Tag Archive: England

Today is Shakespeare Day in the UK, as it actually is the Bard’s birthday (or a close enough approximation as it the records weren’t that good back in the day, but they know he was baptized on April 26th, 1564). Coincidentally, he also died on April 23 in 1616. April 23 is also St. George’s Day, who is the patron saint of England. I have posted on the unofficial UK holiday in 2012 on this date with historical facts, and again in 2013 with some more factoids and some English poetry. I always liked to celebrate St. George’s Day as I am an Anglophile and my hubby is English.

Shakespeare and Quotes

Back to Shakespeare, like most people, I had to study the Bard in high school and I took a class on him during my undergraduate career as well. In middle school, my favorite play was Much Ado About Nothing, mostly because I was obsessed with the Kenneth Branagh 1993 film version. As I discussed in a previous post about the play (linked above), I also really like the Joss Whedon movie version of the play. To this day, it is my favorite play and this is the one from which I can still quote lines. In high school, my favorite play was Hamlet, which we did read in class. Mostly this was because of my loving Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film version (what can I say, the man is a good actor and director). I’ve written about more of my favorite Shakespearean film versions in this post. I know a lot of people like to poo-poo studying him because of the language barrier (Elizabethan English can be quite confusing). I guess I never had that issue because although it does sometime take some interpretation, it is worth it because the man is a genius at word play, insults and fantastic memorable monologues, plus its just good writing. If you can, try to see the plays performed. When I was growing up, we used to go to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to see plays and musicals, and this is where I got to see Hamlet performed on-stage.

Catherine Tate and David Tennant - Much Ado About Nothing

(I think I might have a nerdgasm if I had gotten to see the two of them in this play!)

If you want to get into character for the day, so to speak, check out this link on how to talk Shakespearean. Here are some really cool ways that people are using Shakespeare in our modern world, like helping autistic children communicate and socialize better, and the Sonnet Project, which is about getting all 154 Sonnets read by actors in various locations throughout NYC to make Shakespeare more modern and accessible. This website has a great list of resources and ideas for educators who want to teach Shakespeare. If you would like to read any or all of Shakespeare’s plays, check out the Digital Text Library from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

On to the poetry. Naturally because it is Shakespeare Day, I have selected two sonnets of his. Everyone knows Sonnet 18, so I won’t use that one (although it is one of my favorites). I noticed that a lot of the sonnets dealt with marrying and having children, something I never picked up on before (though truthfully I’ve never really study them all that closely). I picked Sonnet XIV (which is amazingly read by David Tennant on the Spoken Word CD From Shakespeare – with love and I had not heard or read it before listening to him read it) and Sonnet CXVI, because I enjoy it.

Sonnet XIV

 Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Sonnet CXVI

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Happy May Day!

May Day Celebrations

Today is May 1st, otherwise known as May Day. This holiday has had good connotations, such as the traditional notion that it was a celebration of Spring, linked to pagan celebrations of Beltane and the Roman goddess Flora. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,

” Although later practices varied widely, the celebrations came to include the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, the crowning of a May king and queen, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced. Such rites originally may have been intended to ensure fertility for crops and, by extension, for livestock and humans, but in most cases this significance was gradually lost, so that the practices survived largely as popular festivities.Because the Puritans of New England considered the celebrations of May Day to be licentious and pagan, they forbade its observance, and the holiday never became an important part of American culture.”

May Day is still celebrated in England as a bank holiday. When I was first dating my husband, my second visit coincided with May Day celebrations and the closest town had a fair. We had so much fun riding all the rides, by ourselves and with his niece and nephews,  and he won me a stuffed hippo that I still possess. I confess that I never saw a Maypole or a May Queen, although I’m sure there was one somewhere in England. So for me the day has very good memories. Similar holidays are celebrated in Finland, Germany, Ireland, and Romania, to name a few. In France, according to Wikipedia, “On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime, on May 1.”


