Saturday, November 16, 2002

George F. Will
whose name will surface again, if I ever blog the list of reasons I became a conservative Republican

on liberals' contempt for the ordinary Joe, dating back to the fabulous fifties.

I'm really falling for the JWR website, in a big way.
The crawl on CNN just announced that my governor, Jane M. Swift (R-Mass.), 37, has been diagnosed with viral meningitis. Condition not life-threatening. Still, a scare and a half. Prayers for Governor Swift.
Oh, Lord Jeffery Amherst was a soldier of the King
And he came from across the sea
To the Frenchman and the Indians, he didn't do a thing
In the wilds of this wild country,
In the wilds of this wild country

And for his Royal Majesty, he fought with all his might
For he was a solider loyal and true
And he conquered all the enemies that came within his sight
And he looked 'round for more when he was through.

Oh, Amherst! Brave Amherst!
'Twas a name known to fame in days of yore.
May it ever be glorious Till the sun shall climb the heav'ns no more.

Oh, Lord Jeffery Amherst was the man who gave his name
To our college upon the hill
And the story of his loyalty and bravery and fame
Abides here among us still,
Abides here among us still.

You may talk about your Johnnies and your Elis and the rest
For they are names that time can never dim.
But give us our only Jeffery,
He's the noblest and the best
To the end we will stand fast for him.

Doing my part to malkinize the nation

One of the most estimable and venerable bloggers in the blogosphere has said that his least favorite type of blog is the one where someone links to an article and gives you naught but 5 or 6 words telling you why you should read the article -- nothing more. And all the posts of a given day are composed in like wise.

Tenebrae seems to be turning into that type of blog.

Anyway, here's Michelle Malkin via Jewish World Review, who declares :

The era of radical feminist sexual liberation has produced a generation of shameless skanks.
Niles to Frasier
at the wine-tasting contest

"Prepare to be stomped like a late-harvest Gewürztraminer!"
Even though it makes no sense

I always -- 'always' until I found out otherwise -- thought it was I am the sun and the air.
The mystifying Peggy Noonan

In this column, the sublime Miss N deplores the lack of courtesy among liberals and praises second-hand smoke.

She points out that when you compare second-hand smoke to things like crack cocaine, abortion, violent rap, pornography, the Democratic Party, etc., it's a comparatively small annoyance, the most indiscernible blemish on the countenance of society. (Actually, she didn't list the Dems.)

The occasion of Noonan's disquisition is an idea by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban smoking in all bars.

Noonan's article is at her feisty & lyrical best when she describes the atmosphere of your average place-where-everybody-knows-your-name.

Smoking should continue to be permitted in bars. And forbidden in subway stations. Well, actually it technically "is" forbidden in the Boston subway -- but the law isn't enforced. I should start carrying a fire extinguisher.

Drinking alcohol should be allowed in subways (following Noonan's logic that greater evils exist). If someone on the subway platform drinks, I don't get drunk. If someone on the platform smokes, I, too, am smoking. Whether I want to or not. It is unlibertarian to compel someone to do something he doesn't want to do. Especially when the someone in question is me.

There's more than lefty puritanism at work here. Noonan should talk to a non-smoking barmaid.

Of course, if your average cig had the aroma of certain pipe tobacco ... as opposed to your average car exhaust ... my objections to smoking on subway platforms would diminish considerably.

Oh, yes, and smoking pot should be legal ... but not on subway platforms.
Yesterday's quiz

The answer is (b) 3. In the last fifteen Presidential elections, the Democratic ticket achieved a popular majority thrice : in 1944, with FDR; in 1964, with LBJ; in 1976, with Jimmy Carter (that last, with 50.1%, and winning fewer states than Gerald Ford).

So, since the death of Roosevelt, only twice ... and in my lifetime, only once.
Making society live long and prosper

Sort of.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Tracy Chapman

Title song from her 2000 cd, perhaps her very best.

Memorandum to self : there's a 2002 cd (Let It Rain) that is as yet unbought. Must remedy that situation.

Telling Stories

There is fiction in the space between
The lines on your page of memories
Write it down but it doesn't mean
You're not just telling stories
There is fiction in the space between
You and me

There is fiction in the space between
You and reality
You will do and say anything
To make your everyday life
Seem less mundane
There is fiction in the space between
You and me

There's a science fiction in the space between
You and me
A fabrication of a grand scheme
Where I am the scary monster
I eat the city and as I leave the scene
In my spaceship I am laughing
In your remembrance of your bad dream
There's no one but you standing

Leave the pity and the blame
For the ones who do not speak
You write the words to get respect and compassion
And for posterity
You write the words and make believe
There is truth in the space between

There is fiction in the space between
You and everybody
Give us all what we need
Give us one more sad sordid story
But in the fiction of the space between
Sometimes a lie is the best thing
Sometimes a lie is the best thing
Puns that would make
even P. Madrid & J. Miller groan

If a man and a woman make love behind the shrubbery, are they hedge-row-sexual?

