Dec 30, 2010

Famous Poets - Part Nine

Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

Robert Burns was born at Alloway, near Ayr, on January 25, 1759. His father William was a gardener, and though extremely poor, attempted to give his children a fair education. Robert, who was the eldest, went to school for three years in a neighboring village, and later, for shorter periods, to three other schools in the vicinity. But it was to his father and to his own reading that he owed the more important part of his education.

Burns worked as a farm labourer, and it was while thus occupied that he met his first love, Nelly Kirkpatrick. She inspired him to try his hand at poetry, a song entitled "O, once I lov'd a bonnie lass", set to the tune of a traditional reel. He worked at a succession of labouring jobs, and began writing poetry regularly. When his father died in 1784, Burns and his brother Gilbert rented a farm near Mauchline.

Burns spread his affections freely, and the next decade saw 8 illegitimate children born to him through 5 different women. One of these, Jean Armour, became Mrs. Burns in 1788.

The first published work of poetry by Robert Burns was "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect" which saw the light of day on 31 July 1786. This collection of verse contained many of Burn's best works, including "To a Mouse", and "The Holy Fair".

The success of the volume convinced Burns to abandon plans to emigrate to Jamaica. Buoyed by his growing reputation as an unschooled "ploughman poet", Burns moved to Edinburgh and became part of the thriving cultural scene there.

He was unable to find a patron to support his writing, but publisher James Johnson gave him work editing a collection of Scottish folk songs. This work, titled "The Scots Musical Museum", was published in 5 volumes over sixteen years. Burns himself contributed over 150 songs, including "Auld Lang Syne", a reworking of an earlier folk song of unknown origin.

Burns and his wife Jean moved to Mauchline, where in 1790 he produced "Tam o' Shanter", which was first published merely as an accompaniment to an illustration of Alloway Kirk, in a volume of "Antiquities of Scotland". The growing Burns family moved again, this time to Dumfries.

Burns contributed 114 songs to "A Select Collection Of Scottish Airs" by George Thomson, but he received very little payment for his efforts. In 1795, Burns was inspired by the events of the French Revolution to write "For a' that and a' that", his cry for human equality.

One year later, on July 21, 1796, Burns was dead of rheumatic fever. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Michael's in Dumfries, as his wife Jean was giving birth to their ninth child.

Robert Burns gained more fame after his death than he ever did during his lifetime. Many of his songs and poems have become international favourites - even among those who find his use of Scottish lowland dialect difficult to decipher.

A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it ware ten thousand mile.

Lines to an Old Sweetheart
ONCE fondly lov’d, and still remember’d dear,
Sweet early object of my youthful vows,
Accept this mark of friendship, warm, sincere,
Friendship! ’tis all cold duty now allows.
And when you read the simple artless rhymes,
One friendly sigh for him—he asks no more,
Who, distant, burns in flaming torrid climes,
Or haply lies beneath th’ Atlantic roar.

The Song of Death
FAREWELL, thou fair day, thou green earth, and ye skies,
Now gay with the broad setting sun;
Farewell, loves and friendships, ye dear tender ties,
Our race of existence is run!
Thou grim King of Terrors; thou Life’s gloomy foe!
Go, frighten the coward and slave;
Go, teach them to tremble, fell tyrant! but know
No terrors hast thou to the brave!

Thou strik’st the dull peasant—he sinks in the dark,
Nor saves e’en the wreck of a name;
Thou strik’st the young hero—a glorious mark;
He falls in the blaze of his fame!
In the field of proud honour—our swords in our hands,
Our King and our country to save;
While victory shines on Life’s last ebbing sands,—
O! who would not die with the brave!

The Wounded Hare
INHUMAN man! curse on thy barb’rous art,
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart!

Go live, poor wand’rer of the wood and field!
The bitter little that of life remains:
No more the thickening brakes and verdant plains
To thee a home, or food, or pastime yield.

Seek, mangled wretch, some place of wonted rest,
No more of rest, but now thy dying bed!
The sheltering rushes whistling o’er thy head,
The cold earth with thy bloody bosom prest.

Perhaps a mother’s anguish adds its woe;
The playful pair crowd fondly by thy side;
Ah! helpless nurslings, who will now provide
That life a mother only can bestow!

Oft as by winding Nith I, musing, wait
The sober eve, or hail the cheerful dawn,
I’ll miss thee sporting o’er the dewy lawn,
And curse the ruffian’s aim, and mourn thy hapless fate.

Dec 29, 2010

Dec 28, 2010

Superstition - Part XII
New Year's Eve

It is believed that cupboards stocked up with food and wallets and purses full of money bring prosperity in New Year. Similarly, empty pockets or empty cupboards on New Years Eve portend a year of poverty.

Many traditions call for a window to be opened a few minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve, in order to let out bad luck and welcome in good luck for the New Year. At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded.

The devil and his servants hate din and loud noise so to scare them away by you should be as loud in New Year celebrations. Church bells are rung at midnight for the same reason.

Kissing at midnight ensures that affections and ties will continue throughout the New Year. It is also said that to not do this would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.

The direction of wind during sunrise on New Year morning prophesies about the coming year. Wind from south foretells fine weather and prosperous times ahead while wind from north foretells bad weather. Wind blowing from east foretells natural calamities and wind from west foretells plenty of milk and fish for all but death of a person of great national importance. No wind means joy and prosperity throughout the year.

