Friday, November 17, 2017

Seemly, and Fair, and of the Best

Plato in London
by Lionel Johnson

To Campbell Dodgson

The pure flame of one taper fall
Over the old and comely page:
No harsher light disturb at all
This converse with a treasured sage.
Seemly, and fair, and of the best,
If Plato be our guest,
Should things befall.

Without, a world of noise and cold:
Here, the soft burning of the fire.
And Plato walks, where heavens unfold,
About the home of his desire.
From his own city of high things,
He shows to us, and brings,
Truth of fine gold.

The hours pass; and the fire burns low;
The clear flame dwindles into death:
Shut then the book with care; and so,
Take leave of Plato, with hushed breath:
A little, by the falling gleams,
Tarry the gracious dreams:
And they too go.

Lean from the window to the air:
Hear London's voice upon the night!
Thou hast held converse with things rare:
Look now upon another sight!
The calm stars, in their living skies:
And then, these surging cries,
This restless glare!

That starry music, starry fire,
High above all our noise and glare:
The image of our long desire,
The beauty, and the strength, are there.
And Plato's thought lives, true and clear,
In as august a sphere:
Perchance, far higher.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

God and Vast Spaces

Emily Thomas (best known for her work on early modern accounts of space and time) has a post at "RealClearScience", Does the Size of the Universe Prove God doesn't Exist? It looks at a kind of argument put forward by Michael Martin and Nicholas Everitt, in which the size of the universe is taken as a reason for the conclusion that God does not exist. Based on claims in religious texts about God's care for human beings, about human persons being in the image of God, and the like, it draws the conclusion "that God is human-oriented: human beings are like God, and he values us highly." Given that foundation, the argument proceeds:

If God is human-oriented, wouldn’t you expect him to create a universe in which humans feature prominently? You’d expect humans to occupy most of the universe, existing across time. Yet that isn’t the kind of universe we live in. Humans are very small, and space, as Douglas Adams once put it, “is big, really really big”....

Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the kind of universe we would expect a human-oriented God to create, and the universe we live in. How can we explain it? Surely the simplest explanation is that God doesn’t exist. The spatial and temporal size of the universe gives us reason to be atheists.

To be honest, when I come across an atheist telling theists what one would expect if God exists, I have come to expect that a bit of fast sophistry is coming this way. That's not quite the case here, and yet there are reasons why this kind of argument is relatively little used (although I have been seeing it more often than usual in the past few years).

(1) The argument depends crucially on what one would expect given what religious texts say about God. This is reasonable, but it requires consistent application. The texts in question don't just talk about human importance; they also talk about the grandeur of the cosmos. The point of Job 38 and following is certainly not that the world is a small and cozy one. What is more, it's not as if this is entirely unaddressed in the texts themselves:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

The religious texts themselves, in other words, show no sign of expecting a small and cozy universe; given that "the heavens are telling the glory of God", they even at times insist on how extraordinary the world is in order to make the point that its Creator is even greater. The thing they portray as surprising is not that the universe is vast but that human beings are significant, and they affirm both. If you are going to talk about what can be expected on the basis of claims made in religious texts, one has to take in the whole; and there is another strand of those texts which plays up the vastness and power displayed in creation precisely in order to speak about the power and wisdom of God.

(2) More seriously, however, talk of what God can be expected to do is either dangerously ambiguous or an outright violation of the principle of remotion. When we talk about what can be 'expected', we can be taking the term either objectively or subjectively. Subjective expectation is irrelevant here (why would one's feeling be determinative here?), so the only thing that can be meant is that there is some causal requirement that God create a small universe if human beings are important. This point is always at least handwaved.

And it at least appears to violate the principle of remotion. As I've noted before, the principle of remotion is roughtly that God is known only by causal inference from effects and in such a way as not to fall under a genus. Thus anything that is said about God needs to be warranted by some causal pathway, taking the world or something else (like a religious text) as an effect. What is the actual causal warrant for saying that God would create a universe in which humans occupy most of the universe? The texts used to start the argument off can at most justify the claim that human beings are important; they don't even strictly require taking God to be "human-oriented", as opposed to simply caring about humans among many other things. So what causal reasoning is supporting these claims about what God would do? This is always glided over very quickly; and that suggests that the argument violates the principle of remotion.

(3) But perhaps the most problematic element of the argument is not what it says about God but what it says about human beings; it depends on a crabbed and limited view of human persons, and especially a crabbed and limited view of the excellence of human reason. Kant, on this point, at least, is far more accurate: the starry heavens above display the smallness of the human body, but the greatness of the human mind that is able to contemplate them. We know the vastness of the universe because we can study it; we are awed by the vastness of the universe because we are not merely crushed by an expanse of over two trillion galaxies but exhilarated by its awesomeness. Far from being unsuited to a vast universe, the human mind is immensely more at home in such a universe than in a universe supposed small, which is why people are so fascinated by astronomy, and, indeed, why we have astronomers at all.

Nor is this a new point. Ovid has the famous story that the distinctive feature of the human animal is that, unlike other animals, we stand upright in order to look at the stars, the point being that far from being intimidated by the starry skies, we are in some sense more at home taking as much of it in as we can than we are just rooting around in the earth. We have minds fascinated by apparently infinite expanse, exhilarated by countlessness, drawn on by endless vistas.

And this is where the argument most goes wrong. For it depends not merely on the claim that God, taking humans to be important, would create a world to fit humans, but also on the claim that a world to fit humans would have to be a small world. This derogatory view of the human mind is simply false of human beings as we actually know them. Give us a vast ocean of stars, with endless new and surprising things; that's the universe appropriate to our minds, where we find ourselves at our best. There is no mismatch at all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Universal Doctor

Today is the feast of St. Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church. He was, of course, the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas and a great many other Dominicans.

The following is from the Liber de Muliere Forti, a commentary on Proverbs 31. There is some debate over whether this is indeed St. Albert's, but the book was certainly written by a Dominican, comments on a passage that is often quoted in St. Albert's undoubtedly authentic works, and doesn't seem to say anything that would rule out his authorship. There are many works attributed to St. Albert that are disputed, and quite a few that are definitely spurious; this one is the disputed work that is far and away the most likely to be authentic if any are. The author takes the poem of the strong woman to be a depiction of the Church, and indirectly of the soul insofar as it participates in the Church, and thus takes Proverbs 31 to be a complete ecclesiology in poetic summary. (A thing that has to be noted in the following is that Albert uses 'seed' where we would use 'egg'; the ovum was not yet discovered at that point.)

In the second way, the Church and the faithful soul are thought of as a woman by the instrumental means of the organs by which man and woman differ: these are four. The first instrument is for receiving the seed; the second for conserving and forming it in the womb; the third is for the care of the embryonic child; the fourth is for the upbringing of the baby when it has been brought into the light. The first is called seed, the second womb, the third source of blood, the fourth breasts. And in the Church these, spiritually understood, are: zeal for souls, preaching, piety, and thanksgiving. By zeal for souls the Church conceives the salvation of converts. By preaching she forms, as if by the hand of doctrine, the one conceived. Piety, which is benevolence to all signed with the image of God, as Augustine says, provides the material that there might be no lack in its formation, yet she asks not about its size but only about its health. The fourth, thanksgiving, indicates that as from one part as from one breast flows milk inviting to goodness, and from another as from the other breast flows milk that fortifies in perseverance in what has been received from God; accordingly, the twofold nutrition of milk works in the baby, namely, for growth in size and perseverance in life.

Another passage, from a different work:

In investigations of nature, however, it is necessary not only to consider the changeable understood universally according to its common features, but it is necessary to get down to details so that the primary agent in each individual case may be ascertained, especially in sensible, animate things, because in investigations of nature we must discover the universal principles through singulars, since in such investigations the particulars are better known than the universals. It is through the singulars that we come to believe that it is convenient and necessary for universals and their principles to exist, since it is only those universals which are exemplified in particulars that we accept, while those which are not exemplified in particulars, we reject.

[Albert the Great, De animalibus IX tr. 2, c.4, ed. HernannStadler, in: BGPhlvfA5, Munster9 16'.T21, ll.16-21m as quoted in Leen Spruit, "Albert the Great on the Epistemology of Natural Science", p. 64.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tom Regan on Utilitarianism

This moral philosophy, utilitarianism, has a long and venerable history, influential men and women, past and present, are among its adherents and yet it is a bankrupt moral philosophy if ever there was one.

Are we seriously, seriously, to inquire as to the interest of the rapist before declaring rape wrong; should we ask the child molester whether his interest would be frustrated before condemning the molestation of our children? Remarkably a consistent utilitarianism demands that we ask these questions and, in so demanding, relinquishes any claim on our rational assent.

From his famous speech in favor of animal rights in 1989. I was struck by this passage in particular when showing it to my Ethics students today.


MrsD had a post on the value of microfiction, which inspired me to do a little postcard-story of my own; I put it here so I can find it if I want to revise it at some point. Wordcount: about 490 words.

