Monthly Archives: December 2003


Adventures in Hymnwriting

All right. I have totally lost it. This is quite possibly one of the weirdest, most obscure things I’ve ever written. But for some reason, the Holy Muse has decided that I had to write an adaptation of “The Dream of the Rood” (the oldest dream-vision poem in English…and that’s Old English I mean) to the tune of “Brennan on the Moor”. The medium speed MIDI is ugly but gets the tune and timing right, unlike most of what I found on the Web in these MIDI-degenerate days. (Oh, and all these lyrics folks are on crack. It’s “Brave and undaunted”, not “Bold, brave and undaunted”. Heck, how the heck would you get all that in?)

*hangs head in shame* I don’t know what the heck I was doing. But the image of Jesus as the valiant young hero is just as important to the Middle Ages as the suffering Christ was. And at least this is a lot more flattering than my hymn to the tune of “Whiskey in the Jar”…. *attempts to look into own head* Boy, it’s awfully weird in there!

Jesus on the Cross
Lyrics: Maureen S. O’Brien, 12/21/03
(after “The Dream of the Rood”, Saxon trad.)
Music: “Brennan on the Moor”, Irish trad.

I’ll tell you of the best of dreams
I had one dark midnight.
I saw a cross, that reached above
The Earth, all ringed in light.
I saw the angels and the saints
All gazing on this tree,
It never carried criminals;
It was the vict’ry tree.

And then I heard that best of trees
Begin to speak, it’s true.
“It’s long ago, but I recall
The day that I was hewed.
They told me to hold evil men
And give the folk a show,
But then I saw all mankind’s Lord
Eager toward me go.

(And it’s)
“Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

“I wanted so to kill them;
The Earth was trembling, too.
But God had bid me to stand firm;
That’s what I had to do.
He stripped as if to wrestle
And embraced me in his arms.
He bore the pain unflinchingly
To save his folk from harm.

“Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

“They pounded nails through both of us –
The wounds you still can see.
They mocked us both together, and
His blood’s still staining me.
Then He released His spirit;
Clouds covered up the sun
To shade His corpse upon me.
All creation mourned as one.

“Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

“His warriors came to fetch him,
I bowed, let him down light.
They gazed on his poor body there,
A-resting from his fight.
His warriors they buried him,
But soon in His glory,
The Lord rose up again — so now
All people honor me.

(All for)
“Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

“I’ve known the work of evil,
I’ve known how sorrow feels.
God’s Son once suffered on me, and
That’s why I now can heal.
Once I was worst of torments, and
Once all folk hated me;
But now I tell folk how to live,
God blessed me among trees.

“Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

“One day the Lord will judge you,
And all folk fear that day.
He’ll ask, “Which one would die for me?”
Folk won’t know what to say.
But you won’t have to be afraid
If my sign’s in your breast,
For every soul who wants to,
Through the cross, with God will rest.”

On Earth I’ve few to help me;
They’ve gone to dwell with God.
So I look forward to the day
I’m taken by the Rod
To where joy’s great, God’s people feast
Forever in delight….
May my Lord be a friend to me;
He freed us by His fight.

Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

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Watch Out for Those Nuns….

I was reading the Judge Dee mystery The Willow Pattern, which includes a female character who fights with “loaded sleeves”. Basically, she puts little lead balls into the “pocket” of space inside her voluminous hanging sleeves and then whops people with them as necessary. Anyway, I ran across this rather interesting postscript in Robert Van Gulik’s author’s note at the end:

The art of fighting with loaded sleeves has survived till recent years. I was told during my stay in Peking in 1935 that the formidable reputation this art enjoys among the Chinese lower classes saved the lives of six western Catholic nuns during the Boxer troubles of 1900. The sisters were set upon by an angry mob when they were on their way to the fortified cathedral. Expecting to be slaughtered, they resignedly raised their folded hands, commending their souls to God. Suddenly one of the ruffians who was about to attack them shouted, “Look out! They’ve loaded sleeves!” The mob drew back and made way for the sisters, who safely reached the cathedral. What happened was that, when the sisters raised their hands, the breviaries they were carrying in their sleeves swung to and fro; their attackers…concluded that the sisters had ‘loaded sleeves’.

