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Category Archives: Grazing

Cool Words From Robin Hood

An illustration of the first meeting between R...

An illustration of the first meeting between Robin Hood and Little John, from Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, let me apologize for not posting in a few days. The wonderful monsoon storms this time of year in central Arizona mess with the electronics around here. Sure enough, the internet service has been pretty sketchy the past two days. Sorry.

 

Fortunately, storms have no effect on my books. I can read them rain or shine. As I promised a few posts ago, I’ve started reading the Paul Creswick version of “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” originally published in 1902. My copy is from the Reader’s Digest Association and includes some amazing illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. Believe me, I could just stare at these pictures for hours.

 

I’m only 10 chapters in at this point, but I wanted to share one of the best things about this book so far; the words. Of course, Creswick conveys a strong sense of Robin’s era with his use of words, particularly the idioms of the day. For someone like me who loves words, this book is a treasure. Here’s a small sample.

 

One of the supporting characters so far is a monk, called an anchorite in the book. Anchorite comes from a Greek word, anachorein, which means to withdraw or to make room. So our anchorite lives in self-imposed seclusion for religious reasons.

 

A little later in the tale, young Robin drops his bodkin in the forest. Before you jump to any conclusions, a bodkin is the Middle English word for a dagger or a stiletto. It can also be an ornamental hairpin shaped like a stiletto, but I doubt Robin would have threatened a robber with a hair accessory.

 

Just one more, I promise. While exploring his room at his uncle’s estate, Robin comes across a “bench in the nook, curiously carven and filled with stuffs and naperies.” Napery means household linen, especially dealing with the table. It comes from the French nappe or nape meaning tablecloth. Our modern word napkin comes from this. Whether Robin and his Merry Men ever used them is another question.

 

There you are, some wonderful old words from the Middle Ages. A special thanks to my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary for the great information on the word roots. A good dictionary, used well, is a joy.

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Grazing, History, What I'm Reading, Words

 

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On the Road

This week I got my hands on a fascinating little volume at the local library’s ongoing book sale. “American Journeys, An Anthology of Travel In the United States,” (Travel Vision in association with the Exxon Travel Club, 1975) is a collection of excerpts from pioneer diaries, explorer’s journals and articles about travel in America from the late 1600s up to the lunar landing.

It includes pieces from such writers as Benjamin Franklin (describing his trip to, and first night in, Philadelphia), Charles Dickens (writing about a steamboat trip with his wife in 1842. He did not like it), Mark Twain (a description of a stagecoach trip, excerpted from his book “Roughing It”) and John Muir (recounting one of his long walks among California’s sequoia trees).

This book reflects an important characteristic of the American people; the urge to travel and explore. For over 200 years the call of the open road has stirred something in our souls. Even if it’s only a trip into town:

When labor is light and the morning is fair,

I find it a pleasure beyond all compare

To hitch up my nag and go hurrying down

And take Katie May for a ride into town;

For bumpety-bump goes the wagon,

But tra-la-la-la our lay.

There’s joy in a song as we rattle along

In the light of the glorious day.

From “Riding to Town” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1896.)

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Book Hunting, Grazing, History, Poetry

 

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A Postcard From A.D. 1247

Cropped screenshot of Olivia de Havilland and ...

Cropped screenshot of Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn from the trailer for the film The Adventures of Robin Hood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently gave you a brief overview of my reading so far in “A World Lit Only By Fire” by William Manchester. Now I’ll give you a taste, a postcard from the book so to speak.

Hear underneath dis laihl stean

las Robert earl of Huntingtun

neer arcir yer az hie sa geud

And pipl kauld in Robin Heud

This is an inscription on a gravestone in Yorkshire, England. The final line is “Obiit 24 kal Decembris 1247.” Robin Hood lived, folks. Now as to what he was really like, Manchester writes, “Everything we know about that period suggests that Robin was merely another wellborn cutthroat who hid in shrubbery by roadsides, waiting to rob helpless wayfarers. The possibility that he stole from the rich and gave to the poor is . . . highly unlikely.”

