Plates from Nisbet’s System of Heraldry (Vol. II)

— Alexander Nisbet, A System of Heraldry (A New Edition), Volume II, Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood, 1816.

This Unhappy Warre

Royal Arms of King Charles the Martyr, from Εἰκὼν Βασιλική, 1649.

For Thou, O Lord, seest clearly through all the cloudings of humane affaires; Thou judgest without prejudice: Thy Omniscience eternally guides thy unerrable Judgement.

O my God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soule, and have not set Thee before their eyes.

Consider My enemies, O Lord, for they are many, and they hate me with a deadly hatred without a cause.

For Thou knowest, I had no passion, designe or preparation to embroyle My Kingdomes in a Civill Warre; whereto I had least temptation; as knowing I must adventure more then any, and could gaine least of any by it.

Thou, O Lord, art my witnesse how oft I have deplored, and studied to divert the necessity thereof, wherein I cannot well be thought so prodigally thirsty of my Subjects blood, as to venture my own Life, which I have been oft compelled to doe in this unhappy Warre; and which were better spent to save then to destroy my People.

O Lord, I need much of thy grace, with patience to bear the many afflictions thou hast suffered some men to bring upon me; but much more to bear the unjust reproaches of those, who not content that I suffer most by the Warre, will needs perswade the world that I have raised first, or given just cause to raise it.

The confidence of some mens false tongues is such, that they would make me almost suspect my own innocency: Yea, I could be content (at least by my silence) to take upon me so great a guilt before men, If by that I might allay the malice of my Enemies, and redeeme my People from this miserable Warre; since thou O Lord knowest my Innocency in this thing.

Thou wilt finde out bloudy and deceitfull men; many of whom have not lived out half their daies, in which they promised themselves the enjoyment of the fruits of their violent and wicked Counsells.

Save, O Lord, thy servant, as hitherto thou hast, and in thy due time scatter the people that delight in Warre.

Arise O Lord, lift up thy self, because of the rage of mine Enemies, which encreaseth more and more. Behold them that have conceived mischief, travelled with iniquity, and brought forth falshood.

Thou knowest the chief designe of this Warre is, either to destroy My Person, or force My Judgment, and to make me renege my Conscience and thy Truth.

I am driven to crosse Davids choise and desire, rather to fall into the hands of men, by denying them, (thought their mercies be cruell) then into thy hands by sinning against My Conscience, and in that against thee, who art a consuming fire; Better they destroy Me, then thou shouldst damne Me.

Be thou ever the defence of My soul, who wilt save the upright in heart.

If nothing but My bloud will satisfie My Enemies, or quench the flames of My Kingdomes, or thy temporall Justice, I am content, if it be thy will, that it be shed by Mine owne Subjects hands.

But O let the bloud of Me, though their King, yet a sinner, be washed with the Bloud of My Innocent and peace-making Redeemer, for in that thy Justice will find not only a temporary expiation, but an eternall plenary satisfaction; both for my sins, and the sins of my People; whom I beseech thee still own for thine, and when thy wrath is appeased by my Death, O Remember thy great mercies toward them, and forgive them! O my Father, for they know not what they doe.

Eikon Basilike, ix.

Liberty

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary holy card, Maison Bouasse-Lebel, 19th century.

