A Flag-Flying Fellow; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), April 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

A Flag-Flying Fellow; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTIONWhen I was in the school choir in Belfast, we sang a song called UpiDiDaw with the chorus: 'The Shades of night were falling fast, UpiDiDaw, As through an Alpine village passed, UpiDiDaw, A youth, who bore, mid snow and ice, UpiDiDaw, A banner with the strange device'. Is there a name for the village?

What was the 'strange device' on the banner? THE 'strange device' on the banner is Excelsior, and the song comes from a poem of that name by the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807- 1872), first published in 1842.

The poem describes a young man carrying a banner, emblazoned with the word 'Excelsior'. The bearer goes through an Alpine village and, ignoring dire warnings of a peasant and an old man, and despite being lured by a young maiden, attempts to climb the summit of an Alpine peak, climbing higher and higher, until the inevitable happens.

At daybreak he is found 'lifeless, but beautiful' by a faithful St Bernard hound, half-buried in the snow, 'still clasping in his hands of ice that banner with the strange device, Excelsior!' Longfellow wrote to his friend, Samuel Ward (September 30, 1841) that one night the poem came to him; he went to bed, but 'that voice kept ringing in my ears'. He got up, lit a lamp and wrote it out.

He was inspired by the heading of a New York newspaper that contained the state seal - a shield with rising sun and the motto 'Excelsior.' When queried about the Latin, he explained that his 'excelsior' is part of 'scopus meus excelsior est (My goal is higher)'.

The Alpine village was not specifically named, but there are clues.

The poem cites St Bernard of Menthon, who founded a hospice (hostel) for travellers in 1049 on the Great St Bernard Pass.

The hospice is situated in Switzerland, on the Swiss-Italian border not far from the charming mountain village of Bourg-St- Pierre, which could well be the village in question.

The monks of St Bernard are, of course, famous for breeding the mountain rescue dog and, even today, they continue their tradition of aid and comfort for walkers, pilgrims and those seeking spiritual support.

Irish composer Michael William Balfe (1808-1870) set the poem as a duet for tenor and bass and it was a popular item at Victorian concerts, either as a duet or a choral work, and was a frequent item at parlour concerts. Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes called the poem: 'A trumpet call to the energies of youth.' Dennis Wilson, Southampton.

MANY composers have set Longfellow's Excelsior to music, however the 'Upidee' version, that was so popular on both sides of the Atlantic, was arranged by an American composer H. G Spaulding in 1859.

Generations of innocent children were forced to learn this poem and recite it with gestures before their classmates, admiring parents and suffering townsfolk.

His version added various 'tra la las' and 'upidees'.

The sound was meant to imitate a watchman's rattle.

Les Brown, By email..

QUESTIONDid the Romans ever make it as far east as China? IT DEPENDS on what you mean by 'Romans'. The Roman Empire never extended beyond the conquests of Trajan (AD 98-117) into Parthia (roughly equivalent to Iran).

However, there was certainly occasional contact. In AD 166 Marcus Aurelius (166-180) sent a delegation to Luoyang to greet the Chinese emperor Huan, an event recorded in Chinese archives.

Trade contact also occurred, and Chinese silk is said to have been recovered from excavations at Colchester. However, the most intriguing story is the defeat of Marcus Licinius Crassus in 53 BC at the Battle of Carrhae by the Parthians.

Ten thousand Roman soldiers, who included auxiliary soldiers from Gaul, captured at the battle, had disappeared when a peace treaty was secured with Parthia in 20 BC.

But in 36 BC, in Uzbekistan, the Chinese captured prisoners at a

Hun city called Zhizhi who seem to have had fighting characteristics associated with the Roman army. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Flag-Flying Fellow; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.