Archive | January 2019

Merlin Fragments Discovered – predate known English versions

Very early depiction of Merlin and King Arthur found by accident

Seven leaves of parchment from the 1200s discovered in 15th-century book at Bristol Central Library

Despite England’s obsession with the mythic King Arthur, the original legends surrounding that mysterious figure come from France. The newly uncovered fragments refer to the preparations for a battle near Trebes, by the South Riviera, where the king’s wizard Merlin and various legendary knights faced off against the forces of King Claudas. They contain details and variations different from all known versions of the Vulgate Continuation of Merlin (Suite Vulgate de Merlin,) from the larger Story of Merlin (Estoire de Merlin,) and predate any known English language telling of these tales.

Merlin fragments found

Photo: University of Bristol

Press release issued: 30 January 2019

Centuries lost ‘Bristol Merlin’ uncovered at city’s Central Library

A chance discovery, hidden away in a series of 16th-century books deep in the archive of Bristol Central Library, has revealed original manuscript fragments from the Middle Ages which tell part of the story of Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend.

Academics from the Universities of Bristol and Durham are now analysing the seven parchment fragments which are thought to come from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, dating back to the 13th century.

Parts of the Vulgate Cycle were probably used by Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471) as a source for his Le Morte D’Arthur (published in 1485 by William Caxton) which is itself the main source text for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend in English, but no one version known so far has proven to be exactly alike with what he appears to have used.

In addition, one of the most exciting elements of this particular find is that the Bristol fragments contain evidence of subtle, but significant, differences from the traditional narrative of the stories.  

The seven hand-written parchment fragments were discovered by Michael Richardson from the University of Bristol’s Special Collections Library who was looking for materials for students studying the history of the book for the new MA in Medieval Studies.

They were found bound inside a four-volume edition of the works of the French scholar and reformer Jean Gerson (1363-1429) and, recognising a number of familiar Arthurian names, Michael contacted Dr Leah Tether, President of the International Arthurian Society (British Branch), from Bristol’s Department of English to see if the finds were in any way significant.

Read the full Merlin fragments discovery article at the University of Bristol website

Polar Vortex on the Way – Monday Map

 

Polar vortex

A Polar Vortex is actually no laughing matter

Chicago is supposed to be colder than Antarctica by the middle of the week. Mornings of frostbite and lung damage are being issued across Canada and the northern United States.

Polar vortex warn

Apparently warm air from Morocco has made its way to the North Pole causing the upcoming vortex where a southerly Jet Stream poles super-freezing air down into temperate zones. An increase in such vortices fits well within even conservative scientific models of the effect of climate change, which is increasing faster than anyone had ever dared to fear possible.

Please bundle up and bring animals indoors. Please report any stray animals you see two authorities as the serious cold approaches.

Update Jan 31.:  Chicago reached windchill of -52 below zero.

At least four locations have tied or set all-time record lows:

  • Minus 33 degrees Thursday morning in, Moline, Illinois, shattered the all-time record low of minus 28 degrees from Feb. 3, 1996.
  • Minus 30 degrees in Rockford, Illinois, Thursday morning topped their previous record of minus 27 degrees from Jan. 10, 1982.
  • Minus 30 degrees in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Thursday morning beat the previous all-time record of minus 29 degrees.
  • Minus 43 degrees northwest of Mather, Wisconsin, Wednesday tied the all-time low at that location in records dating to 1903.

Robert Burns, why Burns Nights still matter, and should

Today is the 260th anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns.

While I have not attended a formal Burns Night Supper in years, I still celebrate in my own way, each and every year.

This evening, I am taken

back several years to the Immortal Memory given by my scholarly university mate, Thomas Keith, at a public Burns Supper given at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.

Today is the 206th anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns.
 
While I have not attended a formal Burns Night Supper in years, I still celebrate in my own way, each and every year.
 
This evening, I am taken back to the Immortal Memory given by my scholarly university mate, Thomas Keith, at a public Burns Supper given at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.
 
Therein, Thomas dispelled the stereotypical image of Burns as a hard drinking libertine (by those who associate him with the old Scots comic songs he collected and sometimes rewrote) by presenting detailed analysis of the poet’s working life and family life, and the sheer volume of his literary life.
 