I had no idea that the day had more serious overtones to it as well. Elsewhere in the world, May 1st is known as International Workers Day. It is meant to celebrate the labor movement, in particular the Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886, which was a protest which demanded 8 hour workdays for everyone. However the establishment of this law didn’t happen for many years after this date. In the US, the holiday is  called Law Day by President Eisenhower in 1958 to emphasize American Democracy, as the other celebration of the day was thought “too Communist”. For a more detailed history on the holiday, check out this webpage. Today workers all over the world have been involved in rallies and protests. According to this article, rallies were

“from fury in Europe over austerity measures that have cut wages, reduced benefits and eliminated many jobs altogether, to rage in Asia over relentlessly low pay, the rising cost of living and hideous working conditions that have left hundreds dead in recent months. In protests, strikes and other demonstrations held in cities across the planet, activists lashed out at political and business leaders they allege have ignored workers’ voices or enriched themselves at the expense of laborers. In some places, the demonstrations turned violent, with activists clashing with police.”

For more information about demonstrations happening today in Bangladesh, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia and many other places, please check out the above article. While I meant Happy May Day in association with the nicer side of the day, I think it is also important to speak out for workers rights all over the world. There are sadly a lot of injustices going on by companies and governments in the US and abroad that need to be addressed and today is the internationally recognized day for doing so.

Happy St George’s Day 2013

St George Crest

Today is St George’s Day, who is the patron saint of England. If you were in England now, you would be seeing this Google doodle (I wish we were).  According to above post, “St George has no direct relationship with England. He was Greek and became an officer in the Roman army, with the dragon episode placed somewhere in Libya.” Here are some factoid from the St. George’s Day official website: The date was selected in 1222, but “it wasn’t until 1348 that St George became the patron saint of England. In 1415, St George’s Day was declared a national feast day and holiday in England. However, the practice was ended at  the end of the 18th century, and it has since not been acknowledged as a national holiday. The hymn ‘Jerusalem’ was also sung on the 23rd April, or the nearest Sunday to that date, in churches across the nation [William Blake wrote the poem that was later turned into the hymn] .” For an explanation on why the holiday is not official anymore, check out this blog post.

I have surprisingly never heard of either of these poems, though to be fair, the writers were fairly prolific and most people have only heard of the really famous poems, like Sordello or The Ring and the Book for Browning and Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem and Prometheus Unbound for Shelley. Honestly though, I know them because of their wives and not so much for their own work. I will have to remedy that in the future.

Home Thoughts, From Abroad

By Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)


Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England-now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops-at the bent spray’s edge-
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
-Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Song to the men of England

By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?

Wherefore feed and clothe and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat -nay, drink your blood?

Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?

Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?

The seed ye sow another reaps;
The wealth ye find another keeps;
The robes ye weave another wears;
The arms ye forge another bears.

Sow seed, -but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth, -let no imposter heap;
Weave robes, -let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, in your defence to bear.

Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;
In halls ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.

With plough and spade and hoe and loom,
Trace your grave, and build your tomb,
And weave your winding-sheet, till fair
England be your sepulchre!

For the last 1 1/2 months I have been seeing my new doctor and trying to sort out my health. I’ve found out that I have sleep apnea, which is basically where you stop breathing when you sleep, which is why I’ve been waking up so exhausted (and not just from being a new mom). I’ve had carpel tunnel on and off for about 3 years, but was never sure if it was arthritis, which my mom got at a young age, or not. So I’ve been tested again for it and we’re waiting to see the results. According to my nerve conduction test yesterday, I have a mild very treatable case of carpel tunnel. You try telling that to my hands and arms when I have a really bad case of it and it hurts to move them at all. Let me tell you that ibuprophen doesn’t help. Maybe Aleve will, I don’t know.

Aside from the health concerns, my hubby is flying to England for 1 1/2 weeks to go to his sister’s wedding. He’s not been back for 6 years, since a few weeks before we got married, so it is definitely time. So I will definitely be missing him and his help with the house and the baby. I might need a vacation by the time he comes back, lol.