It takes a dancer's timing, but when it rains while the sun is shining, you can step just so, and just so again, and slide between the seams in the weather to the back of the world. The timing is critical, and the steps must be just right. I have managed to do it only twice. The first time, which was by accident, I was six, and hardly grasped any of it, but the traces I remembered haunted me for the next twenty years, and that entire time I did everything I could to do it again. And then one day I did. The sunshower-drizzle had just begun and, after a false start, I stepped just right, and was no longer in the front of the world, where we live our lives, but in the back of it, where men and women rarely go.

It is cooler, back of the world, and mistier, with a twilight look; I think the sun has to filter through there, like light into an attic. It is very still, but I did see a slight breeze dancing through the mist; I think it had followed me through. In the front of the world, misty twilight makes everything dim, but behind it the reverse is true. Everything is more clear, as if it were bursting out of a flat surface. Each blade of grass, each stone, each leaf on each vine, can be seen in perfect relief for miles, shining by light of its own existence.

A few yards away, there was a stream, its fluid sound very distinct to me ear. I followed it, enjoying the sights and the sounds and the spring-rain scent of the air. Then there was a little gust of breeze, and I saw her.

First she was not there, and then she was, so she must have just slipped through the seams. Her hair was chestnut brown, but her eyes a kind of deep blue, and she wor ea blue dress, like a going-to-church dress, that was dark in the front and back but was lighter down the side.

"Hello," I said. She only stared back in surprise.

There is only so long anyone can stay behind the world; after a few minutes, a sort of pressure builds, and the mist grows thicker and soon pushes you right back through the curtain. The mist was growing thicker. The pressure increased. I opened my mouth to speak again but, just as I did so, I was pushed through the front of the world, where the sunshower was just beginning to lose its sun and turn to gloom.

I have kept an eye out for her these past decades, never having much hope that I would win the lottery of chance meeting. I have tried even harder to slip through the veil during sunshowers, in the hope that she might be there, too.

But I can never quite get the steps right.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Far Through the Misty Future

Strive, Wait, and Pray
by Adelaide Anne Procter

Strive; yet I do not promise
The prize you dream of to-day
Will not fade when you think to grasp it,
And melt in your hand away;
But another and holier treasure,
You would now perchance disdain,
Will come when your toil is over,
And pay you for all your pain.

Wait; yet I do not tell you
The hour you long for now,
Will not come with its radiance vanished,
And a shadow upon its brow;
Yet far through the misty future,
With a crown of starry light,
An hour of joy you know not
Is winging her silent flight.

Pray; though the gift you ask for
May never comfort your fears,
May never repay your pleading,
Yet pray, and with hopeful tears;
An answer, not that you long for,
But diviner, will come one day,
Your eyes are too dim to see it,
Yet strive, and wait, and pray.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Joy, that as Joy, Is Truth

Virgo Potens
by Michael Field

Young on the mountains and fresh
As the wind that thrills her hair,
As the dews that lap the flesh
Of her feet from cushions of thyme;
While her feet through the herbage climb,
Growing hardier, sweeter still
On rock-roses and cushions of thyme,
As she springs up the hill!

A goat in its vaultings less lithe,
From a rock, to a tuft, to a rock;
As the young of wild-deer blithe,
The young of wild-deer, yet alone;
Strong as an eaglet just flown,
She wanders the white-woven earth,
As the young of wild-deer, yet alone,
In her triumph of mirth.

She will be Mother of God!
Secret He lies in Her womb:
And this mountain she hath trod
Was later in strength than is she,
Who before its mass might be
Was chosen to bear her bliss:
Conceived before mountains was she,
Before any abyss.

The might that dwells in her youth
Is song to her heart and soul,
Of joy, that as joy, is truth,
That magnifies, and leaps
With its jubilant glee and sweeps,
O fairest, her breast, her throat,
Her mouth, and magnanimous leaps,
As the mountain-lark's note!

Across the old hills she springs,
With God's first dream as her crown:
She scales them swift, for she brings
Elizabeth news of grace.
The charity of her face
Is that of a lovely day,
When the birds are singing news of grace,
And the storms are away.

Michael Field is the pen-name for Katherine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper -- a 'binary star', as Robert Browning once memorably called them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Music on My Mind

Faith No More, "We Care A Lot", after all these years still the single best song that mocks posturing over moral matters, especially by celebrities. Chuck Mosley, the front man, died Thursday at the age of 57.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lion of the Latin Church

Today is the feast of St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church. From Sermon 63, on the Passion:

There is no doubt therefore, dearly-beloved, that man's nature has been received by the Son of God into such a union that not only in that Man Who is the first-begotten of all creatures, but also in all His saints there is one and the self-same Christ, and as the Head cannot be separated from the members, so the members cannot be separated from the Head. For although it is not in this life, but in eternity that God is to be "all in all," yet even now He is the inseparable Inhabitant of His temple, which is the Church, according as He Himself promised, saying, "Lo! I am with you all the days till the end of the age."

From the opening of his most important work, the Tome of Leo:

Having read your letter, beloved, at the late arrival of which we are surprised , and having perused the detailed account of the bishops' acts , we have at last found out what the scandal was which had arisen among you against the purity of the Faith: and what before seemed concealed has now been unlocked and laid open to our view: from which it is shown that Eutyches, who used to seem worthy of all respect in virtue of his priestly office, is very unwary and exceedingly ignorant, so that it is even of him that the prophet has said: "he refused to understand so as to do well: he thought upon iniquity in his bed. " But what more iniquitous than to hold blasphemous opinions , and not to give way to those who are wiser and more learned than ourself. Now into this unwisdom fall they who, finding themselves hindered from knowing the truth by some obscurity, have recourse not to the prophets' utterances, not to the Apostles' letters, nor to the injunctions of the Gospel but to their own selves: and thus they stand out as masters of error because they were never disciples of truth. For what learning has he acquired about the pages of the New and Old Testament, who has not even grasped the rudiments of the Creed? And that which, throughout the world, is professed by the mouth of every one who is to be born again , is not yet taken in by the heart of this old man.

A Mimic Sky about Their Feet

November Blue
by Alice Meynell

The golden tint of the electric lights seems to give a complementary colour to the air in the early evening.—Essay on London

O heavenly colour, London town
Has blurred it from her skies;
And, hooded in an earthly brown,
Unheaven’d the city lies.
No longer, standard-like, this hue
Above the broad road flies;
Nor does the narrow street the blue
Wear, slender pennon-wise.

But when the gold and silver lamps
Colour the London dew,
And, misted by the winter damps,
The shops shine bright anew—
Blue comes to earth, it walks the street,
It dyes the wide air through;
A mimic sky about their feet,
The throng go crowned with blue.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mildred Cranston on Teleological Arguments in the Gifford Lectures

Mildred Welch Cranston's 1930 dissertation for Boston University, The Teleological Argument in the Gifford Lectures is an excellent little work worth reading by anyone who, like myself, is interested in the anatomy and physiology of arguments. I don't know much about Cranston beyond the basics and that she had been a Methodist missionary prior to getting her doctorate in philosophy, and I imagine the unassuming little work has, like most dissertations, rarely been read. But it's a nice discussion of the teleological argument based on actual date of argument rather than, as is usual, assumptions and the imagination (or sometimes lack of imagination) of the person analyzing it. It looks at the Gifford Lectures (from all four lectureships) up to the late 1920s and classifies what the various positions relative to the teleological argument is.

(There are some interesting points in her general discussion of the Gifford Lectures. For instance, she says (pp. 12, 17) that Robert Flint should be listed as a lecturer for Edinburgh in 1907 because he was identified on the official calendar of the lectureship, even though he doesn't seem to have published his lectures. This is very interesting because Flint is still not on any of the lists I have seen, which all seem to follow the list by Davidson that Cranston is criticizing. The current Gifford Lectures website doesn't include him. However, the Dictionary of Natural Biography confirms that he delivered the Gifford Lectures for 1908-1909 -- the discrepancy of dates being just that between when he was appointed and when he actually delivered the lectures, as Cranston herself notes. She also rejects as unproven the common notion that Fairbairn's The Philosophy of the Christian Religion and Boutroux's Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy contain portions of their Gifford lectures, and notes that E. B. Tylor's lectures, while never published, are abstracted in Balfour, et al., Anthropological Essays Presented to Edward Burnett Tylor.)

Cranston sets aside those lectures that do not mention the argument at all; the rest range from having incidental mentions to having full discussions. She then classifies these into groups (I have simplified this somewhat, as also the one below):

(A) Those that are simply opposed to the teleological argument--
-- (A.1) because they are opposed to all theistic arguments --
-- -- (A.1.a) for reasons of pragmatist philosophy (James, Dewey)
-- -- (A.1.b) for reasons of emergent evolutionism (Alexander, Morgan)
-- -- (A.1.c) due to some conception of science (Eddington, Driesch, Whitehead)
-- (A.2) because of some feature of the teleological argument to which they are opposed (Bosanquet, Bruce).
(B) Those that simply approve it (Stirling, Stokes).
(C) Those that approve teleological considerations only as subordinated to other arguments, such as those that conclude --
-- (C.1) that God is presupposition of experience (Laurie, E. Caird, J. Caird, Wallace, Haldane, Pfleiderer, Watson, Royce)
-- (C.2) that God is manfested in laws of nature, especially human nature (E. Caird, Fraser, Gwatkin, Pfleiderer)
-- (C.3) that God is an object of religious experience (Eddington, Webb)
-- (C.4) that God is ground of moral values (Wallace, Bruce, Pfleiderer, Fraser, Farell, Sorley, Ward)
-- (C.5) that God is ground of all values (Laurie, Inge, Balfour, Jones, Pringle-Pattison, Hobson)
-- (C.6) that God is a point of convergence for multiple lines of evidence (Paterson)
-- (C.7) that God is manifested in the world as it is specifically discovered by scientific inquiry (Thomson, Haldane)

One can see that (C) is the weakest section of this classification; it's not quite like the others, which is why there are overlaps. And, too, Cranston does not sufficiently distinguish (although she does make an effort to do so) between using teleological considerations and having a teleological argument in particular.