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Magical Jesuits…Ooookay.

The collaboration team behind This Rough Magic sounds like some really dumb joke: “An Australian, a Trotskyite labor organizer-turned-editor, and Mercedes Lackey walked into a bar….” Unfortunately, it’s a bad joke on us. Editor Eric Flint has his name on at least 25% of Baen’s published books nowadays; Mercedes Lackey is the fantasy world’s saddest victim of the Brain Eater and recently wrote a book with a magical abortionist heroine (“….she would treat the women who came to her for treatment of their “female complaints”-including inconvenient or unwedded pregnancy….”); and Dave Freer…well, heck, he could be good, but we’ll never know. His name only appears on books in conjunction with Eric Flint’s.

The best thing I can say about this book is that it’s not the Ghu-forsaken sequel to Schmitz’s light and lovely novel of the 1970’s, The Witches of Karres. Which they are also writing. Ewwwwwww. Well, at least they can’t make me read it.

This is alternative world fantasy of the sort where all the names are changed slightly for no reason whatsoever I can see. (Unless it’s to prevent them from having to do any research?) So read Loyola for Lopez (oooooh, man, that’s a terrrrrrible name to give a Basque! Have they leaden ears?) It may be a sequel to their Shadow of the Lion book, but I was so insulted by Baen’s refusal to admit on the book that parts of it had appeared previously as Lackey’s work on Cherryh’s Merovingen Nights anthology series (“But people might not have bought it if they knew that!” said Flint…no, I’m not kidding) that I’ve never actually read Shadow of the Lion. Anyway, here are your promised magical Jesuits.

This Rough Magic
Autumn, 1538 a.d.

Eneko Lopez was not the sort of man to let mere discomfort of the body come between him and his God. Or between him and the work he believed God intended him to do. The Basque ignored exhaustion and hunger. He existed on inner fires anyway, and the fires of his spirit burned hot and bright. Some of that showed in the eagle eyes looking intently at the chalice on the altar. The low-burned candles and the fact that several of the other priests had fainted from exhaustion, cold or hunger, bore mute testimony to the fact that the ceremony had gone on for many hours. Without looking away from the chalice upon which their energies were focused, Eneko could pick up the voices of his companions, still joined in prayer. There was Diego’s baritone; Father Pierre’s deeper bass; Francis’s gravelly Frankish; the voices of a brotherhood united in faith against the darkness.

At last the wine in the chalice stirred. The surface became misty, and an image began to form. Craggy-edged, foam-fringed. A mountain . . .

The air in the chapel became scented with myrtle and lemon-blossom. Then came a sound, the wistful, ethereal notes of panpipes. There was something inhuman about that playing, although Eneko could not precisely put his finger on it. It was a melancholy tune, poignant, old; music of rocks and streams, music that seemed as old as the mountains themselves.

There was a thump. Yet another priest in the invocation circle had fallen, and the circle was broken again.

So was the vision. Eneko sighed, and began to lead the others in the dismissal of the wards.

“My knees are numb,” said Father Francis, rubbing them. “The floors in Roman chapels are somehow harder than the ones in Aquitaine ever were.”

“Or Venetian floors,” said Pierre, shaking his head. “Only your knees numb? I think I am without blood or warmth from the chest down.”

“We came close,” Eneko said glumly. “I still have no idea where the vision is pointing to, though.”

Father Pierre rubbed his cold hands. “You are certain this is where Chernobog is turning his attentions next?”

“Certain as can be, under the circumstances. Chernobog…or some other demonic creature. Great magical forces leave such traces.”

“But where is it?” asked Diego, rubbing his back wearily. “Somewhere in the Mediterranean, an island, that much is clear. Probably in the vicinity of Greece or the Balkans. But which? There are a multitude.”

