Saturday, October 26, 2002

Poem on his birthday

by Dylan Thomas
27 October 1914 - 9 November 1953

    In the mustardseed sun,
By full tilt river and switchback sea
    Where the cormorants scud,
In his house on stilts high among beaks
    And palavers of birds
This sandgrain day in the bent bay's grave
    He celebrates and spurns
His driftwood thirty-fifth wind-turned age;
    Herons spire and spear.

    Under and round him go
Flounders, gulls, on their cold, dying trails,
    Doing what they are told,
Curlews aloud in the congered waves
    Work at their ways to death,
And the rhymer in the long-tongued room,
    Who tolls his birthday bell,
Toils toward the ambush of his wounds;
    Herons, steeple stemmed, bless.

    In the thistledown fall,
He sings toward anguish; finches fly
    In the claw tracks of hawks
On a seizing sky; small fishes glide
    Through wynds and shells of drowned
Ship towns to pastures of otters. He
    In his slant, racking house
And the hewn coils of his trade perceives
    Herons walk in their shroud,

    The livelong river's robe
Of minnows wreathing around their prayer;
    And far at sea he knows,
Who slaves to his crouched, eternal end
    Under a serpent cloud,
Dolphins dive in their turnturtle dust,
    The rippled seals streak down
To kill and their own tide daubing blood
    Slides good in the sleek mouth

    In a cavernous, swung
Wave's silence, wept white angelus knells.
    Thirty-five bells sing struck
On skull and scar where his loves lie wrecked,
    Steered by the falling stars.
And to-morrow weeps in a blind cage
    Terror will rage apart
Before chains break to a hammer flame
    And love unbolts the dark

    And freely he goes lost
In the unknown, famous light of great
    And fabulous, dear God.
Dark is a way and light is a place,
    Heaven that never was
Nor will be ever is always true,
    And in that brambled void,
Plenty as blackberries in the woods
    The dead grow for His joy.

    There he might wander bare
With the spirits of the horseshoe bay
    Or the stars' seashore dead,
Marrow of eagles, the roots of whales
    And wishbones of wild geese,
With blessed, unborn God and His Ghost,
    And every soul His priest,
Gulled and chanter in young Heaven's fold
    Be at cloud quaking peace,

    But dark is a long way.
He, on the earth of the night, alone
    With all the living, prays,
Who knows the rocketing wind will blow
    The bones out of the hills,
And the scythed boulders bleed, and the last
    Rage shattered waters kick
Masts and fishes to the still quick stars,
    Faithlessly unto Him

    Who is the light of old
And air shaped Heaven where souls grow wild
    As horses in the foam:
Oh, let me midlife mourn by the shrined
    And druid herons' vows
The voyage to ruin I must run,
    Dawn ships clouted aground,
Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
    Count my blessings aloud:

    Four elements and five
Senses, and man a spirit in love
    Tangling through this spun slime
To his nimbus bell cool kingdom come
    And the lost moonshine domes,
And the sea that hides his secret selves
    Deep in its black, base bones,
Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
    And this last blessing most,

    That the closer I move
To death, one man through his sundered hulks,
    The louder the sun blooms
And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults;
    And every wave of the way
And gale I tackle, the whole world then,
    With more triumphant faith
Than ever was since the world was said,
    Spins its morning of praise,

    I hear the bouncing hills
Grow larked and greener at berry brown
    Fall and the dew larks sing
Taller this thunderclap spring, and how
    More spanned with angels ride
The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
    Holier then their eyes,
And my shining men no more alone
    As I sail out to die.
Point Shirley

by Sylvia Plath
27 October 1932 - 11 February 1963

From Water-Tower Hill to the brick prison
The shingle booms, bickering under
The sea's collapse.
Snowcakes break and welter. This year
The gritted wave leaps
The seawall and drops onto a bier
Of quahog chips,
Leaving a salty mash of ice to whiten

In my grandmother's sand yard. She is dead,
Whose laundry snapped and froze here, who
Kept house against
What the sluttish, rutted sea could do.
Squall waves once danced
Ship timbers in through the cellar window;
A thresh-tailed, lanced
Shark littered in the geranium bed --

Such collusion of mulish elements
She wore her broom straws to the nub.
Twenty years out
Of her hand, the house still hugs in each drab
Stucco socket
The purple egg-stones: from Great Head's knob
To the filled-in Gut
The sea in its cold gizzard ground those rounds.

