Thursday, July 28, 2011

Maud Muller: A Portrait of my Great-great-grandmother

I have this print hanging in my living room. It is the work of my great-great-grandfather, J. Howard Collier  (see his Little Bo Peep and a print of the BVM "after J. Howard Collier."  More of his original work is privately owned, much by my family). The model is his wife, Nancy. The title of the portrait is "Maud Muller." It was chosen by Whittier as the first prize winner in an illustration contest in 1863. Interestingly, there was some sort of Act of Congress involved according to the text on the print--perhaps copyright matters?  One would think Congress too busy that year for matters as trivial as art.  Or, perhaps, Congress understood its true limited function.  In any case, despite Google searches, this is the only image of this Maud Muller I could find, and it predates the others.  And I rather like it.

I just realized that it reminds me of Annika in As You Like It:

This image is more common:

Several of the other prints of Maud do include that rake that leans behind her.  I do not think that my great-great-grandfather got the perspective of his rake quite right, but his wife will always be the Maud Muller to us.

Here is the poem:

Maud Muller, on a summer's day,
Raked the meadow sweet with hay.

Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth
Of simple beauty and rustic health.

Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee
The mock-bird echoed from his tree.

But when she glanced to the far-off town,
White from its hill-slope looking down,

The sweet song died, and a vague unrest
And a nameless longing filled her breast,—

A wish that she hardly dared to own,
For something better than she had known.

The Judge rode slowly down the lane,
Smoothing his horse's chestnut mane.

He drew his bridle in the shade
Of the apple-trees to greet the maid,

And ask a draught from the spring that flowed
Through the meadow across the road.

She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up,
And filled for him her small tin cup,

And blushed as she gave it, looking down
On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown.

"Thanks!" said the Judge; "a sweeter draught
From a fairer hand was never quaffed."

He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees,
Of the singing birds and the humming bees;

Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether
The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.

And Maud forgot her brier-torn gown
And her graceful ankles bare and brown;

And listened, while a pleased surprise
Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.

At last, like one who for delay
Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away.

Maud Muller looked and sighed: "Ah me!
That I the Judge's bride might be!

"He would dress me up in silks so fine,
And praise and toast me at his wine.

"My father should wear a broadcloth coat;
My brother should sail a painted boat.

"I'd dress my mother so grand and gay,
And the baby should have a new toy each day.

"And I'd feed the hungry and clothe the poor,
And all should bless me who left our door."

The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill,
And saw Maud Muller standing still.

"A form more fair, a face more sweet,
Ne'er hath it been my lot to meet.

"And her modest answer and graceful air
Show her wise and good as she is fair.

"Would she were mine, and I to-day,
Like her, a harvester of hay:

"No doubtful balance of rights and wrongs,
Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,

"But low of cattle and song of birds,
And health and quiet and loving words."

But he thought of his sisters proud and cold,
And his mother vain of her rank and gold.

So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on,
And Maud was left in the field alone.

But the lawyers smiled that afternoon,
When he hummed in court an old love-tune;

And the young girl mused beside the well,
Till the rain on the unraked clover fell.

He wedded a wife of richest dower,
Who lived for fashion, as he for power.

Yet oft, in his marble hearth's bright glow,
He watched a picture come and go;

And sweet Maud Muller's hazel eyes
Looked out in their innocent surprise.

Oft, when the wine in his glass was red,
He longed for the wayside well instead;

And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms
To dream of meadows and clover-blooms.

And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain,
"Ah, that I were free again!

"Free as when I rode that day,
Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay."

She wedded a man unlearned and poor,
And many children played round her door.

But care and sorrow, and childbirth pain,
Left their traces on heart and brain.

And oft, when the summer sun shone hot
On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,

And she heard the little spring brook fall
Over the roadside, through the wall,

In the shade of the apple-tree again
She saw a rider draw his rein.

And, gazing down with timid grace,
She felt his pleased eyes read her face.

Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls
Stretched away into stately halls;

The weary wheel to a spinet turned,
The tallow candle an astral burned,

And for him who sat by the chimney lug,
Dozing and grumbling o'er pipe and mug,

A manly form at her side she saw,
And joy was duty and love was law.

Then she took up her burden of life again,
Saying only, "It might have been."

Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!

God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;

And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Someplace Warm

So, yesterday, the hottest day in 10 years, I took Annika to visit Wheaton College in Norton Massachusetts.  Wheaton is one of those small liberal arts colleges that are so common throughout New England, and is also a former women's college.  (Frankly, I think women's colleges are a good thing, in general, but there are few left, and most colleges do offer some housing options for women only.)  Despite its origins as a women's seminary (like Mount Holyoke), Wheaton is quite secular.  But we were charmed, nonetheless.  Everyone smiles, and the presentations from current students, career services (they gave Annika a fun t-shirt), and a professor of art history (one of Annika's interests) were all excellent and informative.  I believe she will be applying.

Well, probably.  She really wants to go "someplace warm."  But, honestly, Dear, this was the hottest school I have visited since the University of Kansas in the summer of 1980.  "Haha" was pretty much the response I got from her.
"Twisted Sisters"--large art on campus

But still, she did like it.  On the way up and back, we listened to a lecture series by their resident medieval and Tolkien scholar Prof. Drout, which was really wonderful.  And the art history lab demo during the tour was fun and informative, guided by the affable and lively Prof. Staudinger who demonstrated infectious enthusiasm for her work on French medieval cathedrals.  Plus, they offer ancient Greek to satisfy their language requirement.

