Friday, December 5, 2014

This winter I am going to learn about the Anglo Saxons

It's December and it's cold outside, but my brain is warm, because I've been listening to college lectures on CD. Yes, I turn my car into a college classroom every time I have to run out for milk, or pharmaceuticals, because I have recordings of Modern Scholar audio courses (Great Professors Teaching You!) checked out of the public library.

I'm doing this because * I love to learn! * And because trying to follow someone's train of thought takes my mind off my shivering ass and helps me forget to count the minutes until the car heater kicks in.

I have already listened to all 14 lectures on the history of baseball delivered by Professor Shutt of Kenyon College.

Professor Shutt sounds nothing like he looks in this picture. On the recording he sounds like the crustiest, gnarliest, craggiest oldest man who ever recorded a book on tape, saying, "No doubt about it, Ty Cobb was an unbelievable player. UNBELIEVABLE!!"

But I really enjoyed "Take me out to the Ballgame", and I learned the following:

  • in the early days of the game, it was permissible to throw a ball directly AT a player to get him out.
  • some of the baseball lots were squares, instead of diamonds.
  • they used to play with the same ball over and over again, until it got so brown with dirt, the batters couldn't see it coming. After a catcher or batter (can't remember which) was killed with a fast-ball, they started the practice of using brand new, spanking white balls.
  • the National League had started off with a Puritan heritage, and was the more tee-totaling league, while the American League had more of a German Catholic and DRINKING contingent, and so you could buy beer at American League games but not at National League games.
Now I'm listening to a 14 lecture series titled "Understanding Poetry" which covers the whole history of poetry starting with the oral tradition and going up to the present day.

Professor Drout of Wheaton College is an Anglo Saxon scholar and reads the poems of early Britain in their original Old English, which is quite something to hear. He rightly describes the Anglo Saxon language as someone clumping around in heavy boots. It sounds like a cross between German and Scottish.

I'm finding that the Anglo Saxon language really goes with winter, because it sounds so rustic, conjures up images of dark afternoons, of cold walls and floors, the wind whistling through a chink in the evokes struggle, bitter drink, sour amenities!

Just look what passed for shoes back then.

Indeed, even Professor Drout, who has devoted his life to Anglo Saxon studies, says that Anglo Saxon poetry is about absence, misery and heartache.

And so, for this reason, I have decided that after I finish the Understanding Poetry course, I will move into a deeper study of the Anglo-Saxons, by listening to Professor Drout's 14-lecture series on "The Anglo-Saxon World." It will be a fitting companion to the dark, cold, winter days ahead.  

Anglo-Saxons in scanty clothing, trying to keep warm.


  1. this is fascinating! And look at you being all smart and stuff. I never knew all those facts about baseball, either.

  2. I hate to nullify some of your recently acquired knowledge, but baseball is still played on a square...90 ft./side.

  3. H.B, yes, that last 90 feet was something we were all painfully aware of when the Royals fell 90 feet short of tying the game in the 9th inning of the 7th game of the World Series!

  4. I love this! -Andi