Saturday, November 09, 2002

On the death penalty
Catholicism, the life issues, American politics : perhaps more later

Forbidden or not forbidden? that is the question. And the answer that I come up with, based on reading (and re-reading) The Catechism of the Catholic Church is, Almost but not quite.

Cardinal Mahony was on C-Span a year or two ago and announced with some asperity, "The Catholic view on the death penalty is, there should be no death penalty."

It is clear that the Church's preference is almost always for clemency. But does the CCC, even in the 1997 Modifications to the Editio Typica, issue a clarion call for abolition? "The cases in which execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically non-existent'" (CCC Mod 2267).

And this sentence, while not overtly endorsing the death penalty, speaks strongly against under-sentencing and is perhaps the most under-noticed sentence in the Catechism : "Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense" (CCC Mod 2266, italics mine).

And somewhere around here I have a First Things article by Cardinal Dulles in which he explains why abolition of the death penalty should never be sought to the exclusion of seeking to abolish abortion. I think of self-styled consistent ethic of lifers, who voted insouciantly for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, who fulminate about GOP support for the death penalty, shrug about the abortion license, and who'd vote for the most wayward Green before dreaming of voting for a Republican.

Your ideas, input, observations, and quotations of minds in the Church wiser than mine (that's virtually everyone!) are welcome.
Four paraphrases
of Basho

The small poems that follow make no pretension to be great poems or great translations, but were written as an exercise on June 12 of this year, to see if Harold Henderson's rhymed translations of certain Japanese haiku could be rendered in the bi-linear 14-syllable form (eight and six) often used by Emily Dickinson, even in her epistolary prose, e.g. :

The Sailor cannot see the North -- but knows the Needle can --

Again, these are merely exercises.

This thoroughfare has walkers none
as falls the autumn night.

Lightning! You hear it, in this dark?
Nightbird's fractious cry.

A "noble" village has ... no bell
to ring at dusk in spring.

Cantankerous most mornings,
but this crow loves the snow!
Possible titles for my autobiography

The Stand-up Tragedian

Misanthrope's Concerto

I Am Large

Nothing False and Possible
Libertarians and Marxists, unite!

It occurs to me that these two groups, ostensibly at the antipodes, have a great deal in common.

Both groups seem to scoff, reflexively and thoughtlessly, that human affairs are ultimately governed by God.

Both groups are very brainy, very literate, very adept in vocabulary and argumentation -- but they're not nearly as smart as they think they are.

Both groups are absolutely obsessed by, if not religiously devoted to, politics. To both, political activity represents the Be-All and the End-All.

Ignore the absolutely irrelevant fact that the Berties believe in "small government" asymptotically approaching the non-existent; that the Marxists believe in "big government," as omnipresent as the Stalinists, and managing every aspect of life. Both groups are chock-full of arid, fevered evangelists for the primacy of the political. We have no souls, we have no hearts; we have only politics and ideology.

Both groups contain persons whom I'd love to bop across the faccia brutta with an instrument at least as potent as a cutting-board.

And even though, in the absence of Republican candidates, I voted for two Libertarians in the most recent election (state auditor; US Senate), I deplore the blindness and narrowness and unpalatability of Libertarians as much as I lament the follies and sins and lunacies of the Marxists.
It speaks volumes about my strange sense of humor

that I laughed loudly and raucously at this dreadful pun from Envoy Encore. Beam me up, Scotus!
Classic rant

How do they let this fellow stay in San Francisco? Gratitude to the Lady of Shalott for linking to this tongue-in-cheek jeremiad against the axis of Republican "evil."

Sad part is : I have at least one relative to whom the rant would not seem like hyperventilating parodistic exaggeration, but a clear, calm, sober, assessment of the facts.

This relative has denounced Massachusetts Governor-elect Mitt Romney -- moderate, genial, unadventurous, calm, Weldian Ken-doll Mitt Romney -- with as straight a face as his orientation will permit -- as a sworn foe of Catholics, as a demeaner and belittler of women, as a hater of gays; a reactionary enemy of everything good and noble and true. "And he's probably never shopped for his own groceries!"

Yes, but people who do shop for their own groceries found him more normal than his unbecoming opponent.