Looking at the arguments of the objectors, she develops another classification, more useful, I think:

(A) Objections to the general method and emphasis
-- (A.1) The Kantian disproofs are final.
-- (A.2) The method breaks the rules of logic (broadly conceived).
-- (A.3) The argument is human-centered.
-- (A.4) The argument, while imitating scientific method of proof, employs an obscure transition.
(B) Objections to the conception of nature and God implied by the argument
-- (B.1) Mechanism
-- (B.2) Insufficiency of the existence of law to prove God's existence
-- (B.3) Implication of a limited God (deistic, limited by matter, impoverished in attributes, polytheistic)
(C) Objections from the field of science
-- (C.1) Natural selection
-- (C.2) Vital force, entelechy, panpsychism, or something similar
-- (C.3) dysteleology (problem of evil)

Again, it's all a nice model of how to analyze a body of arguments, of which the Gifford Lectures is a good and convenient example. There are complications -- one of the reasons for (C) in [I] above is that some of the comments about the teleological argument are in fact only in passing. It's conceivable that classification would have to shift for some of them if they had dealt with the problem more fully. Likewise, (A.1) and (B.3) in [II] potentially overlap, because one of Kant's arguments on the teleological argument is that it does not guarantee more than a limited being; but they have to be distinguished because there is a functional difference between appeal ing to Kant and giving an argument that happens to be similar to one that Kant gives. And there are other potential issues arising from the Gifford Lectures and their history, as well -- for instance, Cranston notes that a lot of the anthropological and sociological lectures have nothing to say on the subject, which is of note since anthropology of religion quite obviously plays a large role in the early lectures, and she also notes that the two she classifies as fully approving the teleological argument, Stirling and Stokes, are quite early and that there may be reason for this. The (C.1) group is mostly from the period in which a lot of the lectures were (at least broadly) Hegelian, which fell completely out of fashion, and of course, emergent evolutionism has a significant period in the lectures. Things like these may indicate philosophical fashions and interests in early twentieth-century Scotland more than any broader features directly relevant to understanding the teleological argument. And of course, we will in a few years have a sample of Gifford Lectures a hundred years larger, which might shift around how things work, if one were to try the same thing today.

On the other hand, Gifford Lecturers have been fairly diverse, and deliberately so, and anyone who has done any serious reading on teleological arguments can recognize all the classes noted in her account of the Gifford Lectures objections. In any case, it is worth keeping Cranston's work in mind if one does any analysis of teleological arguments at all.

Harsh and Blind

by Siegfried Sassoon

When you are standing at your hero's grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died,
Remember, through your heart's rekindling pride,
The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.

Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done:
And you have nourished hatred, harsh and blind.
But in that Golgotha perhaps you'll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.

November, 1918.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Ring of Gyges and the Allegory of the Cave

James Chastek, in The Ring of Gyges at different resolutions:

At a sharper level of resolution one sees something very different. Gyges is a shepherd who leaves his sheep to wander into a hole leading under the earth, where he finds both treasure and corpses. In the deepest part of the pit he finds a bronze horse, and inside the horse is a corpse wearing an invisibility ring. Gyges, in other words, leaves off the care and tending to the good of others because he becomes fascinated with the underworld, and with each step he becomes more and more fascinated with death and treasure. At the center of this Hell one finds a Trojan horse, i.e. something that everyone takes as a gift from the gods but which is in reality a curse. Gyges takes the ring, i.e. he betroths himself to the totality of this underworld and in doing so becomes a ghost. He dies in the underworld and brings death back with him.

This is an excellent point, and that the underworld aspect of the story is essential is clear from other things in the Republic. It particularly links the story with the Allegory of the Cave. I've noted before that the underworld has a recurring role in the dialogue. For instance, in the beginning of Book III, one of the passages from Homer that Socrates criticizes is Homer's account of Odysseus talking to Achilles in Hades, in which Achilles says he would rather be the living slave of a poor master than king of the dead; but in the Allegory of the Cave, he quotes exactly this passage: the man who goes out of the Cave would rather be the slave of a poor master in the real world than live as people do in the Cave. The Allegory of the Cave is deliberately flipping the meaning: instead of Achilles saying that he would rather be one of us than live as a hero in the underworld, the Allegory teaches us that it is better to be a Socrates (say) living in the real world than to live in the shadowy underworld like we do. Thus the fact that Gyges enters the underworld is certainly important.

Likewise, it's commonly recognized that ascending and descending are important to the Republic, since they keep recurring (for instance, Socrates descends into the Piraeus to have his discussion with Thrasymachus), and we find here another link between the Allegory of the Cave and the Ring of Gyges. In the Ring of Gyges, Gyges descends into the underworld and then reascends; in the Allegory of the Cave, the freed man ascends out of the Cave and then redescends. These are pretty clearly mirror images: Gyges brings the underworld way to the upper world; the freed man brings the upper world way into the underworld. And James's other point about this is particularly relevant: the freed man redescends into the Cave for the good of others, to bring them real life; Gyges reascends wholly devoted to his own good rather than the good of others, bringing death.

Socrates does this kind of overturning elsewhere, too. In the Gorgias, for instance, Callicles says that Socrates will be dragged to court and, unable to defend himself against orators, will be put to death; in response, Socrates tells a story in which everyone dies and are dragged to a court in which people like Callicles and the orators cannot defend themselves. This pattern of overturning is worth considering throughout the dialogues.

Subtle Doctor

Today is the feast of Bl. John Duns Scotus. Hug a Scotist today! From Scotus's De Primo Principio (4.27-4.28):

The first nature's love for itself is identical with its nature.

I prove this as follows: The causality and causation of the final cause is simply first (from the fourth conclusion of the second chapter). Therefore, the causality of the ultimate end and its causation is completely incapable of being caused in any way. Now the causality of the ultimate end consists in this. By being loved it moves the first efficient cause, which means that the first efficient cause loves the ultimate end. For an object to be loved by a will means the same as for a will to love an object. Hence, the love by which the first efficient cause loves the ultimate end is something completely incapable of being caused. Therefore, it exists necessarily (from the fifth conclusion of the third chapter) and consequently is the same as the first nature (from the sixth conclusion of the same; and the deduction is plain in the fifteenth conclusion of the third chapter).


Yet Stars Shall Rise at Last

A Doubting Heart
by Adelaide Anne Procter

Where are the swallows fled?
Frozen and dead,
Perchance upon some bleak and stormy shore.
Oh doubting heart!
Far over purple seas,
They wait, in sunny ease,
The balmy southern breeze,
To bring them to their northern homes once more.

Why must the flowers die?
Prisoned they lie
In the cold tomb, heedless of tears or rain.
Oh doubting heart!
They only sleep below
The soft white ermine snow,
While winter winds shall blow,
To breathe and smile upon you soon again.

The sun has hid its rays
These many days;
Will dreary hours never leave the earth?
Oh doubting heart!
The stormy clouds on high
Veil the same sunny sky,
That soon (for spring is nigh)
Shall wake the summer into golden mirth.

Fair hope is dead, and light
Is quenched in night.
What sound can break the silence of despair?
Oh doubting heart!
Thy sky is overcast,
Yet stars shall rise at last,
Brighter for darkness past,
And angels’ silver voices stir the air.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Evening Note for Tuesday, November 7

Thought for the Evening: Martyrs under Communism

November 7, 2017 is the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution. So it is worth some time to remember those martyred under the Communist Plague. Alas, so many passed, name unknown! But here is a small selection of those who have been remembered; for every one mentioned there are hundreds and there are thousands.


