Saturday, October 25, 2003
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.
"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 great night to take abreak from the pre-Halloween marathon and watch Ken Branagh's superb adaptation.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Today the Church honors more holy women martyred by the Jacobins. These Ursuline nuns, led by Mother Marie Clothilde, taught at Valenciennes, until deprived of the right to teach in August, 1792. In September they were ordered by the revolutionaries to vacate their convent and given passports to go to Belgium, then held by the Austrians. In November of 1793 Valenciennes fell to the Austrians, and the Ursulines returned in their baggage wagons to resume the job of teaching. At Valenciennes, they were joined by two Brigittines and a Poor Clare who had been deprived of their convents by the revolutionaries.
In August, 1794, the Austrians pulled out of Valenciennes, and the revolutionaries resumed control. The Ursulines were at first confined to the convent. Two-thirds were able to escape. But eleven, including Mother Marie Clothilde, remained, to face the guillotine. They were executed in two groups, on October 17, and 23rd. All died courageously for the Faith, happy they proclaimed, to teach the "Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion."
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
The Florida legislature passed emergency legislation authorizing Governor Bush to step in and save Terri Schiavo's life. He has done so, ordering the feeding tube re-inserted and hydration to begin (not necessarily in that order.
And on the national front, both houses of Congress have passed, and President Bush will sign a ban on partial birth abortion. Deo gratias.
But no good news is untempered by the need for caution. Terri's husband's second attempt to murder her (this time using the court system) may have resulted in more permanent damage to her body and brain. She was without food and water for 6 days. And the forces of darkess will be in court again very soon trying to get the courts to again order Terri's murder.
And of course the forces of evil will be again in court trying to overturn the new legislation ending partial birth abortions.
It is often said that the courts read the polls. They don't. They watch network newscasts. And the journalistic establishment is wholeheartedly in the camp of the culture of death, in the guise of "choice." That is one reason why the courts have been such inveterate enemies of the pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-life causes.
Keep bombarding heaven with prayers for Terri, and the conversion of our society from the culture of death.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
In 1805 on this date, the British fleet under the command of Admiral Horatio Viscount Nelson decisively defeated a combined French-Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar. The victory set the tone for the remaining ten years of the wars with Bonaparte, with Britannia ruling the waves, and Napoleonic France supreme (more or less) on the Continent. Bonaparte's threat to invade England was smashed at Trafalgar.
At the end of September 1805, Bonaparte marched off his army, which had been cantoned on the Channel ports waiting for a favorable wind and control of the seas to invade England, to fight the Austrians (this was the campaign when he beat them and the Russians at Austerlitz in December, which meant the end of the Holy Roman Empire). Part of Bonaparte's reason for abruptly turning to deal with the Austrains was that he lacked confidence in the commander of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Pierre Charles Villeneuve's ability to ever get control of the Channel. Currently blockaded in Cadiz by Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood's squadron after a fruitless chase across the Atlantic and back, Villeneuve knew he had to do something to regain the Emperor's confidence.
On the morning of October 19th, after a storm, the Combined Fleet of 33 ships of the line, including the massive Spanish Santissima Trinidad of 130 guns, began to slip out of Cadiz. Lord Nelson had joined Collingwood now with his squadron, his flag flying from HMS Victory a 102-gun first rate launched in the Year of Victory, 1759, but laid up until the crisis of the American Revolution.
Nelson had long planned for a general engagement with an enemy fleet. He planned to ignore the prevailing tactic of fighting in line ahead, with ships of the line sailing one behind the other with their broadsides to the enemy, who would be doing the same thing. Such tactics produced only stalemates. Nelson planned to sail his ships through the enemy line, raking the ships on either side with his own broadsides and creating a general melee. The enemy fleet strung out in a long line would find only two-thirds of its strength fighting the entire British fleet. By the time the rest of the enemy fleet could come up to aid its comrades, it would be too late. "It will surpise and confound the enemy."
Early on the 21st, the two fleets maneouvred for position and to gain the weather gauge, but the Combined Fleet was clumsy in its movements due to poor seamanship and training. Nelson's 27 ships had the advantage of the wind (the weather guage), better seamanship and training. Nelson, ever the showman, paced the quarterdeck of Victory with all the medals he had won in his previous victories at Teneriffe, the Nile, and Copenhagen on his coat. He signaled the fleet, "England expects every man to do his duty." He followed it up with the signal to "Engage the Enemy More Closely," his favorite signal. The men of the fleet cheered loudly enough to be clearly heard aboard the ships of the Combined Fleet. Aboard the Spanish ships, many were busy receiving Extreme Unction.
Admiral Collingwood (whose first important action had been ferrying Howe's redcoats from Boston to Charlestown for the Battle of Bunker Hill) in the massive HMS Royal Sovereign took the lead, holding his fire until his broaside was between the Spaniard Santa Ana and the Frenchman Fougueux. As Royal Sovereign squared off with Santa Ana, Collingwood calmly munched on an apple while pacing the quarterdeck. Nelson's flag captain, Hardy, asked if it might be better to wear undress rather than full dress, as the decorations would surely single Nelson out for attention from enemy sharpshooters in the rigging. Nelson, with an eye patch and missing an arm, as well as being a slight man in a service filled with large ones, stood out anyway. Nelson said it was too late to be shifting his coat.
