Saturday, October 30, 2004

Oak Hill

Time for some more tales with a Halloween feeling. I spent the predominant portion of my life living hard by a spot known in colonial times as Oak Hill in what is now West Peabody, but was Salem Village in 1692, and South Danvers from 1758-c. 1870.

I don't think I have ever mentioned the fact, but, yes, I grew up in the confines of what was old Salem Village, and lived there for 30 years. I only found out that the wooded, overgrown, hilltop graveyard in my back yard, and where my cherished teacup poodle Buttons Wellington is buried was known as Oak Hill a few years ago, when I checked out a USGS map.

In fact, the circumstance begs confusion with the other Oak Hill, the federal mansion built by Samuel McIntire for Elias Hasket Derby's daughter, Elizabeth Derby West which stood two miles away, on what is now the site of the North Shore Shopping Center (a few rooms' interiors are preserved at the Museum of Fine Arts).

As the name implies, Oak Hill is a small hillock, probably a drumlin (but I am no expert), that at one time was well planted with tall majestic oaks. One of them was on the corner of my parents' yard, and annually deposited tens of thousands of leaves there.

Oak Hill, as I said, was a graveyard. The earliest grave I could ever find was dated 1755, and contained the mortal remains of a man who died in his seventies. So the fellow had possibly lived through the witchcraft hysteria of 1692. That stone was of the thin slate type we often see in old graveyards. Regrettably, it was broken into several pieces by teenage vandals back in the 1960s.

The graveyard was encased in a old New England dry-laid stone wall, the old stones turned grey with two centuries of Yankee weather and green with two centuries of Yankee moss.

But Oak Hill may have been a burial place long before the English settlers of the southwestern portion of Salem Village started to bury their dead there. Indian artifacts have been found there including arrow heads. It had a reputation in the 19th century as an unpleasant place to spend a night.

The hill had a well-earned reputation as a place for lightning strikes to occur. I was astonished to read this in an account of the place, and recalled that, in my 30 years there, I had seen 3 tall trees brought down by lightning. Not so surprising. A hill rising up out of the coastal plain and planted with many tall oaks (though really tall pines were replacing them when I lived there) might very well attract lightning.

Three men are buried there whose names and dates match those on rosters of Danvers militia companies that took part in the April 19, 1775 fighting in what is now Arlington, but then was called by its Indian name, Menotomy. Two of them, young men of the same family, perhaps of the same household, appear to have died in an outbreak of some disease in 1778.

The most famous inhabitant of the graveyard is Amos Pope, a slightly younger contemporary of the militiamen. In the 1790s, while the Old Farmer's Almanac was getting its start, Pope, a young cousin of Benjamin Franklin, produced his own almanac, which had a considerable circulation in the Boston area.

Pope and his family lived in a house only about 60-80 yards from Oak Hill that burned to the ground around 1965. My childhood dog Flash used to enjoy chasing rabbits near the old house before it burned. Pope was said to have been an accomplished mathematician. Perhaps some enterprising writer might craft some gothic romance about the almanac maker Pope and his life.

Oak Hill graveyard has regrettably turned into what historical graveyard preservationists call the "worst case scenario" of such places. The title to the place seems to be vested in the Pope family. I recall once or twice an old man coming and asking permission to cut through our yard to look at the graves of his family. But there was no one to care for the graveyard. Mr. Pope apparently lived at a great distance, and his relatives did not know what to do with the hillock. They knew they could not develop it, and apparently lost interest. It became overgrown, badly overgrown.

Teenagers in the 1960s and early 1970s partied there, overturning stones, wreaking parts of the wall, even apparently trying to dig up one grave.

Well, I lived there for 30 years and never had anything particularly startling happen there.

But one thing did happen there that I today take as a sign of hope. The area had been in agricultural use from the days when it was part of Salem Village. Apple orchards, now long-neglected, had stood in what became in the early 1970s, my neighborhood. Meadow stood to the south, swamp to the northwest.

My father and I had each, at different times, tried our hands at gardening. Dad had much more success than I had. He grew bushels and bushels of tomatoes. When he lost interest in gardening, I tried pumpkins, without any great success, and with lasting unfruitful pumpkin vines gone to weed in the back yard. I had strawberries in a small patch, but they lacked sufficient sunshine to thrive because of all the tall trees.

I planted a few dwarf apple trees. They produced some few apples each year, except for one tree. It never produced a single blossom.

Except one year.

My Dad died on December 31, 1989. The following April, that one dwarf tree, that he had told me I should cut down, bore a single apple blossom, for the first and only time in its life. I think the blossom was a sign that Dad had at least reached Purgatory, and was destined for eternal happiness. I like to hope so.

Municipal Sports Celebrations

Today perhaps some 5 million people will line the streets of Boston (primarily Boylston Street) to watch the World Champion Boston Red Sox drive by. Thousands were already lining the streets at 6 am, despite drizzle.

Yes, I know it has been a long time since the Red Sox won. This is a first-in-a-lifetime thing for everyone, except the very elderly.

But I had my moment of happiness Wednesday night, when they won the fourth game. When something like this happens, my instincts are to retire to even greater privacy, light a good cigar, pour myself a couple of fingers' level of a decent single-malt whisky, sit back in a comfortable chair, and savor the moment quietly and very privately, either alone or with one or two very select friends. I also celebrate election victories in this manner. Quiet satisfaction is my preferred mode, not boisterous idiocy, especially not in public.

Not for me standing out on a public street to shout like a congenital moron and wave like a lobotomy subject, or to awaken any earlier than I normally do, alter my routine in the least, stand for hours outside, or pretend that I know who any of these players are beyond the obvious superstars.

And it is not just because I am developing that dreaded first cold of the winter, either, though that unpleasant presence at the back of my throat tells me I am.

So what does that make me? Emotionally numb? Just a very cold fish? Or someone inclined to almost hermit-like solitude?

It is not always like this. I enjoy crowds sometimes. I like Halloween weekend in Salem (overshadowed this year by Boston's great triumph). It is the seasonal aspect of it that I enjoy, the mulled cider, the jack-o-lanterns, the fried dough, the atmosphere of the Charter Street Burial Ground, the costumes. But even when I enjoy a crowd, I participate quietly, preferring to observe.

Yet watching the stupid bland faces passing me this morning in Boston as I go about my normal business convinces me that the region's collective IQ has plummeted precipitously in the last 50 years. People were graver, more stoic in my youth. They neither exalted at success so blatantly, nor sky-dived into the troughs of dejection at defeat. Especially when the subject matter is a sports event.

