-tree is often
seen hacked all over to get the sap, which is used as bird-lime;
bark-cloth is made of it too. I like to see the men weaving or
spinning, or reclining under these glorious canopies, as much as I
love to see our more civilized people lolling on their sofas or
ottomans.

What can I say? The humanity of the man bleeds through with every sentence. Only his wife and his children could possibly be allowed to criticise him.

The Memoirs of Saint-Simon

The Memoirs of M. de la Rochefoucauld appeared. They contained certain atrocious and false statements against my father, who so severely resented the calumny, that he seized a pen, and wrote upon the margin of the book, “The author has told a lie.” Not content with this, he went to the bookseller, whom he discovered with some difficulty, for the book was not sold publicly at first. He asked to see all the copies of the work, prayed, promised, threatened, and at last succeeded in obtaining them. Then he took a pen and wrote in all of them the same marginal note. The astonishment of the
bookseller may be imagined. He was not long in letting M. de la Rochefoucauld know what had happened to his books: it may well be believed that he also was astonished. This affair made great noise. My father, having truth on his side, wished to obtain public satisfaction from M. de la Rochefoucauld. Friends, however, interposed, and the matter was allowed to drop. But M. de la Rochefoucauld never pardoned my father; so true it is that we less easily forget the injuries we inflict than those that we receive.

I wonder if there are any of those books left in existence and if so how much they are worth.

Plutarch – life of Alexander

About this time, Kalanus, who had for some days been suffering from some internal disorder, begged that a funeral pile might be erected for him. He rode up to it on horseback, said a prayer, poured a libation for himself and cut off a lock of his own hair, as is usual at a sacrifice, and then, mounting the pile, shook hands with those Macedonians who were present, bidding them be of good cheer that day, and drink deep at the king’s table. He added, that he himself should shortly see the king at Babylon. Having spoken thus he lay down and covered himself over. He did not move when the fire reached him, but remained in the same posture until he was consumed, thus sacrificing himself to the gods after the manner of the Indian philosophers. Many years afterwards another Indian, a friend of Cæsar, did the like in the city of Athens; and at the present day his sepulchre is shown under the name of “the Indian’s tomb.”

LXX. After Alexander left the funeral pyre, he invited many of his friends and chief officers to dinner, and offered a prize to the man who could drink most unmixed wine. Promachus, who won it, drank as much as four choes. He was presented with a golden crown worth a talent, and lived only three days afterwards. Of the others, Chares, the historian, tells us that forty-one died of an extreme cold that came upon them in their drunkenness.

For some reason I always go for these tales of alcoholic excess. Perhaps, as a very nice woman who I have never met pointed out to me this week “the universe is trying to tell (me) something”. Meanwhile I knock back another sip of neat vodka. Still I’m balancing it up with organic apple, ginger, almonds and dried apricots. Could be worse.

Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads

JERRY, GO ILE THAT CAR

Come all ye railroad section men an’ listen to my song,

It is of Larry O’Sullivan who now is dead and gone.

For twinty years a section boss, he niver hired a tar—

Oh, it’s “j’int ahead and cinter back,

An’ Jerry, go ile that car!”

For twinty years a section boss, he niver hired a tar,

But it’s “j’int ahead an cinter back,

An’ Jerry, go ile that car-r-r!”

For twinty years a section boss, he worked upon the track,

And be it to his cred-i-it he niver had a wrack.

For he kept every j’int right up to the p’int wid the tap of the tampin-bar-r-r;

And while the byes was a-swimmin’ up the ties,

It’s “Jerry, wud yez ile that car-r-r!”

God rest ye, Larry O’Sullivan, to me ye were kind and good;

Ye always made the section men go out and chop me wood;

An’fetch me wather from the well an’chop me kindlin’ fine;

And any man that wouldn’t lind a hand, ’twas Larry give him his Time.

And ivery Sunday morni-i-ing unto the gang he’d say:

”Me byes, prepare—yez be aware the ould lady goes to church the day.

