POEM: LOCH NA GARR

Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Poetry of Byron.  1881.
 
I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac
Loch Na Garr essentially about childhood, what the Gael calls ancestry (dualchas), heritage (dualchas) sense of place (duthchas).
Byron contrasts the green landscaped civilized fields of southern England, with the wild, windswept craggy East Highlands
Byron himself wrote:
“I allude here to my maternal ancestors, “the Gordons,” many of whom fought for the unfortunate Prince Charles, better known by the name of the Pretender. This branch was nearly allied by blood, as well as attachment, to the Stuarts. George, the second Earl of Huntley, married the Princess Annabella Stuart, daughter of James I. of Scotland. By her he left four sons: the third, Sir William Gordon, I have the honour to claim as one of my progenitors.”
Byron also referred to  Lochnagar in The Island:

The infant rapture still survivied the boy,
And Loch-na-gar with Ida looked o’er Troy.[7]
— The Island: Canto II, stanza XII, lines 290-291

As the Penguin Book of Scottish Verse says:
“There are few major English poets who can be heard sung in peasant bothies among the more native fare, but Byron’s Lachin A Gair is a popular favourite, and those sophisticated critics who sneer at the poem but don’t know the tune should hear it sung by a farm-labourer’s ‘tenore robusto. “

Or I daresay David Solley or Kenneth McKellar
 AWAY, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses!  
In you let the minions of luxury rove;
Restore me the rocks, where the snow-flake reposes,  
Though still they are sacred to freedom and love:
Yet, Caledonia, beloved are thy mountains,       
 5  Round their white summits though elements war;
Though cataracts foam ’stead of smooth-flowing fountains, 
 I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr. 

Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wander’d;  
My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid;       
 10On chieftains long perish’d my memory ponder’d, 
 As daily I strode through the pine-cover’d glade:I
sought not my home till the day’s dying glory 
 Gave place to the rays of the bright polar star
;For fancy was cheer’d by traditional story,        
15  Disclosed by the natives of dark Loch na Garr.

 “Shades of the dead! have I not heard your voices  
Rise on the night-rolling breath of the gale?”
Surely the soul of the hero rejoices,  
And rides on the wind o’er his own Highland vale.        
20Round Loch na Garr while the stormy mist gathers, 
 Winter presides in his cold icy car:
Clouds there encircle the forms of my fathers;  
They dwell in the tempests of dark Loch na Garr. 

“Illstarr’d, though brave, did no visions foreboding        
25  Tell you that fate had forsaken your cause?”
Ah! were you destined to die at Culloden,  
Victory crown’d not your fall with applause:
Still were you happy in death’s earthy slumber,  
You rest with your clan in the caves of Braemar;      
  30The pibroch resounds, to the piper’s loud number, 
 Your deeds on the echoes of dark Loch na Garr. 

Years have roll’d on, Loch na Garr, since I left you,  Years must elapse ere I tread you again:
Nature of verdure and flow’rs has bereft you,       
 35  Yet still are you dearer than Albion’s plain.
England! thy beauties are tame and domestic  
To one who has roved on the mountains afar:
Oh for the crags that are wild and majestic!  
The steep frowning glories of dark Loch na Garr!        40 

ZOOM STUDENTS GO ZOOM, ZOOM ZOOM….

by Richard K. Munro

Until last year I had never heard of “Zoom” as teaching tool or “Canvas.” I had done some online training classes and some correspondence classes via email and via snail mail with the occasional phone call. I remember writing an illustrated poem in elementary school that went like this “THE PLANE WENT ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM then crashed and went BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! ” I thought it was exciting and realistic but I remember it did not that the approval of the classroom teacher.

I am a classroom teacher in the trenches. Now of course I am teaching students as if they were on a distant moon or Mars or in the Space Lab. I have done virtual teaching since March 18 2020. All I will say is that it is better than in March 2020 and it is better than nothing.

But it should go without saying that online technology creates a barrier or affective filter that discourages and impedes comprehension and learning. No one would think to try to teach a foreign language by phone or merely via emails. Students who do not hear well, comprehend aural English and who do not type or word process quickly and accurately are at severe disadvantage.

