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Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Surprises

When I was about ten years old, one of my older brother's classmates wrote me a poem for my birthday. He and several of his siblings boarded at my parents' house during high school, and over the years have come to be a part of our family (literally, not figuratively -- he married my cousin). This poem is on a white piece of printer paper, written in red ink, saved somewhere special in my parents' house. I'll have to find it over Christmas break. It's delightful, full of simple rhymes and images perfectly written to make ten-year-old me feel very loved and special.

Over the last few weeks, I've been most pleasantly surprised and genuinely touched to receive a few gifts from some of you readers: a poem and two books. As I told the author of this poem when I asked if I could share it with you all, friends have written poems for me before, but I've never been given one so particularly for me; he has used many of my favorite words and phrases, thoughtfully and considerately weaving a picture of the Magi's journey with the language that he knows delights me. If you've read most of the posts on Taking Back Our Brave New World, you'll recognize some of the parts that make it mine and hopefully smile as much as I did:

Here's kind of an early Christmas present. I was just trying to figure out what on earth rhymes with "entrammel," and it sort of grew into a poem. Hope you like it.

(for Ellen)
The Magi, with sagacious eye,
Afar descried and came to Him
With kingly gifts, on camels high,
Entrammelled by a brightness dim.
They sought a sweet and merry morn
Through lands forlorn and paths unseen,
And night was thrice night overhead
Through deserts red, incarnadine.
Locutioners of stars and signs
From heathen times, now called away
To know a new and tiny God,
Their hearts, though awed, in disarray.
What kept them on their wintry road,
Though doubt forbode and toils were hurled?--
Faith's inexpugnability,
Which yearns to see a brave new world!
So let the martial lullaby
They heard on high still calm our souls
And rouse our minds for penitence,
Till merriments have made us whole.

Yes, Jamey -- I like it very much. Thank you a million times over!

As for the books I received, one is a light-hearted look at the lost art of sentence diagramming. My old roommate from college, Mary Powers, also lives in the DC area, and we've recently been discussing the gaping hole in our grammatical educations. I think I had one class in which I was required to diagram sentences, but it never made a whole lot of sense to me, and obviously didn't leave much of an impression. Honestly, I remember parsing Latin sentences far more clearly and successfully. So, I suppose Mary and I are two common unfortunates of the later generation that somehow missed this tool. We have decided that after Christmas we'll sit down with this new book and work on improving ourselves.

The second book is so beautiful that it did literally bring tears to my eyes. Now, if you know me, you'll know that a lot of things do that, such as skipping lunch. Imagine my surprise and curiosity, though, as I came home from work and saw a parcel from England waiting for me, so securely wrapped up that it took a pair of scissors, much shredding of cardboard, and patient coaxing of unusually persistent packing tape to figure out what was inside. It was a 1954 edition of H. W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage from Oxford University Press. It has the original dust jacket on it, and a rich dark blue binding with gold lettering very similar to my once unrivaled favorite book of all my books, a 1941 (?) edition of The Works of George Herbert, edited by F. E. Hutchinson (favorite in physical beauty; please don't ask me what my favorite book is. It might be Crime and Punishment, but I honestly don't know.) The age-induced discoloration shown in this picture is in someone else's book -- mine is beautiful.

A pertinent excerpt for you.

Thank you for my Advent and Christmas presents! In case you couldn't tell, I really really like them.

1 comment:

  1. Just so you know Ellie, I have had a piece of music written for me and played too!