Monthly Archives: December 2012

Z Materialist

Due to being paid tomorrow, and Christmas, and renting the room out for three days I can now acquire:

♦One of those milestone service jobs for the car.
Something like this but with transitional lenses, so I can drive. Cancelled for now in favor of fairly major repair to car, but I think I need them.
Something like this for the renters (real linen lasts a very long time and saves money, gente).
LASA membership renewal.
…which with AAUP and MLA is my third, and there is at least one more to go. I will reunite with the other organizations and journals when I rent the room out for Mardi Gras.
♦A manicure.
♦Rénergie Éclat, which is apparently now the best tinted moisturizer.

I ought to acquire 5 DVDs for class. I still want another pair of Mercer Street Skinny Jeans and the Dansko Nadine. I will resist all of these things, resist.



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Very Inspiring Award


It had been some time since this blog had received an award, but it has now, from Chandra Lynn. I am appreciative and also inspired. This weblog was created to inspire me and I am so glad it does others — especially Chandra Lynn who is from New Orleans and loves words and beauty like this blog. I am to say seven things about myself and nominate fifteen people for the award, and and this post is a draft.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend who asked why I had enjoyed learning as a child. “To please?” “No, to grow,” I said. In this conversation I caught a glimpse of why I am not interested in having a religion, having to do perhaps with reading Erich Fromm as a small child and taking from him some ways of thinking about things I liked. Those are two things about me.

That makes Chandra Lynn and Erich Fromm the first two of my inspiring bloggers, and I am doubling my own award so that makes three. Numbers four, five, and six are posts: on Momo’s aunt Alma, 92 and growing younger, her list of 100 things which inspires me, and an interesting project idea from Stupid Motivational Tricks, tantalizing to the brain.

Some nine blogs and five things are missing, but right now I would like to follow on the “100 things” concept with fourteen items, things I want to do in life. I like this idea better than the more traditional New Year goals people have, despite fully intending to fulfill some of the New Year’s goals I have set for 2013 just because they will make life so nice.


Here is a brief list of important to-dos large and small, for right now and for far beyond.

1. Not bargain with the irrationality of others — insist upon rationality and what I used to call “regional autonomy” for me, whether people like it or not.
2. Fund home maintenance and get it done. This is very important.
3. Move to a city or find stable, regular ways to spend large amounts of regular time in these.
4. Get an academic job in a research institution with a library, and/or get that J.D. from a good program — either way, finally start working on a life’s work that resembles me.
5. See whether, if I follow my New Year goals, I can actually work on my life’s work here in Maringouin. Keep sight of the feeling of liberation I had when, discussing this here with someone else, they said, “It would be much appreciated.”
6. In other words, be who I am — and I am research, writing, analysis — without apologies.
7. Fnish my novel and publish it, ideally well.
8. Take the boat out regularly.
9. Really learn to run.
10. Regularly go to Pilates/similar, regularly sleep, and find ways to regularly get all the facials and eyelash tints I want. These are the things I stopped doing to weaken myself, because Reeducation wanted me to be weaker.
11. Regularly take time for recreational reading and film. Be relaxed enough to do these things.
12. As long as I cannot move away from Maringouin, be gone a lot. Also, all time in Maringouin must be spent in structured activity — ideally there will be no contemplative time, nothing that will allow me to see where I am, and every weekend or vacation day will ideally take place somewhere else.
13. Language immersion: Arabic in Cairo, German in Berlin, Icelandic in Reykjavik, Russian in Petrograd.
14. Last, but also first, regardless of field or employment status, for life: research and writing are every day, because I am now to be myself again, every day, and to be in charge of all my days.

From this you can tell things about me: I am in the role of a rural educator and sometime prison activist with an art habit, recovering from this failed psychoanalysis that has been concisely described as the opposite of Bildung.

Before this cataclysm I was an urban research professional, politically oriented, with outdoorsy interests and athletic habits. I am so much more comfortable with that self-description than the first, it is amazing.

