For St. Patrick’s Day, a painting, and the folk song by Irish musician Tommy Makem that inspired the painting.
What did I have, said the fine old woman What did I have, this proud old woman did say I had four green fields, each one was a jewel But strangers came and tried to take them from me I had fine strong sons, who fought to save my jewels They fought and they died, and that was my grief, said she
Long time ago, said the fine old woman Long time ago, this proud old woman did say There was war and death, plundering and pillage My children starved, by mountain, valley, and sea And their wailing cries, they shook the very heavens My four green fields ran red with their blood, said she
What have I now, said the fine old woman What have I now, this proud old woman did say I have four green fields, one of them’s in bondage In strangers’ hands, that tried to take it from me But my sons had sons, as brave as were their fathers My fourth green field will bloom once again, said she
Here, a recently completed graphic design project for the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America: Please, Can We Play Games? by Ruth Ker. The book offers the author’s forty years of creating, collecting, and playing traditional and original verses, songs, and games for early childhood circle time or home play. You can learn more on the WECAN website.
I am sorry about two things: first, that Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter is a mere tiny purple splotch in this sketch; and second, that I didn’t know until too late that she also would be singing—among other things—Simon and Garfunkel later in November at the Library of Congress.
A December tradition in our family is the Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton Consort Celtic Christmas concert at Dumbarton Church in Georgetown, where our Christmas season is annually launched by beautiful music for lute, harp, flute and drum, accompanied by Robert Aubry Davis’ readings. This ballad is a favorite. Merry Christmas, everyone. May joy, love and peace fill us all and “drive the cold winter away” from our hearts.
Comes in like a Bride,
with Holly and Ivy clad:
Twelve dayes in the yeare,
Much mirth and good cheare,
in every houshold is had:
The Countrey guise,
Is then to devise,
some gambole of Christmas play:
Whereas the yong men,
Do best that they can,
to drive the cold winter away.
When white-bearded Frost,
Hath threatned his worst,
and fallen from Branch & Bryer:
Then time away cals,
From Husbandry Hals,
& from the good Countrymans fire:
Together to go,
To Plow and to sow,
to get us both food and array:
And thus with content,
The time we have spent,
to drive the cold winter away.
As we move into the darkest season, looking increasingly inward and reflecting on the year nearly past, and on our losses and our shortcomings, we encourage and inspire ourselves and each other with a multitude of festivals of light: Michaelmas, Dia de los Muertos, Diwali, Chanukah, Christmas. On November 11th we celebrate simultaneously Martinmas, the feast of kindly St. Martin of Tours, and Veterans Day, each with its acknowledgement of sadness, courage, and hope.
In our family, we follow a tradition begun when our children were tiny Waldorf kindergarteners, and we have a lantern walk at nightfall. Despite my [now very big] children’s inevitable complaints and eyerolling, we’ll all do the last dog-walk together, carrying our homemade paper lanterns and singing. Someday they’ll thank me…
In case you also would like to go singing through the darkness, here is one of the songs, a lovely round by Praetorius.
We were fortunate enough to have been invited last night by a fellow parent (ah, the perks of fellow-parent-hood!) for a delicious Indian dinner and an evening of music beautifully presented by soprano Nakia Verner and tenor Dan Noone. A full opera production on a huge stage is magnificent, but there is something indescribably moving about an aria sung in an intimate space.
Today, on the birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), I post the words of his beautiful and heart-tugging verse, as well as this painting (created long ago for the cover of a CD by musicians Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton), because a romantic rugged landscape with a castle and a red, red rose—albeit a Lancaster Rose—says “Robert Burns” to me.