You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, February 13, 2015

Colonial Valentine Poems

        As part of a fad that was called “the lovers’ literary campaign of 1768,” the Virginia Gazette featured acrostic poems where the first letter, syllable, or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring featured in the text spelled out a word or a message.
        Several love struck swains of Williamsburg and its neighboring plantations honored their beloveds during the month on February, beginning three days before Valentine’s Day.
        One unknown admirer sang the praises of Miss Frances Lewis of a prominent Gloucester County family.
        Notice that the first letter of each line of his poem spells out Miss Lewis’ name: 

        Minerva's choice;—Apollo's fond delight,
        In whom fine sense and music's charms unite:
        Sweet lovely maid; dear fav'rite of the nine. 
        Say, will you be my constant VALENTINE?
        For you the Muse expands her lapsid wings,
        Rears her fall'n pow'rs, and strikes the trembling strings.
        At thy dear feet she pays the tribute due:
        Nor thinks she bends too low to wait on you:
        Charm'd with thy lovely form;—thy music fine:
        Extatic raptures all my heart entwine.
        So my once lov'd Celinda touch'd the keys:
        Lovely like you—like you was form'd to please!
        Early in life the fatal summons came,
        Wither'd my joys and snatched the beauteous dame!
        In you dear nymph, the reparation lies,
        Say you'll be kind, or youthful Strephon dies.

        For the young men and women of Williamsburg, this romantic wordplay was the equivalent of pop songs and Hallmark cards. Here’s another sample written by David Mead of Nansemond County singing the virtues of his fiancée, Sally Waters: MISS WATERS

        Most praise the gaudy tulips streak'd with red.
        I praise the virgin lilly's bending head:
        Some the jonquil in shining yellow drest;
        Some love the fring'd carnation's varied vest;
       Whilst others, pleas'd that fabled youth to trace,
       As o'er the stream he bends to view his face.
       The exulting florist views their varied dyes;
       E'n thus fares beauty in each lover's eyes.
       Read o'er these lines, you'll see the nymph with ease,
        She like the rose was made, all eyes to please.

        Mr. Mead’s valentine must have succeeded in winning Sally’s heart, for three months later, on May 19, the Virginia Gazette announced, “on Thursday last David Mead, Esq., of Nansemond, was married to Miss Sally Waters, of this city, an agreeable young Lady."
        As with all fads, the lovers' literary campaign of 1768 faded away as quickly as it started, but cropped up sporadically with one poem appearing in 1769, and other tributes between March 1773 and December 1776. The final acrostic published in the Gazette in 1776 honored Sally Cary.
        A subsequent notice in 1768 provided a happy ending to that poem with this marriage announcement, "Thomas Nelson, jun. Esq; captain in the first Virginia regiment, to Miss Sally Cary, eldest daughter of Wilson Miles Cary, Esq; of the county of Fluvanna."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Yankee Doodles and Macaronis

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.

Macaroni was the name given in the 1770s to an extravagantly dressed man, who wore bizarre and over-the-top fashions such as narrow breeches and short, tight waistcoats, usually decorated with large buttons and lace. Macaronis also wore high heeled shoes and small hats. They would often carry a posey of flowers in their hands or pinned to their waistcoats.

Clerical Macaroni
The name came from people who had been on The Grand Tour of European countries who liked all things foreign, especially food and who referred to something that was Italian in style as very Macaroni. Macaronis, or fops as they came to be known, frequented the fashionable places of London and won and lost vast fortunes gambling.

The newspapers of the day often made fun of them. For example, The Oxford Magazine published this account: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male, nor female, a thing of neuter gender, lately started up among us. It is called a Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasure, it eats without appetite...”

The British employed the song as a dig at people from the American colonies who they thought were trying to give themselves airs and graces but looking ridiculous. During the Revolutionary War, the colonists reclaimed the song and made it their own patriotic song.
Thomas Jefferson's pasta machine design.

