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Post Londonderry Air/Danny Boy
Created by John Eipper on 11/11/19 3:26 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Londonderry Air/Danny Boy (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 11/11/19 3:26 am)

First, my thanks to JE for his kind comments on my Derry piece (November 9th).

Second, here is a link to "Londonderry Air" performed by the University College Dublin Choral Scholars, who have been receiving broad attention in Ireland and elsewhere during the last three years or so. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V4rFN5T6fA .

This group consists of what one might call the most talented choral singers attending the University as students--membership is determined by audition, and not by enrollment in the University's music program.

Finally, here is my favorite recorded performance by the UCD Choral Scholars--an ancient piece, in Irish, titled "Mo Ghille Mear" ("My Gallant Hero"). I think that this performance is incredibly moving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxjvNUNXhkU .

So enjoy the music and best wishes to you and family on your Sunday.

JE comments:  WAISer David A Westbrook stopped at WAIS HQ for an overnight on his drive to Kansas, and we agreed that your Derry piece is one of the best to appear on WAIS in recent memory.  Excellent work--and now you've sent the soundtrack!

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  • Universality of "Londonderry Air"/"Danny Boy" (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 11/18/19 3:07 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Melodious thanks to Pat Mears and John E (November 9 and 11) for bringing up the Londonderry Air,
    known by its 1912 lyrics as "Danny Boy." I'm going to submit, and invite any objections,
    that this may be the most powerful popular dramatic song in modern Western civilization.

    There have been conjectures over the years that "Miss Jane Ross" of Limavady,
    County Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, from whom the then-wordless tune
    was originally collected in the 1850s, discreetly worked a few notational tricks--perhaps accidentally--to take a more traditional, unassuming old Irish tune into the
    soaring heights and magnificently soft foreshadowings that the world now knows.
    By now there are even speculations that Ross may have written the tune whole, as only
    one example of how the innate power in this constellation of sounds would continue
    to draw in new innovations over the decades--not stopping in 1912 when Fred Weatherly,
    a master songwriter in the United States, added the next burst of power with the words
    that became "Danny Boy."

    Even there, the latent promise continued to prod collective
    genius into further refinements, for Weatherly had written the lyrics to be sung by a
    a woman pining for her love who had sailed away. But Irish tenors soon saw the
    possibilities, as the meaning changed in the popular mind to convictions that the
    singer must be a father pining for his lost son, who had sailed to America. Here
    was a core structure--inarticulable in its mysterious depths--that had been half-born
    and continued evolving toward the deeper destiny whispering in its sinews.  In somewhat of an analogy, Cervantes in the early 1600s had framed an idea so powerful (the
    embarrassments of questing virtue) that popular imagination not only refused
    to let it rest in its original sardonic and therefore limiting form, but insisted that
    Don Quixote must be, not a caricature, but a bound titan, a symbol of us all--a popular evolution deftly hinted by the musical Man of La Mancha.

    That musical’s song "The Impossible Dream," like "The Derry Air," evokes
    the universal titan in ways that immediately communicate, but which we, the titans,
    cannot ourselves articulate, knowing somehow only vaguely, but in that knowledge
    soaring, unbound.

    JE comments:  Most popular perhaps, and also one of the most recognizable.  How many Daniels in the Anglo world have been lovingly called Danny Boy?  My guess would be all of them.  (I hope our too-silent colleague Daniel Kowalsky in Belfast will comment.)

    Who knew that the word "air" in the sense of tune or melody comes from the Italian "aria"?  The connection is obvious, but I never thought of it until I just looked it up.

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    • Irish Traditional Music: A Primer (Patrick Mears, -Germany 11/19/19 12:27 PM)
      Warm and sincere thanks are due to Gary Moore for his recent insights into "Londonderry Air" and his shrewd comparison of that work with "The Impossible Dream" from the Don Quixote-inspired musical, Man of La Mancha. As I read Gary's post, I thought that it might be helpful to provide an abbreviated primer of sorts on Irish "traditional" music or "Trad."

      However, because I am not a musicologist, I beg your indulgence concerning the following text.