I am quite unable to understand the fuss made by High Church people on this matter. To begin with, what have they got to do with it? No one asks them to use our devotions, although a great many do use them, expurgated, revised, and corrected. Our friends seem to be under the impression that every Catholic is supposed to know about, to possess, and to use, every book of prayers or meditations published by any other Catholic. One might as well assert that every Anglican is bound to buy, and use, all devotional books found in Masters’ shop in Bond-street. A great many Catholics get on very comfortably without any books at all, and this for the simple and sufficient reason that they cannot read. And a great many more cannot afford to purchase such books, and are content with one Prayer Book, such as the Garden of the Soul. I myself, outside Mass and Office, am content with it, and use the copy given to me by an Italian priest at Benares in 1861. Outsiders seem ignorant of our freedom in such matters. The late Canon Oakeley, in his reply to the Eirenicon (which was published before that of Newman), pointed this out. Dr. Pusey would stipulate, said Oakeley, exemption from the obligation of adopting certain expressions of devotion towards the Blessed Virgin, but, added the Canon, “were he [Pusey] one of ourselves, he would come to know” that “no such obligation rests upon” Catholics. “I do not think,” said Oakeley, “that those who are external to us, have any just idea of the room which is allowed us for the free play of personal preferences, which do not clash either in form or spirit with the faith of the Church. . .” And, again “. . . Nothing that I know of would involve in well-grounded suspicion of disloyalty to the Church a Catholic who, while placing no restriction on the liberty of others, should as a matter of taste prefer the more measured language of our Liturgy and Offices on the subject in question, to that in which more ardent temperaments . . . might find a more congenial expression of their devotion.” And Father Lockhart reminded Pusey that the Church tolerated any amount of bad taste. How, indeed, could an Universal Church made up of all nations, peoples, and tongues, do otherwise ? When Pusey complained of a well-known book, The Glories of Mary, Newman replied that he had never read it. I have never read, and have never seen it but once in my life. Others may derive great edification from it, hut what Catholic supposes that every Catholic is obliged to acquire it, or use it ? And with regard to a foreign writer named Oswald, from whom Pusey quoted, neither Newman nor Oakeley had ever heard his name, and it turned out that the book to which Pusey objected had been for some years on the Roman Index.

Oakeley, too, pointed out that the most customary and popular of all devotions connected with our Lady are the Angelus and the Rosary, and added: “It is on this type, rather than on that of the ‘Glories of Mary’ that the ideas of our people are formed.” Pusey found great fault with some of Faber’s writings, and, for myself; I have, possibly to my great loss, never been able to read Faber, although I know that his writings have afforded, and afford, great spiritual edification to countless numbers of Catholics. Not only so, but to many non-Catholics. One Anglican vicar, an intimate friend of my own, must by this time know all Faber’s books nearly by heart. And I recollect, many years ago, lending The Creator and the Creature to a staunch Presbyterian lady who, after a time, sent me a new copy of the book, saying she should keep the old one, as she derived so much spiritual profit from its perusal.

When I lived in Kensington, I met one day in the Cromwell-road an old Oxford friend, an Anglican clergyman. I invited him to accompany me to Benediction at the Oratory, but he declined, not because he objected to Benediction, but because he disliked the Litany of Loreto. I remarked that, if he were a Catholic, he would be quite free to say any prayers he pleased during Benediction, and if he should prefer other devotions to the Litany, when sung, he could substitute such, just as we often see people telling their beads, or clergymen saying office, while the Benediction service is going on. Once, in a country house in Yorkshire, I had as fellow-guest the late Father Jerome Vaughan, and one Sunday after Benediction someone asked him if he liked the music used? To which he replied that he had not paid attention to it, as he had been engaged in asking a particular favour from St. Joseph. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and Catholics in Popular Devotions are not tied and bound to the frigid formalism of the excellent English of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Tablet, 1 January 1898, p. 9.

Plates from Nisbet’s System of Heraldry (Vol. I)

— Alexander Nisbet, A System of Heraldry (A New Edition), Volume I, Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood, 1816.

Never Again Will Reign

No, my child, I had no conception of the intensity of feeling, the bitterness and hatred toward those who were so lately our friends and are now our enemies. I, of course, have always strenuously opposed disunion, not as doubting the right of secession, which was taught in our text-book at West Point, but as gravely questioning its expediency. I believed that the revolutionary spirit which infected both North and South was but a passing phase of fanaticism which would perish under the rebuke of all good citizens, who would surely unite in upholding the Constitution; but when that great assembly, composed of ministers, lawyers, judges, chancellors, statesmen, mostly white haired men of thought, met in South Carolina and when their districts were called crept noiselessly to the table in the center of the room and affixed their signatures to the parchment on which the ordinance of secession was inscribed, and when in deathly silence, spite of the gathered multitude, General Jamison arose and without preamble read: “The ordinance of secession has been signed and ratified; I proclaim the State of South Carolina an independent sovereignty,” and lastly, when my old boyhood’s friend called for an invasion, it was evident that both the advocates and opponents of secession had read the portents aright.