Few could be glader that the Red Sox are World Champions. Yet I see no reason for the idiotic roaring of college students at 6 am getting off the T, so that they can stand on the parade route, in the drizzle, for 4 hours before it even starts. And then, what do they get, except to spend for outrageously overpriced souveniers that will be thrown away as the dross they are inside of 5 years, before they are worth anything, and the chance to gaze upon the winning players for, at most, 5 minutes each.

Was I ever like that? No. When behaviour like that occured among my peers in my youth, I just chalked it up to indiscipline. I would never have behaved in such a manner for fear of being thought low-bred.

Maybe it is the same Irish immigrant pride that insists on being shod at all times, even indoors, because, as was implied in my childhood, "We can afford shoes, you know, so wear them." Maybe it is the discipline instilled by 19 years in Catholic schools, and long years training as a re-enactment soldier, noncom, and officer.

Collective self-discipline and self-respect seem to have slipped a long way since then, along with collective intelligence quotients, if what I see on the streets of Boston this morning is a good indication. What barn were these people brought up in?

So Boston will celebrate today, roaring like lunatics (no, not like lunatics; lunatics are silent and mumble incoherently to themselves mostly). This is the way the current age exalts when happy occasions arise in the sports context. Flipping cars, breaking windows, and getting not just a pleasant buzz, which anyone with any spirit ought to do a couple of times a years, but paralytic are the means of celebration with this generation.

Proper Bostonians smiled at the win this week, and perhaps still, in their graves at Mount Auburn, are sporting a happy rictus. But the improper Bostoians rule the streets today.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bin Laden Reminds Us We Are Still At War

So why is a candidate whose main issues of the last week have been a shortage of flu vaccine and munitions missing in a war zone so freaking close in the polls to the incumbent President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief?

The US ain't Spain. The living skeleton on the tape will do nothing but remind us of unfinished business in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya, and heighten our resolve to take this war to whatever countries have been supporting Moslem ism, cost what it may.

This is almost like an Osama bin Laden endorsement of John Kerry. It is obvious that al Qaeda would prefer the indictments and cruise missile response of the Democrats. But practically coming out and saying just that by attacking Bush like this is stupid. This guy understands nothing of electoral politics or the resolve of westerners. I bet he hasn't even read Victor Davis Hanson.

If I were crazy enough to be a Democrat, I'd be in hiding, under the desk, hoping Tuesday ends mercifully with a few Democrats left standing in the Senate anyway. This is a disaster for Kerry, much bigger and more damaging than any tantalizing details about Kerry's relationship with Morgan Fairchild or those who came after her could have been.

Just the fact that al Qaeda's only way of participating in the US election anywhere other than Iraq is to send us a tape of bin Laden shows how weakened the Bush Administration has made them. If they could do it, they would have launched an attack here. But they are too busy ducking Predators, Green Beret sweeps, and Marine Recon teams to carry out anything meaningful here.

We can vote for John Kerry and give al Qaeda a breather to regroup, or we can send it to Hades by re-electing President Bush. It is that clear.

How Devil's Dishful Pond Got It's Name

Based on a local West Peabody legend

Two miles or so from the meetinghouse of Salem Village there is a fresh water pond much plagued by beavers and their constructions with the curious name, Devil's Dishful Pond. It is a few hundred yards from Suntaug Lake, and at one time in the pre-history of New England, it was undoubtably part of that larger body.

But in the 1712, only twenty years after the witchcraft hysteria that had swept Salem Village, it was part of a remote farming settlement, more than a mile from a main road leading to Salem town, and from the turnpike that led from Boston to Ipswich. This gave it something of a timeless backwardness.

Even its connection to the farms of the southern portion of Salem Village was distant. The place had something of an evil reputation as a magic place for the Indians who had lived there before the great plague of smallpox that came with the English settlers wiped them out.

Only one person lived on the shore of the pond, a freed black man named John. John lived within twenty yards of the placid shore in a tatterdemalion shack that looked as if it had survived the Flood, though John himself had only built it a few years before. Since gaining his freedom through the will of Goodman Pope thirty years before, John had gotten by through farming a small plot, the occasional duck or goose, and performing odd jobs for his distant neighbors, helping them to cart produce to Salem or Boston, or clear a field here, or get in their harvest there.

John spent his nights with his Bible, his jug of hard cider, and a light made from rushes dipped in oil, if he could afford the oil. A life-long bachelor, he had managed to escape notice of the Afflicted s 20 years before by bothering nobody and keeping to himself during the winter, spring, and summer of the accusations.

One November morning, grey, and windy, and damp as most November mornings are in New England, John started for Boston market to help his former master's now somewhat elderly younger brother Ebenezer Pope sell a cartload of milk and a half dozen sheep for butchering. He planned to stay the night in Boston, perhaps visiting a friendly tavern in the North End he knew whose landlady and maids-of-all-work were very accomodating in more ways than one.

That afternoon, Hannah Oakes, whose farm was just off the road to Salem town and near the property that had belonged to the accused wizard who refused to enter a plea for the court and was pressed to on the high street of Salem town, Giles Corey, was making use of the most plentiful of crops by baking pumpkin pies.

Now Hannah was a woman of about 35, whose husband Jonathan had carved out a farm of some 50 acres with apple and pear orchards and two walnut trees. Jonathan was also a cooper when he was not busy with the work of his farm. Hannah and Jonathan were newcomers to Salem Village, having arrived only twelve years before from Boston.

Hannah and Jonathan had three children so far, two others having been stillborn. Two daughters, Prudence and Chastity Oakes, were everything little s of 9 and 7 should be, quiet, industrious, helpful, pious. But Jonathan Junior, their elder brother, had something of the imp in him, a liveliness that neither Jonathan Sr. with his belt, nor Mr. Partridge the schoolmaster with his birch rod could completely master.

And to make matters worse, the thirteen year old Jonathan found a close ally and accomplice in Isaiah Walcott, aged fourteen, whose family lived on the farm road now known as Goodale Street that led to Wills' Hill, which is now called Middleton.

Young runs high, even in a now-sleepy Puritan farming community. If a privy was overturned of a November 5th, or apples were missing from the trees of Sherriff Herrick's orchard, or the gate to a meadow was off its hinges and found a half-mile away, it was more than likely the work of young Oakes and young Walcott.