Nobody wintering now behind
The planked-up windows where she set
Her wheat loaves
And apple cakes to cool. What is it
Survives, grieves
So, battered, obstinate spit
Of gravel? The waves'
Spewed relics clicker masses in the wind,

Grey waves the stub-necked eiders ride.
A labor of love, and that labor lost.
Steadily the sea
Eats at Point Shirley. She died blessed,
And I come by
Bones, only bones, pawed and tossed,
A dog-faced sea.
The sun sinks under Boston, bloody red.

I would get from these dry-papped stones
The milk your love instilled in them.
The black ducks dive.
And though your graciousness might stream,
And I contrive,
Grandmother, stones are nothing of home
To that spumiest dove.
Against both bar and tower the black sea runs.
Requiescat in pace

Richard Harris (1930-2002)

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh : 'Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!'
Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
-- Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. ...
Those purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

-- Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
Inchoate ruminations, possibly upcoming

Prettiness is not beauty. Prettiness is fine; it entices, it makes one smile, or even sigh pensively. Beauty overwhelms, it is terrible, terrific, scary, dangerous. Sometimes beauty is unbearably bleak, painfully sombre, heart-rendingly sad. But one wouldn't dare to describe as merely pretty those things which are beautiful.

I've probably said this elsewhere. So I repeat myself, and apologies for so doing.
William Trout, Last Notebooks

When you look at a chair, it has a clear purpose : to be sat on. A spoon is for eating soup. Much of the time, when I consider what happens to us, it seems that the purpose of life is to suffer in agony and die.

This quotation serves as the epigraph to the second section of Donald Hall's most recent book of poems, The Painted Bed (Houghton Mifflin, 2002, p. 19).

William Trout is, if memory serves, an invention of Hall's, a fictional poet who made his first appearance in The Museum of Clear Ideas.
Parva sed potens.

Requiescat in pace.
Andrew Sullivan

on Calypso Harry.

Cool enough singer. And I suspect that like Dorian Gray he has a portrait in his attic that shows signs of his age. But in terms of his politics, a cacophonous communard of cultural catastrophe, and as Sullivan rightly says, a bigot.
Psalm 69. Salvum me fac.

SAVE me, O God; * for the waters are come in, even unto my soul.

2 I stick fast in the deep mire, where no ground is; * I am come into deep waters, so that the floods run over me.

3 I am weary of crying; my throat is dry; * my sight faileth me for waiting so long upon my God.

4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; * they that are mine enemies, and would destroy me guiltless, are mighty.

5 I paid them the things that I never took: * God, thou knowest my simpleness, and my faults are not hid from thee.

6 Let not them that trust in thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my cause; * let not those that seek thee be confounded through me, O Lord God of Israel.

7 And why? for thy sake have I suffered reproof; * shame hath covered my face.

8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, * even an alien unto my mother's children.

9 For the zeal of thine house hath even eaten me; * and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee are fallen upon me.

10 I wept, and chastened myself with fasting, * and that was turned to my reproof.

11 I put on sackcloth also, * and they jested upon me.

12 They that sit in the gate speak against me, * and the drunkards make songs upon me.

13 But, LORD, I make my prayer unto thee * in an acceptable time.

14 Hear me, O God, in the multitude of thy mercy, * even in the truth of thy salvation.

15 Take me out of the mire, that I sink not; * O let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

16 Let not the water-flood drown me, neither let the deep swallow me up; * and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

17 Hear me, O LORD, for thy loving-kindness is comfortable; * turn thee unto me according to the multitude of thy mercies.

18 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: * O haste thee, and hear me.

