Category Archives: Monday Meditations

Monday Meditations: Wall Breached

Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven disappointed me; Harry Gregson-Williams’ soundtrack did not. It’s been a while since we’ve had some good ole Hollywood orchestra war music to play with. And do you know the best thing about good ole Hollywood orchestra war music? It makes reading Shakespeare even more enjoyable than it already is.

Listen to the song below, and read the excerpt from Henry V while you listen. Let your imagination burst with burning castles, great siege towers, flying rocks- maybe even a dragon if you’re feeling adventurous.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Wall Breached” by Harry Gregson-Williams

The vocals here are beautiful- and at about 1:48, the violins kick in. There are passages I have reserved in The Kingdom Trilogy that I want to write while listening to this.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'”

William Shakespeare, from Henry V.

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Monday Meditations: The Fever

Did you ever think that you could relate 70’s rock music and ancient epic poetry? I dare you to think it. I was listening to one of my father’s favorite New Jersey bands this morning when I heard a love song that they played. It was brooding; it was obsessive; it was passionate. It reminded me, ever so slightly, of the restless passion Dido felt for Aeneas in Virgil’s The Aeneid. 

Nothing in the lyrics matches up, obviously. But the mood in that song and the mood in Dido’s story match up a little bit. There’s a driving flame of desire running through both. See for yourself.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“The Fever” by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Written by the great Bruce Springsteen, this song is impeccably smooth and stylish- and at the same time restless and unforgettable. It might one of the best songs about attraction I’ve ever heard. When you hear Johnny Lyons croon, “All I hear is you whisper in my ear / The words that you used to say,” you believe it.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“But anxious cares already seiz’d the queen: 
She fed within her veins a flame unseen; 
The hero’s valor, acts, and birth inspire 
Her soul with love, and fan the secret fire. 
His words, his looks, imprinted in her heart, 
Improve the passion, and increase the smart. 
Now, when the purple morn had chas’d away 
The dewy shadows, and restor’d the day, 
Her sister first with early care she sought, 
And thus in mournful accents eas’d her thought: 
“My dearest Anna, what new dreams affright 
My lab’ring soul! what visions of the night 
Disturb my quiet, and distract my breast 
With strange ideas of our Trojan guest! 
His worth, his actions, and majestic air, 
A man descended from the gods declare. 
Fear ever argues a degenerate kind; 
His birth is well asserted by his mind. 
Then, what he suffer’d, when by Fate betray’d! 
What brave attempts for falling Troy he made! 
Such were his looks, so gracefully he spoke, 
That, were I not resolv’d against the yoke 
Of hapless marriage, never to be curst 
With second love, so fatal was my first, 
To this one error I might yield again”

Virgil, Book IV of The Aeneid.

Monday Meditations: Mumford and Sons and Telemachus

Like many college students, a friend and I got into Mumford and Sons last year. We also got into Greek poetry, thanks to the head of Benedictine College’s English Department. It was only a matter of time before the two collided. My friend realized that a Mumford and Sons song tells a story with a strong connection to Telemachus from The Odyssey. After listening to the song again, my face lit up and I agreed.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Dust Bowl Dance” by Mumford and Sons.

This is my personal favorite from Sigh No More, the debut album from Mumford and Sons. Now that I see the Telemachus connection, the deal is sealed. “The days were short and the father was gone” makes me think of fatherless Telemachus from the get-go. The connection only grows more Ithacan as we pass the chorus…

“Well, you are my accuser, now look in my face
Your opression reeks of your greed and disgrace
So one man has and another has not
How can you love what it is you have got
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store”

If that doesn’t describe Antinous and Eurymachus, I don’t know what does. Check out a select quote from Pope’s translation, if you’re not yet sold.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“There young Telemachus, his bloomy face

Glowing celestial sweet, with godlike grace

Amid the circle shines: but hope and fear

(Painful vicissitude!) his bosom tear.

Now, imaged in his mind, he sees restored

In peace and joy the people’s rightful lord;

The proud oppressors fly the vengeful sword.”

Homer’s The Odyssey, translated by Alexander Pope.

Monday Meditations: Samuel Barber

Get melancholy, people.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Where now are the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the harp on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Two Towers

Monday Meditations: The Animals, Shakespeare, and St. Thomas A Kempis

We have a tendency to do what we want. I was reading a book over the weekend that talked quite a bit about that. It’s called “The Imitation of Christ” by a man called St. Thomas a Kempis. Not everybody is Christian, obviously, and I’m not going to preach everything he says.

But I think Tommy Boy has a keen observation of people. Everybody’s had at least one thing in their life that they really wanted, and was really not good for them. When we embrace that hurtful thing, it hurt us, and we’re left to pick up the pieces. When we run away from it, we’re happier down the line. Any writer can take away something from that. 

With that in mind, let’s listen to some music and do some reading.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“The House of The Rising Son”, covered by the Animals

I actually posted this on my Tumblr last week. Something about that guitar is haunting. So are Eric Burdon’s wailing vocals, to say nothing of the story he’s telling.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate: fine word,–legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!”

Edmund from William Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Monday Meditations: Memorial Day

As an American, I salute the men and women who have suffered pain and death for good. As a man, I know our country has had its share of good and bad men. This day we celebrate the good. Give a thought, if not a prayer, for them.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Leave No Man Behind” from Hans Zimmer’s Black Hawk Down soundtrack

Mournful and meditative. Just the thing we needed on a day like this.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“It is not of the dead alone that we think on this day. There are those still living whose sex forbade them to offer their lives, but who gave instead their happiness. Which of us has not been lifted above himself by the sight of one of those lovely, lonely women, around whom the wand of sorrow has traced its excluding circle–set apart, even when surrounded by loving friends who would fain bring back joy to their lives?”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

***

For Memorial Day, I vented some thoughts on my official Tumblr. Here’s an excerpt. If you take away nothing else, take away this: honor the dead!

“It’s a stereotypical sunny day outside. It’s the kind of sunny that you see in a Memorial Day commercial for hamburgers. Somewhere, there’s memorial services going on. Somewhere, men and women are weeping true tears. Somewhere, there are young men my age who have chosen to face death instead of linger in comfort.

Somewhere isn’t here, and that’s what bothered me for nearly two decades…”

Read the rest.

Monday Meditations: The Test

SONG OF THE WEEK

“The Test” by The Classic Crime

This is haunting songwriting right here, folks. I feel guilty about living in comfort, and doing that whole American dream thing. Matt McDonald doesn’t make me feel any better. He doesn’t mention the American dream- don’t worry; this isn’t a political song- but that’s exactly what I’ve come to think about. Maybe that’s because his portrait of apathy is so disturbingly lifelike that I need to think about someone besides myself.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“So here’s to the promise of glamorous living

You must drink up now, ’cause it’s all that you’re getting

If you haven’t been tested, you certainly will

And I promise it’s going to kill…”

The Classic Crime

“Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn