POEMS I HAVE LOVED IN LIFE #18

BLOG #25, SERIES 6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
POEMS I’VE LOVED IN LIFE #18
June 24, 2015

Alfred Noyes (1880 – 1958), though born in England, later moved to America, where he was Professor of English at Princeton (1914 – 1923). A prolific writer, he is best known for his The Loom of Years (1902), Poems, (1904), Forty Singing Seamen (1907), Tales of the Mermaid Tavern, and Forest of Wild Thyme (1905).

But out of all the works he ever wrote, it is The Highwayman that has given him immortality. My mother loved it, knew it by heart, and often performed it. One of the fascinating poetry genre we call “story poems,” it has an irresistible beat to it.

It is a poem to be recited to an audience—be sure and include children and teenagers—on a dark and stormy night. Turn the lights down low, or out completely. The more ghostly the setting the better!

Once heard, it can never be forgotten—especially if recited or performed by elocutionists like my mother. I’ve loved it ever since I first heard my mother perform it when I was young. If this was what poetry was—I wanted more of it!

THE HIGHWAYMAN
PART ONE
I

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle
His pistol butts a-twinkle
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

III

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

IV

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

V

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,.
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

VI

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair I’ the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

PART TWO
I

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon,
When the road was a gipsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
Marching—marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

II

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

III

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
“Now keep good watch!” and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
                Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

IV

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

V

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love’s refrain.

VI

               Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

VII

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,.
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

VIII

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

IX

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

X

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
                Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

XI

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
                Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN MARRIAGE AND HOME

BLOG #13, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE SLIPPERIEST OF SLIPPERY SLOPES:
THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN MARRIAGE AND HOME
March 27, 2013

The evidence has become overwhelming. Just as the Titanic—once considered unsinkable—plunged to its icy doom, just so marriage and family as institutions, are collapsing before our very eyes. Let’s note a few of the indications:

The traditional nuclear family (man, woman, and children) is no longer the norm in America. It is being dislodged by the new norm: the single-parent household.

It is now estimated that, in effect, one-third of all American children are being raised by their grandparents.

As unthinkable as such a thing once appeared, we are very close to another tipping point: live-in relationships outnumbering married relationships.

Another tipping point: out-of-wedlock births threatening to become another new normal—indeed I have begun to shudder every time I hear the term used, for almost invariably it has to do with another aspect of the continuing collapse of the American family.

Even in the ever more ubiquitous Home and Garden house-hunting shows, more and more unmarried singles are replacing married couples.

As for the juggernaut issue of gay marriage, while I’m certainly not against equal rights for gays, as a historian of ideas, I’m sensing another looming tipping point: the moment whenever the words “marriage” and “family” are referred to, they have to be qualified as to whether the term refers to the traditional meaning or “the new normal” meaning.

Today, pornography is so omnipresent, even in mainstream television, that it is no longer safe for children to have access to TV sets without parental guidance. Same for the worldwide web. And let’s face it, pornography going mainstream represents a huge threat to marriage and family.

Matthew L. Lifflander’s “The Economic Truth About Lying” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal has to do with perjury becoming another new normal. By extension, when God—however one perceives the deity—is removed from societal relevance, then lying under oath about telling the truth, “so help me, God,” or marriage vows invoking God, and life-long commitment between bride and groom . . . none of these will remain either meaningful or binding. The logical result of all this is an absolute breakdown of our entire legal system, when perjury ceases to be a crime by being reduced to mere misdemeanor status; and marriage is merely a temporary way-station rather than a divine institution sanctioned and blessed by God.

CONCLUSION

In the Old West, faced with such overwhelming odds against the survival of people traveling in wagon trains, the last resort was to circle the wagons and prepare to fight it out to the very death.

For the Christian community in America, is it possible we’ve reached such a last-resort moment?

DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB – PENROD

BLOG #44, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #14
BOOTH TARKINGTON’S PENROD
October 31, 2012

For November’s book, I’m reaching back to my childhood for one of the books I loved most during my growing-up years. Coming in the midst of Hurricane Sandy devastation, I felt following up Mendenhall’s Cool Names with a book like Penrod might be an additional opportunity to stir in a few chuckles—well, more like a lot of them.

Another reason for choosing this book is that it graphically—by contrast—highlights how much childhood, family life, and community interaction has changed since Booth Tarkington launched his bad boy on an unsuspecting public. “Bad” is a poor choice of words, for Penrod can more aptly be described a tornado of mischief wrapped up in boys’ clothing.