The ultimate goal for 2013, for today, forever: forgive myself for having undergone this cataclysm. Every day that I do not find a way to set the horror aside, prolongs it.


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2. juledag: Højt fra træets grønne top

Now it is the second day of Christmas, so the season is getting going. You who believe Christmas is over, remember those Three Wise Men have only just begun their journey. There is frost here in Maringouin.

It is easy to celebrate a Danish Christmas in person, but it is much more difficult virtually. In Spanish or English we have many good versions of all the songs we might need, but Denmark is a small country now and does not put up many videos. Today’s song is a funny, secular classic we cannot neglect singing, but for which I cannot find a recording I like.

I reproduce the text here to show off Danish and also so that, if you know the melody, you can sing. It is about managing the children who are dancing around the Christmas tree. Not only does the tree have real candles: you dance around it when it is lit, and it is hung with presents and also gingerbread men and other savory items you can really pick off it and eat. You can imagine what it is to dance around such a tree in the company of several small, excited children.

The song is, of course, nineteenth century. The author, Peter Faber (1810-1877) was director of the telegraph office in Copenhagen, but was better known as a writer of popular songs. It is a good, comedic song about presents and food and tumult; key lines in it include “First the tree shall be shown off; then it shall be eaten” and “Christmas lasts a long time, and costs a lot of money.”

Højt fra træets grønne top
stråler juleglansen,
spillemand, spil lystigt op,
nu begynder dansen.
Læg nu smukt din hånd i min,
ikke rør’ ved den rosin!
Først skal træet vises,
siden skal det spises.

Se, børnlil, nu går det godt,
I forstår at trave,
lad den lille Sine blot
få sin julegave.
Løs kun selv det røde bånd!
Hvor du ryster på din hånd!
Når du strammer garnet,
kvæler du jo barnet.

Peter har den gren så kær,
hvorpå trommen hænger,
hver gang han den kommer nær,
vil han ikke længer.
Hvad du ønsker, skal du få,
når jeg blot kan stole på,
at du ej vil tromme,
før min sang er omme.

Anna hun har ingen ro,
før hun får sin pakke:
fire alen merino
til en vinterfrakke.
Barn, du bli’r mig alt for dyr,
men da du så propert syr,
sparer vi det atter
ikke sandt, min datter?

Denne fane, ny og god,
giver jeg til Henrik,
du er stærk, og du har mod,
du skal være fænrik.
Hvor han svinger fanen kækt!
Børn, I skylder ham respekt!
Vid, det er en ære
dannebrog at bære.

Træets allerbedste zir
skal min William have,
på det blanke guldpapir
må du gerne gnave.
Vær forsigtig og giv agt,
indenfor er noget lagt,
som du ej må kramme,
det er til din amme.

O, hvor den er blød og rar,
sikken dejlig hue,
den skal sikre bedstefa’r
imod frost og snue.
Lotte hun kan være stolt,
tænk jer, hun har garnet holdt;
det kan Hanne ikke,
hun kan bare strikke!

Børn, nu er jeg blevet træt,
og I får ej mere,
moder er i køkkenet,
nu skal hun traktere.
Derfor får hun denne pung,
løft engang, hvor den er tung!
Julen varer længe,
koster mange penge.


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Et barn er født i Bethlehem

This is the very most important Danish Christmas song. I cannot find a Danish performance of it I like enough, so we will play it in the original Latin. Here it is in Danish, in a nice Renaissance style that is surely appropriate, and here is Tony Holm singing it with the tune I know. This last version has the advantage of allowing you to hear exactly how it should be pronounced.

This song was apparently translated to Danish in 1553 by Hans Tausen, and in 1820 by none other than N.S.F. Grundtvig — there is no escaping him. In this transformation or forvandling, as one would say in Danish, the tune was reworked, apparently so that it would sound more like a Danish folk song than like Gregorian chant or Renaissance chanson. There was the original tune, from the 14th century; then the words were reset in a German song from 1600. The melody I know, and that Tony Holm sings above, was composed in 1849.