19 Draw nigh unto my soul, and save it; * O deliver me, because of mine enemies.

20 Thou hast known my reproach, my shame, and my dishonour: * mine adversaries are all in thy sight.

21 Reproach hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness: * I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me.

22 They gave me gall to eat; * and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink.

23 Let their table be made a snare to take themselves withal; * and let the things that should have been for their wealth be unto them an occasion of falling.

24 Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not; * and ever bow thou down their backs.

25 Pour out thine indignation upon them, * and let thy wrathful displeasure take hold of them.

26 Let their habitation be void, * and no man to dwell in their tents.

27 For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; * and they talk how they may vex them whom thou hast wounded.

28 Let them fall from one wickedness to another, * and not come into thy righteousness.

29 Let them be wiped out of the book of the living, * and not be written among the righteous.

30 As for me, when I am poor and in heaviness, * thy help, O God, shall lift me up.

31 I will praise the Name of God with a song, * and magnify it with thanksgiving.

32 This also shall please the LORD * better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

33 The humble shall consider this, and be glad: * seek ye after God, and your soul shall live.

34 For the LORD heareth the poor, * and despiseth not his prisoners.

35 Let heaven and earth praise him: * the sea, and all that moveth therein.

36 For God will save Sion, and build the cities of Judah, * that men may dwell there, and have it in possession.

37 The posterity also of his servants shall inherit it; * and they that love his Name shall dwell therein.
but not "of the day"; the appearance of the Hobsonisms will soon lapse from the quotidian

"Poor drunks do not find love, Arthur. They have very few teeth. They urinate outdoors. And they freeze to death in summer. I can't bear to think of you that way."

Friday, October 25, 2002

My brain has just exploded with joy

that someone else out there has mentioned D. G. Rossetti, if somewhat obliquely!
Quiz answers

1. Which American actress has the middle name Anjanetta?

Vivica A. Fox.

2. Which Hollywood married couple has the birthnames of Anna Maria Italiano and Melvin Kaminsky?

Anne Bancroft & Mel Brooks.

3. What was Spencer Tracy's middle name?


4. Why was it peculiar that actress Jessie Royce Landis played Cary Grant's mother in North by Northwest?

Landis was younger than Grant.

5. The actor who played Sally Tomato in Breakfast at Tiffany's provided the voice for which ultra-famous cartoon character?

Alan Reed provided the voice for Fred Flintstone.

6. Which M*A*S*H character said it, and to whom? "Yes, I can see why you're having problems with that letter; it requires taste, tact, and sensitivity. ... You have all but three of those qualities."

Winchester to Hawkeye.

7. Why do birds sing so gay?

? ? ?

Thursday, October 24, 2002

More phonemic pedantry ...

"Double" rhymes with "ruble"

in the expression double entendre.

If you must say "dubble," then anglicize "intender" as well!

The rule is : Be consistent. "Dooble awntawndrah" or "dubble intender" -- maybe even dublintender to please the Joyceans -- but never, never, jamais de la vie "dubble awntawndrah" !!
Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison

"You're always leaving me notes. I hate those notes! 'We're all out of cornflakes, FU.' Took me three hours to figure out 'FU' was Felix Unger!"
The Feast of All Saints

gives us an "upside down" Way of the Cross. It is simple and shocking and real.

Let the heading of each meditation startle you, and stay with it. Most rewarding.

Thanks to Karen Marie Knapp for alerting us to this marvel.
Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

A SWEET disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.
Psalm 43
(42 in the Vulgate and Douay-Rheims)

1 psalmus David
iudica me Deus et discerne causam meam
de gente non sancta
ab homine iniquo et doloso
erue me

2 quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea
quare me reppulisti
quare tristis incedo
dum affligit me inimicus

3 emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam
ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt
in montem sanctum tuum
et in tabernacula tua

4 et introibo ad altare Dei
ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam
confitebor tibi in cithara
Deus Deus meus

5 quare tristis es anima mea
et quare conturbas me
spera in Deum quoniam adhuc
confitebor illi salutare vultus mei
et Deus meus

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Yet another quiz

1. Which American actress has the middle name Anjanetta?

(Hints : She's black; she's in her 30s; she's transcendentally pretty; she seems like one of the sweetest people on God's good green earth; she's not Halle Berry.)

