Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Miscellanea I

Florence: Duomo

Additional views:

Some details:

Another view from the Palazzo Vecchio:

Florence: Palazzo Vecchio

A different view of the Palazzo Vecchio:

The top of the Torre; notice the stairs:

A painting of Hercules:

A view from a window. On the left, the Duomo. On the right, the tower of the Museo Bargello.

Looking northwest out over Florence:

Tuscan hills rising behind Santa Croce:

A putto statue:

Looking up at the Torre:

Another view of the David copy in the Piazza della Signoria:

A closer look at the Hercules statue in the Loggia:

to be continued

Clear Shine the Hills

Of a Toyokuni Color-Print
by William Ernest Henley

Was I a Samurai renowned,
Two-sworded, fierce, immense of bow?
A histrion angular and profound?
A priest? a porter?--Child, although
I have forgotten clean, I know
That in the shade of Fujisan,
What time the cherry-orchards blow,
I loved you once in old Japan.

As here you loiter, flowing-gowned
And hugely sashed, with pins a-row
Your quaint head as with flamelets crowned,
Demure, inviting--even so,
When merry maids in Miyako
To feel the sweet o' the year began,
And green gardens to overflow,
I loved you once in old Japan.

Clear shine the hills; the rice-fields round
Two cranes are circling; sleepy and slow,
A blue canal the lake's blue bound
Breaks at the bamboo bridge; and lo!
Touched with the sundown's spirit and glow,
I see you turn, with flirted fan,
Against the plum-tree's bloomy snow . . .
I loved you once in old Japan!


Dear, 'twas a dozen lives ago;
But that I was a lucky man
The Toyokuni here will show:
I loved you--once--in old Japan.

The third stanza comes very near to flawless.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Some Poem Drafts

Except for the last one, all of these are inspired by other poems. The first is based on a passage in the Kalevala (Runo 21); the second on one of the odes of Gregory of Narek, the images of which it follows fairly closely (it is 13A in Terian's The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek); the third on a short stretch of passage from the Old English poem The Seafarer; the fourth from one of the poems in Ezra Pound's Cathay.


Ale, you are the drink delicious,
stripping sorrow from the drinker,
bringing song to all the people;
may they shout with mouths sweet-gilded
as the lords are made to wonder,
ladies, too, to contemplate it.

Soon the song will fade and falter,
joys will fall to shameful silence,
if the ale is brewed too badly,
if the drink has not its goodness;
soon the singers lose their voices,
soon the songs are dim and tepid,
soon the guests are dull with quiet,
soon the songbirds stop rejoicing,
if the beer is sour and wretched.

Ale, you are the drink delicious,
bringing joy to any people,
urging song upon their voices;
may your brew be laughter golden,
may your taste be pure and good!

Gregory of Narek Sings of the Transfiguration

The gem-rose was bright, sunlit;
a bloom spread above from the sea;
from the far, wide sea it burst.
It glittered like fruit, like saffron,
like fruit in thick leaves, psalm-sung,
in David's fair song remembered.

In bright rose-bouquet hues shone.
Rose were the branches of poplar,
cedar and cypress rose high.
The valley-lily shone brightly.
North wind blew softly, a breeze;
from the south showered gentle mists.

Dew kissed the lily, pearl-like,
droplets of bright dew from sun-clouds.
All bright stars circle on high,
constellations bright like lilies.
Praise to the Father, the Son,
the Holy Spirit, Three and One.


I ache, grim-ridden, this ship a place of cares,
waves a-wilding,
anxious nightwatch extending
in worry at trembling cliffs.
Cold-enchained my feet, frost-bound, chill-clasped,
but cares boil hot in the heart,
hunger eating from inside the sea-tired soul.

Mei Sheng Ponders

Verdant the verdure by the river,
where willows overflow the way,
the lady, pale and pausing,
puts forth small hand upon the door.
Once a lady of the nighttime,
she became a drunkard's lady;
he leaves in drunkenness and stumbling.
Too often is she alone.


May this verse into oblivion fall,
and nevermore remembered be,
that none may of your life recall
or save you for a memory;
may none remember how you lied,
or how our love within you died.
So I curse you, though it curse me!

May this verse into oblivion fall,
that none your treasons may revive,
that none your evil may recall,
that none may think you once alive;
may your shade through silence glide
who in this life our love denied.
So I curse you, though it curse me!

Apud Quem Vivunt

An interesting passage by Aquinas:

...pueri in maternis uteris existentes nondum prodierunt in lucem, ut cum aliis hominibus vitam ducant. Unde non possunt subiici actioni humanae, ut per eorum ministerium sacramenta recipiant ad salutem. Possunt tamen subiici operationi Dei, apud quem vivunt, ut quodam privilegio gratiae sanctificationem consequantur, sicut patet de sanctificatis in utero.

