Every Christmas, I listen to In the Bleak Mid-Winter, never realizing the connection to Art Nouveau and the Pre-Raphaelites. That is, until recently. Dante Rossetti’s (one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelites) kid sister, Christina, wrote the poem which was set as a Christmas carol by Gustav Holst and then by Harold Darke. As an aside, Christina was the model for one of Dante Rossetti’s most famous paintings: The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.
On Christmas Eve 1863, William Makepeace Thackeray passed away. He is most famous for his satirical works, specifically Vanity Fair, a mocking portrayal of English society. Even though he experienced great success as a writer, even hailed as equal to Charles Dickens, his personal life was marked by tragedy. His second child, Jane, died at eight months. After the birth of their third child, his wife, Isabella Gethin Shawe, succumbed to depression. Even though he left no stone “un-turned” in his desperate search for a cure, she was eventually confined to a home outside of Paris. He once said, “To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best.”
The Mahogany Tree is a Christmas poem that looks back fondly on past Christmas holidays that were spent happily under a huge mahogany tree, which served as shade and a place to house joyful Christmas memories.
May we remember that this Christmas we are making memories for all that follow.
Merry Christmas, my dear friends! Continue reading
We all long for peace in our perilously divided world. So did all those who came before us. The Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” written in 1863. The American Civil War was raging, without any expectation of ending. That same year, and without his blessing, Henry Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles, became a soldier in the Union army. Henry Longfellow received the news by letter dated March 14, 1863. Although Charles achieved lieutenant rank, he was severely wounded a few months later in November. On Christmas Day 1863, Henry Longfellow penned this poignant call for peace. The poet’s despair is captured in the phrase: “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” And yet, the bells signal renewed hope that there is indeed the possibility of peace for humanity.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said: “The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.” Perhaps that is the first step towards peace. Continue reading