Bl. Giovanni Fausti,
Bl. Danial Dajani,
Bl. Lek Sirdani,
Bl. Maria Tuci,
Bl. Luigj Prendushi,
Bl. Gjon Pantalla,
Bl. Lazer Shantoja,
Bl. Josif Mihali,
Bl. Dede Nikaj,
Bl. Pal Prennushi,
Bl. Ndre Zadeja,
Bl. Kolle Shlaku,
Bl. Qerim Sadiku,
Bl. Mark Chuni,
Bl. Gjelosh Lulashi,
Bl. Fran Mirakaj,
Bl. Alfons Tracki,
Bl. Anton Zogaj,
Bl. Mark Gjani,
Bl. Gjon Koda,
Bl. Zef Palaj,
Bl. Frano Gjini,
Bl. Dede Plani,
Bl. Ejell Deda,
Bl. Anton Muzaj,
Bl. Pjeter Chuni,
Bl. Nikolle Prennushi,
Bl. Zef Markson,
Bl. Jak Bushati,
Bl. Mikel Suma,
Bl. Jul Bonati,
Bl. Ndue Surreqi,
Bl. Ndoc Suma,
Bl. Dede Melaj,
Bl. Marin Shkurti,
Bl. Shtjefen Shkurti,
Bl. Mikel Beltoja


Bl. Yosip Mankyn,
Bl. Petar Bakalski,
Bl. Ivan Romanov,
Bl. Evgeny Bosilkov


Cyrillus Jarre


Bl. Alojzije Stepinac,
Bl. Miroslav Buleshic,
Bl. Francesco Bonifacio

Czech Republic

SvD. Jan Bula


Bl. Istvan Sandor,


Bl. Bonifacio Sauer,
Bl. Benedict Kim,
Patrick James Byrne,
Jang Jeong-eun,
Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho


Bl. Joseph Thao Tien,
Bl. Jean-Baptiste Malo,
Bl. Mario Borzaga,
Bl. Paul Thoj Xyooj,
Bl. Rene Dubroux,
Bl. Louis Leroy,
Bl. Michel Coquelet,
Bl. Vincent L'Henoret,
Bl. Noel Tenaud,
Bl. Joseph Outhay Phongphumi,
Bl. Marcel Denis,
Bl. Jean Wauthier,
Bl. Lucien Galan,
Bl. Thomas Khampheuane Inthirath,
Bl. Joseph Boissel,
Bl. Luc Sy,
Bl. Maisam Pho Inpeng


Bl. Teofilius Matuleonis


Bl. Jerzy Popieluzsko,
SvD. Marta Klomfass,
SvD. Maria Domnik,
SvD. Barbara Rautenberg,
SvD. Agathe Euphemia Bonigk,
SvD. Rosalia Angrick,
SvD. Clara Anna Skibowska,
SvD. Maria Schroter,
SvD. Anna Margenfeld,
SvD. Anna Pestka,
SvD. Maria Bolz,
SvD. Dorothea Steffen,
SvD. Kathe Muller,
SvD. Hedwig Fahl,
SvD. Maria Abraham,
SvD. Cacilia Mischke,
SvD. Maria Rohwedder,
SvD. Franciszek Nogalski


Bl. Janos Scheffler,
Bl. Szilard Bodganffy,
Bl. Vladimir Ghika,
Bl. Vasile Aftenie,
Bl. Valeriu Traian Frentiu,
Bl. Ioan Suciu,
Bl. Tit Liviu Chinezu,
Bl. Ioan Balan,
Bl. Alexandru Rusu,
Bl. Iuliu Hossu


Bl. Konstantin Romuald Iulianovich Budkevich,
Bl. Jan Janovich Trojgo,
Bl. Antonij Iosifovich Maleckij,
Bl. Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova,
Bl. Petr Andreevich Emeljanov,
Bl. Igor Aleksandrovich Akulov,
Bl. Kamilla Nikolaevna Krushelnishchkaja,
Bl. Frantishek Ignatevich Budris,
Bl. Anton Karlovich Chervinksij,
Bl. Pavel Semenovich Homich,
Bl. Stanislav Shulminksij,
Bl. Galina Fadeevna Entkevich,
Bl. Fabian Abrantovich,
Bl. Andrej Cikoto,
Bl. Janish Mendriks


Bl. Vasil Hopko,
Bl. Titus Zeman,
Bl. Pavol Peter Gojdic,
Bl. Metod Dominik Trcka


Bl. Lojze Grozde,
SvD. Lambert Ehrlich,
SvD. Lenart Velikonja


Bl. Leonid Fedorov,
Bl. Andrii Ischak,
Bl. Mykola Konrad,
Bl. Volodymyr Ivanovich Pryima,
Bl. Zynovii Kovalyk,
Bl. Stepan Baranyk,
Bl. Ivan Senyvskyi,
Bl. Olha Matskiv,
Bl. Volodymyr Bairak,
Bl. Hryhorii Khomyshyn,
Bl. Yosafat Kotsylovskyi,
Bl. Mykyta Budka,
Bl. Roman Lysko,
Bl. Hryhorii Lakota,
Bl. Maria Kazymyr Sheptytski,
Bl. Mykola Tsehelsky,
Bl. Olha Bida,
Bl. Ivan Ziatyk,
Bl. Levkadia Harasymiv,
Bl. Petro Verhun,
Bl. Mykolai Charnetsky,
Bl. Oleksa Zarytskyi,
Bl. Symeon Lukach,
Bl. Ivan Sleziuk,
Bl. Vasylvsevolod Velychkovskyi,
SvD. Dmytro Yaremko,
SvD. Mykola Schepaniuk,
SvD. Stepan Knysh,
SvD. Ivan Tatarynskyi,
SvD. Mykola Kosovych,
SvD. Petro Pastukh,
SvD. Yosyf Hrychai,
SvD. Marian Kashuba,
SvD. Hryhorii Kmet,
SvD. Anton Rychakivskyi,
SvD. Yaroslav Chemerynskyi,
SvD. Yosyf Buchynskyi,
SvD. Andrii Bandera,
SvD. Petro Korduba,
SvD. Roman Khomyn,
SvD. Mykhailo Martyniuk,
SvD. Avustyn Voloshyn,
SvD. Mykola Haliant,
SvD. Stefania Levtytskyi Tarantiuk,
SvD. Yosyf Yarymovych,
SvD. Hryhorii Khamchuk,
SvD. Vasyl Lonchyna,
SvD. Daniil Vasyl Kysilevskyi,
SvD. Petro Mekelyta,
SvD. Teodor Nymylovych,
SvD. Olha Kapko Nymylovych,
SvD. Ivan Rozumnii,
SvD. Yosyf Ostashevskyi,
SvD. Volodymyr Chubatyi,
SvD. Mykhailo Osadcha,
SvD. Maria Teodorovych-Polyanska,
SvD. Volodymyr Sliuzar,
SvD. Marian Halan,
SvD. Petro Lutsyk,
SvD. Mykhailo Horechko,
SvD. Mykhailo Vovchyk,
SvD. Stepan Venhrynovych,
SvD. Omelian Horchynskyi,
SvD. Stepan Chekhovskyi,
SvD. Petro Olenskyi,
SvD. Yosyf Zavadiak,
SvD. Antonii Kaznovskyi,
SvD. Anatolii Hurhula,
SvD. Irina Durbak Hurhula,
SvD. Maria Shveda

(There might be some errors; reporting on beatifications and the like is very poor. I have not even tried to sort through the martyrs of the Spanish Red Terror, or other such events.)

Various Links of Interest

* David Satter, 100 Years of Communism -- and 100 Million Dead

* Ian Johnson, The Conspiracy Behind the Bolshevik Revolution

* The original maps from Verne's Extraordinary Voyages books

* Chris Meyns, Why Don't Philosophers Talk about Slavery?

* Darwin, Collaborators in a Culture of Death, at "DarwinCatholic"

* The Ghent Altarpiece is being restored, and a condition that came with the grant for it was that the restoration be recorded and made available online.

* Sabine Hossenfelder, How Popper Killed Particle Physics, at "Backreaction"

* Miriam Burstein, Must They Have? discusses a common problem in intellectual history of any kind

* Alexander Pruss, Four Problems and a Unified Solution

* Nicholas Black Elk has been declared a Servant of God, thus making way for his eventual beatification, which I full support.

Currently Reading

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales
Tanith Lee, The Secret Books of Paradys, III & IV
Edith Stein, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts
Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of the Garonne

But She Ne'er Came Out Again

The Spider and the Fly
A New Version of an Old Story
by Mary Howitt

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've many curious things to show when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can never come down again.”
“I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”

“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day.”

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.

Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple — there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue —
Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing!
At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour — but she ne'er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

It's sometimes said to have been published in 1829, but it was actually published in a work that was poems for New Year's Day 1829, and so was published in 1828 so that people could have already bought it by then.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Family Gatherings and Politics

I don't know that I would say it all exactly the same way, but this post by Aikin and Talisse is essentially right:

Rather than honing one's de-escalation skills, instead affirm that political discussion is to be avoided, not because conflict is unpleasant and agreement is unlikely, but rather because family gatherings are more important than politics. Explicitly proclaim to your loved ones that the purpose of Thanksgiving is to reflect with gratitude on the preceding year in ways that enable otherwise dispersed family members to renew their familial relations. Like the current mileage on your car or the color of the interior of your local bank, the political condition of the nation is beside the point of Thanksgiving. Politics simply doesn't matter.

Their emphasis, but I agree entirely with the emphasized claim. People, for instance, who cut ties with family over party identification or voting practice are not so much participating in political life as corrupting it. It is like lopping off the feet because they won't fit the bed; it gets the order of means and ends completely wrong. No good can come of such behavior.

