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, 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. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

John Constable - Mill at Gillingham, Dorset, Felix Mendelssohn - Piano Concerto in A Minor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - The Cry of the Children

This painting by John Constable has a lot of appealing features.  There are animals throughout the painting, a couple of inconspicuous people and as always I'm drawn to water.  I'd like to sit on the bank and dangle my feet in the water and draw in my nature notebook. You can almost hear the water as it flows over the water wheel and splashes into the pool.

Mill at Gillingham, Dorset

 For more paintings - John Constable the Complete Works.

Piano Concerto in A Minor was written by Felix Mendelssohn when he was just 13 years old! I think it's lovely!  Hope you enjoy it, too.  

A link to the Best of Mendelssohn

I found this biographical sketch of the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning interesting and enlightening.  Her poems and this biography are probably more interesting for adults and older students, but if you understand her life, you can better share it with your children.

And here is a wonderful biographical sketch of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her poetry!  Actually it is a chapter from the book A Day With Great Poets, an audio version on Librivox.  Scroll down to chapter 6.  It is a wonderful recounting of a day in her life with bits of her beautiful poetry entwined in the recounting.
Lovely!!  It looks like you could also click into an e-text which I imagine could be printed if you prefer that, but I enjoyed this audio version very much!  

This poem makes me ache....It is reminiscent of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield or Oliver Twist whose childhoods were wrenched away in forced labor and abuse.  Makes me appreciate the wonderful free childhood we and our children have been blessed to enjoy!

The Cry of the Children

"Pheu pheu, ti prosderkesthe m ommasin, tekna;"
[[Alas, alas, why do you gaze at me with your eyes, my children.]]—Medea.
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
      Ere the sorrow comes with years ?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, —
      And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ;
   The young birds are chirping in the nest ;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows ;
   The young flowers are blowing toward the west—
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      They are weeping bitterly !
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
      In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
      Why their tears are falling so ?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
      Which is lost in Long Ago —
The old tree is leafless in the forest —
   The old year is ending in the frost —
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest —
   The old hope is hardest to be lost :
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
      In our happy Fatherland ?

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
      And their looks are sad to see,
For the man's grief abhorrent, draws and presses
      Down the cheeks of infancy —
"Your old earth," they say, "is very dreary;"
   "Our young feet," they say, "are very weak !"
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary—
   Our grave-rest is very far to seek !
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children,
      For the outside earth is cold —
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,
      And the graves are for the old !"

"True," say the children, "it may happen
      That we die before our time !
Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen
      Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her —
   Was no room for any work in the close clay :
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her,
   Crying, 'Get up, little Alice ! it is day.'
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,
   With your ear down, little Alice never cries ;
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
   For the smile has time for growing in her eyes ,—
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in
      The shroud, by the kirk-chime !
It is good when it happens," say the children,
      "That we die before our time !"

Alas, the wretched children ! they are seeking
      Death in life, as best to have !
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
      With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city —
   Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do —
Pluck you handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty
   Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through !
But they answer, " Are your cowslips of the meadows
      Like our weeds anear the mine ?
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,
      From your pleasures fair and fine!

"For oh," say the children, "we are weary,
      And we cannot run or leap —
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
      To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping —
   We fall upon our faces, trying to go ;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
   The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
      Through the coal-dark, underground —
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
      In the factories, round and round.

"For all day, the wheels are droning, turning, —
      Their wind comes in our faces, —
Till our hearts turn, — our heads, with pulses burning,
      And the walls turn in their places
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling —
   Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall, —
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling —
   All are turning, all the day, and we with all ! —
And all day, the iron wheels are droning ;
      And sometimes we could pray,
'O ye wheels,' (breaking out in a mad moaning)
      'Stop ! be silent for to-day ! ' "

Ay ! be silent ! Let them hear each other breathing
      For a moment, mouth to mouth —
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing
      Of their tender human youth !
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
   Is not all the life God fashions or reveals —
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
   That they live in you, or under you, O wheels ! —
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,
      As if Fate in each were stark ;
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,
      Spin on blindly in the dark.

Now tell the poor young children, O my brothers,
      To look up to Him and pray —
So the blessed One, who blesseth all the others,
      Will bless them another day.
They answer, " Who is God that He should hear us,
   While the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred ?
When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us
   Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word !
And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)
      Strangers speaking at the door :
Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him,
      Hears our weeping any more ?

