Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 5

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes, Episode 5! Regular listeners to the posts know that the Letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate. First, they were plain old letters, then postcards, and afterwards, postscripts. Now they have become footnotes!

All you need is the tiniest seed to land on whatever passes as fertile soil, however feeble, however sparse and uninviting. Life goes on! Here in Sydney, summer beckons and so too those clever weeds which jeer every year at my attempts to make my grass and garden, such as they are, conform to something not a million miles away from those photos you see on lifestyle magazines and programs. So, too, instead of keeling over and dying, the footnotes have found another chance of life by transforming from Demos for Damocles into Covers for Castaways!

Gosh, it’s almost like it was predicted or something! Somewhere off the coast of Quotidia is a vast swirling gyre in which is trapped all the plastic waste and detritus of the surrounding ocean. Trapped, too, are those fugitives from…wherever, who have foundered or crashed or blundered into the gyre and then, somehow, made their way to the magical central island which offers basic sustenance and shelter. And those castaways arrive on the island with little more than the songs that have defined them over their lives.

They may, indeed, think of themselves as inhabiting the island of Shakespeare’s, Tempest where they find themselves surrounded by Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not/.Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments/Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,/That, if I then had waked after long sleep,/Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,/The clouds methought would open, and show riches/Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,/I cried to dream again. Are you like Caliban, the monster who loves music?  So, too, am I. The vast swirling gyre off the coast of Quotidia affects not only the physical parameters of our world but also those of time- for pulled into its whirlpool are people from various eras in the history of our world.

The Covers for Castaways are from the folk and popular music traditions of the English-speaking diaspora and are available to all of you who are castaways, on whatever shore your life may have washed you up on. Perhaps you, too, have been swept onto that magical central island that forms the bullseye of the great gyre swirling off the coast of Quotidia. As we walk along the shore of our island we encounter our first castaway, Dominic Behan, who is singing as he throws shells back into the surf churning at his feet. I recognise the song, it’s The Sea Around Us. [insert song]

He was born in 1928 into the literary Behan family of Dublin. A prodigious talent as a songwriter and singer, short story writer and novelist, he was also a playwright who wrote in Irish and English. I encountered him once when, Brendan, my older brother, and I hitchhiked to Bundoran on the Donegal coast from our home in Cushendall in the Glens of Antrim in 1965. He was giving a one-man show in the Parochial hall, and he entertained us with humour and passion.

He died in 1989. But here on the magical island at the centre of that swirling gyre,  we get chatting and he reveals he is still sore at Bob Dylan for stealing from his song, The Patriot Game to write With God On Our Side . When Dylan suggested they let the lawyers sort it out Behan retorted that he had two lawyers at the end of his wrists, and he would prefer that they do the talking. I, of course, maintained a diplomatic silence over Dominic Behan’s many borrowings from others, often without attribution.

A case in point is Avondale, a short, melodious tribute to one of Ireland’s heroes. In Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, there is a gravestone of unhewn Wicklow granite. On it, is inscribed one word. Nothing else is needed. Such is the fame, among the Irish, of the person there interred, that anything else would be superfluous. And the word? Parnell. Also known as “the uncrowned king of Ireland,” Charles Stewart Parnell was born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family which could boast links with American naval hero Admiral Charles Stewart as well as the British Royal family through his great-grandmother who belonged to the Tudor family. He was a complex mix of conservative inclinations and revolutionary entanglements. Having little detailed knowledge of the Irish tradition of resistance and its luminaries, he would, nevertheless become its figurehead in the imagination of the Irish struggling classes at home and abroad.

So then, what is a toff like Parnell doing in such company? Well, you know, he is not alone. Sir Roger Casement, another scion of the Anglo-Irish establishment and, incidentally, one of the earliest human rights activists in that he revealed the atrocious treatment of native workers at the hands of imperialists in the Belgian Congo. This place was also known as- thanks to Joseph Conrad-  the heart of darkness. Casement is celebrated in song as a hero of the Easter Rising of 1916. And, if we skip back a couple of centuries, we find a descendent of the French Protestant Huguenots who fled to Britain, one Theobold Wolfe Tone, a founder of the United Irishmen.

Not one of these men lived to make old bones: Tone was dead at 35 under unclear circumstances, Casement was hanged for high treason at age 51 and Parnell died at age 45, after a scandal involving his long-time mistress and mother to his children, Kitty O’Shea. Being a hero is tough in any tradition. But if you’re Irish, and you want to come into the parlour of nationalistic Ireland’s prim regard, you’ll need to be squeaky clean in the eyes of the gatekeepers of traditional sexual morality as well as possessing the usual comprehensive skill set of those who aspire to be leaders of others.

Like that headstone in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, the song, Avondale, provides little in the way of information about its subject. But its evocation of the lovely surrounds of Parnell’s birthplace is a feature and he bestows a heroic epithet on the charismatic and talented leader of the Irish parliamentary party- one better than, adulterer, which cruelled his career and Ireland’s hopes of achieving Home Rule. The heroic epithet?- Avondale’s proud eagle. It tickled me to learn, as I was researching the background of Avondale, that Dominic Behan lifted– in the way of folk artists everywhere who often “borrow” from other sources- the tune of a 19th Century loyalist song, “The Orange Maid of Sligo!” [insert song]  

The Patriot Game was written by Dominic Behan to the tune of an Irish traditional song, The Merry Month of May . Its narrator is Fergal O’Hanlon, who was a member of an IRA team who attacked the RUC barracks at Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh on New Year’s Day, 1957. He, along with Sean South from Limerick, was killed; also killed in the attack was a young Catholic constable, John Scalley. I sang the song many years ago at a pub in western Sydney and a couple of blokes there objected to the “IRA song”. Yet, I view the song as an example of the tragic deaths fuelled by love of country, particularly of young men. Interestingly, Christy Moore, the greatest practising singer-songwriter in Ireland today, notes that the song is often requested at his gigs by British soldiers.

Where, I wonder, do you stand on the issue? Are you with Samuel Johnson who wrote, Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Or do you prefer Oscar Wilde’s, Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. George Bernard Shaw sighed, You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race. Much more gung-ho was Thomas Jefferson who thundered, The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. His compatriot and contemporary, Benjamin Franklin sneered, A man who would sacrifice freedom for security deserves neither. I, myself, have had varying positions on the subject but with Mark Twain now say,  Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Here is The Patriot Game. [insert song] CUL8R

Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 4

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes! Regular listeners to the posts know that the letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate: first they were plain old letters, then postcards, then postscripts, now they have become footnotes!

This is the fourth and final footnote of the quartet, Demos for Damocles and it deals with teenage love as well as love in old age- and, also, a strange meeting along the winding way. But let us start in the maelstrom of hormones turbocharging the adolescent brain that finds expression in all sorts of media from the ubiquitously crude anatomical scrawls on the doors and walls of public toilets to the sublime lines of William Shakespeare’s deathless drama: Romeo and Juliet. Between the dung-pit of the former and the sunlit pinnacle of the latter, you will no doubt be able to slot in many examples of your own.

But listen: Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs./Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;/Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears./So says the grandiloquent Romeo, but Juliet effortlessly surpasses his efforts at expressing love- as found here, Give me my Romeo, and, when I shall die,/Take him and cut him out in little stars,/And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night,/And pay no worship to the garish sun./

In a previous Letter From Quotidia I recounted a poem I used with year-nine teenage students purportedly written by a girl whose boyfriend had gone off to Vietnam. It’s by Merrill Glass and whether true or apocryphal, it had a powerful effect on my class, Remember the time you lent me your car and I dented it?/I thought you’d kill me…/But you didn’t.//Remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was/formal, and you came in jeans?/I thought you’d hate me…/But you didn’t.//Remember the times I’d flirt with/other boys just to make you jealous, andyou were?/I thought you’d drop me…/But you didn’t.//There were plenty of things you did to put up with me,/to keep me happy, to love me, and there areso many things I wanted to tell/you when you returned from/Vietnam…/But you didn’t.//

The song I offer as a study in teenage love has two parents: First, Wordsworth, who defined poetry as emotion recollected in tranquillity. Second, Thomas Hardy, who was 72 when he began to write some of the most moving love poems as a reaction to the death of his wife Emma. I wrote then, Now- deluded as I may be about a lot of things- I’m not about to compare myself to these giants! I’m thinking about my mid-teens when I was caught a maelstrom over the developing relationship with my girlfriend- who is now my wife- ineffable proof that even miserable sods like me can strike it lucky. Here is From Your Spell [insert song]

I’ll now present Ambrose Bierce’s version of the 10 Commandments. According to Poetry Foundation he professed to be mainly concerned with the artistry of his work, yet critics find him more intent on conveying his misanthropy and pessimism. In his lifetime, Bierce was famous as a journalist dedicated to exposing the truth as he understood it, regardless of whose reputations were harmed by his attacks. For his sardonic wit and damning observations on the personalities and events of the day, he became known as “the wickedest man in San Francisco.”