Waiting on Tiptoe in the Wilding Spaces

Song of the Moon
by Claude McKay

The moonlight breaks upon the city's domes,
And falls along cemented steel and stone,
Upon the grayness of a million homes,
Lugubrious in unchanging monotone.
Upon the clothes behind the tenement,
That hang like ghosts suspended from the lines,
Linking each flat to each indifferent,
Incongruous and strange the moonlight shines.

There is no magic from your presence here,
Ho, moon, sad moon, tuck up your trailing robe,
Whose silver seems antique and so severe
Against the glow of one electric globe.

Go spill your beauty on the laughing faces
Of happy flowers that bloom a thousand hues,
Waiting on tiptoe in the wilding spaces,
To drink your wine mixed with sweet drafts of dews.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Fortnightly Book, November 5

In the 1830s, Nathaniel Hawthorne's friend Horatio Bridge, who had always been a major support in his authorial career, encouraged him to pull together an anthology of short stories, and put up some money to help pay for the cost of the publication. The first volume was published in 1837, and thus was born Twice-Told Tales. The title is fairly obviously an indication of the fact that it is an anthology of prior works, but Hawthorne also had in mind a line from Shakespeare's King John (Act III, Scene 4):

There’s nothing in this world can make me joy:
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
And bitter shame hath spoil’d the sweet world’s taste,
That it yields nought but shame and bitterness.

(In a letter to Longfellow, Hawthorne explicitly refers to his book as "'twice-told' tediousness".)

The book did not sell well and the publisher went out of business (for unrelated reasons), so Hawthorne had to start again, and made a deal to publish an expanded two-volume version, which came out in 1842. It sold poorly again. When The Scarlet Letter became a hit in 1850, it was reissued and became a classic.

I will (mostly) be reading this in a Heritage Press edition (New York); despite its being a Heritage Press edition, it is not from my grandfather's library, but a later edition. I don't have the Sandglass for it, but it is illustrated by Valenti Angelo, one of the more talented and prolific book illustrators of the mid-twentieth century. The book does not include all the tales; it is a selection by Wallace Stegner, the novelist, and has twenty-four of the thirty-six original tales. The twenty-four it has are:

"The Snow-Image: A Childish Miracle"
"The Great Stone Face"
"Ethan Brand"
"My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
"Alice Doane's Appeal"
"Young Goodman Brown"
"Rappaccini's Daughter"
"The Celestial Railroad"
"The Birthmark"
"Egotism, or, The Bosom Serpent"
"Earth's Holocaust"
"The Artist of the Beautiful"
"The Wedding Knell"
"The Minister's Black Veil"
"The Maypole of MerryMount"
"Mr Higginbotham's Catastrophe"
"The Hollow the Three Hills"
"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
"Lady Eleanore's Mantle"
"Old Esther Dudley"
"The Ambitious Guest"
"Feathertop: A Moralized Legend"
"The Prophetic Pictures"
"Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure"

I will, however, be looking up the others, as well. CBS Radio Mystery Theater did an episode of "The Birthmark", and I think Weird Circle did an episode of "Rappaccini's Daughter", so I will, if I have time, listen to those; Hawthorne is never as easy to find in classic radio as Poe is, but there are bound to be others, so I will keep an eye out.

Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island


Opening Passage:

“Are we rising again?” “No. On the contrary.” “Are we descending?” “Worse than that, captain! we are falling!” “For Heaven’s sake heave out the ballast!” “There! the last sack is empty!” “Does the balloon rise?” “No!” “I hear a noise like the dashing of waves. The sea is below the car! It cannot be more than 500 feet from us!” “Overboard with every weight! ... everything!”

Such were the loud and startling words which resounded through the air, above the vast watery desert of the Pacific, about four o’clock in the evening of the 23rd of March, 1865.

Summary: Captured by the Confederacy, a group of prisoners make a daring escape in a balloon during a hurricane. They are blown to the Pacific and land on an uncharted island. Together they build civilization until they are at last forced to leave by the island's awakening volcano. The prisoners represent the best that humanity has to offer:

Captain Cyrus Harding, an engineer for the Union army;

Gideon Spilett, a daring reporter with a wide experience of the world;

Nebuchadnezzar, known as Neb, a slave who had been freed by Harding and who risks his life to try to rescue Harding from Richmond;

Bonadventure Pencroft, a sailor who is trapped in Richmond during the siege, and like all sailors of long experience is something of a jack of all trades;

Herbert, Pencroft's teenaged ward, the orphan of a former captain and an enthusiast for natural history.

Robinsonades can be fairly generous or fairly stingy with what they provide their stranded travelers; Robinson Crusoe, for instance, is somewhat middling, while The Swiss Family Robinson is very generous. Verne falls on the less generous side, but he still provides his escapees with a match, two watches, a balloon, a seed, some writing materials, and so forth. This might seem like cheating (particularly the grain of corn) but Verne is not writing a survival book; he is not, contrary to what people seem to expect from a robinsonade, exploring the ability of the human mind to triumph over nature. Verne is less interested in the ability to surive than in the ability to build civilization, and the point is that the mind of man can take a little drop of civilization and turn it into a steady stream. As he says at one point:

So is man’s heart. The desire to perform a work which will endure, which will survive him, is the origin of his superiority over all other living creatures here below. It is this which has established his dominion, and this it is which justifies it, over all the world.

The same can be said for the edge they have in knowledge. Isaac Asimov has an afterword in which he notes that, despite having training as a chemist, he would expect that if he tried to make nitroglycerine from scratch the way Cyrus Harding does, he would blow himself to bits; and it's remarkable that Herbert is not just good at natural history but a walking encyclopedia. But the point is not that these are supposed to be ordinary people; they represent the whole human race insofar as we are capable of building works that endure.

It is therefore not remotely a matter of chance that Verne picked people from the Union, or had them name their island after Abraham Lincoln; it is not an accident of story that one of Verne's heroes is a freed slave; it is entirely consistent with the theme that the heroes are often called upon to exercise compassion on others, and that this book, which is a sequel to both 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Children of Captain Grant sees the redemption of two apparently unredeemable characters from those books. Freedom, and particularly the kind of freedom by which people work together for common good, plays a central role in Verne's conception of what civilization is. It ties in with the redemption arcs, too; it is the fact that the heroes are Union abolitionists that sparks compassion in the proud and misanthropic Indian prince, turned bitter from the failure of his people to win their liberty from the British. (I watched The Mysterious Island movie, and listened to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater episode. The former was just awful, and the latter not bad, but neither grasped, I think, this essential element, that Verne's interest is civilization, which requires both freedom and compassion.) Likewise, I think it is not an accident that religion plays a fairly prominent role in this work, compared to some of Verne's other works. It is not an accident that the prisoners have nothing to do but trust divine providence in coming to the island, and it is not an accident that they are left in the same state when leaving.

I don't think I ever read this one as a teenager; I would have loved it -- it's a story full of adventure that is nonetheless not afraid to stop and tell you how to make guncotton or batteries or a telegraph system.

Favorite Passage:

Everything was finished, and the settlers had only to descend Mount Franklin to return to the Chimneys, when Pencroft cried out,—

“Well! we are preciously stupid!”

“Why?” asked Gideon Spilett, who had closed his notebook and risen to depart.

“Why! our island! we have forgotten to christen it!”

Herbert was going to propose to give it the engineer’s name and all his companions would have applauded him, when Cyrus Harding said simply,—

“Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friend; of him who now struggles to defend the unity of the American Republic! Let us call it Lincoln Island!”

The engineer’s proposal was replied to by three hurrahs.

And that evening, before sleeping, the new colonists talked of their absent country; they spoke of the terrible war which stained it with blood; they could not doubt that the South would soon be subdued, and that the cause of the North, the cause of justice, would triumph, thanks to Grant, thanks to Lincoln!

Now this happened the 30th of March, 1865. They little knew that sixteen days afterwards a frightful crime would be committed in Washington, and that on Good Friday Abraham Lincoln would fall by the hand of a fanatic.

Recommendation: Not the strongest of Verne's works, I think, but still Highly Recommended.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Philosophy and Nuance

Luciani Floridi in Aeon, on AI:

Philosophy doesn’t do nuances well. It might fancy itself a model of precision and finely honed distinctions, but what it really loves are polarisations and dichotomies. Internalism or externalism, foundationalism or coherentism, trolley left or right, zombies or not zombies, observer-relative or observer-independent, possible or impossible worlds, grounded or ungrounded … Philosophy might preach the inclusive vel (‘girls or boys may play’) but too often indulges in the exclusive aut aut (‘either you like it or you don’t’).

I don't think Floridi manages to make his broader point about AI, but I thought that this was an interesting claim about analytic philosophy (which is clearly what is in view, given the examples).

('Girls or boys may play', though, is arguably not inclusive vel; this kind of locution in natural language, disjunctive subject with possibilized predicate, is generally equivalent to 'Girls may play and boys may play', and thus is a logical conjunction and not vel at all. But Floridi's point in the claim lies elsewhere, of course.)

Friday, November 03, 2017

Bright on My Harp the Meteors Gleam

The Progress of November:
An Ode
by Anne Hunter

Now yellow Autumn's leafy ruins lie
In faded splendor on the desert plain,
Far from the noise of madding crowds I fly
To wake in solitude the mystic strain:
A theme of import high I dare to sing,
While Fate impels my hand to strike the trembling string.

