Introduction and Welcome

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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. 


  1. Thanks for listing all of the book resources! I'm going to check our excellent used bookstore for that Childcraft book, and the Living Biographies book sounds fantastic.

    Also, perhaps you already know about this, but I have found that the Google Art Project has very high resolution images of the paintings you have posted. For instance, here is the one from this post:

    This one is not quite a vibrant as the previous two were. But look at this one of Wivenhoe Park! It is so beautiful and detailed. I was even able to print that one on glossy paper and it looked pretty good.

    What I really like about those high resolution files is that it allows you to zoom in and see a lot of detail.

    My children have been very much enjoying the John Constable paintings you have posted thus far. Thank you!

  2. Eek!!! I'm so glad to have rediscovered you! I used to visit a couple of years? ago. I just noticed your name via the CM carnival and I'm so glad. What a lovely post. I have the Silver Answer, but I'm intrigued by your other title for EBB as well. Thank you!