Tongues of Fire on Idris Flaring

Practically Historical reminds us that last Friday was the 137th anniversary of the battle of Rork’s Drift. This was the occasion when the British fought against an attack from the Zulus in Natal. It was held by the B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, who became not long afterward the South Wales Borderers, and is now part of the Royal Welsh. On that day, 11 Victoria Crosses were earned, a level never surpassed in the British Army. It was immortalized in the film Zulu in 1964, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/O6astUUUc4o, It’s pretty well up on my favorites list!

via Men of Harlech | Practically Historical.

The most famous part for many of us, is the regimental march of the 24th, the SWB, and the Royal Welsh. It is called Men of Harlech, and it celebrates the longest siege in British history, the seven-year siege of Harlech Castle between 1461 and 1468, commanded by Constable Dafydd ap Ieuan. This very moving version is by the band of the Royal Regiment of Wales, in the church at Rorke’s Drift on the 120th anniversary of the battle

I always like to note that it has a place in American history as well. It was heard during that bayonet charge at the 1st of Ia Drang, and again on 911, both times a Cornish variant being sung by Colonel Rick Rescorla, ret. of the 7th Cavalry, who was raised in Cornwall.

Since we’re doing the Welsh military today, not to mention Men of Harlech, it should be noted that Men of Harlech is also the slow march of the 1st the Queens Dragoon Guards, more commonly called the Welsh Cavalry, who returned recently from Germany, and are now stationed at Robertson Barracks, in Norfolk, and seem to like it, as they are training on their new Coyote wheeled armoured vehicles. There’s a video here, and I suspect my American readers will enjoy the Norfolk version of ‘coyote’ as well :)

Fairy Tales for adults

One of the songs that marks Christmas for me is ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, with the Pogues and the wonderful Kirsty MacColl; if I ever wanted to be anyone but me, it was Kirsty. I remember asking my daddy why he couldn’t marry her because she would make a good mum – he laughed and said ‘she’s already taken little one’; seemed a good idea to me – fathers, let the tiniest obstacle get in the way :)

It’s an odd Christmas song, but it is a powerful one, because, in part it reflects a version of the immigrant experience which fails to make it into the Hollywood version. The two characters are Irish immigrants, not too long out of the ‘awld country’ – he still says ‘happy Christmas babe’ (an American would surely say “merry Christmas”? She still uses the English vulgarity “happy Christmas my arse” rather than the American “ass”. Their dreams have soured – he’s in the drunk tank on Christmas Eve, and she hopes it is their last time. There is a sadness, the sadness that accompanies the death of any relationship. But is it dead? One of the reasons – apart from powerful lyrics and a great performance, it still works, is that like all good fiction, it doesn’t tell you what you’d like to know – it leaves loose ends and inferences you could read any way you liked.

So, when he says ‘I could have been someone’, she says cynically. ‘well so could anyone’, but his reply to her claim that he took her dreams away is heartbreaking in its vulnerability – ‘I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own, can’t make it on my own, built them round you’. What a world there is in all of that, of young love frustrated, of ambition broken by circumstances, but also of the hope that springs eternal in the human heart – and the American dream.

Isn’t that what America is really about? That vision, that idea? Has there ever been a country founded on an idea of hope? Has there ever been such a hodge-podge of immigrants all battling and hoping, some falling, some rising, but however low you fall, always with the hope of rising? Is that why so many now feel a sense of despair – as though those times are gone?

I’m only a Welsh girl living far away, and probably, like Shane MacGowan, with a vision of America shaped by the movies, but I’d like to think that, just like the couple in the song, the fairy tale has a happy ending – and, of course, if it isn’t a happy ending, it isn’t the end yet.

For Christians, we are all ‘someone’ – beloved of God, in whose image we are made, and there is, in that, a reassurance. It is no accident – I think – that it was Christians from the West who had the vision and courage to create a great nation out of the wilderness they encountered. The ‘Shining city of a hill’ was their inspiration – and remains one for many Americans – however much secularists try to replace that dream with their own fairytales.