Bright on my harp the meteors gleam,
As glancing through the night they shine;
Now the winds howl, the ravens scream,
And yelling ghosts the chorus join :
Chimeras dire from fancy's deepest hell
Fly oer yon hallow'd tower, and toll the passing bell.

NOVEMBER hears the dismal sound,
As slow advancing from the pole,
He leads the months their wintry round:
The black'ning clouds attendent roll,
Where frown a giant-band, the sons of care,
Dark Thoughts, Presages fell, and comfortless Despair.

O'er Britain's isle they spread their wings,
And shades of death dismay the land;
November wide his mantle flings,
And lifting high his vengeful hands,
Hurls down the demon Spleen; with pow'rs combin’d
To check the springs of life and crush th' enfeebled mind.

Thus drear dominion he maintains,
Beneath a cold inclement sky,
While noxious fogs and drizzling rains
On nature's sick'ning bosom lie:
The op'ning rose of Youth untimely fades,
And Hope's fair friendly light beams dimly through the shades.

Now prowls abroad the ghastly fiend
FELL SUICIDE–whom Phrensy bore;
His brows with writhing serpents twin'd,
His mantle steept in human gore.
The livid flames around his eye-balls play,
Stern Horror stalks before, and Death pursues his way.

Hark! is not that the fatal stroke -–
See where the bleeding victim lies:
The bonds of social feeling broke,
Dismay’d the frantic spirit flies.
Creation starts, and shrinking Nature views,
Appall'd, the blow which Heav'n's first rights subdues.

Behold the weight of woes combined
A Woman has the pow'r to scorn;
The infant race to shame consign'd,
A name disgrac'd, a fortune torn, -
She meets resolv’d, and combating despair,
Supports alone the ills a coward durst not share.

On Languor, Luxury and Pride,
The subtle fiend employs his spell;
Where selfish, sordid passions bide;
Where weak impatient spirits dwell;
Where thought oppressive from itself would fly,
And seek relief from time in dark eternity.

Far from the scenes of guilty death
My wearied spirit seeks to rest,-
Why sudden stops my struggling breath?
Why throbs so strong my aching breast?
Hark! sounds of horror sweep the troubled glade,
Far on a whirlwind borne, the fatal Month is fled.

I watch'd his flight, and saw him bear
To Saturn's orb the sullen band;
There Winter chills the ling'ring year,
And gloom eternal shades the land:
On a lone rock, far in a stormy main, -
In cheerless prison pent, I heard the ghosts complain.

Some pow'r unseen denies my verse
The hallow'd veil of fate to rend:
Now sudden blasts the sounds disperse,
And Fancy's inspirations end:
While rushing winds in wild discordance jar,
And Winter calls the storms around his icy car.

Also known as "November, 1784". Hunter is best known for being the lyricist for a number of Joseph Haydn's English songs.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

All Souls

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways!

The Angels, as beseemingly
To spirit-kind was given,
At once were tried and perfected,
And took their seats in heaven.

For them no twilight or eclipse;
No growth and no decay:
'Twas hopeless, all-ingulfing night,
Or beatific day.

But to the younger race there rose
A hope upon its fall;
And slowly, surely, gracefully,
The morning dawned on all.

And ages, opening out, divide
The precious and the base,
And from the hard and sullen mass,
Mature the heirs of grace.

O man! albeit the quickening ray,
Lit from his second birth,
Makes him at length what once he was,
And heaven grows out of earth;

Yet still between that earth and heaven—
His journey and his goal—
A double agony awaits
His body and his soul.

A double debt he has to pay—
The forfeit of his sins,
The chill of death is past, and now
The penance-fire begins.

Glory to Him, who evermore
By truth and justice reigns;
Who tears the soul from out its case,
And burns away its stains!

From John Henry Newman, The Dream of Gerontius.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

All Saints

John Ogilvie

John Ogilvie was born into an important Calvinist family in Banffshire, Scotland. He was sent abroad to be educated, and while in Europe, he studied at several Catholic institutions. At the age of seventeen, he converted to Catholicism, and joined the Society of Jesus a few years later, in 1599. Once ordained, he repeatedly asked his superiors to send him to the scattered population of Catholics in Scotland, where it was illegal to preach or proselytise for the Catholic faith. He was sent, but his first mission, which had been designed to work in cooperation with Catholic nobles, failed, through a lack of willing Catholic nobles, and he had to return again a few years later to go it alone, preaching and saying Mass in secret in people's homes. He lasted about eleven months or so, and was caught and imprisoned in 1614 because an alleged convert turned out to be an informant for the government. When he refused to confess, he was tortured by being deprived of sleep and food for days and days. Outspoken by nature, he mostly just argued with his tormenters. He also refused to recognize King James as having spiritual authority, and was tried because of this; defiant throughout his trial, he was hanged and drawn at Glasgow Cross on March 10, 1615. Before his death, he threw his rosary into the crowd, asking them to pray for him; according to legend, the person who caught the rosary converted to the Catholic faith. He was beatified by Pius XI in 1929 and canonized by Paul VI in 1976; he is currently the only Scottish saint on the universal calendar who was born after the Scottish Reformation.

Leo IV

Rome throughout much of the ninth century was in crisis. In 820, the Saracens had begun conquering Sicily, expanding steadily from there. And in 846, they landed raiding parties at the Roman harbors of Ostia and Portus and Centum Cellae (modern day Civitavecchia); the raiders pushed the Roman militia back to the Aurelian walls and went on to pillage the surrounding area, including the Roman churches outside the walls (Old St. Peter's, St. Paul's Outside the Walls, and the like). They were finally driven off by the Lombards. Pope Sergius II died shortly afterward, and Leo IV was elected Pope. He immediately set about strengthening the walls, and as there was increasing danger from threat, he negotiated with the major marine cities of Italy to form a defense league, which defeated a Muslim fleet at the Battle of Ostia, in part due to a storm that harmed the Saracen fleet far more seriously than the Christian fleet, an event celebrated in one of Raphael's paintings. Leo then set out to strengthen the position of Rome by building a new line of walls to protect important parts of the city that had grown outside of the old Aurelian walls; these walls form the boundaries for what is to this day called the Leonine City in Rome. He also restored the churches that had been damaged and looted by raiders. He died on July 17, 855.

Andrew Stratelates and the 2593 Martyrs

Stratelates is a Greek term for a general, although the rank could be given under a great many different circumstances. According to legend, when the Persian Empire invaded Syria, the governor in Antioch put Andrew, a soldier who was also a Christian catechumen, in charge of the defense. He led a small force against the Persians; the soldiers were all pagans, but he convinced them to pray to Christ before the battle. They were victorious, and Andrew returned in triumph to Antioch. There, however, he was accused of using his position to convert soldiers to the illegal religion of Christianity, and brought to trial, where he professed his faith. He and a number of his men were tortured and threatened with death, but the Emperor intervened; while opposed to Christianity, the Emperor may have thought it inadvisable to be torturing and killing a popular general shortly after he had successfully defended the Empire. They were ordered set free, but continued to be harassed. After receiving his freedom, Andrew and a number of other soldiers were baptized in Tarsus. They were, however, seized on the pretext of desertion and were beheaded by a spring in the mountains. They had been followed by a number of Christians from Tarsus, who secretly buried them; and the spring by which they were killed and buried became famous as a healing spring. Very little work seems to have been done on the historicity of this tradition. As with the Theban Legion, the 2593 may not be a literal number, but the number of the body of men from which the martyrs were drawn; likewise, it's possible that the number includes people martyred in the general area who were not necessarily associated with Andrew. It is also possible that some elements of the story may be due to confusion with a different Byzantine commander named Andrew. St. Andrew Stratelates and the 2593 Martyrs came to be celebrated on August 19.

Theodore the Studite

Theodoros was born in 759 into a Constantinopolitan family of considerable influence in the government of the Empire; the entire family converted their estate into a monastery, the Sakkudion Monastery, first under the abbacy of Theodore's uncle, Platon, and then under himself. The Sakkudion Monastery was eventually dispersed by imperial force when Theodore protested the Emperor's divorce and remarriage. After his return from exile under a new emperor, Theodore was asked by the Empress Irene to lead the Stoudion. The Monastery of St. John the Forerunner at Stoudios was the most important and influential monastery complex of Constantinople; it came into prominence in the fifth century and for centuries after was a bastion of orthodoxy and literature. Theodore accepted, and began an extensive set of infrastructure projects to make the monastery more self-sustaining; he also began expanding its influence by bringing a number of smaller monasteries into its orbit. Problems arose again when the emperor chose a layman, Nikephoros, to be Patriarch of Constantinople, and Theodore and the Studites protested the choice; this became entangled with the prior protest, as one of the emperor's goals was to rehabilitate, for political reasons, the priest who had performed the previous emperor's remarriage. The argument became serious enough that Theodore was removed from his position and a synod was called to declare him a schismatic. He was exiled to the island of Chalke. He was recalled on the accession of a new emperor, but continued to have some difficulties with the Patriarch, with whom he did not get along. And then, in 813, yet another emperor came to the throne, Leo V the Armenian, and the world turned a corner. Convinced that the long string of political catastrophes and military defeats faced by the Empire were due in part to religious policy, Leo began to press for a return to the Iconoclastic policy of Leo III the Isaurian. The Patriarch opposed this; St. Nikephoros was deposed and exiled for the opposition. With the Patriarch gone, St. Theodore, so long in opposition to St. Nikephoros, found himself the Patriarch's champion, and, in his absence, the most important iconodoule opponent of the Imperial policies. The new Patriarch called an iconoclastic synod, and, as Theodore protested, he was also exiled. Both Theodore and Nikephoros carried on a literary polemic against their opponents, and, although there were multiple attempts to turn the Studite monastery to the iconoclastic cause, none of them ever managed to have more than a temporary effect. The Emperor repeatedly attempted to restrict Theodore's influence by exiling him to more remote locations and having him flogged for his interventions, but nothing worked, and when Leo V was murdered in 821, Theodore returned to Constantinople. Attempts to get the new emperor to oppose iconoclasm failed, however, and Theodore spent the last years of his life in Anatolia supporting the iconodoule position. He was the greatest of the saints opposing the Second Iconoclasm, but in 826, when he died, his work seemed to have come to nothing. In reality, in part due to his work, momentum had begun to build, and in 843 the iconodoules finally triumphed. His feast day is November 11 in the East and November 12 in the West.

