Introduction and Welcome

Welcome to All Things Bright and Beautiful. If you are new to this site, I would recommend that you read my very first entry - which is an introduction and welcome to this blog. You can view it here

Thursday, February 26, 2015

John Constable - Wheat Field, Felix Mendelssohn - String Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - A Child Asleep

This painting by John Constable reminds me of Millet's "The Gleaners" painting. 
The Gleaners - Millet
Harvesting crops is so different today with our huge tractors and combines.  This picture makes harvesting wheat look like quite the social event for the whole family.  How has modernization changed the way we work and relate?

John Constable Wheat Field

String Symphony No. 4 in C Minor by Felix Mendelssohn

For your background listening here is a link to the The Best of Mendelssohn.

I've started a biography of Mendelssohn and would like to recommend it for you and/or your older students.  On Wings of Song A Biography of Felix Mendelssohn by Wilfrid Blunt.  As well as writing beautiful music, Felix Mendelssohn unlike many other composers lived an upright and worthy life so it follows that his biography will make for worthy reading.  I remember some years back reading a book of biographical sketches of composers and being disgusted because so many of their lives were wasted in immorality and folly, many dying early because of their lifestyles.  Felix Mendelssohn's life stands out in contrast to these.  Here is a paragraph from the foreward:
"Yet it seems to me that in this permissive age it may be pleasant for a change to read about a composer who thought music more important than sex and who found his own wife more attractive than his neighbour's.  His life was interesting if undramatic, and his voyage through it not always quite so calm as his earlier biographers, by their well-intentioned but foolish suppression of certain passages in his letters, would have us believe.  He knew Weber, Berlioz, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and Wagner; and as a child he was much hugged by the aged Goethe.  He described in delightful letters the musical and social life of London, Rome, Paris, and the principal cities of Germany, and illustrated the accounts of his many travels with competent and sometimes amusing sketches.  In 1829, when he was only twenty, he was responsible for the first performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion since its composer's death in 1750 - a revival that was to have far-reaching repercussions.  As a virtuoso pianist he fell little short of Liszt and Thalberg, and he was generally acknowledged to have been the finest organist of his day.  He was a brilliant improviser, and he had a prodigious musical memory, astonishing his London audiences by conducting without a score and, incidentally by using a baton- both then novelties in English concert halls.  So surely the time is ripe to persuade all but the irredeemably prejudiced and the totally unmusical that Mendelssohn, at his best, was a superb Classical-Romatic composer." 
     This biography is more advanced reading but is interesting and sprinkled throughout are lovely paintings and sketches.

If you're only going to read one biography this semester, however, I still recommend The Silver Answer by Constance Buel Burnett, a romantic biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  It's a wonderful read-aloud for the whole family.

A Child Asleep by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How he sleepeth! having drunken
Weary childhood's mandragore,
From his pretty eyes have sunken
Pleasures, to make room for more---
Sleeping near the withered nosegay, which he pulled the day before.

Nosegays! leave them for the waking:
Throw them earthward where they grew.
Dim are such, beside the breaking
Amaranths he looks unto---
Folded eyes see brighter colours than the open ever do.

Heaven-flowers, rayed by shadows golden
From the paths they sprang beneath,
Now perhaps divinely holden,
Swing against him in a wreath---
We may think so from the quickening of his bloom and of his breath.

Vision unto vision calleth,
While the young child dreameth on.
Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth
With the glory thou hast won!
Darker wert thou in the garden, yestermorn, by summer sun.

We should see the spirits ringing
Round thee,---were the clouds away.
'Tis the child-heart draws them, singing
In the silent-seeming clay---
Singing!---Stars that seem the mutest, go in music all the way.

As the moths around a taper,
As the bees around a rose,
As the gnats around a vapour,---
So the Spirits group and close
Round about a holy childhood, as if drinking its repose.

Shapes of brightness overlean thee,---
Flash their diadems of youth
On the ringlets which half screen thee,---
While thou smilest, . . . not in sooth
Thy smile . . . but the overfair one, dropt from some aethereal mouth.

Haply it is angels' duty,
During slumber, shade by shade:
To fine down this childish beauty
To the thing it must be made,
Ere the world shall bring it praises, or the tomb shall see it fade.

Softly, softly! make no noises!
Now he lieth dead and dumb---
Now he hears the angels' voices
Folding silence in the room---
Now he muses deep the meaning of the Heaven-words as they come.

Speak not! he is consecrated---
Breathe no breath across his eyes.
Lifted up and separated,
On the hand of God he lies,
In a sweetness beyond touching---held in cloistral sanctities.

Could ye bless him---father---mother ?
Bless the dimple in his cheek?
Dare ye look at one another,
And the benediction speak?
Would ye not break out in weeping, and confess yourselves too weak?

He is harmless---ye are sinful,---
Ye are troubled---he, at ease:
From his slumber, virtue winful
Floweth outward with increase---
Dare not bless him! but be blessed by his peace---and go in peace.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

John Constable - Haywain, Felix Mendelssohn - Elijah, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Cheerfulness Taught by Reason

Another John Constable painting this week.  He seemed to like painting wagons.  This cottage is attractive and I like the sunlight in the distant field and reflected in the water.  What attracts you in this painting?
Haywain - John Constable -
John Constable - Haywain
John Constable - Haywain (Detail)

Humor me one more week, I don't feel quite ready to move on from Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah Oratorio.... This is a different link than last week and the words seem easier to understand.  Below is a listing of the parts if you want to start part way through and just listen to a particular part.... (I recommend Obadiah's solo at 10:56).

Elijah Oratorio Part 1

Elijah (sung in English) -Elias, an Oratorio after words from the Old Testamnt, Op. 70.

1. Thomas Hampson, baritone (Elijah)
2. Barbara Bonney , soprano (The Widow)
3. Henriette Schellenberg, soprano (Angel)
4. Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano (Angel)
5. Marietta Simpson, mezzo-soprano (The Queen)
6. Jerry Hadley, tenor (Obadiah)
7. Richard Clement, tenor (Ahab)
8. Thomas Paul, baritone
9. Reid Bartelme, boy soprano (The Youth)

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Ann Howard Jones, assistant conductor for choruses
Conducted by Robert Shaw
Part I
0:00 Introduction (Elijah) - As God of Israel liveth
0:57 Ouverture
4:28 Chorus - Help Lord
7:50 Quartet Recit. - The deep affords no water (3,5,7,8)
8:48 Duet with chorus - Zion spreadeth her hands for aid (3,5)
10:56 Recit (Obadiah) - If with all your hearts
Chorus - Yet doth the Lord see it not
19:00 Recit (Angel) - Elijah! get thee hence (Florence Quivar)
19:55 Double quartet -For He shall give His angels (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,)
23:04 Recit (Angel): Now Cherith's book is dried up (Florence Quivar)
24:22 Air (Bonney): What have I to do with thee - Recit (Elijah, Widow) Give me thy son!
13. 9. Chorus - 'Blessed Are All They That Fear Him'
14. 10 Recitative (Elijah, Ahab) With Chorus - 'As God The Lord Of Sabaoth Liveth'
15. 11. Chorus - 'Baal, Answer Us'
16. 12. Recitative (Elijah) And Chorus - 'Call Him Louder, For He Is A God!'
17. 13. Recitative (Elijah) And Chorus - 'Call Him Louder! He Heareth Not'
18. 14. Air (Elijah) - 'Lord God Of Abraham, Isaac And Israel'
19. 15. Quartet (Angels) - 'Cast Thy Burden Upon The Lord'
20. 16. Recitative (Elijah) And Chorus - 'O Thou, Who Makest Thine Angels Spirits'
21. 17. Air (Elijah) - 'Is Not His Word Like A Fire?'
22. 18. Air - 'Woe Unto Them Who Forsake Him!'
23. 19. Recitative (Obadiah, Elijah, Youth) And Chorus - 'O Man Of God, Help Thy People!'
24. 20. Chorus - 'Thanks Be To God!'

I can't recommend highly enough the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Silver Answer, by Constance Buel Burnett. But I have also been browsing through The British Library Writers' Lives book, Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Robert Browning. It has pictures and lots of interesting information on their lives. I hope to feature Robert Browning's poetry during Spring quarter starting in April.  Today's poem:

      Cheerfulness Taught by Reason

I Think we are too ready with complaint
In this fair world of God's. Had we no hope
Indeed beyond the zenith and the slope
Of yon gray blank of sky, we might grow faint
To muse upon eternity's constraint
Round our aspirant souls; but since the scope
Must widen early, is it well to droop,
For a few days consumed in loss and taint ?
O pusillanimous* Heart, be comforted
And, like a cheerful traveller, take the road
Singing beside the hedge. What if the bread
Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod
To meet the flints ? At least it may be said
' Because the way is short, I thank thee, God. '

* Pusillanimous means - weak and afraid of danger,
lacking in courage and manly strength and resolution; contemptibly fearful

Thursday, February 12, 2015

John Constable - Maria Bicknell or Mrs. John Constable, Felix Mendelssohn - Elijah Oratorio, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Comfort

I think John Constable's wife was very pretty - I like this painting of her.

Maria Bicknell or Mrs. John Constable

I'd like to take another week on the Elijah Oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn.

I was listening to part of the Elijah Oratorio with my children and couldn't pick out all the words, so I found this site with the words.  Elijah Oratorio Score.
You can follow and turn pages on the bottom right.

Our poem this week by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is called Comfort.  Beautiful!


SPEAK low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet
From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee so
Who art not missed by any that entreat.
Speak to mo as to Mary at thy feet !
And if no precious gums my hands bestow,
Let my tears drop like amber while I go
In reach of thy divinest voice complete
In humanest affection -- thus, in sooth,
To lose the sense of losing. As a child,
Whose song-bird seeks the wood for evermore
Is sung to in its stead by mother's mouth
Till, sinking on her breast, love-reconciled,
He sleeps the faster that he wept before. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Our painting today by John Constable is called "The Harvest Field"  but the harvest field isn't the first thing I noticed with the view he took from back across the creek, with the stumpy tree in the foreground.  I like the reflective water and the person in red in the foreground.  That old tree is very interesting, too.
The Harvest Field - John Constable -
The Harvest Field - John Constable

Our work by Felix Mendelssohn this week is one of his greatest works - his oratorio Elijah based on the life of Elijah the  prophet of the Old Testament.  You and your children may not care for "opera" but I think it is valuable to at least expose them to it.  Think of it as a story put to music.  You might find the second link below a helpful introduction before you listen - it introduces the characters and gives a brief synopsis. 

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about this oratorio.

This link includes facts, notes and a brief synopsis of the oratorio. 

If you want to listen to just the overture, that is here:
Mendelssohn's Elijah - Overture.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote challenging but beautiful poetry.  Today's poem is historical in nature - I wonder if we realize enough how precious and fragile is our freedom to worship God. 

The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods, against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tost;

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and water o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear,—
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean-eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared—
This was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of the seas? the spoils of war?—
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod!
They have left unstained what there they found—
Freedom to worship God!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

John Constable - Ladies From the Family of Mr. William Mason of Colchester, Felix Mendelssohn - Piano Trio No. 1, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - The Best Thing in the World

I like this painting by John Constable, Ladies From The Family Of Mr. William Mason Of Colchester.  I like the warm colors, the subject and the red book.  It's hard to beat reading a good book together.

Ladies From The Family Of Mr William Mason Of Colchester

You can find the link to enlarge it, here.

A dramatic piece today by Felix Mendelssohn  Piano Trio No. 1

Have you been reading any poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning?  I have a book of her poetry by my bed and I'm enjoying reading a bit each night.  It's truly beautiful and moving.  I hope you enjoy this short poem.

The Best Thing in the World

What's the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Light, that never makes you wink;
Memory, that gives no pain;
Love, when, so, you're loved again.
What's the best thing in the world?
—Something out of it, I think.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

John Constable, Felix Mendelssohn - viloin Concerto in E minor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - How Do I Love Thee?

John Constable painted ordinary things, but somehow they look beautiful under his brush....  If you've been around long, you know I often choose paintings with bits of water, especially reflective pools and creeks.  Is that the same cathedral in the background that was in last week's painting?  I think Constable could see beauty in his everyday surroundings.  He was very skilled at choosing a layout or composition that is pleasing.  I like a lot of things about this painting, but the bit of water and the small sailboat in the foreground with its bow pointing into the picture and both the light side and the warm brown shadowed side of it's sail visible stand out to me.  What do you especially like about this painting?

File:John Constable 023.jpg

Here is the link to Wikipedia Commons article where I found this painting.  You can blow it up clearly to full screen there. 

Our piece of music this week by Felix Mendelssohn is one of his most popular works - Violin Concerto in E minor played here by David Garrett.  Or your children might enjoy watching this six year old play it - Nathan Gendler.

We are enjoying the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning - The Silver Answer so much!!  It's a wonderful biography!!  I can't recommend it highly enough.  We're memorizing three of her poems and I've been reading some of her poetry by myself at night before bed.  I enjoyed "Lady Geraldine's Courtship - A Romance of the Age".  It's suitable for youth and adults and is long, 25 pages in my book, but a wonderful story.  You can read it online here.

Our poem for today by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of her best known and one of the ones we're memorizing - How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.  As we go over it daily I see new depths in it - it is truly beautiful. 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, -- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

John Constable - Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, Felix Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture "Fingal's Cave", Elizabeth Barrett Browning - The Meaning of the Look and To Flush, My Dog

Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, 1831 - John Constable -
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadow
I like this painting by John Constable.

Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, 1831 (detail) 2 - John Constable -
John Constable - Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadow - Detail
Sarah asked if I could recommend a specific book as a spine for art/music history.  To this point I haven't used one, but it got me looking through my shelves for what I do use as resources for our art and music studies. Scroll to the end of this blog for a few of my favorites.

I'm enjoying the music of Felix Mendelssohn - how about you? We're listening to "The Story of Mendelssohn" by Music Masters. The whole thing at once is usually too long for us, so we take it a bit at a time.  

Today's piece of music is Felix Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture also known as "Fingal's Cave".  It's an energetic and pleasant piece, happy and explorative.  

If you want to listen to Mendelssohn's music as a background to other work, here is the Best of Mendelssohn.

We are also very much enjoying our Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems!  We are memorizing "How Do I Love Thee" and two other short poems.  

A Life of Love: the Story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Love: The Story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Logue, Maryby Mary Logue is a delightful children's book - the biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning for young children.  I read it during circle time this week and we all enjoyed it - my school aged children range from 9 to 16.  I also plan to read the longer, The Silver Answer, aloud as a family but this was a good brief introduction to Elizabeth Barrett Brownings life and if you don't have time for the longer book or if your children are young, I highly recommend this one.  Also in case you missed it last week, Librivox's A Day With Great Poets is a wonderful audio resource - click on chapter 6 for Elizabeth Barret Browning.  

Here is a link to 243 Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning at  

I've chosen two poems for this week.  The first is one we've chosen for memorizing.  It is about Peter's denial of Christ and Christ's response of love and forgiveness - He won't deny Peter. There's a lot of powerful Biblical imagery in this poem. 

 The Meaning of the Look

I think that look of Christ might seem to say--
'Thou Peter ! art thou then a common stone
Which I at last must break my heart upon
For all God's charge to his high angels may
Guard my foot better ? Did I yesterday
Wash thy feet, my beloved, that they should run
Quick to deny me 'neath the morning sun ?
And do thy kisses, like the rest, betray ?
The cock crows coldly.--GO, and manifest
A late contrition, but no bootless fear !
For when thy final need is dreariest,
Thou shalt not be denied, as I am here;

My voice to God and angels shall attest,
Because I KNOW this man, let him be clear.' 

Our second poem is one Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote about her beloved dog, given to her by a dear friend.  It's long but deals with more concrete issues, perhaps better understood by your younger children.

