Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius

Today is St George’s Day, he’s a busy saint with much to attend to, but it has always seemed that he had a soft spot for the English, whose patron saint he is.

On St Crispin’s Day I nearly always recount three battles of the English speaking world, Agincourt, The Light Brigade, and The Philippine Sea. But, in fact, there is a fourth, and just as important. The 1915 Battle of Loos. And it is appropriate to remember it on St George’s Day. At least according to Arthur Machen, who wrote the following.

You know how something you read when you are young haunts you later? I read this short story probably when I was in junior High School, and lost track of it, and it would flit through my mind occasionally, especially when discussing the Great War. For me, it was one of those pieces that taught me how history builds upon itself. Frankly, it’s one of my very favorites, and I was very excited when I found it, finally, online. So, I thought I’d share it with you, as a different takeaway on the original ‘Band of Brothers’.

It was during the Retreat of the Eighty Thousand, and the authority of the Censorship is sufficient excuse for not being more explicit. But it was on the most awful day of that awful time, on the day when ruin and disaster came so near that their shadow fell over London far away; and, without any certain news, the hearts of men failed within them and grew faint; as if the agony of the army in the battlefield had entered into their souls.

     On this dreadful day, then, when three hundred thousand men in arms with all their artillery swelled like a flood against the little English company, there was one point above all other points in our battle line that was for a time in awful danger, not merely of defeat, but of utter annihilation. With the permission of the Censorship and of the military expert, this corner may, perhaps, be described as a salient, and if this angle were crushed and broken, then the English force as a whole would be shattered, the Allied left would be turned, and Sedan would inevitably follow.

     All the morning the German guns had thundered and shrieked against this corner, and against the thousand or so of men who held it. The men joked at the shells, and found funny names for them, and had bets about them, and greeted them with scraps of music-hall songs. But the shells came on and burst, and tore good Englishmen limb from limb, and tore brother from brother, and as the heat of the day increased so did the fury of that terrific cannonade. There was no help, it seemed. The English artillery was good, but there was not nearly enough of it; it was being steadily battered into scrap iron.

     There comes a moment in a storm at sea when people say to one another, “It is at its worst; it can blow no harder,” and then there is a blast ten times more fierce than any before it. So it was in these British trenches.

There were no stouter hearts in the whole world than the hearts of these men; but even they were appalled as this seven-times-heated hell of the German cannonade fell upon them and overwhelmed them and destroyed them. And at this very moment they saw from their trenches that a tremendous host was moving against their lines. Five hundred of the thousand remained, and as far as they could see the German infantry was pressing on against them, column upon column, a gray world of men, ten thousand of them, as it appeared afterwards.

There was no hope at all. They shook hands, some of them. One man improvised a new version of the battle-song, “Good-by, good-by to Tipperary,” ending with “And we shan’t get there.” And they all went on firing steadily. The officer pointed out that such an opportunity for high-class fancy shooting might never occur again; the Tipperary humorist asked, “What price Sidney Street?” And the few machine guns did their best. But everybody knew it was of no use. The dead gray bodies lay in companies and battalions, as others came on and on and on, and they swarmed and stirred, and advanced from beyond and beyond.

“World without end. Amen,” said one of the British soldiers with some irrelevance as he took aim and fired. And then he remembered—he says he cannot think why or wherefore—a queer vegetarian restaurant in London where he had once or twice eaten eccentric dishes of cutlets made of lentils and nuts that pretended to be steak. On all the plates in this restaurant there was printed a figure of St. George in blue, with the motto, “Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius“—”May St. George be a present help to the English.” This soldier happened to know Latin and other useless things, and now, as he fired at his man in the gray advancing mass—three hundred yards away—he uttered the pious vegetarian motto. He went on firing to the end, and at last Bill on his right had to clout him cheerfully over the head to make him stop, pointing out as he did so that the King’s ammunition cost money and was not lightly to be wasted in drilling funny patterns into dead Germans.

     For as the Latin scholar uttered his invocation he felt something between a shudder and an electric shock pass through his body. The roar of the battle died down in his ears to a gentle murmur; instead of it, he says, he heard a great voice and a shout louder than a thunder-peal crying, “Array, array, array!”

His heart grew hot as a burning coal, it grew cold as ice within him, as it seemed to him that a tumult of voices answered to his summons. He heard, or seemed to hear, thousands shouting: “St. George! St. George!”

