Jul. 6, 2009

Rose Garden, Summer Solstice

by Carolyn Miller

Everyone here believes that the roses
are blooming only for them, here where the air
by the formal beds is layered with the scent
of roses. From deep in their flushed and darkening hearts
pour odors of lemons and pepper, apricots, honey,
vanilla and myrrh and musk and semen, apples and quince,
raspberries and wine and ocean, the faint
scent of blood and the fragrance of death and the breath
of the life we are living now, in this place
where the roses are blooming for each of us, alone.

"Rose Garden, Summer Solstice" by Carolyn Miller, from Light, Moving. © Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1535 that Sir Thomas More was beheaded in the Tower of London for refusing to recognize his longtime friend King Henry VIII as the head of the Church. Thomas More was a barrister, a scholar, and a writer. He was the author of Utopia (1516), a controversial novel about an imaginary island named Utopia, where society was based on equality for all people. It is from this novel that we get our word "utopia."

Sir Thomas More was a champion of King Henry VIII and helped him write rebuttals to Martin Luther's attacks on Henry. More presented sound theological arguments, and he also said things like, "Come, do not rage so violently, good father; but if you have raved wildly enough, listen now, you pimp," and (also about Luther): "If he proceeds to play the buffoon in the manner in which he has begun, and to rave madly, if he proceeds to rage with calumny, to mouth trifling nonsense, to act like a raging madman, to make sport with buffoonery, and to carry nothing in his mouth but bilge-water, sewers, privies, filth and dung."

Thomas More was a staunch Catholic, and so for a while, he and King Henry were both aligned against Protestantism, and Henry made More his Lord Chancellor. But then Henry decided to break with the Church and declare himself Supreme Head of the English Church, and More refused to sign an oath recognizing Henry above the rest of the Church. Finally Henry had More beheaded.

Robert Bolt wrote the play A Man For All Seasons about the life of Sir Thomas More. It debuted in London in 1960, and in 1966, it was made into a movie starring Paul Scofield and Orson Welles.

In A Man For All Seasons, More says, "I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live."

It was on this day in 1812 that Ludwig van Beethoven wrote two famous love letters to an unknown woman. Beethoven wrote the letters from the Czech resort town of Teplitz, which his physician had recommended for his health, and there he became friends with the poet Goethe. And over the course of two days, he wrote three letters to a mysterious woman who has come to be known as "the Immortal Beloved." He wrote:
July 6, in the morning
My angel, my all, my very self — Only a few words today and at that with pencil (with yours) … Oh God, look out into the beauties of nature and comfort your heart with that which must be — Love demands everything and that very justly — thus it is to me with you, and to your with me. … We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life — If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these. My heart is full of so many things to say to you — ah — there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all — Cheer up — remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours. The gods must send us the rest, what for us must and shall be —
Your faithful LUDWIG

Evening, Monday, July 6
… Wherever I am, there you are also — I will arrange it with you and me that I can live with you. What a life!!! thus!!! without you — pursued by the goodness of mankind hither and thither — which I as little want to deserve as I deserve it — Humility of man towards man — it pains me — and when I consider myself in relation to the universe, what am I and what is He — whom we call the greatest — and yet — herein lies the divine in man — I weep when I reflect that you will probably not receive the first report from me until Saturday - Much as you love me — I love you more — But do not ever conceal yourself from me — good night — As I am taking the baths I must go to bed — Oh God — so near! so far! Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?

Good morning, on July 7
Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life — Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men — At my age I need a steady, quiet life — can that be so in our connection? Be calm — love me — today — yesterday — what tearful longings for you — you — you — my life — my all — farewell. Oh continue to love me — never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
ever thine
ever mine
ever ours

For 200 years, scholars have been arguing over the identity of the Immortal Beloved. There is Giulietta Guicciardi — Beethoven gave her piano lessons when she was young, and eventually she married a count but stayed friends with Beethoven. Bettina von Arnim, a writer, singer, composer, and a friend of the poet Goethe. She exchanged letters with Beethoven, and in those letters, he wrote her in the intimate German form of address. There is Antonie Brentano, who was unhappily married and met Beethoven in Vienna — she became ill there, and Beethoven played piano for her while she was sick. He wrote the letters shortly before she moved away, and he never saw her again.

It was on this day in 1957 that John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at a church dance in Liverpool, England. John Lennon was almost 17, and Paul McCartney had just turned 15. Lennon had formed a band called the Quarrymen. They were all right, but not great, and they couldn't play at bars because they were all underage. But they got a gig playing at St. Peter's Church for the annual summer garden party, on a stage in a field behind the church, and then again that night in the dance hall at the church. Paul McCartney heard the band and thought they were pretty good — especially John Lennon. Paul went to school with one of the band members, who took him over to the band and introduced him while they were setting up for their second show. Paul said that he played guitar, and also that he knew how to tune one. No one in the band could tune their own guitars — they took them to a specialist — so they were impressed. Paul taught John how to tune, and he sang him a few recent rock songs, including a medley by Little Richard. And about a week later, John asked Paul to join the band.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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