San Francisco journalist Mark Morford has channeled this relative of mine.

Except for the part where he drops the sarcasm, and shakes his head at the world's oldest party still not getting it.
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?

Because, alas, that's the way the world is, and has always been, and will always be. St Thomas the Apostle knew it. Mark Shea speaks of those who are strong enough for tragedy but not strong enough for hope. Read his article at Catholic Exchange.

From a worldly perspective, hope is an absurdity. No one gets out of life alive. Donald Hall's epigraph in that recent book of poems, where his alter-ego poet says that judging solely from how most of us meet our earthly end, the purpose of life sometimes seems to suffer in agony and die.

Worldly joys, blisses, pleasures are all drastically brief and quite often cruelly truncated. I love the realism of this piece by Mr Shea. And am tempted to address this topic, at greater length, from my own personal perspective.

My lady's voice could vanquish and entrance,
Enslave the soul and liberate the tears :
A murderous mercy, passionate and fierce
Aimed at the heart. A pagan soldier's lance.

Her footsteps blessed the ground, as April sun
Kisses awake the anaesthetic earth,
Giving all cold-killed life a second birth :
She was an Easter Christ to him with none.

© 2002 by dylan_tm618
Incumbent encumbrances

Signor da Fiesole at Disputations has serendipitously coined the word "encumbent" to describe an incumbent politician who has become something of an encumbrance!

But my cousin's got him beat. She came up with a sublime typographical error, to which she said stet -- "statesmeanship" to describe the tenor of most political campaigns!
In no Strange Land
by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

‘The Kingdom of God is within you’

O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumb’d conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shutter’d doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
’Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendour’d thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!
The Formidable Fifty-Seventh
chapter of Isaiah

Note : The translation being used here is the Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha. Not the best, but it has its moments of grace, and surpasses other NABysmal translations in fluency and euphony.

Yesterday morning I was reading Scripture at a rather Cistercian hour, and happened upon the 57th chapter of Isaiah. It's not one of the more "famous" chapters of Isaiah, no oft-quoted verse comparable to "Come, let us reason together" or "the lion will lie down with the lamb" or "a bruised reed he shall not break" -- but it is formidable.

It begins with a scathing indictment, full throttle, full force, no holds barred. The Lord, via his prophet, is letting his people have it, with both barrels!

The righteous perish
and no one is concerned;
all who are loyal to their faith are swept away
and no one gives it a thought.
The righteous are swept away by the onset of evil

[ . . .]

3 Come near, you children of a soothsayer.
You spawn of an adulterer and a harlot,
4 who is the target of your jests?
Against whom do you open your months
and stick out your tongues?
Children of sin, spawn of a lie,
5 you are burning with lust under the sacred oaks,
under every spreading tree
and sacrificing children in the wadis,
under the rocky clefts.

Five verses later,

9 You drenched your tresses with oil,
were lavish in your use of perfumes;
you sent out your procurers far and wide
even down to the confines of Sheol.
10 Though worn out by your unending excesses,
you never thought your plight desperate.
You found renewed vigour
and so had no anxiety.

That is dreadfully, typically human. We've sinned but let's keep going. We haven't been gravely harmed by our follies yet. They're practically peccadilloes. And if they were sins, they wouldn't be so much fun. Three cheers for folly! Please God, it's not typical of us as we read it ... but perhaps ...

But we are approaching the changing of the tide, the turning of the movement ... usually in a sonnet, it comes at the start of line 9, with a mighty "But!" ... Shakespeare speaks of fading beauty and short summers and declining grace and nature's changing course untrimmed ... "But thy eternal summer shall not fade."

Isaiah 57 has 21 verses and the "but" comes about two-thirds of the way through.

12-13 Now I shall expose your conduct
that you think so righteous.
Your idols will not help you when you cry;
they will not save you.
The wind will carry them off, one and all,
a puff of air will take them away;
but he who makes me his refuge will possess the land
and inherit my holy hill.

Before we continue.

"Now I shall expose your conduct ... " This is a promise and a threat. And it scares the living daylights out of us, or at least it should. Actually, "living daylights" might not be the right word. It should scare the stuffing out of us. It should shock us out of our security. It should scare the grace into us, so the living God-light can come in.