You know, my little lady, some of those cross-stitched mottoes on the cardboard samplers which used to hang on my nursery wall, such as, “He who provides not for his own household is worse than an infidel” and “Charity begins at home,” made a lasting impression upon me; and while I love my neighbor, i.e., my country, I love my household, i. e., my state, more, and I could not be an infidel and lift my sword against my own kith and kin, even though I do believe, my most wise little counselor and confidante, that the measure of American greatness can be achieved only under one flag, and I fear, alas, there can never again reign for either of us the true spirit of national unity whether divided under two flags or united under one.

The Heart of a Soldier: As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of Genl. George E. Pickett, C.S.A., New York: Seth Moyle, 1913.

Flame of God

St. Bride by John McKirdy Duncan; 1913; National Galleries of Scotland (Scotland); tempera on canvas.

ST. BRIGET OF THE SHORES

I have heard many names of St. Briget, most beloved of Gaelic saints, with whom the month of February is identified . . . the month of “Bride min, gentle St. Bride” . . . Brighid boidheach Muime Chriosd, Bride the Beautiful, Christ’s Foster Mother . . . but there are three so less common that many even of my readers familiar with the Highland West may not know them. These are “the Fair Woman of February,” “St. Bride of the Kindly Fire,” and “St. Bride (or Briget) of the Shores.” They are of the Isles, and may be heard in some of the sgeulachdan gàidhealach, or Gaelic tales, still told among seafaring and hill folk, where the curse of cheap ignoble periodicals is unknown and books are rare. True, in several of the isles . . . Colonsay, Tiree, the Outer Hebrides . . . “St. Bride of the Shores” is not infrequent in songs and seasonal hymns, for when her signals are seen along the grey beaches, on the sandy machars, by the meadow path, the glen-track, the white shore-road, the islanders know that the new year is disclosed at last, that food, warmth, and gladness are coming out of the south. As “the Fair Woman of February,” though whatever other designation St. Bride goes by, she is often revealed. Her humble yellow fires are lit among the grasses, on the shore-ways, during this month. Everywhere in the Gaelic lands “Candlemas-Queen ” is honoured at this time. Am Fheill Bhride, the Festival of St. Briget, was till recently a festival of joy throughout the west, from the Highland Line to the last weedy shores of Barra or the Lews: in the isles and in the remote Highlands, still is.

It is an old tale, this association of St. Briget with February. It goes further back than the days of the monkish chroniclers who first attempted to put the disguise of verbal Christian raiment on the most widely-loved and revered beings of the ancient Gaelic pantheon. Long before the maiden Brigida (whether of Ireland or Scotland matters little) made her fame as a “daughter of God”; long before to Colum in Iona or to Patrick “the great Cleric” in Ireland “Holy St. Bride” revealed in a vision the service she had done to Mary and the Child in far-away Bethlehem in the East; before ever the first bell of Christ was heard by startled Druids coming across the hills and forest lands of Gaul, the Gaels worshipped a Brighde or Bride, goddess of women, of fire, of poetry. When, to-day, a Gaelic islesman alludes to Briget of the Songs, or when a woman of South Uist prays to Good St. Bride to bless the empty cradle that is soon to be filled, or when a shennachie or teller of tales speaks of an oath taken by Briget of the Flame, they refer, though probably unconsciously, to a far older Brighid than do they who speak with loving familiarity of Muime Chriosd, Christ’s Foster Mother, or Brighid – nam – Bratta, St. Bride of the Mantle. They refer to one who in the dim, far-off days of the forgotten pagan world of our ancestors was a noble and great goddess. They refer to one to whom the women of the Gael went with offerings and prayers, as went the women of ancient Hellas to the temples of Aphrodite, as went the Syrian women to the altars of Astarte, as went the women of Egypt to the milk-fed shrines of Isis. They refer to one whom the Druids held in honour as a torch bearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a little yellow flame, and in the other held the red flower of fire without which men would be as the beasts who live in caves and holes, or as the dark Fomor who have their habitations in cloud and wind and the wilderness. They refer to one whom the bards and singers revered as mistress of their craft, she whose breath was a flame, and that flame song: she whose secret name was fire and whose inmost soul was radiant air, she therefore who was the divine impersonation of the divine thing she stood for. Poetry.

