From the culture beat: My Indian resident was delighted to discover that I’ve read English books about cricket, and he explained how it’s played to me. Yesterday afternoon, while we were twiddling our thumbs, he found some video clips on the internet. It doesn’t look anything like what I imagined.
The Thanksgiving being past, I dug out the medieval carol CDs to add to my Haydn set in the car. First, a beautiful song from “A Celebration of Christmas: Carols through the ages,” a 4 cd set by the Deller Consort, set to a fast, lilting melody.
People, look East, the time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth, and set the table.
People, look East, and sing today: Love, the Guest, is on his way.
Furrows, be glad, though earth is bare, one more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish, that in course the flower may flourish.
People, look East, and sing today: Love, the Rose, is on his way.
Birds, though ye long have ceased to build, guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen, he for fledging-time hath chosen.
People, look East, and sing today: Love, the Bird, is on his way.
Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim, one more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather, bright as sun and moon together.
People, look East, and sing today: Love, the Star, is on his way.
Angels, announce to man and beast Him who cometh from the East.
Set every peak and valley humming with the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look East, and sing today: Love, the Lord, is on his way.
Then, this astonishing poem, “Rejoice in the Lamb,” set to a chant-type melody by the famous British composer Benjamin Britten, sung by the King’s College Choir. The words, according to the insert, were written by Christopher Smart “while confined to a private home for the insane in Bethnal Green,” between 1758 and 1763. It’s too long to type in the whole thing, but here are some striking excerpts:
Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues; give glory to the Lord, and the Lamb.
Nations and languages, and every Creature in which is the breath of Life.
Let man and beast appear before him, and magnify his name together. . .
For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For he knows that God is his saviour.
For God has bless’d him in the variety of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God. . .
For the instruments are by their rhimes,
For the shawm rhimes are lawn fawn and the like.
For the shawm rhimes are moon boon and the like.
For the harp rhimes are sing ring and the like.
For the harp rhimes are ring string and the like. . . .
For the dulcimer rhimes are grace place, beat heat, and the like.
For the trumpet rhimes are sound bound and the like. . .
For the trumpet of God is a blessed intelligence and so are all the instruments in Heav’n.
For God the Father Almighty plays upon the harp of stupendous magnitude and melody.
For at that time malignity ceases and the devils themselves are at peace.
For this time is perceptible to man by a remarkable stillness and serenity of soul.
I’m still thinking about that last stanza, whether it’s too anthropomorphic, or whether it’s an amazing picture, like C. S. Lewis’ idea of the angels and planets and stars dancing a great dance to the music of the spheres, for the glory of God. I will have to try the idea of cats as servants of the living God, of surpassing beauty, who worship God by slinking around things, on my father; perhaps it will make him more fond of Pepper (who has developed an “elegant quickness” for getting into the house when the garage door is open).