Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ye Precious Dust

Here’s an early American epitaph:

           Here lyes ye precious dust of
Thomas Bailey             A most desirable neighbor,
A painfull preacher,      A pleasant companion,
An eminent liver,          A common good,
A tender husband,        A cheerful doer,
A careful father,            A patient sufferer,
A brother for adversity,   Lived much in little
A faithful friend,             time.
           A good copy for all survivors
                        AEat. 35
     He slept in Jesus ye 21st of Jany 1688

Note: "Ye" is not pronounced Ye, but The.  The Y is an attempt to reproduce a letter of the alphabet no longer in use.  Called "thorn" it is the "th" sound.  I bet a whole lot of you already know that.

We had a great time at our New Year’s Eve penny-ante poker party.  One of our guests is fighting cancer for the second time, and being very courageous and unfussy about it.  But still, she’s aware her chances of coming back next New Year’s Eve are slim.  She’s been coming to this event for several years.  She’s not a gifted or experienced poker player, but enjoys it – and this time, she was smoking hot!  She could draw to an inside straight, stay when an experienced player would fold, and be drawn into raises in stud games when another player had better cards showing.  And the pennies just piled up around her.  It was weird, hilarious and a huge pleasure to watch her bewildered joy as she won hand after hand.  We had a limit of five cents on raises, so it wasn’t like anyone was hurt financially, but I think she wound up around four dollars ahead.  I had to give her a ZipLoc bag because the little leather pouch she brought with her couldn’t hold all her winnings.  And it was all honest, nobody was helping her.  I think it was a gift from Someone.

And a little after rmidnight, when the game was over and everyone went home – except our overnight guest and one other – the four of us sat and gossiped about King Edward III (whose new biography I recently read), Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII and VIII and Elizabeth I.  It didn’t break up until around 2:30 am. I haven’t had a conversation like that in a long time, and it was great to stretch my history muscles!

On Sunday I went with a friend to an early music consortium’s presentation of the Marian Vespers of 1610 by Claudio Monteverdi.  It was held in the St. Mary’s Chapel of the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul.  The music was played on harpsicord, sackbut, lute, recorder and other early instruments, and there were nine singers.  I am fairly familiar with medieval and Renaissance music, but there were elements of this I hadn’t heard before.  For one thing Monteverdi included in his music more of the “flourishes” for his voices than other composers of the time did – other composers left it to the singers to improvise those little riffs –  so now we know more of what that singer might think to do; and also that a singer didn’t just roll his voice up and down (think of the Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” at the “Glo-o-o-o-o-ria”), but sometimes went “ho-ho-ho” very staccato up and down the riff.  There was harmony, counterpoint – and wordplay.  For example, in the “Audi, coelum” (“Hear, O heaven”), a verse begins, “Dic, quaeso, mihi” (Tell me, I pray”), and ends “ut benedicam” (“I might bless her”), and a singer echoes the last two syllables on the same notes: “Dicam” (“I will tell”).  And another asks if this is she who is “porta orientalis?” (the portal of the east). And the singer echoes “Talis” (“Even she”).  I had the program in my lap and was reading along with the singers, but it was nearly half finished before I realized the brief echoes were a play on words.

I hope I haven't bored you with all this, but for me and my friend Alison it was an intense, fascinating, very pleasurable experience.  The Twin Cities are a hotbed of culture!


Katreader said...

What an enjoyable time. It's wonderful when we can stretch our cultural muscles and also have deeper discussions, not just the superficial comments we usually share. And poker is fun!

Monica Ferris said...

Katreader, you are so right! It's too easy to fall into simple routines, and to be shaken out of them twice in a week did a lot to clear out the cobwebs in my brain.

Linda O. Johnston said...

What, you didn't gossip about King Charles II? He's my favorite, of course, since the forerunners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were part of his court.

Betty Hechtman said...

As always, an interesting post. I didn't know about the use of "y." Very interesting.