Eneko shrugged. “I don’t know. But it is an old place, full of crude and elemental powers, a repository of great strength, and . . .”

“And what?”

“And it does not love us,” Eneko said, with a kind of grim certainty.

“It did not feel evil,” commented Francis. “I would have thought an ally of Chernobog must be corrupted and polluted by the blackness.”

“Francis, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend, even if we have common cause.”

“We should ally, Eneko,” said Francis firmly. “Or at least not waste our strength against each other. After all, we face a common enemy.”

Eneko shrugged again. “Perhaps. But it is not always that simple or that wise. Well, let us talk to the Grand Metropolitan and tell him what little we know.”

First off…does anybody out there believe that any version of the Jesuits would be doing magic that involved wine in a chalice? Visions in bowls of water, fine. But not in a million zillion trillion alternate universes would Eneko de Loyola cruise this close to blasphemy.

All I can say is that maybe the writers’ll learn something from spending time with the Jesuit founding fathers, if only in the most peripheral way. However, these writers being who they are, if the book ends up with the Jesuits as some powerhungry mob committing human sacrifice (under mind control, of course; mustn’t offend the Catholics) and the day being saved by an atheist scientist or something, I wouldn’t be too surprised.

But then, I ain’t reading this book, either…just bringing it to St. Blog’s attention.

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A Russian Arthurian Filk

“Gvinivera” (Guenevere) is a song by the well-known Russian filker Skady (L. Smerkovich). She seems to have put out about five albums, including her newest one, Doors (available from Kazan filk publisher Fangorn Audio). Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve always missed her poem Bryn Merddin, which contains the lyrics to “Gvinivera”, or if the poem just wasn’t up on Arda-na-Kulichkah yet; but now that I’ve found said lyrics, I’m finally able to understand the Russian filk video I downloaded so long ago. Since the song suits my mood, I did a translation.

The music video in question is still available from Fangorn Video’s Palantir (video download) page. I believe the song was recorded in 1999 by Linwen (E. Sovnik) by the Fangorn folks; she also reads a brief explanatory prologue. If you can’t read Russian well enough to find it on the page (no shame, that), the download URL is here. 14.6 MB. But do visit the site and check out the charming videos from Russian conventions and outdoor live-action roleplaying events. They’ve got gorgeous scenery and fun fannish people galore. (Filkers shouldn’t miss the excerpt from the Russian filk opera “Templar” (Tampl’).)

Lyrics and Music: Skadi (L. Smerkovich)
Performed by Linven? (E. Sovnik?), Kazan, 1999
Unauthorized translation: Maureen O’Brien, 12/16/03

Camelot is unyielding and resistant,
Britannia’s turned as powerful as her laws…
But what has caused this caring that’s so persistent
That you can never pull free from ruling’s claws?
And everyone, from beggar to cavalier-a,
Knows who has brought these sorrows down upon you –
The beautiful Queen Guenevere-a,
The beautiful Queen Guenevere-a,
The beautiful Queen Guenevere-a,
Beautiful…but to King Arthur, not true.

So strong and numerous, they come for fighting;
Against the Saxons, warbands’ll follow you.
But who’s this who beside you’s fought like lightning,
But now won’t even raise his eyes into view?
The champion, the flow’r of knighthood, hero
And old friend who more close than your kin became…
But the queen, ah, she loves Bedivere-o,
But the queen, ah, she loves Bedivere-o,
But the queen, ah, she loves Bedivere-o,
And I doubt if anyone’s to blame.

You go on campaign far away from your kingdom,
To kill the Goths and thus serve the Holy Dove.
You go away and give them both their freedom;
Why, I suppose that that is what is called love.
In spite of holy goals, you’re still out there sinning,
So why should you feel guilty about this thing?
Oh, tell me now, clearsighted seer Merlin,
And answer me indeed, court prophet Merlin,
I ask, knowing the answer, o wise Merlin –
Who on earth is this unlucky king?

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Adventures in Hymnwriting!

This is obviously not very churchy, and the parody is a pretty obvious one. But I think people might like singing it.

