Sunday, June 20, 2010

"The Sack of Baltimore" by Thomas Osborne Davis


The summer sun is falling soft on Carbery’s hundred isles,
The summer sun is gleaming still through Gabriel’s rough defiles;
Old Innisherkin’s crumbled fane looks like a moulting bird,
And in a calm and sleepy swell the ocean tide is heard:
The hookers lie upon the beach; the children cease their play;
The gossips leave the little inn; the households kneel to pray;
And full of love, and peace, and rest, its daily labor o’er,
Upon that cosy creek there lay the town of Baltimore.

A deeper rest, a starry trance, has come with midnight there;
No sound, except that throbbing wave, in earth, or sea, or air!
The massive capes and ruin’d towers seem conscious of the calm;
The fibrous sod and stunted trees are breathing heavy balm.
So still the night, these two long barques round Dunashad that glide
Must trust their oars, methinks not few, against the ebbing tide.
Oh, some sweet mission of true love must urge them to the shore!
They bring some lover to his bride who sighs in Baltimore.

All, all asleep within each roof along that rocky street,
And these must be the lover’s friends, with gently gliding feet—
A stifled gasp, a dreamy noise! “The roof is in a flame!”
From out their beds and to their doors rush maid and sire and dame,
And meet upon the threshold stone the gleaming sabre’s fall,
And o’er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl.
The yell of “Allah!” breaks above the prayer, and shriek, and roar:
O blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore!

Then flung the youth his naked hand against the shearing sword;
Then sprung the mother on the brand with which her son was gor’d;
Then sunk the grandsire on the floor, his grand-babes clutching wild;
Then fled the maiden moaning faint, and nestled with the child:
But see! yon pirate strangled lies, and crush’d with splashing heel,
While o’er him in an Irish hand there sweeps his Syrian steel:
Though virtue sink, and courage fail, and misers yield their store,
There ’s one hearth well avenged in the sack of Baltimore.

Midsummer morn in woodland nigh the birds begin to sing,
They see not now the milking maids,—deserted is the spring;
Midsummer day this gallant rides from distant Bandon’s town,
These hookers cross’d from stormy Skull, that skiff from Affadown;
They only found the smoking walls with neighbors’ blood besprent,
And on the strewed and trampled beach awhile they wildly went,
Then dash’d to sea, and pass’d Cape Clear, and saw, five leagues before,
The pirate-galley vanishing that ravaged Baltimore.

Oh, some must tug the galley’s oar, and some must tend the steed;
This boy will bear a Scheik’s chibouk, and that a Bey’s jerreed.
Oh, some are for the arsenals by beauteous Dardanelles;
And some are in the caravan to Mecca’s sandy dells.
The maid that Bandon gallant sought is chosen for the Dey:
She ’s safe—she’s dead—she stabb’d him in the midst of his Serai!
And when to die a death of fire that noble maid they bore,
She only smiled, O’Driscoll’s child; she thought of Baltimore.

’T is two long years since sunk the town beneath that bloody band,
And all around its trampled hearths a larger concourse stand,
Where high upon a gallows-tree a yelling wretch is seen:
’T is Hackett of Dungarvan—he who steer’d the Algerine!
He fell amid a sullen shout with scarce a passing prayer,
For he had slain the kith and kin of many a hundred there.
Some mutter’d of MacMurchadh, who brought the Norman o’er;
Some curs’d him with Iscariot, that day in Baltimore.

On this day in 1631 the Irish village of Baltimore was attacked by Algerian pirates; Irish nationalist Thomas Osborne Davis wrote this verse in memory of the event prior to his death - in 1845, from tuberculosis, at the age of only 30.
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"Snowbird" by Anne Murray

I think it speaks volumes about the character of Anne Murray that when she was asked about how she felt being name-checked in that epic tune Blame Canada - in which she was called 'that bitch Anne Murray' - she laughed it off by saying her kids had already been calling her that for years! Let's see that cow Nana Mouskouri do that...

Anne Murray's career is nearly as old as I am, given that her first single, Snowbird, debuted in 1970*; which, I guess, makes me a bitch for bringing it up. She's seen here performing it in the full glory of the mid-70s - complete with spread-collared blouse, bell-bottom pantsuit, and shag-adelic Carol Brady 'do - with which she will be forever associated, at least in my mind.

*The lady herself has been around even longer than that, having been born on this day in 1945.
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Happy Birthday Olympia Dukakis

I first remember seeing her in 1987's Moonstruck, playing the quintessential Italian Mama Rose Castorini* to angsty, surprisingly** goth-like daughter Loretta, played by Cher***...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketTwo years later, it was her tartly angelic Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias - a role also played on stage by the likes of Kate Wilkinson, Stephanie Cole, and Frances Sternhagen, but preserved by her as the performance of record thanks to the magic of film - that touched my heart...

The apex of fabulous, though, was her evocation of Anna Madrigal, a fictional character so lovingly drawn by author Armistead Maupin that she often seems real - and yet just one of the star turns in the Tales of the City saga...

In other words: pop culture hat trick!

For which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
**Or not, depending on how much you know about Cher...

***For which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

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Now Showing: "Come What May" by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor

Admittedly, Nicole Kidman's birthday is an important event; but I don't even need an unimportant event to post anything with Ewan McGregor in it, let alone something with him singing in it. All I need is a pulse and a glimmer of consciousness, which is about all I have left after swooning along to this bit of aural sex for four minutes plus.