2. Which Hollywood married couple has the birthnames of Anna Maria Italiano and Melvin Kaminsky?

3. What was Spencer Tracy's middle name?

4. Why was it peculiar that actress Jessie Royce Landis played Cary Grant's mother in North by Northwest?

5. Why do birds sing so gay?

No, actually ...

5. The actor who played Sally Tomato in Breakfast at Tiffany's provided the voice for which ultra-famous cartoon character?

6. Which M*A*S*H character said it, and to whom?

"Yes, I can see why you're having problems with that letter; it requires taste, tact, and sensitivity. ... You have all but three of those qualities."

7. Why do birds sing so gay?


Maude : "That man had charisma!"

Archie : "I don't care if he was sick!"
Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna

on the beauty of the liturgy. On this page of an Orthodox parish's website (Cambridge, Mass.)! (See text beneath photo of celebrant; right-clicking & copy-pasting wasn't allowed).

You have given life

The glory-braided maiden
We call Genetrix of grace, Mother of the Church,
Queen of all creation.

A countenance of luminous darkness
Receives the veneration of the moon:
Snow-capped mountains and the roots of rivers,
Cedars of Lebanon, pine trees of the northland,
Rest protected from all ill and evil
Beneath her heaven-woven mantle.

Wounded for a time, henceforth triumphant,
The tender-handed heart which cradled the dead Christ
Sends forth the light of hope
To the double-minded earth, to the five-fingered stars.

Sunlight and womanhood, wisdom, humility,
Harmonize, conspire, breathe together
To magnify the Lord:
Confounded are the hearts of all the proud.

Silent expectation
As the cold world waits its rescue and redemption:

For she is a vapour of the power of God
And a certain pure emanation
Of the glory of the all-mighty God.

She reneweth all things
And through nations conveyeth herself
Unto holy souls.

For she is more beautiful than the sun,
And above all the order of the stars.

You have given life to the One
Whose death and rising from the dead
Gives life to a fallen world : therefore, we praise you,
With angels, saints, and holy ones
Unto the ages of ages.
Aliquid obstat

Free rein, free rein, free rein ! !

(And not "free reign," as we have seen twice in recent days, at two different blogs.)

And speaking of Knee Hill Upstart, I had "ryhmed" for "rhymed" these last 48 hours in my Quiz Answer post; just now rectified. It 'scaped the notice of the winking eye.

In Boston, 37-40 degrees and fría rain, fría rain, fría rain !
From the Contemporary Poetry Review

a laudatory critique of Geoffrey Hill's newest book, The Orchards of Syon.

It turned up in a Yahoo! search of "Sebastian Arrurruz," as in Geoffrey Hill's early sequence "The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz." Seems Arrurruz is a fictional poet, and Hill's sequence -- while pretending to be translation? -- is original.

This Songbook of Sebastian A., I have re-discovered via Geoffrey Hill's

New & Collected Poems, 1952-1992

(Houghton Mifflin, 1994; hereafter, NCP). And reading this particular sequence yesterday and today, I was knocked over. Knocked out.

'One cannot lose what one has not possessed.'
So much for that abrasive gem.
I can lose what I want. I want you.

Oh my dear one, I shall grieve for you
For the rest of my life with slightly
Varying cadence, oh my dear one.

:: :: :: :: :: :: ::

A workable fancy. Old petulant
Sorrow comes back to us, metamorphosed
And semi-precious. Fortuitous amber.

:: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The sun lays down a foliage of shade.

A drinking-fountain pulses its head
Two or three inches from the troughed stone.
An old woman sucks there, gripping the rim.