Unexpected visitors were a cause for concern on New Year's Day, since the appearance of another person meant a year full of company for the household. If a man visited a home unannounced on New Year's, it was considered a sign of good luck. An unannounced woman, however, was a sign that a troubled year lay ahead.

Some believed that no one should enter the home from the outside world without bringing in something from outside, to ensure a year of prosperity for the family within. It is also believed that nothing should be carried outside on New Year's Day, to avoid carrying out the family's good luck for the year to come.

To dance in the open air, especially round a tree, on New Year's Day ensures luck in love and prosperity and freedom from ill health during the coming twelve months.

Avoid breaking things, crying and wailing on the first day of the year, if you don't want to continue the pattern for the entire year.

In several countries, people do not let money, jewelry, precious items or other invaluable things leave home on New Year Day. You should also not pay loans and bills or lend things to anybody. People go to the extent of not taking out garbage or even not dusting their carpets on this day to ensure that nothing goes out of home during the year. If you have to deliver presents on New Year morning, it is advised to leave them in the car since New Year Eve on December 31st.

Mountain superstitions dictate that the traditional meal for New Year’s day is black-eyed peas and hog jowl. The black-eyed peas are served in heaping helpings because each pea or bean eaten is a guarantee of done day of good luck. Hog jowl is also considered good luck.

You should only do a token amount of work on New Year’s Day to ensure advancement in your career, and starting a serious work project is unlucky. Working hard at a task will guarantee a year of hard labor, since whatever deeds are performed will influence a person's actions for the rest of the year. It is also believed that washing dishes and doing laundry on New Year's day will lead to a death in the family during the year. Many people do not even wash hair on New Year day.

Any superstition that tells me I shouldn’t wash dishes or do laundry is one I can really get behind. :-)

May you have nothing but luck in the New Year.

Dec 27, 2010

Mandatory Monday

mandatory ~ permitting no option; not to be disregarded or modified

Seriously, it’s Monday again already? How did that happen?

Did everyone have a good Christmas? In and amongst the opening of presents and the indulging in too much good food, our family had a special present this year – the birth of another great-niece, Natalya Lee, born on Christmas day.

And did anyone hit the Boxing Day sales yesterday? We drove to Hamilton to visit family yesterday and passed several of the big shopping centres (Scarborough Town Centre, Yorkdale, Sherway Gardens, the Dixie Mall) and I wouldn’t have stopped in any one of them if you paid me. The parking lots were packed and extra cars were circling like vultures. *shudder*

This Week’s Goals:

Tuesday: I’m wrapping up the superstition series this week with some superstitions surrounding New Years. The new year will bring a new series on Tuesdays that I expect will not only be interesting, but fun too.

Wednesday: Another Hump Day Hunk for your viewing pleasure. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a New Year’s themed hunk, but it won’t be for lack of trying. ;-)

Thursday: Part IX of my Famous Poets series will feature Robert Burns, who wrote the original poem of Auld Lang Syne.

Friday: Chapter 4 of Fire. She did say she was willing to do anything . . .

Elsewhere in my week:

Is it just me or does the week between Christmas and New Year’s always seem a little unproductive? The house is still clean (more or less) and it’s too soon to take the decorations down.

To be honest, I don’t really have anything special planned this week. At least, not anything I’d have to leave the house for. ;-)

I’ve been neglecting my business the last couple of weeks and need to get back on track with that – the books need to be set up and the receipts organized. I’m hoping to get some writing and editing in as well, which should be an easy promise to keep considering I’ve just said I have nothing else planned.

I lied. I do have one special thing planned. I have to get my Christmas present to my husband set up for him. I gave him a USB turntable so he has an easier time copying his vinyl record collection onto CDs.

The poetry group meeting last week was unusual in that in past years we haven’t bothered because the date ends up being so close to Christmas that it was felt no one would have the time. Ironically, last week’s turn out was the largest one of the year. Pretty much everyone had something to read so the meeting ran rather long as well.

So far we don’t have anything special planned for New Year’s Eve, although I’m lobbying to attend the First Night celebration put on by the town. There’s live entertainment, free skating, a fire show and fireworks . . . the fact that it’s held outdoors makes it all the more fun.

So, what are your plans for New Year’s? A big party, or a quiet evening at home? Here’s to a great New Year for us all!

Dec 23, 2010

Famous Poets - Part Eight

Clement Clarke Moore 1779 ~ 1863

Clement Clarke Moore was born on July 15, 1779 in New York City. He was the only child of heiress Charity Clarke and Dr. Benjamin Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York, Rector of Trinity Church, and President of Columbia College. Moore was educated at home in his early youth and graduated first in his class from Columbia in 1798.

Unlike his father, his life's work did not lay in the ministry. He had a well developed love of language and pursued the learning of ancient dialects of Hebrew, Greek and German.
He married Catherine Elizabeth Taylor in 1813 and was shamelessly devoted to her. While courting her, Moore wrote to his future mother-in-law that he would carve her name into trees. Together, they had nine children. When her life unexpectedly was taken when she was 30, he was devastated.

In 1820, Moore helped Trinity Church organize a new parish church, St. Luke’s in the Fields, on Hudson Street, and the following year he was made professor of Biblical learning at the General Theological Seminary in New York, a post that he held until 1850. The ground on which the seminary now stands was his gift.

At the age of thirty, he compiled a Hebrew lexicon, the first work of its kind in America. He translated Juvenal, edited his father's sermons, wrote treatises and political pamphlets, including his well-known 1804 attack on the president in Observations Upon Certain Passages in Mr. Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Which Appear to Have a Tendency to Subvert Religion and Establish a False Philosophy, and was often a contributor to the editorial pages of local newspapers. He also wrote George Castriot, Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania, which appeared in 1852 and was highly commended at the time.

He died on July 10, 1863 and his funeral was held in Trinity Church, Newport, where he had owned a pew. His body was interred in the cemetery at St. Luke in the Fields. On November 29, 1899, his body was reinterred in Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in New York.

Although he was embarrassed for most of his life that his scholarly works were overshadowed by what he publicly considered a frivolous poem, Moore will forever be remembered as the person who truly gave St. Nicholas to the world. Legend has it Moore composed "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his family on Christmas Eve of 1822, during a sleigh-ride home from Greenwich Village. The inspiration for St. Nick was drawn from the roly-poly Dutchman who drove his sleigh that day.

A Visit from Saint Nicholas:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the courses they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Dec 21, 2010

Superstitions - Part XI

Singing Christmas carols at any time other than during the festive season is unlucky.

Failing to decorate a Christmas Tree will cause spring to never come – instead you’ll have bad luck and evil spirits.

A dog that howls on Christmas Eve will go mad.

If an apple is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve, good health will follow for a year.

The gender of the first visitor to the house on Christmas Eve was said to foretell the sex of the child of the pregnant women in the household.

The gates of Heaven open at midnight on Christmas Eve. Those who die then go straight to Heaven (an Irish belief).

Christmas candles should be left burning until Christmas morning and should rest undisturbed from time of lighting until they are snuffed.

Never give shoes for Christmas gifts. Giving a new pair of shoes as Christmas gifts will make your friends walk away from you.

On Christmas morning the first person down the stairs must quickly open the front door and sweep trouble out the door.

The Yule log should be lit by a piece of the log used on the previous Christmas. Once that is done, no evil spirit can enter into the house. Yule Logs should never be bought. Once lit, it must burn all through the Twelve days of Christmas otherwise bad luck will visit the household. Any difficulty in lighting the Yule log is a bad omen for the year ahead. Yule logs were burnt on the Christmas fire and many people kept a piece on the log from the previous year as a lucky talisman.

Small amounts of lead were melted over the Yule log then poured into a container of water. The resulting shape was then used to predict future about the pourer.

Christmas evergreens represent endurance while the berries represent resurrection of life. Since the 15th century, holly and ivy were essential part of Christmas decorations. If the holly used for Christmas decorations is smooth the wife will be master. If the holly used for Christmas decorations is prickly the husband is the master. Prudent couples use both kinds of hollies on Christmas to assure balanced and harmonious home.

Mistletoe, also known as Celtic-All-Heal was popular by the 19th century. Since the times of druids, it was associated with fertility and kissing. Luck favors those who kiss under the mistletoe but turn against those who avoid it. It is bad luck to take Christmas mistletoe down and it should only be replaced on the following Christmas. Burning old mistletoe was said to predict marriage prospects of an unmarried girl. Steady flames ensured happy marital life while the spluttering flames predicted bad tempered and cross husbands.

Whatever you dream on any of the 12 nights between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6) will come to pass within the next year.

The weather on each of the twelve days of Christmas signifies what the weather will be on the appropriate month of the coming year as the weather is on each of these days, so will it be on the corresponding month of the following year. If you really want to know the rainfall for the next year, you can hollow out 12 onions, putting salt into each. Each onion is named after a month of the year, and there will be rain in every month where the salt in that onion is wet. And if Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, the following year will be windy.

A Christmas tree should never be thrown out doors or it will attract evil spirits and goblins. Christmas trees should be burned, but save a section to be used as next year’s Yule log.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Dec 20, 2010

Merry Monday

merry ~ full of cheerfulness or gaiety; joyous in disposition or spirit

I was a bad blogger last week. Although I got my posts written and up on time I didn’t spend too much time checking out other people’s posts and even less time commenting. My apologies to those I missed. To be honest, I wasn’t on the internet much at all.

I got the tree up Wednesday and started to put the lights on it, only two of the sets weren’t working. Thursday we found a couple more sets in another box, but only one of them worked. So Saturday when we were out shopping I picked up a new set and there were finally enough lights on the tree to make me happy. The rest of the decorations went on last night.

I got the out-of-town presents in the mail and the gifts baskets made up for in-town friends. No cookies or hand-made decorations this year I’m afraid.

Didn’t get much writing or editing done, although I did have an idea for a weird short story pop into my head and I just might have to write down.

So what the heck was I doing with my time last week? I did some contract work at another office, and . . . went on a reading binge. Finished a couple of books I had started a while back, read three Harlequin Blazes, read the new Lynsay Sands book, and read a Lori Handeland book that I’ve had for a while. Next up is the suspense/thriller Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille

I think Harlequin needs to hire me as an editor. Two of the Blaze books I read had editorial errors in them. The first had the guy removing his boxers before he unzipped his pants and the second had a woman putting on a white robe but taking off a black one.

