The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Saturday, April 14, 2012

100th Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster

On April 15, 1912, 100 years will have passed since the great ship Titanic went down, ending the lives of 1,514 people and becoming seared forever in the public's memory and imagination. In the century since the disaster, artists of all types have used the event as inspiration. They have created a huge body of work that is a testament to the sinking of the Titanic's profound impact on humanity.

The ship's name was taken from mythology, from that race of gods called the Titans and perhaps this choice indicates that its designers and builders thought they and the British nation they represented, were ready to assume the mantle of the gods and rule over Nature with their unsinkable ship. Instead of becoming gods, they (and the magnificent ship their pride built) crashed into one of Nature's dumb, indifferent icebergs.

I'm not blind to the similarities between our current situation in the U.S. and the sinking of the Titanic. The USS United States is presently on course to collide with a gigantic iceberg of debt. Our current captain apparently doesn't care about the danger of this iceberg and wants to make it even bigger. He apparently thinks our ship of state is unsinkable and that we can keep increasing the size of government and that gigantic iceberg of debt. That way lies disaster. I'm voting in November to change captains and course. I hope my fellow passengers recognize the dangers and act in a similar fashion. I also hope we aren't too late.

There are numerous videos on YouTube about the Titanic and I found this one interesting because of the images presented of the ship and its construction and the music, "The Mosquito's Parade," which is said to be one of the songs the famous White Star orchestra would have played on that fateful voyage. It's bright and cheery and in direct contrast to the tragedy that followed.

Two years after the ship went down, the novelist and poet Thomas Hardy wrote his famous poem, "Convergence of the Twain," not focusing on the individual and human suffering of the passengers but on his contempt for the wealth, vanity, and technological power of Britain. He of course also saw in the event a good example of what he called the Immanent Will, the all powerful, but, at present, blind force that drives the universe. 

Though Hardy's novels seldom end happily, he was not, he stated, a pessimist. He called himself a "meliorist," one who believed that man can live with some happiness if he understands his place in the universe and accepts it. He ceased to be a Christian; he read Charles Darwin and accepted the idea of evolution; later he took up Arthur Schopenhauer and developed the notion of the Immanent Will, the blind force which drives the universe and in the distant future may see and understand itself. This notion is not very optimistic for any one man's life, but it does leave room for hope.

I enjoyed this video of Hardy's poem from You Tube; it's basically a slow scrolling transcript of the poem with an excellent musical selection ("The Chamber" from Incompetech) to underscore the words.

I usually include a selection from country music when I do a post like this and this time I've chosen one of the unsung pioneers of the country music field, Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman. Mr. Stoneman's 1925 song "The Titanic" sold thousands and thousands of copies and helped establish this kind of music with the public and as a major category in the commercial music industry. He had a most  interesting life; you can read more about him here and here.


  1. Nice post; lotsa good thangs here. Didja see the PBS programs on the Titanic this week? I saw two and both were very, very good.

    ...becoming seared forever in the public's memory and imagination.

    Well... Not exactly seared for SOME people. Heh.

  2. Danno, Excellent anology. Many, many yrs. ago,I recall an elderly women who was a passenger state, "The Tiranic is a tribute to mans arrogance" That quote stuck with me after all these problem is short term memory.

  3. Buck, unfortunately, I didn't catch those programs on PBS. And thanks for the link. Geez, that's bad. I remember beginning to notice in the mid to late '80s that students weren't coming in to my Freshman Comp classes with the same historical and geographical knowledge. Typical references to history or the Bible or even geography would be met with blank stares. I guess it's probably getting worse.

  4. George, good to hear from you again. Guess you guys are coming out of hibernation up there!

    And your quote is a good one--the Titanic is certainly a tribute to man's pride and arrogance.

  5. Great post, you did your home work on this one!

  6. OK... it's been over two weeks since you posted, Dan. We're now officially worried.