Now Hanah Oakes was a fine cook, her pumpkin pie was baked in the shell of the gourd. The Oakes' hens produced fine tasty eggs, which formed the basis of the pumpkin custard, along with milk fresh from their cows, and wonderfully rare cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg brought to Salem town from the East Indies via England, as well as maple sugar from the upland pasture maples of the Oakes own smaller holdings. Hannah had carefully selected her pumpkins, not too round, and likely to have very tasty flesh. She had scooped out that meat, discarded the strings, set the seeds aside to fry and salt later, and had diced the meat and boiled it, and then mashed it and combined it with the eggs, milk, maple sugar, and spices, and then baked the shells in her brick oven in the great hearth of their home.

She had baked a half dozen of these pies, as she was expecting her sister, her husband and their 4 children to join them for Thanksgiving in two days.

Her pies were set on two window sills on the north side of the house to cool and keep the two days. From there the aroma drifted across the farmyard to the smokehouse where Jonathan Junior and Isaiah Walcott were experimenting with Jonathan Senior's pipe and tobacco.
"Mmmmmmm. Mother's pumpkin pie."

"Let's see if we can get some."

"We daren't ask, with the smell of tobacco all over us."

Silence for a few moments.

"She always bakes more than we need for dinner."

The notion took root, as the tantalizing smell worked on bellies fed with too much cornmeal and too few sweetmeats.

It took only twenty minutes for the idea to progress from wish to plan to accomplished misdemeanor.

Now the boys back behind the smokehouse, each with a pie, needed a safe place to enjoy their ill-gotten gain. The smokehouse did not provide enough cover. Darkness would soon fall, and Oakes Senior would be coming back from wood cutting.

Isaiah: "I know old John left for Boston this morning and shan't be back until tomorrow. We can eat there."

Across the orchard and the meadow they went, each carrying a pie, being careful not to trip over the roots of neighbor Goodman Billing's pear trees in the fast-gathering dusk of a November evening. Old John's shack promised to be the perfect place to enjoy their feast.

What the two young helions did not realize was that when Old John and Ebenezer Pope had been only three miles down the road to Boston, they ran into Squire Porter on the way back from same.

"Taking milk into Boston, are ye Goodman?"

"Why bless your honour, I am."

"You'll find the market for it but poorly there. Folk from Cambridge and Concord and Braintree have been bringing it in by the wagonload this fortnight. You'll not fetch tuppence a gallon for it in Boston."

"Good Squire, your news is but melancholy. What am I to do?"

"Well, Ebenezer, there is Marblehead town. I've heard that milk is fetching nearly sixpence a gallon there now because of the coming holiday and most folk taking their milk to Boston. And as for yon lambs, I think merchant Hooper is still looking for cargo for the Lucy coasting for Halifax, and provisions of all kinds are wanted there by the army. If you are not needing immediate cash money, Mister Hooper might agree to consign them as a venture to Captain Turner and probably turn ye a better profit than selling them in Marblehead will bring."

"Thankee kindly, Squire. We were well met and as always ye are a source of good advice. Solomon himself ain't in it with ye. Thankee."

So Goodman Pope and old John detoured from their route, taking instead the road that runs to Marblehead through Lynn.

In Marblehead, they found a good market for Pope's milk, and were indeed able to load the sheep aboard the Lucy as a venture (which turned out to be quite profitable). Pope brought home nearly 3 Pounds in cash money from the milk alone. The Lucy sailed on the evening flood tide with a fresh wind for Halifax. Pope and John had their business done before dinner time, and found themselves at noon in a familiar tavern in Marblehead, the Oliver Cromwell, where they dined on ham and corn bread and beans and hard cider.

Old John was able to for an hour with a comely and biddable serving wench upstairs before heading home alone, his pocket full of tuppence pieces for his services, and a jug of Mr. Hooper's just-brewed ale under his arm (a sweetner for the success of the venture and in celebration of the completion of the Lucy's cargo).

Old John of course took the short route home via Salem town. And of course he stopped and invested tuppence in a mug of cider there, to set him up for the rest of the trip. In fact, though he was in no hurry, he was just a mile from his shack, passing old Proctor's Tavern, at the crossroads of the turnpike and the Salem town road as young Oakes and young Walcott were making off with Goodwife Oakes' pies.

It was dark when Oakes and Walcott reached the shack. Given old John's penury, there was nothing in the way of candles, and at the moment he had nothing in the way of rush lights, either.

So it was dark, and due to old John's lack of a woman, messy inside. John slept on a pile of blankets in a corner on the dirt floor, an old discarded straw mat as a mattress. He had constructed a fireplace, of a sorts, but did no cooking. The three chickens and one pig he owned shared the interior with him in the colder weather. It was not exactly the sort of place discriminating 18th century dinners might chose for a repast, but it suited the two rascals well enough, except that it was dark, and that there were no forks, as old John ate food cold and with his fingers. At least they had their ha'penny knives, and could wash away the incriminating pumpkin residue with water from the well.

The two had stumbled in the dark over each of the chickens, and the lean pig, and over John's bedding, but found a spot where they could settle down without sitting on livestock or droppings (they hoped for the latter, but could not verify that) and began to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.

Normally, you could hear old John coming a mile away, as he was in the habit of singing Psalms at the top of his voice when he was out after dark. But the cider and an occasional pull from the jug of ale, just to lighten the load, you understand, had made him thoughtful and silent tonight. He was calculating how much he could expect, given the market prices he had just seen in both Salem and Marblehead, from selling his pig. Not being adept at the higher mathematics, this occupied his mind a fair part of the way from old Proctor's Tavern to his shack. And he was also mulling over the cost of mating him with Goodman Pope's sow, and the possibility of going into pigging on a grander scale.

Old John was thoughful indeed, but he was aware, as he neared his shack, that all was not right. The hens were raising an infernal sqauwking, and the pig was grunting as if deeply offended. Coming closer, he could hear voices inside.

As he listened, he was certain that he knew the voices, Isaiah Walcott, and Jonathan Oakes, Junior. Sure he knew them well enough. And he instantly wondered what mischief they might be about.

Then, to John's nostrils wafted aroma of still-warm pumpkin pie, redolent of rich spices he had only had a few times before.

So those two were either eating, or about to eat pumpkin pie. And if they were doing it in John's humble abode on a coolish November night when he was supposed to be away, it could not rightfully be theirs.

A simple plan formed in his mind, and he executed it quickly, after working hard for a minute or two to suppress a chuckle.

Using the deepest voice he was capable of, and that was rather a deep register indeed, he bellowed, "Who darest eat stolen pumpkin pie without offering it first to the Lord of Darkness?"