Et barn er født i Bethlehem,
thi glæder sig Jerusalem.

En fattig jomfru sad i løn,
sad i løn,
og fødte himlens kongesøn.


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Rhyme of the Norn Guest

In a true Danish Christmas there would be Lutheran Mass but we went to a Catholic one. It was very beautiful, the full ceremony with costumes and processions that I tend to forget are done now and not only in the late Middle Ages. These things were remarkable as well as inspiring and uplifting. Without the sermon and the credo the Mass would have been ideal, and in my view the elimination of these portions of the ceremony would make it more, not less religious.

In the credo, I find the hope for resurrection of the dead all too unheimlich and also somehow … egotistical, and I will have to investigate why. In the sermon, prayers and exhortations were made for (a) “life,” (b) heterosexual marriage, (c) our military, and (d) the Pope, and against (e) the Affordable Care Act. When at the end it was revealed we had been televised throughout the region I realized why the sermon had been so dogmatically political, although I also once went to a local Mass where it was prayed that George W. Bush would win the Presidential election.


I speak Danish, which also means Swedish and much Norwegian; I understand some German as well as a great deal of Frisian. I even recognize Icelandic and Greenlandic, and also some Faroese because in our family there was a poet, Regin Dahl. His father had been the first to translate the Bible into Faroese and was so famous that he is now on a stamp. Our then living relative was a piano player as well.

We cannot therefore have a true Danish Christmas without becoming nostalgic for the Faroes. Christmas carols have led me to ballads, and ballads have led me to the discovery that many allegedly or apparently medieval ones were not only written down in the nineteenth century but in some cases, composed at that time as well. We have further learnt that Denmark had a romantic-nationalist movement in its nineteenth century culture complete with nostalgia for empire. I had not realized the extent to which the songwriter Grundtvig, of whom I tend to think as an educator, was a founding father, nor had I understood how important nationalism was in his program. I did not know he lived to be nearly 99 years old. Having learned this much we will now learn still more by taking a look at the Faroese ballad.

There is of course the Færeyinga Saga, whose author is unknown and whose original manuscript is lost, but which we know of because fragments have been copied into other texts. There is the famous ballad Omurin Langi, which is saga derived but was actually written in 1830 by a known person.

Nornagest is a saga-derived, Edda-related ballad, or “rhyme,” first printed in — you guessed it, the early nineteenth century. At mid century another scholar went up to the Faroes and meticulously recorded it from performances, publishing thereupon a new edition. Here is the text in a 1921 English version, which I do not understand, and a discussion of Norns. The tale, related to a conversion event that took place around CE 1000, is of a male visitor.

Here is the ballad sung by Týr, the current Faroese folk-rock or “Viking metal” group, and here is a discussion of the god Týr. He is Thor’s older brother and Tuesday is named after Týr.

Here is the text in Old Norse with a clear English translation. And here is an explanation of the visitor’s connection to the Norns.


I feel quite like Borges now, explaining all these esoteric things about Old Norse and referring to footnotes and odd encyclopedias. But to continue for just another moment with our Faroe nostalgia, there was another writer, Hans Andrias Djurhuus, whose name was at one time a household word for us. Regin had recorded Djurhuus’ 1915 book of children’s ballads, Barnarímur, and the small children kept singing it.

Now therefore, after all this discussion of things Catholic and Viking, we will return to our true topic, the nineteenth to twenty-first century Danish Christmas.

This is an 1839 hymn by Ingemann, in which happiness is the Earth’s guest today. The Christmas tree is a branch from the Tree of Life, and children never lose their gladness.

Julen har bragt velsignet bud,
nu glædes gamle og unge.
Hvad englene sang i verden ud,
nu alle små børn skal sjunge.
Grenen fra livets træ står skønt
med lys som fugle på kviste;
det barn, som sig glæder fromt og kønt,
skal aldrig den glæde miste.



