Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Romance Or Something Like It

It’s rare that my classes fall on a holiday, so I was so excited last night when I realized that not only was my British Literature class meeting on Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t have to report for jury duty!!! This meant I was free to deviate from our study on the Romantics (which aren’t as romantic as the title would have you believe…but that’s a post for another time) and give the kids a whirlwind tour of how England’s famous writers created the Hallmark company. Erm, excuse me. I meant to say “Valentine’s Day.” Same diff?

So, we all have the basic idea that Valentine was some sort of martyr/saint/good guy, right? What you may not know is that there are actually *three* Valentines in the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia (yes, there is such a thing): one from Rome, one from Terni, and one from Africa. Their lives had nothing at all to do with love, romance, poetry, or hearts (except for the fact that theirs stopped beating because of their faith in God and their dedication to the gospel). In fact, there’s absolutely no reason why Chaucer, while writing a poem to commemorate the engagement of Richard II, would reference Valentine…but he did so.

It’s actually a lovely little poem called The Parliament of Fowls that I enjoy reading very much. It’s also 5 hundred million or so lines long, so I’ll just post some pertinent stanzas.

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,

When every fowl comes there his mate to take,

Of every species that men know, I say,

And then so huge a crowd did they make,

That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake

Was so full, that there was scarcely space

For me to stand, so full was all the place.

Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft –

Thus sing the small fowls for your sake –

Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,

That this winter’s weather does off-shake.

 

Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,

Since each a marriage with its mate does make;

Full joyous may they sing when they wake;

Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,

That this wintry weather does off-shake,

And the long nights’ black away does take.’

 

And with the cries, when their song was done,

That the fowls made as they flew away,

I woke, and other books to read upon

I then took up, and still I read always;

I hope in truth to read something someday

Such that I dream what brings me better fare,

And thus my time from reading I’ll not spare.

The rest of the poem is a bunch of birds talking to each other about love and classic pairs of lovers. As one of my students said, it’s like Narnia. If you have the time, Norton has a lovely rendition online in the Middle English. Delightful!

The next major writer to start a Valentine’s tradition is Edmund Spenser, writer of The Faerie Queen. Do you know what he started? Here’s a quote to give you a hint:

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

Did you figure it out? Oh yes, the much maligned “roses are red, violets are blue” verse! I’m as big a fan of plays on this as the next person, so it made me laugh when the lovey Ponderiss shared “Roses are red, violets are blueish. If it weren’t for Christmas, we’d all be Jewish.” I laughed for a good 5 minutes over that one.

Shakespeare? He didn’t neglect the fad either. In his famous Ophelia scenes (where she runs in and out of court singing songs, throwing around flowers, and generally running mad), she sings a Valentine’s Day song!

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

England continued on in this same vein for the next several hundred years, making them one of the most dedicated countries when it comes to this holiday. Did you know that in the 1700’s they even had Valentine factories??? Whole factories that churned out nothing but ornate, flowery Valentines. It’s a pretty cool idea.

So, there you have it! A whirlwind tour through the beginnings of Valentine’s Day! What did you do to celebrate this year?

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Keep Calm and Brew Coffee

Welcome back to Friday Frame Up! I’m on day 4 of 9 closes in a row at Starbucks, so things are all well and good here. Have a fantastic start to your weekend, and I’ll be back with some Starbucks stories over the next few days!

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Wyrd

I’ve graduated!!!!!!!!

I was so, so ready to graduate. I’m tired of the endless papers, of trying to cram interesting readings into a ridiculously short amount of time, of reading badly spelt post after poorly structured post, of listening to students whine and professors drone. I love to learn, but college will suck the life and joy out of discovery.