All that side we are doing VIRTUAL testing of the English Proficiency Tests this year (via ETS) https://www.elpac.org/ We teachers have to learn a test interface for distant testing.
Students have to use a special ten digit student # for the ELPAC they cannot past this number nor can it be sent via email. Students must have the APP for the secure test browser on their Chromebook or computer
If they don’t they are out of luck. Even so even with a school

Chromebook technical difficulties are not unusual especially due to the quality of the internet connection. The Secure Test Browser requires a fast and continuous Internet speed.


Then students have to use their first name (first letter capitalized)
type in there unique student ID # for the ELPAC
then type in a unique session # for their grade level or the reading, writing and listening test they are doing. Believe me this is complicated If one thing goes wrong or the internet is slow everything crashes.
So far 40 % of students in my class have not been able to log on even to begin a test.
Of those who have tested only about 30% have finished all the required tests. Some are incomplete because the test froze while they were testing. Some are incomplete because despite numerous attempts day after day during class and after school they could not log on via their Chromebooks.

I am a good soldier. I try to do my best. I monitor for HOURS (often after my regular school day) WITHOUT ANY PAY to make sure the students can finish tests. Sometimes I have to spend 3, 4, 5, 6 hours monitoring ELPAC my camera and their camera MUST BE ON and IS RECORDED so that students can finish the test. I have taken to having my ,lunch and coffee during testing because it is too much trouble to log off or pause the test.

And of course the students have to sign a form that they can’t use any materials or phones or aides during the test. But let’s be honest I can see the person who is front of the camera and I recognize that person. I montior what they are doing and how long they do it. But such a test is NOT SECURE. Really it should be considered INVALID.

It is HORRIBLE how much school time is spent merely on test prop for EL PAC all readings all assignments mimic the ELPAC and that is all we do. But don’t forget we have to give other tests like the STAR READING test (fortunately a snap to take and administer just a link no layers of “security”)

But the word is the State of California has paid millions for these tests and ETS is desperate that they tests be given because they want them to be renewed for next year and the year after that.

It would be logical to suspend this testing in this plague year. We could have easily done practice tests to familiarize students for a future year and left it at that.

But soon my journey of the cross will be over and so will the Calvary of the students. We will begin to meet in person April 6-April 12th. But with a difference. Some students will still be at home since attendance in person is voluntary. So teachers have to do distance learning and in person learning simultaneous. We will be equipped with additional cameras, speakers and a Plexiglas protector on our desks. We will have to wear a mask at all times while teaching. In April and May we will dedicate ourselves to literature (Homer) and poetry (including Shakespeare). I have Audible books on tape and electronic versions of all the books and poems. Students will listen and recite proverbs and poems to improve their diction and they will write short responses to literature and keep vocabulary notebooks.

But it appears they will remain on a distant moon and I on my distant spaceship. Some students will report to classrooms (computer labs) with teacher aides but many will continue distance learning from home.

As I said , it is better than nothing but the truth is the Matthew effect is quite evident. The Rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Without constant supervision and close encouragement, many students are distracted and demoralized. For many the entire year has been a loss. Poles and Jews in forced labor camps during WWII have learned more. And I am sure that you are away how disastrous it was for youth to lose out on education from 1940-1945.

Covid 19 has been as bad as war and worse than the Great Depression.

I only hope schools will return to normal by Fall. There is a future for distance learning, of course. But it works best with fluent, motivated mature and highly motivated students.

It is a poor choice for k-6, for English Learners, for neophyte foreign language learners, immature, easily distracted and marginally motivated students. If a student has a poor home environment then that student does not even have the advantage of a bright, clean, secure environment

YES, BY ALL MEANS STANDARDIZED TESTING SHOULD BE SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER
NOTICE.

But no one pays any attention to me. So I carry on as in the Ypres Salient and do my duty.

But I mourn the massive casualties all about me.

Some students are being destroyed have been discouraged and have dropped out. Many are working in the field, in packing sheds in kitchens etc. The Plague Year has been a sad year. A year of suffering, loss and tragedy.

Owen Barfield’s “History, Guilt, and Habit” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Despite having built up a North American following in the 1960s and 1970s, Owen Barfield (1898-1997) could find almost no publication, periodical, or serial to review his 1979 book, History, Guilt, and Habit. Only one academic journal, the Virginia Quarterly Review, even deigned to acknowledge it, and, in one swift paragraph, the journal dismissed the book’s author as “cranky” and the book as meaningful only to right-wing Hegelians.