Visions of Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits.”

However, this two sentence brush-off does nothing to explain how the stories of Robin Hood developed and why he became such a large folk-hero to people then and now. Plain highway robbers wouldn’t have inspired John Keats:

So it is: yet let us sing,

Honour to the old bow-string!

Honour to the bugle-horn!

Honour to the woods unshorn!

Honour to the Lincoln green!

Honour to the archer keen!

Honour to tight little John,

And the horse he rode upon!

Honour to bold Robin Hood,

Sleeping in the underwood!

Honour to maid Marian,

And to all the Sherwood-clan!

Granted, the real Robin was probably nothing at all like Errol Flynn and was more than likely not a very nice man. But something is his life and exploits was tale-worthy. Something endeared him to the peasants who built his legend. A history made of facts alone and stripped of all lore tells us very little about the humans who lived in it. The facts and the stories must go together.

I have a copy of “The Adventures of Robin Hood” by Paul Creswick, who was one of England’s best children’s writers. According to the introductory material that came with the book, it has been in print ever since it came out in 1902. It is filled with the stories of Robin Hood. It also has gorgeous illustrations by a different legend, N.C. Wyeth. If you’ve ever seen any of Wyeth’s work you’ll understand why I used the word legend.

With due respect to William Manchester, I’ll be reading this book soon and hopefully learning more about Robin and life in the middle ages.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Grazing, History, Ideas, Poetry, What I'm Reading

 

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What Do You Read on the Fourth of July?

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of R...

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realize this may be a rhetorical question. After all, who actually reads on the Fourth? What with picnics and barbecues and trips to the beach or lake, who has time to read, right? Well, maybe the Declaration of Independence, but beyond that?

Yes, I did read the Declaration earlier today. It is still a remarkable piece of writing that retains its strength and relevance for our day. I’ve also been perusing a book called “American Fairy Tales: From Rip Van Winkle to the Rootabaga Stories,” compiled by Neil Philip (Hyperion, 1998.) This is a collection of fairy and fantasy tales by some of America’s finest writers: Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, L. Frank Baum, and Carl Sandburg are just a few of the writers included. The wonders of the American imagination are on full display in this book.

So, if you were going to read something today that represented the American spirit of freedom and independence, what would you choose? Heaven knows, our country has been blessed with some amazing authors. Who would you choose? Would you pick stories from history, or fiction?

What stories speak to you of our country?

 

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Chapter and Verse. Or Not.

11th century Hebrew Bible with targum, perhaps...

11th century Hebrew Bible with targum, perhaps from Tunisia, found in Iraq: part of the Schøyen Collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While grazing through the “Abingdon Bible Commentary” I acquired recently, I came across this interesting bit of info in the opening article: “…our older version breaks up the Bible into chapters and verses. But there are no chapters and no verses in the original. There never were any in any version until the thirteenth century. One evil effect of this splitting up of the Bible is to give it an artificial and unreal appearance.” (From “How to Study the Bible” by Professor F.J. Rae.)

When one stops to think about it, it’s pretty obvious that this is so. The ancient Hebrew scriptures were on scrolls. Not even a page number there. But many of our modern Bibles not only have chapter and verse divisions, but also little letters and numbers scattered all throughout the text with verse cross references and short commentaries in the margins and at the bottom of the pages. This can be distracting and is not conducive to really reading the biblical text. Plus, it can be quite a turn-off to any newcomer who wishes to explore the Bible. But what to do?

Well, what I did is went out and found myself a copy of “The Reader’s Digest Bible.” Don’t laugh. Reader’s Digest has a long history of publishing excellent Bible reference books aimed at the general public. Here, they’ve taken the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, put their crack editors to work reducing many of the repetitions in the text, and then published it in a handsome hardcover edition. The titles of the biblical books are all there, but there are no chapter or verse numbers in the entire volume. Presto! Just what the professor ordered.

So how do I like reading the Bible this way, you ask? Stay tuned.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Grazing

 

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