      Irish traditional music is a fairly broad spectrum of music that was likely first created somewhere in the west of Ireland by a group of musicians playing instruments such as the bodhrán, fiddle, melodeon, concertina, Uillean pipes, bones, harp and flute. Later additions to this collection are the mandolin, banjo and guitar. Traditional instrumental Irish music styles encompass jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, slides, mazourkas and highlands and typically are written for dancing, e.g., at events like weddings, barn dances, set-dance competitions and ceili dances. This music is often classified according to regional styles, e.g., an artist may be said to have a Donegal or Kerry style. One author notes that these "musical dialects" have often developed in "older, clachan-type communities (rural clusters of extended kin and neighbors) that have remained intact since the post-famine era and are distinguished by distinct dance rhythms, tune repertoires and other stylistic features preserved by prominent performers and musical families." Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, A Short History of Irish Traditional Music (1998). A fine example of barn dance music is that performed by De Dannan, a traditional Irish band, in this short film clip from an episode of the BBC Series, The Irish R.M., where the group plays "Haste to the Wedding"/"Ship in Full Sail." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2HDosy5ow .

      In Dublin and many other places throughout Ireland, this instrumental music may be heard at seisiúns (sessions) held most often at pubs, where local musicians gather together on an appointed day and at an appointed time to play Trad together. Often, most of the pieces played during seisúns are instrumental only, although occasionally a musician or member of the audience may volunteer or be asked to sing a song. In Dublin, perhaps the best known of these musical venues are those held at The Cobblestone Pub in the Smithfield area north of the Liffey. Here is a short video about these events held at the Cobblestone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwHvjEqtorA . Having been to a number of these at the Cobblestone, I highly recommend them to the reader. And the Black Stuff there is quite good, although not as tasty as it is in Mulligan's Pub on Poolbeg Street.

      There are two main, traditional song styles in Ireland. The first and oldest mode is labeled sean-nós or "old-style" and each regional dialect of Irish has its own particular sean-nós. In his work cited immediately above, hAllmhuráin describes this musical form as follows:

      "A complex and magnificent art, sean-nós is an unaccompanied form of singing which demands tremendous skill and artistic understanding. It derives in part from the bardic tradition of professional poetry, which declined in the seventeenth century. There is no display of emotion or dramatics in sean-nós. The singer is expected to vary each verse using improvisation, an implicit musical skill that requires subtle changes in rhythm, ornamentation and timbre." The song, "Óró Sé Do Bheatha ‚bhaile," performed here as an entry into RTÉ's contest of last year for the naming of "Ireland's Favorite Folk Song:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2HDosy5ow . N.B. This song, like a number of other Irish traditional vocal works, calls upon a foreign hero, here Bonnie Prince Charlie, to free Ireland from its bondage to the English. In 1916, just before the Easter Rising, Pádraig Pearse, who was one of the Rising's leaders, recast this song's lyrics to replace references to the Scottish prince with those to Grace O'Malley, Ireland's "Pirate Queen." This heroine from the west of Ireland famously negotiated terms of a conflict-related settlement face-to-face with Queen Elizabeth I in Greenwich Palace, London. Another moving example of sean-nós is this performance of "Mo Ghille Mear" (My Gallant Hero) by the University College Dublin's Choral Scholars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxjvNUNXhkU .

      The second, traditional Irish song style is often referred to as "bilingual macaronic songs," which feature either (i) lyrics in English and Irish or (ii) in English and Scottish, the latter of which songs were imported into Ulster via "Plantation" population movements during the Seventeenth Century. Examples of this latter genre are "Barbara Allen" and "Lord Baker." Anglo-Irish songs, on the other hand, were typically composed by those Irish who also spoke English and addressed themes such as love, courtship, emigration, politics and elopements. One example of this song style is "An Droimeann Donn Dilis," the lament of an Irish tenant caused by his eviction by his landlord, which may be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26bf_9ZlPYE&list=PLw_YAwPivk6oRgojtJ_-5qsyNCzVpVfqv&index=6&t=0s .

      There are other Irish musical styles that, strictly speaking, should not be included in this so-called primer on Irish traditional music, but are nevertheless important to note here. These include the typical Irish pub music sung by a solo performer or a group with guitars and perhaps a bodhrán or concertina. Songs composed in this style include old favorites such as "Finnegans Wake," "Spanish Lady," and "The Wearing of the Green." In order to hear this music performed live, all one needs to do is to walk through Dublin's Temple Bar District some evening and pop into a pub or two which sponsor these performances, e.g., Oliver St. John Gogarty's Pub or The Temple Bar.