The Martyrs of Gorkum

Beginning in 1566, the Sea Beggars, an alliance of Calvinist Dutch nobles, had been engaging in piratical actions with the intent of building an open rebellion of the Netherlands against Spain, and their big turning point came in 1572, when they captured Brielle, a victory that allowed them to begin sweeping the north of the country. As they did so, they captured a number of Catholic priests and religious. Others were captured when they attempted to help or sneak the sacraments into those already captured. Nicholas Pieck, Hieronymus of Weert, Theodorus van der Eem, Nicasius Janssen, Willehad of Denmark, Godefried of Mervel, Antonius of Weert, Antonius of Hoornaer, Franciseus de Roye, Godefried van Duynsen, Joannes van Hoornaer, Jacobus Lacops, Adrianus Janssen, Andreas Wouters, Joannes Lenartz, Leonard van Veghel, Peter of Assche, Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede, Adrian van Hilvarenbeek.The captors demanded of each that he renounce his belief in papal supremacy and transubstantiation. Each refused, including even Andreas Wouters, who had been notorious as a drunkard and a womanizer. They were hanged on July 9, 1572, despite a previously issue general order from William the Silent that priests and religious were not to be molested; the hanging was botched, so some of the martyrs were strangling for more than an hour. They were beatified in 1675 and canonized in 1867.

Margaret Ward and John Roche

Living during an intensifying period of the Elizabethan persecution, Margaret Ward heard rumors about the suffering of a priest at Bridewell Prison, Richard Watson. She obtained permission to visit him, and for a while she just went to keep him company, each time being searched. However, as her visits became regular, the guards became less cautious, and she was able to smuggle in a rope by which the priest could escape. She had also hired a boatman to meet the priest and take him away. Everything in the escape plan went wrong, however. Fr. Watson injured himself in the escape, and was not able to remove the rope from the window, and the boatman refused to carry out his end of the bargain. Thinking on her feet, Ward got help from another boatman, Bl. John Roche, who not only gave them another boat, but disguised himself in the priest's clothes to give the priest time to get away. Roche was captured, and as the authorities knew that Ward had visited Fr. Watson, so was she. Ward was tortured in an attempt to discover the priest's location, but she told them nothing; both she and Roche were offered a pardon if they would attend a Protestant church service, but both refused. They were both hanged at Tyburn on August 30, 1588. Ward and Roche were both beatified by Pius XI in 1929; Ward was canonized by Bl. Paul VI in 1970, and is celebrated with the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales on May 4, and in England with St. Margaret Clitherow and St. Anne Line on August 30.

Mesrop Mashtots

Born to a noble family in Armenia in the fourth century, he received a thorough grounding in Greek and Persian, eventually becoming secretary to the king of Armenia. He soon grew tired of this life, however, and became a monk. This life was brought to an end when Armenia was torn apart by the Romans and the Persians during the Roman-Persian Wars. in the aftermath, Mesrop went out as a missionary, but found that he had difficulty with catechesis, because the Armenians had no alphabet, and all the alphabets available -- Greek, Persian, Aramaic -- were very poorly designed for the Armenian tongue. So to remedy this, he and a number of others invented the Armenian alphabet in 405; thus began the Armenian contribution to literature, which is a very great contribution, since the Armenians historically have been very literarily active, precisely because of Mesrop. Mesrop founded a number of schools to spread the invention, and actively began creating institutes of translation for all the Greek works he could find; indeed, there are a number of Greek works that are only extant in their Armenian translations. He is said to have died on February 17, 440, and that is his commemoration day in the Roman Martyrology.

José María Robles Hurtado

Born in the province of Jalisco in Mexico, Robles Hurtado became a priest at the age of 25 and settled down to be an ordinary priest, who was mostly known at the time for being a fervent supporter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. But in 1917, Mexico enacted a very anti-clerical constitution. It nationalized all property of the Church, shut down all charitable organizations run by priests and religious, outlawed Catholic schools, and gave local governments the authority to limit the number of religious ministers as they pleased. Things like processions and other public devotional practices were restricted and sometimes forbidden. There was no immediate crisis because it had already become practice for the government not to enforce previous anti-clerical provisions, and at first the Mexican government continued this policy of strong words but light touch. Robles Hurtado and a number of others, however, were not satisfied with this, and Robles Hurtado organized an event in 1923 in which a large cross was placed at the geographic center of Mexico and Christ would be celebrated as the King of Mexico. Tens of thousands participated, and Robles Hurtado had caught the government's eye. In 1926, President Plutarco Elías Calles began actively enforcing the Constitution of 1917. Pope Pius XI protested that this was a violation of inalienable rights of the Church and the faithful, but to no avail. Calles, however, had underestimated the attachment of the people to their faith, and they began to fight back, and as Calles stepped up the severity of the enforcement, they began to organize as a militia, and the Cristero War began. Robles Hurtado actively supported it, but would not live to see its end; he was rounded up in 1927 and hanged on June 26. He was beatified in 1992 and canonized in 2000, and is celebrated with other martyrs of the Cristero War on May 21.

Genevieve of Paris

Born in Nanterre, Genevieve met SS. Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes as they were making their way to Britain to oppose Pelagianism; inspired by their example and encouragement, she became a nun. She eventually went to Paris, and there became known for both her extraordinary asceticism and active charity to the sick and the poor. The former got her into trouble with the Church authorities on several occasions. In 451, Attila the Hun approached Paris and Genevieve went from person to person in Paris begging them to stay at home and pray; a great many people did so, and Attila passed the city by in order to sack Orleans. The people attributed the saving of Paris to Genevieve's actions; as there are several stories, some reasonably well founded, of Attila passing by cities for religious reasons, it's not impossible that it could have been a contributing factor. In 464, Childeric I laid siege to the city, and, as the city was on the verge of starving, Genevieve sneaked past the siege lines in a boat returning from Troyes with grain; she also negotiated with Childeric for safe return of prisoners of war. Clovis I built an abbey church for her, and she was later buried there; it eventually fell into ruin, but rebuilding began in the eighteenth century under Louis XV. It was completed in time for the French Revolution, when it was seized by the government and renamed the Panthéon. Genevieve, who is the patron saint of Paris, has her feast on January 3.

Pedro Calungsod

Relatively little is known for sure about the early life of Pedro Calungsod, beyond the fact that he was from the Visayas islands in the Philippines. He was trained by the Jesuits in Guam and was chosen as a catechist to accompany the Jesuit fathers on a missionary trip to the Mariana Islands, led by Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores, in 1668. He returned to Guam with San Vitores shortly thereafter. While there, San Vitores (who, it should be said, does not seem to have always had the best practical judgment) came into conflict with the local chieftain, Mata'pang, when San Vitores baptized Mata'pang's sick child without Mata'pang's permission (although with the permission of the mother). San Vitores and Calungsod were killed, Calungsod being hit by a spear and then finished off with a knife. San Vitores, due to controversy over his end, had a stop-and-start beatification, and was beatified in 1985; the revival of his beatification process stirred up interest in Calungsod, and Calungsod was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him in 2012. His feast day is April 2.

Isaac of Nineveh

Isaac was born in the seventh century in Beth Qatraye, in Eastern Arabia. He joined a monastery and became widely known as a monastic teacher. When Georges, the Catholicos of the Church of the East, visited the area, he ordained Isaac as bishop of Nineveh on the strength of this reputation. It was a poor fit. Isaac abdicated after five months and retired into a very ascetic anchoritic life, where he stayed until blindness made it too difficult, and he joined the monastery of Rabban Shabur, where he died. His ascetical writings spread from monastery to monastery, far and wide, and were highly respected, which is why, despite belonging to the Church of the East, he is recognized as a saint also by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics. His feast in the Roman Martyrology and on various Eastern Catholic calendars is January 28.