"Now I shall expose ... " There's a type of exposure that is iniquitous. "Guess what so-and-so did ..." But the "I" of this sentence is God. He's exposing our shams, tricks, excuses, treasons, apostasies, lazinesses, double-dealings, and suicidal addictions to all things sinful, convenient and bad. The first step to recovery or healing is the acknowledgment that something is wrong.

What we should do -- and, speaking for myself, what we don't often do -- is pray for that wind to come, to carry off our idols and our guilty amusements. A wind not like the gentle "new breeze" of the kindly statesman, but the deracinating whirlwind that takes all our edifices of evil, our statues to the glorification of Self, our dying trees of poisonous fruit, and clears them away ... ruthlessly, and yet, mercifully.

Let us proceed.

14 Then the LORD will say :
Build up a highway, clear a road,
remove all that blocks my people's path.
15 These are the words of the high and exalted One,
who is enthroned forever, whose name is holy;

Remove what blocks the path of God into our hearts. And "clear a road"! Sometimes, to clear a road -- well, virtually always -- there's a radical re-shaping of the landscape. How do we clear roads nowadays? With delicate, quiet instruments ... like bulldozers and dynamite! God as dynamite, exploding the rock of deadness -- but not to make a four-lane interstate, but to clear a path into our hearts, for our own soul's health's life's hope's joy's sake.

Verse 15 continues :

I dwell in a high and holy place
and with him who is broken and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
to revive the courage of the broken.

Stop everything.

Stop breathing, if you must. Stop reading for a few seconds. Clear the mind.

These words bear repeating, and a special particular focus. Let's zoom in.

I dwell in a high and holy place
and with him who is broken and humble in spirit

Here you have the most shocking, the most amazingly concise expression of the inexpressible. The paradox of God being Transcendence (in a high and holy place) AND Immanence (with him who is broken and humble in spirit).

King of Kings and Lord of Lords (pleni sunt caeli ...) and knocking on the hardened hearts, living within the penitent hearts, of prostitutes, addicts, murderers.

Up here AND down here.

God Immeasurable, whom the skies cannot confine. God amid our human dust and bricks and thoroughfares, roaming the city streets at all hours of the night to find someone he loves. Francis Thompson bumped into him more than once in the gutters of London, but let the famous Thompson stand for all the anonymous vagabonds and children of the night. Jacob's ladder is pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross, between Heaven and the South Bronx, between Heaven and Peoria, between Heaven and the nation's capital. "With him who is broken and humble in spirit." With him and in him.

In our Lady's case, in her and with her. Emerging from the blessed womb, into a cold cave, a stable for donkeys and cattle.

King of Kings, the Exalted One, in a high and holy place.

Isaiah gives us "the rest of the story" in the remaining verses of chapter 57. The promise, the pledge, the certain hope of which, alas, we are all too often oblivious.

18 I have seen his conduct,
yet I shall heal him and give him relief;
I shall bring him comfort in full measure,
and on the lips of those who mourn him
19 I shall create words of praise.
Peace, peace, for all, both far and near;
I shall heal them, says the LORD.

On the lips of those who mourn him. In other words : "How could we fail to celebrate this happy day? Your brother here was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and has been found."
Also, from the JWR

Michelle Malkin ruminates on the disparity of media attention between Winona Ryder's legal trouble and something that is becoming known as the Wichita Massacre (sure, blame the city rather than the perpetrators -- see also 7th December 1993, "Long Island Railroad Massacre").

Please do read Eve Tushnet's column for the Jewish World Review.

Friday, November 08, 2002

"In an off-year election in which the opposition is headed by a sitting president who lost the popular vote by half a million votes in 2000, and whose administration is presiding over recession and war, the Democrats should have cleaned up. At the very least they should have lost nothing. And yet they lost almost everything. They lost Massachusetts to a Mormon! They lost Maryland with a Kennedy! The president and his party picked up support from one end of the country to the other, and the Democrats lost their one national power base, the Senate. Now they have only the media. That's a lot, but Paula Zahn is not a state, at least not yet, and she doesn't get a vote in the Senate."

The latest from Peggy Noonan.
I love this part

of the First Eucharistic Prayer :

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.