I was browsing one of my favorite food blogs today, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. She makes the most amazing desserts that I’ve not actually tried yet but have so many of her recipes. Plus she’s incredibly funny. One of her posts mentioned why she started blogging seven years ago and why she continues to do it today. So I figured I would share. When I started my first blog, a couple of years ago, it was to have something to do in my spare time when I wasn’t doing school work. Now I think it is more of a creative outlet for me. I, as you know if you’ve been a follower for awhile or have read my About Me page, have a degree in Library and Information Sciences but am not currently working in a library. I’m not even volunteering in one at the moment because I’ve been so busy and have had no free time. I miss working in a library, recommending books and helping people (yes I help people in my current job but it’s not the same). I usually go to my public library at least once a week, because I need to drop off books I’ve read but I also just like spending time there. I’ve had some interviews at several different libraries, but none of them have panned out job-wise. This blog has become my connection to the world via books, reviews, and events through the American Library Association (ALA). It’s also a great way to connect with new people. Aside from my family and the people I work with, I never go out, so I don’t know that many people in the Phoenix area. Therefore, connecting with people online is a good alternative. It’s also an opportunity to use my brain as my current job is a more common sense than thinking person’s job. Being stimulated in the brain department is always a good thing, something I feel like I’ve been lacking a bit since we moved to Arizona.

Happy St George’s Day!

Today was my day off and once again, I spent part of it in the doctor’s office. I have to get a bunch of  blood tests done next week, so it’s another journey to Sun City for that. I had planned on going to the library today but after shopping and dealing with the heat (it was at least 100 again for the 3rd day in a row), I just wanted to go home, get some lunch and sleep. So I had a nice nap and will hit up the library tomorrow. Today, even though I had it written on my calendar, I had forgotten it was St George’s Day. Since my hubby is English, we like to celebrate it. He’s the patron saint of both Greece and England, and according to this website, he is also the patron saint of “Barcelona in Catalonia, Aragon, Russia, Bavaria, Beirut, Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Lithuania and Hungary.” Here are some facts taken from the same website:

History of St George & England

  • St Adomnán, the Abbot of Iona in Scotland, provides Britain’s earliest recorded reference to Saint George in the 7th Century. He details the story of the Saint’s exploits, which had been told to him by a French bishop named Arcuif who had travelled to Jerusalem with the crusaders.
  • English soldiers wore a sign of St George on their chest and on their backs in the 14th century, as the Saint was regarded as a special protector of the English.
  • King Edward III (1312-1377) founded the Order of the Garter (1348), the premier order of chivalry or knighthood in England. The Order was put under Saint George’s patronage and the medal is awarded on the 23rd April by the reigning Monarch.
  • In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is also the flag of the Church of England and as such is known throughout Christendom.

St George’s Day in England

  • In 1222 the Council of Oxford declared April 23rd to be St George’s Day.
  • It was not until 1348 that St George became the Patron Saint of England.
  • Traditional customs were to fly the St George’s flag and wear a red rose in one’s lapel.

St George the Saint

  • St George was born to Christian parents in A.D. 270 (3rd Century) in Cappadocia, now Eastern Turkey
  • He moved to Palestine with his Mother and became a Roman soldier, rising to the high rank of Tribunus Militum
  • However, he later resigned his military post and protested against his pagan leader, the Emperor Diocletian (245-313 AD), who led Rome’s persecution of Christians
  • His rebellion against the Emperor resulted in his imprisonment, but even after torture he stayed true to his faith
  • The enraged Diocletian had St George dragged through the streets of Nicomedia, Turkey, on the 23rd of April 303 AD and had him beheaded
  • The Emperor’s wife was so inspired by St George’s bravery and loyalty to his religion, that she too became a Christian and was subsequently executed for her faith

April 23 also appears to be William Shakespeare’s birthday and UNESCO has declared it World Book and Copyright Day. Here is the website for more information.

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