In reading Penrod, our readers will rediscover this America that is no more. A world of picket fences, stay-at-home moms, two-parent families being the norm, fathers being the breadwinners, and children feeling free to roam in and out of neighbors’ homes at will, children living and playing out of doors, and boys having the opportunity to be boys.

The contrast is obvious: today, with pedophiles being a constant threat outside, porn criminals weaseling their way into home computers, and violent crimes becoming the norm in society, no one—least of all children—feels safe anymore.

I’m not claiming that world was utopian, for there were also dark sides to it: racial stereotyping and inequality, inadequate career opportunities for women, to name just two. But the beauty of reading Penrod is that you the reader have the unique opportunity to vicariously immerse yourself into that world, sort out for yourself the positive and negative aspects of it, and draw your own conclusions.

But, as a child, I read Penrod first not for its social commentary but because I laughed myself half to death over Penrod’s antics: getting in big trouble for his mischief only to get deeper into trouble the next day. There is a direct correlation between Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Tarkington’s Penrod. Given that today it is so hard to find a book that appeals to boys, here’s a heaven-sent opportunity to set a boy loose on Penrod, and just let him cackle as the town’s goody-goody boy, Georgie Bassett, gets his comeuppance. The “Little Gentleman”/“Tar” sequence by itself is one of America’s all time classics of humor.

Booth Tarkington (1869-1946) was born in Indianapolis, and remained there for much of his life. During his life, he won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for The Magnificent Ambersons in 1919 and the other for Alice Adams in 1922.

Donald Heiney declares that Tarkington was an expert satirist, one of the first to depict the urban middle class. Heiney also notes that Tarkington had a marvelous talent for creating unforgettable characters. His key fictional milieu has to do with the rise of a midwestern aristocracy, essentially Victorian and conservative, beginning in the 1890’s Gilded Age, its ascendancy, then gradual decline at the hands of a new industrial and mechanical generation.

Tarkington wrote three Penrod books: Penrod (1914), Penrod and Sam (1916), and Penrod Jashber (1929). In Seventeen, Tarkington depicts an older character than twelve-year-old Penrod. Interestingly enough, today’s teenagers are so much more sophisticated, jaded, and cynical about life that they’d have little in common with the protagonist of Seventeen.

So welcome to the three worlds of Penrod.

HACKED!

Up until last Thursday, Identity Theft and being hacked were merely abstractions to Connie and me — something that happened to other people who weren’t ultra careful like we are. Not any more — for now it has happened to us! The days since then have been nightmarish, to put it mildly. But perhaps, by sharing the experience with you, we may help save you from our fate.

First of all, we are no longer as trusting of safeguards we mistakenly assumed Internet providers had put in place. But before I deal with safeguards, permit me to stop a minute and describe for you what it’s like to be hacked:

The first clue was when Connie checked in first thing Thursday morning, and lo, the entire Address Book of untold hundreds of our e-mail addresses, names, phone numbers, etc., were all missing!

In very short order, here came a non-stop barrage of phone calls (not only from all over North America but also Europe and Africa) from people asking if we were OK. Initially, there were also e-mails, but those mysteriously stopped. The big question: “Are you home? Or are you really stuck in Madrid, Spain (having been mugged), needing $5,000 to be wired to a certain number/address immediately so that you can make it home?” By later in the day, it became increasingly apparent that someone (most likely in Nigeria, China, or Romania, the apparent centers for Identity Theft today; however one in every ten victims actually knows the perpretator, according to Lifelock) had taken control of our e-mail world: writing personal letters to responders to the bogus plea for funds — in Connie’s name, or mine! –, reaffirming our immediate need for money. We’ll most likely never know how much other personal and business mail they misdirected to themselves.

In desperation, Connie began the laborious process of recreating the e-mail address book, one at a time, until she’d found about a hundred. Then weary of it all, we went to bed. Next morning, she discovered that the unseen thief had stolen those too! And deleted our address book again. That’s when we realized the full extent of the hacking. So Connie got on the phone with a representative of our provider (in far-off Manila) and began to work through the mess to a solution. In the middle of which, incoming e-mails mysteriously vanished from the screen in front of her. Talk about staring at a robber face to face!