Filed under Arts, Bibliography, Poetry, What Is A Scholar?

Francis James Child

It just would turn out that Child was an American and was late 19th century. It also just would be the case that he collected things that had already been collected and has been said to have a third eye or sixth sense that enabled him to ensure that what he collected was truly old. Here, nonetheless, we can hear a current singer of Child ballads and they do seem ancient.

Meanwhile I have also been able to locate another Danish ballad on the Elfin theme (I want to call if “elven”) about which I have long wondered, “Jeg gik mig i lunden,” on going into the woods on a summer’s eve and being seen, and stolen by the elfin king. Frode Veddinge sings it and this is the wikisource on the lyrics, with music. It sounds possibly, terribly ancient at the beginning, but then exhibits that je-ne-sais-quoi of not-quite authenticity. And in fact it was composed by Johan Ludvig Heiberg in 1828 and is the first song in Elverhøj, the Danish national play from the romantic-national period!

Jeg gik mig i lunden en sildig sommerkvæld
og tømte mig et bæger af sprudlende væld.
Men vogt dig, vogt dig, o min pige,
for elverkongen ser dig!

Den brusende bølge sprang ud fra grønne høj,
med ét så blev den stille, den flød uden støj.
Men vogt dig, vogt dig …

Da tonede luften af sang og strengespil,
tre hvide møer dansed i duggen dertil.
Nu vogt dig, vogt dig …

Som dunst over engen, så flygtig til at se,
de trende blev til en, og den ene til tre.
Nu vogt dig, vogt dig …

Han selv stod i midten af hines lette sving,
da drog han af sin finger en kostelig ring.
Ja, vogt dig, vogt dig …

Jeg greb efter ringen, men han greb om min hånd,
de hvide møer slynged omkring os et bånd.
Ja, vogt dig, vogt dig …

Nu bor jeg i højen som elverkongens brud,
og kun når duggen falder, jeg vover mig ud.
Thi vogt dig, vogt dig …



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At last I have found this skjaldesang, a medieval ballad I have been looking for for years. It is apparently not medieval, though it may sound so. The melody is old, but the words are nineteenth century and the author is Grundtvig. It is a nationalistic and pedagogical text nostalgic for the time of Kings Valdemar I, the Great, who laid the foundations of the empire, and II, the Victorious, who expanded it.

Apparently the Dannebrog, which is the world’s oldest national flag, fell from the sky during a 1219 battle in Estonia, part of Valdemar II’s Danish rige.

Now someone should come and comment on the text. The part I knew says the slaves “rådte” on the Baltic Sea, does it mean they are in council? In any case the slaves are on the Baltic Sea, the wood stands lovely and green, the women sighed from isle to isle; the summer and the meadow got on well together.

Slaverne rådte på Østersø
– Skoven står dejlig og grøn
Kvinderne sukked’ fra ø til ø
– Den sommer og den eng så godt kunne sammen.

Nøden var stor, men og hjælpen nær,
Det var kong Valdemars herrefærd!

Aksel og Esbern var brødre to,
Tvillinger bedre på jord ej gro.

Valdemar fader og Valdemar søn
Æred’ dem begge i lys og i løn.

Valdemar Sejer i kjortel så rød
Blegnede over de heltes død.

Sejer ham fulgte vel trindt på sø,
Venner han savned’ dog under ø.

Længe han leved’, den danedrot,
Danemarks håb blev med håret gråt.

Danemarks håb i moderskød
Immer dog sover med kinden rød.

Derfor med vemod lys og blid
Mindes vi Valdemarers tid.

Mindet vel lader som ingenting,
Er dog et lønligt kildespring.

Immer det risler: Engang på ny
Håbet sig svinger som fugl i sky.

Fuglen har sjunget og synger end:
– Skoven står dejlig og grøn
Valdemarstiden oprandt igen!
– Den sommer og den eng så godt kunne sammen!



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