The very marrow in the boys' bones froze at that unexpected and inhuman voice and what it said.

"How darest Jonathan Oakes and Isaiah Walcott eat pumpkin pie in this place sacred to me? Stand and I will take you into hellfire for this affront!"

Well, being told to stand fast so that the devil can give you a guided tour of Hell is good enough reason to take off like a jack rabbit, and that is exactly what Oakes and Walcott did, stumbling over bedding, pig, and chickens on the way out of course.

If there was ever a speed record for traversing the orchards and meadows between the pond and the Oakes farm, it was broken that night. Once their pulse rates and breathing returned to normal, they began to suspect that they might have been practiced upon. But it was too late now to do anything about it. It was time for supper.

Old John smiled with satisfaction. Once his eyes adjusted to the familiar dark, he found the pies abandoned and largely uneaten. Needless to say, he helped himself, and washed it down with merchant Hooper's ale. Old John lit his small fire to warm his bones against the November chill, and settled himself down to a most satisfied sleep. The next morning, the fire having gone out hours before, he was up early to help Goodman Billings with his pruning.

Also next morning, just slightly after John left, Isaiah and Jonathan, having recovered their wits, decided to examine Old John's shack in the light of day. What they found were the two empty pie shells, but no sign of old John, or that he had been there. The place looked just the same as when they left it.

"Well Isaiah, the devil of the pond truly had his dishful last night."

The name has stuck now for almost three hundred years.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Evelyn Waugh

On this date in 1903, author and Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh was born. It was once said that Hobbes had some sort of vision of Waugh, when he described the life of man without civil society as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

When you strip away the rudeness, the sometimes obnoxious behavior, and the collegiate experimentation with homosexuality, you are left with a great writer. He produced the beautiful Brideshead Revisited, perhaps the best novel in English about the Faith in the last century.

I read once a description of Brideshead that made me shake my head in despair. It was said to be "about two gays at Oxford, and one of them had a teddy bear." We have eyes, but do not see.

But there is much to like about old Waugh. He was a short, stocky fellow who liked cigars, and worked in a book-lined study, rather like a certain blogger we all know.

Waugh was a Tridentine Catholic who died before the deluge in 1966. His letters to Cardinal Heenan regarding his horror at the prospect of liturgical reform have recently been published in A Bitter Trial. They reflect a conservative trying to come to terms with a revolution in an institution he had come to embrace and love.

I do wonder whether the hierarchy are fully aware of the distress caused…not so much by the modest and reasonable innovations proposed but by the opening it seems to offer to more radical and distasteful changes.

And many who have had to endure the worst of the Novus Ordo Masses, those with guitars, rock bands, the sappy congregation-centered music of Haugen and Haas, priests who behave more like MCs than alter Christi, introductions, applause, liturgical dance, wreck-o-vated churches, hand holding, lack of kneelers, and so on would echo this quotation from Waugh:

"Every attendance at Mass leaves me without comfort or edification. I shall never, pray God, apostatize but church going is now a bitter trial."

He won my respect forever by writing, in Men At Arms, the first volume of The Sword of Honour trilogy, which I read while in college and just re-read last year, of the Nazi-Soviet Alliance of 1939 thus:

News that had shook the politicians and young poets of a dozen capital cities brought deep peace to one English heart....The German Nazis he knew to be mad and bad. Their participation had dishonoured the cause of Spain....He expected his country to go to war in a panic, for the wrong reasons, or for no reason at all, with the wrong allies, in pitiful weakness. But now, splendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms. Whatever the outcome there was a place for him in that battle.

Curt Schilling: Vote For Bush Next Week

I share those sentiments wholeheartedly.

Hallowmas Week

There is nothing like the end of October for a ramble through an old graveyard. I much prefer the term graveyard to the euphemisms like "cemetery," or "resting place," or (much worse) "memorial park."

I find the gravestone carvings of the colonial and early republican periods, so well respresented in New England, fascinating. The old cemetery near downtown Wakefield has an excellent standing exhibit on the evolution of gravestone carving between 1670-1830. The skull gave place to an angel, which gave place to an urn, which was further embellished with a weeping willow.

And it is a good reminder of our own mortality to see so many graves that begin "Here lie the mortal remains of Mr. X who departed this life 11 June, 1795 aged 37 years."

We ought to be mindful of the at this time of year. The Church created All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day to remind us of the many saints whose feast days are not noted in the calendar, and to recall all the faithful departed.

This is a good time to begin a novena for the millions of poor souls in Purgatory, especially those with no one left on earth to pray for them specifically. Any of us today could end up among those poor souls.

It used to be the custom to toll bells until midnight on All Souls morning to remind us to pray for the departed. The year is dying, though we no longer mark the passage into a new year with the start of November. But from a natural point of view, with the end of the harvest and the leaves dropping off the trees, the cold coming on and the declining afternoon light (tonight, the sun sets around 4:40), the year seems to be at an end.

The Celts celebrated October 31/November 1 as the new year. In fact, they propitiated the spirits of the with offerings of food and drink, which were distributed to villagers dressed in the clothes of those who had died during the year. This was the origin of our custom of trick-or-treating.

In essence, trick-or-treating is a new year's custom that is akin to wassailing/carolling/mumming/wren boys/John Canoe/Plough Monday visits at Chrstimas/New Year in our present calendar. These are all, at their base, what are now being called by historians "luck visits" in which costumed locals go from house to house and offer their blessings (especially for a happy new year), in exchange for a small present, usually of food or drink.

In fact, much of our Halloween celebration comes from the Celts, the Romans, and the Church. Everything from telling ghost stories to bobbing for apples and carving jack-o-lanterns comes from these antecedents.

The Church and the Christianization of the British Isles prompted the transformation of the old Celtic Hallowmas visits into "going souling" in which the visitors would go from house to house begging soul bread (recipe to follow later this week) and other offerings in exchange for prayers for the household and its recently departed.

There are those who oppose Halloween celebration as un-Christian. They are the folks who are scandalized at Harry Potter. They overlook the fact that the day has been Christianized, and that mumming in costume on Halloween and going a'souling a day or two later has gone hand-in-hand with the healthy practice of Christianity for centuries in the British Isles.

True, I don't have much sympathy with the creation of the 1960s known as the Wiccan/pagan/New Age movement, and true that that element has tried to lay claim to our time for thinking about and our own . But they are just the tail trying to wag the Halloween dog.