In olden days, the foregoing passage began with the words Hanc igitur; I may, when energies are greater, post the excerpt in Latin.

I also love, after the consecration :

Almighty God,
we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice
to your altar in heaven.

It's vivid, it's wondrous, it makes it very, very real and immediate ...

y'kneaux ...

Halle Berry will have turned 35 the year before the 2004 presidential election ...
Notes toward Some Possible Future Bloggings

What might be coming up :

-- Hanc igitur (Done.)
-- Plans? Plans ?? (Done.)
-- Haiku (both sublime & ridiculous)
-- The Formidable Fifty-Seventh
-- Pondering the Professio
-- The Death Penalty : Albutnotquitemost Forbidden?
-- A bit more Stephen Fry, I'm afraid

Thursday, November 07, 2002

D. G. Rossetti writes in Italian


Per carità,
   Mostrami amore :
   Mi punge il cuore,
Ma non si sa
   Dove è amore.
Che mi fa
La bella età
Sè non si sa
Come amerà?
   Ahi me solingo!
   Il cuor mi stringo!
   Non più ramingo,
Per carità!

Per carità,
   Mostrami il cielo :
   Tutto è un velo,
E non si sa
   Dove è il cielo.
Se si sta
Così colà
Non si sa
Se non si va.
   Ahi me lontano!
   Tutto è in vano!
   Prendi-mi in mano,
Per carità!
D. G. Rossetti, II

from a series of fragments called Memory

Is Memory most of miseries miserable,
Or the one flower of ease in bitterest hell?
a poem by
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

Heart's Compass
sonnet 27 from The House of Life

Sometimes thou seem'st not as thyself alone,
    But as the meaning of all things that are;
    A breathless wonder, shadowing forth afar
Some heavenly solstice hushed and halcyon;
Whose unstirred lips are music's visible tone;
    Whose eyes the sun-gate of the soul unbar,
    Being of its furthest fires oracular; --
The evident heart of all life sown and mown.

Even such Love is; and is not thy name Love?
    Yea, by thy hand the Love-god rends apart
    All gathering clouds of Night's ambiguous art;
Flings them far down, and sets thine eyes above;
And simply, as some gage of flower or glove,
    Stakes with a smile the world against thy heart.
Sang from the heart, Sire,
Dipped my Beak in it,
If the Tune drip too much
Have a tint too Red

Pardon the Cochineal --
Suffer the Vermilion --
Death is the Wealth
Of the Poorest Bird.

Bear with the Ballad --
Awkward -- faltering --
Death twists the strings --
'Twasn't my blame --

Pause in your Liturgies --
Wait in your Chorals --
While I repeat your
Hallowed name --

-- Emily Dickinson, poem #1059
Dove, ragazzo solo, dove andrai?

what foreign language are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

I'm pleasantly surprised. I thought I'd be French, like the bored existentialist in those DHL commercials of a half-decade ago.

And in case you were wondering : The headline to this post comes from the Italian version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" ("Ragazzo Solo") ...

La mia mente ha preso il volo
Un pensiero uno solo
Io cammino mentre dorme la città

I suoi occhi nella notte
Fanali bianchi nella notte
Una voce che mi parla chi sarà?

Dimmi ragazzo solo dove vai,
Perché tanto dolore?
Hai perduto senza dubbio un grande amore
Ma di amori è tutta piena la città

No ragazza sola no no no
Stavolta sei in errore
Non ho perso solamente un grande amore
Ieri sera ho perso tutto con lei

Ma lei
I colori della vita
Dei cieli blu
Una come lei non la troverò mai più

Ora ragazzo solo dove andrai
La notte è un grande mare
Se ti serve la mia mano per nuotare
Grazie ma stasera io vorrei morire
Perché sai negli occhi miei
C'è un' angelo, un' angelo
Che ormai non vola più che ormai non vola più
Che ormai non vola più

C'è lei
I colori della vita
Dei cieli blu
Una come lei non la troverò mai più

Amazing. The lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with the English original!
I can resist everything except temptation
dylanthropos estin zoon politikon

Rachelle Cohen of the Herald's got it right, methinks. On why Rendell won in Pennsylvania, and O'Brien lost in Massachusetts. Note especially paragraphs three through five.