On my Other Blog I’ve been posting Christmas Carols that I feel are indicative of my Christmas spirit this year. In other words, Christmas parodies. :-) Check them out, they’re pretty funny.

This Week’s Goals:

Tuesday: This week’s installment of my series on superstition will be about Christmas superstitions. This will be the second last post in the series.

Wednesday: Another Christmasy Hump Day Hunk for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday: Part VIII of my Famous Poets series will feature Clement Clarke Moore, the author of A Visit From St. Nicholas.

Friday: Chapter 3 of Fire. Let’s see if I can get the post up on time two weeks in a row. ;-)

Elsewhere in my week:

My poetry group is meeting Tuesday night – I need to write a poem with a refrain (that was our ‘poemwork’ from the last meeting). This being the Christmas season and all, I might even indulge in a glass of wine instead of my usual tea – one of the advantages of meeting upstairs in a pub.

I have three more days of work at the editorial development house and one of those days the boss is taking us out for a Christmas lunch.

I seem to be easing up slightly on the reading so hopefully I’ll get something other than my blog posts written this week. If nothing else, I want to get back into the edits on Forever and For Always.

Maybe I’ll bake some gingerbread – my baking nod to Christmas. It goes really good with Chai tea. :-)

And that’s about it for my week before Christmas. What are your plans for Christmas? Do you have all your shopping done? Bracing yourself for a big family get-together or spending a quiet Christmas?

Dec 16, 2010

Famous Poets - Part Seven

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661–1720)

Anne Kingsmill was born in April, 1661, the third child of Sir William Kingsmill and Anne Haslewood. Little is known of her early childhood. Her father died when she was five months old and her mother remarried a year later.

At the age of twenty-three, she went to the court of Charles II as a maid of honor to the duchess of York. In May of 1684 she married Colonel Heneage Finch, one of the duke’s Gentlemen of the Bedchamber.

Anne's interest in poetry began at the palace, and she started writing her own verse. Her friends included Sarah Churchill and Anne Killigrew, two other maids of honor who also shared poetic interests. However, she witnessed the derision within the court that greeted Killigrew's poetic efforts (poetry was not a pursuit considered suitable for women), she decided to keep her own writing attempts to herself and her close friends. She remained secretive about her poetry until much later in her life, when she was encouraged to publish under her own name.

Her marriage proved to be enduring and happy. Part of the development of her poetic skills was brought about by expressing her joy in her love for her husband. In celebrating their relationship, she significantly departed from the usual attitudes and conventions of the time. In other early works she aimed a satiric disapproval at prevailing misogynistic attitudes. Fortunately, her husband strongly supported her writing activities.

In her works Finch drew upon her own observations and experiences, demonstrating an insightful awareness of the social mores and political climate of her era. But she also artfully recorded her private thoughts, which could be joyful or despairing, playful or despondent. The poems also revealed her highly developed spiritual side.

Finch was reluctant to publish under her own name, as she felt the current social and political climate was oppressive as far as women were concerned. When she published Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions in 1713, the cover page of the first printing indicated that the collected works (which included 86 poems as well as a play) were "Written by a Lady." However, on subsequent printings, Finch (as Anne, Countess of Winchilsea) received credit as the author.

Her poems were almost forgotten when Wordsworth in the "Essay, supplementary to the Preface" of his Poems (1815), drew attention to her nature-poetry. Wordsworth sent a manuscript of extracts from Lady Winchilsea and other writers to Lady Mary Lowther, and his correspondence with Alexander Dyce contains some minute criticism and appreciation of her poetry.

A major collection titled The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea, edited by Myra Reynolds, was published in 1903. For many years it was considered the definitive collection of her writings. It remains the only scholarly collection of Finch's poetry, and includes all of the poems from Miscellany Poems and poems retrieved from other manuscripts. Further, Reynolds's impressive introduction did as much to re-establish Finch's reputation as Wordsworth's previous praise.

Later, The Wellesley Manuscript, which contained 53 unpublished poems, was released. Literary scholars have noted Finch's distinctive voice and her poems' intimacy, sincerity, and spirituality. They also expressed appreciation for her experimentation as well as her assured usage of Augustan diction and forms.


'Tis true I write and tell me by what Rule
I am alone forbid to play the fool
To follow through the Groves a wand'ring Muse
And fain'd Idea's for my pleasures chuse
Why shou'd it in my Pen be held a fault
Whilst Mira paints her face, to paint a thought
Whilst Lamia to the manly Bumper flys
And borrow'd Spiritts sparkle in her Eyes,
Why shou'd itt be in me a thing so vain
To heat with Poetry my colder Brain
But I write ill and there-fore shou'd forbear
Does Flavia cease now at her fortieth year
In ev'ry Place to lett that face be seen
Which all the Town rejected at fifteen
Each Woman has her weaknesse; mind [sic] indeed
Is still to write tho' hopelesse to succeed
Nor to the Men is this so easy found
Ev'n in most Works with which the Witts abound
(So weak are all since our first breach with Heav'n)
Ther's lesse to be Applauded then forgiven.

A Female Friend advis'd a Swain
(Whose Heart she wish'd at ease)
Make Love thy Pleasure, not thy Pain,
Nor let it deeply seize.