Based on a set of three lectures delivered in British Columbia in October 1978, History, Guilt, and Habit does the difficult work of attempting to understand the deepest meanings of history and its relation to the human person. Throughout the lectures, Barfield very capably—indeed, with uncanny precision and a seemingly never-ending bulwark of contexts—defines terms such as history, evolution, consciousness, perception, thinking, and, most importantly, imagination. History, Barfield contends, is something quite different from evolution as it is a “consciously directed process,” as opposed to the mere passive accumulation of change and events. Through his definitions, Barfield is especially interested in identifying those things that allow us to make free decisions and act rather than being merely acted upon. “Perception,” for example, “is essentially a passive experience, something that happens to us; thinking is an active one, something we do.” Yet, Barfield cautions, one should never fall into the Manichaean habit of dividing all things into opposites. Some of the most interesting aspects in humanity and in human society come from the overlapping—or interpenetration—of opposites
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/03/owen-barfield-history-guilt-and-habit-bradley-birzer.html

John Winthrop as Imaginative Conservative ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Between 1629 and 1640, roughly 21,000 Puritans (and servants) immigrated from England (especially East Anglia) to New England. This was one of the four great free folk migrations of the colonial period, along with the Anglicans to Virginia and the Chesapeake, the Quakers to Pennsylvania and Delaware, and the Scotch-Irish to various parts of English colonies.

More than any other colonial group, the Puritans (formally known as Congregationalists) moved in familial groups, and the nuclear family stood as the most important social institution, outside of the Congregation itself.

The Puritans demanded great rigor from their church members, and most residents of New England belonged to some church, especially in the seventeenth century.[1] Five ideas held the Congregationalists together: the depravity of man, the covenant that held all together in this fallen world, that God chose His elect, that all good comes from Grace, and that men and women must love one another.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/03/john-winthrop-imaginative-conservative-bradley-birzer.html

7 characteristics of a successful reading group

reading group

I recently wrote a feature piece for Our Sunday Visitor newspaper about my experiences co-founding and helping lead a men’s reading group for over 16 years. While the group is Catholic—and thus reads and discusses books that are Catholic in fact or sensibility—I think the seven points are helpful for a wide range of reading groups. Here’s the start of the essay:

The group, bearing the ambitious moniker “The Neo-Inklings,” first met in the spring of 2004 at a local brew pub, invited there by myself and Anthony (Tony) Clark. The inspiration for the men’s reading group came from Tony, who at the time was working to finish his doctorate in Chinese history at the University of Oregon.

Tony and I had met a few weeks earlier after Divine Liturgy at the local Ukrainian Catholic parish, and we quickly discovered that our shared love for the Catholic faith also extended to reading and good books. “I need a couple of hours each month,” Tony said, “when I can be with men who share the same interests as I do, and we are able to freely discuss Catholic books and the Catholic faith.”

The plan was simple: invite some other men to join us to discuss a book chosen beforehand. In hindsight, after nearly 200 meetings, it’s a minor miracle it worked. So much could have gone wrong; so much should have gone wrong. But we quickly discovered a truth that G.K. Chesterton expressed so well back in a 1904 essay on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “The sincere love of books has nothing to do with cleverness or stupidity any more than any other sincere love. It is a quality of character, a freshness, a power of pleasure, a power of faith.”

Love of books is obviously necessary for a book club, of course, but there are other important qualities, including good character, a love of truth and a commitment to faith. A book group that lasts for many years and consistently includes edifying insights and challenging discussions is a bit like a good marriage: It requires purpose, devotion, honesty, patience and, yes, sometimes forgiveness.


Read the entire essay over on the OSV site.

Bill Buckley’s Mischievous Magazine ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Indeed, as I look at NR today, she remains a constant companion, even when I disagree with her (as friends sometimes do). Writers such as Jack, John Miller, Kyle Smith, Kathryn Lopez, and others keep alive Buckley’s wondrous and gregarious spirit. From its beginnings in 1955, NR has sought to build up conservatism rather than tear it apart. Building, as we all know, is difficult; destruction is easy.

As I continue to get my NR “breaking news” updates, read her editorials on this or that political or cultural atrocity, devour Jack’s Saturday emails, buy the newest books recommended by her, and listen to her many podcasts, I’m honored by her friendship and happily acknowledge her just and worthy mission.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/03/william-f-buckley-mischievous-national-review-magazine-bradley-birzer.html

Transatlantic: Absolute Genius

The three versions of the album. Photo from nealmorse.com

So, after much anticipation and perhaps some untoward eagerness on my part, Transatlantic’s Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition box set finally arrived yesterday.  Or, maybe one should write more appropriately, it landed!  And, yes, I was and am thrilled.