“Ha! Messire, ha! sweet Saint, grant us good deliverance!”

“St. George for merry England!”

“Harow! Harow! Monseigneur St. George, succor us!”

“Ha! St. George! Ha! St. George! a long bow and a strong bow.”

“Heaven’s Knight, aid us!”

And as the soldier heard these voices he saw before him, beyond the trench, a long line of shapes, with a shining about them. They were like men who drew the bow, and with another shout, their cloud of arrows flew singing and tingling through the air towards the German hosts.

The other men in the trench were firing all the while. They had no hope; but they aimed just as if they had been shooting at Bisley.

Suddenly one of them lifted up his voice in the plainest English.

“Gawd help us!” he bellowed to the man next to him, “but we’re blooming marvels! Look at those gray … gentlemen, look at them! D’ye see them? They’re not going down in dozens nor in ‘undreds; it’s thousands, it is. Look! look! there’s a regiment gone while I’m talking to ye.”

     “Shut it!” the other soldier bellowed, taking aim, “what are ye gassing about?”

     But he gulped with astonishment even as he spoke, for, indeed, the gray men were falling by the thousands. The English could hear the guttural scream of the German officers, the crackle of their revolvers as they shot the reluctant; and still line after line crashed to the earth.

     All the while the Latin-bred soldier heard the cry:

     “Harow! Harow! Monseigneur, dear Saint, quick to our aid! St. George help us!”

     “High Chevalier, defend us!”

     The singing arrows fled so swift and thick that they darkened the air, the heathen horde melted from before them.

     “More machine guns!” Bill yelled to Tom.

     “Don’t hear them,” Tom yelled back.

     “But, thank God, anyway; they’ve got it in the neck.”

     In fact, there were ten thousand dead German soldiers left before that salient of the English army, and consequently there was no Sedan. In Germany, a country ruled by scientific principles, the Great General Staff decided that the contemptible English must have employed shells containing an unknown gas of a poisonous nature, as no wounds were discernible on the bodies of the dead German soldiers. But the man who knew what nuts tasted like when they called themselves steak knew also that St. George had brought his Agincourt Bowmen to help the English.

Source: Short Stories: The Bowmen by Arthur Machen

There is still another reason to remember Loos though,  it was the cause for this to be written

For indeed, Rudyard Kipling’s only son, John, was killed at Loos on 27 September 1915.

God and The Walking Dead

You may – or may not! – be surprised to read that I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead. I could never watch it on tv because Lon maintains he ‘got over’ zombies when he was 14. While I understand his point, I think, with what little he has seen of it, he’s missed a larger picture. The larger picture I see was, perhaps, completely unintended; but then I wonder about that, too, because the character Hershel brings up the subject to the lead character, Rick.

The zombies are merely a vehicle used to move the story forward. They are ‘incidental’, if you will, except of course to the thirty-somethings viewers who haven’t gotten over zombies. They (zombies) are more times than not, the catalyst for action for the non-zombies. While soap opera daily and weekly shows will be in the kitchen or living room or the hospital for days or weeks on end, this group of people move – a lot – due to the zombies. And so, like in real life, their lives change quickly, often with no time to prepare.

The compelling thing about The Walking Dead is the characters. These are not ‘flat’ characters who will do and say exactly what they have always done and said. Each incident they encounter changes them – much like our lives and the incidents we find ourselves in changes how we look at things, react to things, think about things. The characters are fully rounded (there are exceptions, of course), quirky, capable of surprising themselves and others. Just like we are.

During, say, the first five seasons of The Walking Dead, there were terrible instances that the group was able to outwit, overcome, surmount very nearly in the nick of time. And yet, you never get the feeling that it was a production method for getting to the next locale. One might feel the hand of God in the ‘nick of time’. Read your Old Testament and look at the ‘nick of time’ instances. I love passages in the New Testament when the Jewish leadership is just about to grab Jesus and we read that somehow, from their midst, he’s gone and is seen somewhere else. They make me laugh every time I read them. Not because I think they’re silly but because they show me that Jesus was different. Very DIFFERENT. Were I to find myself in similar situation, surrounded by people who hate me and want to kill me, I doubt you’d be able to find me in Largo or Clearwater at the exact time those bad folks were reaching out to hurt me.

