Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
March 4 in Kent, OH Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats. Public Domain. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1066 that William the Conqueror of Normandy arrived on British soil. He defeated the British in the Battle of Hastings and on Christmas Day he was crowned King of England in Westminster Abby. What nobody knew at the time was how much this would affect the English language. The British back then were speaking a combination of Saxon and Old Norse. The Normans spoke French. Over time, the languages blended and as a result English became a language incredibly rich in synonyms. Because the French speakers were aristocrats the French words often became the fancy words for things. The Normans gave us “mansion”; the Saxons gave us “house.” The Normans gave us “beef”; the Saxons gave us “cow.”
The English language has gone on accepting additions to its vocabulary ever since, and it now contains more than a million words, making it one of the most diverse languages on Earth. Writers have been arguing for hundreds of years about whether this is a good thing.
The critic Cyril Connolly wrote, “The English language is like a broad river … being polluted by a string of refuse-barges tipping out their muck.” But Walt Whitman said, “The English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.” And the poet Derek Walcott said, “The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.”
Today we celebrate the birthday of the teacher, philosopher, and political theorist popularly known as Confucius, born near what is now Qufu, in Shandong Province, China, in 551 BCE.
Not a lot is known about Confucius’s childhood. He was probably a member of an aristocratic family that had lost its wealth, because he was born in poverty. His father died when Confucius was three years old and his mother took charge of his education. The boy had a real thirst for knowledge, and asked many questions wherever he went. He took some minor government jobs when he was a teenager but also made an effort to seek out knowledgeable masters to instruct him in the six arts: ritual, music, archery, chariot driving, calligraphy, and arithmetic. He began to turn his thoughts to practical questions of morality and ethics.
As a young man he traveled widely throughout China, meeting with leaders of the various provinces and trying to impress upon them the importance of self-discipline and virtue. He didn’t approve of what he saw as the moral decline of China after years of political unrest. He also believed that there was a connection between the personal and the universal and that poor political decisions could lead to natural disasters like floods. At one point in his travels he was imprisoned for five days due to a case of mistaken identity. He didn’t let it ruffle his feathers, though, and reportedly sat calmly playing his lute while the muddle was sorted out.
In his 30s he returned home and started a school that was open to rich and poor alike. Teaching was a way of life to him, not just a career. His teaching philosophy was revolutionary: rather than simply training apprentices in particular skills, education could and should be used for the welfare and improvement of society. He felt obligated to bring back an emphasis on humility, compassion, and tradition, to encourage people to exercise self-discipline, and to always act on the principle of “ren,” or “loving others.” “What you do not wish for yourself,” he wrote, “do not do to others.” He hoped that his students would carry these principles with them into positions with the government and thereby form a generation of leaders who would set a virtuous example for the people of China. He also began to write, including two books of poetry — the Book of Odes and the Book of Documents. None of his books contained his philosophy, however; what we know about Confucianism today is what was passed down to his many students.
Confucius died in 479 BCE, but his stature continued to grow after his death. By the second century BCE Confucianism formed the basis for China’s state ideology and he is considered one of the most influential minds in Chinese history. His birthday is an official holiday in Taiwan where it is celebrated as Teachers’ Day. His writings were first translated into English by James Legge in 1867 and a more readable translation was published by Oxford University in 1907.
“There are three things which the wise man holds in reverence: the Will of Heaven, those in authority, and the words of the sages. The fool knows not the Will of Heaven and holds it not in reverence: he is disrespectful to those in authority; he ridicules the words of the sages,” and “He who does not understand the Will of God can never be a man of the higher type. He who does not understand the inner law of self-control can never stand firm. He who does not understand the force of words can never know his fellow-men.”
It’s the birthday of Kate Douglas Wiggin (books by this author), born in Philadelphia, (1856), who wrote Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903) and many other novels. She also started the first free kindergarten on the West Coast, in San Francisco. She spent much of her own life working as a teacher and she once said, “Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility.”
Today is the birthday of the British novelist and translator Edith Pargeter (books by this author), born in Shropshire (1913). She never attended college and began writing while working as a chemist’s assistant in the years leading up to World War II. She served with distinction in the Women’s Royal Navy Service (the WRENS) and was awarded the British Empire Medal for her service. During these years Pargeter published a flurry of novels, including Ordinary People (1941) and She Goes to War (1942), stunning critics with her detailed knowledge of the technology and geography of combat.
She met soldiers from Czechoslovakia while stationed in Liverpool and she soon developed a passion for the country. She became an expert in the Czech language, first learning on “Teach Yourself” 78 rpm records. In 1949 she wrote a popular book on her travels there, The Coast of Bohemia, and personally translated over a dozen works by the country’s leading writers, including Joseph Bor’s tale of the Verdi concert at Auschwitz, The Terezín Requiem (1963). She said, “[I] feel myself in a sense Czech, with all their hopes and needs.” She was awarded the Czechoslovak Society for International Relations Gold Medal in 1968 for her work on behalf of literature.
In 1953 Pargeter first tried her hand at mystery writing with her short story “Fallen into the Pit” but it was in the introduction of her character Brother Cadfael in A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977) that Pargeter found her true calling. Cadfael was a medieval Sherlock Holmes of sorts and from his Shrewsbury Abbey he unraveled mysteries and performed early forensics. While her contemporaries were still enamored with the Victorian Era, Pargeter set her book back 700 years earlier in the bloody era of the Middle Ages. She rarely looked back from the 12th century as she followed this Benedictine sleuth through 20 more novels, including One Corpse Too Many (1979), The Pilgrim of Hate (1984), and The Holy Thief (1992). All centered on Shrewsbury, these “mystoricals,” as they came to be called, were so popular that they created a whole tourist industry in the area, earning it the tag “Brother Cadfael country.”
Pargeter was celebrated for her reason and pragmatic charm. At the age of 83, when her leg had to be amputated, she wrote in a newsletter that she wouldn’t miss it a bit, “after the hell it caused me,” prompting The Guardian to remember her in their 1995 memorial as “one tough old bird.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®