(NCP, p. 80, passim)

Most of Hill's poems are like sturdy small stone churches. As Donald Hall exclaimed in a decades-old review, with grateful surprise and flabbergasted awe, Devotional sonnets ?? Yes. Here, the octave of 'Pavana Dolorosa,' fifth in a sequence of seven 'Lachrimae' :

Loves I allow and passions I approve :
Ash-Wednesday feasts, ascetic opulence,
the wincing lute, so real in its pretence,
itself a passion amorous of love.

Self-wounding martyrdom, what joys you have,
true-torn among this fictive consonance,
music's creation of the moveless dance,
the decreation to which all must move.

(NCP, p. 137)

From the early '70s, there are Mercian Hymns, a sequence of 30 poems in a long prose-type line (each "line" a paragrpah), where Hill is archaeologist of language and image :

It is autumn. Chestnut-boughs clash their inflamed leaves. The garden festers for attention : telluric cultures, enriched with shards, corms, nodules, the sunk solids of gravity. I have raked up a golden and stinking blaze.

And in 1984, the long poem in pentametric quatrains, The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.

Geoffrey Hill has taught (is teaching?) in the United States, at Boston University. He is a very English poet. We note affinities with Thomas Hardy, and the early Auden, a 'weight', a 'heft' to his line that suggests kinship with Dylan Thomas, and a love for the long sequence incorporating elements of early English history that might remind some of David Jones.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

death,as men call him, ends what they call men
--but beauty is more now than dying's when

Roethke on Cummings

From On Poetry & Craft : Selected Prose of Theodore Roethke, foreword by Carolyn Kizer (Copper Canyon Press, 2001), from the section of notebook entries entitled "a Psychic Janitor" -- this passage, pp. 182-3 :

Let the uncharitable, the obtuse say all they will, bringing their charges -- sentimentality; of using words (flowers) as counters; of creating ambiguous non-states of being; of sniggering; of posturing ... ethical self-indulgence; of failing to change after the first two books ... of arbitrary syntactical nuttiness; -- yet Cummings always remains a throwback if you will, but a throwback to something truly wonderful, almost lost from the language : the secret of being lyrically funny, the secret of being truly alive and happy. He has revived, renewed more than we know. All right, he's father-haunted. Who isn't? He'd be a monster if he were otherwise ...

I think of Cummings, not as a poet of one kind of thing, one genre, one singularity, but as one who has explored various and important and often neglected sides of modern sensibility :

1. The child's. Here, it seems to me, he moves within the mind of the child, is the child, if you will -- without condescending or being coy -- an enormously difficult feat.

2. The adolescent's. And this area of experience is a real trap, with the reader so often conditioned by the notion that the young don't really suffer. They're just oversize children with stock reactions, living out the misadventures of inexperience, uttering only stylized lingo, boring as advertising formulae.

There are these randy various jumpings, a many-faceted marvelous man.

He is not content to doodle along in the five-foot line.

In an age of cozy-toe operators, he has always been ready to take a chance ...
William Law

The book of all books is in your own heart, in which are written and engraven the deepest lessons of divine instruction; learn therefore to be deeply attentive to the presence of God in your hearts, who is always speaking, always instructing, always illuminating that heart that is attentive to him.

Here you will meet the divine light in its proper place, in that depth of your souls, where the birth of the Son of God and the proceeding of the Holy Ghost are always ready to spring up in you.

And be assured of this, that so much as you have of inward love and adnerence to his holy light and spirit within you, so much as you have of real unaffected humility and meekness, so much as you are dead to your own will and self-love, so much as you have of purity of heart, so much, and no more, nor any further, do you see and know the truths of God.

from Daily Readings with William Law, ed. Robert Llewelyn and Edward Moss (Springfield, Ill.: Templegate Publishers, 1986), p. 40
a sonnet by sir estlin

if(touched by love's own secret)we,like homing
through welcoming sweet miracles of air
(and joyfully all truths of wing resuming)
selves,into infinite tomorrow steer

--souls under whom flow(mountain valley forest)
a million wheres which never may become
one(wholly strange;familiar wholly)dearest
more than reality of more than dream--

how should contented fools of fact envision
the mystery of freedom?yet,among
their loud exactitudes of imprecision,
you'll(silently alighting)and i'll sing

while at us very deafly a most stares
colossal hoax of clocks and calendars

My only weakness is a listed crime

Chanson du jour par les Smiths.
Hobsonism of the day

"If you and your undershirt would walk two paces backwards, I could enter this dwelling."
I had forgotten that such peace was possible

Will, perhaps, have a bit more to say about the visit to Forest Hills Cemetery. It had been about six years since the last visit.

