Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Welcome, Lucy, to a World Short on Reason

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Welcome, Lucy, to a World Short on Reason

Article excerpt

As this is a personal column, I offer some good news that perhaps may shine a ray of light through the dark clouds of disturbing events: My second granddaughter, Lucy Gilpin, was born Feb. 28 to my daughter Allison and her husband in Sydney, Australia.

Lucy's sister Tillie, age 2, is very excited. Mother and baby are doing well. As for the world in which infant Lucy has been born, well, not so much.

What a strange quirk of history that the Crimean Peninsula should again be the center of a dispute between the world's great powers, as it was between 1853 and 1856. Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and, of course, Russia were involved.

The reasons for the Crimean War are obscure to the present age and no doubt were to the average person back then. The war was cooked up as a stew from the timeless recipe: bluster, national pride, jingoism, military ambition, alliances, failed diplomacy and a big seasoning of folly.

To the extent that the Crimean War is remembered at all it is for two things. One was the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale, who made the nursing profession respectable in Victorian England when women caring for men seemed indecent.

British military hospitals of the day were terrible. In the way of care, you might get a cup of tea if you were lucky but there was probably more chance of an English orderly telling you: "Keep the moaning down a bit, please, people are trying to die in here." With her fellow nurses, the lady with the lamp made the rounds of the sick and wounded and changed the world one ward at a time. Every modern nurse walks in the light of that lamp.

The second historical artifact of that war was Alfred, Lord Tennyson's famous poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," which commemorated a real event that was equal parts extraordinary courage and shocking stupidity.

Written in the cadences of the hoof beats of the British cavalry charging the Russian guns, it is a poem that once heard always echoes in memory: "Half a league, half a league, / Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death, / Rode the six hundred." And then the chilling lines: "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die . …

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