Gethsemane Garden
Lyrics: Maureen S. O’Brien, after Yeats and Irish trad.
Music: “Down by the Salley Garden”, Irish Trad.

‘Twas in Gethsemane garden that He and I did meet.
He said, “Please watch beside me,” but I slept at His feet.
I went out and betrayed Him as I kissed Him like a friend,
And I, being proud and foolish, did harm I could not mend.

I followed Him out of the garden, and denied Him before cockcrow.
I slapped and mocked and marched Him through the town streets, to and fro.
And I asked, “What’s truth?”, not listening, and then I washed my hands;
And I, being scared and foolish, “Crucify him!” I did demand.

I flailed Him, then I crowned Him with thorns pressed on His head.
And then I crucified Him, to hang till He was dead.
But He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
So I, being cruel and foolish, did more to prove that true.

‘Twas in the graveyard garden, back to me then He came.
I thought He was the gardener, till He called me by name.
And I thought I’d done things to him that He could not forgive;
But He, so wise folk think him foolish — said He’d died so that I could live.

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You Cannot Serve God and Spam

Through Slashdot, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells the story of a supposedly nice Catholic little old lady…who thinks it’s okay to make all our lives Hell.

The walls are covered with paintings of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and assorted saints. A devout Catholic, Fox works through her church to feed the hungry and volunteers at a senior citizen center once a week. But when the neighbors’ windows are dark, the lights stay on until all hours as Fox’s computers invade millions of unsuspecting in boxes…The several million spams she sends out each night….

I do feel for her health problems. I honor her for her charity work; clearly she does have a heart. But the Mafia gave to charity, too. There are plenty of other Internet-based businesses — including ones that market by email — which do not involve spamming. Furthermore, she taught others to spam. She’s making money by abusing the privilege of access to the Net while doing her best to ruin the Net for everyone else. It’s as if she were dumping sewage into the drinking water of not just one town, but of every town and village across the world.

And look, I know Jesus loved tax collectors, so I’m sure he’d have dinner with this lady as well. But he’d also tell her to stop sending him junk email. Maybe we should all send her some nice, respectful Christmas cards telling her the same thing. (Though I wouldn’t enclose your email address….) :)

(Btw, the spunky anti-spam grandmother in the story sounded like a very nice lady indeed.)

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Saddam Filk

“There’s Tikrit by the Tigris River” by Laura Gjovaag, to the tune of Frank Hayes’ “There’s a Hole in the Middle of It All”. Heh.

I knew I knew her last name from somewhere when I was reading about the comic shop shredded inventory debacle she was trying to publicize and stop. Finally it dawned on me that I remembered her from Doctor Who fandom. (Not that I met her personally, you understand. But I knew her name from the zines.)

It’s a small Web, after all.

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Naturally, I am glad that Saddam has been captured — alive, which makes it even sweeter. He doesn’t realize quite how lucky he is. Unlike Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, or his own sons, he’s going to have time to repent of his deeds before he goes to meet his Maker. (And yes, we should love our enemies. But we should also love to see them caught!)

Today is Gaudete Sunday — the third Sunday of Advent, when all the dark warnings that one should mend one’s ways before God comes again are broken by the command to “Rejoice!” Our pastor didn’t actually mention Saddam’s capture, but I thought he got rather into the “Rejoice!” portion of his homily. Imagine my surprise when a lady at the bus stop told me what’d happened! (Heh– I was so dead this morning that there was no point turning on the news. I doubt I would have comprehended the news programs if I had.)

The people of Iraq have lived in the darkness for many years. I do not think they were indecorous to scream and shout and dance with joy. Indeed, I think they were right to open their hearts and rejoice, for God has done great things for them and means to do more. It is an honor for the US, the UK, and the other gallant members of the Coalition to have been of service to the Iraqi people. It is a shame that we didn’t do something about it before. But what matters now is what we do tomorrow — and what we do today. Enjoy the moment, everyone. To quote Tolkien:

And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!

