The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

The Secular Masque
By John Dryden

The world was then so light,
I scarcely felt the Weight;
Joy rul'd the Day, and Love the Night,
  I faint, I lag,
  And feebly drag
The pond'rous Orb around.
All, all, of a piece throughout.

'Tis well an Old Age is out,
And time to begin a New.
All, all, of a piece throughout;
Thy Chase had a Beast in View;
Thy Wars brought nothing about;
Thy Lovers were all untrue.
'Tis well an Old Age is out,
And time to begin a New.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, which observes that traditional illustrations depict the turn of the year by showing the old year hunched and with a long white beard, while the new year is a happy child, while Dryden goes further in the chorus of The Secular Masque by putting together a cast representing the folly of the old year and the hope for the new. Time and Comedy make fun of the gods of war, love and the hunt. "The spirit of Dryden's chorus is a worldly, skeptical and candid look back at the preceding era in love, war and other pursuits...anyone eager to apply this little 17th-century scene to the wars and amours of the present, as chronicled in the newspaper stories of 2006, should reflect on the figure of Diana, whose 'chase had a beast in view,' which suggests that all human pursuits, compared to their first, beautiful, newborn hopes, may become somewhat beastly."

I had to get up insanely early Saturday to take older son to magnet high school testing at one school while apaulled took younger son to magnet middle school testing at a school across the county. I had the easier job, since I was close enough to come home for an hour and a half. Since it was 70 degrees by 8 a.m., a "Who Will Buy" kind of a morning (sorry, Oliver reference), I came home, took a long walk, then a shower, and went back to get older son -- they had thrown all parents out of the building anyway and apparently most of them ended up crowding into McDonalds and Starbucks on Rockville Pike, so I am just as happy I skipped that bonding experience! Hubby and younger son got home, we all had lunch, then we agreed that even though the kids had been deprived of an entire morning of video games, a 70+ degree day in January simply was not to be wasted.

So we went to Monocacy Battlefield, where General Lew Wallace protected Washington, DC from Confederate invasion by holding off the Southern troops on the farms and bridges surrounding the Monocacy River. The visitor's center has one of those lighted maps showing how the troops moved and where the artillery fire was focused, so we watched that, then hiked the circle trail around the part of the battlefield nearest the visitor center, which has a side path down to the water and gorgeous views of the woods and nearby Frederick County mountains. We also went to see the Gambrill mansion -- he owned the mill on the site where the visitor center now stands (I assume this is the same James H. Gambrill for whom Gambrill State Park is named, though I previously knew him primarily as a conservationist and not a Confederate sympathizer).

Gambrill House, where James Gambrill's family moved after the war as his mill prospered.

The style of the roof and central tower is Second Empire, according to the signs. From the upper floors, the Gambrills could see their milling operations, the city of Frederick and the Catoctin Mountains.

The house -- surrounded by trees that may have been standing during the Battle of Monocacy -- is now home to the Historic Preservation Training Center.

The whole area is lovely and rural, with lots of old churches and little town centers in between the stretches of farmland -- we saw deer running across one harvested field and lots of horses out grazing. Since we were already up there, we went to visit Lilypons Water Gardens, which has nothing in bloom at this time of year and very few koi in the outdoor ponds, but is very pretty anyway, with the mountains in the background and lots of landscaping. Then we came home and watched Munich on HBO after dinner...we meant to see that in the theater and then to rent it but never got around to it. The kids were bathing when we put it on but ended up coming in and watching most of it; I'd never have let them see that in the theater, but on the small screen I think it's a different experience and they kept up a running commentary about terrorism and whether Israel was acting too much like the PLO and why was the news media so stupid in its coverage of the Olympic crisis and even though whoever masterminded the plot probably deserved to die, like whoever masterminded 9/11, killing people just leads to more killing people and not safety for anyone (I love that the final shot of Munich is the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn in the 1970s, the Twin Towers in the background).

I talked quite a bit too in response to all this, though I never know how much I am pushing my own views on them and how much I have a right/responsibility to do so to a certain extent. I need to watch it again so I can really listen to the dialogue, because we were talking over quite a lot of it -- someone onscreen would start a discussion about Palestinian displacement and I wouldn't hear the end of the movie dialogue because there would be conversation here. Anyway, Bana is phenomenal in the film and it's one of my favorite recent Spielbergs; I hated War of the Worlds, was underwhelmed by Catch Me If You Can and really didn't even like Saving Private Ryan.

And Seattle beat Dallas! Whoo! Not that I care about the playoffs all that much, but having the Cowboys out of the running is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Plus: David Tennant in a black miniskirt, heels and a blond wig on a planet with Gaylord and his giant penis gun. Life is good.

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