Beauty, where Vanities abound,
No serious Passion claims;
Then, 'till a Phoenix can be found,
Do not admit the Flames.

But griev'd She finds, that his Replies
(Since prepossess'd when Young)
Take all their Hints from Silvia's Eyes,
None from ARDELIA's Tongue.

Thus, Cupid, of our Aim we miss,
Who wou'd unbend thy Bow;
And each slight Nymph a Phoenix is,
When Love will have it so.

The Tree of Knowledge we in Eden prov'd;
The Tree of Life was thence to Heav'n remov'd:
Hope is the growth of Earth, the only Plant,
Which either Heav'n, or Paradise cou'd want.

Hell knows it not, to Us alone confin'd,
And Cordial only to the Human Mind.
Receive it then, t'expel these mortal Cares,
Nor wave a Med'cine, which thy God prepares.

VAIN Love, why do'st thou boast of Wings,
That cannot help thee to retire!
When such quick Flames Suspicion brings,
As do the Heart about thee fire.
Still Swift to come, but when to go
Thou shou'd'st be more–Alas! how Slow.

Lord of the World must surely be
But thy bare Title at the most;
Since Jealousy is Lord of Thee,
And makes such Havock on thy Coast,

As do's thy pleasant Land deface,
Yet binds thee faster to the Place.

Dec 14, 2010

Superstitions - Part X
Itching Palms

Having an itching palm is not just an idiom for greed, or the desire for money. According to tradition, if your left palm itches, it means you will soon receive money; if your right palm itches, it means that you will lose or have to pay money. If your left palm itches, scratch it on wood and you will be sure to receive money; if your right palm itches, do not scratch it at all, because then you will lose money.

Some of the variations of the itching palm superstition include:

* Itchy hands - right to receive and left to leave (fortune and luck), rub on wood
and it's sure to be good, rub on brass and it will come fast
* If the palm of your right hand is itchy, then it foretells that money is coming to you, but don’t scratch it as that stops the money from coming! If it's your left
palm that is itchy, then scratch away, as that means that you'll soon be paying out money for something.
* If your left hand itches, you're going to be rich. If your right hand itches, you're going to be poor.
* If your palm itches, you will receive money, and if the back of your hand itches you will lose money.
* If your palm itches, you will soon receive money. If you itch it, your money will never come.

According to several sources, this belief originated with the Saxons, who felt that rubbing diseased skin with silver would cure it. It could also be related to the Celtic belief that touching wood invokes good fortune.

Money isn’t always the reason for an itching palm. There are those who that itching shows there is some kind of internal energy that is moving through your palms. The right hand is supposed to be active and the left hand is passive or the receptive one. Therefore, it your right palm itches it indicates your energy or services are moving out. However, if your left palm itches it means you are on the receptive mode and should expect new services in life.

It is, however, generally agreed that you shouldn’t scratch your palm yourself. You can touch or rub your right hand over wood or brass and your left hand should be rubbed on the corner of a wooden table. Be careful while rubbing your left hand on the corner. An unexpected splinter in the table may lead to bad luck.

Dec 13, 2010

Multipotent Monday

multipotent ~ having the power to do many things

Can you believe Christmas is in two weeks? I am so not feeling the Christmas spirit this year. No decorating, no baking, just a lot of bah humbug.

It was so mild on Saturday that we barbequed steaks for supper. Sunday it rained steadily most of the day. I am not impressed with this weather!

As far as last week’s goals went, I got my posts all up, although I was pretty late with the first installment of Fire. Then, while running errands, I picked up the last two books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series . . . I gave a fleeting thought to wrapping them up as an extra Christmas present, but their siren song was too strong to resist. I finished the last one Sunday evening. Now I have to wait until March for the next book to be published. *sigh*

This Week’s Goals:

Tuesday: This week’s installment of my series on superstition concerns itching palms.

Wednesday: Another Christmasy Hump Day Hunk for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday: Part VII of my Famous Poets series will feature another lady poet, Anne Finch.

Friday: Chapter 2 of Fire. Hopefully this chapter will be up in a timely fashion.

Elsewhere in my week:

Whether I’m feeling the spirit of Christmas or not, the tree really needs to go up this week.

Writing-wise I’ll be adding new words to The Perfect Man, and I’d like to get ahead in my serial Fire. I’ll also continue the edits on Forever and For Always.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be helping out at the editorial development house I used to work for. I actually helped out Thursday and Friday last week as well - it was great to see the old gang again.

And there you have it. My week to come. How about you? What’s in store for you this week?

Dec 10, 2010

Post Delay

Due to some unexpected circumstances, I don't have the first installment of my new serial Fire ready to be posted yet. I'm hoping to have it up later, so please check back tonight!

Sorry about this!

Dec 9, 2010

Famous Poets – Part Six

Louise Labe (1524 - 1566)

Louise Charlin Perrin Labé was born in the early 1520s to a prosperous rope-maker in Lyon. Bother her father and her stepmother were illiterate, but her father had her educated in languages as well as in music.

She was married in her early 20s to another rope-maker, some 30 years her senior. It was after her marriage that she began to participate in the literary circles of Lyon, which at the time challenged Paris as a cosmopolitan center and which allowed the bourgeoisie greater participation in cultural life than did the capital.
At the siege of Perpignan, she is said to have dressed in male clothing and fought on horseback in the ranks of the Dauphin, afterwards Henry II.