Now, I want ivery man to pump the best he can, for the distance it is far-r-r;

An’ we have to get in ahead of number tin—

So, Jerry, go an’ ile that car-r-r!”

‘Twas in November in the winter time and the ground all covered wid snow,

“Come put the hand-car-r-r on the track an’ over the section go!”

Wid his big soger coat buttoned up to his t’roat, all weathers he would dare—

An’ it’s “Paddy Mack, will yez walk the track,

An’ Jerry, go an’ ile that car-r-r!”

“Give my respects to the roadmas-ther,” poor Larry he did cry,
”
An lave me up that I may see the ould hand-car before I die.

Come, j’int ahead an’ cinter back,

An’ Jerry, go an’ ile that car-r-r!”

Then lay the spike maul upon his chist, the gauge, and the ould claw-bar-r-r,

And while the byes do be fillin’ up his grave,

”Oh, Jerry, go an’ ile that car-r-r!”

Just a few ideas on this subject. Comes out of ballad tradition – see Scandinavian/Viking traditions – Icelandic because it was isolated and allowed to hang over till the era of the written word. New technologies and industries, in this case the railroad, brought new linguistic possibilities. I particularly like the last verse with its spike maul and its ould claw-bar-r-r.

This is where the books are

Last Journals of Livingstone

Memoirs of Saint-Simon
Plutarch’s Lives Volume III
Cowboy Songs

Categories
angels film literature quotations

Kropotkin/Peróvskaya

I recently finished reading Memoirs of a Revolutionist by Peter Kropotkin – a superb book (especially first two thirds) which I heartily recommend. Kropotkin himself comes over as a man of genius but there are many other characters that appear in the narrative who were obviously extraordinary people and deserve to be more than historical footnotes.

One of the most striking is Sofiya Peróvskaya, who was hanged in 1881 for her part in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. In Kropotkin’s words

The letter she wrote to her mother a few hours before she went to the scaffold is one of the best expressions of a loving soul that a woman’s heart ever dictated.

Here is a translation of the letter that I managed to find on the internet.

Mother, mother! Beloved, beloved one! If you only knew how cruelly I suffer at the thought of the sorrow and torture I have caused you, dearest! I beg and beseech you not to rack your tender heart for my sake. Spare yourself and think of all those who are round you at home, and who love you no less than I do, and need you constantly; and who, more than I, are entitled to your love and affection. Spare yourself too, for the sake of me, who would be so happy if only the agonising thought of the sorrow I have caused you did not torture me so unspeakably. Sorrow not over my fate which I created for myself, as you know, at the strict behest of my conscience. You know that I could not have acted differently, that I was obliged to do what my heart ordered, that I had to go and leave you, beloved mother, when my country called me. Do not think that the death that inevitably awaits me has any terror for my soul. That which has happened is only, you know, what I have been expecting every day, every hour, during all those years, and what sooner or later, must overtake me and my friends. Soon in the course of a few days I must die for the cause, for the idea, for which I devoted my life and all the powers of my soul and body. How happy I should be then, dearest, beloved! Once more I beseech you not to mourn for me. You are well aware how ineffably I love you. I have always, always loved you. By this love I conjure you to forgive your Sonya! Again and again I kiss your beloved hands, and on my knees, thank you for all you have given me during every moment of my life. On my knees I beseech you to bear to all the dear ones at home my last loving greetings! Tomorrow I shall stand once more in the presence of my judges; probably for the last time. But my clothes are so shabby and I wanted to tidy myself up a bit. Buy and send me, dearest mama, a little white collar and a pair of simple loose sleeves with links. Perhaps it will be vouchsafed us once again to meet. Until then, farewell! Do not forget my last fervent prayer, my last thought: forgive me and do not bewail me.

A 1967 Russian film directed by Lev Arnshtam dramatised her life. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the score. If you’d like to watch it, here it is. No subtitles though.