Monday, 31 December 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR WISHES


Count your blessings instead of your crosses; 
Count your gains instead of your losses; 
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes;
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean;
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.
Irish blessing



May your Past be a pleasant memory,
Your Future filled with delights,
Your Now a glorious moment
That fills your Life with deep  contentment.
Happy New Year!


Auld Lang Syne  is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world; it is traditionally sung  to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. 
The song’s Scots title is translated as  “for (the sake of) old times”.




Wednesday, 26 December 2012

BOXING DAY


Boxing Day is December 26, the day after Christmas, and is celebrated in Great Britain and in most areas settled by the English, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Boxing Day is just one of the British bank holidays recognized since 1871 that are observed by factories, banks, government offices, and post offices. The others include Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Whit-Monday (the day after Pentecost), and the banking holiday on the last Monday in August.

The exact origins of the holiday are obscure,  it is probable that Boxing Day began in England during the Middle Ages.
Historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.
Another theory  is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.                       
As time went by, Boxing Day gift giving expanded to include those who had rendered a service during the previous  year. This tradition survives today as people give presents to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters, and others who have helped them.
Just as Americans watch football on Thanksgiving, the Brits have Boxing Day soccer matches and horse races. If they're particularly wealthy or live in the country, they might even participate in a fox hunt.


Boxing Day is also a traditional sales day in various shops and boutiques. England and Canada's Boxing Day evolved into a major shopping event in the 1980s — the equivalent of post-Thanksgiving Black Friday.
For other European people, Boxing Day is just the second day of Christmas.


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS


May the joy and peace of Christmas be with you all through the Year.
Wishing you a Season of Blessings from Heaven above.
Merry  Christmas!


Monday, 24 December 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS


TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS



Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863) wrote the poem “Twas the night before Christmas” also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822. It is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem every Christmas Eve. The poem “Twas the night before Christmas”  has redefined our image of Christmas and Santa Claus. Prior to the creation of the story of “Twas the night before Christmas” St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, had never been associated with a sleigh or reindeers!
The first publication date was 23rd December 1823 and it was an immediate success. It was not until 1844 that Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership when the work was included in a book of his poetry.



Saturday, 22 December 2012

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart. 
Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1872

Friday, 21 December 2012

LET'S SING SOME CHRISTMAS SONGS!


Christmas is coming up!  It is a time for singing our favourite tunes, whether sacred or secular. We all have songs which bring back good memories and make us happy, bringing the child in us back to life!

So let's clap our hands, stamp our feet, and start singing our heart out!




Sunday, 16 December 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE AUSTEN!

Jane Austen was born on December, 16, 1775 in at the rectory in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire. England. Her  parents were well-respected community members. Her father served as the Oxford-educated rector for a nearby Anglican parish. The family was close and the children grew up in an environment that stressed learning and creative thinking. When Jane was young, she and her siblings were encouraged to read from their father's extensive library. The children also wrote and put on plays.
Increasingly fascinated by the world of stories, Jane began to write in bound notebooks. In the 1790s   she started to craft her own novels and wrote Love and Freindship [sic], a parody of romantic fiction, organized as a series of love letters, in which  she revealed  her wit and dislike of sensibility, or romantic hysteria, a distinct perspective that would eventually characterize her novels.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

LOST IN AUSTEN


Lost in Austen  is a four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network, written by  Guy Andrews  as a fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Following the plot of Jane Austen's novel, it sees  Amanda, a modern girl who  lives in present day London and is an ardent Jane Austen fan, somehow transported into the events of the book via a portal located in her bathroom!



Here you can enjoy some videos of this television series which sees its heroine transported back through time to exchange places with Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet and live her life in Georgian Britain.




Find the time  to read this exhaustive article  about  Lost in Austen:

Sunday, 9 December 2012

THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

This video offers a brief history of English literature.  It is ideal for students of English literature, and for those wishing to expand their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of this engaging subject. 


Don't forget to go and see the following websites to better discover English literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day:

"Literature becomes the living memory of a nation."
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Friday, 30 November 2012

GEORGE GORDON BYRON


Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) was as famous in his lifetime for his personality cult as for his poetry. He created the concept of the "Byronic hero" - a bold, proud, rebellious, though at times melancholy,  young man, brooding on some mysterious, unforgivable event in his past. Byron's influence on European poetry, music, novel, opera, and painting has been immense and prolonged, although the poet was widely condemned on moral grounds by his contemporaries.

He was the only English poet of his age to achieve a European reputation and to exert a significant  influence  on the Romantic movement  -  Alfred de Musset was his disciple in France, Aleksandr Pushkin in Russia, Heinrich Heine in Germany, Adam Mickiewicz in Poland. His poetry inspired musical compositions by Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; operas by Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi; and paintings by J. M. W. Turner and Eugène Delacroix. His spirit animated liberal revolutionary movements: the Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini associated Byron with the eternal struggle of the oppressed to be free. 

Click here to find a précis of the “Byronic hero”.
You can download a useful mind map of  Lord Byron  here.