Is a lazy weblogger an "underarchiver"?

Does Seinfeld's "soup Nazi" have a Gazpacho Gestapo?
Multiple choice

Number of times in the last 60 years that the Democrats received a majority (over 50%) of the popular vote in a Presidential election :

(a) 2.
(b) 3.
(c) 4.
(d) 5.
(e) 6.

Answer perhaps tomorrow.

Now we've got pop-ups on blogspot ? ?
At #21 in this set of 99 random thoughts, I make mention of a book called Drinking : A Love Story by the late Boston Phoenix columnist Caroline Knapp (1959-2002). I've begun reading it, and it is -- as I suspected it would be, for me -- an essential book, a book in which I readily recognize a certain kinship with the writer.

There will certainly be more on this book later. I've begun underlining certain passages in pencil.
a sonnet by
Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849)


The mellow year is hasting to its close;
The little birds have almost sung their last,
Their small notes twitter in the dreary blast --
That shrill-piped harbinger of early snows;
The patient beauty of the scentless rose,
Oft with the morn's hoar crystal quaintly glassed,
Hangs, a pale mourner for the summer past,
And makes a little summer where it grows.
In the chill sunbeam of the faint brief day
The dusky waters shudder as they shine;
The russet leaves obstruct the straggling way
Of oozy brooks, which no deep banks define;
And the gaunt woods, in ragged, scant array,
Wrap their old limbs with sombre ivy-twine.
James Thomson (1700-48).
From the "Autumn" section of The Seasons.

But see the fading many-coloured woods,
Shade deepening over shade, the country round
Imbrown; a crowded umbrage dusk and dun,
Of every hue, from wan declining green
To sooty dark. These now the lonesome muse,
Low whispering, lead into their leaf-strewn walks,
And give the season in its latest view.

Meantime, light shadowing all, a sober calm
Fleeces unbounded ether : whose least wave
Stands tremulous, uncertain where to turn
The gentle current; while illumined wide,
The dewy-skirted clouds imbibe the sun,
And through their lucid veil his softened force
Shed o'er the peaceful world. Then is the time,
For those whom virtue and whom nature charm,
To steal themselves from the degenerate crowd,
And soar above this little scene of things :
To tread low-thoughted vice beneath their feet;
To soothe the throbbing passions into peace;
And woo lone Quiet in her silent walks.

Thus solitary, and in pensive guise,
Oft let me wander o'er the russet mead,
And through the saddened grove, where scarce is heard
One dying strain, to cheer the woodman's toil.
Haply some widowed songster pours his plaint,
Far, in faint warblings, through the tawny copse;
While congregated thrushes, linnets, larks,
And each wild throat, whose artless strains so late
Swelled all the music of the swarming shades,
Robbed of their tuneful souls, now shivering sit
On the dead tree, a dull despondent flock :
With not a brightness waving o'er their plumes,
And nought save chattering discord in their note.
O let not, aimed from some inhuman eye,
The gun the music of the coming year
Destroy; and harmless, unsuspecting harm,
Lay the weak tribes a miserable prey
In mingled murder, fluttering on the ground!

The pale descending year, yet pleasing still,
A gentler mood inspires; for now the leaf
Incessant rustles from the mournful grove;
Oft startling such as studious walk below,
And slowly circles through the waving air.
But should a quicker breeze amid the boughs
Sob, o'er the sky a leafy deluge streams;
Till choked, and matted with the dreary shower,
The forest walks at every rising gale,
Roll wide the withered waste, and whistle bleak.
Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields;
And, shrunk into their beds, the flowery race
Their sunny robes resign. E'en what remained
Of stronger fruits falls from the naked tree;
And woods, fields, gardens, orchards all around,
The desolated prospect thrills the soul.
Stephen Fry

An excerpt from his novel The Liar, quoted by himself in his autobiography Moab Is My Washpot :

For once Adrian had remained silent. Something was terribly wrong.

It had taken him two painful terms to identify the symptoms. He looked them up in all the major textbooks. There was no doubt about it. All the authorities concurred : Shakespeare, Tennyson, Ovid, Keats, Georgette Heyer, Milton, they were of one opinion. It was love. The Big One.