I had received a promo copy of two versions of the album—The Breath of Life (Abridged) and Forevermore (Extended)—and I’ve been playing them pretty much non-stop. 

But, with The Ultimate Edition, I now have yet a third version of the album, Mike Portnoy’s blu-ray version. If you have to pick just one of the three, I’d highly recommend the blu-ray version as the best.  Not only does it capture the spirit of The Breath of Life (which Morse mixed and curated) and Forevermore (which Stolt mixed and curated), but its sound is just nothing short of glorious.  Each instrument is crystal clear as is the space between each. 

Most astonishing of all sounds to emerge from the blu-ray version is Pete Trewavas’s bass. I’ve always thought of him as an excellent bassist, but I didn’t realize just how excellent until hearing the blu-ray version. Somewhat funny that he was the only band member NOT to mix and curate a version of this album. 

Continue reading Transatlantic: Absolute Genius

The Spirit Of Cecilia Says, “Yes!”

Roger Dean’s logo for Yes, one of the most recognizable in rock

No site devoted to discussing progressive rock music (among many other topics!) can ignore for long a true giant of the genre: YES. Dating from the late ‘60s, Yes was one of the first prog groups to achieve mainstream success. More than fifty years later, they are still active, so Spirit of Cecilia has decided to divide our discussion of them into three parts. This post will focus on their music beginning with their 1969 eponymously titled debut album through 1973’s live album Yessongs. Let’s join Editor-In-Chief Brad Birzer, Arts Editor Tad Wert, and all around brilliant writer/musician Kevin McCormick as they attempt to analyze the music of one of the most influential and productive groups in rock history.

Brad: My earliest prog memory is of Yes.  I’m the youngest of three boys (with my oldest brother being eight years older and my older brother being five years older), and I was exposed to all kinds of music at a very young age.  In our house, we had classical, jazz, big band, musicals, and every variety of rock and pop. Sometime around 1973 or 1974 (the memory is somewhat fuzzy on the details–I was only five or six), I discovered the three-disk set of Yessongs.  I was stunned–especially by the artwork which I studied like a talisman. Later, when I was older, I appreciated the music.  But, at first, it was Roger Dean’s paintings that grabbed me fiercely. I count Yessongs as my first real prog love.  And, love it was. It wouldn’t be until Kansas’s Leftoverature and ELO’s Out of the Blue that I found albums to rival Yessongs in terms of artistic beauty.

Yes is certainly my earliest progressive rock love, and, from them, thanks to my brothers, I began to listen to Kansas, Jethro Tull, and Genesis.

While Yes has now experienced a massive history–indeed, is there a rock band that can quite match it in terms of malleability and lovegevity?–it’s the period of the Yes Album through Going for the One that seems nearly flawless.  To think about the albums of that period–The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales, Relayer, and Going for the One–is to be overwhelmed!  Such innovation and harmonic glory, all wrapped into a neat package.

When I was younger, Fragile was my favorite of the Yes albums.  But, ever since starting college, Close to the Edge has been my favorite.  Indeed, not just my favorite Yes album, but a favorite album.  If forced to rank it, it would compete (not necessarily defeat) Moving Pictures, The Colour of Spring, Spirit of Eden, and Selling England by the Pound.  If it’s fallen out of the top five for me, it’s only because Big Big Train released The Underfall Yard in 2009.

Kevin: Looking back at the early stages of Yes, it’s important to remember the context of the music of that time: it was all over the map.  There was a collision of styles brought together by much of the experimentation and cultural upheaval of the 1960’s.  Prior to this most musicians and audiences stayed in their respective corners. 

Continue reading The Spirit Of Cecilia Says, “Yes!”

YOUNG PEOPLE ARE DYING TO BE NEEDED

Recently, in a discussion about the military, a friend of mine recalled receiving a letter when he was 18 asking him whether he would like to join the military in Belgium. This Canadian friend of mine had a Belgian grandfather, but had never visited the country. “After I received the letter from Belgium, it did make me wonder why I never received such a letter from Canada,” he reflected.

What made my friend briefly consider joining an army in a country he never visited that speaks a language he doesn’t know?

Read the rest, here.

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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