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100 Years On – Abdication

Russia began 1917 taking staggering steps toward oblivion.  Millions of men had been taken out of her economy to fight against the Germans and Austrians.  Russia’s military had traded hundreds of thousands of dead men for little gain.  Her industrial complex, which had been barely out of its infancy when the war began, creaked along to provide the bare minimums to the military, and provided little to the Russian people.

Leadership in Saint Petersburg had spent the previous few years contributing to the misery of the people it was charged to lead and protect.  The cost of food and other necessities of life quickly rose four-fold or more.  Hunger, never a stranger in the life of the Russian peasant, became a common problem throughout the country.

The situation exploded with food riots in Saint Petersburg in February, 1917.  Units which were sent in to quell the disturbances, , most of them almost bereft of experienced soldiers,  tended to either overreact to the mobs and commit atrocities against them, or they joined in alongside the rioters. Against this backdrop, Tsar Nicholas tried to return to the capitol to provide leadership and try to head off anarchy.

He never made it.  His train was stopped south of Saint Petersburg, and the demands of the new Provisional Government, including his abdication, were given to him. Seeing no alternative, the Tsar bowed to the inevitable.

On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne his family had occupied for 300 years.  He also abdicated for his son, the Tsarevich Alexei, due to the boy’s failing health.  He named his brother, Michael, as the new leader of Russia, but Michael refused to take the throne unless his ascension was approved by the Russian people.

Nicholas Romanov and his family went into internal exile and were murdered by Communist forces during the ensuing Russian Civil War.

The Provisional Government was quickly recognized by most major nations, and began the work to form a truly representative government in a country that had no history of such things to support it.  It continued to fight the war against Austria and Germany, leaving a lot of the problems that led to its formation in place.  This created an opening for the Communists to stage their own revolution later that year.

 

A Year of Poetry – Day 337

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

— Robert Frost, Acquainted With The Night

A Year of Poetry – Day 336

When you and I are buried
With grasses over head,
The memory of our fights will stand
Above this bare and tortured land,
We knew ere we were dead.

Though grasses grow at Vimy,
And poppies at Messines,
And in High Wood the children play,
The craters and the graves will stay
To show what things have been.

Though all be quiet in day-time,
The night shall bring a change,
And peasants walking home will see
Shell-torn meadow and riven tree,
And their own fields grown strange.

They shall hear live men crying,
They shall see dead men lie,
Shall hear the rattling Maxims fire,
And by the broken twists of wire
Gold flares light up the sky.

And in their new-built houses
The frightened folk will see
Pale bombers coming down the street,
And hear the flurry of charging feet,
And the crash of Victory.

This is our Earth baptizèd
With the red wine of War.
Horror and courage hand in hand
Shall brood upon the stricken land
In silence evermore.

— E. Alan Mackintosh, Ghosts of War

A Year of Poetry – Day 335

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he’s gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He’d wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we’re told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
’Twas time in conscience he should die
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff;
And that’s the reason, some folks think,
He left behind so great a stink.
Behold his funeral appears,
Nor widow’s sighs, nor orphan’s tears,
Wont at such times each heart to pierce,
Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say,
He had those honours in his day.
True to his profit and his pride,
He made them weep before he died.
    Come hither, all ye empty things,
Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;
Who float upon the tide of state,
Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke,
How very mean a thing’s a Duke;
From all his ill-got honours flung,
Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.

A Year of Poetry – Day 334

Obscurest night involv’d the sky,
         Th’ Atlantic billows roar’d,
When such a destin’d wretch as I,
         Wash’d headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast
         Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion’s coast,
         With warmer wishes sent.
He lov’d them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine,
         Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
         Or courage die away;
But wag’d with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.
He shouted: nor his friends had fail’d
         To check the vessel’s course,
But so the furious blast prevail’d,
         That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford;
         And, such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
         Delay’d not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
Whate’er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seem’d, could he
         Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
         Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour
         In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent pow’r,
         His destiny repell’d;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried—Adieu!
At length, his transient respite past,
         His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in ev’ry blast,
         Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page
         Of narrative sincere;
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
         Is wet with Anson’s tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream,
         Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
         A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
   Its semblance in another’s case.
No voice divine the storm allay’d,
         No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
         We perish’d, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm’d in deeper gulfs than he.
— William Cowper, The Castaway

An Idea

Sorry if this is just a fragment, but it’s been rumbling around in my head for a couple of days, and if I don’t get it out soon, it’s going to claw out through my cerebellum.  Not sure if anything will come out of this, but I’ll leave the idea here to pick up later.