The more I talk with other graduates, the more I realise how lucky I am. I have a teaching job, a steady income job, music students, and plenty of other things to keep me busy while building my resume. At the same time, I’m already looking at Master’s programs. While that sounds like I’m all on top of things, really I’m very far behind. But here’s the deal: I’m tired. Stressed out. I’m carrying anywhere from 30-40 hours of work on top of a full load of credits, and have done so for some time. I rarely sleep. I forget to eat until nearly midnight. Why should I kill myself with more school when I’m plenty young yet and have teaching jobs already? I’ll take my B.A. and be happy with it for a year or two.

Still, there’s an element of urgency in my search for a Masters/Doctorate program. There are so many out there: do I go with a dual Masters/Doctorate, should I do them separately, should I stay in the US or go abroad, do I complete my advanced degrees in general areas, or should I specify my degree down to one area of expertise? Oh, and don’t forget about the battery of tests I need to take in order to apply to programs, the grammar review I’ll need because I am the WORST grammartician out there (see, I even make up silly words), plus becoming proficient in TWO foreign languages. Yes, I said TWO. (Because speaking English properly isn’t hardcore enough, I guess.)

It’s all very overwhelming to think about.

Then, the other night, I heard this song. I’ve heard the song before, but never really listened to the lyrics much. (WHAT? I have other things to think about, silly people!) However, this one line of a song really jumped out and slapped me across the face:

You see, I think this is what a lot of us graduates do when we get ready to enter the “real world,” we get scared, freak out, and do ourselves a disservice by acting out of that fear. So here’s my challenge: let’s not act out of fear. It doesn’t matter if you graduated today or 20 years ago, don’t let your fears decide what kind of life you’ll lead. It’s never too late to change your fate, so let’s do it!!! All together now….

 

That's me!

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What’s It All About?

A few months back, a friend of a friend died. Though I didn’t know him, I was sad for her and as a show of support Mum and I went to this man’s funeral.

I’ve been to a lot of funerals, and this one was unlike any other. No singing, no photo montages. No songs at all. Instead, the man’s son gave an hour long biography of his father, pausing only to invite certain key figures from his father’s life to come up and speak as well (my friend being one of these people). However, what really struck me was what an awesome life this man led. Really, he did things that most of us can only dream about. It was a good, long, full, exciting life.

Except, I found myself being really sad that I’d never met this man. I’d have loved to hear him tell these stories.

Then, I forgot all about it.

That is, until tonight. Mum and I went over to help our friend with moving some stuff out of the deceased man’s house in preparation for an estate sale. She gave us the grand tour of the house, ending in a room that must have served as a sort of study for this man. Hung all over the walls in this room are commendations, signed prints and pictures, and other documents recording the wonderful things that the man had done.

His family does not want them. They will be sold in the estate sale.

This knocked me sideways. This man devoted his life to a career. He worked really hard doing dangerous and crazy things. He earned rewards and commendations that few people do because of his hard work.

And they will be purchased by a complete stranger for…what use? It won’t conjure up memories of this man for them, they don’t know him. The buyer won’t know what this man did to earn that certificate, or how he was presented with this commendation.

The name on those documents means nothing to them.

What then, is the point of all this? Those things obviously brought joy to him, brought to mind good memories and proud thoughts. Now, they simply are an impersonal collector’s item.

Is this what life comes down to? All the things that defined this man’s life, all the things that made him proud…they are being assessed for their market value. And that’s that.

End of story.

Or is it? Thornton Wilder, in his book The Bridge of San Luis Rey, examined this idea of memories, life, happiness, and love. His summation of the novel is brilliant (SPOILER ALERT!):

But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Perhaps he is on to something. Maybe the memories we leave behind are enough. No matter what we do or do not leave behind us, our actions still count for something.

I really hope Wilder is correct.

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Enraptured

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36

There’s a lot of talk about the world ending tomorrow.

This annoys me. Not that I’m not all for the Rapture and all; there are days where my mind constantly echoes John’s cry of “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” However, really people? Do you think that you, and YOU ONLY, have discovered the date of the one event that will change the entire world forever?