Here we see The Man himself, performing the hell out of Come What May, from the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge!; oh, and she's good in it too...
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In Memoriam: Errol Flynn

Hard-drinking, hard-loving Tasmanian Errol Flynn was a handsome devil, as the record shows...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1909 he led a seemingly charmed life: he made trashy movies*, dodged rape charges**, and died both young and fast, and damn it if he didn't enjoy himself doing it! Nearly fifty years after his death his place in the pantheon as one of the pre-eminent action stars of Hollywood's Golden Age is secure.  To see him in action check out Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Prince and the Pauper (1937), Robin Hood (1938), or The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) from the early part of his career - before he became a parody of himself, in other words.

Of particular interest to us here at the Pop Culture Institute, there is a Vancouver angle to the life of Errol Flynn, or perhaps I should say the death; Flynn died here, in 1959, in an apartment near the corner of Burnaby and Jervis that I used to walk past on my way to work - or at least, on those rare days when I felt up to it - for two years.

*And, to be fair, some not too bad ones either...
**Brought against him by Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee in November 1942...  An organization named the American Boys' Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn (ABCDEF) was formed to defend him; among the group's members were such sterling citizens as 17-year-old future bigoted windbag William F. Buckley, Jr.
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POPnews - June 20th

[The arrest of France's King Louis XVI and his family in Varennes - the day after their audacious escape attempt, on this day in 1791 (an event rendered here in the most romantic terms by Thomas Falcon Marshall) - led to their imprisonment in the Tuileries Palace, the abolition of the French monarchy, and some of the most egregious excesses of the French Revolution - including the storming of the Tuileries by the good people of Paris in August 1792, plus the executions of the King and the Queen, and the death of the pre-teen Dauphin while in prison besides. At the time of their capture, though, they were within 10 km (6 miles) of their destination, having already made a nerve-wracking 241 km (150 mile) journey from Paris...]

451 CE - Roman General Flavius Aetius in alliance with King Theodoric I of the Visigoths defeated Attila the Hun at the Battle of Chalons, forcing his retreat from Gaul across the Rhine; the last major military engagement of the Western Roman Empire - and undoubtedly the high point of the reign of Valentinian III - the battle nevertheless only delayed the collapse of the Roman Empire, which came in September 476 CE.

- Oxford University was granted its charter - making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world - although lectures were being given there as early as 1096.

1631 - During the Sack of Baltimore the coastal Irish village was attacked by Algerian pirates from the Barbary Coast under the command of Jan Janszoon; 108 English planters and Irish villagers were abducted in the raid, all but two of whom likely spent the rest of their lives as slaves.

1685 - As the Monmouth Rebellion gathered momentum in its campaign against his openly papist uncle James II, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth - the illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter - declared himself King of England at the White Hart Inn in the Somerset village of Taunton.

1756 - A British garrison was imprisoned in the so-called Black Hole of Calcutta following the capture of Fort William by Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal.

1782 - The Great Seal of the United States was adopted by Congress.

1791 - Just after 10 pm France's King Louis XVI and his immediate family - Queen Marie Antoinette, their children the Dauphin and Madame Royale, and the King's sister Madame Élisabeth - set out on what came to be known as the Flight to Varennes, an attempt to escape their impending fate in the teeth of the French Revolution, by posing as the servants of their childrens' governess, the Marquise de Tourzel, who herself posed as a Russian baroness; although meticulously planned by Count Axel von Fersen and the Baron de Breteuil, the plot was botched by ineptitude in its execution, which ironically led to a couple of history's more successful executions - namely those of the King and Queen themselves. The royal family were arrested the following afternoon (the King having unfortunately been recognized in the town of Sainte-Menehould, by a postmaster named Jean-Baptiste Drouet) when the royal family were within easy reach of their intended destination, Montmédy.

The entire event is thrillingly recounted by Lady Antonia Fraser in her book Marie Antoinette: The Journey.

1819 - The U.S. vessel SS Savannah arrived at Liverpool; although it was the first steam-propelled vessel to cross the Atlantic, most of the journey was made under sail.

Photobucket1837 - Queen Victoria ascended to the throne following the death of her uncle, William IV - having turned 18 just one day shy of four weeks earlier, on May 24th. She received the news from William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Conyngham just after 6 AM in her sitting room at Kensington Palace. For all the upheaval her young accession brought about, the fact that she was 18 at the time did spare the country from a regency - which would have been dominated by Victoria's overbearing mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess' closest advisor, the sinister John Conroy; the throne also delivered the young Queen from the personal influence of her mother as well, which would have been as much of a relief for Her Majesty as it was frustrating for the Duchess.

For further reading may the Pop Culture Institute recommend Her Little Majesty, by Carrolly Erickson.

1862 - Barbu Catargiu, the Prime Minister of Romania, was assassinated.

1863 - West Virginia became the 35th US state.

1877 - Alexander Graham Bell installed the world's first commercial telephone service in Hamilton, Ontario.

1893 - Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the brutal axe murder of her father and stepmother.

1919 - 150 people died in a fire at the Teatro Yaguez in the Puerto Rican town of Mayagüez.

1948 - Toast of the Town - which later became The Ed Sullivan Show - made its television debut.

1960 - Mali and Senegal were granted independence from France.

1979 - ABC News correspondent Bill Stewart was shot dead by a Nicaraguan soldier under the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle; the murder was caught on tape and sparked an international outcry against the regime.

1991 - The German Parliament moved the capital from Bonn back to Berlin.

2001 - Pervez Musharaff became President of Pakistan.
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