Victory and the ships of Nelson's sqaudron did just as much damage as Collingwood's ships. Nelson broke the enemy line between the Redoutable, whose Captain Lucas had vigorously trained his men for sharphooting, and even equipped some with rifles for the purpose, and the flagship Bucentaure. Just as Nelson had predicted, his ships were closing on their chosen adversaries, while the remainder of the Combined Fleet was having difficulty coming to their comrades' aid.
But Lucas brought his 74-gun Redoutable alongside Victory, and clawed her with everything at his disposal. His sharpshooters were firing at the upper deck of the Victory from a mere 50 feet. And every one of his sailors knew who the little one-armed man on the Victory's quarterdeck was. The medals on his chest made Nelson an excellent target.
A few minutes later, Nelson was brought down to the orlop deck, with a musket ball lodged in his spine. He could feel a gush of blood every time he took a breath. He had no feeling in the lower part of his body. He said that he had felt the ball break his back.
Lucas' men had managed to litter the upper deck of Victory with dead and wounded, and almost succeeded in boarding her. Then another British ship, HMS Temeraire(as the name implies, she had been captured from the French) came up, and gave Redoutable a heavy broadside. Then a French ship, Fougaux, joined the tangle. Victory was also still firing on Bucentaure and on Santissima Trinidad.
The battle as a whole was going according to Nelson's plan. Collingwood's 15 ships captured or sank 12 of the 16 enemy ships they engaged. Unaccountably the first seven French ships continued on a northly course away from the battle.
Nelson, meanwhile, below decks on Victory, was dying. Hardy came down to report that he could count 14 or 15 surrendered enemy ships. Nelson managed, "That is well, but I bargained for 20." A few minutes later, after kissing Hardy goodbye, he whispered, "Thank God I have done my duty." He breathed his last shortly afterwards.
Losses were lopsided in the British favor. They lost 1,600 killed or wounded. The Spanish had 1000 dead, and about 1,400 wounded. The French did not report their losses, but had about 3,000 dead and at least 1,100 wounded. Over 8,000 French and Spanish sailors were captured.
With Collingwood in command now, British crews worked frantically to rescue wounded adversaries from ships in danger of sinking. A powerful storm threatened the lives of all. The Santissima Trinidad, with a crew of more than 1,100, had been ganged-up on by a half dozen British ships. Half her crew were lost. A cat who had taken shelter in a gun barrel was the last rescued from that ship. A dog lowered overboard had stayed on a ledge of HMS Conqueror throughout the battle, exposed to cannnon and musket fire throughout. Aside from being in understandable shock, the dog was fine. In the week-long storm that battered the survivors, many damaged ships went down. Many men wounded in the battle died due to the rough handling of nature.
Nelson was placed in a barrel of spirits, and brought to England for burial (he did not wish to be buried at sea). It was December 22nd before the badly damaged Victory reached Portsmouth. He was given a magnificent state funeral.
Bonaparte reported to the French people only that "some ships were lost in a gale after an imprudent engagement." Villeneuve committed suicide the next year after being exchanged. French naval power was broken (though the blockaded remnants of the fleet grew to an even larger size by the time Bonaparte abdicated). Never again could Bonaparte seriously contemplate an invasion of England. Britannia indeed ruled the waves, and would for more than a century to come.
A glass of wine tonight to the immortal memory.
*We have 31 new Cardinals
And liberals are complaining about how the Holy Father is stacking the deck for the next conclave. Did they say the same thing before Pius XII died? Or had we just not politicized (idealogized is perhaps a better term, as a form of politics has always existed in situations like this) the appointment of electors for the papacy enough then? I think we could remind ourselves that a conclave full of conservatives appointed by Pius XI and Pius XII elected John XXIII and Paul VI. And liberals appointed by John XXIII and Paul VI elected John Paul II. I don't think it is quite as simple as they make it out.
*Mother Theresa has been beatified.
Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
By the way, I saw her in person once, about twenty feet away on her way through Logan Airport with an entourage.
*The Boston pervert priest case may have reached closure.
More than 80% of the plaintiffs have accepted the terms of the settlement. Now it is up to arbitrators to figure out who gets what. But we still have a lot of root causes utterly unaddressed: dissent and homosexuality in the priesthood and the institutions (seminaries, university theology departments, diosecan staff) that surround and support them.
*Terri Schiavo is in the process of being murdered by the State of Florida, and even more outrageously, has been denied the Last Rites by secular authorities. Cromwell lives again!
The Florida legislature is trying to come up with a solution. Let's hope it works.
The Knights need to draw something like a line in the sand. Would they allow a convention of abortionists to use their hall (located, I might add off the lovely Salem Common, one of my fabvorite places for a cigar in clement weather)?
Monday, October 20, 2003
First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be good and bad, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA on the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
From the Prologue to Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, published in 1962.
I just happened to remember that it is October 20th. Who can't remember feeling that way as a child?
Ray Bradbury is very much a modern. But his work is not imbued with modernism. Modernity without modernism. His Fahrenheit 451, which I read last year for the first time at the instigation of my wife, is one of the most conservative statements in favor of classical learning and against the popular culture of TV in the mainstream. Others achieve the same plateau of excellence: Tolkien, Lewis, Frost, O'Brian, O'Connor, Kirk, Hawthorne, Pope, Wodehouse, Waugh, Faulkner, Wolfe, maybe Rowling. Their stuff will stand the test of time.