Ramillies

Ramillies_1706_Duprez

Marlborough accepting the captured standards at Ramillies

One swallow doth not a summer make.  Although the Duke of Marlborough won a great victory at Blenheim in 1704 in the war of the Spanish Succession, he was unable to capitalize on it in 1705.  Given a year to recover his position Louis XIV felt he could at the very least bargain a better peace if he made a military demonstration.

With this in mind in the Spring of 1706 he launched campaigns in Italy and Germany with some success.  On the back of the early gains he launched Marshal Villeroi from Leuven into the Netherlands.  At Ramillies he met John Churchill, hungering for an opportunity to deal decisively with the French.

The French, Spanish & Bavarian alliance collided with Churchill’s English, Scottish, Dutch and Danish army on open flat farmland near the village of Ramillies.  The ground was a flat canvas, the perfect medium on which a skilled general could dictate a battle.  In four hours the Duke of Marlborough demonstrated why he was the greatest general in the world in his day.  23rd May is the anniversary of the battle.

The beauty of such a decisive win early in the campaign season is what happened next.  Malines, Lierre, Ghent, Alost, Damme, Oudenaarde, Bruges, and on 6 June Antwerp, all subsequently fell to Marlborough’s victorious army.  The Spanish Netherlands was Spanish no more.

I wrote this post last night, before the news leaked through of the explosion at the Manchester arena.  This morning we hear that 22 people lost their lives and over 50 have been injured in a suicide bomb blast.  Some of the casualties were children, which is no surprise in the audience of the Ariana Grande Dangerous Woman show.  A lone suicide bomber was responsible.

I hate to jump to conclusions without the full facts, but it has all the hallmarks of Islamic extremism.  John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, had the benefit of a defined enemy with stated aims.  His opponents decked their troops in uniforms and lined them up on fields of battle.  Islamic extremists have no country.  Their aim appears to be the destruction of all that is not Islam.  They are happy to die to achieve this aim and have a constant supply of suicide bombers.  They are happy to slaughter innocent children to pursue their goals.  They are happy to recruit impressionable teenagers, and indoctrinate them in madrasas converting them into weapons of flesh and bone.  How do you deal with such people?

I think Ariana Grande herself said all that can be said:

Arianabroken

Suicide cycle

13-reasons-why-5-stills-released-see-here

A lot about suicide going on this week.  Both Esha and Gavin are in the Cycle Against Suicide tomorrow from Rockwell College Cashel to Ursuline College Thurles.  So they are cycling from Gavin’s school to Esha’s.

In work people are registering for the “Darkness into Light” walk raising funds for Pieta House, which has a huge role in addressing self esteem issues in young people.

The  big hit TV series is “13 Reasons Why” the Netflix show which follows the set of cassette tapes recorded by a teenage girl before she commits suicide.  Teenagers are eating it up.  I watched it myself and really enjoyed it.  But.  Sorry…BUT (it’s a big but).

As one commentator pointed out tonight on the radio, they are young,  they are downright hot, they are so cool, they are all good looking, well dressed, highly alluring. The production is glossy, the music is fantastic, there is a teenager driving a Ford Mustang for goodness sake.  They are the teenagers that teenagers want to be.  They are the fashion queens, the sports jocks, the cheerleaders, the smart kids, the ones who matter.  When the teenagers your teens want to be are killing themselves in a form of revenge ritual you need to be concerned.  Maybe the reports are anecdotal, maybe not, but all suicide and self-harm agencies are reporting a rise in incidents.

So to my newest favourite poet, who has just released a new poem.  Not about suicide, but about the very opposite.  I just love this sentiment.  It reflects what I believe about social media.  When you are having fun, put the phone away.  Live in the moment.  It doesn’t last long.  Celebrate the NOW.

 

Blink and You’ll Miss It: by Esha Hourihane Clancy

Unlike a million other things, happiness is a choice.
A choice we all have and one we all make,
make for ourselves but for others we fake.
Fake a smile, fake a laugh,
whose to know, or much less care?
When you smile the world smiles back.
It can’t see past the façade we wear.

I cannot be bought by the wealthy nor donated to the poor.
Who am I? What am I for?
Why do plays and poems celebrate the aching and breaking of hearts?
The rolling of heads and the rolling of tears precede and interrupt the happier parts.
I guess poets and playwrights know all too well
that it is best to write when you are drowning in hell.
It’s easier.
What a sin it would be to pick up a pen while laughing.
To interrupt joy in such gross kind, you would certainly scare it away.
A deer in the woods isn’t so hard to catch.

Document the sad times, the sloths and the snails.
Fill oceans with tears and draw great blue whales.
Sing sad songs ’til the cows come home
but don’t ever try to write a happy poem.
Lions and tigers are too fast for your flash.
Reach for your pen and off they’ll dash.
Don’t worry about forgetting it
because it’s going to get forgotten.
Just enjoy it now, before it’s gone.