She formed a library and gathered round her a society which included many of the learned women of Lyons. In 1555 Euvres de Louize Labe Lionnoize was published in Lyon: it contained a prose dedicatory epistle to a local noblewoman, a prose Debat de Folie et d'Amour, 24 sonnets (the first in Italian), and three elegies.

In addition to her own writings, the volume contained twenty-four poems in her honor, authored by her male contemporaries. The book was popular enough that three other editions came out within a year (the first Revues et corrigees par la dite Dame), and it was widely-read enough to bring both praise from beyond Lyon and criticism for being immodest and "unwomanly."

The poet Olivier de Magny, in his Odes of 1559, praised Labé (along with several other women) as his beloved; and from the nineteenth century onward, literary critics speculated that Magny was in fact Labé's lover. However, the male beloved in Labé's poetry is never identified by name, and may well represent a poetic fiction rather than a historical person.

In 1564, the plague broke out in Lyon, taking the lives of some of Labé's friends. In 1565, suffering herself from bad health, she retired to the home of her friend Thomas Fortin, a banker from Florence, who witnessed her will. She died in 1566, leaving the greater part of her fortune to the poor, and was buried on her country property close to Parcieux-en-Dombes, outside Lyon.

Sonnet II - Your Cold, Appraising Eyes

Your cold, appraising eyes entice me still
And cause a hundred thousand sighs. Again,
And yet again, I wait and wait in vain.
The night is dark, the way is all uphill.

And when I dream about you, I am filled
With ceaseless turmoil and long-stifled pain.
Then, on a sudden, flashing through my brain,
I see my fate, and it’s a bitter pill.

Into the deep of night, I speak your name.
My hard-fought struggle with the gentle art
Of making verses cannot long subdue

All passion and desire. A fit of flame
Flares up, ignites, and burns within my heart.
Would that one red-hot spark might fly on you!

Sonnet VIII - I Live, I Die

I live, I die, I burn with fire, I drown.
It matters very little what I feel;
All life is now too real, now too surreal;
Joy comes and endless boredom weighs me down,

And suddenly I laugh and then I cry;
With grief and bliss I’m weeping for the past;
Good feelings go away and yet they last,
And suddenly I bleed and then I sigh.

That’s how it goes. Strange, ever changing love
Has worn me out. I wish I were removed
From such a star-crossed fate! I need a truce

With Lady Luck. Again and yet again,
Her wheel is spinning madly to produce
This wanton, wild, intense, exquisite pain.

Dec 7, 2010

Superstitions - Part IX
Knocking on Wood

“Knock wood” or “touch wood” is a superstitious action used to ward off evil consequences or as a charm to bring good luck. It’s most often used when a person makes a statement which seems to tempt fate. The idea is that knocking on wood will ward off evil spirits. You must knock on wood three times after mentioning good fortune or the evil spirits will ruin things for you.

The tradition traces back to an ancient pagan belief that spirits resided in trees, particularly oak, ash, holly or hawthorn, and that by knocking on or touching the wood you were paying a small tribute to them by remembering or acknowledging them and could call on them for protection against ill-fortune. Also, you were thanking them for their continued blessings and good luck.

Greeks worshipped the oak as it was sacred to Zeus, Celts believed in tree spirits, and both believed touching sacred trees would bring good fortune. Irish lore holds that "touching wood" is a way to thank the leprechauns for a bit of luck. Pagans also held similar beliefs of protective tree spirits. Chinese and Koreans thought the spirits of mothers who died in childbirth remained in nearby trees.

A Jewish version traces the origin to the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th century. At the time, persecuted Jews fled to synagogues built of wood, and they devised a coded knock to gain admission. Since this practice spared countless lives, it became common to "knock on wood" for good luck.

This superstition may have been adapted by Christians, as many early pagan beliefs were, and some people associated knocking on wood with the Cross. Even today pieces of wood, or the true cross, are often carried around for good luck.

By the 1800s, many children's games included a refrain to knock on wood. The idea of knocking on wood was probably widespread long before these games were popular. However, the tradition of knocking on wood for luck seemed to become much more widely accepted as these children's games entered the popular imagination. By the 1900s, British and American people were both knocking on wood for good fortune.

It should be noted that in modern times, when many items are manufactured to only appear wood-like, it has become acceptable to knock on a table with a wood veneer, or even on something that is not wood at all, such as plastic or Formica, as long as you say "knock on wood" or "touch wood". To me, this shows that the original reason for knocking is becoming forgotten, even in folk memories, in favor of the knocking action itself.

To my surprise, while doing research for this piece, I came across many references to a person knocking on their own head if no wood was available. This is something I’m in the habit of doing, even when there is wood around. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

Dec 6, 2010

Molimen Monday

molimen ~ great effort, especially in performing natural functions

I had a rather quiet weekend . . . I wasn’t feeling well so it was the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book. Or in my case it was a few good books. I didn’t even crack the lap top open yesterday. (Hence the fact that I’m late getting this post up.)

My Light Scribe was actually pretty cool – eventually. I admit it was a little frustrating at first. No where in the packaging did it mention that I had to download separate software for it to work and after I’d installed the right software my computer couldn’t detect the drive. It might have had something to do with the fact that I switched my USB hub from the desktop to the lap top to do some printing and forgot to switch it back again. D’oh!