Robert_Burns-Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

Burns can be a difficult read for many Americans these days, given how much of it is written in dialect. What is easy to grasp and relate to is the poet’s theme of romantic love. But what make Burns immortal are his liberal themes of universal equality and social justice.

 
That is what people like Lincoln and Emerson found so inspiring. And that is why he remains revered wherever there have been popular revolts against oppressive rulers, from the former Soviet satellites to Latin America. And why there are more statues and memorials to Burns in the USA than anywhere else outside of Scotland; even then if only lesser by one.
 
He grew up when slavery was still legal in Scotland. And like Lincoln, he was mainly home-educated and worked at extremely hard agrarian labor from an early age. And both men could relate to the plight of those in bondage who were paid nothing, and those of the lowest freemen whose backbreaking life profited only their landlords, with little hope of improving the tenant farmer’s lot.
 
And at this troubling period in our own time, his observations on those on high whose character and true worth are in no way on par with their status can really hit home.
 
He is appreciated to this day for being ahead of his time when supporting both the American and French Revolutions, when that was a most unpopular position in the UK and the rest of Europe.
 
And here in this article, a Scotsman argues that Burns’ impact on American culture goes beyond the songs of Bob Dylan to having a direct hand in ending slavery here and in a deep influence on American poetry itself.
 
But that is not why we have Burns Night Suppers, really.
 
We do it because how how we relate so clearly to his love and celebration of life’s simple yet profound pleasures, often residing and reflected in “objects in nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom.”
 
That is what brings a tear to the eye, when one is surrounded by their boon companions, reflecting on the joy of the moment and the sheer profundity of our fleeting lives.
 
His sincere belief in the brotherhood of mankind is why we gather around the globe, in small cottages and extravagant halls, in every hemisphere and on every continent, on this night or whenever we can find the time go meet, and lament that “Young Rabbie” only lived to be 37 years of age, and why we celebrate the eighteenth-century Scotsman whom we like to believe would have liked us as much as we are sure we would have liked him, and who would have accepted our invitation to join us at our table, to raise a glass and sing a song, or seven.
 
To the immortal memory…

“Sláinte!”

Monday Map – 1965 Selma March

The Selma March Historic Byway

Martin Luther King Day

On March 7th, 1965, the historic Selma to Montgomery March took place. Hundreds of marched in support of civil rights for all Americans, and expressly for the rights of African-Americans subjected to institutionalized segregation and bigotry.
The march was blocked by Alabama state troopers and aborted. A second march on March 18th was cancelled due to a court order.
Over 25,000 gathered on March 21st, and with the help of federal troops and law enforcement, they completed the 54 mile trek to the state capital in Montgomery.
While the reality of who Doctor King was and what is actual legacy has been. There is no question that assassinated leader stands today as a martyr to social justice in America. And the Selma March remains one of the most tangible symbols of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in Congress during the Selma March, and once passed became among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.
Selma http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2050/maps

The route of the Selma March is now one of the Federal Highway Administration’s America’s Byways and also a National Park Service Historic Trail that is currently closed due to the ongoing attempted Right Wing coups that has shut down the Federal Government.

Selma http://www.nps.gov/common/commonspot/customcf/apps/maps/showmap.cfm?alphacode=semo&parkname=Selma%20To%20Montgomery
A period map from the time: HERE
More Monday Maps: HERE

A Distorted Les Paul

The auditorium was full.

Granted we’re not talking about the Beacon, but still, hundreds.

My distortion, overdrive, delay, chorus were all dialed in and the stack was warm and smoking. Then came that moment when you can tell they have turned it up in the house. The bass was still being fiddled with for the onstage mix, but we were seconds away from being introduced and kicking off the opening number, when I struck a growling chord on my Les Paul that made the front rows snap wake. And that was when the acoustic guitar licks went off on my phone. What a time for a call!

And then it was like in Cosmos or Bill & Ted when I was suddenly yanked back and upward, my guitar and leather jacket dropping away as I soared through a whirring worm hole of spacetime… And before I even opened my eyes I could tell it was a bright, sunny day, and I was awake and back in my bed.

“Nooooooo! Take me baaaaack!” I moaned.

I guess it’s time to change my ringtone.