George Preca

Ġorġ Preca was born in Maltan in 1880; he went into the priesthood, and after his ordination he began a catechism ministry on the waterfront for dock workers and the like. This soon grew into a movement focused on working-class religious education, which had considerable difficulty with the authorities, both religious and secular, because it was often seen as attempting to stir up revolution. He was ordered to stop after a couple of years, but the parish priests in the area, having seen the actual results of his catechesis, campaigned heavily to have the decision reversed, and it was, although the society he founded would later be investigated again (and cleared again). Preca became a Third Order Carmelite. He was named Privy Chamberlain (Monsignor) as an honor by Pius XII, but he never even bothered to go to the archdiocesan offices to pick up the document giving him the honor. He died in 1962, was beatified by St. John Paul II in 2001, and was canonized by Benedict XVI in 2007. The society he founded, the Society for Christian Doctrine, more popularly known as MUSEUM, still exists. His feast is on May 9.

Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa

Denis Ssebuggwawo was born in Kigoloba, Buganda, with his twin brother Isaac Kajane. They became pages in the court of King Mwanga, where they met St. Joseph Mukasa, who was the Majordomo in charge of the pages. The two brothers soon became catechumens; Isaac would eventually leave to become chief, while Denis stayed. In 1885, Mwanga, regarding foreign missionaries as political interference, arrested and executed a party of Anglican missionaries; Mukasa criticized him for this, and was executed. The next day, Denis and several other catechumens sneaked out of court to become baptized, and continued to exercise their faith. As Mwanga became increasingly paranoid about Anglicans and Catholics, this became increasingly dangerous, and he was caught catechizing a fellow page; Mwanga beat him severely and then had him executed; it is usually thought that he was hacked to pieces. He was about sixteen years old. He was one of the first to die in the anti-Christian persecution that had begun; he would be far from being the last. He is celebrated with the other Ugandan Martyrs on June 3.

Anthony of Padua

Fernando Martins de Bulhões was born in Lisbon in 1195. He became a Canon Regular and was ordained as a priest, spending time at the abbey near Coimbra. It was there that he first met Franciscans, and the young man received permission to leave the Canons Regular and join the mendicant order. It was then that he adopted the name Anthony. He spent several of his early years with the Franciscans in seriously poor health, but in 1222 an event happened that changed his life. There was an ordination, and miscommunication had led to confusion about who was to preach; the Franciscans had assumed, quite naturally, that the visiting Dominicans would preach, because that's what Dominicans do, but the Dominicans had been under the impression that the Franciscans would provide their own preacher. Anthony was chosen to deliver the homily at the last minute, despite the fact that he tried to refuse, and his homily astounded those who heard it. He would become famous for his homilies, and he became one of the few theologians St. Francis of Assisi trusted. He eventually became provincial superior for Padua. While there he became known and highly respected at the papal court of Gregory IX. He became ill again, with ergotism (Saint Anthony's Fire) and died in 1231. Pope Gregory IX canonized him less than a year later, and Pius XII proclaimed him Doctor of the Church in 1946. His feast is celebrated on June 13.

2016 All Saints Post
Theodore of Tarsus, Nilus the Younger, Anne Line, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Elisabetta Hesselbad, Sergius of Radonezh, Anna Pak Agi, Jeanne de Valois, Vigilius of Trent, Claudian, Magorian, Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander, Euphrasia Eluvathingal, Jose Sanchez del Rio, Andrew Kaggwa, Roberto Bellarmino

2015 All Saints Post
Margaret Clitherow, Kaleb Elasbaan of Axum, Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin, Gertrude of Nivelles, Pius V, Clare and Agnes of Assisi, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Scholastica, Vinh Sơn Phạm Hiếu Liêm, Thorlak Thorhallson, John Damascene

2014 All Saints Post
Marie Guyart, Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, John Neumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Pedro de San José Betancurt, Benedict the Moor

2013 All Saints Post
María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom

2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga

2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Where the Rivers of Madness Stream

Hallowe'en in a Suburb
by H. P. Lovecraft

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind blows through the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral power
Spreads sleep o'er the cosmic throne,
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb's black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penned,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

John Case on the Acts of Prudence

John Case on the acts of prudence (Speculum Moralium Questionum, Liber VI, Caput x):

These virtues, namely, counsel, solertia, sagacity, and sentence, are parts and species of practical prudence. It is the office of prudence to deliberate, which it has and borrows from counsel; promptly and ingeniously to discover some means, from solertia; rightly to judge of the discovered means, from sagacity; and as it were to join the voice of equity and justice to judgment, from sentence. But there remains one office, namely, to prescribe the circumstances for the action of each virtue, which it claims as proper and germane to itself.

The acts of prudence are five:

Deliberating, whence counsel, which is euboulia
Discovering a means swiftly, if that be the task, whence solertia, which is eustochia
Rightly judging about the means, whence sagacity, which is synesis
Fulfilling the judgment, whence sentence, which is gnome
Prescribing the circumstances of action, whence is drawn the proper name of prudence.

(I am putting this here mostly so I can easily find the reference again.)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Through the Red-Litten Windows

The Haunted Palace
by Edgar Allan Poe

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion—
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tunëd law,
Bound about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate !)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh—but smile no more.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Five Poem Re-Drafts

Cool and Crisp

It is cool and crisp this morning.
The moon is still on high
while hanging low
is a peachish glow
as birds sing lullaby.

The skin is tickled with shivers
like gently biting pups
that wrestle and play
to ring in the day
and wake their masters up.

To stretch is sovereign pleasure;
the linen feels like silk.
But now we must rise
and set flame to fry,
to have bacon and eggs with milk.

It is cool and crisp this morning.
Outside is the ball of the moon.
Our hope is high,
for in the sky
the sun will be rising soon.

Paternal Counsels

From age to age fathers' words
have been spoken, have been heard,
perhaps ignored, yet laid away
spoken again some other day
by their sons, now fathers too,
who wish to speak the word anew:

Seek the good and shun the vile
with dovelike grace and snakelike wiles.
Protect all those who need protection,
provide for those who need provision.
Be not afraid yourself to doubt,
or when uncertain to bow out;
be not afraid yourself to trust,
or ever to do the task you must.
Be loyal to wife and child and friend;
such loyalty should have no end.
Ungrumbling, accept the harder part;
seek only to be great of heart.
Avoid the idle, use well your time,
rarely shout and never whine.
Bear up when bearing must be done;
in crisis be the patient one.
Never hard-working men despise.
Keep your mouth from filth of lies.
Let none treat you like a slave;
from slavery your fellows save.
Never any fight begin,
but when you fight, fight to win.
Do well all things that come to hand:
act, in short, as befits a man.


Fire-brilliance in reason born
through the veil of time has torn,
felt the sun at silent morn
of heaven in silence streaming
above the Sleepers dreaming.

Sevenfold in drifting sleep
they secrets find and secrets keep,
hid in caverns old and deep
beyond the starlight gleaming
of heaven in silence streaming.

The angels, each in silent course,
move with love's all-moving force
to shape the tides of time's recourse
in realms of truth and seeming
beyond the starlight gleaming.

The light they breathe like crystal air,
with power perilous and fair
that pours by ray, by gleam, by flare
from sun of justice beaming
in realms of truth and seeming.

But one stands silent in the night,
bears the horn whose note in might
will wake all sleep to morning light,
above the Sleepers dreaming
from sun of justice beaming.

Lovers of the Sunset

They who love the sunset are all lovers true and right;
the only gold they treasure is the gold of dying light
as the sun dips down its head like a bull for sacrifice.
Who can love more purely than who loves the light that dies?

The children of the sunrise burst with splendor in the dawn;
they have no fear or trembling when the battle-lines are drawn.
But the lovers of the sunset fight with all, for never-again.
Who can fight more truly than who fights for glory slain?

The brothers of the noon will always make their joyful vows,
the mothers of the midnight in their shadows dream and drowse,
but the lovers of the sunset dance on sure and splendid feet.
Yea, who can dance more truly than who knows the light is sweet?

Wiglaf's Words

The broil of battle brought them together.
Said hardy Wiglaf, heavy-hearted,
"Our meals I remember in the mead-hall,
boasting of brave deeds of Beowulf,
great giver of sword, giver of arms;
to him we swore repayment in right
come the time, for kindness in kind--
even letting life to be lost.
Allowance he made for our claims as if weighty,
believing our boast and our steel's bite,
but he, mighty king, meant this great monster
to keep for himself, to conquer and kill
as in the yore-time, years of his youth,
days long ago, before our lord leaned
on lowlier lads, and lessers in arms.
The flame now feeds on kingly flesh.
By almighty God, let my bones burn
before my liege lord be lost in fire!
Who are we, shield-carriers homeward seeking
before battle is broken, with Beowulf battered?
For such dutiful king to die forsaken,
butchered and beaten by terrible beast,
is disallowed, when still there is sword
yet to be drawn, in honor to serve!"
Then swiftly he ran, his king to succor,
deeply driving through dragon-formed flame.
"Beowulf, king, brightly beloved!
Remember your boast to hold your repute,
to live life of glory never forgotten!
Fight, sire, fight, for life and for fame,
I at your side, at your service my sword!"