So what do you do when you’ve been raped of your security and sense of being certain of your own ship? Lots! You race to your bank and credit card providers. You immediately change the passwords to all accounts (more on that later). You soon realize these are but lead dominoes for with a hostile force now owning the names of all those family, friends, business associates, clients, etc., that you interact with, where do you go next? You can’t alert them to the truth, urging them to beward of these semi-demands for funds because all these addresses have been stolen from you! You don’t have their e-mail addresses anymore.

Your next realization is that you need to immediately secure at least one more Internet provider, for the one you thought you had is now snake-bit. That means that more dominoes will fall as you’re forced to order new stationery, business cards, etc. And it goes on and on from there into no one knows where.

Eventually, we changed our password on our e-mail account and mail began to appear again; but two days of our lives had been commandeered by a hostile force determined to destroy us.

Belatedly, we signed up for Identity Theft protection. Really, there is no such thing, but having such a program in place enables you to make pre-emptive strikes when someone somewhere begins pretending to be you, setting up accounts in your name and charging things to them; even buying automobiles, etc., in your name — then, not paying them, leaving your credit rating in shambles.

During the two-hour dialogue with that protective organization, we learned much about this soft underbelly of the “brave new world” of cyberspace. We also learned a lot from our banks and friends and relatives who had given us after-the-fact counsel. Here are some of the things we’ve learned:

  • No Internet provider is immune from being hacked, no matter how large — even our national government routinely gets hacked. Nothing is safe anymore to these monsters who are seeking to destroy rather than create on their own.
  • Passwords are your key protection (your firewall). They need to be at least twelve digits long, interweaving totally unrelated letters, numbers, and symbols on your keyboard; no full words, no sequential anything — and, after logging in, placing your password in a safe place. And they recommend changing those passwords every six months.
  • Odds are staggeringly against us! If a bank is broken into, there is a 95% conviction rate. If you are hacked or your identity is stolen, at best there may be a 1% conviction rate.
  • Destroy – don’t put in trash – all records containing your name, address, phone numbers, e-mails, etc., for thieves daily pick through our garbage in order to begin structuring a new identity for themselves and their crimes.
  • Ditto, your used prescription medicine containers. Medicare is being defrauded by billions of thieves latching onto such individual prescription records.
  • Don’t let credit cards out of your sight if you can possibly avoid it, for unscrupulous employees often surreptitiously make copies of them while your credit card is in their possession.
  • Especially, guard with your life Debit Cards, for they can be used to clean out entire bank accounts!
  • Online banking is dangerous. Institute safeguards.
  • Be extremely careful about how much personal information you place on Facebook. It too is monitored by those who seek to do you harm.
  • When blogging or commenting on social media, do not tell people in advance where you will be on certain dates, as thieves may clean out your house while you are away! This goes for web sites too.
  • Unscrupulous people may secretly make copies from cards in your hand ar checkouts or even from your wallets or purses!
  • Every time we use a credit card, we open ourselves to the danger of losing our identities.
  • Especially does your Social Security number need to be protected. Ditto medical policy cards.
  • You should take steps to stop in their tracks all pre-approved credit card offers (in the mail).
  • Destroy all bank statements you don’t keep for IRS Purposes.
  • Never give our personal information to anyone by phone unless you are certain the caller is legitimately who s/he claimes to be.
  • You need to place 12-digit passwords on everything.
  • When hacked, immediately cancel old credit cards and secure new ones.
  • Avoid using your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or a series of consecutive numbers.
  • Either monitor yourself or have an Identity Protection agency monitor for you one of the following three consumer reporting companies:
    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  • After being hacked, put a tickler on your calendar 90 days out, for Identity Thieves often wait 91 days before moving in on you, lulling you into thinking all is well.
  • It is imperative that you continually monitor your financial accounts (daily, if possible), watching out for questionable charges. Reason being that thieves usually begin with small charges to your account — to see if it works — then, if those aren’t flagged, they move on to ever larger purchases. And the longer it takes you to catch these things the more difficulty you’ll have in getting banks or credit card companies to swallow the results. If you report loss or theft within two business days of your discovery, your liability is limited to $50. Then it immediately goes up to $500. After 60 days, the loss is all yours. When you report a theft to an institution, always follow it up with a certified-return request letter.

Hopefully, you will personally escape being hacked, by instituting safeguards suggested earlier in this blog.

If you received one of those infamous bogus requests for funds in our names, you have our abject apology!

Blessings!

Do let me know your thoughts, reactions, and responses to this blog.