" Two words, indeed, of praying we remember ;
      And at midnight's hour of harm, —
'Our Father,' looking upward in the chamber,
      We say softly for a charm.
We know no other words, except 'Our Father,'
   And we think that, in some pause of angels' song,
God may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,
   And hold both within His right hand which is strong.
'Our Father !' If He heard us, He would surely
      (For they call Him good and mild)
Answer, smiling down the steep world very purely,
      'Come and rest with me, my child.'

"But, no !" say the children, weeping faster,
      " He is speechless as a stone ;
And they tell us, of His image is the master
      Who commands us to work on.
Go to ! " say the children,—"up in Heaven,
   Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find !
Do not mock us ; grief has made us unbelieving —
   We look up for God, but tears have made us blind."
Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving,
      O my brothers, what ye preach ?
For God's possible is taught by His world's loving —
      And the children doubt of each.

And well may the children weep before you ;
      They are weary ere they run ;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
      Which is brighter than the sun :
They know the grief of man, without its wisdom ;
   They sink in the despair, without its calm —
Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom, —
   Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm, —
Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly
      No dear remembrance keep,—
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly :
      Let them weep ! let them weep !

They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,
      And their look is dread to see,
For they think you see their angels in their places,
      With eyes meant for Deity ;—
"How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation,
   Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart, —
Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
   And tread onward to your throne amid the mart ?
Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants,
      And your purple shews your path ;
But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence
      Than the strong man in his wrath !"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

John Constable - Wivenhoe Park, Felix Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture Op.21, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Love

I looked up John Constable's work after reading Frank Boreham's essay, "Telling the Truth" from his book, The Last Milestone.  His essays are well worth reading!  The following is a quote from this essay:  "Gradually, however, the Idealists have come to recognize that there is more poetry in reality than they had supposed.  Once upon a time our painters confined their attention to gorgeous sunsets, panoramic landscapes, laughing-eyed children and lovely women.  They told us, that is to say, that beautiful things are beautiful, a fact that we more than half suspected.  Then, almost simultaneously, two babies were born, John Constable and Joseph Turner, who took it into their heads to prove that lots of things are exquisitely beautiful whose beauty had been cunningly camouflaged.
     Constable led in the new age. 'Give me,' he cried, 'leafless willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts and crumbling brickwork; I love such things and want to paint them!'  The pontiffs protested that such work was too true to be good; but, loyal to his conviction, Constable insisted on seeing the world through his own eyes and on depicting it as he himself beheld it.  
    ...Surveying the inspired masterpieces of Constable and Turner, men felt that, if beauty lurked in such things, it might be found in any one of a million places in which it had never occurred to them to look for it.  It just shows, as Richard Jefferies, the eminent naturalist, said at the time, that, if a man carries a sense of beauty in his eye, he will see beauty in every daily ditch he passes."   

Here is Wikipedia's article on John Constable 

John Constable the Complete Works 

File:John Constable - Wivenhoe Park, Essex - Google Art Project.jpg
Wivenhoe Park

Our new composer for this term is Felix Mendelssohn.  I recommend the Music Masters' CD of his life and works.  These are well-known and you may be able to find a copy at your local library, but if not, they are not expensive. I first discovered this series through Rainbow Resource Catalog.  Here is a link to their listings. I imagine if you just Google Music Masters you will come up with a source for these.  

Two Biographical sketches: 
Wikipedia - Felix Mendelssohn 
Felix Mendelssohn Biography 

Our first work by Felix Mendelssohn is A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture Op. 21.  If you haven't already chosen a work of Shakespeare's to study this term, you might consider the play by this same title.  I found This podcast with Sarah McKenzie and Ken Ludwig about his book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare inspiring. 

And for your background listening this term: A link to the Best of Mendelssohn.

This post by Nancy Kelly at Sage Parnassus inspired me to choose Elizabeth Barrett Browning as our poet for the coming quarter.  She recommends The Silver Answer, by Constance Buel Burnett.  I've ordered this book and plan to read it aloud.
There were many different biographies listed for Elizabeth Barrett Browning, perhaps your local library has one.  

Wikipedia - Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
Elizabeth Barrett Browning - 

I've been thinking a lot about the unselfish love that God asks of us lately - so I was drawn to this poem: 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue onward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes*, there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both make
mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature's magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.
*Certes means in truth, certainly.