      Another style that is somewhat rare these days is Irish harp music. This music has a long history and tradition in Ireland, especially in Belfast. https://journalofmusic.com/news/celebrating-bicentenary-irish-harp-society-belfast . The most famous of the Irish harpists throughout the ages is Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738), a blind harper from County Meath, whose music was often featured by the now-dissolved, traditional Irish group, The Chieftains, and the group's now-deceased harpist, Derek Bell. Here is "Carolan's Welcome," performed The Chieftains. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXgFgFnIAmI .

      Finally, there are the Irish-American songs that were composed at the turn of the Twentieth Century and afterwards, which tapped into the burgeoning Irish-American population on the American East Coast, especially in the cities of New York and Boston. Songs of this genre include "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "Dear Old Donegal." Here is a recording with lyrics of the latter song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sER4AxQGjaA .

      Finally, with respect to the mentions in earlier posts of "Londonderry Air/Danny Boy," this song was one of ten finalists in the RTÉ contest for "Ireland's Favorite Folk Songs," but unfortunately was not crowned the winner. Here is the "Danny Boy" entry, for your listening pleasure. https://www.rte.ie/culture/2019/0424/1045330-danny-boy/ .

      On May 31st of this year, this honor was bestowed on the song "On Raglan Road," which is based on a poem by the County Monaghan native, Patrick Kavanagh.

      JE comments:  An excellent intro, Pat.  I suspected, but had to confirm via Google, that the "Black Stuff" is Guinness--or presumably any dark (and chewy) stout.  It's a drink, it's a food...

      Irish folk music traveled to Appalachia and lent its DNA to American country music.  Music is a most WAISly topic, as every "national" tradition has trace its roots to somewhere else.

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      • Gary Moore on "Danny Boy," Irish Pronunciation (John Eipper, USA 11/21/19 4:48 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        Many thanks again to Patrick Mears (November 19th) for his thorough overview of Irish traditional music.

        I had long wondered, when hearing experts speculate that the "Londonderry Air" had been
        changed a bit to create "Danny Boy's" dramatics, what the less dramatic forms were that might have been the precursors. Now, from Pat's post, I wonder if they were less soaringly
        majestic in order to accommodate the imperatives of 1) dancing, or 2) harp. Pat's summary
        reminds how wonderfully rich and deep this subject is.

        And as to JE's apt comment on effects by Irish on Appalachian music: the effects go farther,
        into the cowboy ballad. "It was first down to Rosie's and then to the alehouse." That's
        in "The Streets of Laredo," resulting from an Irish ballad only partly retooled to fit the
        expat buckaroos. And "Get along little dogie, it's your misfortune and none of my own,"
        has its weird note of tragedy because the "dogie" was originally a deceased grandchild,
        sung to by her mourning Irish grandfather.

        Does Pat know where I can refine my pronunciation of the Gaelic version of "Danny Boy"?
        I learned it from a folk guitarist in Chicago, who got it from Pittsburgh, and I can't find
        anyone who can point out where I'm doubtless muffing the hard places.

        JE comments:  May I piggyback on Gary's question?  How did the truly baffling system of Irish orthography come to pass?  The Irish written language strikes the outsider as only slightly more phonetic than, say, Chinese.

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        • Irish Language (Patrick Mears, -Germany 11/22/19 3:13 AM)
          Here is the best that I can do to answer Gary Moore's question to me without further research. There have been a number of different lyrics that have been associated with the music of Londonderry Air over the years. A fairly decent summary of the different versions of the lyrics is contained here in a Wikipedia entry which, although helpful, is not necessarily determinative of the matter (as we all know). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Londonderry_Air .

          Here also are links to two videos on YouTube, in which two different versions of the song are performed in Irish. Gary: is one of these two versions below the version that you learned in Chicago years ago?



          In addition, it is worthwhile to note here that there are different dialects of Irish throughout the island and elsewhere. Per Wikipedia, again:

          "Irish is represented by several traditional dialects and by various varieties of 'urban' Irish. The latter have acquired lives of their own and a growing number of native speakers. Differences between the dialects make themselves felt in stress, intonation, vocabulary and structural features.

          "Roughly speaking, the three major dialect areas which survive coincide roughly with the provinces of Munster (Cúige Mumhan), Connacht (Cúige Chonnacht) and Ulster (Cúige Uladh). Records of some dialects of Leinster (Cúige Laighean) were made by the Irish Folklore Commission and others. Newfoundland, in eastern Canada, had a form of Irish derived from the Munster Irish of the later 18th century (see Newfoundland Irish)."