And the people sang in all the streets of the city.

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More on Titles of Mary and Poetic Expressions

(I was going to update the synecdoche post below, but why?)

One big chunk of the poetic expressions used for Mary refer to her position as Theotokos. If you believe she carried God within her, one can justly call her “Ark of the Covenant” (because she bore the ultimate evidence of God’s covenant with us, and not part of God’s word, but the Word itself) or “Temple”. Like Aragorn’s mother, she carried Hope within her. (Well, okay, not exactly like. Aragorn’s mother was awfully depressed, and Aragorn’s obviously not very Christy. It’s a joke, folks.) Since Christ is the hope of all, Mary is literally the “source of our hope”. Same thing with “cause of our joy”, “seat of wisdom”, and “gate of Heaven”. This is pretty straightforward on the poetic expression scale, folks.

(Considering that an Irish or SCA poet could call any king a descendant of any other king who was ahead of them on the throne chronologically. SCA poets can even call someone an heir of themselves, thanks to the fact that SCA monarchs win their crowns in tournament combat, and hence often come to the throne after a few years’ time. Anyway, back to the point.)

It’s a pretty earthy way to talk about Mary, of course. But then, the Incarnation of God is even earthier. If you want to understand Jesus, you have to understand to your bones that He is truly God and truly man. What better way than to contemplate Him with His Mother? He came to us as a baby. The Power that made the cosmos needed His diaper changed, and she did it. God could allow Himself to be touched not only by nice things like bread and the sky, but by wastes, and all the other icky stuff Gnostics hate to think about being part of them. God was not too good for the material world He had made, even though it was fallen. God was not too fastidious to give Himself a human mother (and fosterfather!), or to love the family He sent Himself to.

Other titles of Mary refer to her as a queen. Well, she’s the mother of the King of the Universe, to give God an old Jewish title. So presumably, she’s given the place of a queen mother in Heaven. Parts of Revelation hint at this: a woman clothed in the Sun, standing on the Moon, and crowned with stars, gives birth to the enemy of the Dragon. So the Church celebrates her with readings like “the queen stands at his right hand, arrayed in gold”. (Why not? Shouldn’t we be excited by God giving a human such honor? Isn’t it a hint that all his people in Heaven will be given some very interesting jobs to do?) Anyway, if Mary is “queen of Heaven” (thus kinda symbolically trampling on the old moon goddess crud that dogged Israel, the ancient world, and many today), then she’s obviously also “queen of angels”, “queen of all saints”, and so forth. But these titles also usually have some connection to or pun on her many roles during her human life. For example, “angel” means “messenger”. Mary brought the message of Jesus’ coming to Elizabeth. If you take Jesus as a “message”, Mary brought Him to all of us. So Mary is the most blessed of messengers — the Queen of Angels. She was the first person to witness to Him, thus she is “queen of martyrs”, for “martyr” means “witness”. And so forth.

Some titles of Mary are just there because people like them. Many are swiped from the Song of Songs, in which the lovers can be taken as an analogy for God and His people. But of course Mary is part of His people, and a rather specially favored one. As she’s the only person who’s had a kid by God, surely a few erotic metaphors can be used for Mary! So, she is the “tower of ivory”, the “enclosed garden” and so forth. Some talk about her as a herald of God: “morning star” (which is also an “in your face” to Lucifer, who legendarily gave up the whole “morning star” gig). Some come from poetry combined with Biblical reference, like “mystical rose”, which comes from the whole “rose of Sharon” thing combined with the rose as a symbol of love or caritas. Some just pile on the honors: “Mother most amiable” (ie, lovable), “Virgin most renowned”.