Good music and poetry (and good lyrics are poetry) have the power to transform things and to take us places in our imagination – and here, in a few short verses, we can see something profound about the immigrant – and the American experience – encapsulated. Either that, or I just have a vivid imagination – either way – something to share with all you wonderful people here at this season.

3d Sunday in Advent

I know, we haven’t talked a lot about advent this year, often it has been Jess’ brief here, and we’ve not been short of things to write about, mostly things gone wrong.

But that doesn’t mean that I, or you, are not thinking, and praying, about it.

Soon Christmass will be here, and that is far more important than anything of the world, so here.

All Saints Day

reformation_giants_edit[This was my post from last year on All Saints Day on All Along the Watchtower, I thought I’d share it with you as well.]

I think all know that in the west, 1 November is All Saints Day. But like so much, our definitions differ a bit. In the Roman tradition (and the Orthodox, as well) it is rather narrowly defined. As in so much, we Protestants see it a little differently.

I have written about my parents, and how this is one of the times that I especially think about them here, as Jessica also has here. For both of us, it can be a bit troubling because while we think our fathers were good and perhaps Godly men, they decidedly weren’t churchly men. We have also often said here, that our hymnology complements the rest of our theology very well, and so.

That is kind of my point here today, while we have the greatest respect for the formal Saints in the Roman and Orthodox traditions, when the Rev Dr Luther studied the Scriptures he found that, all believers in the Christ are referred to there as saints, and thus the Communion of the Saints consists of us all from the Apostles on through the child baptised this morning, and will continue until he returns to us. Along that line in his commentary on 1st Peter, Luther says this

Thus Scripture calls us holy while we are still living here on earth, if we believe. The papists have taken this name away from us and say: `We should not be holy; only the saints in heaven are holy.’ Therefore we must get the noble name back. You must be holy. But you must be prepared not to think that you are holy of yourself or on the strength of your merit. No, you must be holy because you have the Word of God, because heaven is yours, and because you have become truly pious and holy through Christ. This you must avow if you want to be a Christian (Luther’s Works 30:7).

In his 1531 Galatian commentary, he reflects a bit more on the views he previously held.

When I was a monk, I often had a heartfelt wish to see the life and conduct of at least one saintly man. But meanwhile I was imagining the sort of saint who lived in the desert and abstained from food and drink, subsisting on nothing but roots and cold water. I had derived this notion about unnatural saints from the books not only of the sophists but even of the fathers . . . But now that the light of truth is shining, we see with utter clarity that Christ and the apostles designate as saints, not those who lead a celibate life, are abstemious, or who perform other works that give the appearance of brilliance or grandeur, but those who, being called by the Gospel and baptized, believe that they have been sanctified and cleansed by the blood of Christ. Thus whenever Paul writes to Christians, he calls them saints, sons and heirs of God, etc. Therefore saints are all those who believe in Christ, whether men or women, slaves or free (Luther’s Works 27:81-82).

And here you also can see part of his belief that monasticism was a bad thing for the faith. I agree but less strongly. I think that he was affected badly by it because he vowed to join the monastery only because he had been badly frightened by a bolt of lightning and had vowed to St. Anne that he would if he was spared. And it seems to me from his writing that his propensity to slip into depression was greatly increased by the monastery. Also germane is that he found that it tended to lead to classes of Christians, I too have occasionally found it a prideful vocation. He also found that occasionally the veneration of Saints could lead to idolatry, and in fact, he warned us to be careful of this with the Theotokos as well, although he and many of us still venerate her.

In the Smalcald Articles, on the article “How One is justified before God, and of Good Works,” we find

What I have hitherto and constantly taught concerning this I know not how to change in the least, namely, that by faith, as St. Peter says, we acquire a new and clean heart, and God will and does account us entirely righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our Mediator. And although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it . . . but the entire man, both as to his person and his works, is to be called and to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us [unfolded] and spread over us in Christ (Smalcald Articles, III.13.1-2).