Cartwright of the sapphire eyes and golden hair, Cartwright of the Limbs and Lips : he was Petrarch's Laura, Milton's Lycidas, Catullus's Lesbia, Tennyson's Hallam, Shakespeare's fair boy and dark lady, the moon's Endymion. Cartwright was Garbo's salary, the National Gallery, he was cellophane : he was the tender trap, the blank unholy surprise of it all and the bright golden haze on the meadow : he was honey-honey, sugar-sugar, chirpy chirpy cheep-cheep and his baby-love : the voice of the turtle could be heard in the land, there were angels dining at the Ritz and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

-- Moab, p. 237

This reader speaks, as always, only for himself, and says that it's mighty hard to resist a prose-stylist of such ... effervescence and exuberance.
Selected verses from the Collected Poems
of Theodore Roethke

Angel within me, I asked,
Did I ever curse the sun?
Speak and abide.

[p. 59]

:: :: :: :: ::

Some morning thing came, beating its wings.
The great elm filled with birds.

[p. 60]

:: :: :: :: ::

I warm myself with cold.

[p. 251]

Thursday, November 14, 2002

The kibbutz massacre

Jeff Jacoby's column by way of the Jewish World Review (in which he notes a startling coincidence)

and via the Jerusalem Post, a father's eulogy.
"I've always thought that Catholics were, for the most part, pro-life democrats"
continuing the conversation

With a small "d," to be sure! But the blogger meant capital-D (or D-minus) Democrats, as in the American political party.

I say, huzzah, hoo-ray, and bravissimo! Three cheers, and more than three, for pro-life Democrats! When or if you can find them. They seem to be as rare and strange as spearmint ravioli.

And if the pro-life Dem in question is, let us say, a legislator who undercuts his own pro-life work by voting for an aggressively, unswervingly pro-choice President ...

But when the intellect of man is forced to choose between the "pro-life" and the "Democrat," which term of the binomial, pray tell, which element of the formula, adjective or noun, should carry more weight?

I don't claim to have encyclopedic knowledge of every encyclical, apostolic letter, sermon and allocution penned by His Holiness John Paul II. But I'm fairly sure he hasn't written an encyclical entitled Evangelium Partis Democraticae.

And while the Holy Father certainly endorses moderate capitalism over unfettered Randian libertarianism, and would be the first to stand up for solicitude for the downtrodden, the infirm, elderly, handicapped, impoverished ... and lest we forget, unborn, it's hard to imagine that he would, were he an American citizen, embrace a party which :

(1) attempts to scare people into believing that the other major party is nothing but a cabal of billionaire racists intent on burning down battered women's shelters, bombing U Cal Berkeley, and forcing the elderly to subsist on cat food and $60 a month

(2) indefatigably proposes the pentad of Dubya's Dumb, Raise Taxes, Race Quotas, Kill Babies, and Gay Marriage as an innovative and exciting "improvement" over more conventional, more mainstream ideas.
Two poems by Emily Dickinson


I think the Hemlock likes to stand
Upon a Marge of Snow --
It suits his own Austerity
And satisfies an awe

That men, must slake in Wilderness --
And in the Desert -- cloy --
An instinct for the Hoar, the Bald --
Lapland's -- necessity --

The Hemlock's nature thrives -- on cold --
The Gnash of Northern winds
Is sweetest nutriment -- to him --
His best Norwegian Wines --

To satin Races -- he is nought --
But Children on the Don,
Beneath his Tabernacles, play,
And Dnieper Wrestlers, run.

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


Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --
Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do ...

and songs for idle tongues to sing.

Two elements of this song compete for primacy of preternatural brilliance : the line "your prejudice won't keep you warm tonight" and the wonderfully sarcastic "oh, ho-ho" flourish at the tail-end of the refrain ...
The early seventies

Am I the only one who thought, circa age four, that bad, bad Leroy Brown (of the Jim Croce song) had a raisin in his shoe?
Her : "That's not a kiss. This is a kiss."

[Forty-five seconds of deep, passionate tonsil-hockey ensue.]

Him : "Do you know how to make sauce?"

-- Taral Hicks and Lillo Brancato in A Bronx Tale (1993)

Emily Dickinson's house I found to be seriously ordinary. The one surprise came when I saw a portrait of Emily, her brother, and her sister -- a painting of the siblings in their teens or early tens -- through which I learned that the poet's hair was auburn verging on red, a fiery tint especially when contrasted with those colorless daguerreotypes to which we are accustomed.

The real surprises about Emily Dickinson, the genuine excitement, comes by way of the poetry -- we are still discovering arrestingly strange, enticingly extraordinary novelties of phrasing and expression -- after nearly 18 years of owning the Collected Poems. It's possible that I'll be blogging some more of my favorites in the coming days.

When the tour guide wanted to make a point about textual variance between pre-1955 and post-1955 editions of Dickinson's work, one visitor (who has trouble keeping silence about such things) helpfully provided two examples.

Emily apparently kept a herbarium -- pressed leaves, flowers, etc. -- with the names of the specimens in the proper botanical-taxonomical Latin.

We did enjoy lunch, the four of us -- before the homestead visit -- in the Boltwood Tavern of the Lord Jeffery [sic] Amherst Inn. (Something about liberal college towns instills a hunger for turkey sandwiches with strange green stuff -- like avocado or sprouts. Not to mention the tomato, the brie, and the maple-tinted honey-mustard!)

The weather was grey, sporadically rainy, and as dreary as a marriage of a Smiths song and a Thomas Hardy poem -- somehow suitable for a trip to a bailiwick which, for "personal reasons," I quite immoderately despise.

But all in all, not a bad day.
An address by Bishop Gregory

about which the Boston Globe, in its temperate moderate respectful fashion, screamed : How dare he speak of false prophets? Troot hoyts doughnut.

But to be less glib about it, Bishop Gregory's sentence about "false prophets" was clearly not directed at victims of abuse, nor at other orthodox Catholics who eagerly want to see house cleaned. The Globe decontextualized the words "false prophet" so as to make the irenic prelate seem like a raving lunatic.

Sorry, I don't have the link to the Globe article (so much the better, perhaps); it's already been "archived" & registration is required, etc. etc.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

poem #1569 (T. H. Johnson edition)
by Emily Dickinson

The Clock strikes one that just struck two --
Some schism in the Sum --
A Vagabond for Genesis
Has wrecked the Pendulum --

Which theologian am I? Vide supra, dudes and dudettes.
Ved-dee een-tair-ess-teenk .....

"We reject the false doctrine that the church could have permission to hand over the form
of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the
prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day."
You are Karl Barth!
You like your freedom, and are pretty stubborn against authority! You don't
care much for other people's opinions either. You can come up with your own fun, and
often enough you have too much fun. You are pretty popular because you let people have their
way, even when you have things figured out better than them.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

... but to be honest I got Augustine the 1st time I tried. Maybe the pre-conversion Augustine, because I feel absolutely no kinship with Gus of Hip whatsoever. (I'd have been happy with Fulton Sheen, who might not be considered by some stuffy folk a "theologian" but no matter.)

The second time I took the quiz I decided, for a lark, to answer in such a way that some mélange, some blend, some tri-animate amalgam of Hans Küng, Jim Morrison and the Tasmanian Devil would be the ineluctable result (by the way, is "ineluctable" one of the St Blog's drinking cues? It ought to be) ... well, this is what came up, and somehow it seems more fitting.

Oh, yes, more on Amherst a bit later. I still execrate the town, but the day-trip out there was not bad at all.

Sign seen in Gloucester, Massachusetts
as fishermen protest regulations that cripple their industry

Out of work? Hungry? Eat an environmentalist!
This is one of those days that the pages of history teach us are best spent lying in bed.

-- Roland Young as Uncle Willie in The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

A glorious gray day of splendid foliage

Some rain in the afternoon, but otherwise awesome. The kind of gray cool November day for which one yearns all summer with an almost physical lust.

C S Lewis said somewhere in Surprised by Joy that he liked bleak, northern, gray, cold, stark, autumnal-wintry landscapes, and almost lusted for them ... I might be confused; and even if not, I don't have the exact words on hand, because I borrowed Surprised from the library.

Lewis also admits to having liked Longfellow's translation of Tegner's Drapa, a Norse poem, for conveying that kind of scene :

I saw the pallid corpse
Of the dead sun
Borne through the Northern sky.

Amherst tomorrow.
From the UK's Daily Mirror

Words of wisdom, worth the heeding

1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings."

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

5. And when God, who created the entire universe with all of its glories, decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

6. You should not confuse your career with your life.

7. No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

8. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

9. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

10. Never lick a steak knife.

11. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.

12. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.

13. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.

14. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

15. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.

16. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers. (Not I, says dylan, not I ! )

17. The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.

18. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important -- Pay attention. It never fails.)

19. Your friends love you anyway.

Thought for the day :

Never be afraid to try something new.

Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark.

A large group of professionals built the Titanic.

Dylan Thomas

"One, I am a Welshman. Two, I am a drunkard. Three, I am a lover of the human race ... especially of women."
The marginalized left?

