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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

All Saints Day

"They have all gone into the world of light" --Vaughan
Candles for the dead at York Minster.

A dash of the long-dead Henry Vaughan in honor of the day--

They are all gone into the world of light! 
And I alone sit ling’ring here; 
Their very memory is fair and bright, 
And my sad thoughts doth clear. 

It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast, 
Like stars upon some gloomy grove, 
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest, 
After the sun’s remove. 

I see them walking in an air of glory, 
Whose light doth trample on my days: 
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary, 
Mere glimmering and decays. 

Read the whole marvelous poem here. The star in the tomb is perfection!

Thinking about my dead in Vaughan's "world of light," and about the past, so full of nightmares and riotous, seems to adjust the scenery of the world for me, and that is good. Is there an election? Will one of the candidates, both quite problematic but in different ways, win? Like the prophet's Daniel's nightmare visions of four great beasts (i.e. rulers), these ill dreams too will pass away.

For some reason (don't know why, truly), I have stopped mid-novel and am having a burst of sonnets. It started on the 22nd, and by All Hallows, I had eight, a mix of Shakespearean and Petrarchan. So far. Or maybe I am done. Who can say? Some things are pleasing mysteries. Like light in the darkness on All Saints Day.


  1. York: The celebrant at the 11:00 at St. Matthew's suggested that the custom of celebrating the Feast of All Saints at this time of year may have arisen at York in the late 7th Century. He said that it might have been brought to Continent by Alcuin. I suppose that Jeff might know how sound these conjectures are.

    1. Interesting. Yes, we need to drag in a proper medievalist. I've never been to York but would like to go--so many lovely things to see in the world!

      Wiki on early York: "York has had a verifiable Christian presence from the 4th century. However, there is circumstantial evidence pointing to much earlier Christian involvement. According to Bede, missionaries were sent from Rome by Eleutherius at the request of the chieftain Lucius of Britain in AD 180 to settle controverted points of differences as to Eastern and Western ceremonials which were disturbing the church. Tradition speaks of 28 British bishops, one for each of the greater British cities, over whom presided the Archbishops of London, York and Caerleon-on-Usk."

      However, Wiki also says that the second church on the site was in disrepair by 670 "when Saint Wilfrid ascended the See of York."

      Memory is a strange sieve, and there's so much to know and remember! It makes me long for a capacious, retentive memory.

  2. Interesting! All I can say is that I've never seen All Saints attributed to Alcuin, and if there were written proof I probably would have run across something to that effect over the years—but it's lovely conjecture. Alcuin set the stage for a great many things that bore fruit only later. Of course, he was already dead by the time Charlemagne's son Louis established All Saints in the Frankish empire, but it's pretty likely that one of his many students or proteges laid the political, ideological, or theological groundwork for Louis's decree.

    The older I get, the more important All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day become for me, just as Easter week has come to mean more to me than Christmas.

    Great to hear about your flurry of sonnet inspiration!

    1. I may be done. I had a novel-furthering idea out of the blue, so maybe I need to get onto dreaming those shenanigans.

      Yes, I went to a lovely All Souls service tonight. So very beautiful. After a while, we know so many who are no longer here.

      One of the great benefits of having lived in Cooperstown for close to twenty years is that I at last lived somewhere longer than three or four years, and so I have seen little ones grow up and middle-aged people grow old and those on the edge of age grow old and pass on. Those passages are so meaningful and rich and full of feeling.

    2. The Feast of All Saints was celebrated earlier than the 8th Century, but in the spring, as the eastern churches still have it. What is attributed to York is the November date. As for Alcuin, he would certainly not have been the only cleric to make his way from York to important circles on the continent.

    3. Oh, I understood that—but lacking any evidence, I'd say it's just as likely that the date has something to do with Irish monks drawn to the continent, or some other reason entirely. But it's been ten years since I was fully immersed in the sources, so I'll dive back in and poke around a little bit and see what people have said about this.

  3. Interesting, these old rituals and ceremonies. Now in Finland, for instance, this time is more pagan, if you will, related to the end of harvest and the dying of the earth for winter, and also All Saints. I think many of these traditions originated similarly.

    Wonderful that you are so motivated to write! Now if you could bottle and share some of that essence, I sure could use a few drops to get inspiration to flow.

    1. Hi, Marja-Leena--

      So glad to hear from you. I dropped by the other day but you were busy elsewhere, no doubt! Shall come by again

      I like the wheel of the year with ceremonial feasts and dates, and I find the predecessors to today's events often interesting. My current book has a little tinge of countermagic and spells, entirely appropriate to that age, so I am rooting about in such things at the moment.

      I can't really help the writing, though I had feared that it would stop as I grew older. It does for many. Perhaps it's my kind of madness. But I hope it keeps on. I aspire to be like Yeats and to refuse to let such things die, at least until I do!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.