Speaking of macaroni as a food, macaroni and cheese was a favorite dish of colonists, especially Thomas Jefferson. In 1787, upon his return to America from his tour as minister to France, Jefferson brought back a pasta machine he had bought in Italy. He improved on the design of the machine and also came up with recipes that included not only American or English cheddar cheese, but also goat cheese and truffle cheese.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Raven Mocker, The Night Goer

In my novel, Laurel, the daughter of Lilyan and Nicholas Xanthakos is kidnapped by slavers who attack the Cherokee village that Laurel and her Aunt Golden Fawn are visiting. In search of her daughter, Lilyan comes upon the village to find a medicine man taking part in a ceremony to keep away the Raven Mocker from the dead and dying.

Raven Mocker
        The Cherokee call evil spirits that torment the sick Sunnayi Edahi, "the Night Goer." The spirits come at night to a sick person’s house and stomp on the roof, beat the side of the house, knock the person out of bed, and drag him on the floor. They try to hasten death. They want the sick person to die faster and not use up any of his life span so that they can take his unused lifetime and add it to their own.
        Of all the Cherokee evil spirits the most dreaded is the Raven Mocker (Kâ'lanû Ahkyeli'skï), the one that robs the dying man of life. They are of either sex and there is no sure way to know one, though they usually look withered and old, because they have added so many lives to their own. At night, when someone is sick or dying in the village, the Raven Mocker goes to the place to take the life. He flies through the air in fiery shape, with arms outstretched like wings, and sparks trailing behind, and a rushing sound like the noise of a strong wind. Sometimes as he flies he makes a cry like a raven and those who hear are afraid, because they know that some man's life will soon end.

picture by T.E. Mails
        When the Raven Mocker comes to the house he finds others of his kind waiting there, and unless there is a doctor on guard who knows how to drive them away they go inside, all invisible, and frighten and torment the sick man until they kill him. Sometimes to do this they even lift him from the bed and throw him on the floor, but his friends who are with him think he is only struggling for breath. After the evil spirits kill him, they take out his heart and eat it, and so add to their own lives as many days or years as they have taken from his. No one in the room can see them, and there is no scar where they take out the heart, but yet there is no heart left in the body.
        Only one who has the right medicine can recognize a Raven Mocker, and if such a man stays in the room with the sick person these witches are afraid to come in, and retreat as soon as they see him, because when one of them is recognized in his right shape he must die within seven days.
        The family will summon a medicine man to keep watch and hold it away until the person recovers. It the person dies, the medicine man will keep watch until the person is buried. After burial the heart cannot be taken. The medicine man drives a sharpened stick into the ground at each corner of the house. Then, about noontime he gets ready the Tsâl-agayû'nlï or "Old Tobacco," with which he fills his pipe, repeating the chant below. He then wraps the pipe in a black cloth. This sacred tobacco is smoked only for this purpose.
        He then goes out into the forest, and returns just before dark, about which time the sprit will arrive. Lighting his pipe, he goes slowly around the house, puffing the smoke in the direction of every trail by which the sprit might approach. He then goes into the house to wait.
        When the spirit arrives, the sharpened stick on that side of the house shoots up into the air and comes down like an arrow upon his head. This causes the sprit to die within seven days.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Laurel, a Post-Revolutionary War Inspirational Suspense

A 200-Mile Journey, a Trial, and a Shipwreck Test the Limits of Love and Faith 
From the first word to the last sentence, "Laurel" captured my attention. Chock full of factual history, the book moves from Appalachia to Charleston, South Carolina, and on to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with interesting twists and turns along the way. Characters become like family with whom you do not want to part, and the emotions expressed are spot-on for the circumstances. My hope is that there is a sequel to "Laurel" in the works as the book left me wanting to spend more time with this incredible family first introduced in the author's award-winning book "The Chamomile." In my opinion, "Laurel" is also a winner and award-worthy.
Brenda B. Crowley