“St. Bride of the Kindly Fire,” of whom one may hear to-day as “oh, just Bhrighde mìn Muim (gentle St. Bride the Foster Mother), she herself an’ no other,” is she, that ancient goddess, whom our ancestors saw lighting the torches of sunrise on the brows of hills, or thrusting the quenchless flame above the horizons of the sea: whom the Druids hailed with hymns at the turn of the year, when, in the season we call February, the firstcomers of the advancing Spring are to be seen on the grey land or on the grey wave or by the grey shores: whom every poet, from the humblest wandering singer to Oisin of the Songs, from Oisin of the Songs to Angus Og on the rainbow or to Midir of the Underworld, blessed, because of the flame she put in the heart of poets as well as the red life she put in the flame that springs from wood and peat. None forgot that she was the daughter of the ancient God of the Earth, but greater than he, because in him there was but earth and water, whereas in her veins ran the elements of air and fire. Was she not born at sunrise? On the day she reached womanhood did not the house wherein she dwelled become wrapped in a flame which consumed it not, though the crown of that flame licked the high unburning roof of Heaven? In that hour when, her ancient divinity relinquished and she reborn a Christian saint, she took the white veil, did not a column of golden light rise from her head till no eyes could follow it? In that moment when she died from earth, having taken mortality upon her so as to know a divine resurrection to a new and still more enduring Country of the Immortal, were there not wings of fire seen flashing along all the shores of the west and upon the summits of all Gaelic hills? And how could one forget that at any time she had but to bend above the dead, and her breath would quicken, and a pulse would come back into the still heart, and what was dust would arise and be once more glad.

The Fair Woman of February is still loved, still revered. Few remember the last fading traditions of her ancient greatness: few, even, know that she lived before the coming of the Cross: but all love her, because of her service to Mary in Her travail and to the newborn Child, and because she looks with eyes of love into every cradle and puts the hand of peace on the troubled hearts of women: and all delight in her return to the world after the ninety days of the winter-sleep, when her heralds are manifest.

Poem by Winifred Mary Letts.

What, then, are the insignia of St. Briget of the Shores? They are simple. They are the dandelion, the lamb, and the sea-bird, popularly called the oyster-opener. From time immemorial, this humble, familiar yellow plant of the wayside has been identified with St. Bride. To this day shepherds, on Am Fheill Bhrighde, are wont to hear among the mists the crying of innumerable young lambs, and this without the bleating of ewes, and so by that token know that Holy St. Bride has passed by, coming earthward with her flock of the countless lambs soon to be born on all the hillsides and pastures of the world. Fisherfolk on the shores of the west and on the far isles have gladdened at the first prolonged repetitive whistle of the oyster-opener, for its advent means that the hosts of the good fish are moving towards the welcoming coasts once more, that the wind of the south is unloosened, that greenness will creep to the grass, that birds will seek the bushes, that song will come to them, and that everywhere a new gladness will be abroad. By these signs is St. Briget of the Shores known. One, perhaps, must live in the remote places, and where wind and cloud, rain and tempest, great tides and uprising floods are the common companions of day and night, in order to realise the joy with which things so simple are welcomed. To see the bright sunsweet face of the dandelion once more— an dealan Dhé, the little flame of God, am bearnan Bhrighde, St. Bride’s forerunner— what a joy this is. It comes into the grass like a sunray. Often before the new green is in the blade it flaunts its bright laughter in the sere bent. It will lie in ditches and stare at the sun. It will climb broken walls, and lean from nooks and corners. It will come close to the sands and rocks, sometimes will even join company with the sea-pink, though it cannot find footing where later the bind-weed and the horned poppy, those children of the seawind who love to be near and yet shrink from the spray of the salt wave, defy wind and rain. It is worthier the name “Traveller’s Joy” than the wild clematis of the autumnal hedgerows: for its bright yellow leaps at one from the roadside like a smile, and its homeliness is pleasant as the gladness of playing children.