The campus is beautiful, if rather typical of the NE LA colleges--a mixture of Georgian and modern architecture, a small pond (featuring a great blue heron), a central college green, a multi-purpose chapel--and is surrounded by a quaint New England village, including the cliched former Congregationalist churches which are now Unitarian and probably mostly empty.  The Catholic church in town is a nearly 2 mile walk along the same street as the college, and is, of course, the ugliest building in town, but Mass is offered in the chapel on Sundays.  I did not see any evidence of a Newman club, or any Catholic outreach.  But with relatives less than an hour away, I guess it'd be fine.

Afterwards we went up to Auntie Rose's house and had a swim in the pool.  The pool was 85 degrees, and hardly refreshing, but it was better than nothing.  And the company was wonderful (my mom was visiting my aunt!).  Back home by 11pm...and it was still hot.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Forgotten Pages: Geography

From MacBeth's Opinion website:

Geography, like literature, is a living subject.  Avoid the temptation to use a text!  It has a history and a future, and is beautiful and fascinating, when presented in an engaging manner.  Here are some ideas and books to help you draw your children into the world of geography.

Start simply, with directions
Left, right, backwards, forwards--Don't forget up and down!
Show the children the 4 cardinal directions, north, south, east and west
Learn to use a directional compass
Set up a treasure hunt using a compass, or simple directions for younger kids
When in the car, going somewhere familiar, have the children tell you where to turn
Have older kids write directions (to a store, or friends' houses) for younger kids
Let the kids help plan your next trip, with maps and guide books
Keep a geography center, including:
Maps, both physical and political
National Geographic Magazine (includes at least 5 maps per yearly subscription)
compass (both kinds)
pencils and paper
ruler, protractor
dough recipes for geological features (see Glues, Brews and Goos)
discovery timeline

Reference Books for Geography
  Kids' Road Atlas From Rand McNally, this is a real road map, with games and ideas for young travelers
  National Geographic Atlas of the World  Simply the best; large format, and well worth the money
  NGS Student Atlas of the World Get the School and Library binding, not the paperback!
  The American Road Trip Planner big and beautiful, from NGS
  How the Heather Looks  (using British Children's books for geography)
  Storybook Travels (using children's books for geographic travels)

Use Non Fiction and Journals:
   Dove  (a boy's journey around the world alone; wonderful for older high school students)

 Use Literature to learn geography, and make it a living subject!

World Geography:
Homesick (an American girl lives in China)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (click here for the wonderful audio version)
Secret Water (from the Swallows and Amazons series; great living book with map-making)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Alone on an island; descriptive passages with geographic features)
The Cay (history and geography during WWII in the Caribbean)
Paddle to the Sea, also available on audio!
Going West:
For the youngest (rhyming books about the west by Verla Kay)--Gold Fever and Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails
West from Home:  The Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Explorers (please e-mail me with your favorites!):
Brendan the Navigator:


Leif Eriksson


Silly stuff for learning fun:
Animaniacs Terrific geography songs!
Click here to Play Geography Games!

 Thanks to Jen for reminding me.  :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

YA: Romancing the Misery

Last May, at the Book Expo here in NY, I was struck by Sarah Dessen's frank admission (and her free whoopie pies!) about becoming the author of Young Adult books by accident.  It seems that when she wrote her first book, she the audience she intended to address was adult, meaning, "grown up," not teens.  I have never read a book by Ms. Dessen (though she was a delightful and engaging speaker), but I was amused by her admission.  And it got me wondering, just what is a YA book?  After looking around the expo, booklists, and library, I came to the shocking conclusion:  YA books, for the most part, were books I didn't want my YAs reading.  Self indulgent books about drugs, sex, suicide, and every dark thing you can imagine...

Yet, books that deal with all of these matters are not new; "adult" books on these themes have existed since...well, earliest writings, including the Bible.  But there is a curious crudeness about the genre.  These books seem to, with rare exception, hit one over the head bluntly with bitter misery.  Do they enlighten?  Do they enrich the YA's life?  Or do they just bog teens down in a morass of murky, muddy self pity?

When I began this post several weeks ago, I anticipated reading a few of the worst titles in the genre.  Since then, this article and this follow-up  in the Wall Street Journal and Erin Manning's terrific take (start here) on YA have made my thoughts rather a perfunctory addition to the chatter.

Read all the above, but read this article, as well, on a book about teen suicide that "saves lives" (how does one quantify that assertion?).  A follow-up interview with the author of that book is here.  I had to laugh as he accused Gurdon (the WSJ book reviewer):  "...the tone in her article was very confrontational..."  Perhaps he should write a YA book about how to deal with people who disagree with you.

Debate is welcome here, as always.

This Photo from Libby's French Adventure...

(I know it's dark, but take a good was not edited at all)

reminds me of this cover of a certain book by C. S. Lewis:

Book cover look-alikes are a favorite pastime of mine.  Check out these.