27 December 2008

Eight Years at Sea with Cap'n Bush

The Wreck of the Hesperus

It was the schooner Hesperus,

That sailed the wintry sea;

And the skipper had taken his little daughter,

To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,

Her cheeks like the dawn of day,

And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,

That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,

His pipe was in his mouth,

And he watched how the veering flaw did blow

The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,

Had sailed to the Spanish Main,

‘I pray thee, put into yonder port,

For I fear a hurricane.

‘Last night, the moon had a golden ring,

And to-night no moon we see!’

The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,

And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,

A gale from the Northeast,

The snow fell hissing in the brine,

And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain

The vessel in its strength;

She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,

Then leaped her cable’s length.

‘Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,

And do not tremble so;

For I can weather the roughest gale

That ever wind did blow.’

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat

Against the stinging blast;

He cut a rope from a broken spar,

And bound her to the mast.

‘O father! I hear the church-bells ring,

Oh say, what may it be?’

‘’Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!’—

And he steered for the open sea.

‘O father! I hear the sound of guns,

Oh say, what may it be?’

‘Some ship in distress, that cannot live

In such an angry sea!’

‘O father. I see a gleaming light,

Oh say, what may it be?’

But the father answered never a word,

A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,

With his face turned to the skies,

The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow

On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed

That savèd she might be;

And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,

On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,

Through the whistling sleet and snow,

Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept

Tow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between

A sound came from the land;

It was the sound of the trampling surf

On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,

She drifted a dreary wreck,

And a whooping billow swept the crew

Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves

Looked soft as carded wool,

But the cruel rocks, they gored her side

Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,

With the masts went by the board;

Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,

Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,

A fisherman stood aghast,

To see the form of a maiden fair,

Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,

The salt tears in her eyes;

And he saw her hair, like the brown seaweed,

On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,

In the midnight and the snow!

Christ save us all from a death like this,

On the reef of Norman’s Woe!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

04 December 2008

DAR Turned Marian Anderson Away on Easter Sunday 1939

Growing up in the US in the 1940's, I often heard the DAR spoken of reverentially and knew that membership was regarded as one ticket punch for entry into the social register. I did not know then that my mother, a Langdon, was descended from John Langdon (my 5G grandfather) of Hempstead, L.I., who served two tours in the Revolution, one as a sergeant and one as a lieutenant despite being a practicing Quaker. Unfortunately, I did not find this out until a few years after my mother died. I'm sure she would have gotten a kick out of the idea.

I have found, similarly, that my wife, through her father's mother's line, Bement's, also has an ancestor who fought in the Revolution and her family didn't know it until I tracked down their family tree.

After my son was married and I worked on our daughter-in-law's family tree, which had already been well researched by her grandfather, I found an ancestor of theirs who had been involved in the Revolution although they were unaware that they also had such an ancestor .

Of course, some of the bloom has gone off the DAR/SAR rose for me as I've learned of some of the less savoury aspects of the DAR. For example, I was a bit shocked to find out that in 1932 the DAR had excluded black artists from Constitution Hall in DC after protests about "mixed seating"!

This exclusion policy came to a head as Easter Sunday, 1939, approached when the DAR refused to allow the great opera singer, Marian Anderson, to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race. I am proud, however, that a distant cousin of mine, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned her membership and helped to arrange for Anderson's concert to be held at the Lincoln Memorial.

The concert was attended by a crowd estimated to be over 75,000. The concert was a one small victory on the path to overcoming prejudice and hate--a long, bumpy road.