Click here to see the BBC biographical movie about Lord Byron.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

WILLIAM BLAKE ~ LONDON


Published in Songs of Experience in 1794, it is one of the few poems in Songs of Experience which does not have a corresponding poem in Songs of Innocence.

The poem has a total of sixteen lines which are split into 4 stanzas with a rhyming ABAB pattern throughout the poem. Repetition is the most striking formal feature of the poem, and it serves to emphasize the prevalence of the horrors the speaker describes.

I wandered through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear:

How the chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.

But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

THANKSGIVING DAY

Thanksgiving Day  in the United States falls on the fourth Thursday of November.
Almost every culture in the world has held celebrations of thanks for an abundant harvest. The American Thanksgiving holiday began as a feast of thanksgiving in the early days of the American colonies almost four hundred years ago.



The first Thanksgiving  was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrim Fathers, the founders of America, to thank God for their first good harvest. They celebrated it with the native Indians, who had helped them  survive and taught them how to plant their crops. That first  feast lasted three days.
In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events. However, it was celebrated on different days in different communities and in some places there were more than one thanksgiving each year. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.
Then in 1863, at the end of a long and bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.



Today the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving  on the fourth Thursday  of November, a different date every year. 
There is no school and most government offices and  businesses close for four days.  Thanksgiving Day is  traditionally a day for families and friends to get together for a special meal. 

The meal includes a roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables.  It is a time for many people to give thanks for the many blessings that they have.  


Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day. Some parades also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season. 


New York celebrates  with  the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, starting at 9 am at the Museum of Natural History  near Central Park: more than two million people join this wonderful parade every year.



Now let's watch a short educational video that explains how Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the United States.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH ~ COMPOSED UPON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE


This sonnet conveys some of the emotions felt by William Wordsworth while crossing Westminster Bridge on an early September morning 1802. It is an Italian sonnet, written in iambic pentameter, the rhyme scheme of the poem is abbaabbacdcdcd.
Sonnets were traditionally the way love poems were written, so it could be claimed that this is a love poem to the city of London in the morning.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
   Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
   A sight so touching in its majesty:
   This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
   Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
   Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
   All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. 
Never did sun more beautifully steep
   In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
   Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will: 
   Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
   And all that mighty heart is lying still!


Monday, 19 November 2012

SINGING TO LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

As you already know, music motivates foreign language students and develops their language skills. In fact,  singing is an amazing way to dramatically improve your language learning strategy. 

Today let's sing along with Sting!


To close, don't forget  to read this nice article about  the role of  music in  foreign language learning. 


Sunday, 11 November 2012

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Image result for wordsworth

William Wordsworth  was born in 1770 in the Lake District. In 1791 he graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge. He left England in the same year for a walking tour of France, the Alps and Italy. It was during this period that, enthusiastic about new ideas of democracy, he became a supporter  of the French Revolution.

In 1791, Wordsworth visited France, which was engaged in the Revolutionary war with Britain at that time. During his stay there, he fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, and the next year in 1792, their daughter Caroline was born. Due to the ongoing war between the two countries he returned alone to England the next year. There are strong suggestions that he  did not marry Annette, though he continued to support both child and mother in the best possibly way for the rest of his life.

After returning to England, Wordsworth  published two long “travel diaries”,  An Evening Walk and  Descriptive Sketches in 1793.  A walking  tour that year took the poet across the Salisbury Plain and to Tintern Abbey (East Wales), both subjects of later poems. In 1795, in London, he met  the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, thus beginning one of the great friendships of literary history. The two poets had similar ideas on both love and poetry and enjoyed taking long walks together.                                                                                                                                           
By this time Wordsworth  had become intensely disillusioned with the Revolution whose initial ideals had degenerated into the so-called “Terror” (the years of Robespierre’s dictatorship when traitors to the new French Republic were executed by guillotine).  Politically he turned very conservative.  In 1798 Wordsworth  and Coleridge published anonymously Lyrical Ballads. The year after Wordsworth  and his sister Dorothy settled at Dove Cottage in the Lake District.  Later  he married Mary Hutchinson, a childhood friend, and they had five children together. 



Wednesday, 7 November 2012

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S RE-ELECTION VICTORY


The US President Barack Obama is on stage to deliver his Victory Speech in Chicago after decisively winning a second term.


Here's  his speechHe refers to  the US as a union that is “greater than the sum of our individual ambitions… more than a collection of red states and blue states.”

The Empire State Building is lit blue after Barack Obama wins the presidential election.




Supporters of President Barack Obama celebrate in Times Square in New York City.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

WILLIAM BLAKE

William Blake was an English poet, engraver, and painter. A boldly imaginative rebel in both his thought and his art, he combined poetic and pictorial genius to explore life.





He was born in London in 1757.  His father  soon recognized  his son’s artistic talents and sent him to study at a drawing school when he was ten years old. At the age of 14, he asked to be apprenticed to the engraver James Basire, under whose direction he further developed his  innate skills. As a young man Blake worked as an engraver, illustrator  and drawing teacher.
Blake wrote poems during this time as well, and his first printed collection, Poetical Sketches, appeared in 1783.  Songs of Innocence was published in 1789, followed by Songs of Experience in 1793 and a combined edition the next year bearing the title Songs of Innocence and Experience showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.
Blake’s political radicalism intensified during the years leading up to the French Revolution. He disapproved of Enlightenment rationalism, of institutionalized religion, and of the tradition of marriage in its conventional legal and social form (though he was married himself). His nonconformist religious thinking  is particularly evident in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In the 1790s and after, he shifted his poetic voice from the lyric to the prophetic mode, and wrote a series of long prophetic books, including  Milton and Jerusalem. Linked together by an intricate mythology and symbolism of Blake’s own creation, these books propose a revolutionary new social, intellectual, and ethical order.
Blake published almost all of his works himself, by an original process in which the poems were etched by hand, along with illustrations and decorative images, onto copper plates. These plates were inked to make prints, and the prints were then coloured in with paint. This production method was called “illuminated  printing”. Most students of Blake find it necessary to consider his graphic art and his writing together; he himself thought of them as inseparable.
Blake believed that his poetry could be read and understood by common people, but he was determined not to sacrifice his vision in order to become popular. When an exhibition of his works met with financial failure in 1809, Blake sank into depression and withdrew into obscurity; he remained alienated for the rest of his life.
During his lifetime Blake never made much money. His contemporaries saw him as something of an eccentric. It was only after his death that his genius was fully appreciated. His engravings and commissioned work drew enough money to survive, but at times he had to rely on the support of some of his close friends.
Blake left no debts at his death on August 12, 1827. Wordsworth's verdict after Blake's death reflected many opinions of the time: "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott."

Suspended between the Neoclassicism of the 18th century and the early phases of Romanticism, William Blake heavily influenced the Romantic poets with recurring themes of good and evil, heaven and hell, knowledge and innocence, and external reality versus inner. 
Only in the 20th century wide audiences began to acknowledge his profound originality and genius.
His works  have been used by people rebelling against a wide variety of issues, such as war, conformity, and almost every kind of repression.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

THE ROMANTIC AGE

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The period from the Declaration of American Independence  to about 1830  was marked  by great revolutions: the Industrial Revolution reshaped the social and political background of Britain;  the British colonies on the other side of the Atlantic became a new and free nation; the French Revolution brought  its ideas  of freedom and equality  all over Europe.  All this was  to influence  also the cultural and literary aspects  of life.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

THE MYTH OF THE NATURAL MAN



In the 18th century the discovering of new populations in America, Polynesia, Africa, because of the explorers’ travels around the world, brought around a new vision of the human being. They found whole populations organised in a very different way than the Europeans, with no royal absolutism, without inequalities, without religious  intolerance, without excessive ambitions of profits.  The “myth of the Noble Savage” showed up in the scenario, as a pure being in contact with Nature, not contaminated by  modern society.
Then the whole structure of  European society, based on a system ruled by the Church and the Kingdom, was debated  and  all its rules and moral concepts, considered until  that time as absolutes, were seriously  discussed and criticised. 

Here  you can download a PDF Presentation to improve your knowledge of the "myth of  the Noble Savage".  


Friday, 19 October 2012

THE RISE OF THE NOVEL

The novel originated in the early 18th century after the Italian word "novella", which was used for stories in the medieval period. Its identity has evolved and now a work of prose fiction is at least 50,000 words. Novels focus on character development more than plot. In any genre, it is the study of the human psyche.
The ancestors of the novel were Elizabethan prose fiction and French heroic romances, which were long narratives about contemporary characters who behaved nobly.  The novel came into popular awareness due to a growing middle class with more leisure time to read and money to buy books. Public interest in the human character led to the popularity of autobiographies, biographies, journals, diaries and memoirs.  The early English novels concerned themselves with complex, middle-class characters struggling with their morality and circumstances.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

THE AUGUSTAN AGE



1714 - 1727
Queen Anne  was succeeded by George I of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, daughter of James I.

He was an unpopular king partly because of his attachment to Germany, he didn't speak English  and had no knowledge of British customs.
During George's reign, the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a Prime Minister.  This laid the foundations for that form of Parliamentary monarchy which has been in existence  in England  ever since.
Towards the end of his reign, actual power was held by the Whigs’ leader,  Sir Robert Walpole,  Britain's first Prime Minister.

1727- 1760
George II  exercised little control over British domestic policy, which was largely controlled by Great Britain's parliament.

During the last years of  his reign, William Pitt the Elder of the Whigs, was appointed Prime Minister. He became famous  as the wartime political leader of Britain in the Seven Years' War, especially for his single-minded devotion to victory over France. Victory made Britain dominant in world affairs.  He was also known for his wide popular appeal, his opposition to corruption in government, his advocacy of British greatness, expansionism and colonialism, and his antagonism toward Britain's chief enemies and rivals for colonial power, Spain and France.