Monday, January 16, 2012


Back when I wrote It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, I started out with a second paragraph that reflected one of my reactions to the first line of A Christmas Carol, but on editing the post I realized the second paragraph didn’t fit with what I had started to say. I kept it for a rainy day. It's raining, so here is how the post originally started:

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” I am rereading A Christmas Carol. The beloved tale that encourages generosity, celebration, family feeling and empathy at Christmas and all other times begins with the words “Marley is dead”.

As I read them, I am put in mind of the words of that other merry Victorian prankster, Robert Browning. Do you remember reading or hearing these lines as a child?

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven—
All's right with the world!

They are from a longer dramatic work called Pippa Passes. Pippa is a young girl who works at a silk mill in Asolo, Italy. She is spending her one day off a year out in the sunshine, walking the town and singing. As she sings the lines above, she passes a house where a young wife and her lover have just murdered the wife’s elderly husband. Hearing “God’s in his Heaven”, they are stricken with guilt and commit suicide. No, I did not make this up. I think the Victorians had more of a [morbid] sense of humor than we give them credit for.

In the course of her wandering and singing, Pippa also inspires an assassination. I hope none of her descendants turn up on American Idol.

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