 


 

The planet wasn’t anything special, not in the grand scheme of things anyway.  It was the fourth satellite of its pale yellow star, the second smallest planet in an unremarkable system.  According to the ships’s database, it hadn’t had any official visits since being surveyed by National Astrographic twenty five years before the war, which meant it might not have been seen by human eyes for over half a century.

Not that much would have changed.  Perhaps in a few hundred thousand years, the narrow band of water and rocky islands around its equator would expand and liberate the rest of it from the thick ice that otherwise blotted out its surface.

“Oh, boy, another iceball,” Dot said into her her headset as she touched the control panel.

“Remind you of home?” the tinny voice of the ship’s engineer, who everyone called “George” because getting their tongues to pronounce his given name in Welsh was out of the question.

Dot ignored the jibe and read the data scrolling across her screen.  This was only her third turn controlling the two sensor probes the Beagle carried in pods slung beneath her hull, and she wanted to make sure she didn’t miss anything “Rover” and “Rovette” sent back.

“Skipper, the pups are picking up a debris cloud around the rock,” she said, pointing to the main screen.  The computer was using imagery from the probes to enhance the long-range image it displayed to the bridge. A thin, flat disk of small swirling shapes was slowly appearing around its view of the planet.

“Debris?” the captain asked.  “What sort?”

Dot furrowed her brow and read the data off, “Aluminum, some titanium, hydrocarbons, trace amounts of iron, calcium, sodium.”

A new line of data streamed across her readout, bright red and flashing.

“Captain, it’s hot.  Rover’s reporting a few big chunks of plutonium mixed in with all that.”

“The probes’re safe, right?” Skipper asked.  “Damned things are expensive.”

“They’re holding at 10 kilometers from the outward edge, so they should be fine,” Dot replied.

The engineer piped up, “Sounds like a ship broke up.  Maybe somebody’s reactor went critical.”

“Yeah, but it’s been out there for a long time if it spread out like that,” the captain said.  “Any hunks big enough to identify?”

“Largest piece so far is about a meter wide,” Dot answered.  “Maybe we can find something with a name or a serial number.”

“Don’t bet on it,” George said.  “It’s likely most of the big pieces have deorbited and burned up.”

“Not a lot of traffic comes this way,” the captain said thoughtfully.

“Could be from the war,” Dot suggested.

“Maybe,” Skipper grunted.

“Hey, if we can find anything identifiable, I bet two nights of kitchen cleanup that Skipper knows who it was.”

“You know, I didn’t know everyone in the Navy,” Skipper retorted.

Dot looked over her shoulder with a mischievous smile.  “You mean like that time we got in a fight with those marines and it turned out you used to be drinking buddies with two of their fathers?”

“Six degrees of separation,” the engineer’s voice teased.

“Shaddap, the both of you,” Skipper said, looking over the top of his bifocals at Dot.  His stern glower was ruined when he winked at her.

“If some of the debris deorbited, it might have survived to hit the surface,” she suggested as she turned back to her station.  “Ought to be easy to find against all that ice.”

Skipper sighed and pursed his lips for a second.  “Maybe.”

He thought for a moment, then said, “Tell Rover to keep looking through that junk for anything worth salvaging and send Rovette to survey the surface.  Look for any metal larger than a shipping container.”

“Aye, sir,” Dot said.  She caressed the controls, sending the signal that said “Good dog!” to her semi-intelligent probes, then relayed Skipper’s orders.

“Put us in a high orbit over the iceball,” Skipper said.  “We’ll hang out for a few days and see if anything interesting turns up.”