I prefer to remember him as I presented him in Postscripts Episode 4, “He served with distinction in the Union Army during the Civil War, receiving newspaper accolades for his daring rescue under fire of a gravely wounded comrade at the battle of Rich Mountain. He sustained a traumatic brain injury at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, but he survived and thrived, Bierce’s ultimate fate remains a mystery. He wrote in one of his final letters: Good-bye. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags, please know that I think it is a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico–ah, that is euthanasia!”

Here is his take on Arthur Hugh Clough’s The Latest Decalogue which he entitled, The New Decalogue. Have but one God: thy knees were sore/If bent in prayer to three or four.//Adore no images save those/The coinage of thy country shows.//Take not the Name in vain. Direct/Thy swearing unto some effect.//Thy hand from Sunday work be held—/Work not at all unless compelled.//Honour thy parents, and perchance/ Their wills thy fortunes may advance.//Kill not—death liberates thy foe/From persecution’s constant woe.//Kiss not thy neighbour’s wife. Of course,/There’s no objection to divorce.//To steal were folly, for ’tis plain/In cheating there is greater gain.//Bear not false witness. Shake your head/And say that you have “heard it said.”//Who stays to covet ne’er will catch/An opportunity to snatch./

I have a large store of riffs and chord sequences built up over the years. One sequence from, forty years ago, popped into my head trailing remnants of text behind it. This was the chorus, of the song, A Brief Encounter, you are shortly going to hear. The image of an old man with a suitcase, waiting in the rain on the side of the road surfaced and, perhaps, he was quoting from Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary to while away the time as he waited for someone to stop and offer him a ride, Cannon (n) An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries. Faith (n) Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. Religion (n) A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. And then I pulled over to the side of the road and asked him if he wanted a lift. [insert song]

The final song of the Demos for Damocles is one I never imagined I would write, as I was speculating about it all those years ago. In Postscript 5 I wrote, “I was a callow youth with pimples and pretensions in the year 1967. To be anywhere in the British Isles in those years of the mid-sixties as a music-loving teenager was to be in some iteration of heaven. Hey Joe, knocked me sideways when first I heard it, and Purple Haze knocked me completely out of the park! In the summer of 67 ‘, I went into a music store to buy Hendrix’s first LP, and the strangest thing happened: the girl behind the counter tried to talk me out of making the purchase. Apparently, the cover design with the flamboyant Hendrix with his band and what she had picked up from scuttlebutt and the usual puerile vapouring of presenters on local radio prompted her to attempt to save me from…who knows?

I bought the LP after a brief tussle with the assistant I have no ill aftereffects to report more than 55 years later. The B side of Purple Haze was 51st Wedding Anniversary and I had just started going out with my girlfriend, later to be my wife, and remember puzzling about what such an anniversary would be like for me, for us. I don’t need to puzzle any more as that very anniversary occurred on 3rd July 2022. Here is the song I wrote to mark the occasion- Our 51st Wedding Anniversary Song.” [insert song]

Thus endeth the final footnote of Demos For Damocles. If there were to be more footnotes, I imagine they would have to be tied to something similar to the Demos and with my penchant for alliteration they would have to carry the burden of a title such as, oh, Covers For Castaways? As usual, only time will tell. But let me finish this post with what Ambrose Bierce had to say about Youth (n.) The Period of Possibility, when Archimedes finds a fulcrum, Cassandra has a following and seven cities compete for the honour of endowing a living Homer. Youth is the true Saturnian Reign, the Golden Age on earth again, when figs are grown on thistles, and pigs betailed with whistles and, wearing silken bristles, live ever in clover, and cows fly over, delivering milk at every door, and Justice is never heard to snore, and every assassin is made a ghost and, howling, is cast into Baltimost! I guess he didn’t much like Baltimore. So, until, perhaps, a next time- take care!

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 3

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 3

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes! Regular listeners to the posts know that the letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate: first they were plain old letters, then postcards, then postscripts, now they have become footnotes! The first four footnotes have the common title of Demos for Damocles.

This is the third footnote, and it modulates from a focus on a public and political mortality to one rather more personal. Now, how can I put this? As our lives progress the likelihood of attending more funerals than dances increases. And this likelihood has hit home in the past few years as people close to me have met their end. It is our common lot though, is it not?

In the first postscript published five months ago, I spoke about my fondness of the poetry of American poet Edgar Lee Masters who wrote, as my muse Wikipedia puts it, a magnificent  collection of short free verse poems that collectively narrates the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional small town named after the Spoon River, which ran near Masters’ home town of Lewistown, Illinois. The aim of the poems is to demystify rural and small-town American life. I have visited these poems at several points in my Letters from Quotidia series.

As a reaction to the deaths of some of those close to me I wrote a song inspired by Masters’ Spoon River Anthology from 1915. I called it The Hill and I quote the first verse here: Another friend meets the end and moves under the hill/Who knows why that east wind blows or where it goes/Should I listen to some fairy tale spun out of grief-laden hope/Or go down to my garden bed with a sapling I’ll set in the ground/May it grow and spread and may it fill the air with sweet bird-song sound/So I plant and water well this earth that carries promise of life/And I trust the sun and rain to work their magic in time/Another miracle is on its way if it doesn’t wither and die//

Gardens are so evocative- there is Eden, of course, the hanging versions found in Babylon, or imperial instances such as those at Versailles. Any self-respecting town proudly boasts its own botanical garden. Any self-respecting home will have a garden, however small, even if it is only on an apartment balcony. The last time I saw my father alive was a few days before he died. My mother had rung me to see if I could get any tomato plants as my father had been fretting about not having put in a crop for that year. I found some plants at a nursery near where I lived at the time and brought then down to Cushendall in the Glens of Antrim for him. He had always been proud of his garden, his greenhouses, his trees and the produce he was able to provide for his family. My last clear memory of him: I saw this once-strong man dragging a bag of fertiliser across the lawn from the storage shed to where I was digging the plants into the prepared bed. Some of this made it into the song The Hill, [insert song]

The next two songs are quite recent, but this footnote will give wider context to them both, as indeed, was the case for the song just played. Thomas Hardy in his final years returned to poetry as his primary way of expressing his soul after decades of writing novels that captured the imagination of a worldwide public.

In his late poem, The Shadow on the Stone, written sometime between 1913 and 1916, he begins, I went by the Druid stone/ That stands in the garden white and lone,/ And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows/   That at some moments there are thrown/From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,/ And they shaped in my imagining/To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders/ Threw there when she was gardening.//A stunning and evocative opening stanza. With the shadows cast by the tree on the druid stone sparking a memory of his deceased wife, Emma Gifford, gardening at that spot and throwing shadows on the stone. Hardy continues, I thought her behind my back,/Yea, her I long had learned to lack,/And I said: “I am sure you are standing behind me,/ Though how do you get into this old track?”/And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf/As a sad/ response; and to keep down grief/I would not turn my head to discover/That there was nothing in my belief.// He is sure she is there-at one level of his being-and the obdurate old agnostic decides against turning his head to discover that, there was nothing in my belief. Hardy ends his poem with the lines, Yet I wanted to look and see/That nobody stood at the back of me;/But I thought once more: “Nay, I’ll not unvision/A shape which, somehow, there may be.”/ So I went on softly from the glade, And left her behind me throwing her shade,/As she were indeed an apparition—/My head unturned lest my dream should fade.//

Unlike the hero of the Orpheus myth, Hardy does not turn around and thus preserves the possibility of his wife’s presence as an apparition. Setting down these thoughts made me suddenly choke up because I realised that I had written a song years ago, in 1997, about my son who had died in a motorbike accident in 1989. The song, Surprised By Joy, from Letters From Quotidia Episode 12 published on 28th January 2021 used the trope of an apparition: here are the relevant lyrics: I dreamed one night that I was playing slack. My chords were just as rough as guts, and I was sweating blood. A guitar rang out behind me and straightened out the line. I hadn’t heard that sound since 1989. I was surprised by joy to hear my long-lost boy, playing right behind me as he hadn’t played in years. I turned around to smile at him but there was no one there. Just a long note dying and a shadow in the air. I was surprised by joy.