          Although Irish is a subject that is on the Leaving Cert exam in Ireland, it is generally not widely spoken within communities on the Island. There are concentrations, however, of Irish speakers in areas described as the "Gaeltacht," which are primarily located in the west of Ireland, although there is a small Gaeltacht remaining in County Waterford centered around the town of Ring. This 2016 CSO informational piece contains facts, figures and maps that describes in summary fashion the extent of the use of Irish in Ireland. https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-cp10esil/p10esil/ilg/ .

          One very public advocate of the importance of the Irish language to the populace is Manchán Magan, a television personality and an occasional columnist for the Irish Times, who is a grandson of Sheila Humphreys (1899-1994), an activist in the Easter Rising and thereafter, and is also a relative of Michael Joseph ("The") O'Rahilly, who died leading a charge against a British machine gun emplacement in Dublin during the Easter Rising. Magan filmed a Irish television series entitled "No Béarla" ("No English"), where he toured the island speaking only Irish to demonstrate the need to shore up the language at home. The series can be seen on YouTube and here is a link to the first installment, in which he begins his journey in Dublin or, as he would call it, "Baile Átha Cliath." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyll-bBZzyk . Its worth a bit of a look.

          Finally, a personal note. A group of us Irish-Americans in Grand Rapids (Michigan) during the early 1980s took lessons in Irish for about two years from an Irish nun from Waterford who lived and taught in the local Aquinas College. We tried our best but couldn't sustain our initial effort. My first experience in Ireland with the language was during my first visit there in 1980, when I took a flight from Galway to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. I came across by chance a pub outside of the largest town on the island and walked in for a pint, and was met by stony silence by what had been a few seconds before a group of chattering Irish speakers inside. After a while, they resumed their conversation, in Irish of course, and warmed up to my presence (or so it seemed). Finally, my wife, Cornelia, and Manchán Magan exchanged emails concerning an interview to be taken during our most recent trip to Ireland, but they unfortunately couldn't coordinate their schedules. She would have been able to take the interview in his very rustic and hand-constructed home in rural southeast County Westmeath, but we were due in Derry during that narrow window of opportunity. Next time, however.

          I hope that this helps.

          Sonas ort,


          JE comments:  To my relief, my Irish name is simple:  Séan.  Pádraig, you never told us if you "got by" in the pub with your Irish skills.  A pint or two makes one proficient in any language.

          A quick language question (I could look this up but it's more fun to hear it from you):  Do Irish nouns have different cases in the Latin/Slavic sense?  Now I have a melody in my head:  "When Irish nouns declining..."

          I've come this far in my life journey without ever exploring Ireland.  You've convinced me to do something about that.

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          • "Danny Boy" Again; on Irish Pronunciation (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 11/23/19 6:00 AM)

            Gary Moore writes:

            Once again, a fine survey by Patrick Mears (November 22)
            has provided me with a link to greater depths, in this case
            the proper pronunciation of the Gaelic lyrics of "Danny Boy"
            that I've been singing for years, with some uneasiness about
            those Irish phonemes--though this was no catastrophe, since
            most audiences I sang it to didn't know Irish either.

            More specifically, what I've been singing is the Osborn Bergin lyric
            that was affixed to the otherwise wordless "Londonderry Air," which
            first surfaced in the 1850s. Those words, penned by a professor
            in efforts to help preserve the Irish language (at least as I understand
            the story) are unrelated to the 1912 Fred Weatherly lyrics, in English,
            that have traveled the world.

            As the extremely helpful link that Pat provided reminds, the Bergin
            version is called "Morning in Beara" ("Maidin i mBéarra"), and
            depicts a wistful youth sitting on the seashore and longing for his
            love beyond the mountains--which, one begins to think, is not
            quite as majestic a theme as Weatherly's later clincher. As I pointed
            out in a previous post, popular imagination soon cast Weatherly's
            deftly ambiguous lyrics as a parent's lament, touching painful
            depths beyond mere wistfulness. The power in this melody has
            drawn many contenders, as the energy refused to rest until it
            found its deepest match.

