Zowie! Now I’m a video blogger, too!

IMG_1111One picture is reputed to be worth a thousand words. I’m going to keep on blogging in the “traditional way” but I have also started a video blog (“vlog”) on YouTube. Doing so will permit me to deal with topics that lend themselves more readily to a visual format.

I have already posted my first vlog. Take a look at it and please subscribe to my YouTube channel as well. Here’s the link:


Whether its my blog or my vlog, I know you will find interesting, informative and humorous content. Thank you for your interest!



Songs of Remembrance Day


There’s always been a place in my heart for British music. I enjoy the hymns “Jerusalem” and “I Vow to Thee My Country” in particular, and will make them the subject of this blog. They both figure in the annual National Remembrance Day ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Remembrance Day is the official occasion for commemorating those that served in the First World War, and the vast losses incurred in it.

I found the 2016 Remembrance Day program – a link to which follows – to be a heart-stirring example of national pride, mourning and resolve. I encourage you to listen to the tunes I’ve written about after you read the blog.


“Jerusalem” (beginning at 1:22:10 in the video)

This immensely popular patriotic hymn is based on an 1808 poem by William Blake. Set to music by Sir Hubert Perry, it dates from 1916. “Jerusalem” has been a staple of British church hymnals for decades.

The poem was inspired by a wildly apocryphal story saying that a young Jesus, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea traveled to what is now England and visited the city of Glastonbury. Presumably this caper took place during the so-called “hidden years” of Christ’s life that aren’t recorded in the New Testament. The poem’s theme is linked to the Book of Revelation (chs. 3:12; 21:2) describing a Second Coming of the resurrected Jesus, wherein he establishes a New Jerusalem.

Blake implies that a visit to England by Jesus would briefly establish Heaven there, in contrast to the “dark Satanic Mills” of the Industrial Revolution. The latter was just beginning to (BAD PUN ALERT!) gather steam around the time his poem was penned.

“Jerusalem” is so hardwired into British culture that it’s featured in one of Monty Python’s most famous skits dating from 1969 (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpn1anVPZsc). I think the lyrics are rather nonsensical but I still enjoy belting them out.

“And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.


“I Vow to Thee, My Country” (beginning at 1:33:27)

This piece’s lyrics come from a poem of Sir Cecil Spring Rice entitled “Urbs Dei” (“The Two Fatherlands”) coming from 1908 or 1912. After the First World War composer Gustav Holst set the words to a tune adapted from the “Jupiter” section of his famous work “The Planets.” The hymn was first performed in 1921. To my way of thinking “I Vow to Thee My Country” neatly encapsulates the purpose of Remembrance Day.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

The final line of the second verse is based on Proverbs 3:17, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” in the context of which the feminine pronoun refers to Wisdom.

“In Flanders Fields”


Being of mixed Scots-English ancestry I consider myself a rather selective Anglophile. Unlike a heck of a lot of Americans, I’m not enamored with every aspect of the British monarchy. However, I will use this blog and the next to address a couple of the things about England that do resonate with me.

As someone interested in military and social history I have paid attention to the United Kingdom’s observance of the centenary of the First World War. This frightful human event came to be called the “Great War,” not because it was wonderful, but because of its magnitude. The Great War is considered a lot more seriously in Europe than in the United States. This is in part because the U.S. didn’t enter the war until just 19 months prior to its conclusion. Here’s another way of looking at the impact of World War One: for every casualty suffered by the United States during it, the United Kingdom and its colonies lost perhaps thirty-four men.


“In Flanders Fields” is perhaps the most emblematic First World War poem in English. Canadian soldier, physician and poet Lt. Col. John McCrae wrote it in May 1915, after he presided over the funeral of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. Apparently its inspiration came from McCrae’s observation that poppies often bloomed around soldiers’ graves soon after their interment. “In Flanders Fields” was first published in the December 8, 1915 issue of the magazine Punch.

“In Flanders Fields” is one of the most quoted poems to come out of the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to raise recruits and to finance the conflict by selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies established the Remembrance Poppy as an internationally recognized memorial symbol for soldiers who have died in conflict.


“In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

[The images in this blog are of “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.” This work of installation art by Paul Cummins was placed in the Tower of London’s moat between July and November 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. Each of its handmade ceramic red poppies represents one British or Colonial serviceman killed in the war. The work’s title came from the first line of a poem by an unknown World War I soldier.]