The song, Surprised by Joy, was performed only once in public, at the newly opened Penrith Gaels club in Sydney in 1997. Unfortunately, I had neglected to tell my wife about this song, which had just been written. Indeed, the decision to sing it was spur-of-the-moment. As she listened to the lyrics, she realised the context and left the venue in tears. When she asked me later if the dream detailed in the song, Surprised by Joy, had been a real dream, I admitted that, no, it was just an idea I had for writing a song- but true, just the same- truer, perhaps, because it was not dredged from the unconscious sludge of my mind but that I dreamed the whole thing consciously as I beat the red-hot iron in the smithy of my waking imagination, feeling with each blow, the pain of loss but persevering nonetheless to produce an elegy that would serve.

Now, I’ll let Dr Oliver Tearle introduce the song I wrote to Hardy’s lyrics, During Wind and Rain is one such poem, recollecting Emma’s childhood life in Devon with her family. Emma, like her parents, is now in that ‘high new house’ of heaven, and all that remains of her is the name on her gravestone and Hardy’s memories of her. Hardy’s use of the refrain ‘the years O!’ (or ‘the years, the years’ as the even-numbered stanzas have it) calls to mind not only the passing of time but also the years marked on those gravestones, alongside the names. [insert song]

The final song, Dust and Dreams, combines words from the Roman poet, Horace, and the well-known words of Ecclesiastes popularised by Pete Seeger in his song Turn, Turn, Turn. It was only recently featured in the Letters on 15th October so I’ll avoid any further explication and to lighten this footnote a tad, here is a poem from one of my go-to poets, Robert Frost who talks about A Dust of Snow, The way a crow Shook down on me/ The dust of snow From a hemlock tree/ Has given my heart/ A change of mood/ And saved some part/ Of a day I had rued. He’s so good, isn’t he. Another of my go-to poets is Langston Hughes who treats the topic Dreams to a similarly epigrammatic brevity, Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly.//Hold fast to dreams/For when dreams go/Life is a barren field/Frozen with snow// I can’t think of a better way to conclude this footnote. [insert song]

The next footnote is the last of the Demos for Damocles quartet featuring a song about teenage love, a song about a brush with fate and a song about love in old age. Hope to meet you all next week.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2022

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 2

Quentin Bega
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Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 2

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes! Regular listeners to the posts know that the letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate: first they were plain old letters, then postcards, then postscripts, now they have become footnotes! The first four footnotes have the common title of Demos for Damocles. This is the second footnote, and it is heavily weighted towards one country: Ukraine, which continues its David and Goliath battle against Russia. Damocles, as we know, was a toady and not overly imbued with courage. The opposite, really, of those brave men and women whose poetry I have championed in the past nine months. In letter 197 I wrote:

I do not think I am alone in thinking the present crisis in Ukraine truly existential. It reminds me of the climactic scenes in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo looks as though he will fail in his quest to save Middle Earth from an apocalyptic future. I note that the Russian side have also visited the Tolkien masterpiece. Having been widely lambasted for trying, unsuccessfully, to stick the label of Nazi on the Jewish President Zelensky, whose grandfather fought the Nazis in World War II, they are now trying to de-humanise a whole country by drawing a parallel between the creature Gollum and Ukrainians- and to capture the attention of the pious, they label as satanic the regime that has so successfully resisted their brutal invasion. And cheering this unholy alliance of trolls, propagandists and sycophantic self-servers who seek to demonise Ukraine and its people is the Russian Orthodox leader, Patriarch Kirill- shame on him!

That was on 20th April earlier this year and nothing in the months since has altered my opinion. The reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces had already percolated out and they continue to this day. Will there be a reckoning? I hope so, at some time, one day. I wrote a song about this. Here are the opening verses: Woke up this morning, what did I see-/ a man with a rifle looking down at me/I went to get up from my bed and he said, /we ain’t finished with it yet/So I lay and looked up at the ceiling,/ emptied my mind of any feeling/Meanwhile out the window I saw feeding,/ a raven on a corpse a-bleeding//Woke up this morning, walked out my door for work,/saw a soldier beckoning to me/He tied my hands behind my back and led me to a pit,/said to me get into it/He raised his gun and motioned me to turn round-/ you don’t want to see what’s coming next. And here now is that song, Meanwhile. [insert song].

I spoke previously of the courage of the Dominicans of the Kyiv Institute as revealed in the letters from Ukraine written by Jaroslav Kraviec, OP, the provincial vicar. In his latest letter, which our parish of St Joseph’s receives as part of the Dominican family, he writes, what will happen when the winter frost comes… will the Russians…continue the destruction of power plants. I remember wondering whether any new students enrol this year. We are at war after all. Ultimately, many more candidates applied than in previous years. Among them are both Catholic and Orthodox, and even others simply looking for truth…most of them want to study because they want to find the key to explain what is happening around them. On Friday, when I saw our lecture hall filled with students, I remember words from the letter of Father Timothy Radcliffe: The violence which is being wrought against your beautiful country is the poisoned fruit of lies. We Dominicans, with our motto Veritas, and our love of truth, have a special witness to give today in a world which often does not care for truth.

But poets care for truth: one is Serhiy Zadan who lives in Kharkiv. Born in Luhansk oblast in 1974, he, like most of the poets I have featured, is multi-talented and has amassed heaps of national and international awards. In one of his poems, he writes about someone returned from a war front: Now he spends all day in bed/listening to demons in his head//The first demon is fierce/a fire-spitter demanding/punishment for all living beings//The second demon is mild,/talks of forgiveness,/speaks softly,/puts his hands, smeared with black earth, right on your heart//The third demon’s the worst,/He gets along with both./Agrees with both, won’t contradict./Just his voice alone/gives you a migraine.//  

A standout for me is Maryana Savka who was born on February 21, 1973.  She is a poet, children’s writer, translator, and publisher and has won a slew of awards. Her works have been translated into seven languages including English, Russian and Polish. Apart from writing, Maryana is also a composer and a singer in the Maryanychi Trio, for which she has written over 30 songs. I hope if she in the remotest of remote chances, happens to hear my treatment her poem, that she isn’t too disappointed in it. Maryana Savka is a member of PEN Ukraine and serves as the United Nations Development Program Tolerance Ambassador in Ukraine. I use one of her short poems for lyrics of the short song which follows. As a title I use one of the lines of her poem, What Changed, My Sister?Apart from that, the only change I have made is to repeat the last line twice to complete the song musically- The metaphor-died. [insert song]

In Letters From Quotidia Episode 128 I wrote, “T S Eliot hove into my mental view like an ocean liner bearing down upon a sailing dinghy. Typical school poetry anthologies of the 1960s were no preparation for the impact The Waste Land made on me as I slumped at the back of the room of the Eng-Lit lecture where I first encountered the work of  the magisterial American titan in 1969: April is the cruellest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain./ And recently, knowing I would be returning to Eliot’s masterpiece of 1922, and having reviewed some of the critical work of a century later, I roared with laughter to discover that the poet dissed his own achievement by commenting in a lecture at Harvard, “To me it was only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life; it is just a piece of rhythmical grumbling” Winston Churchill,  whose 1941 riposte to the French collaborator Marshal Petain’s claim that Hitler would overrun England in three weeks and wring its neck like a chicken, still makes me chuckle- Some chicken, some neck!” How many in the commentariats of both East and West claimed authoritatively that Ukraine would be overrun in three days! Churchill’s riposte rings out again!

The title of the song at the end of this post, Fragments Piled Against My Ruin, borrows from line 430 of The Waste Land, these fragments I have shored against my ruins.  The splintered milieu of post-World War One Europe which saw the collapse of several Empires and the ravages of a pandemic that claimed up to 50 million lives back then, finds an echo today in the aftermath of 9/11, the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, most recently, the escalating war in Ukraine and our ongoing struggles with the latest pandemic. Of course, our lives count for very little against the backdrop of huge events such as those referenced in the poem and are immeasurably less important in the ledgers of history- but they are all that we possess and, therefore, if we choose to shore up our ruins by gathering around us the fragments of our own creations, whatever they may be, then that is justification enough in my humble opinion. [insert song]

That ends the second Demos for Damocles footnote. But if you are taking to heart the proverb that a cat may look at the king- remember the aftermath suggested by Jan Struther,“His daydream was suddenly shattered into a thousand fragments like a lance against plate-armour. He saw the flash of a jewelled shoe-buckle as the toe of the royal shoe caught him in the ribs. He heard the royal voice raised in petulant indignation. He felt himself flying through the air and landing on the hard paving-stones a little way off. And then it penetrated to his chaos-stricken brain that the King had kicked him.” CUL8R.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2022

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes episode 1

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes! Regular listeners to the posts know that the letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate first they were plain old letters, then postcards, then postscripts, to footnotes now!

The first four footnotes have the common title of Demos for Damocles. Shall we interrogate the title? Yes, let’s! Demo as a singular noun may represent the trial of, say, a cooking technique, which doesn’t apply here; a protest in Britain- that’s strike two; or a section of the population as an abbreviation of demographic- you’re out! cries the umpire. No. In the context of this Letter from Quotidia, it is- a preliminary recording. Pluralised it can be mistaken for the populace- or the common people of an ancient Greek state or colony: Demos. Which brings us to the title: Demos for Damocles.

According to Wikipedia, Damocles was an obsequious courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, a 4th-century BC ruler of Syracuse, Sicily. Lavishing praise upon his Lord’s magnificence and puissance, Damocles was offered the chance to change places with Dionysius for a day- which he accepted with alacrity, only to discover a sword held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse’s tail hanging above his head as he sat on the throne. He rapidly vacated the seat of power, eager to resume the less threatening role of lackey. Rather than a sword, I’ll offer three songs for you to consider in each of the next four episodes as we ponder the possible meanings of the Sword of Damocles anecdote.

Is the moral- careful what you wish for? Or live a simple, uncomplicated life? Or as the Preacher in Ecclesiastes would tell you, vanity of vanities, all is vanity? Maybe just, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow…yeah, tomorrow! For at some tomorrow in the near or farther future- the hair breaks. So now, I want to preface the first song by reading from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The tide rises, the tide falls,/ The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;/ Along the sea-sands damp and brown/ The traveller hastens toward the town./ And the tide rises, the tide falls// Darkness settles on roofs and walls,/ But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;/ The little waves, with their soft, white hands,/ Efface the footprints in the sands,/ And the tide rises, the tide falls.// The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls/ Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;/ The day returns, but nevermore/ Returns the traveller to the shore,/To set up the series, here is the song Take This Frame Away [insert song]

— I am a gentleman in a dustcoat trying/To make you hear. Your ears are soft and small/And listen to an old man not at all,/They want the young men’s whispering and sighing./But see the roses on your trellis dying/And hear the spectral singing of the moon;/For I must have my lovely lady soon,/I am a gentleman in a dustcoat trying.//– I am a lady young in beauty waiting/Until my truelove comes, and then we kiss./But what grey man among the vines is this/Whose words are dry and faint as in a dream?/Back from my trellis, Sir, before I scream !/I am a lady young in beauty waiting.

That is John Crowe Ransom’s masterful sonnet about love and death, Piazza Piece, and represents the second sword of Damocles in this footnote. He well knew the topic: in his moving lament for the death of a child in Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter, he shows us the stark contrast between the flurry of activity that was a little girl chasing the geese from orchard to pond as her febrile energy echoed across the cosmos, until it comes to a shuddering halt. Then, we are in the dark room where her lifeless body lies: But now go the bells, and we are ready, /In one house we are sternly stopped/To say that we are vexed at her brown study/Lying so primly propped//

The bells here remind us of John Donne’s famous admonition: never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. Ransom shows us another lively girl in Janet Waking. Again, the subject is death (isn’t it obvious from the title?) But here death does not claim the girl, but rather her beloved pet hen, Chucky. Waking after a long sleep, we are told in line two of the poem that it was deeply morning: m.o.r.n.i.n.g. You don’t need too large a portion of perspicacity with your porridge to realise that it doesn’t bode well for her dainty-feathered hen.

Poor Chucky is no more because It was a transmogrifying bee/Came droning down on Chucky’s old bald head/And sat and put the poison/ The crying girl appeals to all of us “Wake her from her sleep!” And would not be instructed in how deep/ Was the forgetful kingdom of death.// T. S. Eliot, in Whispers of Immortality tells us: Webster was much possessed by death/And saw the skull beneath the skin;/ And breastless creatures underground/ Leaned backward with a lipless grin// .)

I first read Piazza Piece as a student at Trench House in early 1971. Half a century later, I returned to the poem to see if I could craft a song from its materials. You may judge how close I come to encompassing the world of the sonnet, in this waltz-time composition. [insert song]

I think the first logo was actually daubed on the entrance to a cave-dwelling and the prehistoric tribe got to know that this was the doorway to desire. What the mechanism of exchange was, I don’t know for sure, nor whether the desire advertised was carnal or spiritual, or, perhaps, both. But fast forward to 1389, where King Richard II of England passed a law requiring establishments that brewed beer to hang a sign indicating what they did (or risk having their ale confiscated). This led to businesses differentiating themselves by adding heraldic images to their signs. One pub would become The Green Dragon, another the Two Cocks.

And talking of ale, when I was last in Auckland, New Zealand, before the pandemic made trans-Tasman jaunts a thing of the past, I visited The Shakespeare Hotel in Alfred Street and bought a Tee-shirt featuring a quote from Henry V Act 3 scene 2, I would trade all my fame for a pot of ale. We incautious consumers are invited to imagine that this is the Bard himself speaking, or some other illustrious personage. The truth is less uplifting: shall I enlighten you? We find three wastrels, about whom I have written in earlier posts. Pistol, Bardolph and Nym, who, in their usual cowardly fashion, are hanging back from the siege of Harfluer- this was a real event which took place between 18 August – 22 September 1415. They are with a boy with no name- and it is he, who utters the well-known saying. His full utterance was: Would I were in an alehouse in London, I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety. 

Somewhat anachronistically, I imagine that the sign swinging outside the alehouse referred to by the boy and counting among its patrons the scoundrelly trio Pistol, Bardolph and Nym, I imagine that the swinging sign features a white feather. So, be careful what you buy into! How does that old Latin admonition go? Caveat emptor! Buyer beware. By the time Frank Mason Robinson designed the Coca Cola logo in 1885 the gentle lapping waves of logos from earlier times became a tsunami which is still washing over the globe today. Which one of us, amidst the churning surf of brands we are caught up in, is not wearing something that corporations have spent billions persuading us to consume.

Listen now to, Logoland, as I inform you that, for the first time since the end of 2019, I am taking my wife and daughter on a cruise to New Zealand where I hope to revisit The Shakespeare Hotel in Alfred Street, Auckland. I will, yet again, (GOD willing) trade all my fame for a pot of ale! [insert song]

The footnotes continue next week with an examination of circumstances with which I have only a fleeting experience from my years in Belfast during The Troubles between 1968 and 1972. There was civil conflict, explosions and multiple casualties, no doubt. But nothing that could compare to the horrors we watch daily on our newsfeeds from Ukraine since the Russian President, Vladimir Putin decided to invade a sovereign country on February 24th, 2022. Let us pray for peace in our world.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2022

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 20

PSFQ 20 Since You Walked Out of My Life, Paddy Went Home Today, Straight and True, OLd Dog, Slow Burn

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 20– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

In the previous Postscript I stated that I would offer more of the same, that is, a potpourri of poetry, song, and discursive musings. That’s true, but as this is the last Postscript, I decided to supersize it and offer five original songs from the 200+ Letters, Postcards, and Postscripts that have been published over the past 22 months. I’ll offer snippets from the five accompanying texts to set the scene and insert appropriate poetic texts as the need arises.