“Aye, sir,” the engineer replied.  “It’s also my duty to remind the captain that it’s his turn to cook tonight.”

“I feel like celebrating,” Skipper said.  “Not every day you stumble on salvage you probably won’t have to spend money on a lawyer to get the rights to.  Steaks sound good?”

Both Dot and the engineer hooted their pleasure as Skipper headed down the ladder to the galley.  Their ship braked into its orbit while Rovette dropped down close enough to the surface that she could scan the frozen surface.  The Beagle’s crew, human and mechanical, settled into the mundane tasks they had done dozens of times before when looking for something worth salvaging.

 

On one of the small, rocky islands that dotted the planet’s thawed equator, a set of dark eyes looked up and noticed that a new star had appeared in the sky, and it was moving very quickly toward the horizon.  Their owner watched as the small dot of light passed overhead, then hurried down from its perch and scuttled across the barren rock toward the long metal tube he had called home for decades.

A Year of Poetry – Day 333

Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light,
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea!

No longer delay, let us hasten away in the track of the sea gull’s call,
The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our comrades all.
What though we toss at the fall of the sun where the hand of the sea-god drives?
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.

Sweet is the shade of the cocoanut glade, and the scent of the mango grove,
And sweet are the sands at the full o’ the moon with the sound of the voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild foam’s glee;
Row, brothers, row to the edge of the verge, where the low sky mates with the sea.

— Sarojini Naidu, Coromandel Fishers

Legislation Suggestions

Since the political time of crazy doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I thought I’d take a few minutes to suggest some things that might not stop the madness, but will at least move it in a direction that would make me happier.

The “Get Off Your Ass” Welfare Reform Bill

This bill would set a 24 month limit on use of social welfare programs per person in a 60 month period, require 20 hours a week of vocational training or volunteer time for adult recipients, and set a 60 month lifetime limit on receiving government welfare.  Waiver of these requirements and restrictions would be possible only upon a simple majority non-voice vote by both houses of Congress, and would need to be renewed every 180 days by the same process.

The “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” Charitable Giving Reform Bill

Would amend the tax code to remove the cap on writing off charitable giving on personal and corporate income taxes.  Private charity is usually a more efficient alternative to government welfare, and this way the American taxpayer could decide which causes they want to support.

The “Why Does the Education Department Need Shotguns?” Federal Law Enforcement Reform Bill

This bill would restrict the ability of federal employees to arrest people and be issued a firearm to uniformed ICE officers, agents of the FBI and the Secret Service, and U.S. Marshals.  Let the ATF go to the Marshals or the FBI, or better yet, local law enforcement, if they need somebody arrested or somewhere raided.

The “Why Does the Marine Corps Need a Stealth Fighter?” Defense Acquisitions Reform Bill

An act that would require the military services to re-justify all programs that have been in development longer than five years and/or have cost more than 20% more than their original cost estimates.  I’ve always found it amazing how requirements get pared down when you make somebody re-justify something that isn’t working or has expanded like a tick on a hog’s rump.

So, do y’all have anything you’d like to suggest?  You get bonus points if you come up with a clever title to your bill.

 

A Year of Poetry – Day 332

“You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream
and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.”

— Li Po, Question and Answer on the Mountain

A Year of Poetry – Day 330

There is a river we all must cross,
Thousands will pass it tomorrow;
Some will go down to its waters with joy,
Others with anguish and sorrow.

Some will be welcom’d by angel bands,
Coming from over the river;
Others be borne by the current adown,
Where there is none to deliver.

These shall land safely in Eden’s bow’rs,
Wearing the white robes of pardon;
Those shall be cast on a desolate shore,
Far from the gates of the garden.

These shall have voices to join the song
Ever from Eden ascending;
Those shall unite in the wailings of woe
Woe, that hath never an ending.

Over the river we all must cross,
Jesus may call us tomorrow;
Shall we go down to its waters with joy?
Shall we with anguish and sorrow?

— Henry Clay Work, There Is A River We All Must Cross

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