Halloween has evolved into the second most-celebrated holiday in the United States. The modern "witches" have very little to do with how most people think about Halloween. They are a curious self-appointed appendage to the celebration of Halloween. What they can themselves appoint, we can ignore. But a full-blown takedown of Wicca needs more research than iIcan devote to the topic now, though it is richly deserved.

So, allow yourself a little scare this Halloween. There is nothing wrong with recalling old stories about ghosts and so on at this time of year. It is not the same as worshipping Satan. Not even close. is very much on our minds now. But recall also the Christian meaning of Hallowmas, and remember to pray for the , especially your own departed loved ones, and those poor souls in Purgatory with no one left to pray for them.

A Gentle Good-Bye

Some years ago, my wife had just flown into Boston late on the night before Palm Sunday, and was very tired. The next day, we attended Mass, and she needed some sleep, and something decent to eat.

In the back of her mind, there was worry about her mother, who was coming back from selling property in Hawaii to her home in Nebraska, and wasn't feeling well.

Just after she had dropped off to sleep, the phone rang. It was her older brother telling us that their mother had checked into the hospital, and that the prognosis was not good. She was having severe breathing problems, her system was shutting down, and that she might not live out the night.

This was pretty shocking. I knew how she felt because a few years before that, when I was still single, an uncle, long sick with lung cancer, had called to say he was in distress. Assuming it was just one of many attacks that could be expected, I called the ambulance for him, and planned to stop by the hospital the next day. I had a date that night that I had postponed once before and did not want to postpone again. Yet something made me go to the hospital first, and I was glad I did, because they told me his lungs had collapsed, and that, because he wanted no extraordinary means used, he was dying. I held his hand that last hour while he breathed out his last, praying all the time for him.

Well we spent the rest of the day crying and just trying to console each other. Arrangements were put in hand for various brothers (she has seven) to get from Alaska to Nebraska. Finally, overcome with grief and worry, we went to bed.

Around 2am, if I am recalling correctly, we both woke up. The cat was awake, too, across the room. I am a sound sleeper, and don't normally wake up in the middle of the night. We tried to settle back down. Then a few minutes later, the phone rang. We both knew what a phone call at that time of night meant.

The time of my mother-in-law's death was just at the moment when we both woke up without apparent reason.

Moreover, when comparing notes with other family members later, we found out that every one of her brothers who was asleep at that time, no matter where they were, whether at home or on a plane heading to Nebraska, woke up at that exact moment.

It might have been our Guardian Angels giving us a gentle nudge, to let us know that something important had just happened. Or it may have been the spirit of my mother-in-law giving each of us a gentle good-bye. We know not which.

But an experience like this at the moment of a loved one's death is one of the most common forms of ghost stories. Often the spectre of the departed is seen by loved ones at the moment of death, even when seperated by continents.

Among us, no one saw anything. No one heard anything. But all who were asleep at the time of death were roused by it.

This From Matt Drudge

The last time they won the World Series... the first World War was about to end... Lucky Lindy was a teenager dreaming of flying across the ocean... John Kennedy was an infant... penicillin didn't exist...TV didn't exist... radio was just starting...

How Fitting Is It That the Sox Won On the Eve of the Feast of the Saint of Lost Causes?

I bet that there is many a novena to St. Jude that will have to be published over the next few days.

I Saw This Over At The Corner

And hope to Heavens it is correct:

Kerry's finished. I know that as a Yankees fan, you don't have much experience with hexes, jinxes and bad voodoo. But I think that John Kerry jinxed himself out of winning the election. Kerry periodically said, when trying to depict himself as a Red Sox "fan" (which he isn't) that it would be worth waiting "one more year" for a Sox world championship if it meant his winning the election this year. Again, you don't mess with this sort of stuff. But Kerry did. And I think in expressing these thoughts, he's caused the jinx to boomerang from the Sox to him, because they went out and won THIS year. Kerry's finished.

O Mercy!!!!!!

All the evidence of my senses tells me the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals late last night to win their first World Series since 1918. Yet I can hardly credit it.

I grew up baseball crazy. It was the only sport a short kid not at all slim, and fairly uncoordinated could hope to play. From earliest childhood names like Yaz, Tiant, Lonborg, Scott, Petrocelli, Evans, Fisk, Rice, Lynn, Hobson, Eckersley were my heroes. I was a boy at a Catholic grammar school in Lynnfield, and counted among classmates and schoolmates Petrocellis, Yastrezemskis, Milburys and Hodges.

I collected baseball cards with a positive mania, listened to sports talk shows like Clif and Claf or Glenn Ordway obsessively. I knew the statistics for every player, including their minor league records. I watched or listened to every game from 1974-1979, and Ned Martin and Jim Woods, Ken Coleman and Dick Stockton and Hawk Harrelson, the Hawk himself a 1967 alumus of that Impossible Dream season, spoke more often to me than my family. I wrote up my own box scores for the 1976 and 1977 seasons.

When a desire to burn off some youthful energy struck me, I took my bat outside to the Johnny Bench Batter Up to swing away at the ball on the revolving pivot, or took my glove and a tennis ball to the Pitch Back, or just to the tall picket fence which my Father complained I was destroying in the process.

In prep school, I and other obsessed denizens of St. John's Prep's elite classes started a Status Pro Baseball League, trading players and creating teams of our own based on the statistical rubrics of the game's template. If we were not playing wargames, or studying, or working on gathering data for the Debate Team or rehearsing for Brother Ron's Drama Guild, or meeting in our Young Republicans club, we were playing out our Status Pro season.

And always, there was the love of the Red Sox above all other teams that I inherited from my Father. Dad had been born in 1920, the year after the Rape of the Red Sox and two years after their last world championship. He had known Tony Conigliaro, as well as Harry Agganis, and had met Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio in a bar (Ted bought). My Mum had a crush on Jimmy Piersall.

Always throughout my Dad's life, the Olde Towne Team had either been also-rans, or glorious almosts. For years in the 1950s and 1960s, the team was so bad that they were called the "Jersey Street Jesters." In 1946 and 1967, the year we disconnected from Malden and moved to West Peabody, the Sox had made it to the World Series, only to suffer defeat, in both cases after heroic struggle, to the Saint Louis Cardinals.

I absorbed a little of the spirit of that 1967 season at the ripe old age of 3. I can recall people tuned in to every game in September on transistor radios, so that they did not miss a play of that tumultous, intense pennant race. In those days not only was there no wild card, but there were no divisions. The team with the best record in the American League went to the World Series. Everyone else went to Florida to sharpen their golf games. Somehow, a team that had finished dead last in the American League the year before was int he World Series. When they did not win, it was held of little account, as young stars like Yaz and Rico and Lonborg would be around for a while, and might get us to the Series again.

