Hi, Dear Reader. It’s mid-afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Sunday, July 25, 2021. It is hot outside: the current temperature is 89˚F (32˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 51% and the wind blowing at 6 MPH (9 KM/H) from the north-northeast, the feels-like temperature is 99˚F (37˚C). Today, the skies will be mostly sunny. The high will be 94˚F (35˚C) Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 76˚F (25˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) reading is 55 or Moderate.
I have to admit. As much as it dismays me to see how much support former President Donald Trump has among conservatives, especially among white, Southern, and Evangelical Christian voters who identify as Republican or Trump fans, I get a chuckle when I see some of their way-out-there signs and online commentary on Facebook and Twitter.
For instance, I saw this photo on my newsfeed on Facebook this morning:
I know exactly what this Trump supporter was trying to convey, yet I could not restrain myself from writing this comment:
Is he telling the Moran family to adopt a Brian?
The United States has always been a divided nation – geographically, culturally, socially, economically, and (more significantly) racially. The wide gulf between urban and rural America has been a “thing” ever since the colonial period, and there has always been a strong anti-intellectual streak running through white America, especially in the Midwest and South’s rural areas. Not coincidentally, those two regions are where Trump has the most support, and that’s where you are more likely to hear strident diatribes against immigrants, the Black Lives Matter movement, critical racial theory and the 1619 Project, not to mention the “elites” who want to turn the U.S. into a “socialist” state like Cuba, Venezuela, the People’s Republic of China, and North Korea.
I know that it is never a good thing to generalize about people – there are too many Trump supporters who live in supposed liberal bastions on both coasts and in the big cities, and they are smart, well-educated, and politically savvy – but I do notice that, on social media at least, Cult 45 members are more prone to be less educated and make more grammatical/spelling mistakes than “resisters.”
Yesterday I added a book to my already substantial “To Be Read” (TBR) stack – Robert Hutchinson’s The Spanish Armada (Thomas Duane Books, London; 2014). It’s not a new book per se; I bought it in 2019 and sort of skimmed through it then put it aside in favor of other books and forgot I had it till I saw it on my extra bookshelf by the kitchenette.
Since the book’s U.S. edition was published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of the conglomerate Macmillan, here’s what the publisher says in the U.S. website, macmillan.com:
After the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, Protestant England was beset by the hostile Catholic powers of Europe, including Spain. In October 1585, King Philip II of Spain declared his intention to destroy Protestant England and began preparing invasion plans, leading to an intense intelligence war between the two countries and culminating in the dramatic sea battles of 1588.
Popular history dictates that the defeat of the Spanish Armada was a David versus Goliath victory, snatched by plucky and outnumbered English forces. In this tightly written and fascinating new history, Robert Hutchinson explodes this myth, revealing the true destroyers of the Spanish Armada—inclement weather and bad luck. Of the 125 Spanish ships that set sail against England, only 60 limped home, the rest wrecked or sank with barely a shot fired from their main armament.
In this dramatic hour-by-hour, blow-by-blow account of the Spanish Armada’s attempt to destroy Elizabeth’s England, Hutchinson spins a compelling and unbelievable narrative. Using everything from contemporary eyewitness accounts to papers held by the national archives in Spain and the United Kingdom, Robert Hutchinson re-creates one of history’s most famous episodes in an entirely new way.
I remember reading a book about the Spanish Armada when I was a lad at Tropical Elementary School (which is located in the Westwood Lakes neighborhood of Miami-Dade County) back in the 1970s. No, I don’t recall the title or the author, but I do remember feeling a sense of fascination about Philip II’s “English Enterprise” and its failure to invade Britain, depose Elizabeth I, and reimpose Catholicism on a mostly Protestant country.
Of course, I was too young to comprehend the complex issues of the Reformation, the religious wars it caused, and the rivalry between Spain and England in the Elizabethan Age. But the basic story of Philip’s Grande y Felicísima Armada and its fate made a deep impression on me.
I bought this book along with Harry Turtledove’s Ruled Britannia¸ an alternative history novel that is set in an England occupied by the Spanish in a world where the Armada and Philip II’s invasion were successful. I had not bothered to bone up on that bit of European history since I left Tropical Elementary in June 1977, so I wanted to get Hutchinson’s book to fully understand the real events that inspired Turtledove when he wrote Ruled Britannia.
I have only read the first few chapters – if you think my relationship with my half-sister is toxic, wait till you delve into Elizabeth’s sad history with her own half-sister Mary and her cousin Mary Stuart, aka Mary Queen of Scots – so I am nowhere near the point where I can write a review. But so far I like Hutchinson’s The Spanish Armada. It’s nicely written and has a crisp, clear, and riveting narrative. I’ll probably read some more of the book today.