Look!

 

Cycle

Teutonic Order

Teutonics

In terms of fame the Teutonic order of Knights tend to come third after the Templars and the Hospitallers.  Certainly in the Crusades of the Holy Lands they maintained only a modest presence.

The key focus for the Teutonics was the pagan tribes of the Baltic in the areas now populated by Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Russians and Finns.  Their mission was to bring these peoples to God and they did this at the point of a lance.

Understandably the Baltic tribes did not just lie down and accept their fate.  The Northern Crusades were long, drawn out, bitter affairs.  Progress was measured in yards.  Campaigning was possible in the normal Spring/Summer season when grass was available to feed horses.  In a quirk of climate much of the fighting took place in the winter.  Frozen rivers and lakes in this area of the world make veritable highways through the dense forest and scrub.

So it was that in the winter of 1336 a force of Teutonic Knights besieged the Samotigian hill fort of Pilénai.  Accounts hold it that the defenders of the fort alone numbered 4,000 not counting women and children.  The Teutonic Knights must have numbered many thousands because the inhabitants of Pilénai realised that they could not defend themselves from the besieging army.

In a grand gesture of defiance the Lithuanians set fire to their own fort to deny it to the Crusaders.  Then, on this day, Feb 25th 1336, they committed what is the largest mass suicide in history.

 

A Song of Suicide; by Robert William Service

Deeming that I were better dead,
“How shall I kill myself?” I said.
Thus mooning by the river Seine
I sought extinction without pain,
When on a bridge I saw a flash
Of lingerie and heard a splash . . .
So as I am a swimmer stout
I plunged and pulled the poor wretch out.

The female that I saved? Ah yes,
To yield the Morgue of one corpse the less,
Apart from all heroic action,
Gave me a moral satisfaction.
was she an old and withered hag,
Too tired of life to long to lag?
Ah no, she was so young and fair
I fell in love with her right there.

And when she took me to her attic
Her gratitude was most emphatic.
A sweet and simple girl she proved,
Distraught because the man she loved
In battle his life-blood had shed . . .
So I, too, told her of my dead,
The girl who in a garret grey
Had coughed and coughed her life away.

Thus as we sought our griefs to smother,
With kisses we consoled each other . . .
And there’s the ending of my story;
It wasn’t grim, it wasn’t gory.
For comforted were hearts forlorn,
And from black sorrow joy was born:
So may our dead dears be forgiving,
And bless the rapture of the living.

 

Self-inflicted death

waiting

Warning:  if you have suffered a bereavement by train, or a suicide in your family, don’t read any further.

So, last Friday I left work to get home for the weekend and ended up sitting for hours on the train.  I was about 4 hours late getting home.  And all because of a “fatality” on the line.  It got me thinking about how we choose to die.

Suicide is always an option for most of us.  But it can’t be an easy option.  How hard must it be to make that final push to meet the end: To leap off the cliff, to jump in front of the train, to pull the trigger, or kick over the stool?

People who suffer from depression would probably commit suicide if it just came along while you were sitting there moping around.  But suicide is an active act.  You have to decide to do something about it, make plans, and actually carry them out.  What are the impacts of this very final act?

There is the grief we leave behind.  Family and friends deprived of our presence, and always wondering if there was something they could have done or said to have made a difference in our lives, to have made us want to live on.  Parents, spouses, siblings and children left with a gaping hole in their lives, in their hearts.  Do suicides take their lives for purely personal reasons, or are there some who are making a statement?  “Look what you made me do!”  Those are pretty dreadful last words to close an argument.

Then there is the train driver involved in the collision, or the poor person who finds the body at the foot of the cliff, or dangling from the rafters.  Do those who take their lives also take account of the trauma they leave in the lives of others?

Are there those who want to go out with a bang, get on the front page, maybe take along some innocent bystanders?  What is the motivation of the “school shooter” who wants company on their journey into the great unknown?

Is a self-inflicted death a cowards way to escape from life, or a final act of bravery?

Send your answers to these questions on a postcard to “Great Philosophical Questions of Life, PO Box 42, The Great Beyond, Hereafter.”   The winner will receive a copy of both of our ever popular publications  “101 ways to kill yourself” and “Killing yourself better:  Second time around”.

If you find any of this material upsetting, and you would like to talk to someone try http://www.samaritans.org/

Finally, if after all of this you still find the need to throw yourself in front of a train, can I ask you to consider the East Coast line?  And if it simply MUST be the Dublin-Cork line, how about midday on a Wednesday?

Let me die a youngman’s death; by Roger McGough

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death