It is a herald of Spring that precedes even the first loud flute-like calls of the missel-thrush. When snow is still on the track of the three winds of the north it is, by the wayside, a glad companion. Soon it will be everywhere. Before long the milk-white sheen of the daisy and the moon-daisy, the green-gold of the tansy, the pale gold of the gorse and the broom, the yellow of the primrose and wild colchicum, of the cowslip and buttercup, of the copse-loving celandine and meadow-rejoicing crowsfoot, all these yellows of first spring will soon be abroad: but the dandelion comes first. I have known days when, after midwinter, one could go a mile and catch never a glimpse of this bright comrade of the ways, and then suddenly see one or two or three, and rejoice forthwith as though at the first blossom on the blackthorn, at the first wild-roses, at the first swallow, at the first thrilling bells of the cuckoo. We are so apt to lose the old delight in familiar humble things. So apt to ignore what is by the way, just because it is by the way. I recall a dour old lowland gardener in a loch-and-hill-set region of Argyll, who, having listened to exclamations of delight at a rainbow, muttered, “Weel, I juist think naethin ava’ o’ thon rainbows . . . ye can see one whenever ye tak the trouble to look for them hereaboots.” He saw them daily, or so frequently that for him all beauty and strangeness had faded from these sudden evanescent Children of Beauty. Beauty has only to be perceptible to give an immediate joy, and it is no paradoxical extravagance to say that one may receive the thrilling communication from “the little flame of God” by the homely roadside as well as from these leaning towers built of air and water which a mysterious alchemy reveals to us on the cloudy deserts of heaven. “Man is surprised,” Emerson says, “to find that things near and familiar are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote.” Certainly no Gaelic lover of St. Bride’s Flower, of the Flower of February, but rejoices to see its welcome face after the snow and sleet of winter have first sullenly receded, if only for a time, and to know that St. Bride of the Shores wears it at her breast, and that when she throws it broadcast the world is become a green place again and the quickening sunlight a gladsome reality.

In these desolate far isles where life is so hard, where the grey winds from the north and east prevail for weeks at a time on the grey tempestuous seas, and where so much depends on such small things— a little drift- wood, a few heaps of peat, a few shoal of fish now of one kind now of another, a few cartloads of seaweed, a rejoicing sound is that in truth when the Gille-Bhride is heard crying along the shores. Who that has heard its rapid whirling cry as it darts from haunt to haunt but will recognise its own testimony to being “Servant of Breed” (the common pronunciation of the Gaelic Brighid or Bride)— for does it not cry over and over again with swift incessant iterance, Gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed.

White may my milking be,
White as thee;
Thy face is white, thy neck is white,
Thy hands are white, thy feet are white.
For thy sweet soul is shining bright—
O dear to me,
O dear to see,
St. Briget White!

Yellow may my butter be,
Firm, and round:
Thy breasts are sweet.
Firm, round, and sweet,
So may my butter be:
So may my butter be, O
Briget Sweet!
Safe thy way is, safe, O
Safe, St. Bride:
May my kye come home at even,
None be fallin’, none be leavin’,
Dusky even, breath-sweet even,
Here, as there, where O
St. Bride thou
Keepest tryst with God in heav’n,
Seest the angels bow
And souls be shriven—
Here, as there, ’tis breath-sweet even
Far and wide—
Singeth thy little maid
Safe in thy shade
Briget, Bride!