Rendell projected regular guy. O'Brien projected ... personality of a different sort.
Stephen Fry in prison

My accent and my vocabulary endeared me to everyone. Again, I had expected nothing but jeering cries of "Oh I say! How absolutely topping, don't you know?" and similar inaccurate mockeries, but I think the inmates enjoyed the confusion I caused to the screws who found it difficult to talk to me without thinking of me as Officer Class or suspecting me to be some Home Office official's son, planted to keep an eye on things.

"Don't think me some awful antinomian anarch, sir," I might say to one of the screws, "but is the rule about drinking hot cocoa in precisely forty seconds not perhaps dispensable? The ensuing scalding of the soft tissues about the uvula is most aggravating."

-- Moab, p. 346

Something tells me that young Mr Fry might not have fared so well in a hoosegow here in the States.
Vast post chez Video Mel ...

An excellent, entertaining and engaging DC travelogue from Mr O'Rama.

I have a bit of blogger's block. (Now, watch : eight or nine posts will follow between now & midnight.)

And I'm still tempted to talk politics.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Absolutely right. Nœut anymœur.
Say nay to Gray

The archeologist Eve Tushnet has unearthed my paleolithic haruspications about the 2004 Democratic presidential sweepstakes. I'll stick with Lieberman, maybe promote Kerry a notch for Stuart Smalley reasons (he's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, his wife's got more money than Fort Knox). But I didn't know, as I wrote this back in, what?, May? ... that Gov. Gray Davis of California was (1) an abortocentric extremist; (2) wildly unpopular in his home state, even despite his win last evening.

Another name I'd throw into the mix ... and I await affirmation or refutation from Pennsylvania readers ... is Ed Rendell. Don't know much about him, but in the little I've seen of him, he's always struck me as an amiable fellow. Maybe veep material. (Wait. Is this Ed Rendell? Never mind.)

Howard Dean of Vermont is reportedly interested. (Dean has the advantage of being, even to this New Englander, a tabula rasa.) Sam Nunn? Zell Miller? (These two Georgia chaps seem to be patriots, impatient with the more unpalatable excesses of soi-disant "liberalism.")

Robert B. Reich. Failed in the Democratic primary for Massachusetts governor. Impressed many, even those who'd vehemently disagree with him on ... oh, everything ... as a genuinely nice guy. A good-humored progressive? They still exist!

But, trust me, if last night is any indication, and if the Dumb Aquatic Putty continues to say Dubya's a dummy because he added an extra syllable to "subliminal," and if the stridency of infanticide-über-alles rhetoric continues among the world's oldest and most juvenile political party, the President should cruise to a re-election victory, by a margin somewhere between those of 1988 and 1984.
Ah, the tolerance, the sensitivity, the grace, the tact, the unimpeachable nobility of the Democratic Party.

A fellow blogger wonders aloud how Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, one of the junior lieutenants in La Famiglia Kennedy, could have possibly lost the Maryland governor's race.

Chris Matthews attributes the Ehrlich win to "people growing up, no longer voting for celebrity kids -- after all, it's an election, not People magazine."

Yes, the hoary old long-playing record of the Camelot soundtrack is getting a mite scratchy with decades of overplaying.

Then there's this charming little tidbit via Pilgrimage :

At a September debate in Maryland between the candidates for lieutenant governor, supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend passed out Oreo cookies to mock black Republican hopeful Michael Steele. At another debate that month, between Townsend and Republican Bob Ehrlich, Democrats also passed out Oreos -- and then led the crowd in raucous booing of Ehrlich's wife and elderly parents. Afterwards, Democrats keyed the cars of several Ehrlich supporters.

Well, as the Church Lady would say : Isn't that special?

See also Jonathan Last in the Weekly Standard, aptly observing : "Democrats now ARE what they believe Nixon was." It is from the Weekly Standard article that we get the charming little anecdote about Kathleen Kennedy & Co., and other heartwarming tales of Democratic honesty & probity & decency & fairness & gallantry & all-around benevolence.
Election '02 : Obiter dicta

Remarkable paragraph, this, from the Globe :

''One of the assumptions of the O'Brien candidacy was that she would be able to hold the urban ethnic base with her ethnicity,'' said Lou DiNatale, director of the University of Massachusetts poll. ''In fact, her positions on social issues, particularly highlighting abortion in the final debate, seem to have alienated a significant segment of this urban base.''

