Monday, August 26, 2013

Mont Blanc

I recently read the poem, Mont Blanc, by Percy Shelley and decided I would post some portions of it here, along with a few pictures of the mountain. Mt. Blanc is the 11th tallest mountain in topographic prominence and is the highest mountain in the Alps and the European Union at 15,782 ft. Located on the border of France and Italy, it is called Mont Blanc by the French and Mt. Bianco by the Italians and its ownership has been disputed since the Napoleonic Wars, when the Duchy of Savoy, which it was located in at that time, was ceded to Napoleon. The current situation sees administration of the mountain being shared between the Italian town of Courmayeur and the French town of St Gervais les Bains, according to Wikipedia, that is. Here are some pictures:

And here are a few selected portions Shelley's poem on it. (Shelley was an English poet during the 19th century.)

Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:--the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
Or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind's imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?

Mont Blanc appears--still, snowy, and serene;
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps;
A desert peopled by the storms alone,
Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
And the wolf tracks her there--how hideously
Its shapes are heap'd around! rude, bare, and high,
Ghastly, and scarr'd, and riven.--Is this the scene
Where the old Earthquake-daemon taught her young
Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea
Of fire envelop once this silent snow?
None can reply--all seems eternal now.
The wilderness has a mysterious tongueWhich teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
So solemn, so serene, that man may be,
But for such faith, with Nature reconcil'd;
Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.

The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark--now glittering--now reflecting gloom--
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings
Of waters--with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume,
In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.
Thus thou, Ravine of Arve--dark, deep Ravine--
Thou many-colour'd, many-voiced vale,
Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
Fast cloud-shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,
Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
From the ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne,
Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame
Of lightning through the tempest;--thou dost lie,
Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging,
Children of elder time, in whose devotion
The chainless winds still come and ever came
To drink their odours, and their mighty swinging
To hear--an old and solemn harmony;

Thine earthly rainbows stretch'd across the sweep
Of the aethereal waterfall, whose veil
Robes some unsculptur'd image; the strange sleep
Which when the voices of the desert fail
Wraps all in its own deep eternity;
Thy caverns echoing to the Arve's commotion,
A loud, lone sound no other sound can tame;
Thou art pervaded with that ceaseless motion,
Thou art the path of that unresting sound--
Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee
I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate fantasy,
My own, my human mind, which passively
Now renders and receives fast influencings,
Holding an unremitting interchange
With the clear universe of things around;
One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings
Now float above thy darkness, and now rest
Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,
In the still cave of the witch Poesy,
Seeking among the shadows that pass by
Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,
Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast
From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Iron Will-Chapter I