Did not get my business books set up. Yeah, my bad. I don’t mind doing the actual bookwork, it’s just the setting up that I have a problem with. Come to think of it, I don’t think I paid any of my bills last week either.

I’m starting to think I need to print out my goals/to-do list. Cleaning out the craft closet completely slipped my mind. Oops! Which of course means no Christmas crafts got done either.

This Week’s Goals:

Tuesday: This week’s installment of my series on superstition concerns knocking on wood, which I do quite often.

Wednesday: Another Hump Day Hunk for your viewing pleasure – I think I’ll have to see if I can come up with some Christamsy hunks for the season.

Thursday: Part VI of my Famous Poets series will feature Louise Labe, who wrote really wonderful sonnets.

Friday: Oh, now I remember what I was supposed to do on the weekend – get started on the new serial. Looks like I’ll have to get focused this week if I want to post the first installment Friday.

Elsewhere in my week:

First thing I’ll be doing is catching up on my blog reading/commenting. I wasn’t on the internet much on Friday or Saturday, and as I said earlier in this post I wasn’t on the computer at all on Sunday.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I seem to be in denial regarding the rapidly approaching holiday. Of course it might have something to do with the serious lack of snow here. Great White North my butt!

Writing-wise I’ll be working on Forever and For Always, which is where the excerpt I posted Friday came from. I’m also going to be taking one of my other WIPs out of mothballs and dusting it off. Woman cannot live by editing alone, so I’ll be adding new words to my novel The Perfect Man – yes, I know that title is an oxymoron. ;-)

Snow or no snow I’d better get started on this year’s Christmas crafts. Which of course means I have to find my massive bag of Christmas craft supplies in the closet of death. *shudder*

I should also sit down and make a list of the cookies I’m going to do this year. Perhaps I’ll start with gingerbread – nothing like the smell of gingerbread men to get you in the mood for Christmas. :-)

And there you have it. My week to come. How about you? What’s in store for you this week?

Dec 3, 2010

Fictitious Friday

So here’s the thing. I was going to start working on the idea for my next serial yesterday, but got sort of side tracked . . . Okay, here’s the truth. I got involved in this discussion about favourite fictional heros and mine are the Black Dagger Brotherhood (by J.R. Ward, no relation), and naturally this led to pulling out my favourite book in the series, Lover Eternal, which is about Rhage, and before I knew it I finished that book and went on to the next. And guess what? I don’t even feel guilty about it. Well, okay, maybe just a little guilty.

Anyway, I don’t have the new serial ready to start being posted today, and all I can tell you at this point is that it will be another Elemental story - this time Fire - and there probably won’t be so much stuff going on in space. I’ll also leave the Space Opera up until I get the first chapter of the new one posted.

In the meantime, I’m posting an excerpt from the novel I’m currently working on. This scene is towards the end of the novel. Our heroine has been kidnapped, drugged, and left in the catacombs to die. Our hero is just a wee bit upset.

Trez woke slowly, reluctantly. She hurt. She was cold, and she couldn’t move. With returning awareness came pain, a great deal of pain. She whimpered, the only sound she was capable of making.

She thought about opening her eyes, then with a shaft of fear realized they were open. The darkness around her was all encompassing. The silence was so absolute she could hear the beating of her heart, the faint puffs of her breath.

Trying to keep the panic at bay, she took stock of her injuries. The largest source of pain came from her leg. There was a good chance it was broken; she vaguely remembered hearing a snap before she passed out. Her head was resting on something hard and raised; the surface beneath her was hard and uneven.

A single tear made a hot, wet, trail down her face. A second one followed. She was going to die here. She would never see Aleksandar again, never feel his arms around her. They would never have the chance to have children, to grow old together. The tears came faster. He would never know what happened to her.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Aleksandar stood in the doorway to Trez’s bedchamber. It looked so normal. He stepped inside and went over to the bed. There was the case from the jewels he sent her. He wondered if she liked them. He wondered if she’d ever be able to tell him. His foot struck something and he bent down to pick it up. It was the amethyst necklace.

Raynor tapped gently on the door. Aleksandar turned.

“Were you able to find anything out?”

Like Aleksandar, Raynor was still dressed in his clothes from the day before.

“Where would you like me to start?” Raynor said wearily. “Faella is,” he stopped, then ran a hand through his hair and started again. “She’s been behind it all, starting with drugging you before you went off world, and ending with engineering Trez’s disappearance.”

“What?” Aleksandar’s fist tightened around the necklace until drops of blood beaded up between his fingers and dripped to the floor.

“She was quite proud of herself, told us everything.” Raynor sat down heavily in one of the chairs. “She’d been slipping you a drug for weeks that made you act out of character. She was hoping Mahalia would want to marry you off to settle you down.”

“And she thought I’d want her as my wife?” Aleksandar’s lip curled.

“When she overheard the argument you had with your grandmother, she changed her plan. She figured with you out of the way, they’d make Cayden heir and she could inveigle her way back into his good graces. She sabotaged your ship – if you hadn’t been shot down it would have taken you to the heart of the Regulian sun.”

“I can’t believe she’s so twisted.”