In liberal Massachusetts (which went for Reagan twice & which has elected its fourth consecutive Republican governor), it's heartening to see that some forms of pro-abort extremism can still be rebuked by the electorate.

Romney is at best 2 micro-millimeters better than O'Brien on this issue ... but when the Democrat giggled during a discussion of lowering the age of consent to 16, it seems even "moderates" were shocked.

Congratulations to John H. Sununu in the Granite State, unharmed by Jeanne Shaheen's abrasively pro-choice ads.

Congratulations to Lieutenant Governors-elect Michael Steele of Maryland and Jennette Bradley of Ohio. Both African-American. Both Republicans !

Congratulations to Norm Coleman, to Jim Talent ... to John Ellis Bush ... to George W. Bush !

Congratulations to Chris Matthews, Peggy Noonan, Brit Hume and the rest, for staying awake and reasonably coherent.

A jeer to CNN Headline News which on its "crawl" had the item : Republicans wrench control of US Senate from Dems.

News flash, folks. This is America. And the voters gave the Republicans control of the Senate.

With the usual skeptical pessimist's reservations, and the necessary asterisks and qualifications, three cheers for the USA.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

The Boston Globe and Catholicism
go together like (if I can steal a George Will-ism) sauerkraut and ice cream

The bad : Yet another author accuses the church of "grave crimes" with respect to the Holocaust. I confess to not having read the article. In fact, I'm not even going to link to it. So there!

The good : Alex Beam on Gilbert!
Worth exploring? Looks like it.

The Poem Tree, an online anthology emphasizing modern metrical verse.

Found it by a Yahoo search for the poet Robert Francis (check out Francis's poetry, esp. "Fall," if you can tolerate the somewhat distractingly cute background graphics).

And here, with suitably understated graphics, is a beautiful quiet poem called "Unsaid," by (my resistance is slowly, slowly dissipating) Dana Gioia.
I'm thinking of starting a Bad Haiku Tuesday

Day before Mittwoch.
Write a tanka, if you like.
Use the comment box!
Very bad choices of words

[ ... ]
Canticum Canticorum

The Song of Songs, from chapter 4

7 Tota pulchra es, amica mea,
et macula non est in te.

8 Veni de Libano, sponsa,
veni de Libano,
respice de capite Amana,
de vertice Sanir et Hermon,
de cubilibus leonum,
de montibus pardorum.

9 Vulnerasti cor meum, soror mea, sponsa,
vulnerasti cor meum in uno oculorum tuorum
et in uno monili torquis tui.

10 Quam pulchri sunt amores tui, soror, mea sponsa;
meliores sunt amores tui vino,
et odor unguentorum tuorum super omnia aromata.

11 Favus distillans labia tua, sponsa;
mel et lac sub lingua tua,
et odor vestimentorum tuorum
sicut odor Libani.

12 Hortus conclusus, soror mea, sponsa,
hortus conclusus, fons signatus;

13 propagines tuae paradisus malorum punicorum
cum optimis fructibus,
cypri cum nardo.

14 Nardus et crocus,
fistula et cinnamomum
cum universis lignis turiferis,
myrrha et aloe
cum omnibus primis unguentis.

15 Fons hortorum,
puteus aquarum viventium,
quae fluunt impetu de Libano.
Morning has broken!

Well, not exactly. We were nearly asleep, but some sundry noises of this placid vale, this happy little spot, this congenial bailiwick did obtrude upon our semisomnolent state.

Yesterday evening, I found what looked to be an excellent resource of Orthodox prayers on some fellow's personal website. But it seems that elsewhere on this site, there's rhetoric about Roman Catholicism which makes the remarks of former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders seem intelligent by comparison. Not a discussion of theological differences, but bigoted fulmination from a Baptist-turned-Orthodox (or semi-Orthodox; he seems to be caught in the jaws of some kind of quasi-fundamentalist hell). This may be addressed further, with actual quotations provided.

