Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time To Remember the Poor

Ivan Ivanović Šiškin. Winter.1890. St. Petersburg.
Time To Remember the Poor (a variant)

Old winter is come, with its cold chilling breath
And the leaves are all gone from the trees
All nature seems touched, by the finger of death
And the lakes are beginning to freeze

When the hills and the dales, are all candied with white
And Flora attends us no more
When the bright twinkling stars they proclaim the cold night
That’s the time to remember the poor

When the keen cutting winds from the north will attend
Hard chilling and freezing the ground
And the cold feathered snow, does in plenty descend
And whitens the countryside round

The poor timid hare through the woods may be traced
His footprints indented in snow
When our lips and our fingers are all tinted with cold
And the marksman a-shooting doth go

When the poor robin red-breast approaches your cot
And icicles hang at your door
You sit by your fireside reviving and hot
You will tremble to think of the poor

For the times fast a-coming when our Savior on earth
All the world shall agree with one voice
All nations unite to salute the blest morn
And the whole of then earth shall rejoice

When grim death is deprived of its all killing sting
And greed rules triumphant no more
Saints angels and men, Alleluia shall sing
Then the rich shall lie down with the poor

I heard a version of this once on radio. During this Thanksgiving extended weekend, the first snow fell and stayed. Not furious, not extremely significant, but enough to get the point across. This bit of weather knocked the leaves from the trees a month beyond that of a normal year here. Winter has made its visitation, the time for indian summer (or St. Martin's summer, if you wish) is past. This sad melodic plea sings with empathy. It is poetry and it makes christian demands well before the final verse.
Only that we should be mindful of the poor: which same thing also I was careful to do. -- drc
tantum ut pauperum memores essemus quod etiam sollicitus fui hoc ipsum facere -- Galatians ii. 10
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. -- kjv
In William Kennedy's, Ironweed, the first cold night brings death to some bums. This nineteenth century broadside ballad of northern England, perhaps Yorkshire, plays on conscience to remind, that the underfed, badly clad and poorly housed are not sharing the warmth of a comfortable life, then, "the rich must remember the poor", because we truly are one.

Song can be so very good. How few are familiar with this song? Why do people who have talent, choose poor material to perform? Why do people enjoy wretched crap? And how good is the sound of this and other so-called traditional or folk material? Part of the problem is, of course, the financial motive. Another is ego gratification, another is fashion for the current time. Quality needs defenders and actors and individuals of discernment.

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