“Believe it, my friend. She alternated boasting about the attempts she made on Trez’s life, and complaining about how she always managed to escape. She was especially bitter that the pirates didn’t get her – she let it slip to them that Trez was carrying a cargo of Imperial rubies.”

“Did she give any clue about what she did to Trez?”

Raynor shook his head, unable to meet his eyes. “No, just that she hoped Trez suffered before she died.”

“At least she didn’t kill her outright,” Aleksandar said bleakly.

“We found the Azure,” Cayden said, coming into the room from the connecting door.

“There were two men on board, both dead. It was set on automatic, headed out of the system.”

“Were you able to identify them?”

“One was a palace gardener, you might have even seen him around – a large man, not too bright but good at following orders. The other was one of the maintenance workers from the space port.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask how they died,” Raynor said.

Cayden hesitated. “It was a slow acting poison.”

Aleksandar went very still. “I want you to talk to everyone in the palace – staff, guards, even the children. Someone must have seen something. I want Faella’s family and friends brought in and I want them questioned thoroughly.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Trez thought she might have passed out again, but there was no way to be sure. Time had no meaning in this place; she might have been laying here for minutes or days. She no longer felt so cold and wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

The pain had become so much a part of her she could no longer separate the individual injuries. She was, however, very much aware of a new discomfort – thirst, a terrible thirst. How many days could a person last without water?

The darkness was still all encompassing, but the silence was no longer absolute. She could hear faint rustlings, the sound of one surface brushing another, the scurry of tiny feet, sounds made all the more ominous because their source was unknown.
Her mind began to drift.

Dec 2, 2010

Famous Poets - Part Five

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554 - 1618)

Walter Raleigh was born in Hayes Barton in Devonshire as Walter Ralegh. The spelling "Raleigh" was adopted by Sir Walter's widow, and has been commonly used, though there was tendency to prefer "Ralegh".

The romantic stories told by Sir Robert Naunton in the Fragmenta Regalia, and by Fuller in his Worthies, represent at least the mythical truth as to Raleigh’s rise in favour. It is quite possible that he did throw his mantle on the ground to help the queen to walk dry-shod over a puddle, and that he scribbled verses with a diamond on a pane of glass to attract her attention, though we only have the gossip of a later generation for our authority. It is certain that his tall and handsome person, his manners and his quick wit pleased the queen. The rewards showered on him were out of all proportion to his services, which had not been more distinguished than those of many others.

It is to be noted that Elizabeth treated Raleigh exclusively as a court favourite, to be enriched by monopolies and grants at the expense of her subjects, but that she never gave him any great office, nor did she admit him to the council. Even his post of Captain of the Guard, given in 1587, though honourable, and, to a man who would take gifts for the use of his influence, lucrative, was mainly ornamental.

It was by Raleigh's help that Spenser obtained a pension, and royal aid to publish the first three books of the Faerie Queen. The exact cause of Raleigh's partial disgrace at court is not known, but it was probably due to the queen's habitual policy of checking one favourite by the promotion of another. In 1589 he accompanied the expedition to the coast of Portugal, which was intended to cause a revolt against King Philip II, but failed completely. In 1591 he was at the last moment forbidden to take part in the voyage to the Azores, and was replaced by his cousin Sir R. Grenville, whose death in action with the Spaniards was the subject of one of Sir Walter's most vigorous pieces of prose writing.

In 1592 he was again at sea with an expedition to intercept the Spanish trade, but was recalled by the queen. The cause of his recall was the discovery that he had seduced one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throgmorton. On his return he was put into the Tower, and if he was not already married was married there. To placate the queen he made a fantastic display of despair at the loss of her favour.

The death of the queen and the accession of James I were ruinous to Raleigh. He unquestionably took some part in the complication of conspiracies which arose in the first months of James's reign, and was committed to the Tower on the 19th of July 1603.

Raleigh's confinement was easy, and he applied himself to chemical experiments and literature. He had been known as one of the most poetical of the minor lyric poets of an age of poetry from his youth.

Hope of release and of a renewal of activity never deserted him, and he strove to reach the ear of the king by appealing to successive ministers and favourites. At last he secured his freedom by promising the king he’d find a gold mine in Guiana without trenching on a Spanish possession.

On Raleigh's return to England, the outraged Count Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, successfully demanded that King James reinstate Raleigh's death sentence. Raleigh was executed under his old sentence on the 29th of October 1618. His wife was given his embalmed head and kept it for 29 years until she died. Then his head was buried with his body.

This poem was written the night before his death:


Even such is time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us naught but age and dust;
Which in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days!
And from which grave, and earth, and dust,
The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

The Silent Lover I

Passions are liken'd best to floods and streams:
The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb;
So, when affection yields discourse, it seems
The bottom is but shallow whence they come.
They that are rich in words, in words discover
That they are poor in that which makes a lover.

The Silent Lover II

Wrong not, sweet empress of my heart,
The merit of true passion,
With thinking that he feels no smart,
That sues for no compassion.

Silence in love bewrays more woe
Than words, though ne'er so witty:
A beggar that is dumb, you know,
May challenge double pity.

Then wrong not, dearest to my heart,
My true, though secret passion;
He smarteth most that hides his smart,
And sues for no compassion.

Dec 1, 2010

Hump Day Hunk

If this doesn't melt the snow for you, I don't know what will! ;-)