Please pardon me, I'm in my mellow-yellow up-with-people mood. I'm very pro-people, at this moment. Major league. Big time.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Fr Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983)
from For the Life of the World; via Doxos

Secularism is a religion... and it "works" and it "helps". Quite frankly if "help" were the criterion one would have to admit that life-centered secularism helps actually more than religion. To compete with it, religion has to present itself as "adjustment to life", "counseling", "enrichment", it has to be publicized in subways and buses as a valuable addition to "your friendly bank" and all the other "friendly dealers": try it, it helps!

For Christianity, help is not the criterion. Truth is the criterion. Salvation ... is not only not identical with help, but is, in fact, opposed to it.

This book was also published under the title Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Herder and Herder, 1965); in my copy, the quotation above appears on page 123 (Chapter 6).
a poem by
edward estlin cummings (1894-1962)

what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer's lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
and yanks immortal stars awry?
Blow king to beggar and queen to seem
(blow friend to fiend;blow space to time)
--when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
the single secret will still be man

what if a keen of a lean wind flays
screaming hills with sleet and snow:
strangles valleys by ropes of thing
and stifles forests in white ago?
Blow hope to terror;blow seeing to blind
(blow pity to envy and soul to mind)
--whose hearts are mountains,roots are trees,
it's they shall cry hello to the spring

what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
bites this universe in two,
peels forever out of his grave
and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
Blow soon to never and never to twice
(blow life to isn't:blow death to was)
--all nothing's only our hugest home;
the most who die,the more we live
a poem by
Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

A learned man came to me once.
He said, "I know the way -- come."
And I was overjoyed at this.
Together we hastened.

Soon, too soon, were we
Where my eyes were useless,
And I knew not the ways of my feet.
I clung to the hand of my friend;
But at last he cried, "I am lost."

Is there any insanely pedantic prosodist out there, someone of a gloriously encyclopedic capacity for retaining the most nugatory nuggets of information, who could tell me the name of the four-syllable poetical foot whose only stress is on the first syllable, exemplorum gratia: "reasonable," "seasonable," "cassowary," "emissary," "ordinary"?

Or would these tetrasyllables be considered trochaic dimeter because, especially in the latter three examples, the 3rd syllable is ever-so-slightly, nonetheless discernibly, louder than syllables two and four?

Later ...

Ah! Here it is!

Paeon : Greek and Latin metrical foot consisting of three short and one long syllables: the first paeon / ' ~ ~ ~ /, the second paeon / ~ ' ~ ~ /, the third paeon / ~ ~ ' ~ /, and the fourth paeon / ~ ~ ~ ' /.

So, "first paeon" it is!
I have just rendered

a brief visitation unto the Dana Gioia website, and can recommend the poem entitled "Rough Country" ... in part, perhaps because I like poems to be rough countries, sometimes. I like words that resist the flow of chatter, the words that make the reader stop, switch to a rhythm other than that of newspaper-prose. Read "Rough Country" aloud, especially the middle lines.

What worries me about Mr Gioia's poetry is that, in the laudable effort to free his work of the more flamboyant and facile eccentricities, he might be at times too cautious. But poetry -- like the Church? -- has room for all kinds. A priest once said in his homily that the Church embraces, among its apologists and evangelists, both the tenacious and the subtle. (One of the happiest phrases this fellow ever came up with!) Similarly, in the family of poetry, you'll find the reticent and the rambunctious. And there's room enough for both, and for all gradations & variations in between. Perhaps, the reticent and the rambunctious can exist in the same poet!

To bring up the name of Estlin Cummings yet again, who wrote

so many selves(so many fiends and gods
each greedier than every)is a man
(so easily one in another hides;
yet man can,being all,escape from none)

-- we have in him someone who wrote metrically irregular, "shocking" sonnets about prostitutes (and can we forget, from etcetera, the sonnet with "the fooling groove intuitive"?) ... who wrote Herrick-like poems about the first violet of spring, who wrote urban pastorals (sitting in mcsorley's ... "outside it was New York and beautifully snowing"), and who often gave us the most mature thought in the guise of nursery rhyme. He alternated politcial jibes ("a politician is an arse upon / which everyone has sat except a man") with beautiful sonnets ("true lovers in each happening of their hearts") that wouldn't be out of place in the Pauline Books & Media Poetry as Prayer series.