And then a team that had, for a long time been near cellar-dwellers became the embodiment of the term "snake-bitten." Lonborg's career-ending injury, Tony Conigliaro's tragic beaning and his failed comebacks (and eventual death from a stroke probably a result of the beaning), the fading of the promise of Rico's talents, combined with new and much richer ownership at the New York Yankees to leave the Red Sox, from 1972 until 2004 the best second-place team in baseball.

The Yawkey ownership never was as rich as New York's Steinbrenner, nor as astute at judging talent. Oh it did develop some marvelous players. Fisk, Rice, Lynn, Burleson, Evans, Miller, Clemens, Boggs, Lee, Sprowl, and Stanley were all products of the Red Sox farm system. But their trades were often hapless (Sparky Lyle to the Yankees for Danny Jeter, indeed), and they were often outbid by Steinbrenner in the free agent market after free agency became a factor after 1976. Their managerial choices were mercurial at best. Don Zimmer.

Oddity and freak circumstances at the moment of final victory had been the team's stock in trade. Johnny Pesky holding the ball rather than relaying it to first. Jim Lonborg's skiing accident, of all things. Oddball sothpaw Bill Lee's softball lob to the alway-dangerous Joe Morgan. Bucky Bleeping Dent's homerun and the hopelessly outclassed Bob "Beetle" Bailey's efforts at bat against Goose Gossage in the 1978 playoff game with the Yankees when the two teams tied in the American League East. What should have been the final out of the 1986 World Series trickling under the glove and between the legs of veteran first baseman Bill Buckner.

Last night, today's editon of the Boston Red Sox took the field with a mission. They came to sweep away the Cards, and in doing so, exorcised the ghosts of 1946 and 1967, of 1972, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1995, and 2003. Of superstar tantrums from Ted Williams spitting at the fans to the moronic but talented Roger Clemens. Of the crazy follies of Heywood Sullivan and Buddy Leroux.

I no longer know the team as I did when I was 12. The baseball cards are long since sold, and no new ones have been purchased in a decade or more. I have not listened to games regularly in almost as long. I could not, with certainty, tell you who the DH is anymore. Yet, there is joy in my heart this morning, and tears in my eyes as I write. The team is the thing, and it came up a winner last night.

I only wish that my Dad had lived to see this day, this joyous day for all New England, this day which the Lord hath made. I hope that in whatever eternal dwelling place he now reposes he knows that his Red Sox, and mine, won it all last night.

Psalms 148, 149, and 150

Psalm 148
Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye Him in the high places.
Praise ye Him, all his angels, praise ye Him, all His hosts.
Praise ye Him, O sun and moon: praise Him, all ye stars and light.
Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens
Praise the Name of the Lord. For He spoke, and they were made: He commanded, and they were created.
He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: He hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all ye deeps:
Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil His word:
Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:
Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth:
Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the Name of the Lord:
For His name alone is exalted.
The praise of Him is above heaven and earth: and He hath exalted the horn of His people. A hymn to all His saints to the children of Israel, a people approaching to Him.

Psalm 149

Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let His praise be in the church of the saints.
Let Israel rejoice in Him that made Him: and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise His Name in choir: let them sing to Him with the timbrel and the psaltery.
For the Lord is well pleased with His people: and He will exalt the meek unto salvation.
The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.
The high praises of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:
To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:
To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.
To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all His saints.

Psalm 150

Praise ye the Lord in His holy places: praise ye Him in the firmament of His power.
Praise ye Him for His mighty acts: praise ye Him according to the multitude of His greatness.
Praise Him with the sound of trumpet: praise Him with psaltery and harp.
Praise Him with timbrel and choir: praise Him with strings and organs.
Praise Him on high sounding cymbals: praise Him on cymbals of joy: let every spirit praise the Lord.



Haec dies, quam fecit Dominus:
Exsultemus, et laetemur in ea.
Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus:
Quoniam in saeculum misericordia ejus.

Saint Jude

Novena Prayer To Saint Jude
Holy Saint Jude, Apostle and Martyr, great in virtue and rich in miracles, near kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor of all who invoke thy special patronage in time of need. To thee I have recourse from the depths of my heart and humbly beg to whom God has given such great power to come to my assistance. Help me in my present and urgent petition, in return I promise to make thy name known and cause thee to be invoked. Saint Jude pray for us and all who invoke thine aid.

Say 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys and 3 Glory Be to the Fathers.

Publication must be promised.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Want To Know About Campaign Conditons In Ohio?

Check out this detailed analysis of the nuts and bolts, which I found courtesy of the The Corner.

Impressive analysis. I just hope it is correct.

Terrorist Attacks Planned To Help Defeat President Bush

Well, John Forbes Heinz Kerry and the Democrats are not the only weasels with an interest in getting rid of George W. Bush's presence in the Oval Office.

Terrorists plan to step up attacks on Americans in Iraq and elsewhere in an effort to turn the American public against the President and the war he is waging against them.

They much prefer the criminal indictment and occasional Cruise missile tactics of the Democrats to relentless war waging on their turf.

It worked with the Spanish electorate, and it stampeded the Philippines into withdrawing its miniscule forces from Iraq.

But if it works with the American people, you might just as well forget about the US as a world leader for the foreeeable future. And forget about peace and security at home or abroad.

Is It Possible?

Can the Red Sox really be 3-0 in the World Series?

Is it possible that they really might win it all either tonight, or within the next few days?

If they do manage to avoid the oddities and freaks that have kept them from a World Championship since the Fall of 1918, Boston will be absolutely crazy.

And who knows what changes in the cosmos such a prodigy might produce?

Lions lying down with lambs?

Fidel Castro deciding to retire?

A snowless mild winter in Boston?

Lottery wins in the millions for all?

A Republican sweep next week?

The Haunted Rectory

Some years before he died in 1993, my Uncle Thomas retailed to me circumstances that he said he had witnessed in the late 1950s.

He and my grandmother were living near downtown Malden. My uncle volunteered weekends answering the phone and the door at the rectory of the parish that our family had been members of since they came to America in the early 1920s. He was on good terms with all of the priests of the parish (7, I think, at the time).

One early November Saturday, he was making his way to the back door of the rectory to begin his office hours. It was a bleak, cloudy day and winter's chill could be distinctly felt.