I've added a few links to the left-hand margin of this here web-log. To the blog-list, I've added Michael Roesch's recently re-christened Res et Rationes ... and to the Other Sites (Faith, Poetry, Culture, Politics, In No Particular Order) I've added :

-- Jewish World Review

-- The Weekly Standard

-- Poems of Catullus

I'm nothing if not eclectic. To the point of being eccentric!
Hope the link works : an article about the Democrats' man of the hour, US Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., first Congressman to have been born in the 1970s. He enjoys a reputation for moderation, and the respect of many Republicans. Which seems to indicate that the apple has fallen a safe distance from the tree.

I love the "has been perceived."

Some Tennessee Democrats say privately that Ford's biggest liability in winning statewide office is his family, which for decades has operated a major political machine in Memphis.

At the top is his father Harold Ford Sr., the first black Tennessee congressman, who defeated a well-entrenched white Republican in 1974. Ford Sr. has been perceived as racially divisive; he once referred to backers of a black Republican opponent as "white devils." But one of Ford's uncles, state Sen. John Ford, could pose a real problem for his nephew, depending on the outcome of state and federal investigations into an alleged kickback scheme involving government payments to childcare centers.

As Democrats ponder how best to deceive the country into thinking they have good ideas present their innovative and exciting new visions for America, it seems that there are two paths they can go by (but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on ...). The path of Ford elder -- petulance, arrogance, derision -- or the path of Ford younger -- gentility, good humor, and temperamental moderation. It'll be interesting to see which path they choose.
Reason? That dreary shed, that hutch for grubby schoolboys!
The hedgewren's song says something else.

-- Theodore Roethke, "I Cry, Love! Love!"
true lovers in each happening of their hearts
by edward estlin cummings (1894-1962)

true lovers in each happening of their hearts
live longer than all which and every who;
despite what fear denies,what hope asserts,
what falsest both disprove by proving true

(all doubts,all certainties,as villains strive
and heroes through the mere mind's poor pretend
--grim comics of duration:only love
immortally occurs beyond the mind)

such a forever is love's any now
and her each here is such an everywhere,
even more true would truest lovers grow
if out of midnight dropped more suns than are

(yes;and if time should ask into his was
all shall,their eyes would never miss a yes)

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

The syntax of that couplet is difficult, but having heard the tape of Cummings reading the poem has helped a little. "If time should ask into his was / all shall" or, if this order helps to clarify, "If time should ask All Shall into his Was."

If the whole world's future is to be non-existent. If all tomorrows are dead. If the gods should declare that next year is cancelled, or as defunct as yesteryear. If fate should decree that "futures are obsolete, pasts are unborn" as Cummings said elsewhere, still, the eyes of the "true lovers" would never miss a Yes.

The word "yes" served Estlin Cummings as (at least!) noun, adjective, and verb. Cummings is certainly, to my mind, the poet of the dolce stil nuovo (the new sweet style) of the American 20th century. He is the poet of springtime, of birth and of rebirth.
Dante sees Beatrice for the first time
La Vita Nuova, section 2

At that moment

I say most truly that the spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in trembling it said these words : "Here is a deity stronger than I; who, coming, shall rule over me." At that moment the animate spirit, which dwelleth in the lofty chamber whither all the senses carry their perceptions, was filled with wonder, and speaking more especially unto the spirits of the eyes, said these words : "Your beatitude hath now been made manifest unto you." At that moment the natural spirit, which dwelleth there where our nourishment is administered, began to weep, and in weeping said these words : "Alas! how often shall I be disturbed from this time forth." I say that, from that time forward, Love quite governed my soul; which was immediately espoused to him, and with so safe and undisputed a lordship, (by virtue of strong imagination) that I had nothing left for it but to do his bidding continually. He oftentimes commanded me to seek if I might see this youngest of the Angels : wherefore I in my boyhood often went in search of her, and found her so noble and praiseworthy that certainly of her might have been said those words of the poet Homer,

She seemed not to be the daughter of a mortal man, but of God.

Translated into English by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The View from the Core 2.10

Poetry page. War poetry and patriotism. And "Harvest Moon : 1916" by Josephine Preston Peabody. Note the Sapphic stanzas!

Monday, November 11, 2002

Ah, yes, the tolerant left.

They're just so much more c-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n-a-t-e than us viciousmeanspiritedintolerantinsensitive right-wingers.

I feel so guilty for having voted for the Gruesome Oppression Party (GOP). Why not vote for those open-minded civilized Democrats instead?
The Mighty Barrister

on media racism.
God bless Barry Crimmins

The Boston-based arch-leftist makes Fidel Castro look like Jack Kemp. He once observed that an "intellectual conservative" is a thug with excellent grammar. Here is a link to his quips, sententiae & obiter dicta.

I must admit. This bit -- apparently written on Election Night -- gave me a mighty chuckle :

About 10:30, my dog Lloyd went out and demonstrated his solidarity for Democrats by getting skunked.
A reader asks

eagerly, almost impatiently, in reference to one of the bloggings herebelow, "Who is Cynthia?"

And with appropriate borrowings from Wisdom chapter 7, Sirach chapter 24, and the Song of Songs, I answer :

We speak with reticence about the holy mysteries of our lives; it is quite possible that in attempting to communicate who she is, something will get lost in the translation, or one will resort to oft-heard poetic platitudes.

Suffice it to say that the name stands for the one who is inspiratrix of every noble impulse of the heart, every love poem of the last decade (both the written and the unwritten); she is the earthly and enfleshed embodiment of every grace and every blessing, sweeter than honey from the honeycomb and terrible as an army with banners : dark and beautiful as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Salma; the dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the hills, to whom we plead, "Let us see your face, let us hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely." Sweet, but also, as said before : "terrible as an army with banners."

She is, in short, if you must know la vita nuova. Nuova? Perduta. The newness of life that seems, from this vantage point, irrevocably lost. I shall not look upon her like again.

She is the one of whom all poems, all sonnets, all symphonies, all art in the world's museums constitute but the faintest and feeblest prefigurement. C'est le premier matin du monde, we thought at the first glimpse, comme une fleur confuse exhalée dans la nuit. Un souffle nouveau qui se lève des ondes. Un jardin bleu s'épanouit.

She is a certain pure emanation of the glory of God, and a vapour of the power of God. She gives birth to honourable love and to reverence, to peace and to holy hope. To the sweetest meditations of the mind. She is the radiance that streams from the everlasting Light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness. She is the rose of Sharon and a lily among the thorns.

Please forgive the brevity and inadequacy of our answer.
Former VP to release rap CD
in January 2003

Oh, please forgive me

but I'm in one of those Smiths moods again. What she asked of me at the end of the day ...
The Weekly Standard's Top Ten Letters

Scroll down to #10.

People like the President. Running as the Dubya Sucks candidate, by and large, did not translate to victory.

Politeness counts. In tennis lingo, (2) Romney def. (1) O'Brien. Also, in this connection : people avoid the shrill and arrogant.
From three days ago

Lane Core on the pirates' shipwreck, with especial reference to Maryland.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Stephen Fry
on his beloved, who

was even more beautiful than I had supposed. Even more beautiful than I had ever imagined it was possible to imagine imagining beauty. Beautiful in a way that made me realise that I had never even known before what beautiful really meant : not in people, nature, taste or sound.

There are many in Norfolk for whom "big city" means Norwich.

"I been to Norwich once and I didn't like it," they say. "Swaffham's big enough for me." They can only guess at what London, Los Angeles or Manhattan might be like.

I realised at this moment that I had only ever experienced the townships of Charming, Pretty, Attractive, Comely, Sweet, Delicious, Handsome and Cute and now I had finally penetrated the city limits of Beautiful. I was instantly aware of Beauty and the whole Greek and Keatsian fuss about it made sense.

Just as when an artist shows you a new view of something -- as Matisse for example might show you a quality in an apple that you had never noticed before and from then on you are able to see that same quality in every apple you encounter -- so I would from this second onwards be able forever to see beauty, real beauty, in familiar things all around me. Before this moment I may have thought a particular sunrise or hillside was stunning or attractive but after this moment I would be able to see beauty there. Absolute beauty.

-- Moab, pp. 225-6

(With the painter and the apple, I think Fry confuses Matisse with Cézanne, but no matter.)
A sonnet by Jorge Luis Borges
which makes me wish I knew a little more Spanish

La Cierva Blanca

¿De qué agreste balada de la verde Inglaterra,
de qué lámina persa, de qué región arcana
de las noches y días que nuestro ayer encierra,
vino la cierva blanca que soñé esta mañana?

Duraría un segundo. La vi cruzar el prado
y perderse en el oro de una tarde ilusoria,
leve criatura hecha de un poco de memoria
y de un poco de olvido, cierva de un solo lado.

Los númenes que rigen este curioso mundo
me dejaron soñarte pero no ser tu dueño;
tal vez en un recodo del porvenir profundo

te encontraré de nuevo, cierva blanca de un sueño.
Yo también soy un sueño fugitivo que dura
un tiempo más que el sueño del prado y la blancura.

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Via fotos del apocalipsis.
The antidote to Miss Gulch's theme

A beautiful version of this song was featured in the 1992 film Peter's Friends, a film with one big flaw (it seems predicated on the assumption that all one needs is a good sex life, and one will be happier than the saints in heaven) and several virtues, among them the able mostly-British cast of Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Thompson's mum Phyllida Law, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, American comedienne Rita Rudner, and -- stop me if you think that you've heard this name before -- Stephen Fry.

Not all members of St Blog's would approve of the film. They'd definitely approve of the song. So beautifully arranged in that film.

I often ask myself which character in the film I most resemble. It breaks down thus :

42% Peter
42% Andrew
10% Maggie
6% everybody else
Title of autobiography

If I write one -- and it'll be read by no one except its author, that's for sure -- the title will likely be A Misanthrope's Concerto : Monologue of a Stand-up Tragedian.

Concise, isn't it?

The epigraph would be these lines from Walt Whitman, in "Song of Myself," section 51 :

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.

I love that third line.

I am large.

It's got such honesty and confidence and endaring brashness. I'll leave "en-daring" for "endearing."

I contain multitudes.

You can say that again!
Continuing the conversation
and in my case, taking it down a notch (but not changing positions)

At Ono's Thoughts, Mr Ekeh blogs passionately -- and compassionately -- about, as he sees it, the need for Republicans to adopt some Democratic values : solicitude toward the downtrodden, the elderly, battered women. And he is certainly right.

But I think that his argument does present us with, in some cases, the fallacy of the false alternative. And in one case, with the term "pro-life Nazi" -- a term that rather wants explaining. (I guess he means candidates like David Duke. Note from 6 years ago, the last time that scoundrel sought office. He lost big time in the Republican primaries. And if Mr Ekeh is remotely aware of all the associations that obtain to the word "Nazi," he couldn't smack the adjective "pro-life" onto it without a keen sense of the ridiculous.)

I know of no Republican candidate who is campaigning against battered women's shelters, and precious few Republican candidates who do not have a plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

The Democrats might more ably defend these life issues, themselves, if they were not funding programs that are either needless or harmful, or what have you.

-- Should there be bilingual education or English immersion? A recent referendum in Massachusetts went 70-30 in favor of the latter.

-- Should there be any funds directed toward programs to promote gay and lesbian awareness in the public schools? Consider : we have a sitcom like Will & Grace. Tolerance is compulsory. We're in no danger, not since Culture Club crooned "Karma Chameleon," of being unaware of gay folks. Do we need the evangelists for homosexuality to be preaching in public schools? If a state is using money for that purpose, is the money being misallocated?

-- How often, and by how much, should public officials raise their own salaries?

-- Has education improved at all in the less than 30 years that this country has had a Dept. of Education?

-- Is universal health care truly universal if it excludes the unborn as Lebens unwürdig (speaking of Nazis) ?

We could, to coin a plagiarism, multiply examples.
Well, that's about right ...

Which Beatles Album Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

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Memorandum to self
so please, no one else read it!

Get the "love story " out of the library. That is, if it isn't such a good book that every copy has been stolen from the library already. This seems to happen to Cummings.

Might also have to read (pace the NaNoWriMo crew) Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

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Commonweal discovers St Blog's

Can't link to it, because it ain't up yet, but Commonweal has a decent-ish article on St Blog's by Peter Feuerherd entitled "Catholics Online." The customary condescension toward the tight world of Catholic "orthodoxy" (as if C'weal were somehow one-fourteenth as popular as EWTN!), but a few of the big names are mentioned with varying degrees of praise. The author's attention turns favorably toward Ms Welborn, Mr Shea, and Mr Sullivan.

It's a gift susbscription I have. I think it runs out with the next issue. Fitting, methinks, that the last issue of Commonweal I receive will likely contain the coverage on the recent plebiscite.

Commonweal has the lamentable tendency of putting a question mark where holy Church has put a period, or even where God Almighty has put an exclamation point!
Confiteor Deo omnipotenti,
beatae Mariae semper virgini,
beato Michaeli archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistae,
sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo,
omnibus Sanctis et vobis fratres,
quia peccavi nimis
cogitatione, verbo, et opere,
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper virginem,
beatum Michaelem archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam,
sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum,
omnes Sanctos, et vos fratres,
orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus,
et dimissis peccatis vestris,
perducat vos ad vitam aeternam.


Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

Please indulge me. At least two more brief passages of his sublimely profane autobiography Moab Is My Washpot, given a perceptive and laudatory notice (a "rave review") by one of the nation's most prominent and hallowed journals of conservatism (National Review).

In Moab, Fry devotes many a page to discussing the greatest love of his adolescence. That love was another young lad.

My sense of kinship with Fry is in no wise impaired by this. For his Matthew, one can for oneself readily substitute any other name (Amanda, Beatrice, Cynthia, Deborah, Emily) ... Besides, when Fry writes about Matthew, twenty-five years after the fact, it is evident that the primarily impulse in his reminiscence is not eroticism -- though he doesn't in any way deny that that's there -- but awe.

This book is in no danger of being found in the library of a Camaldolese monastery, as I wrote in a review of it elsewhere. But it is, to my mind, a gem. It's been described as "a gay coming-of-age memoir," not inaccurately, but too reductively. It's a Stephen Fry coming-of-age memoir. He wins us over with his ebullient dexterity of language, his honesty, his charm ... and passages on the beauty of his beloved that could be, with a slight adjustment of idiom -- and yes, orientation -- Dante writing about Beatrice, Petrarch about Laura, dylan_tm618 about Cynthia ... etcetera etcetera etcetera.

Here is Fry, describing how his universe changed one bright September day. I empathize and sympathize beyond completely.

And then I saw him and nothing was ever the same again.

The sky was never the same colour, the moon never the same shape : the air never smelt the same, food never tasted the same. Every word I knew changed its meaning, everything that was once stable and firm became as insubstantial as a puff of wind, and every puff of wind became a solid thing I could feel and touch.

This is where language is so far behind music. The chord that Max Steiner brings in when Bogart catches sight of Bergman in his bar in Casablanca, how can I bring that into a book of black ink marks on white paper? The swell and surge of the Liebestod from Tristan, Liszt's Sonata in B minor -- even Alfred Brendel can't conjure that up from this keyboard, this alphanumeric piano beneath my fingers. Maybe, because sometimes pop music can hit the mark as well as anything, I could write you out a playlist. We would start with the Monkees :

And then I saw her face, and now I'm a believer
Naaah ... it's no use.

There's nothing for it but old words and cold print. Besides, you've been there yourself. You've been in love. Why am I getting so hysterical? Just about every film, every book, every poem, every song is a love story. This is not a genre with which you are unfamiliar even if by some fluke (whether a cursed fluke or a blessed one I would be the last able to decide) you have never been there yourself.
-- Moab Is My Washpot : An Autobiography (US edition Random House, 1999), pp. 217-8

Another excerpt soon to follow.
Pondering a post of the Professio Fidei

Recently, I thought of posting the Professio here at Tenebrae. A number of reasons why I think of doing so, but a number of reasons why I probably won't.

One reason I thought of posting was that I encountered some disaffecting rhetoric about the Roman Catholic Church on the web-page of a fellow who identifies himself as Orthodox, and out of something more than simple reactionary impulse, I wanted to show solidarity with my Church, and with the Universal Pontiff, and with the Magisterium.

I also want to show solidarity with my fellow Catholic bloggers who are out there defending the faith against misconceptions with able and good-humored apologetics. And I also find myself (not quite a reason for posting the Professio, but perhaps connected somehow) in urgent need of the prayers of my fellow Catholics -- and, heck, of everyone. But I need the prayers of the Church, liturgical and private. I need the prayers of my brothers and sisters -- and I hope I have them, whether or not I post the Professio here!

Reasons why I will probably not post the Professio :

Neither this web-log, nor its predecessor (error503 : La vita nuova) could be considered an apologetics web-log. It comes from a Catholic standpoint, inevitably, ineluctably, instinctively -- but it also contains matter that might seem out of place in a Catholic weblog (e.g., snippets from the autobiography of a gay British actor).

Eastern Orthodoxy continues to exert an attraction for this believer, almost to the point where one ponders conversion. I believe that the Western Church, in terms of liturgy especially, needs to recover what the East (both Orthodox and Catholic) has never lost. Join me in praying that amity will increase, and enmity will decrease, between Catholics and Orthodox.

If I posted the Professio, it could be interpreted as either yielding to a kind of "peer pressure," or as exerting pressure for others to do so.

It might also lead some folks to think that I am trying to create the impression of being more virtuous than others. Trust me here. I am not more virtuous than others!

Also, I note the words "the power of" in the English version of the Professio seen at one web-log; and in a post many days ago, I mentioned that I don't see why those words are there. Incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine.

And, as seen immediately herebelow, there is my unclarity on what the Church teaches about the death penalty, and my resistance to certain ways of opposing the death penalty, and to certain arguments against the death penalty.

And there is the feeling, quite often, that it is sheer effrontery to consider myself a Christian at all!

I'd end by saying, as others have said, that I don't want my non-posting of the Professio to be interpreted as a kind of militancy against, or disloyalty to, the Holy See. I'm not a theologian, just a lowly blogger whose aim here at Tenebrae is to share poetry and meditation and personal insight, nourished (it is hoped) by the Church of one's baptism. For all the factors listed above, and for at least one more reason, one hesitates to post the Professio.

But I repeat to my readers : Please pray for me, a poor sinner. Thank you, all, and God be with you all, to maintain you in hope and holiness of life both now and always.