According to the Confessions, the Christian becomes holy in the same way he becomes righteous: by God’s grace for Christ’s sake through faith. By His grace God reckons the holiness of Jesus Christ to the account of the believer. The holiness of a Christian therefore is not his own holiness, but the holiness of Jesus, won for all on the cross. Our holiness is a gift, given to us for the sake of Jesus who died for us; our holiness is not the result of our merits or good works.

If by His death Jesus Christ has taken away all your sins, then are you not holy? For to be holy means to be without sin. Therefore, when God no longer counts our sin against us, we are holy indeed! This is the way our Confessions proceed.

This holiness of Christ, won for us on the cross, is communicated to us through Word of God and received through faith.

For, thank God, a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy Christian Church. This holiness does not consist in albs, tonsures, long gowns, and other of their ceremonies devised by them beyond Holy Scripture, but in the Word of God and true faith (Smalcald Articles, III.12.2-3).

In the Large Catechism this same theme, that holiness comes through the Word of God, is further developed.

For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians know and have. For though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap, still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which can sanctify nobody. But God’s Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were sanctified. At whatever hour, then, God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. (Large Catechism, Third Commandment, 91)

And so, my fellow saints, in a year that has not been overly kind, in the world, to our little company, with more than one of our members being stricken seriously, let us pray for them to regain their strength, and for the Grace to join those who have gone before us, and are waiting for us.

Downtown

You all know that I don’t subscribe to ‘The Cult of Celebrity’. but in a fairly long lifetime, there have been a few exceptions, in the field of popular music there is only one, and we’re going to talk about her today.

One of you this week linked to my all time favorite singer, and one of my favorite songs, that she sang. When it burst out of the car speaker, late in 1964, a lot of things changed, for American music, for her, and maybe more.

This is the version from The Dean Martin Show in early 1967, and yes it was still getting some airplay.

When Downtown came on the radio, it was completely different, and it spoke to something in us all, I think. her voice is very obviously British, in that exact way, that Americans adore, and as far as us kids were concerned she was was one of us, although our dads (sometimes) did tell us that she had been recording since during World War II, and was a TV star as well, in the UK.

That’s all true, but she was also the first British female to make it onto the Billboard chart since Vera Wang in 1952. Downtown was #1 starting the week of 23 January 1965. The song was also #2 in the UK, and Ireland, and number one in  Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, and was also a hit in Denmark (#2), India (#3), the Netherlands (#3) and Norway (#8). She was far from the last, though, the Atlantic got very narrow there for a few years, and American top 40 radio sounded an awful lot like BBC 1. And after Downtown, she would have fourteen more consecutive hit on the Billboard chart, and there was plenty of competition those days.

When asked why he approved it for a quick release in the States since it was so very English. Joe Smith of Warner Brothers replied: “It’s perfect. It’s just an observation from outside of America and it’s just beautiful and just perfect.” And you know, it was, and it is still.

But there was a lot more to Pet, than that wonderful voice, she is perhaps one of the greatest female entertainers of the twentieth century, like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and such. In fact I think she could have been  better than them all, by a fairly wide margin. here’s a bit more about her.

When they talk about how she became Norma Desmond in the play, it’s sort of creepy, isn’t it, but that is what the great actors do, it’s why we are able to suspend our disbelief for a while. Petula could, and did, do it too, even on the concert stage. Watch her eyes her, closely, this is more than singing, I think she is feeling it, even as she shares the emotions with us.

So let’s head on Downtown, but remember Don’t Sleep on the Subway.

HMS Pinafore X2

I’m in the mood to mostly screw off today, so here’s an old friend, for your (and my) enjoyment.

There’s no deep message intended here, it’s Saturday, and time to wind down from another week. Cause we ain’t gonna fix it before Monday, anyway. So sit back and enjoy some of the first (semi) serious music that I fell in love with as a kid. The old Golden Records survey of music opened a lot of doors for me, and this is one of them.

From the 2005 Proms: HMS Pinafore

Any resemblance to the US Government is (I hope) coincidental,

but I wouldn’t bet much on it.

%d bloggers like this: