Milestones: In Flanders Fields

May 3, 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, soldier, surgeon, artist, and poet, writes “In Flanders Fields.”

This poem is read on Remembrance Day November 11th. Join me in reciting “In Flanders Fields.”

In Flanders Fields


By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae in uniform circa 1914

Milestones: Macbeth

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

William Shakespeare, MacBeth

According to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Lit Hub Daily, today in 1611, the first known performance of Macbeth was performed at the Globe Theater.

We recognized that William Shakespeare was an extraordinary writer and poet, but he was also politically astute. King James I was known to be a theatre enthusiast.

What better way to welcome King James but with the play, Macbeth, which was set in King James’s native Scotland and included the King’s real-life ancestor, Banquo (Lord Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber), who was positioned as a good and just man destined to have monarchs in his bloodline.

The three witches was a brilliant touch which would have appealed to King James because of his interest in witchcraft. In fact, he considered himself an expert in this area of study having written a book on this subject in 1597.

Dr. Simon Forman was at the first public performance of Macbeth. Most likely, King James had a private performance with is thought to have occurred in August or December 1606.

Can you imagine the crowd when the witches appeared chanting for the first time in public: Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Those lines still have the power to ignite our imagination and draw us deeper into the narrative.


Milestones: Canadian Confederation

March 29, 1867 was a pivotal for Canada!

On this day in Canadian history, the Dominion of Canada was created. With the British North America Act, the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada were united as the Dominion of Canada, and the province of Canada was separated into Quebec and Ontario.

The British North America Act conferred on the new dominion a constitution, with the executive government vested in Queen Victoria and her successors.

While we celebrate specific dates, we cannot forget all the steps or the people involved in the discussions and negotiations that led up to this event.

Those stories are preserved in our archives for future generations.

“As the custodian of our distant past and recent history, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a key resource for all Canadians who wish to gain a better understanding of who they are, individually and collectively. LAC acquires, processes, preserves and provides access to our documentary heritage and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.” Library and Archives Canada

Royal Proclamation – Reproduced in One hundred and twenty Canadian historical pictures, portraits, and documents, from the Dominion Archives and other sources : selected from the reproductions made for ‘Canada and its provinces’ and published solely for the subscribers to that work. Shortt, Adam (1859-1931). Toronto, 1914.

Milestones: Happy Birthday Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett Born March 6, 1806 Kelloe, Durham, England

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What we call Life is a condition of the soul. And the soul must improve in happiness and wisdom, except by its own fault. These tears in our eyes, these faintings of the flesh, will not hinder such improvement.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Milestones: John Bunyan, Mark Twain, & Toni Morrison

On this day in history, we are marking three remarkable events. Without question, February 18th was a stellar day for readers.

February 18, 1678 , John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was published in Holborn, London, by Nathaniel Ponder, known to be a bookseller and publisher of nonconformist works. The Pilgrim’s Progress was written during John Bunyan’s 12 years of imprisonment.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. “Within Sight of the City to Which They Went” The Pilgrim’s Progress c1907 Illustrated by Byam Shaw

On February 18, 1885,  Mark Twain published the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in the United States. As a sequel to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which was published in 1876, the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” has come to be regarded by many as “the Great American Novel.”

Cover of the book “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, 1884 (Public Domain)

Toni Morrison, original name Chloe Anthony Wofford, was born February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. I have added “Beloved,” written in 1987, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, to my reading for 2022.

First-edition dust jacket cover of Beloved (1987) by the American author Toni Morrison. (Public Domain)

#WarAndPeace2022 February 15, 2022 Update

#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong Photo Credit Liz Humphreys

Reading taken from Penguin Classics: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Translated by Anthony Briggs Part 1 Chapter 25 p 114

The #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong is moving through Part II and will see us in Part III on February 20, 2022. I am totally involved in the narrative, due in part to the realism that is demonstrated in the battle sequences and strategies.

I have read that Leo Tolstoy worked tirelessly to bring us a complete understanding of the complex historical milieu of War and Peace. He drew on historical events, immersed himself in history books on the Napoleonic Wars and visited the battlefields.

Remember it is never too late to join the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong. You are always welcome to add to the conversation.

Liz Humphreys has an excellent reflection on Vol1, Part 1 #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong. I know you will enjoy meeting up with Liz Humphreys and Elisabeth Van Der Meer.

#WarAndPeace2022 January Update

2022 is the year of Leo Tolstoy. I am involved in a global community reading War and Peace, which began on January 5, 2022 and will end on the stroke of midnight December 31, 2022.

Chapter 1 welcomes us into the drawing room of the elegant Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honour and confidante of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna. It is an evening in July 1805. There are rumours of war and talk of Napoleon Bonaparte.

#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong Photo Credit Liz Humphreys

The detailed descriptions and the emotional conversations that swirled around the room captured my entire attention. I felt a sense of anticipation when Pierre, aka Pyotr Kirillovich Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of old Count Bezuchov walked into the room.

Have you ever wondered what books were in Leo Tolstoy’s library? When not engaged in writing his epic novels, what books did he chose to read? Have I read the same books as Leo Tolstoy did over a century ago? These were the questions that I reflect upon in my January WarAndPeace2022 update.

#WarAndPeace 2022 January Update

Liz Humphreys from Edinburgh, Scotland, and Elisabeth Van Der Meer from Porvoo, Finland are excellent guides on this adventure.

You are invited guests on the #WarAndPeace2022 adventure. If you are unable to join the Readalong, you are most welcome to follow the journey via our blogs and podcasts.

#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong Leo Tolstoy (Translated by Anthony Briggs)

Liz Humphreys has brought together an invaluable collection of resources that will add depth to our reading experience. Books, blog posts, and reading schedules are available and easily accessible at the following links.

#WarAndPeace2022 – Reading Schedule

“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here.” Leo Tolstoy

Milestones: Thomas Paine Publishes Common Sense

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published the pamphlet “Common Sense” advocating American independence.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (Public Domain)

“When I was teaching children I began every day writing this on the blackboard: “Do to others what you would like them to do to you”, telling them how much better the world would be if everybody lived by this rule.”

 

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Forty seven pages advocating independence from Great Britain was an immediate success for those who lived in the Thirteen Colonies. Published anonymously, Thomas Paine managed to keep his name out of the independence controversy for three months.

Thomas Paine never profited from Common Sense. But he did change the world.

The Professor

As in years past, January 3rd is a special evening. Tonight, I will join other J.R.R. Tolkien fans from around the world in raising a glass to toast the birthday of this much loved author at precisely 21:00 (9:00pm) local time. I have chosen a special combination of cranberry juice and soda for the occasion.

The toast is simply “The Professor.

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers