Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Men in Kilts...Scotland the Brave

A brave piper in battle, WW I (public domain)
1918--In the murky trenches of World War I France, smoke chokes the air and the sound of whizzing bullets and screaming rockets fills your head. Exhausted, running low on water, bullets, and motivation, you sink into the depths of mud and despair. Then, above the stupefying noise of battle, the skirl of bagpipes pierces through the gloom and your spirit lifts. Inching up the side of the trench you lift a cautious eye over the top and through the swirling haze you see…men in kilts and know you have a chance to survive. The Kilties have arrived and brought their centuries-old stamina, courage, and heart. 

Scots charging with bayonets, World War I. (Mary Evans Picture Library)

The age-old military tradition of
Scotland stemmed, at least in part, from its generations of inter-clan fighting, Highland versus Lowland regional squabbles, and battles with its powerful southern neighbor: England. The Scots brought, not only a joy of fighting, but loyal and courageous natures that were welcome and necessary in times of war. In 1914, at the onset of World War I, the British army was already heavy with Scottish volunteers but the threat of Germany sent out Scottish
Piper and troops at Longueval, WW I (public domain)
regiments en masse. By 1918, half of Scotland’s male population between the ages of 18 and 45, had fought in the war. An average of 15% of Scottish regiments were killed in battle compared to 13% of the British. The Scots went full out. Their regiments became clan substitutes, adding an additional layer of loyalty and sacrifice. Many of these regiments wore the traditional kilt and earned the name, Kilties. The tartan kilts added to the soldiers’ sense of pride and helped them retain their Scottish heritage, setting them apart from the English troops. Led by pipers, encouraging the men to give their all behind the blood stirring call of the bagpipes, Kilties fought with legendary bravery. It is estimated that around 1000 pipers died in the war. Scotland the brave, indeed.
Nope, nothing beneath. Brave, indeed! World War I (public domain)

And what, one might ask, did those Kilties wear beneath those knee-length kilts? Why…nothing, of course. As a matter of fact, wearing any kind of underwear beneath the kilt was considered being out of uniform and was not allowed. The only time the soldiers were to wear something modest beneath the kilt was in competitive sport such as the Highland Games and in traditional dance. (And, I believe that is the case to this day.) 

Kilties and their dog at rest, World War I (Getty Images)

 Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Passionate Words...timeless expression

The Kiss, 1907, by Gustav Klimt
In researching love poems of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I ran across a passionate volume pulsing with the ardor of Belgian poet, Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916.) F. S. Flint wrote an English translation of his work which was published in 1916 by Constable and Company. So many of Verhaeren's poetic lines are suitable as the basis for Valentine cards, I can imagine many were springboards for World War I romantics on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps you will find a line or two with which to express your twenty-first century thoughts of love this Valentine's Day. Love, after all, is timeless.

In the spirit of true love, both freshly discovered and long lived, I present here a few of Verhaeren's poems as translated by Flint. To see the entire volume, visit: 

The Love Poems of 
Emile Verhaeren
The Love Letter by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (1841-1920)
May your bright eyes, your eyes of summer, be for me here on earth the images of goodness.
Let our enkindled souls clothe with gold each flame of our thoughts.
May my two hands against your heart be for you here on earth the emblems of gentleness.
Let us live like two frenzied prayers straining at all hours one towards the other.
May our kisses on our enraptured mouths be for us here on earth the symbols of our life.

And what matters the wherefores and the reasons, and who we were and who we are; all doubt is dead in this garden of blossoms that opens up in us and about us, so far from men.
I do not argue, and do not desire to know, and nothing will disturb what is but mystery and gentle raptures and involuntary fervour and tranquil soaring towards our heaven of hope.
I feel your brightness before understanding that you are so; and it is my gladness, infinitely, to perceive myself thus gently loving without asking why your voice calls me.
Let us be simple and good—and day be minister of light and affection to us; and let them say that life is not made for a love like ours.

Title Unknown, Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin,1860-1943
As in the simple ages, I have given you my heart, like a wide-spreading flower that opens pure and lovely in the dewy hours; within its moist petals my lips have rested.
The flower, I gathered it with fingers of flame; say nothing to it: for all words are perilous; it is through the eyes that soul listens to soul.
The flower that is my heart and my avowal confides in all simplicity to your lips that it is loyal, bright and good, and that we trust in virgin love as a child trusts in God.
Leave wit to flower on the hills in freakish paths of vanity; and let us give a simple welcome to the sincerity that holds our two true hearts within its crystalline hands;
Nothing is so lovely as a confession of souls one to the other, in the evening, when the flame of the uncountable diamonds burns like so many silent eyes the silence of the firmaments.

At the time when I had long suffered and the hours were snares to me, you appeared to me as the welcoming light that shines from the windows on to the snow in the depths of winter evenings.
The brightness of your hospitable soul touched my heart lightly without wounding it, like a hand of tranquil warmth.
Then came a holy trust, and an open heart, and affection, and the union at last of our two loving hands, one evening of clear understanding and of gentle calm.
Illustration for Saturday Evening Post 
by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1874-1951 
Since then, although summer has followed frost both in ourselves and beneath the sky whose eternal flames deck with gold all the paths of our thoughts;
And although our love has become an immense flower, springing from proud desire, that ever begins anew within our heart, to grow yet better;
I still look back on the small light that was sweet to me, the first.
Because you came one day so simply along the paths of devotion and took my life into your beneficent hands, I love and praise and thank you with my senses, with my heart and brain, with my whole being stretched like a torch towards your unquenchable goodness and charity.
Since that day, I know what love, pure and bright as the dew, falls from you on to my calmed soul. I feel myself yours by all the burning ties that attach flames to their fire; all my body, all my soul mounts towards you with tireless ardour; I never cease to brood on your deep earnestness and your charm, so much so that suddenly I feel my eyes fill deliciously with unforgettable tears.
And I make towards you, happy and calm, with the proud desire to be for ever the most steadfast of joys to you. All our affection flames about us; every echo of my being responds to your call; the hour is unique and sanctified with ecstasy, and my fingers are tremulous at the mere touching of your forehead, as though they brushed the wing of your thoughts.

Title Unknown, 1910 per Wikimedia Commons
In the house chosen by our love as its birth-place, with its cherished furniture peopling the shadows and the nooks, where we live together, having as sole witnesses the roses that watch us through the windows,
Certain days stand out of so great a consolation, certain hours of summer so lovely in their silence, that sometimes I stop time that swings with its golden disc in the oaken clock.
Then the hour, the day, the night is so much ours that the happiness that hovers lightly over us hears nothing but the throbbing of your heart and mine that are brought close together by a sudden embrace.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And remember...all you need is love.)