I’ll start with the first song I ever wrote. Here’s a bit from the 50th Letter, I see a gawky, 16-year-old with acne and a cheap guitar trying to impress his girlfriend (now wife) with his prowess on the fretboard. This is made rather difficult by the high action and rusting strings of the instrument and low degree of skill of the guitar’s owner. The high action made it difficult to hold down the chords with any facility or, indeed, accuracy and the teenage show-off made much of his ability to play runs on the top two strings (the thinnest of the bunch) that made a modicum of musical sense. Being a mid-teen and therefore very cynical and worldly-wise I cracked on that I was beyond the appreciation of country music having thrown my lot in with the Stones, Beatles, Who and any rock or pop act that was current. Acts from my younger and more foolish life, shared with parents and older siblings, such as Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash were thoroughly scorned and discounted. Strange, then, that my first composition was recognisably of just that despised genre. It was a parody, yes, and, as it turns out, incomplete, for I had only the first section, lyrically and musically, when first I flashed my song-writing credentials to my mildly amused partner. It took another dozen years to add a couple of sections to make it more than a fragment. Here is that song written over fifty years ago. [insert song]

On to Song 2. I wrote in Letter 27: what follows is a song of praise to the tradies who work long hours for little in the way of glory. I heard about the protagonist of the song when the members of the folk band I was playing in were talking about big drinkers we had encountered during our working lives. Paddy is based on a sheet-metal worker from inner Sydney, during the boom times of the mid-70s. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that most workers, given the unfettered choice, would down tools, so to speak and get on with a life suddenly expanded with alluring opportunities now that work was no longer needed to pay the bills and mortgage. A. E. Housman has an opinion about this that many would share, Yonder see the morning blink:/The sun is up, and up must I,/To wash and dress and eat and drink/And look at things and talk and think/And work, and God knows why.//Oh often have I washed and dressed/And what’s to show for all my pain?/Let me lie abed and rest:/Ten thousand times I’ve done my best/ And all’s to do again.// [insert song]

One of the decisions I made fairly early on was that that I would not seek the pedestal position some parents want; that yes, I would be as good a Dad as I could be to my kids but that I would let them see my feet of clay. Some would say that, in this, at least, I was an over-achiever.  The phrase, feet of clay, comes from the Book of Daniel in the Bible and I now realise that I should have chosen another metaphor to puncture childish idolatry because we are in the presence of a hero, Judaic rather than Greco-Roman, a seer and a prophet rather than a strong-man, Daniel divines and interprets the Dream of Nebuchadnezzar where a statue with a gold head, silver arms and breast, copper belly and thighs, iron legs and mixed iron and clay feet is destroyed by a rock. The Babylonian seers were unable to achieve this and were put to death: Daniel, is raised to power. I quoted from Ian Mudie’s poem My Father Began as a God as an illustration of how so many change and change again in their assessment of a parent; first idolising as most children do their parents, Strange then how he shrank and shrank/until by my time of adolescence/he had become a foolish small old man/with silly and outmoded views/of life and of morality./But then things change again, as I became older/his faults and his intolerances/scaled away into the past,/revealing virtues/such as honesty, generosity, integrity.//Strangest of all/how the deeper he recedes into the grave/the more I see myself/as just one more of all the little men/who creep through life/not knee-high to this long-dead god. I wrote this song, hoping that, in an ideal world, I might turn out to be like the protagonist in the opinion of my children, feet of clay notwithstanding. It’s the demo I give here rather than the full rock band version of Letter 20. [insert song]  

I’ve had cats and dogs as pets over the years and have appreciated the qualities of each. Every dog will have his day, and my last pet, a miniature fox terrier, we named Maggs after the Peter Carey character who, in turn, was based on the Charles Dickens’ character Abel Magwitch from Great Expectations. Lots of people go to Dickens for dog names: Barley, Browdie, Dodger, Duff, Granger, Jasper, Nubbles, Fluff- that last one I made up for the euphony. But the rest are suggested as suitable labels for our canine companions. For ten years Maggs kept the family company before succumbing to heart problems. My grief for the dog was real and on his final day, I sat on the back step listening to his laboured breathing, watching the stars come out, stroking his bony head and recalling Hopkin’s Spring and Fall: Margaret, are you grieving/Over Goldengrove unleaving/Now no matter child the name/Sorrow’s springs are the same/Ah as the heart grows older/It will come to such sights colder/It is the blight man was born for/It is Margaret you mourn for. [insert song]

For my final song, from Letter 113, I referenced my love of the song writing of Brian Wilson first heard as a 13-year-old in Aruba where I was enjoying the music.  Edmund Blunden’s The Midnight Skaters popped into my mind. How incongruous! was my initial reaction. A poem which describes a rustic pre-war setting among the hop-fields of Kent on a frozen pond seems a million miles from the affluent bubble that was the expatriate community of Aruba in the early sixties. The hop-poles stand in cones,/The icy pond lurks under,/The pole-tops steeple to the thrones/Of stars, sound gulfs of wonder;/But not the tallest thee, ’tis said,/Could fathom to this pond’s black bed. But as I pondered the intrusion of this poem into my reverie, I realised that the distance of age gave me perspective, as it did, with so much more effect, this wonderful English poet, then is not death at watch/Within those secret waters? /What wants he but to catch/Earth’s heedless sons and daughters? /With but a crystal parapet/Between, he has his engines set.

Aren’t we all earth’s heedless sons and daughters? And don’t you, like me, fall on your knees in thankfulness for our poets who tell us our innermost secrets and reveal to us a common language that we did not know we owned until they shared it with us? Over the years, I have heard the bell toll for so many of those who have shared that dancefloor. And not only my companions on that Caribbean crystal parapet, but those who have shared the dance with me in Ireland and Australia, Then on, blood shouts, on, on, /Twirl, wheel and whip above him, /Dance on this ball-floor thin and wan, / Use him as though you love him;/Court him, elude him, reel and pass, /And let him hate you through the glass. As I grow older, I become more grateful for the largesse bestowed upon me by those artists, present and past, who grow my soul. [insert song]

And that concludes the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia. Don’t know what is left…footnotes? Ahh, we’ll see, but- so long!

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 19

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 19 Anything Can Happen, She Moved Through the Fair, Dust and Dreams

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 19– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Horace, in Book 1, Ode 34, with the title, Fortune’s Changes exclaims, Once I wandered, an expert in crazy wisdom,/a scant and infrequent adorer of gods,/now I’m forced to set sail and return,/to go back to the paths I abandoned. In these lines, Horace recounts a trajectory followed by many before him, and, also, legions in the ages after he set down these words. He lived in interesting times afforded by his citizenship in the Rome of Emperor Augustus. Even with the patronage of Maecenas, friend, and adviser to the Emperor, Horace learned that nothing was certain in the murky swirling intrigues of Roman politics.

The last lines of his Ode describe the arbitrary nature of fate, of Fortune, The god has the power to replace the highest/with the lowest, bring down the famous, and raise/the obscure to the heights. And greedy Fortune/with her shrill whirring, carries away/the crown and delights in setting it, there. Two millennia later, Irish poet Seamus Heaney, shaken by the events of 9/11, wrote his poem, Anything Can Happen based on this Ode. Anything can happen, the tallest towers/Be overturned, those in high places daunted,/Those overlooked regarded./ He talks of Fortune as a bird of prey, tearing the crest off one,/Setting it down bleeding on the next.

Recognising that nothing will ever be the same again he ends the poem with the lines, Capstones shift, nothing resettles right./Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away. Time and mortality were themes Horace returned to in Ode seven of the fourth book, The swift hour and the brief prime of the year/Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye./Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring/Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers/Comes autumn, with his apples scattering;/Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs./ But oh, whate’er the sky-led seasons mar,/Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams:…we are dust and dreams.