And the weather ! ... was of the sort we had despaired of ever seeing again during the doggiest dogdays of August, with 110° heat indices ... Yesterday morning was just above, or just beneath, 50, with a lively breeze, and brilliant blue skies, against which the red leaves of those trees which have chromatically exploded, seemed all the more red. Didn't even need a jacket; those internal "tygers of wrath" were burning bright, as they always do, but on this occasion, more benignly. The "wrath" of inspiration, not irritation.

And Mr Cummings is in a happy shady spot, on a small hill, at the foot of a stone wall, with one of the more vibrantly-tressed arbors keeping watch.

And this is entirely within the city limits of Boston, but it seemed a different "state" -- with as many nuances of the word state as the reader will permit.

The perfect day, when one can walk four or five miles without becoming as the parched and weary man in a land where there is no water.
U2, from 1981

And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on ... and on

Well, thank goodness they're not yet "stripped bare of all they wear" in this part of the world! Still some incredible vibrancy of color left, and some more color to come!

Someone explain to me how I made it to the 21st day of October, yesterday, before having had occasion to sing "Moondance" to myself as I was walking down a less-than-busy street!

This morning we wake to 36 degrees. Huzzah!

Monday, October 21, 2002

The divine courtesy towards Our Lady

[I should preface the following with the 4-word Latin qualification : salvo meliori Ecclesiae sapientia. If anything in here is at odds with the theology of orthodox catholic Christianity, as it has existed for twenty centuries, obviously the Church's wisdom supersedes, prevails, and cancels any error herebeneath.]

One hears sometimes, in the precincts of evangelical Protestantism, a bewilderment about the praise that is heaped upon the Mother of God by Catholics and by Orthodox; we hear sometimes, "Well, God could have chosen any young woman of Israel; it's God, and the Son of God, who deserves our attention. The Marian hyperdulia is misplaced; obscures the unique mediation and redemption of Christ," etc.

We understand the concern, to some extent. But we note : God didn't choose any (other) woman; he didn't choose Deborah, or Hannah, or Sarah, or Rachel, or Judith, or name your name. He chose Mary, Miriam of Nazareth -- and did not compel, but asked !

And not only did he ask, but He asked with such courtesy ! He sent an emissary, the archangel Gabriel, whose "speech" was downright deferential ! Of the utmost respect ! Transcribing from my Confraternity Bible (Luke 1.28) :

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women."

This is an angel of God heaping respectful titles upon an anonymous mortal girl ! And the young woman in question was taken aback.

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God."


Absorb. Ponder. Think about this for longer than twenty seconds, if you can.

God, who created the heavens and the earth, is sending an angelic ambassador to an anonymous girl in an unillustrious part of the Holy Land, with titles of limitless respect and with the assurance that she has found favor with God, to the point of being "full of grace."

An expression of surprise at least as potent as the colloquial "Wow!" should be escaping your lips right about now.

Then the angel explains God's "plan," or "proposal," if we can put it in such terms.

"Behold, thou shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and he shall be called the Son of the Most High [ ... ] and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee [ ... ] Nothing shall be impossible with God."

And then, this bewildered but godly young woman says the two words (ecce; fiat) without which not a stroke, not a jot or tittle of the New Testament, not a moment of the redemptive mysteries of our faith, could even begin to be possible :

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."

Now, please stop again, and consider : This response was not compelled; it was at best educed, elicited ... but it was asked for most courteously, by God Himself, through an angelic emissary. Was there a guarantee of an affirmative response? To say, "yes, Mary had to respond the way she did," seems to deny free will.