Finally, Mary has many titles based on the good experience the Church has had with asking her to pray for us. (Obviously if you don’t believe in the communion of the saints, this is going to weird you out. But why? Weren’t we promised that nothing, not death nor life nor anything else, could separate us from God? And if we are all part of the Body of Christ, surely we can ask for the prayers of our fellow Members in Heaven as well as those on Earth?) Mary, like any Jewish mother, is very interested in her son’s associates. If, like John, we have been made her children (and hey, even if we weren’t, we’re _part_ of her Child!), we can expect her to be more concerned with us still. (So she’s called “Mother of the Church”.) She is highly favored by God; He listens to her, as we saw at Cana. (Again, this shows us the honor God means to give His people in Heaven.) So we give her names like “comforter of the afflicted”, “help of Christians”, and “Mother of good counsel”.

With all this concern, it’s not surprising to the normal Catholic that Mary has been known to occasionally drop in on people. This used to be very common for mystics; but there are also grand appearances which become famous and have churches built in their memory. Today’s feast of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” commemmorates one such event. However, any place can celebrate “Our Lady” as its queen. “Our Lady of X-town” used to be a very common sort of title. Furthermore, such titles may describe a certain way that Mary is shown in a famous artwork — for example, “Our Lady of Czestochowa” refers to the “Black Madonna” icon of Mary displayed in that town.

So there actually is a rationale behind the titles Catholics use for Mary. You may think they’re too much, but they aren’t just some wild goddess-worship thing. And believe me, if you think there are big names for Mary, wait till you see all the titles we have for Jesus!

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Stop Worrying and Love the Synecdoche

I was reading a page about keikyo (Nestorian Christianity in Japan, which arrived centuries before the Jesuits) and read a rather Nestorian-biased account of its beliefs. This guy felt that the Nestorians were right and that “Mother of God” (Theotokos) was a bad expression; all you could legitimately say was “Mother of Christ” (Christotokos). Ignoring how much the Arians woulda loved that, it’s obviously that this guy didn’t like using the word for the whole to refer to the parts.

But hey, Jesus Christ is God, right? (Well, if you’re not an Arian or a non-Christian.) And Mary is Jesus’ mother, right? So, though Mary didn’t cause all of God to come into existence, she is the one who carried God around for nine months. So she is the Theotokos, not just the Christotokos.

Of course, this leads to a lot of poetic expressions and titles that Mary is given. Christ is the Way, Christ came through Mary, so poetically, everyone coming to Christ comes to him through Mary…hence, she’s called “Gate of Heaven” (Porta Caeli). And so forth. It’s poem logic and very sensible, too.

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It’s a Blog World, After All….

Eve Tushnet reveals that her sister is the sainted Rebecca Tushnet, given dulia by all fanfic writers.

Gooooo Tushnets!

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Crazy Theory Time!

There’s more than one play-within-a-play in Hamlet. Heh. This is pretty odd, but it could certainly make for a fun production or movie version.

The Shakespeare/Marlowe/Bacon crud is pretty pitiful, though. Generally, I’m all for historical persons being tragically misunderstood (Richard III was framed! Bloody Tudors….) and lost causes (Everybody’s a little bit Jacobite!). I’m even willing to stand up in public and claim with a straight face (though my tongue in cheek) that Sherlock Holmes was a real person and Watson was his biographer. But joking about Doyle the Literary Agent is funny. Seriously believing that no poor boy from the sticks could possibly become a great actor and writer is snobby.

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Why Is There a “Lukomor Oak” Next to the School in Tanya Grotter?

Why, yes, I have been reading Book 2: Tanya Grotter and the Disappearing Floor….

Apparently, it’s from this poem I ran across in my dad’s Russian lit book. “Lukomorskoi” just means something like “bay of the sea”. This is also the poem which inspired the info, in book 1, that Pushkin had in fact been invited to visit Tibidox on the island of Buyan and had had a very good time there despite being a “lopear”. I didn’t see any public domain translation, so here goes mine.

Introduction from Ruslan and Ludmila, by Alexander Pushkin
(Translated by Maureen S. O’Brien)

By the bay, an oak grows green,
And on that oak’s a chain of gold,
And day and night, a wise cat’s seen
Padding ’round in that chain’s hold.
When to the right, a song it wails;
When to the left, it tells a tale.