A. E Housman, classical scholar, and poet considered this poem from which these lines are taken to be the most beautiful in ancient literature. And these lines speak to me more and more as the years pass. I first read Heaney as a student at Trench House, Belfast, where he had lectured just a few years before I enrolled there in the autumn term of 1968. After reading District and Circle, the collection from which Anything Can Happen is taken, I wrote this song of the same name in 2007 and later made it part of Letters From Quotidia, Episode 67 when I recorded these podcasts, starting last year in January 2021. Here is my song, Anything Can Happen, [insert song]  

She Moved Through the Fair is a traditional Irish folk song, which exists in a number of versions and has been recorded scores of times. The narrator watches his lover move away from him through the fair, after she tells him that since her parents approve of him, regardless of means, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day. She returns as a ghost at night and repeats the words it will not be long, love, till our wedding day, intimating her own tragic death and the couple’s possible reunion after death. Probably first collected in County Donegal by the Longford poet Padraic Colum, the lyrics were first published in Hughes’ Irish Country Songs by Boosey & Hawkes in 1909. In a letter published in The Irish Times in 1970,

Colum stated that he was the author of all but the final verse. He also said that he had forgotten to include a penultimate verse that referenced her death, but many artists don’t include this on the grounds that it is superfluous. And I must say, I agree. There have been many variants of the lyrics and melody collected over the years. Scottish tenor Canon Sydney MacEwan recorded the song in 1936 and from that time a succession of artists has given the song their imprimatur including John McCormack, Pete Seeger (about whom I will have more to say later), Dominic Behan, Richard Thompson, Sinead O’Connor, and Mary Black.

Lots of listeners find it spooky that she appears to him as a ghost in the final verse. But do you know what I find even more spooky? That her parents, from a peasant background, would have approved of any man lacking in resources of land, livestock, or cash money. But it is a pleasant thought and probably has elements of wish-fulfilment in it. Nonetheless, the melody and words have long appealed to me.

Just a few words on Padraig Colum who collected this song. He was a noted Irish writer who travelled widely, forming a friendship with Robert Frost when he moved to New York in 1914. He was contracted to Macmillan’s where he published a score of books including those on folk mythology and he explored remote areas of the Hawaiian Islands in 1922 where he had been contracted to set down myths from his research there. He also lived in France between 1930-1933 where he befriended James Joyce and in 1962, he became President of the James Joyce Tower Society in Dublin. In June 1970 he suffered a stroke and spent his remaining years in a nursing home where he died in 1972.

Before I play you my rendition of the song, here is his poem, Across The Door. The fiddles were playing and playing,/The couples were out on the floor;/From converse and dancing he drew me,/And across the door.//Ah! strange were the dim, wide meadows,/And strange was the cloud-strewn sky,/And strange in the meadows the corncrakes/,And they making cry!//The hawthorn bloom was by us,/Around us the breath of the south/White hawthorn, strange in the night-time/His kiss on my mouth! [insert song]

I’m going to finish this second-from-last podcast by using lines from the A. E. Housman translation of the Horatian Ode I quoted earlier as bookend-verses for some rather well-known lines from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 which Pete Seeger used to such great effect in his phenomenal co-written hit, Turn Turn Turn. His co-writer (who, in fact, wrote the bulk of the lyrics) has been variously credited as King Solomon, or some unknown scribe or scribes, or for those who revere the Bible as the word of God, the co-writer would then be- God, I suppose. The mash-up of the philosophy of the Graeco-Roman worlds with the inspired verse of the Judaic text appeals to me.

That Pete Seeger, in 1999 donated 45% of the royalties to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions who describe themselves as “an Israeli peace and human rights organization dedicated to ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories and achieving a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”, shows us how thoroughly decent this man was in his advocacy of peace and justice in the world over a long life which ended in 2014 with his death at age 94. Vale Pete Seeger. And my aim here is not hubristic- as I do not want to incur the wrath of the gods, or, indeed, God! Rather, it is to celebrate the individual caught in the coils of time and circumstance and to echo the pleas for peace which become more urgent and necessary with every day that passes. The title of this song is Dust and Dreams. [insert song]

Penultimate post done and dusted. Next week you may expect more of the same- a potpourri of poetry, song, and discursive musings but until then, here is a poem entitled Peace on Earth by William Carlos Williams, The Archer is wake!/The Swan is flying!/Gold against blue/An Arrow is lying./There is hunting in heaven—/Sleep safe till tomorrow.//The Bears are abroad!/The Eagle is screaming!/Gold against blue/Their eyes are gleaming!/Sleep!/ Sleep safe till tomorrow.//The Sisters lie/With their arms intertwining/;Gold against blue/Their hair is shining!/The Serpent writhes!/Orion is listening!/Gold against blue/His sword is glistening!/Sleep!/There is hunting in heaven—/Sleep safe till tomorrow. Does the poem reassure? I’m not so sure…but I always value poets over politicians.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 18

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 18 The Ballroom of Romance, Mairi’s Wedding, What Changed, My Sister?

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 18– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Ready for a ten-dollar word? As I am about to recount a humiliating experience, perhaps I am preparing myself for the sting of it by inviting, as a form of inoculation, your superior sneers and accusations of pretentious pedantry when I inform you most solemnly that this is the antepenultimate Postscript. (“Why don’t you just say third from last”! I hear you shout at the podcast) Nevertheless, this Postscript attaches itself, leechlike, to Letters From Quotidia 45, featuring the song The Ballroom of Romance, which was the best of the lot, according to the producer in the small studio up the Blue Mountains 22 years ago where I recorded a batch of 20 songs.

Now, he didn’t actually say it was any good, just the best of the lot…but you’ve got to take whatever praise, however faint, that comes your way, yeah? Can’t put it off any longer, here is that blasted reminiscence: Was it a dream or, perhaps, a nightmare? Was I there in that rural dancehall in Ireland in the late 1960s- a trio, with my brother and cousin? Maybe it was an atavistic, male, cautionary tale, but I can remember a shiver of premonitory trepidation as I approached the first girl in the line at the opposite end of the fluorescently lit hall. “May I have this dance?” I asked politely. “Sorry, no.” The accent was a lilting brogue that brought welts up on my soul. I could feel the eyes: from across the hall, my brother and cousin smirking and a ruck of male unknowns- as well as the sidelong glances and micro-expressions of amusement from the girls who had heard the put-down, stretching, as it seemed to me, to the crack of doom. “Fancy a dance?” I asked the next girl, feigning a couldn’t-care-less slouch. She didn’t even answer but turned away and continued a conversation with her friend. I don’t have to go on, do I? In some sad corner of my imagination, I am in that dancehall to this very day, moving along a line of increasingly lovely girls who reject me in a variety of fiendishly humiliating ways.

The Ballroom of Romance is a real place, it’s also a short story by William Trevor upon which is based a wonderful film starring Brenda Fricker. A bunch of songs carry this title as well as any number of poems ringing the changes on the phrase. But here is my take on this trope, composed during a holiday in 1985 on Lough McNean on the Irish border near the site of the legendary ballroom that attracted so many seeking love- or some facsimile of it in the 1950s and 60s. [insert song]

The dance theme continues with a song I first learned from The Clancy Brothers Song Book first published in 1962 but which I acquired in the mid-1960s. Wikipedia informs me that Màiri Bhàn or “Blond Mary” is a Scottish folk song originally written in Gaelic by John Roderick Bannerman. Winning the Mòd gold medal was (and is) regarded as the highest singing award in Scottish Gaeldom, and “Mairi’s Wedding” was composed to recognise this achievement. A track of Mary C. MacNiven singing her winning song at the 1934 Mòd is still available,and the Mod has founded a memorial salver competition to honour her name.  She continued to sing at Gaelic concerts and céilidhs for most of her life, and died aged 91 at her native Portnahaven, Islay[Eye-Lah] in 1997. Islay…just saying the name makes me want to visit this southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and sample the peaty goodness of the whisky distilleries to be found there.