Chapter I- ‘I Would Die For You’
As the sun disappeared behind the mountains bordering Glasgow and Xenith, Jakin turned to go. Back in the camp he attended to his various camp duties until darkness forced him to return to the light of the watch fires where he rejoined Lucas, the only man he felt he could trust his life with. Lucas looked up as Jakin slipped noiselessly up behind him and sat down, his eyes never meeting Lucas', his attention only for the ferocity of the crackling flames which seemed to Lucas to be in accord with the tempestuous emotions which he knew were surging through his friend's heart, though his outward demeanor did not reveal the turbulence. 
              The day before, Jakin had been accused of deserting after pursuing a spy away from the camp further down the mountain. His sentence was pending and the weight of the knowledge of his possible execution filled the tense air with silence. Lucas watched the countenance on his friend’s face; those eyebrows forever knit in a stern and frowning glare, his unsmiling, small mouth with pale lips, and those piercing, blue eyes, observing anything and everything around them. Lucas had grown to ignore those things about Jakin which tainted his character: his depression, his gravity, his harsh words and cutting remarks. He focused more on the things about Jakin which built his character: his loyalty, his conscientious behavior towards the soldiers, his respect towards the commanders, his hunting, tracking, wrestling and fighting skills, his courage, bravery and insensibility to pain and his fierce defense of his principles and of the soldiers in the army against Parson. Parson was a troublemaker in the army, delighting in forcing all the soldiers he could lay his hands on to run his errands and amuse him or he and a few other soldiers who joined him would leave him in the dust of the road covered in bruises. Of course, he could never lay his hands on Jakin. Jakin always slipped through his fingertips or left him with bruises on the very field where he had done the same to others. Jakin would then get beat by the Quartermaster but he didn’t care. His goal was to bring Parson down from his lofty throne to the dirt but Parson always avoided him after Jakin beat him on Sly Fox Hill. Lucas remembered that day very vividly. He had been on top of the hill when Parson and a few others had come up and told him to clean their boots. Lucas, new to the army, refused and turned to go. Parson then gave a signal and his men grabbed Lucas and began pounding him with blows. All of a sudden their blows had stopped and another rather new member, a young seventeen year old, had whipped Parson and his men soundly and then left without so much as a word to Lucas. Lucas smiled at the remembrance. Jakin had been that seventeen year old and Lucas had followed him around ever since. He didn’t follow Jakin for the sake of protection although, but because Jakin inspired him so much. For awhile Jakin wasn’t friendly towards Lucas and tried to avoid him, but in the end Lucas’ humility, deep appreciation and loyalty to Jakin forced Jakin to like him and ever since then they had been the best of friends.
              The captain’s voice was heard nearby. “Who’ll take first watch?”
Lucas looked at Jakin and Jakin said, “I will.”
              Lucas knew he would. He always volunteered for watch. Rain or shine he always took the first watch and often the second as well. Many thought Jakin was crazy to take the watch all the time, but Lucas knew that Jakin took the watch because he had to think. What exactly Jakin thought about, Lucas had not the faintest idea.
              “Due to the charges pronounced on you yesterday,” said the captain, referring to the charge of desertion, “I cannot allow you to keep watch unless one of you comrades is willing to take it with you.”
              “I will.” said Lucas quietly.
Jakin shot him a grateful look as the captain ordered everyone else to bed.
              After everyone had gone to bed, Jakin and Lucas sat down beside the fire. Jakin put a log on the fire and then sat down, staring into the roaring fire while Lucas employed his great gift of silence. For an hour or more he watched the fire die down into glowing embers.
              At length Jakin said, “You’ve a great gift for silence.”
Lucas smiled, “You’ve a terrible habit of it. Maybe if you told someone your thoughts they could help you figure things out. Most of the time I don’t know what you’re thinking about.”
             “But tonight you do,” said Jakin. It was a statement without a hint of questioning.
“Tonight I do,” said Lucas.
               After a pause Jakin asked, “Do you think I was deserting?”
“Of course not Jakin, but unfortunately it’s not what I think you were doing but what Brigadier General Garfield thinks.”
              “No,” said Jakin, lifting his eyes from the ground. “What you think matters just as much as what Garfield thinks. I would not have you think I was faithless.”
              Lucas looked straight at Jakin, “Jakin, I would never think you were faithless. You are the most loyal person I have ever known and ever will know for that matter. Garfield doesn’t know you; he’s just doing his duty. He’s a fair man though and he’ll make sure you get a fair trial.”
              Jakin kicked an ember back into the fire. “Trial? It won’t get to that. This is the army, Lucas.”
“And deserting is a capital offense.”
              “I would rather not have a trial.”
“If you don’t get a trial then Parson will be very pleased. You’ll be killed immediately.”
              “Will I?” said Jakin, with a mischievous look in his eye.
“Yes you…” Lucas stopped. “You’re not thinking of escaping are you?”
              Jakin did not answer.
“Don’t Jakin. You’ll be killed!”
              “And the world would be a rid of a ‘desperate criminal’,” said Jakin, with a humor that did not fit the time. “And who said they’ll catch me? Can they catch a bird with their bare hands?”
              “You’re a bit too egotistical," Lucas said, "but since that can’t be helped I might as well tell you that it’s not being caught that I’m afraid of. In fact, if they tried to catch you alive they’d lose several men.”
              “Then what are you afraid of? for I am afraid of nothing.” He said this with perfect solemnity and not a hint of a smile. This was no deadpan humor, but the complete truth, although it was not his habit to show it off before others.
              “I know that,” said Lucas with a tone which communicated the perfect trust he had in Jakin and the strength of his loyalty to him. “But I am more easily frightened. Parson will be watching you. He’ll shoot you at the first sign of escape and if I try to back you up before the Captain I’ll get myself so bruised when he finds me afterward that I won’t be able to talk. I’d do it for you of course, I’d do anything for you, but it’s not my preferred choice of action.”
              “You will help me though.” said Jakin; overriding and seemingly ignoring everything Lucas had just said.
Lucas nodded, “I would die for you.”
               “I know that. Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself. Get some sleep.”
“They won’t allow me to sleep while you keep watch.”
               “They won’t know.” Lucas shrugged and rolled over, knowing that Jakin wouldn’t allow him to stay up and that Jakin would stay up, all night long if necessary.
             He lay down beside the stump Jakin had been sitting on while Jakin made a round of the entire camp. When he returned, Lucas was asleep. Some near forgotten code of decency or compassion moved him to lay his blanket over Lucas as the night grew colder and the dew fell. For a long time he stared into the fire, and then looked at Lucas, curled up at his feet, his blonde, curly hair tossed back and his pistol under Jakin’s wolf pelt blanket. He looked at him for quite awhile while thoughts went through his mind of the loyalty Lucas bore him. Why? He asked himself. There was nothing about him to inspire such love and loyalty, at least, not that he could see. He was a harsh man, disgusted with his country’s leaders’ actions, discontent with the world, angry at her people’s morals and cold and without love because of the trials she had presented to him. He felt he was no part of her. He himself was drafted four years before. He had resisted of course, but he wasn’t able to escape. He had been taken as a draft to Kenneth and then assigned to the twenty-third battalion, the one he was in now. 

