Here’s the passages from Peter’s research and my own research that I printed and handed out at the end of class on Wednesday. We’ll discuss them briefly at the start of class this coming Wednesday, but feel free to comment here as well if you like.
“How long will it be before you guys sell out? To money, power, ambition…? Will you sell out by the time you’re twenty-five?”
I finished my sermon on that note and turned back to the altar to continue the celebration of Mass. I was proud that almost four hundred students had come to church that brilliant Saturday afternoon in October 1966.
It was a good sermon. I liked that sermon. I had worked hard on it. It was all about zeal and commitment and how the students at Manhattan College in New York City should be more involved in the life and work of the Church.
One of the students, Hughie O’Neill, stood up in church and said, “Wait a minute, Bruce.” He happened to be the president of the student body and captain of the track team.
“Bruce,” he said, “you’re making two mistakes. The first mistake you’re making is that we are not going to sell out by the time we’re twenty-five; we’ll undoubtedly do so by the time we’re twenty-one. Your second mistake, and your bigger one, is that you’re standing up there telling us this and not leading us by your example and life-style not to.
“We all think you’re a pretty good teacher, Bruce, but we don’t like your sermons. We think you should practice what you preach.”
That’s a pretty heavy shot to take from your students on a Saturday afternoon. (There was a general murmur of agreement from the other kids in church).
I thought about it a lot over the next few days and realized, of course, that Hughie O’Neill was correct. The next Sunday, at all the Masses on campus, I apologized to the student body – and asked my superiors and the archbishop for a new assignment: to live and work among the poor on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Quite frankly, neither my superiors nor the archbishop liked the idea very much. You see, when I made that request it was a time in the Roman Catholic Church when thousands of priests, brothers, and nuns were leaving their communities, their dioceses, their orders and returning to secular life, often using as their avenue out of the Church these new and exotic ministries. Consequently, bishops had become very reluctant to approve any more of them.
(I’m quite convinced that it was only because I made my request in impeccable Latin that they thought me conservative enough to undertake this new ministry.)
The archbishop and my superior agreed, reluctantly, to let me do this, on the conditions that I not represent anything I did as sponsored by the Church or my Order and that I not ask for financial assistance from either. As my superior put it to me bluntly, “Bruce, you’re on your own. If you fail, it’s your neck; if you succeed, it’s to God’s glory.”
On those conditions, in May of 1968, on Holy Thursday, I moved off campus and found an apartment in the East Village, on East Seventh Street near Avenue D.”
Brue Ritter, Covenant House: Lifeline to the Street (New York: Doubleday, 1987)
Bruce Ritter, the founder and CEO of Covenant House, published this piece in 1987 as an authoritative explanation of how he began the ministry that eventually became Covenant House. As an historian who has been contracted to write a history of the ministry, how do you evaluate its reliability and authenticity? What research steps would you take in order to support or challenge his claims?
It hardly seems likely that a form so sparkling and complicated as the villanelle could have had its origin in an Italian harvest field. In fact it came from an Italian rustic song, the term itself villanella thought to derive from villano, an Italian word for “peasant,” or even villa the Latin word for “country house” or “farm.”
If it was a round song‑‑something sung with repetitive words and refrains‑‑it may have taken its first, long‑lost shape as an accompaniment to the different stages of an agricultural task. Binding sheaves, perhaps, or even scything. No actual trace of this early origin remains. By the time the villanelle emerges into poetic history, it does so as a French poem with pastoral themes.
The form we know today began with the work of a French poet called Jean Passerat. He was a popular, politically engaged writer in sixteenth‑century France. When he died in 1602, he left behind him several poems that had entered popular affection and memory.
One of these was his villanelle about a lost turtledove: a disguised love song. Even through a fraction of Passerat’s poems [sic] on his lost turtledove, the twentieth‑century villanelle can be seen clearly:
J’ai perdu my [sic] tourterelle:
Est‑ce point celle que j’oy?
Je veux aller après elle.
Tu regretes ta femelle?
Helas! aussi fais-je moy:
J’ai perdu ma tourterelle.
With the publication of this villanelle and because of its immediate popularity‑‑amounting almost to popular‑song status in its day‑‑the form defined itself through contact with an audience: a striking but not uncommon way for poetic form to find itself.
This poem established the pattern for all future villanelles, both in French and English. […] In the 1870s in England, French poetry became an object of interest and admiration. Swinburne, for instance, wrote an elegy for Baudelaire. This was followed by an interest in the forms of French verse and several poets of the time, including Henley and Oscar Wilde, took it up.
Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. “Villanelle.” The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (NY: Norton, 2000), pp. 6-7.
Poets Mark Strand and Eavan Boland published this account of the history of the 19-line poetic form called the “villanelle.” What specific claims in this passage can be verified through research? How exactly would you go about verifying them — what sources would you look for that would support or refute the claims, and what catalogs, search engines, databases, or other tools would you use to find those sources?