But I digress! Here are the original words translated into English from Scottish Gaelic Love of my heart, fair-haired Mary,/pretty Mary, theme of my song:/she’s my darling, fair-haired Mary/and oh! I’m going to marry her.//Last night I fell in love/and now my heart is soaring high;/ fair-haired Mary singing by my side/and oh! I’m going to marry her!//Golden hair and kindly eyes,/shapely brow and smiling cheeks,/sweetest voice that ever sang/and oh! I’m going to marry her.//It was at a cèilidh at the Mòd/that I got to know the girl:/she was the winner of the gold medal/and oh! I’m going to marry her.//My love for Fair-haired Mary will be/eternally faithful and heartfelt;/ we’ll sing together of our love/and oh! I’m going to marry her.//

These are not the words you are going to hear sung now but rather you will hear the lyrics known world-wide, written by Sir Hugh Robertson and perennially popular since 1936 when it was first published. Robertson presented an original signed copy of his score to Mary C. MacNiven, and it became one of her most prized possessions. And, typically, I knew nothing of the song’s back story until, in preparing this post, I started my usual desultory trawl through the internet that I occasionally dignify with the term research. So, whether you call it Màiri Bhàn, Mairi’s Wedding or The Lewis Bridal Song, here is my short and bluegrass-tinged version of this song known the world over- or is that just my western-centric bias showing again. [insert song]

I’ll end this post with a song I wrote to lyrics from the publication, Words For War. I had sent to America for this shortly after the Russians invaded Ukraine seven months ago. I’ve referred to poems from this book several times since then. Today, I wish to acknowledge my debt to translators from the Ukrainian, Sibelan Forrester and Mary Kalyna with Bohdan Pechenyak. They translated the poems of Maryana Savka found in this collection. Maryana was born on February 21, 1973.  She is a poet, children’s writer, translator and publisher and has won a slew of awards. Her works have been translated into seven languages including English, Russian and Polish. 

Apart from writing, Maryana Savka is also a composer and a singer in the Maryanychi Trio, for which she has written over 30 songs. I hope if she in the remotest of remote chances, happens to hear my treatment her poem, that she isn’t too disappointed in it. Maryana Savka is a member of PEN Ukraine as serves as the United Nations Development Program Tolerance Ambassador in Ukraine. Before the song I wish to present the final poem of hers from the volume, Words For War.

january pulled him apart/February knocked him off his feet/spitting blood into the snow/he waited for his march-/but didn’t know what shore/he’d be able to cling to/ god what a calendar-/blow after blow/his heart scarred/by such weird months:/Deathcember, Sorrowtober, or Bittertember/where even the trees grow/upside down, crowns up into roots/so young he barely lived/yet dying his death fully/then one day/the war died with him/and he was born again in may/amidst the grasses/or maybe he didn’t really die/but just lay in the grass/ under a wide open sky/under the sky everyone’s alive//

The words of the song are a straight copy of the words on the page of the collection. The only thing I have added is a repeat of the last line, The metaphor- died, twice as a way of ending the waltz-time composition. Like Mairi’s Wedding, the song is just a little over two minutes in duration. [insert song]

I’ll sign off with lines from a poem about dancing from that well-known poet, Anonymous, Let the music play!/I would dance alway—/Dance till the dawn of the bright young day!/Wild notes are sounding—swift lights are glancing,/And I—I am mad with the rapture of dancing—/Mad with a breathless delight./With thine arm to enfold me,/Thy strong hand to hold me,/I could dance through an endless night.//Bid the music play!/Let us dance alway—/Through all life—through all time—dance forever and aye!/Such wild notes are sounding! Such bright lights are glancing!/And I—I am mad with the madness of dancing—/Of dancing?—or dancing with thee?/Let thy heart’s love enfold me!/Thy heart’s strength uphold me!/Let us dance till earth ceases to be!// So let us dance alway into the next, the penultimate, Postscript from Quotidia which is coming your way in a week’s time. And please- be kind and keep safe.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 17

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 17 Diving for Pennies, Carrickfergus, From Your Spell

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 17– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Twenty-one years ago, this month, I wrote in my journal, It is now my birthday- 10:30 p.m. on the 31st of October 2001 A.D. (if such an hour-and-date nomenclature has meaning in your time). I am living in an outer-western suburb of Sydney, Australia called Werrington (if such a geographical reference means anything to you). And I have been drinking (I’m sure, however straitened your circumstances, some form of potable liquor still has a place at your tables or around the fires at your campsites.) These pessimistic ramblings were prompted by the attack on the twin towers the month before when it seemed the foundations of the world had been shaken (as indeed they were).

I had recently recorded a song written in the latter half of the 1990s with the title Diving For Pennies where I compared playing music in a barroom setting  with the image of native boys- forsuch was the name given to males of any age by certain people-  who were diving for pennies thrown overboard from steamers in the 19th Century or cruise ships in the 20th Century by white tourists who would memorialise the activity with happy snaps from their cameras.  But even as I was writing the line, I knew it was a lie- see if you can spot the point of realisation as I recite the first line of the song- Diving for pennies or playing in a bar are not so very different- except who and where you are. The indignity of diving for pennies was not confined to saltwater locales only, for as Te Ara, the New Zealand encyclopedia shows in a photograph, Māori children sit in hot pools at Whakarewarewa [Wah-KAREH-Wa-Re-Wah] in the late 1800s, ready to dive for coins thrown into the pools by tourists. The encyclopedia goes on to say, It is now not recommended to submerge the face in thermal pools due to the risk of amoebic meningitis.

I knew that the comparison was false- the comparison between me, a middle-class product of western consumer society, and colonial or indigenous peoples scrabbling for crumbs from the groaning and inequitable table that we, in more fortunate circumstances, find a place around.  So, the saying, Comparisons are odious applies here- a saying at least six centuries’ deep. The song is on surer ground when it refers to the power of popular music- or as DJs will have it- the soundtrack of our lives. Now, listen out for lyrical and musical references to Danny Boy in Diving For Pennies: [insert song]

That’s as close to Danny Boy as I’m going to get- for this post anyway. But I’m not leaving the environs of Irish folk music just yet. About 35 miles south from Cushendall, the village where I was born, will find you Carrickfergus, one of the oldest towns in Ireland dating back to the 12th Century when Anglo-Norman knight Sir John de Courcy had a castle built there. The history of the castle since that time has followed a pattern fairly common in castles throughout history- that is, repeated sieges, battles, changes in- ah- management.

At one time, the United Irishmen had a major presence in the area and one of their members, William Orr was hanged in 1797 after what some called a rigged trial at the courthouse. Another claim to infamy is the last witchcraft trial in Ireland of eight women who were sentenced to four sessions in the pillory followed by a year’s imprisonment. Had you been alive in 1711 at that place you, too, would have been invited to pelt the unfortunate women with stones or rotten fruit. My trusty muse, Wikipedia, also tells me that during the American War of Independence, John Paul Jones, in command of the American ship Ranger, attempted to capture a British Royal Navy sloop of war, HMS Drake, moored at Carrickfergus. Having failed, he returned a few days later and challenged Drake to a fight out in the North Channel which the Americans won decisively.  

Here’s a topical titbit. There is a peerage of the British crown attached to this place held by William, Prince of Wales, the heir apparent. He was granted the title of Baron Carrickfergus by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, as a personal gift, on the day of his wedding to Kate Middleton. I will not, now, enter the debate that rages over the true origins of the song. Suffice to say that, like so many other folk songs, it is contested.

But, rather, to end this section, I’ll quote from a favourite poet of mine- Louis MacNeice, who spent part of his childhood here. Carrickfergus, I was the rector’s son, born to the Anglican order,/Banned for ever from the candles of the Irish poor;/The Chichesters knelt in marble at the end of a transept/With ruffs about their necks, their portion sure.//The war came and a huge camp of soldiers/Grew from the ground in sight of our house with long/Dummies hanging from gibbets for bayonet practice/and the sentry’s challenge echoing all day long//. Carrickfergus was a military encampment in both of the World Wars- here MacNeice refers to sounds and sights from his childhood during World War I. Time now for one of the most beautiful folk songs featuring those perennial themes of love, death, and drink. [insert song]

Luke Kelly was really on form in Wollongong, NSW, in the mid-seventies. The Dubliners were playing in the town hall, and we were in a hotel bar across the road, about a dozen of us, before the concert. We watched in awe as Luke sank shot after shot of whiskey- he had at least half a dozen in front of him. Then we got chatting. He was courteous and introduced himself- asking for each of our names. Then, after about ten minutes he said he had to go and, before he left, he bade good-bye to each of us, in turn, by name. Talk about a legend! At the concert, he sang a superb version of Carrickfergus. Alas, within ten years he would be dead at the age of 44, excessive drinking contributing more than a little- but we happened upon him when he was at or near his peak. Vale, Luke.