Without Mary's ecce; fiat, there is no Church ! there is no Incarnation ! there is no New Testament ! there is no Good Friday ! there is no Easter !

Or so it seems to this untutored layman. The mystery demands a respectful, meditative pondering. Is the honor that we bestow upon Mary misplaced?

And, knowing full well that she is among the blessed ("all generations" etc.), is it malapert to ask, on occasion, for her intercession?

Something to think about.
Bishop Seraphim on Fr Alexander Schmemann

From Seraphim's Live Journal. I borrowed the Journals of Fr Schmemann from the library months and months ago; may have to re-read. Am grateful to be reminded of this small passage.

In recent years reading the Journals of Fr Alexander I came however to have a deeper feeling for the inner life of this remarkable man. Here is a quotation which is especially important for me, perhaps you will like it too ...

"With what relief one leaves the world [of surface religiosity] one then sees: wet bare branches, fog which floats over fields, trees, homes. Sky, early dusk. And it all tells an incredibly simple TRUTH ... which the ascetic does not see, or rather does not want to see, pushes it aside as something sensual. The ascetic mostly closes his eyes, ears, all his senses...the 'mystic' is the one who sees it."

Forest Hills Cemetery
Cedar Avenue at Buckthorn Path

Louise Reid Estes
wife of
Dana Estes

Aug. 6, 1844 - Aug. 1, 1883

"Her memory is to me a
religion, and her appro-
bation the standard by
which, summing up as it
does all worthiness, I en-
deavor to regulate my life."

Dana Estes
Mar. 4, 1840 - June 16, 1909

Philip Sidney Estes
Oct. 6, 1882 - Dec. 9, 1916

Memorandum to self

Sometime in perhaps November, or maybe before this week or month is out, I must take self unto the Forest Hills Cemetery and visit not only Estlin Cummings, but the tallish obelisk-type monument where a widowed husband of the 19th century (Dana E., if memory serves) memorializes his wife, Louise, called back to God at thirty, in terms much like the following :

"Her memory to me is a religion, and her approbation the standard by which I shall strive to regulate the remainder of my life."

It's quite beautiful. I want to get the exact wording.
The Irish Cliffs of Moher
by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Who is my father in this world, in this house,
At the spirit's base?

My father's father, his father's father, his --
Shadows like winds

Go back to a parent before thought, before speech,
At the head of the past.

They go to the cliffs of Moher rising out of the mist,
Above the real,

Rising out of present time and place, above
The wet, green grass.

This is not landscape, full of the somnambulations
Of poetry

And the sea. This is my father or, maybe,
It is as he was,

A likeness, one of the race of fathers : earth
And sea and air.
Quiz answers, for me

1. What is the common thread? : Fern, Glenallen, Anita, Llareggub, and Geoffrey.

They're all Hills.

2. Who is the world's coolest Paula? (For me, it's a tie.)

... between singer/dancer/choreographer Paula Abdul, and actress Paula Cale.

3. What was Woodrow Wilson's middle name?

Woodrow, as in Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

4. What is Kevin Spacey's middle name?

Spacey, as in Kevin Spacey Fowler.

5. What is your guilty musical pleasure?

Oh, all manner of thing! Smiths songs; "Rudolph" in Latin; watching disco retrospectives; changing the words of the "Ode to Joy" to include beer-names, friends' names, etc. singing "My Fair Lady" tunes when walking behind a clump of people that are moving too slowly (that's bad, isn't it?; usually it's "I could have danced all night"); and currently, changing the name in Barry Manilow's "Mandy" to the conveniently rhyming praenomen of the female lead in The Truth about Charlie.

6. What is your favorite Beatles song?

Must one choose? Can one choose? Won't answer my own question until I think of a good answer. Will say that I owe the discovery of one of my dearest friends to my having recited the rhymed & unsung bit of bawdry called "Be My Girl, Sally" from the Police's first album in the high-school cafeteria one noonday. But the Police are not the Beatles. Revolver's a cool album. "Norwegian Wood" and in my saccharine maudlin ballady romantic moods "Here, There and Everywhere". I love the fact that there's a bit of King Lear at the end of either "I Am the Walrus" (A serviceable villain, etc.). Abbey Road also a cool album. Best song for karaoke (with my limited range) : "Day Tripper."