            The Bergin version accomplished the
            task of linguistic preservation, but time has shown it to be only
            a waystation. In a sense, the majesty of Irish destiny evolving
            into America is encompassed in the full grandeur finally produced:
            Weatherly got the tune circuitously from America, placing "Danny Boy"
            somewhat with St. Patrick's Day as ultramarine elaboration.

            But John E's very necessary question is only emphasized by all this.
            Where is the bard who will tell us how Irish got its extremely cryptic
            orthography? Was it almost a cultural attempt to foil and befuddle
            the invaders, using a system of coding that only the home folk
            could decipher? (Of course, this question could also be applied
            to the only slightly less whimsical spelling of English).

            The Celts, those massive precursors of Western Europe (and not
            just Western, as the Book of Galatians reminds from Asia Minor)
            have, in their undying love of melodic beauty, left clues everywhere
            to their ancient realities.

            JE comments:  To my unending confusion on Irish spelling, here's one more:  putting a lower-case letter in front of a capital letter.  See "mBéarra" above.  I'll guess (based on nothing) that it's an attached preposition.  Pat Mears (next) sends us more on the devilish orthography of Irish.

            Gary Moore titled this post Amuigh i mBéarra i mo sheasamh ar an dtrá.  Google translates it as "I am not out in Béarra sitting on the beach."  Alas, this line applies to each and every one of us.

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          • A Basic Lesson in Irish (Patrick Mears, -Germany 11/24/19 3:49 AM)
            My thanks to Séan E for his note on my recent post concerning my inexpert comments on the Irish language. To start, with respect to the scene in the Inishmore pub that I described, I didn't mean to imply that I started chatting with the lads in Irish after drink taken and once a decent interval had passed. I had the good fortune to sit at the bar next to an older gentleman from England who moved to Inishmore after World War II--he was a pilot for the RAF and flew a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, or so he claimed. I was dressed like a tourist then, and so I stuck out like a sore thumb in the place. Once I had a pint or two, the atmosphere in the pub and I relaxed and some of the regulars came up to me, said "dia dhuit," and made a few simple remarks in Irish, a few of which I could respond to in the same tongue.

            Which leads me to my Irish class in Grand Rapids. I have to confess that my few fellow students and myself did not display the work culture of the medieval monks and scribes at Clonmacnoise on the Shannon. Our teacher, the good Sister from Waterford, realized this at the outset and focused more on teaching us small talk and speech necessary to navigate the Gaeltacht. As far as grammar was concerned, we did study that now and then, but mainly in the context of making conversation. As far as our study materials were concerned, our main text was a book that is still published in Ireland titled Buntús Cainte: a first step in spoken Irish. Back then, the book was supplemented by tapes; the current version uses CDs. So, for example, the first chapter concerns the weather and introduces the reader to words for weather conditions, e.g., fuar (cold), te (hot, warm), fluich (wet), tirim (dry) and so forth. So, if you want to say in Irish, "It is cold," you would say "Tá sé fuar." If you were freezing, you would remark to the assembled lads, "Tá sé an-fhuar" (It is very cold). This short chapter ends with a dialog, as all the chapters do.

            Chapter 1 of the book also contains this scene featuring Nóra speaking to Cáit upon entering her shop:

            Nora: Dia dhuit, a Chaít. (Good day, Cáit--more specifically, God be with you, Kate.)

            Kate: Dia's Muire duit, a Nóra. (The stock response to the greeting above is "God and Mary be with you, Nora.")

            Nora: Tá sé fuar.

            Kate: Tá sé an-fhuar, ach tá sé tirim. (ach=but)

            Nora: Tá sé tirim, buíochas le Dia. (It is dry, thanks be to God.)

            At the end of the book, there is a lexicon (foclóirín) containing the words that you should have learned from the book and your instructor. Another book we used was titled Tosach Maith: A Junior Course in Irish by Sister Francis McAndrew, Folens Publishers, Ltd. (1982). And if you were really ambitious, you purchased during your latest trip to Éire the famous Irish Dictionary, Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla by Niall Ó Dónaill. I am sad to say that, after having plodded our way, slowly but surely, through one-half of the original Irish version of the ancient work, Táin Bó Cúailnge ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley"), we collectively and unfortunately gave up the ghost.

            So, that is a long way of saying, John, that I'm sorry not to be your man who can give you a tour through "Irish Noun-Declension Land." However, I did find this website to be particularly helpful on the topic.

            https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Graiméar_na_Gaedhilge/Part_II_Chapter_II . Maybe you will too.