Remembrance of My Youth: Men of Harlech
Back when I was a member of the Men’s Ensemble (aka the Boys’ Chorus) at South Miami Senior High School in the second half of the 1980-81 school year, our teacher, Ms. Joan Owen, had us try a lot of songs for the annual Spring Concert in May of 1981.
Usually, she would introduce to anywhere between seven or eight songs per semester for one of the two major concert “seasons” during the academic year, then eliminate songs that she didn’t think we performed well and keep ones that we sang to her expectations.
I joined the Men’s Ensemble purely on a whim on the first day back to school after the Christmas/Winter Break, and because it had been four years since I had sung in a school choral group, I’d forgotten that this was Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in vocal groups when the director is putting together a concert program.
I think the Men’s Ensemble tried six or seven songs for the Let Us Entertain You Spring 1981 concert. We ended up doing a Broadway-themed trio that included:
- There is Nothing Like a Dame from South Pacific
- Hello Dolly/It Only Takes a Moment medley from Hello Dolly!
- Gee, Officer Krupke from West Side Story
I don’t remember some of the “rejects” that we did not perform, but I do remember that we did try to do Men of Harlech, a traditional Welsh/English marching song that has no single set of accepted lyrics.
According to Wikipedia:
There are many versions of “Men of Harlech”, and there is no single accepted English version. The version below was published in 1873.
John Oxenford version (published 1873)[
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry’s deaf’ning thunder
Every foe appall.
Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
‘Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon’s courage breaking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
‘Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne’er can yield!
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom’s cause is strongest,
Freedom’s courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.
See, they now are flying!
Dead are heap’d with dying!
Over might hath triumph’d right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
“Cambria ne’er can yield!”
Anyway, for some reason I remembered that I once practiced a totally different version of Men of Harlech when I was in high school, and for the past few days it has become my “theme song.”
I can’t find that particular version on YouTube. I did find the version that composer John Barry wrote for 1964’s Zulu (a film that I have in my Blu-ray collection), which has the following lyrics:
Men of Harlech, stop your dreaming,
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming,
See their warrior pennants streaming,
To this battle field!
Men of Harlech stand ye steady,
It can not be ever said ye,
For the battle were not ready,
Welshmen never yield!
From the hills rebounding,
Let this war cry sounding,
Summon all at Cambria’s call,
The mighty force surrounding!
Men of Harlech on to glory,
This will ever be your story,
Keep these burning words before ye,
Welshmen will not yield!
And then there’s the Welsh version, which is sung by, among other singers, a young Charlotte Church in her classical music crossover days:
Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech
Wele goelcerth wen yn fflamio
A thafodau tân yn bloeddio
Ar i’r dewrion ddod i daro
Unwaith eto’n un
Gan fanllefau tywysogion
Llais gelynion, trwst arfogion
A charlamiad y marchogion
Craig ar graig a gryn.
Arfon byth ni orfydd
Cenir yn dragywydd
Cymru fydd fel Cymru fu
Yn glodfawr ym mysg gwledydd.
Yng ngwyn oleuni’r goelcerth acw
Tros wefusau Cymro’n marw
Annibyniaeth sydd yn galw
Am ei dewraf ddyn.
Ni chaiff gelyn ladd ac ymlid
Harlech! Harlech! cwyd i’w herlid
Y mae Rhoddwr mawr ein Rhyddid
Yn rhoi nerth i ni.
Wele Gymru a’i byddinoedd
Yn ymdywallt o’r mynyddoedd!
Rhuthrant fel rhaeadrau dyfroedd
Llamant fel y lli!
Llwyddiant i’n marchogion
Rwystro gledd yr estron!
Gwybod yn ei galon gaiff
Fel bratha cleddyf Brython
Y cledd yn erbyn cledd a chwery
Dur yn erbyn dur a dery
Wele faner Gwalia’i fyny
Rhyddid aiff â hi!
Don’t ask me to even try and pronounce the Welsh lyrics!
Anyway, I plan to keep enjoying my weekend by avoiding right-wing idiocy, reading from my TBR pile, and watching a movie or an “inning” of Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns.
And on that note, Dear Reader, I’ll be off. Till next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 Unsurprisingly, the South and the Midwest were also the regions that were enthusiastic for passage of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) and kept – and enforced – “dry laws” on the books well after that destructive amendment was nullified in 1933.