Just before he turned the corner to the back of the building (or is the back door on the side?), he was passed by a youngish priest, probably in his early 30s. Now Uncle Thomas knew not only all the priests assigned to the parish quite well, but most of their priest friends who stopped by for visits from time to time. This priest was an utter stranger.

What was more curious was that this young priest was wearing the old-fashioned cassock and biretta that had gone out of fashion years ago. Today, some deliberately conservative priests, like members of the FSSP and some others wear that rig as a way of showing their disregard for fashion and change. But then, it was unheard of for any but the most elderly priests in Greater Boston to dress like that. The Revolution had not yet come to the Church, though it was brewing. There was nothing as yet to take a counter-revolutionary stance against.

"Good morning, Father."

No reply. Not even a glance at the person addressing him.

Perhaps he was caught up in prayer or his own thoughts.

When Uncle Thomas got into the kitchen (the back door opened into it, I think) two of the parish priests were sitting at the table talking over cups of tea.

"I didn't recognize your visitor. Has he been assigned here?"

"What visitor?"

"The young priest in the cassock and biretta."

"No one has been in. We've been sitting over our tea for the last 15 minutes. The bell didn't ring, either."

"You say a young priest in a cassock and biretta? How odd. Even old Father Jack goes out in a fedora these days."

"How odd that a strange priest would walk along the edge of the building and not stop in."

Well, the parish is in an urban area, and it is possible that the young priest has some business at the school and was merely passing the rectory as a familiar landmark on his way to the train station.

My uncle thought nothing more about the incident. As it happened, he had a busy day with the phones, and several people came to the door to meet with one or another of the priests.

About 4 weeks later, on another Saturday morning, Uncle Thomas was back at the rectory. This morning, there was only one priest at home, a retired priest living at the rectory. He was well enough to say Mass, make a few local sick calls if necessary and generally help out. In fact, he was saying noon Mass, and was in the study across the hall from the office looking over the Epistle and Gospel and making notes for his Sunday sermon.

Saturday being the day off for the rectory's staff, and the other six priests being off on various errands, Uncle Thomas and the elderly priest were alone in the house. The phones were quiet. The doorbell did not ring until after noon Mass, when two parishioners brought in Christmas gifts for the priests. People must have been busy with their Christmas shopping.

Uncle Thomas was in the office after 10:00 am with a cup of tea and some cookies before him. After a short while, he heard what sounded like footsteps in the room above him. That room, he knew, was occupied by one of the two priests who were on their way to help with Advent confessions at the Cathedral (confessions at the parish were to be held that afternoon).

He listened for a long time, trying to convince himself that what he heard was, in fact, water being carried through pipes to the radiator. But the more he listened, the more convinced he became that he was hearing footsteps pacing back and forth in the room above the office.

None of the priests who were out could have come back to the rectory without him seeing them pass the front door, or hearing them come in the back, unless they were trying to be very quiet for some reason. Again, the only other person in the building should have been the elderly priest in the study across the hall.

After about 15 minutes, the sound of the footsteps stopped. A few minutes later. The elderly priest was in the doorway of the office and looking in.

"Hi, Father, need anything?"

"No. Was wondering if you'd just been upstairs."

"No. I've been in here all the time. You havn't been upstairs, have you?"

"I've been in the study writing."

Just then, the pacing began again.

"Ya hear that?"

"I'd thought it was something you were doing."

"Not I."

The pacing sound continued.

Uncle Thomas and the elderly priest decided to go upstairs and see if someone had somehow got past them. As they were on the stairs, the pacing stopped.

They looked in all the second floor rooms, and found them vacant. The third floor was similarly unoccupied. No one else was in the rectory. After they had been back downstairs for a few minutes, and were about to go their separate ways, it started again; back and forth apparently in the room above the office.

"Strange. Have you heard that before, Father?"

"No. But then the house is not usually as quiet as it is today."

Throughout his years of volunteering at the parish on weekends, Uncle Thomas heard the pacing sound from time to time, but learned to chalk it up to the category of "sounds you hear in an old house that is probably settling on its foundation." As the 1960s progressed, TV tended to drown out the sounds, if they continued.

In 1974, my uncle and grandmother moved across town, and began attending another parish (my uncle attended, my grandmother had been virtually bedridden since about 1968).

A few years later, a priest who had been particularly friendly with my uncle, after years in other parishes in other towns, was assigned back in Malden to my uncle's new parish. One day in the comfortable modern living room of the rectory of the other parish, they were talking about the old days.

My uncle ventured, "You know, I've never mentioned this to anyone, but on some of those Saturday mornings in the office at the old place, I could have sworn that I heard footsteps pacing in the room above the office when I knew that room was empty."

"You know about the ghost, then?"

"What ghost? Are you kidding me?"

The priest's story was roughly as follows. Just before the US entered World War I, a priest just out of seminary had been assigned to that parish and was living in the room above the office. Many young priests had been given their first assignment in parishes like this. There would be plenty of company, and a decent reception from the community.

But his young priest, though devout, was troubled. Perhaps he questioned whether his vocation was a true one. Perhaps other circumstances in his life conspired to make him unhappy. Anguish was, in any case the result. The pastor was on the verge of having him re-assigned after only a few months, thinking that perhaps a change of scenery might be best.

Whatever the cause, the young priest committed suicide in the room above the room that, in the 1950s, was the parish office.

At the order of Cardinal O'Connell, the incident was never openly discussed. The other priests there at the time were told never to speak of it. Parishioners were only told that Father X had died suddenly and unexpectedly in the rectory. It was probably something to do with his heart.

But with Vatican II and the coming of two later cardinals, (Cushing and Medieros) the need for secrecy in this matter abated. Uncle Thomas' priest friend had heard the story in the 1960s from a very elderly priest who had been at the parish at the time, and had been a year ahead of the unfortunate Father X in the seminary.

Apparently, Uncle Thomas was not the only person to hear the pacing in the rectory.

It was then that my uncle recalled being passed that November morning by the strange young priest and connected him to the suicide of 1916. I have only my uncle's account for the veracity of this story. The priest who told him about the suicide died some years ago. I don't know whether that rectory ever was truly haunted, or whether he and the others just heard sounds natural to an old house.

But it is a jolly good tale for a few days before Halloween.

Tonight, They Could Win It All

GO RED SOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Looks Like the Media Plotters Have Fallen Into the Pit They Dug

The New York Times scooped CBS, which planned to try to influence the election with a little anti-Bush story for election eve, the story about the es in Iraq.