There’s an underlying story of doing what is right. It is what holds the group together and draws good people to them. Yes; in some cases, they do terrible things. But remember King David had Uriah killed so he could have Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. And yet, King David was ‘the apple’ of God’s eye.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Walking Dead group support each other in their moments of poor spirit; they attract and help people who come to them who are poor in spirit. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. With their own lives in danger, suffering from hunger and fatigue, they dig graves to bury their dead and the dead of the folks who have joined them. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”. It is not only the brave ones of the group who make the group work; the meek ones, frail ones, cook or wash or watch children so the group as a whole are supported. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. The wrongs done to the separate members of the group are often times corrected by actions of the group because it was the right thing to do. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. While this is not always the case, there is enough instance of it to qualify. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”. Again, there are enough instances of this to qualify – the death of Hershel comes immediately to mind. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. Like in real life, the peacemakers often wind up dead (missionaries come to mind), or are stifled or held in solitary confinement. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. You may think this can’t be visible in this ‘zombie series’ but in a way, it is. When a group member is stolen and does not inform on the groups whereabouts or who the members of the group are, I can see ‘persecution for righteousness. The only beatitude that I can’t apply is the last, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. No one ever mentions Jesus and many times you’ll see people denying or fighting with God – much like Jacob.

Early on, when I was still trying to get Lon to watch The Walking Dead, Lon once said, “Fine program for a Christian woman to be watching!” Meaning, of course, that he thought it was terrible that I would watch. I tried to explain to him that it’s not satanic, not witchery, not anything proscribed by the Bible. But it’s a story of how, even inadvertently, folks can follow Jesus without even knowing they’re doing it.

 

Distractions

It is my duty as a good citizen of my country, state, and county, to stay abreast of the news so that I can respond according to suggestions and orders issued from the various federal, state, and local governments. As of 6 p.m. yesterday evening, I am ordered by my county government to ‘shelter in place’ – only one time has the Emergency Broadcast System in my state ever used its phone notification program, that was years ago in the wait for a huge hurricane to make landfall. That it is activated now just adds to the stress.

Stress. Not a good look for most people. My alcohol loving husband sits on the couch with a face like a thunder cloud because all the bars are closed now. He doesn’t do change well. On the bright side, for him and others of the ‘band of bar folks’, the liquor stores remain open (for how long? one wonders). Last evening, after virtually no conversation between us, I asked him if he was grumpy. I don’t think it occurred to him until I asked. He thought about it a minute and then said he was, a little.

So what to do? Part of getting through this rough patch is maintaining one’s sanity and equilibrium. Distractions. After I’ve read the headlines of all the major news feeds, after reading or listening to people whose opinions I trust, and making mental note of what I must do to stay prepared and ready to face the next challenge, I go off on a little trip – first stop, YouTube. Either Bigfoot is ‘sheltering in place’ or he’s gone ‘walkabout’. There are no new videos of his ever hiding self. I could use a good bigfoot video right now. There’s a lovely Russian woman I subscribe to – no politics, just life in general – who reported yesterday about Moscow being shut down and how the exchange rate of USD to rubles has gone way up – from 62r per dollar to 80r per dollar and hints of a continued rise. Nope – don’t wanna watch her right now, either. So … what else is there?

Netflix has some good distractions. Plenty of movies for those that love movies. Plenty of series, for those who like that. I’ve watched, since my retirement, most of those and so what I’ve taken to doing is, replay a series I enjoyed (The Crown (love this series!), Haven, West Wing (even though I’m Republican, it’s a wonderful program – the best acting Martin Sheen has ever done … ) and while I listen to the dialogue, I play mahjong solitaire on my tablet. That way, my hands are busy (what a time to try to quit smoking!) and my brain is engaged. I am distracted. It’s a good thing.

I love hidden object games and found a web site that offers a lot of them, with new ones added daily. One becomes so concentrated on trying to find items in a busy picture, one forgets we are on the verge of the collapse of civilization as we know it (sorry – that slipped in from some mainstream media outlet). If you play these games long enough, your eye is trained to find the items and then I add the additional challenge to see if I can find the items faster.

Distractions are good. Find the ones that give you comfort, challenge your brain, make you laugh, or sing along. We’ll get through this; we always do.

 

Sunday Funnies; Sheltering in Place

There’s an incredible amount out there this week, but it gets a bit repetitive, and so I tried to give you some that struck me as funny, or at least have some wit about them. Enjoy!

