Charles Edward Caplife
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Some parts of this page appear sibylline to us. If you think we are right, sorry about that. But, to some extents, this is what makes the author, and you are allowed to see it. Just take it as winks to his childhood friends, and to what he is enthusiastic about.



Caplife spends time collecting information about Haiti. An excerpt from his collections is available on the web site Click on Collections to preview them, or on Downloads to download them (in this case, you will have to download the accompanying viewer). They are not really artistic photo galleries, but rather a set of pointers to more detailed information.


By Caplife himself

Mythical Sentences

The mythical sentence is not necessarily a well-classified quote. Most of the time, it is the context in which it was received that makes its charm.

The crowd

“The crowd acclaiming him was so numerous that one just could see heads, and, above these heads, hands shaking handkerchiefs and laurel branches.” Dr J.-C. Dorsainvil, Manuel d'Histoire d'Haïti.

This so popular leader was Sylvain Salnave (Cap-Haitian, 1827 — Port-au-Prince, 1870), president of Haiti from 14 June 1867 to 19 December 1869. The historian reports his triumphal entry in Port-au-Prince, where the archbishop Mgr. Testar du Cosquer was waiting for him to sing a Te Deum celebrating his “taking of the power.” A few months later, the man will elect himself president-for-life. And a few months later, he will be executed! Just think about the fabulous crowd... What happened meanwhile?

The branches

“A poor woodcutter burdened with branches, ... Moaning and bent, was walking with heavy steps, Trying to reach his little smoky thatched cottage.” After Jean de la Fontaine, La Mort et le Bûcheron.

Well, (the English used on this web site) is not well suited for this mythical sentence; all well-educated people know that :). In French (where La Fontaine uses the word "ramées" for cut branches), it is great. Independently of its lyrics, what rendered that sentence mythical is the way an elocution teacher (C. V. not to name him), prefect of the North Province, and nevertheless well-educated man, told it in class: he became serious, almost angry, and pronounced "branches" as if the word took three r; and, doing this, he clenched his fists while throwing a glance to the window; then he pronounced the end as fast as he could.

Some students, though amused by such a scenography, felt a vocation for acting or writing. The latter even dared to break the alexandrine's rules and turned the sentence to prose:
"A poor woodcutter, heavily laden with brrranches, was toiling toward his little smoky thatched cottage."

Maybe the "anger" of C.V. revealed the fight between Haitian Creole (which tends to suppress r) and French (tending to add more).


By Caplife himself

Music: what does he listen?


But wait! just Mozart; and preferably under the conduct of Sir Neville Mariner.


But wait! just the classics; and preferably performed by Mini All Stars, and similar mini-jazzes. The excerpt from the Caplife Dictionary of Haitianisms appended to The Rebellious Island I contains a definition of that form of music. Very few compositions tightly conform to that definition. Here are some cornerstone discs:

What are the main characteristics shared by these masterpieces? Beautiful musical phrases, well constructed, consistently performed with exactness. They are gifts from gifted, accomplished, musicians who are at the top of their art. Some names come back repeatedly (we won't list them here, as this is not the purpose).

Let's analyze the overture of one of these summits, [Souvenir, in Cubano, L'Essence, Jean Ely Telfort (Cubano)]:

  1. The piano attacks pianissimo (a guitar mews two glissandos, just two)
  2. The singer starts a cappella, with an invocative tone (voodoo?):
    O! Haiti!
    Such a beautiful woman like you
    How could I leave you
    And never think about you?
    Being abroad
    Every day I cry
    Every day I feel nostalgic
    How I'd like to come back, and fall at your feet!

  3. He repeats the strophe, but this time with a sob and a new melody. The piano and the bass guitar accompany him with chords played pianissimo, about one beat by measure, as if they were sustaining him to prevent him from flinching.
  4. The emotion would reach its peak if the horn section did not introduce himself, with a forte, to stop this overture and start the subject.

Indeed, these effects are not fortuity: they are calculated (sometimes, when it is clear that perfection is in the air, the musicians themselves — rightly — announce: Finished Symphony!). Young musicians would be well inspired to study these pieces in detail, to learn them by heart. Only then,...

Let's stop here, as our enthusiasm could lead us too far.

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