When the first lambs appear, many are the invocations among the Irish and Hebridean Gaels to good St. Bride. At the hearth-side, too, the women, carding wool, knitting, telling tales, singing songs, dreaming— these know her whether they name her in thought, or have forgotten what was dear wisdom to their mothers of old. She leans over cradles, and when babies smile they have seen her face. When the cra’thull swings in the twilight, the slow rhythm, which is music in the mother’s ear, is the quiet clapping of her hushing hands. St. Bride, too, loves the byres or the pastures when the kye are milked, though now she is no longer ” the Woman of February,” but simply “good St. Bride of the yellow hair.”

— Fiona MacLeod (William Sharp), The Works of “Fiona MacLeod” (Uniform Edition), Volume VI, arranged by Mrs. William Sharp, London, William Heinemann, 1910.

Managing Love

That violence wherewith sometimes a man doteth upon one creature, is but a little spark of that love, even towards all, which lurketh in his nature. We are made to love, both to satisfy the necessity of our active nature, and to answer the beauties in every creature. By Love our Souls are married and solder’d to the creatures and it is our Duty like God to be united to them all. We must love them infinitely, but in God, and for God and God in them: namely all His excellencies manifested in them. When we dote upon the perfections and beauties of some one creature, we do not love that too much, but other things too little. Never was anything in this world loved too much, but many things have been loved in a false way: and all in too short a measure.

Suppose a river, or a drop of water, an apple or a sand, an ear of corn, or an herb: God knoweth infinite exellencies in it more than we: He seeth how it relateth to angels and men; how it proceedeth from the most perfect Lover to the most perfectly Beloved; how it representeth all His attributes; how it conduceth in its place, by the best of means to the best of ends: and for this cause it cannot be beloved too much. God the Author and God the End is to be beloved in it; Angels and men are to be beloved in it; and it is highly to be esteemed for all their sakes. O what a treasure is every sand when truly understood! Who can love anything that God made too much? What a world would this be, were everything beloved as it ought to be!

Suppose a curious and fair woman. Some have seen the beauties of Heaven in such a person. It is a vain thing to say they loved too much. I dare say there are ten thousand beauties in that creature which they have not seen: They loved it not too much, but upon false causes. Nor so much upon false ones, as only upon some little ones. They love a creature for sparkling eyes and curled hair, lily breasts and ruddy cheeks which they should love moreover for being God’s Image, Queen of the Universe, beloved by Angels, redeemed by Jesus Christ, an heiress of Heaven, and temple of the Holy Ghost: a mine and fountain of all virtues, a treasury of graces, and a child of God. But these excellencies are unknown. They love her perhaps, but do not love God more: nor men as much: nor Heaven and Earth at all. And so, being defective to other things, perish by a seeming excess to that. We should be all Life and Mettle and Vigour and Love to everything; and that would poise us. I dare confidently say that every person in the whole world ought to be beloved as much as this: And she if there be any cause of difference more than she is. But God being beloved infinitely more, will be infinitely more our joy, and our heart will be more with Him, so that no man can be in danger by loving others too much, that loveth God as he ought.

The sun and stars please me in ministering to you. They please me in ministering to a thousand others as well as you. And you please me because you can live and love in the Image of God: not in a blind and brutish manner, as beasts do; by a mere appetite and rude propensity, but with a regulated well-ordered Love, upon clear causes, and with a rational affection, guided to divine and celestial ends. Which is to love with a Divine and Holy Love, Glorious and Blessed. We are all prone to love; but the art lies in managing our love: to make it truly amiable and proportionable. To love for God’s sake, and to this end, that we may be well-pleasing unto Him: to love with a design to imitate Him, and to satisfy the principles of intelligent nature, and to become honorable, is to love in a Blessed and Holy manner.

— Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations, 2:66-69.