 By the way, if you were wondering where the guitar tutorials are, they will be up in the next post. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Guitar Tutorials

Hello everyone,
I’ve decided to start posting a series of guitar tutorial videos on my blog which I hope will be helpful to both beginners and people who may have been playing for a little while but are still having a few problems with their guitar. The videos will cover basics like tuning, strumming and basic chords and will gradually progress on to some other things like finger-picking, barre chords, scales and keys. I thought of posting these videos a little while ago because I think that a firm foundation in these things is essential to becoming a good guitar player regardless of what style of music you are playing. For people who are just starting I hope that these lessons will give you a clear understanding of the basics so that your playing will start on a good foundation. 

To the Self-Taught Heroes
As a self-taught guitarist, I congratulate you on your determination  to learn an instrument 'whatever it takes' and I encourage you to keep practicing. It can be a big temptation to be slack in practicing, but practicing is more crucial then anything else! 

To Those Taking Lessons
A popular guitar teaching method I have run across in my area is the 'up-down' strumming patterns and the tailored beginner chords. Depending on your teacher, you have probably been taught these too. These videos are especially designed to help you (if a beginner) be able to play in several different keys and to various beats and rhythms without your strumming pattern handy. 

So to sum it up, these videos are to help the beginner become a confident and skillful guitarist who actually knows WHY he plays a chord or a note in a certain way, not just how. I hope my videos help you to become that. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Minstrel Boy

The above picture is a photograph taken of a child serving as a drummer boy in the American Civil War. It struck me enough to take the picture and edit it, applying the title 'The Minstrel Boy' from the Irish folksong written by Thomas Moore in the 1790s. The song became quite popular during the Civil War and gained even more widespread popularity after World War I. It is still played, often to the accompaniment of bagpipes, at the funerals of police/fire or military officers today. Because the picture's size would not permit me to also add the lyrics, I include them below.

During the American Civil War a third verse was written by some unknown author, and is sometimes included in certain renditions of the song: