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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

John Constable - Girl with the Doves, Felix Mendelssohn -

Our final painting by John Constable this week is "Girl With the Doves".  It's quite different than his landscapes but a fun and memorable painting just the same.

We watched Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream this past week as we've been studying this play this semester.  The music was by Felix Mendelssohn.  I have come to really enjoy Felix Mendelssohn's music.  Today's piece is Symphony No. 4 in A "Italian" 1st Movement. 

This is the last of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry that we will feature now - we're moving on to her husband Robert Browning for next season. 

          ONLY A CURL

FRIENDS of faces unknown and a land
Unvisited over the sea,
Who tell me how lonely you stand
With a single gold curl in the hand
Held up to be looked at by me, --

While you ask me to ponder and say
What a father and mother can do,
With the bright fellow-locks put away
Out of reach, beyond kiss, in the clay
Where the violets press nearer than you.

Shall I speak like a poet, or run
Into weak woman's tears for relief ?
Oh, children ! -- I never lost one, --
Yet my arm 's round my own little son,
And Love knows the secret of Grief.

And I feel what it must be and is,
When God draws a new angel so
Through the house of a man up to His,
With a murmur of music, you miss,
And a rapture of light, you forgo.

How you think, staring on at the door,
Where the face of your angel flashed in,
That its brightness, familiar before,
Burns off from you ever the more
For the dark of your sorrow and sin.

`God lent him and takes him,' you sigh ;
-- Nay, there let me break with your pain :
God 's generous in giving, say I, --
And the thing which He gives, I deny
That He ever can take back again.

He gives what He gives. I appeal
To all who bear babes -- in the hour
When the veil of the body we feel
Rent round us, -- while torments reveal
The motherhood's advent in power,

And the babe cries ! -- has each of us known
By apocalypse (God being there
Full in nature) the child is our own,
Life of life, love of love, moan of moan,
Through all changes, all times, everywhere.

He 's ours and for ever. Believe,
O father ! -- O mother, look back
To the first love's assurance. To give
Means with God not to tempt or deceive
With a cup thrust in Benjamin's sack.

He gives what He gives. Be content !
He resumes nothing given, -- be sure !
God lend ? Where the usurers lent
In His temple, indignant He went
And scourged away all those impure.

He lends not ; but gives to the end,
As He loves to the end. If it seem
That He draws back a gift, comprehend
'Tis to add to it rather, -- amend,
And finish it up to your dream, --

Or keep, -- as a mother will toys
Too costly, though given by herself,
Till the room shall be stiller from noise,
And the children more fit for such joys,
Kept over their heads on the shelf.

So look up, friends ! you, who indeed
Have possessed in your house a sweet piece
Of the Heaven which men strive for, must need
Be more earnest than others are,--speed
Where they loiter, persist where they cease.

You know how one angel smiles there.
Then weep not. 'Tis easy for you
To be drawn by a single gold hair
Of that curl, from earth's storm and despair,
To the safe place above us. Adieu.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

John Constable - Landscape with Boys Fishing, Felix Mendelssohn - Wedding March, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - I

The trees in this painting are so typical of John Constable.  I like how the sun is shining on the part of the path where the boys are but it is shadowed in the foreground so our eye is drawn to the boys.  The clouds are full of light and the gate holding back the water is interesting as is the bridge in the background down the path.  Lots to enjoy in this painting! 

Landscape with Boys Fishing - John Constable
A well-known piece of music today by Felix Mendelssohn - Wedding March

And this thoughtful poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Titled simply, "I"

 I thought once how Theocritus* had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair:
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--
'Guess now who holds thee ? '--' Death,' I said. But, there,
The silver answer rang,--' Not Death, but Love.' 

*Theocritus Biography

Thursday, March 12, 2015

John Constable - Chain Pier, Felix Mendelssohn - Choral Works - Magnificat & Gloria, Felix Mendelssohn - Choral Works - Magnificat & Gloria, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - A Seaside Walk

Today's painting by John Constable, Chain Pier, has lots of details to enjoy.  This painting is full of motion and action - the sky and water are both agitated as if a storm were brewing. 

If you right-click and open the link in a new tab you should be able to view this painting full-screen to enjoy the details. 

Felix Mendelssohn - Choral Works - Magnificat & Gloria

A Seaside Walk by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We walked beside the sea,
After a day which perished silently
Of its own glory---like the Princess weird
Who, combating the Genius, scorched and seared,
Uttered with burning breath, 'Ho! victory!'
And sank adown, an heap of ashes pale;
So runs the Arab tale.

The sky above us showed
An universal and unmoving cloud,
On which, the cliffs permitted us to see
Only the outline of their majesty,
As master-minds, when gazed at by the crowd!
And, shining with a gloom, the water grey
Swang in its moon-taught way.

Nor moon nor stars were out.
They did not dare to tread so soon about,
Though trembling, in the footsteps of the sun.
The light was neither night's nor day's, but one
Which, life-like, had a beauty in its doubt;
And Silence's impassioned breathings round
Seemed wandering into sound.

O solemn-beating heart
Of nature! I have knowledge that thou art
Bound unto man's by cords he cannot sever---
And, what time they are slackened by him ever,
So to attest his own supernal part,
Still runneth thy vibration fast and strong,
The slackened cord along.

For though we never spoke
Of the grey water anal the shaded rock,---
Dark wave and stone, unconsciously, were fused
Into the plaintive speaking that we used,
Of absent friends and memories unforsook;
And, had we seen each other's face, we had
Seen haply, each was sad. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

John Constable - The Young Waltonians, Felix Mendelssohn - Spring Song, Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnet 14

John Constable manages to get a lot of action into his paintings - everything from the sky to the many varied characters he places in them, as well as the cluttered foregrounds so typical of his paintings. This looks like a fun bit of river to kayak or canoe on or maybe just fish or wade. 

The Young Waltonians
I think the title the Young Waltonians refers to English writer, Izaak Walton's book, The Compleat Angler which is "a celebration of the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse".

Here is a link where this painting can be enlarged and studied in detail.

This week we'll listen to Felix Mendelssohn's Spring Song.  Here in Northern Minnesota we have a while to wait yet, but I'm ready for a little Spring, how about you? 

Elizabeth Barrett wrote love poems for Robert Browning and after they married he convinced her to publish them. She published them under the name of Sonnets from the Portuguese as if she had translated them, but they were really her own.  Here is sonnet 14 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

If thou must love me, let it be for nought   
Except for love's sake only. Do not say,   
"I love her for her smile—her look—her way   
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought   
That falls in well with mine, and Certes brought 
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"—   
For these things in themselves, Belov├Ęd, may   
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,   
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for   
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry: 
A creature might forget to weep, who bore   
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!   
But love me for love's sake, that evermore   
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

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
This link for an enlarged view of this painting....

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.