'Joyfulst day'

This is the way the British used to write those nuptial songs whose very name -- epithalamion! -- made the echo ring for "the joyfulst day that ever sunne did see." If there was ever an occasion in our day to bring back such timeless praises it is teh marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. All good wishes to them! May they live happily ever after, as princes and princesses are supposed to do.

But it is not only their storybook celebrity, not even their gift of love and delight in the midst of a nation's strife and sorrow, that calls to everybody's heart today. It is their role as two decent young people starting off on the path of challenge and affection where queens and commoners, princes and peasants , are one.

No one does royal weddings better than the British, as most of the world is reminded once again. But someone once said of the playwright Ibsen that it was when he was most Norwegian that he was most universal. And in a sense when the British are most British they are universal, too. For all the inimitable clockwork pageantry, the wedding of Charles and Diana speaks to shared and recognizable feelings.

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They are feelings of family, of devotion, of willingness to link lives -- profoundly hopeful fellings that endure despite the statistics of divorce and the erosion of personal commitment. Here are a man and woman who have not gone along with the publicized crowd, who have maintained standards. She is known for giving an extra smile to her coworkers. He is known for working harder than a prince has to work, for paying less attention to falling off a horse than getting up again. From all accounts, they have not sacrificed fun and attractiveness, only misguided versions of them.

They cannot help but lift their country's spirits as it weathers economic distress, rioting in the streets, conflict in Northern Ireland. This would be much in itself. But in their own lives, like countless unsung people in every land, they have displayed the individual qualities in which lie at least part of the solution to such national problems.

It is a time for epithalamions, indeed.

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