There is definitely a popular lyric poetry. Poetry still speaks to people.

Now, what to do about the deplorable postmodernist tendencies in the Anglo-American "epics" of our day? What do to about the lexicographical hermeneutics of the caco-syntactical multivalence of the neo-phonemic discognitive aposiopesis of the gibberistical zxcvbnm of quasi-aleatoric ... oy, it resists parody!

Well, those of us who write can just ignore the pomo crowd, and get on with the business at hand -- producing things that need (in our feeble, strong, or flickering light of discernment) to be written!
by Emily Dickinson

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons --
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes --

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are --

None may teach it -- Any --
'Tis the Seal Despair --
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air --

When it comes, the Landscape listens --
Shadows -- hold their breath --
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death --

:: :: ::


I fear a Man of frugal Speech --
I fear a Silent Man --
Haranguer -- I can overtake --
Or Babbler -- entertain --

But He who weigheth -- While the Rest --
Expend their furthest pound --
Of this Man -- I am wary --
I fear that He is Grand --

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Psalm 134. Ecce nunc.

BEHOLD now, praise the LORD, * all ye servants of the LORD;

2 Ye that by night stand in the house of the LORD, * even in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, * and praise the LORD.

4 The LORD that made heaven and earth * give thee blessing out of Sion.
A pair of Dem women say, Three cheers for "choice"

and one of them (Shannon O'Brien, candidate for governor of Massachusetts) is dropping in the polls, since her truly ugly debate performance a few nights back, in which the erstwhile pro-lifer boasted of her NARAL endorsement. O'Brien now has a 53% unfavorable rating among independents and unenrolled voters; her opponent, Mitt Romney -- also pro-choice, alas, but opposed to lowering the age of consent for abortions -- leads among senior citizens by 20 percentage points.

Moderator Tim Russert reminded O'Brien that 16-year-olders cannot legally see R-rated movies unless accompanied by someone older. When pressed to explain why 16-year-olders should be able to get abortions without their parents' knowledge, O'Brien basically giggled.

The other turn-off about Shannon : She is never wrong. And she'll be the first one to tell you that. Her voice has the very lacerating quality of someone who believes devoutly in her own ideological infallibility.

The other, Jeanne Shaheen, candidate for US Senator in New Hampshire is hoping to score some points against her GOP opponent, pro-life congressman John E. Sununu (son of former Granite State governor and Bush 41 Chief of Staff John H.) -- "John Sununu voted 75 times against a woman's right to choose."

Question : Why doesn't Sununu hit back with ads that remind voters that "pro-choice" has come to mean unswerving pro-abortion extremism, to the point of endorsing partial-birth abortion, a practice which one of the most illustrious Democrats of the last half-century (former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan) has called "infanticide"?

Why doesn't Sununu ask the electorate of his state if ninth-month abortions truly represent (the phrase Shaheen lobs about with such cavalier facility) "New Hampshire values"?

Just a few thoughts as the dies illa (Election Day) impends.
words by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Let the holy anthem rise,
And the choirs of heaven chant it
In the temple of the skies;
Let the mountains skip with gladness
And the joyful valleys ring,
With Hosannas in the highest
To our Savior and our King.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Like the sun from out the wave,
He has risen up in triumph
From the darkness of the grave,
He’s the splendor of the nations,
He’s the lamp of endless day;
He’s the very Lord of glory
Who is risen up today.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Blessèd Jesus make us rise,
From the life of this corruption
To the life that never dies.
May Your glory be our portion,
When the days of time are past,
And the dead shall be awakened
By the trumpet’s mighty blast.
Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

    Author of light, revive my dying spright :
Redeeme it from the snares of all-confounding night.
        Lord, light me to thy blessed way :
For blinde with worldly vaine desires, I wander as a stray.
    Sunne and Moone, Starres and underlights I see,
But all their glorious beames are mists and darkness, being compar'd
        to thee.

    Fountaine of health, my soules deepe wounds recure,
Sweet showres of pitty raine, wash my uncleannesse pure.
        One drop of thy desired grace
The faint and fading hart can raise, and in joyes bosome place.
    Sinne and Death, Hell and tempting Fiends may rage;
But God his owne will guard, and their sharp paines and grief in time