Because, let’s face it. Wars affect some people, earthquakes affect others. Some people are influenced by a wedding, some by the fall of a dictator. But nothing, NOTHING, will change the world like the Rapture, the Second Coming, Christ returning to earth. For some it will be amazing, for others it will be terrifying, and I hope and pray that you all are not in the “terrifying” category.

Here’s the thing though. Only God knows when this is all going to take place. In an amazing metaphysical conundrum, even Christ (though fully God and fully man) does not know when He is going to return to earth. Did you all hear that? Christ does not know the date of something that completely centers around His participation! I mean, wow. That’s one tightly guarded secret.

So what makes anyone think that God would reveal to *them* this precious date? The God I know, He doesn’t play games. He doesn’t say in His Word that no one knows something, and then drop broad hints or whisper it in the ear of a man. He doesn’t mess with us like that. He knows the date and time, and that’s enough. We don’t need to know. Let’s face cold, hard reality: we don’t want to know.

Think about how pointless life would feel if we knew the date and time. Think of how apathetic and scared we would become. I mean, all this May 21st stuff is merely conjecture and people are losing it; what if we knew it was 100% real? No. No no no. Bad idea. God knew that it was best for us not to know, so we don’t know. Oh, and remember, Christ doesn’t know, so He’s not going to be providing hints to us either. God told us all we need to know about the end times in Revelation. Quite honestly, that gives me enough fodder to keep my mind occupied…I don’t need to know EXACTLY when it will all kick off.

Let’s stop worrying about the end of the world. Let’s just worry about today. How are we acting? What are we doing? Are we making our lives count? Are we doing things that matter?

Live for today…let tomorrow take care of itself.

The Second Coming

William Butler Yeats

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Wearing of the Green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In the time (well, I did it once) honoured tradition of this blog, I shall now share some of the wonderful Irish-themed videos I’ve been watching this year.

First up, the only time I’ve enjoyed Lady Gaga! Trust the Irish to make her palatable.

I love the raw power of this dance, and the way it features the rhythmic patterns that set Irish Step dancing apart from other types of dance.

The Rockettes are great and all, but let’s just admire this coordination and group work!

Oh yeah, few hours of practice at work there.

Oh! Want to see the shirt I’m wearing today? And Mum? And (I’m hoping), my Irish Aunt? Gotta love Starbucks!

Go Green!

So cute. If I didn’t have to work, my nails would totally look like this today as well:

Since I do have to work, I’m going to be content with my Irish ring!

 

…and that’s as much Irish frivolity as I can muster up today! May the road rise up to meet you, may the sun shine warm upon your face, may the wind always be at your back…and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand!

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Caveat Lector

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

Caesar:
What man is that?

Brutus:
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

“Tis the anniversary of that fateful day, the day when a great leader’s best friends reportedly stabbed him to death in the Roman streets. Poor, poor Caesar.

Just because I’m feeling litgeeky today, here’s another of my favourite quotes from Julius Caesar:

ARTEMIDORUS:

(reads aloud)

“Caesar, beware of Brutus. Take heed of Cassius. Come not near Casca. Have an eye to Cinna. Trust not Trebonius. Mark well Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus loves thee not. Thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you. Security gives way to conspiracy. The mighty gods defend thee!

Thy lover,

Artemidorus”

Here will I stand till Caesar pass along,

And as a suitor will I give him this.

My heart laments that virtue cannot live

Out of the teeth of emulation.

If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayst live.

If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive.

Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 3

So, dear readers beware! Tread cautiously today….

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Coffee!

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My *Hopefully* Last Spring Semester

It dawned on me today that unless my university totally messes up the class schedule for next Fall (and that is not beyond the realm of possibility), this will be my last Spring semester, the last time I’ll take sessions C and D. Trust me, this is totally sweet with no bitter-ness anywhere in sight.

I’m ready to be done with college. For reals.