            A few years ago, Connie and I visited in the small town of Glencolmcille on the Donegal coast an Irish language school geared for adults who wish to learn the basics of the language and bearing the name, "Oideas Gael." Here is a link to its website. http://www.oideas-gael.com/en/ .

            It is in a beautiful corner of Ireland, where the British composer, Sir Arnold Bax, and the American painter, Rockwell Kent, spent some wonderful summers next to the Atlantic. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/visual-art/before-cong-got-john-wayne-glencolmcille-got-rockwell-kent-1.3539050. My wife, Cornelia, interviewed the school's director, Liam Ò Cuinneagáin, for one of her Ireland/Dublin travel books. By the way, those books are listed on her website, but are in German only. You can see them via this link. https://www.cornelia-lohs.de .

            If you ever get the urge to visit Ireland, John, let me know and perhaps we can meet up there.

            Slán abhaile,


            SE comments:  Even weather chit-chat is exciting in a new language!  And yes, from the first link above, Irish has five different cases (as well as two genders).  Plenty there to daze and confuse the student.

            Ever notice that none of the successful "imperial" languages--English, Spanish, French, Portuguese--have noun cases/declensions?  (Latin did, but the locals learned to jettison them over the centuries.)  Russia/Russian is the outlier here, but look what happened to its empire.  A mere coincidence?

            Pat, Cornelia's website is very impressive, including fourteen travel books!  WAISers by and large are a traveling bunch.  How did Cornelia catch the travel bug, and what inspired her to start writing about it?

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            • Genesis of a Travel Writer: Cornelia Lohs (Patrick Mears, -Germany 11/26/19 3:57 AM)
              John asked at the end of my most recent post the following question: "How did [my wife] Cornelia catch the travel bug, and what inspired her to start writing about it?"

              I passed the question on to Cornelia, whom I address as "Connie," and she gave me the following response:

              "Cornelia has wanted to be a journalist since she was 10 years old and she has been plagued by wanderlust as long as she can remember, so it was only natural that she would become a travel journalist. Travel journalists are usually approached by book publishers who ask if they could write a travel guide on a certain country and when she was asked, she said yes."

              Ever since I have known her, which is eleven years, Connie has had a way with words and enjoys all types of wordplay. At her alma mater, Heidelberg University, she majored in "Anglistik," i.e., English Studies, which is described on the university's website as "the investigation of the English language, literature and culture in their various present-day forms and in their historical development." So writing not only in German but also in English is second nature to her. Although she writes travel articles as well as travel guides, the latter seems to be her "sweet spot."

              JE comments: No surprise the Germans invented the concept of "Wanderlust"!  Connie's website also indicates her fluency in Italian. Bravissimo!


              Travel writing in the modern sense be traced back to the late 18th century. It's the Romantic genre par excellence, with its quest for the exotic and the "authentic." Travel writing requires the flair of a raconteur, the insight of an anthropologist, and the rigor of a historian.  Perhaps the Germans excel at the genre because unlike the British and French two centuries ago, they traveled for traveling's sake and not as a pretense for conquest?

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    • "That Hamilton Woman!" and "Londonderry Air" (Edward Jajko, USA 11/21/19 4:10 AM)
      A small footnote to Gary Moore's posting on "Danny Boy/Londonderry Air."

      I am currently watching the 1941 British movie That Hamilton Woman!, starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, about the affair between Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton. In the scene in which they are forced to part, he for London, she.for Cairo, they are on a balcony of the British Embassy overlooking the Bay of Naples, somehow the tars on the assembled fleet are all singing the same song: "Londonderry Air," with the words "there at home I left a lovely maiden, with rosy cheek and eye of blue..."

      JE comments:  Jack Tar was the generic name for Royal Navy sailors.  In the US we had Billy Yank and Johnny Reb.  Tommy Atkins was the nickname of every British private in the Great War trenches.  When you think about it, these generics are a strange phenomenon.

      Ed, it's also strange that in the darkest hours of WWII, the UK film industry would make a film about its greatest naval hero having an affair.  And Britain at the time was at war with Italy.  Please tell us more about that Hamilton woman.

      (Postscript:  per Wikipedia, the film was shot in the United States, under the direction of the Hungarian-born Sir Alexander Korda.)

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