There’s wonders there: leshies roam free;
Rusalkas sit up in the tree;
On unknown paths, at tracks you stare
Made by strange beasts not seen before;
A hut on chicken legs stands there
Without a window or a door.
There wood and dale’s full of strange sights.
And at the dawning of the light,
Where waves wash sandy, empty shores,
Ride thirty fair and noble knights
Come one by one from the water bright,
And with them comes their sea mentor.
A king’s son, passing through by there,
Takes prisoner a fearsome tsar.
While all the people stand and glare,
A sorcerer takes a knight off far
Over woods and over sea.
In prison there, an empress pines,
And a brown wolf serves her and whines;
A mortar with Baba Yaga aboard
Moves along of its own accord;
Tsar Kashchei fades by his gold so fair.
That’s a Russian scent…I smell Russia there!

And I was there, and drank mead rare.
By the sea I’ve seen that oak of green.
‘Neath it I sat, and that wise cat
All its stories shared.
I remember one — this story.
Now I’ll show the world its glory….

From there, presumably, he goes on to tell us about Ruslan and Ludmila. (And the evil dwarf mage Chernomor, who is presumably related to Academician Sardanapal Chernomorov, principal of the Tibidox School for Troubled Wizards….) Btw, if you were wondering, a leshy is a sort of forest spirit that makes people get lost, etc. A rusalka is a lorelei-ish river spirit, sometimes pictured as having a fish tail but generally looking just like a human woman. Well, any human woman who sits around nekkid in trees overhanging rivers and ponds, singing to handsome young male passersby and drowning them when she catches ‘em. Some say they’re the ghosts of girls who commit suicide over men.

The rhyme scheme is almost exactly the same as in the original. The scansion kinda varies…. (Sigh.) This isn’t the worst translation, but it loses some of Pushkin’s ease of style. The horrible thing about him seems to be that you think you could write just like that…but you’re wrong. And of course he’s also one of the world’s great short story writers as well as great poets. (Envyenvyenvy….) I don’t know why we never get to read much of the man here. Russians certainly go gangbusters over the man, and I can see why.

UPDATE: has a fun full text translation up of Ruslan and Liudmila. Check it out! Liudmila turning herself invisible with the wizard’s hat and tormenting her own captor is worth the read in itself. Also, there’s a sorceress who turns into a dragon and a cat! The site’s also got a lacquer copy of a painting of Pushkin sitting under that oak. Beautiful. They’ve also got the text of Pushkin’s poem “The Rusalka”. Yes, is there to entice you to buy their Russian lacquer art. But it’s full of good info and pretty to boot.

Pushkin Stuff

Btw, if you didn’t know, Pushkin, like Dumas, had African as well as European ancestors. (Well, okay, so we all have African ancestors. But I mean recently, not geological time-recently. His mother’s side came from Abyssinia. (Why Peter the Great needed to bring an engineer all the way from Abyssinia, I don’t know. I guess the Abyssinian must have been really really good.

Another interesting Pushkin fact: Liv Tyler has gone from Arwen to playing Tatiana, the heroine of Pushkin’s epistolary novel-in-verse, Eugene Onegin. If you’ve seen the opera, you still gotta see the movie!

Here’s Pushkin’s portrait, a mini-biography, and a longer bio. has some English translations of Pushkin poems.

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Adventures in Hymnwriting, Part Whatever

Hymn for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Lyrics and Music: Maureen S. O’Brien

Mary, praise the God who saved
You before your wombing!
Bride to Him you raised and bore,
He raised you from entombing.

You, the first Evangelist –
You, who knew such sorrow –
Point us to your Son through this.
Sing of God’s tomorrow.

Sinless by the grace of God,
Sinless by your choices,
You sing praise, new Eve! while we
For you raise our voices.

(Queen of Poets, pray for us!
Mother of God’s Word,
Pray for us, that we may write
So God’s voice is heard.

By Your Son, like John, we’ve been
Named your sons and daughters.
Queen of Poets, pray for us
By the living waters!)

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