7. What's the most creatively devastating dis of a politician that you've ever heard? Or said?

The icy pronouncement of Fr George Rutler, from 'twixt clenched teeth, about "the smiling bureaucrat who says I feel your pain" was memorable, as much for how he said it, and for the point-by-point verbal flaying that ensued.

But I think a friend of quondam days takes the laurel, with a remark uttered years ago about one of the more grossly overrated Republicans on the scene then and now, a moderate Republican who is most immoderately praised : "He's not an Oreo; he's a Vienna finger." I'm not sure I'm supposed to laugh at that, but when it was said, I did laugh -- for about three months. And for originality and creativity, it beats Harry Belafonte's dissing of that same figure, by several hundred miles.

But Winston Churchill was pretty good on Clement Attlee: "A modest man, with much to be modest about" and "A sheep in sheep's clothing."

Hobsonism of the day

"Steal something casual."

Sunday, October 20, 2002

The Nephew (1998)

IMDb page on this charming film which all Hibernophiles must see. I want desperately to know if Hill Harper did his own singing for that sean nos song ... also wouldn't mind knowing what a sean nos song is ...
Boston English
not Calypso Louie's alma mater, but the local dialect

Gotta link to this weird & wonderful list of local vocables.

Yes, it is "gravy," and "Light dawns ON [not over] Marblehead."

I should compile a guide on how to speak dylanese : a strange and vexing idiolect replete with expressions that only those who are accustomed to hearing my lunatic rantings on a daily basis would even begin to understand
More on (pun intended with those first two words) Amiri Baraka

John Derbyshire -- name's new to me; I don't often read NRO; perhaps I should for this fellow -- on the New Jersey poet laureate's (yikes!!!!) idiotic rant, which ends not with a bang but with an exploding owl. How not?

Discovered this via one of the newer members of St Blog's, Pilgrimage.
Gotta give recommendations

to Summa Contra Mundum for the three most recent posts ...

and to Notes from a Hillside Farm for this post ... mentioning social work, the Journals of Fr Alexander Schmemann, and the American poet Vassar Miller ...

and to Everything Is Grace for this tribute (con dolcezza) wherewith this reader heartily concurs ...

and let us try to remember not to refrain from failing to forget Ono Ekeh's 100 Things ! A felicitous enumeration.
Attributed to Henry VI (1421-71)

Kingdomes are but cares;
State ys devoyd of staie;
Ryches are redy snares,
And hastene to decaie.

Plesure ys a pryvie prycke
Wich vyce doth styll provoke;
Pompe, unprompt; and fame, a flame;
Powre, a smouldryng smoke.

Who meenethe to remoofe the rocke
Owte of the slymie mudde,
Shall myre hymselfe, and hardlie scape
The swellynge of the flodde.

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91)
birthday 20th October


A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu : voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes :
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Golfes d'ombre ; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles ;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes ;

U, cycles, vibrement divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux ;

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges :
-- O l'Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux !
Questions to answer
but only if you're as bored as I am

1. What is the common thread? : Fern, Glenallen, Anita, Llareggub, and Geoffrey.

2. Who is the world's coolest Paula? (For me, it's a tie.)

3. What was Woodrow Wilson's middle name?

4. What is Kevin Spacey's middle name?

5. What is your guilty musical pleasure?

6. What is your favorite Beatles song?

7. What's the most creatively devastating dis of a politician that you've ever heard? Or said?

8. That should do it, for now.
Is it wrong not to always be glad?

Smiths song of the day.
Hobsonism of the day

"I despise tea! Now go and fetch me two aspirins; you'll find them in the medicine cabinet on the left, behind the untouched shaving cream."
from Ecclesiastes 3

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.