Children in the maternal womb have not yet been born so as to lead a life with other human beings. Thus they are not able to be subject to human action so as by such ministry to receive the sacrament [of baptism] unto salvation. They are able however, to be subject to the action of God, in Whose presence they live, so as to attain by a sort of privilege sanctifying grace, as is obvious with those sanctified in the womb.
Aquinas [ST 3.68.11 ad 1, my translation; Dominican Fathers translation here]

A privilege is a law that concerns itself with a single person; the examples of those sanctified in the womb that Aquinas has in mind would be the Virgin Mary, the prophet Jeremiah, and John the Baptist.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


obtuse: unintelligent, stupid; from Latin obtusus, dull, blunt, the state belonging to the edge of a blade that has been heavily beaten.

obscure: difficult to understand, not widely known, hidden in darkness; from Latin obscurus, dark, hidden, unintelligible, secret, as in something covered up.

abstruse: difficult to understand; from Latin abstrusus, concealed, hidden away, as in something pushed out of view.

St. Anselm on 'Facere' and Making Someone Dead

Today is the feast of St. Anselm of Canterbury. A bit of something from Anselm's philosophical fragments (I use Jasper Hopkins's translation).

Let us now understand doing (causing) in terms of a classification. Since a doing (causing) is always either in relation to being or in relation to not-being, (as has been said), we will be obliged to add “to be” or “not to be” to the distinct modes of doing (causing) in order for them to be clearly distinguished.

The Latin for 'doing/causing' here is facere, which means, 'making something so'; as Anselm notes, we can substitute it for any verb, even paradoxically one that means making something not to be so. We'll just look at what can be meant when we talk about making something to be such-and-such.

Accordingly, we speak in six modes about causing [to be]: in two modes when a cause (A.1) causes to be, or (A.2) does not cause not to be, that very thing which it is said to cause [to be]; and in four modes when it (A.3 - A.6) either does or does not cause something else to be or not to be. For, indeed, we say of any given thing “It causes something to be” either because it (1) causes-to-be the very thing which it is said to cause [to be], or because it (2) does not cause this very thing not to be, or because it (3) causes something else to be, or because it (4) does not cause something else to be, or because it (5) causes something else not to be, or because it (6) does not cause something else not to be.

He gives examples, which we can go through; I'll call the people in question John and Bob.

(1) John makes Bob dead (directly)

When someone who kills a man with a sword is said to cause him to be dead, [it is said] in the first mode. For he directly (per se) causes the very thing which he is said to cause.

Thus, if I say, "John makes it so that Bob is dead", I can mean that John actually kills Bob (his action in and of itself makes Bob dead).

(2) (2) John does not make Bob not to be dead (directly)

If I say, "John makes it so that Bob is dead", I could also mean that Bob is dead, and John is able to make him not-dead, but is not doing so.

(3) John makes Bob dead (by making something else make him dead)

If I say, "John makes it so that Bob is dead", I could also mean that John arranged it so that something else would make Bob die -- for instance, by hiring an assassin.

(4) John makes Bob dead (by not making something else make him not dead)

Anselm's examples are if John made it so that Bob is dead by not giving Bob a weapon to defend himself when someone was attacking him, or by not stopping the killer from killing Bob.

(5) John makes Bob dead (by making something else not make him not dead)

In (4), John made Bob to be dead by not giving him a weapon to defend himself; in (5), John might make Bob to be dead by removing his weapon so he can't defend himself.

(6) John does not make Bob not to be dead (by not making something else not make him dead)

It accords with the sixth mode when the one who did not cause the killer not to be armed, by removing his weapons, is accused of having killed the victim—or when the man who did not lead the intended victim away so that he would not be in the presence of the killer is so accused. These individuals too did not kill directly. Rather, they killed indirectly—viz., by not causing something else not to be.

So here John makes Bob to be dead by not making the thing that killed Bob not to be.

As he sums up:

Now, in the five modes after the first mode efficient causes do not cause what they are said to cause. Nevertheless— since the second mode does not cause not to be what the first mode causes to be, and since the third mode causes something else to be, and the fourth mode causes something else not to be, and the fifth mode does not cause something else to be, and the sixth mode does not cause something else not to be—efficient causes are said to cause what the first mode causes (as I have exemplified in every mode).

One could imagine a mystery novel built around these ways of making someone dead.

Anselm goes on to note that the same classification applies if we are talking about causing something not to exist -- after all, if John makes Bob to be dead, that's the same as making him not alive. Likewise, not causing something to be works in a similar way, since if John makes Bob to be dead, he does not make him to continue living, so, although the examples are less obvious, we could talk about ineffective causes of death in just the same way we talked above about effective ones. In fact, we have four sets of six:

making Bob to be dead
not making Bob not to be dead
making Bob not to be alive
not making Bob to be alive

The reason is the paradox noted above: facere (like doing in English) can substitute for any verb, including those that mean not doing something.

For those interested in modal logic, Sara Uckelman has an interesting paper on what agentive logic would fit Anselm's discussion of facere best.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Part XIV

The most famous sightseeing spot in Milan, of course, is at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which we see here from inside its courtyard:

Santa Maria delle Grazie was built under the Sforza family. The Dominican convent to which it was attached was designed by the great Milanese architect Guiniforte Solari. It's not known for sure who designed the church itself. The traditional attribution is to Donato Bramante, but it could also be designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo; both architects were active in the Duchy of Milan during the right time period -- indeed, they sometimes collaborated. I didn't get any pictures of the inside of the church, but you can take a virtual tour online, with Italian commentary if you'd like it (click the fourth icon for the view of the inside of the church). It actually looks better online; it was quite dim and unlit when we were there. The church was hit by Allied bombardment in 1943, and was severely damaged. The refectory was almost destroyed, too, with one wall alone surviving, which had to be held up by sandbags. On that wall is the reason why Santa Maria delle Grazie is one of the most famous sightseeing attractions in the world: in the late fifteenth century Leonardo da Vinci painted a mural for the monks to look at while eating, The Last Supper. Unfortunately, you need reservations well in advance to get in to see it, and we were not able to get reservations for the time we were in Milan.

We were running out of time, so we headed back to the hotel. We stopped briefly, however, at another Milanese attraction, the Castello Sforzesco. Here is one of its towers (the Torrione di Santo Spirito, I believe):

The most famous architectural element of the Sforza Castle is the Torre del Filarete, seen here from inside the Cortile delle Armi:

It gets its name from its architect, Antonio di Pietro Averlino, more commonly known as Filarete. He was a Florentine who spent most of his career in Rome, but had to flee the city at some point when he was accused of trying to steal the head of John the Baptist (i.e., the relic that the Romans had traditionally claimed was the head of the Baptizer) from the church of San Silvestro in Capite. He eventually came to Milan to work on the Duomo and was hired to help restore the glory of Sforza Castle, which had seen better days by that point. (It was nearly destroyed by the republicans of the Golden Ambrosian Republic, and so Francesco's Sforza's restoration was a deliberate statement of warning to, and superiority over, any republican sympathizers.) The current Filarete Tower was restored in the early twentieth century on the basis of old drawings.

Here we look opposite of the Torre del Filarete to the Porta Giovia and Torre di Bona:

A large number of museums can be found throughout the castle. Like much of the Milan, the castle was heavily damaged in World War II; the museums help make restoration and preservation viable.

We were, however, running out of time, so we headed out....

One of the more striking buildings in Milan is the Milano Centrale railway station, which is a mix of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It was opened in the 1930s. It was designed by architect Ulisse Stachini and deliberately modeled on Union Station in Washington, DC, although a number of changes were introduced into the original design, particularly under Mussolini. Here we catch a brief glimpse of one wing of it at night, looking across the Piazza Duca d'Aosta:

And the next day we flew away. Here are the Alps from Malpensa Airport; somewhere out there, out of sight, is Switzerland:

I'll follow at some point with some miscellaneous pictures.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ten Fathoms Deep on the Road to Hell

Cap'n Billy Bones his song
by Young Ewing Allison

Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
The mate was fixed by the bos'n's pike,
The bos'n brained with a marlinspike
And Cookey's throat was marked belike,
It had been gripped
By fingers ten;
And there they lay,
All good dead men,
Like break-o'-day in a boozing-ken—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men of the whole ship's list—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Dead and be damned and the rest gone whist!—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
The skipper lay with his nob in gore
Where the scullion's axe his cheek had shore—
And the scullion he was stabbed times four.
And there they lay,
And the soggy skies
Dripped all day long
In upstaring eyes—
In murk sunset and at foul sunrise—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men of 'em stiff and stark—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Ten of the crew had the Murder mark—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
'Twas a cutlass swipe, or an ounce of lead,
Or a yawing hole in a battered head—
And the scuppers glut with a rotting red,
And there they lay—
Aye, damn my eyes—
All lookouts clapped
On paradise—
All souls bound just contrariwise—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of 'em good and true—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Every man jack could ha' sailed with Old Pew—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
There was chest on chest full of Spanish gold,
With a ton of plate in the middle hold,
And the cabins riot of stuff untold,
And they lay there
That had took the plum,
With sightless glare
And their lips struck dumb,
While we shared all by the rule of thumb—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

More was seen through the sternlight screen—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Chartings ondoubt where a woman had been!
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
A flimsy shift on a bunker cot,
With a thin dirk slot through the bosom spot
And the lace stiff-dry in a purplish blot.
Or was she wench...
Or some shuddering maid...?
That dared the knife—
And took the blade!
By God! she was stuff for a plucky jade—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
We wrapped 'em all in a mains'l tight
With twice ten turns of a hawser's bight
And we heaved 'em over and out of sight—
With a yo-heave-ho!
And a fare-you-well!
And a sullen plunge
In the sullen swell,
Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell!
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

"Dead Man's Chest" is, of course, a completely fictional sea-shanty invented by Robert Louis Stevenson for Treasure Island. But from the beginning people have thought the fragment of the song Stevenson gives too perfect not to cry out for completion. This extremely violent one, written in 1891 by Young E. Allison, from Louisville, is arguably the most popular, since it was used for some of the early musical versions of Treasure Island.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Astell and Pascal

An interesting comment by Jacqueline Broad (in The Philosophy of Mary Astell) on the link between Pascal and Mary Astell:

In another manuscript, she observes that 'Pensées de Pascal are profound, solid, just, full of noble sentiments[,] good sense & true reasoning, clearly yet concisely express'd in proper language'.

In the footnote she explains further:

These words are written in Astell's handwriting on the first flyleaf of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's personal copy of Pierre Bayle's Pensées Diverses (4th ed, 1704), held in Lord Harrowby's private library at Sandon Hall, Staffordshire. With 'a just Indignation', Astell remarks that, by comparison with Pascal's work, Bayle's Pensées are a 'loose, rambling, incoherent, rhapsody, wth all ye affectation of Method, Reasoning & Exactness, full of words, wth every thing strain'd to a latent ill meaning or else very impertinent, Trifling, or worse.'
[Jacqueline Broad, The Philosophy of Mary Astell, Oxford UP (New York: 2015), p. 57 and 57n51.]

This sort of thing, the discovery of little connections in unexpected places, is one of the things I very much enjoy about the history of philosophy.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fortnightly Book, April 17

The recent Italy posts have decided the next Fortnightly Book for me: The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrim's Progress, Being Some Account of the Steamship Quaker City's Pleasure Excursion to Europe and the Holy Land, by Mark Twain.

The Innocents Abroad was easily Mark Twain's most popular work in his lifetime. Published in 1869, it is Twain's presentation of a real trip abroad. The Quaker City, a former US naval ship, was steaming across the Atlantic on a pleasure cruise -- the first transatlantic pleasure cruise ever -- and taking a circuit that would stop at Marseilles, Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, Palermo, Athens, Corinth, Constantinople, Sebastopol, Smyrna, Beirut, Joppa, Alexandria, Malta, Cagliari, Palma, Valencia, Madeira, and Bermuda before returning home, with excursions at most of the stops. The whole thing would be about five months. Twain was along as the traveling correspondent for the Daily Alta California. He sent back about 51 letters to the newspaper as part of its Holy Land Excursion feature. After he returned and was considering getting permission to use the letters for a book, he gave a lecture called, "Pilgrim Life"; they were so successful that he reworked them as a new lecture, "The American Vandal Abroad", and began hawking it on the general lecture circuit. Humorous lecturers were still relatively rare, so reviewers occasionally dinged him for his frivolousness -- but he packed the house. You can read one version of that lecture online. The book itself was worked up from the letters and lectures, with considerable revision at some points, and became the first step in Mark Twain's literary fame.

The Innocents Abroad is the first of his travel works; as such, it is in some ways his roughest, but also his most lighthearted and least cynical. I've read it before, but it has been some time, and it should be interesting to re-read his account of Northern Italy and his (highly critical and often anti-Catholic) discussion of the Papal States. Italian Unification was going on; Twain's American sympathies are entirely with Garibaldi, but Rome would not fall to the Kingdom of Italy until September 20, 1870. I don't remember much of anything about the book's Holy Land portion, so I will have to pay close attention there, too.

Maronite Year XLII

Fourth Sunday of the Resurrection
Hebrews 13:18-25; John 21:1-14

The God of peace raised our Lord Christ;
we have a Shepherd for our flock.
Through the blood of His covenant,
may He complete our works in His will,
making us like Him in glory.

Lovely is Sunday, brightest day!
The devil has been overcome;
death has been defeated with life;
the promise of peace has appeared;
hope showers on those in the tombs;
the disciples rejoice in Christ,
for they have seen the Son of God.
They gathered in the upper room,
crying, Praise to You, Lord and God!

Today the Lord rose from the tomb;
death and the devil He conquered.
Your servants praise You, O Savior!
Your saints rejoice in Your great Name,
which gives life to Adam's children.