 

Michigan Ave in Chicago, Friday evening, via Second City Cop

 

Now that is a speed bump!

From our friends at The Conservative Woman.

And, of course

 

The Glory and Beauty of the Liturgy

Photo: Interior of the Hagia Sophia today by Ian Scott / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Gene Veith at Cranach found a story that fascinates me. Let’s let him establish the base.

The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the history of the church.  It is also one of the oldest, having been built in 537 A.D.

The building, whose name means “Holy Wisdom”–a reference to the Logos of John 1–is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture.  Its vast dome, its interior arches, and its other design elements are marvels of ancient architecture.  It was adorned with magnificent mosaics and other works of art and its acoustics for music were legendary. Built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the cathedral–the world’s largest for a thousand years–became a major center for the Orthodox Church.

In 987 A.D., the King of the Russian tribes, Vladimir the Great, resolved to put away his people’s pagan gods and find a new religion.  He sent out emissaries to investigate the major religions of the surrounding nations:  Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.  Vladimir resolved to adopt a religion for himself and the Russian people based on their reports.

From the website of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral:

When they experienced the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral there, here is what they reported:

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget the beauty.

In an example of the role aesthetics can play in apologetics, this overwhelming experience of transcendent beauty led to Russia’s commitment to the Orthodox Church ever since.

And so the beauty of the sung Liturgy at Hagia Sophia is one of the reasons that Russia is an Orthodox country. It sounds a bit far fetched, doesn’t it? But is it?

I don’t think so. Compare say O Holy Night sung by some very good carolers in your local mall, to the same carol sung at King’s College, Cambridge. Quite the difference acoustics makes, isn’t it? One of the reasons I no longer go to theaters to see movies lies in the fact that a box of concrete blocks totally destroys the soundtrack and so it is much better at home. Yes, gentle reader, there are other reasons as well. If you doubt that, find one of the rare old theaters still running films, you will be amazed.

But back to Hagia Sofia:

Two researchers from Stanford, two scholars at Stanford University, art history professor Bissera Pentcheva and computer music specialist Jonathan Abel, were discussing the Hagia Sophia.  They realized that it would be possible to analyze the acoustics of the building today and to create a filter using that data, which would make music sound as if it were being performed in the Hagia Sophia.

Prof. Pentcheva went to  Turkey, got permission to visit the museum after hours, and after setting up microphones and recording equipment, popped a balloon.

That single sound–its echoes, resonance, and tonal qualities–provided data that was analyzed by computers and turned into an algorithm that could be applied to other electronic recordings.  And thus the sound of a choir singing in the 13th century could be recreated today.

That is a remarkable thing that is completely taken for granted. It is possible to greatly change the acoustical environment this way, as you’ll see, The Link goes to an NPR report on this which is fascinating.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/808404928/808404929

Hagia Sofia, like many churches, is obviously very live acoustically, that balloon pop is a remarkable recording in and of itself. It is also coherent, which is the difference between it and trying to understand the PA in most gymnasiums. They too are very live, but they also have incredible standing waves, which depending where you are may multiply or completely negate some sounds. Here from one of Pastor Veith’s readers is a different experiment.

Surprisingly this has some of the coherence of the Hagia Sofia, which I would attribute to a grain bin not having any parallel walls or ceilings. It is a lot ‘livelier’ because of the difference between sheet metal and stone. If you ever been in a grain bin when somebody hits it with a hammer you’ll understand.

It can also be hard to understand spoken words in a bin, but it was not designed to be a soundstage nor a church, and even six inches of grain on the floor makes a dramatic change.

That Constantine’s engineers had all this figured out in the 6th century and were able to engineer this cathedral for this specific sound is almost beyond belief. In fact, for me, it is beyond my belief in Eastern Roman engineering, but not beyond my belief in God’s engineering.

Capella Romana has released a whole album recorded with the filter for Hagia Sofia, and tracks are available on YouTube, or the album may be purchased. Here is one.

Wow!

Sunday Funnies: Debate and Caucus, Oh so White

So, Nevada is over, on to South Carolina, are we tired yet? Still, it could be worse, I guess.

 

In passing, I note that Bernie won by a lot in Nevada. It had to be a lot because this caucus too was marked by, Democrat incompetence and/or corruption.

 

Democrat Primary season

Hi, from the Midwest!

 75 Years ago this week.

 

 

And, of course

Special video bonus, 40 years ago, yesterday

 

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