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    Indebted to Ambleside {Already}

    February 5, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    Last night, Si and I read aloud together, something we haven’t had much time for in the last couple of weeks due to the various projects we have going around the house. We are nearing the end of America Alone, and thoroughly enjoying the author’s wit and insight. I am also enjoying the depth of the book…thanks to Ambleside.

    What does Ambleside have to do with reading a current affairs book?

    I’m glad you asked.

    Mark Steyn is an author/commentator whose education has both breadth and depth. His quick wit often reveals his knowledge of history or literature, meaning that if a reader isn’t familiar with the great works and stories of Western civilization, that reader isn’t going to “get” Steyn, at least not fully.

    Three years ago, I would not have “gotten” Steyn.

    For instance:

    [A]s Osama gloated after September 11, when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they go with the strong horse. And in May 2003, four weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the coalition forces were indisputably the strong horse. They’d removed Saddam Hussein–the self-declared new Saladin–in nothing flat.

    While I would have understood the general anthropological argument about strong horses and weak horses, it is because of Ambleside that I know who Saladin was, his reign of terror during the days of Richard the Lionheart, his bravery, and why he is important today.

    We just read about him last week.

    Or what about this:

    But the invasion becaomes a liberation and the liberation becomes a policing operation and the futher you get from that first month of hard power the more constrained the hyperpower becomes, the less willing to use any but a tiny proportion of his awesome might until in the end he’s Gulliver ensnared by more motivated Lilliputians.

    I am always scouring the “free reading” suggestions on Ambleside in order to find appropriate books with which to nourish my oldest child, who has an absurdly high reading level. Because of Ambleside, we own Gulliver’s Travel, read it aloud a year or two ago, and understand the imagery of a man entrapped in his slumber by natives the size of Tom Thumb on the island of Lilliput.

    Also due to Ambleside and its expansion of my own internal world, I understood the references to crusades, the Saracens, and even the “white man’s burden.”

    We read Kipling’s poem last night before falling off to sleep:

    The White Man’s Burden

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    Send forth the best ye breed–
    Go bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need;
    To wait in heavy harness,
    On fluttered folk and wild–
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half-devil and half-child.

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    In patience to abide,
    To veil the threat of terror
    And check the show of pride;
    By open speech and simple,
    An hundred times made plain
    To seek another’s profit,
    And work another’s gain.

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    The savage wars of peace–
    Fill full the mouth of Famine
    And bid the sickness cease;
    And when your goal is nearest
    The end for others sought,
    Watch sloth and heathen Folly
    Bring all your hopes to nought.

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    No tawdry rule of kings,
    But toil of serf and sweeper–
    The tale of common things.
    The ports ye shall not enter,
    The roads ye shall not tread,
    Go mark them with your living,
    And mark them with your dead.

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    And reap his old reward:
    The blame of those ye better,
    The hate of those ye guard–
    The cry of hosts ye humour
    (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
    “Why brought he us from bondage,
    Our loved Egyptian night?”

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    Ye dare not stoop to less–
    Nor call too loud on Freedom
    To cloke your weariness;
    By all ye cry or whisper,
    By all ye leave or do,
    The silent, sullen peoples
    Shall weigh your gods and you.

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    Have done with childish days–
    The lightly proferred laurel,
    The easy, ungrudged praise.
    Comes now, to search your manhood
    Through all the thankless years
    Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
    The judgment of your peers!

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