The subjunctive mood isn’t used much now, imperatives being all the rage. But I respond to its wistfulness, its wishing, its why-are-things-not-other-than-they-are. So, I wrote a song reflective of the velleities that accompany this mood. The song has two parents: First, Wordsworth, who in his introduction to Lyrical Ballads, the collection of poems he published with Coleridge, ushering in the Romantic Era of English literature. In the introduction he defined poetry as emotion recollected in tranquillity. Second, Thomas Hardy, whose reaction to the death of his wife Emma Gifford from whom he’d been estranged for years resulted in some of the most moving love poems in all of literature.

He was 72 when he began to write these. Now- deluded as I may be about a lot of things- I’m not about to compare myself to these giants! But the song I’m about to sing springs from the same sources they drew their inspiration from. I’m thinking about my mid-teens when I was caught in an emotional and hormonal maelstrom over the developing relationship with my girlfriend- who is now my wife- ineffable proof that even miserable sods like me can strike it lucky. And would I trade my contented old age for the travails of my teenage years? In a heartbeat! [insert song]

I have a sense of another winding down which I shall express here by quoting Longfellow: Such songs have power to quiet/The restless pulse of care,/And come like the benediction/That follows after prayer.//Then read from the treasured volume/The poem of thy choice,/And lend to the rhyme of the poet/The beauty of thy voice.//And the night shall be filled with music,/And the cares, that infest the day,/Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,/ And as silently steal away.// Thankfully, I have songs I listen to that have the power to quiet the restless pulse of care and poems aplenty that help to banish those cares that infest the day. I hope you do as well, so, until next week in Quotidia, be kind and do take care.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 16

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 16 Devils and Dust, Rose, Why Bother?

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 16– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

I want to talk now about a woman I’ve never met. She’s wearing an olive-green hoodie and she’s sporting a shoulder-length crop of bright-red hair and she’s looking at me with a grim smile from a book of poems from the war in Ukraine. her name is Anastasia Afanasieva. She is a renowned poet with numerous translations and awards. She also, according to my muse, Wikipedia, works as a medical psychologist in Kharkiv. The lines from a poem of hers I’m going to quote are translated from the Russian by Olga Livshin and Andrew Janco. Putin thought that his invasion of Ukraine would see Russian-speaking Ukrainians flocking to his cause. In fact, the opposite happened. Many Ukrainians who have been speaking Russian from birth are deliberately switching to speaking Ukrainian as a mark of defiance. Here’s what Anastasia Afanasieva has to say.

1. We live here,/on the line.//In the devil’s belly,/that’s where// 2. I came back/Barely made it/Took a while to get everyone out/…my parents…brother my sister my/pregnant daughter/I got them all out./ Out of that damned house/…What it took me to get them all out/ you can’t imagine/ one by one/ Right from the belly of the beast/ But I got them all out//And now my daughter/yes, the pregnant one/Says she wants to return/She’s headed back tomorrow/She has someone there/A man she loves/See, he stayed back there/And love, well/You know how love goes/With those young people/You know how it is for them/Anything for love//

Oh, yes. Anything for love. War turbocharges everything: love, death, poetry, you name it. Grotesque cruelty? That too. But I want to foreground what love means in times of war. And Anastasia Afanasieva, with the forbearance of mother’s everywhere, understands, despite everything, what lies behind her pregnant daughter’s choice. And now another story from Kharkiv- this happened just a few weeks ago: a chimpanzee escaped from the zoo there and was wandering the streets. But all was well- the staff found the chimp and after an exchange of hugs between the chimp and its keeper, they draped it in a yellow raincoat and transported it back to the zoo on a bicycle! Stories like this go some way in restoring your faith in human nature, don’t they?

Bruce Springsteen’s Devils and Dust is the something borrowed for this section of the post. I bought Springsteen’s Greetings From Ashbury Park in 1973, acquiring quite a few of his LPs, CDs, and streams over five decades. He is a huge and influential talent and has reached multiple millions with his music and stories. This is the first song of his that I’ve ever sung or recorded- go figure! It’s sort of folky, and I guess it fits the subject matter, too. It’s about a soldier during the Iraq War, reflecting about issues of faith and right and wrong as he processes the death, in battle, of his friend Bob. To preface the song, here is an excerpt from Iraqi-American poet, Dunya Mikhail’s poem The War Works Hard

How magnificent the war is!/How eager/and efficient!/Early in the morning it wakes up the sirens /and dispatches ambulances/to various places/swings corpses through the air/rolls stretchers to the wounded/summons rain/from the eyes of mothers/digs into the earth/dislodging many things/from under the ruins…/Some are lifeless and glistening/others are pale and still throbbing…/ The war continues working, day and night./It inspires tyrants/to deliver long speeches…/it contributes to the industry/of artificial limbs/provides food for flies…/It works with unparalleled diligence!/Yet no one gives it/a word of praise. Here, now, is my take on Bruce Springsteen’s Devils and Dust: [insert song]

For the second time in this Postscript, I wish to talk about a woman I’ve never met- and to do this I need to refer to Letters From Quotidia Episode 41, published on March 22nd 2021, where I featured a song about Rose, my paternal grandmother. In the mid-1990s, my nephew did a little delving into family history and rattled some skeletons in the closet. My grandmother had taken a trip to Germany on a ship captained by her husband in 1914. It would have been the chance of a lifetime back then- and not at all usual. I guess it provided Rose a break from the harsh domestic grind of rural life in the Glens of Antrim in that era. But it was really bad timing- I mean, how were they to know that the war to end all wars would break out as they docked in the port of Hamburg?

As subjects of Britain, they were interned- but separately. However, within a year, perhaps because she was a woman with three young boys waiting for her in Glenarrife, she was returned to Ireland without her husband. The stress and worry broke her mind, and she was confined to an insane asylum in the town of Antrim in the county of the same name in Northern Ireland where she died in 1917 without knowing the fate of her husband. He did survive the war and later remarried. But mental illness was a shameful thing for that generation so the only thing I heard about Rose growing up was, she died early because, she was delicate, highly strung, and other euphemisms of the kind.

My nephew, a journalist, managed to gain access to her medical records through Freedom of Information legislation and I was hurt to read about her pain, set down in clinical prose by the treating physician. In a subsequent email, my nephew informed me: she is still remembered by her kin. Rose has a simple marker in the Bay cemetery, Glenariffe, and flowers are still being placed on her grave. Love, again, trumps all the vicissitudes that war, inevitably, leaves in its wake. The version of the song, Rose, that I feature now is not the guitar-and-voice example of Letter 41, but a Band in a Box/Realband reworking of the material that I recorded a couple of years back: [insert song]

Ever wondered why men predominate as philosophers of despair? If Nietzsche was the stateless exile of the 19th Century, then his 20th century counterpart was the Romanian-born exile to France, Emil Cioran who has a large following among gloomsters of every age and stage. He wrote in 1998 If it is true that by death, we once more become what we were before being, would it not have been better to abide by that pure possibility, not to stir from it? What use was this detour when we might have remained forever in an unrealized plenitude? Samuel Beckett, the Irish playwright, and novelist, also an exile living in France more or less contemporaneously with Cioran, had this to say through the character of Pozzo in Waiting For Godot “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

According to Fernando Olszewski on the website Metaphysical Exile, Cioran wrote in his book The Trouble with Being Born,: “Better to be an animal than a man, an insect than an animal, a plant than an insect, and so on. Salvation? Whatever diminishes the kingdom of consciousness and compromises its supremacy.” According to the philosophy of despair the ideal world would be inhabited by rocks. I am a rock, anyone? So, taking my cue from Paul Simon, I also decided to write a song about alienation-titled Why Bother? Want to hear it? [insert song]

Only the village idiot thinks they belong, asserted Emil Cioran. Oh well, I guess I’d better rummage through my closet for my uniform of motley and set that dunce’s cap upon my pate because against all the evidence presented by the philosophers of despair, I actually think I do belong here. But, like Beckett because the writing is thought-provoking,  Cioran is worth reading. One of his aphorisms that I relate to is: What do I do from morning to night? I endure myself. (!) Yeah, I get that. So, until the next postscript drops, from the wild and nihilistic wastes of Quotidia, do please take care and keep the darkness at bay with endurance that only love  can give.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.