With that end in mind, I’m tackling 5 classes this semester, something I’ve only tried once before. Due to a professor who apparently didn’t understand the difference between a 100 level and a 400 level class, it didn’t go too well – I ended up dropping a class. For those of you who don’t understand why this is even a big deal (because, let’s face it, most traditional students take 5 classes a semester), allow me to explain. My university is nontradional. Because we started as a graduate school, undergrad classes were an afterthought mostly just so people a few credits short of a Bachelor’s could finish up and move on with life.

Undergrad classes, then, only lasted 8 weeks.

Before you go all “how cool is that” on me, let’s make sure we are on the same page. Imagine all the class work you do for an entire semester. Essays, papers, research, projects, tests, midterms, finals, the works. Now, instead of having 4 months to complete those assignments, you only have 8 weeks. To top it off, you either don’t get a class on campus, or you only get a two hour class every week. To make up for that, you write mini-essays every week and then reply to your classmate’s essays. This is ON TOP of everything else.

Recently, the undergrad program underwent some changes, and we are starting to transition to more traditional schedules. New classes are 16 weeks and on campus, meeting twice a week for an hour and some minutes. To be honest, after 4 years of rapidly cramming information into my head in a two week period, it can be hard to adjust to the pace of a slower class. The temptation is to put the assignments on a back burner because they feel less “urgent.” Or maybe that’s just me.

This semester, I have one 16 week class. We’re studying the Psalms, and the class is amazing! It’s taught by one of my favourite teachers, and taking it means that I’m almost finished with the Biblical Studies minor part of my degree. For the next four months, we are taking apart the book of Psalms, looking at structure, form, meaning, cultural relevance, and spiritual application. If you are interested in a non-scholarly approach to the book, I can’t recommend C. S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms enough. It’s simply brilliant.

“Finally, as will soon be apparent to any reader, this is not what is called an ‘apologetic’ work. I am nowhere trying to convince unbelievers that Christianity is true. I address those who already believe it, or those who are ready, while reading, to ‘suspend their disbelief’. A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”

Yeah, this is going to be a great class, and is already sparking some ideas for blog posts. You’ve been warned!

Then, this session I have two 8 week classes.

Tuesday nights are helping me finish up my cognate (mini-minor) in Speech and Communication. We are studying Rhetorical Criticism- a research method that helps you identify the purpose and effectiveness of various communication symbols. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing papers on song lyrics, the State of the Union Address, SuperBowl commercials, and print ads. It’s going to be great fun, and I have a feeling that some of those papers will end up here too!

Last, but not least, I’m taking Milton and the 17th Century. This makes my English major’s heart very, very happy. I’ve never been a huge Milton fan, but his writings are so foundational to other English works that I know it will be a great course. Frustratingly, I can’t seem to get that textbook to come in (*mutters under breath about university bookstores not being quite forthcoming with information about shipping issues*)…but I’m hoping to have it tomorrow. I’ve taken every English literature class with this professor, and she’s awesome! It’s nice to have this class with her.

That’s the bare schedule that I have going on. There are a bunch of other things going on in the next 8 weeks too, but they’ll have to wait. I’ve got to go study!

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Brand New Day

Welcome back to Music Monday! This was a random little treasure-find this week, but it’s been on repeat on both my computer and laptop. I’m up to 200 listens and still counting!

The lyrics are pretty straightforward, all about wanting to break free of an old, stagnant life so you can be ready to face a brand new day. I really love the lyrics in the chorus:

Dream,

Send me a sign,

Turn back the clock,

Give me some time.

I need to break out,

And make a new name,

Let’s open our eyes,

To the brand new day.

Musically, I find it very interesting. It has perhaps one of the most chilling modulation chords that I’ve ever heard. It’s worth calling attention to those few seconds in the song: the sequence begins at 2:04, the amazing chord is at 2:07, and it all resolves by 2:08. Brilliant.

Have a great week, and I’ll be back soon!

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