     To Flush, My Dog

Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith has run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature!

Like a lady's ringlets brown,
Flow thy silken ears adown
Either side demurely
Of thy silver-suited breast
Shining out from all the rest
Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,
Till the sunshine striking this
Alchemise its dullness,
When the sleek curls manifold
Flash all over into gold
With a burnished fulness.

Underneath my stroking hand,
Startled eyes of hazel bland
Kindling, growing larger,
Up thou leapest with a spring,
Full of prank and curveting,
Leaping like a charger.

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light,
Leap! thy slender feet are bright,
Canopied in fringes;
Leap! those tasselled ears of thine
Flicker strangely, fair and fine
Down their golden inches

Yet, my pretty, sportive friend,
Little is't to such an end
That I praise thy rareness;
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears
And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary,
Watched within a curtained room
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning;
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow;
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing;
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech
Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears
Or a sigh came double,
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping, -
Which he pushed his nose within,
After, - platforming his chin
On the palm left open.

This dog, if a friendly voice
Call him now to blither choice
Than such chamber-keeping,
'Come out! ' praying from the door, -
Presseth backward as before,
Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly not scornfully,
Render praise and favor:
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said
Therefore and for ever.

And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
Often man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men,
Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
Sugared milk make fat thee!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail,
Hands of gentle motion fail
Nevermore, to pat thee

Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
Sunshine help thy sleeping!
No fly's buzzing wake thee up,
No man break thy purple cup
Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee,
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
Cologne distillations;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast-day macaroons
Turn to daily rations!

Mock I thee, in wishing weal? -
Tears are in my eyes to feel
Thou art made so straitly,
Blessing needs must straiten too, -
Little canst thou joy or do,
Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
Pervious to thy nature;
Only loved beyond that line,

With a love that answers thine,
Loving fellow-creature! 

 Following are a few books I have found to be helpful for studying art and music.  I would be happy to hear from any of you ideas for books like this - If you have one, please leave a comment.

One of the first books on art appreciation that I found is volume thirteen of the 1949 Childcraft.  It is titled Art and Music.  It is large (about 10"x14").  The pictures are in black and white but the paintings are clear and it has brief, interesting text about each painting.

Masterpieces in Art is a Christian Liberty Press text that gives art appreciation text to go with pictures. Though I don't actually use this as a textbook as it was designed, I like to browse through the paintings.  This book is also in black and white, but if you like a painting you can usually find it in color online.  This book includes information about the artists as well as questions and comments about the artwork itself. 

Spiritual Moments with the Great Composers 
by Patrick Kavanaugh is a devotional.  If you like stories and  trivia about composers mixed in with spiritual lessons this book might be for you.  It is laid out like a devotional.

The Heritage of Music by Katherine B. Shippen & Anca Seidlova
is a book I found at a library book sale.  I haven't used it yet, but I plan to soon.  It is a living book and starts from the "beginning" though I think they could have found a bit more on early music if they had checked in the Bible (instruments and singing were spoken of in the Old Testament right off in Genesis).  I wasn't impressed with the first chapter "From the Very Beginning", but it got better from there.  Chapter two talks about the Greeks and music in their culture. Chapter three talks about music in the early church. This book describes the development of music weaving in the great composers. The chapters are fairly short and are comprehensive and interesting to read. 

Living Biographies of Great Painters

is another used book sale find that looks like a wonderful living book.  I haven't used it yet, but again, I hope to soon.  The artists listed are, Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, El Greco, Velasquesz, Hogarth, Reynolds, Turner, Goya, Corot, Millet, Van Gogh, Whistler, Renoir, Cezanne, and Homer.  Many of these we haven't studied yet, so I'm excited to try this book.  The Introduction suggests that understanding a painter's life gives insight into his paintings.   

How Should We Then Live?

by Francis Schaeffer is a wonderful book for high school and adults that discusses "The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture".  This challenging book gives insight into the thinking of the times and how our philosophy comes out in our art and music.  Many famous works are portrayed and discussed throughout this book. 

I'd be interested to hear what books you have found helpful for studying art and music.