The story was designed to make it look like the Bush Administration was incompetent, and couldn't handle things in Iraq. Now NBC is reporting that the weapons went missing in April 2003, even before US troops took over the weapons cache as part of the occupation. In other words, we didn't control the weapons when they went missing, Saddam's guys did.

So, there is no story.

Saddam's loyalists drew the weapons, and are presumably using them or giving them to the al Qaeda wannabes that have flooded into the country for the chance to shoot at Americans. In other words, they requisitioned their own weapons to continue the fight just before the regime fell (and probably in accord with plans laid even before the occupation took place).

So it is not a story. We knew the ists there got their weapons from Iraqi government stockpiles before we were in control. Everyone on God's green earth knew that! Where else did anyone think they got the weapons they are using, from the friendly, neighborhood Honda dealership?

It doesn't show what CBS and the Times thought, or hoped, to misled the voting public into thinking, it means. The weapons did not just go missing recently. They went missing a long time ago, and before we took over control of the depots that held them. so, though it is our problem, it is not our fault. Troops occupying a country for the first time cannot be expected to be everywhere at once.

So the National Guard records story was a hoax. The munitions story is a hoax.

What is next? A Bush love affair? Illegal substance use by the Twins?

Or is Kerry left with those last-refuge-of-a-soundrel lines that only stir up the yellow dogs these days:

"Bush will bring back the draft" (not even a chance)

"Bush has a secret plan to destroy Social Security" (oh please, we've heard this one every year since 1980)

"Bush will end the "right" to abortion" (let us pray he does)

"Bush will end racial preferences and set-asides" (would that he would)

"Bush will end all forms of gun control" (again, would that he would)

"Bush will push through more tax cuts for the rich" (the best way to get the economy revving)

"Bush will harm "non-traditional families" by banning gay "marriage" (from your lips to God's ears!)

Game Three Tonight In Saint Louis

GO RED SOX!!!!!!!!!!!

Especially if the theory that, if they lose, Kerry will win, and if they win, Kerry will lose has any validity.

And They Call These Colleges "Catholic"

Faculty of major Catholic universities are disproportionately contribuing to the Kerry campaign, according to the Cardinal Newman Society.

I am sure it runs the other way at places like St. Thomas More, or Ave Maria, but BC, whose staff was very notable in its Kerry donations, has a lot to be ashamed of, and held to account for by the "Catholic" college's alumnae, and the Archbishop of Boston, who holds a general watching brief over Catholic colleges within his See.

It comes down to this: a vote for Kerry (or anyone other than George W. Bush) is a nothing less and nothing more than a vote for never being able to do anything to stem, curtail, or prohibit abortions. A vote for Bush (and for the local Republican candidate for US Senate) provides a much better chance of seeing Roe v. Wade and its progeny limited, ignored, or even overturned someday, as well as seeing practical steps to curtail abortion enacted, like the ban on partial-birth abortions.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Aside From Vigorous Prosecution Of the War, and Keeping Taxes Low, And Doing Something About the Culture of Death...

...The best reason to vote for President Bush is the Supreme Court.

Imagine a Supreme Court with 4 Kerry appointees plus two Clinton appointees.

Gay Marriage? Constitutional right.

Polyamory? Constitutional right.

Sex With Minors? Constitutional right.

Bestiality? Constitutional right.

Human Cloning? Constitutional right.

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide? Constitutional right.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research? Constitutional right.

Abortion? Constitutional right.

Quotas? Constitutional right.

Illegal immigration? Constitutional right.

Welfare? Constitutional right.

Bi-Lingual Education? Constitutional right.

Free Housing and Healthcare For Layabouts? Constitutional right.

Gun Ownership? Hah.

Property Rights? Hah hah.

English As the National Language? Hah hah hah.

Restricting Immigration? Hah hah hah hah.

States' Rights/Federalism? Hah hah hah hah hah.

Vouchers? Hah hah hah hah hah hah

Faith Based Charitable Initiative? Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah

Privatize Even a Portion of Social Security? Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah

Upon St. Crispin's Day!

From Shakespeare's Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3,
on the field of Agincourt before the battle, as the English nobles are figuring out they are outnumbered 5-1 by the French.

WESTMORELAND "O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING HENRY V What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

Henry won an historic victory. And his army lost relatively few men. Read John Keegan's The Face of Battle for more details on the battle of Agincourt.

A Week Until the Election

And the mind boggles at what sort of nasty surprise the Democrats have in store for the electorate. So far they have specialized in thuggery, vandalizing Bush headquarters, ripping down lawn signs, tearing signs held by small children, and mobilizing armies of thugs in three-piece suits for battling in court what they will not win at the ballot box.

But they probably have some unpleasantness designed for the nation at large up their sleeves. More dirt on the President's life from back in the 1970s (drinking, drugs, women)? A juicy Halliburton scandal? Something involving the Vice President's lesbian daughter, or the partying Bush Twins? That sort of thing is a page from their playbook, and I fully expect them to have something like that ready.

Let's see, 4 years ago, they sprung the drunk-driving thing on the electorate the Wednesday before the election. Perhaps this Wednesday, they will have something else.

But that is a game two can play. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. John Kerry has led a rather interesting life. John Edwards may not be as squeaky clean as he ought to be either. Let us hope that the huge budget the GOP had was used wisely for opposition research. And that what is up our sleeves is dirtier, and has more impact than what they have.

Red Sox, And Patriots And BC, Oh My!

This was probably the greatest weekend in the history of sports in Boston. The Red Sox won both of the first two games of the World Series at Fenway. The Patriots beat the undefeated division rival New York Jets down in New York to remain undefeated in some incredible number of consecutive games dating from early last season, and including the playoffs and Super Bowl. And meanwhile, BC came from behind to beat Notre Dame.

Wow. It does not get any better than this, unless the Red Sox can actually wint he World Series.

All Boston fans are now daring to hope that it might just happen this year. Maybe. If the wierdness that has plagued the history of the team does not return with a vengeance.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Just A Great Boston Sports Weekend, So Far

The Boston Red Sox came from behind to beat the Saint Louis Cardinals in Game One of the World Series.

The BC Eagles also came from behind to beat Notre Dame (so I don't have to swallow what I said about the Shrine of the Holy Whapping needing to rename itself the Scene of the Heinie Whomping).

The Head of the Charles is going on this weekend, to the amusment of thousands of bibulous college kids.

Now if the Patriots can beat their undefeated divisonal rival Jets down in New York, and the Red Sox can chalk up a win in Game Two, it will be, indeed, an incredible weekend for Boston sports fans.

GO RED SOX!!!!!!

GO PATS!!!!!!

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