Saturday, November 30, 2002

possibly tomorrow

another prayer by Eric Milner-White

a paragraph about drinking from a book called Drinking

¡ ¡ buenas noches a todos ! !
cummings yet again

Me up at does

out of the floor
quietly Stare

a poisoned mouse

still who alive

is asking What
have i done that

You wouldn't have
Eucharist, eutrapelia, & Magnificat origami
a deep theological meditation

I went to daily Mass today, for the feast of Saint Andrew. I announce this as if I ran a mile in less than four minutes, because it is, alas, becoming something of a rarity. It used to be that I attended celebration of the Eucharist, on average, five times a week.

The celebrant and homilist is one of my favorite priests in the whole wide world. Eutrapelia personified.

1. Take Barry Fitzgerald from Going My Way.
2. Make him an inch or two shorter, and Italian, with a thick Italian accent.
3. Make him exuberantly happy and (on occasion) asphyxiatingly funny.

I believe this man is a living saint.

It has not been a very eucharistic, eutrapeliac month for me. There is physical, tangible, palpable evidence of this tristfulness of mood and temper, this sadness of heart and soul. The condition of my November Magnificat, the monthly booklet of Mass readings, mattins and vespers. It's in nearly perfect condition. Very few of the pages are dog-eared, and the cover has not received the benefices of the wayward elements.

Did I say "dog-eared"? When I do use Magnificat, to keep my page, I often employ a most complicated system of folding and re-folding : sometimes in triangular patterns, sometimes rectilinear. On special occasions, a given page might have more pleats and creases than an accordion. Call it the latest hobby to sweep Catholicism : Magnificat origami !!

I read yesterday morning's psalm as this morning's prayer : Psalm 69. It seemed fitting.
Hoc poema scriptum hodie

contra Norelco

Both best-friend S. and barmaid J. agree :
I should re-grow my lately-shaved goatee.
Hoc poema scriptum
dylario tremente in Januario
anno redemptionis nostrae

contra sinistram

How can a puritanical partisan
Know the holiest moment when love begins?
When will obstreperous twerps of Tolerance
Be still, and listen to love's smallest voice?
this, the 60th of his 95 poems

dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)

trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)

honour the past
and welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)

never mind a world
with its villains or heroes
(for god likes girls
and tomorrow and the earth)
this post

has been deleted
Ethiopian salutations to Mary

Found in the bimonthly periodical Catholic Near East (now called CNEWA), issue for January-February 1998. Originally blogged at error503 on July 30, 2002.

:: :: :: :: ::

Salutation unto the memorial of thy name, O thou who dost resemble a star that is seen by thy people, even when dark clouds have enveloped the light thereof ...

Salutation unto thy face, O lowly and glorious face, the splendour of which is sweeter than the splendour of the sun and the moon ...

Salutation unto thy cheeks, which are like unto roses and pomegranates, the languor thereof is fire and the tears thereof are mingled with flame; by thy covenant, O Mary, lift thou me up into the field of delight ...

Salutation unto thy mouth, the mouth of abundant blessing and the holy gate, the book. I have taken refuge, O Mary, in thy covenant, which hath been accepted; therefore let me not be put to shame ...

Salutation unto thy voice, which returned speech unto the word of the angel of mystery, Gabriel, whose apparel shone with splendour. O Mary, thou holy woman of God, the place of his power. Hail! Hail!

Salutation unto the departure of thy body into the house of life, and the making thereof anew ... I entreat thee to redeem my soul by thy covenant, and let my wounds be anointed ...

Salutation unto thee, O thou covenant of mercy, thou gold which comprehendeth all riches; thou art the storehouse of him that is poor and needy. O Mary, bestow a portion of thy blessings and make supplications unto thy good son on our behalf.
Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

  Rose-cheekt Laura, come;
Sing thou smoothly with thy beawties
Silent musick, either other
        Sweetely gracing.

  Lovely forms do flowe
From concent devinely framëd :
Heav'n is musick, and thy beawties
        Birth is heavnly.

  These dull notes we sing
Discords neede for helps to grace them;
Only beawty purely loving
        Knowes no discord;

  But still mooves delight,
Like cleare springs renu'd by flowing,
Ever perfect, ever in them-
       selves eternall.
Oh, yes, and in reading the post immediately herebelow, try to remember not to refrain from failing to forget the rules of St Blog's Drinking Game ...
Dante translates Dante

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's rendering of the sonnet found in section 21 of Dante Alighieri's La Vita Nuova. The seventh line is actually an improvement on the original !

:: :: :: :: ::

"Hate loves, and pride becomes a worshipper"

My lady carries love within her eyes;
All that she looks on is made pleasanter;
Upon her path men turn to gaze at her;
He whom she greeteth feels his heart to rise,
And droops his troubled visage full of sighs,
And of his evil heart is then aware:
Hate loves, and pride becomes a worshipper.
O women, help to praise her in somewise.

Humbleness, and the hope that hopeth well,
By speech of hers into the mind are brought,
And who beholds is blessèd oftenwhiles.
The look she hath when she a little smiles
Cannot be said, nor holden in the thought;
’Tis such a new and gracious miracle.

:: :: :: :: ::

Ne li occhi porta la mia donna Amore,
per che si fa gentil ciò ch'ella mira;
ov'ella passa, ogn'om ver lei si gira,
e cui saluta fa tremar lo core,

sì che, bassando il viso, tutto smore,
e d'ogni suo difetto allor sospira:
fugge dinanzi a lei superbia ed ira.
Aiutatemi, donne, farle onore.

Ogne dolcezza, ogne pensero umile
nasce nel core a chi parlar la sente,
ond'è laudato chi prima la vide.

Quel ch'ella par quando un poco sorride,
non si pò dicer né tenere a mente,
sì è novo miracolo e gentile.

:: :: :: :: ::

Originally blogged at error503 -- La vita nuova on September 12, 2002.

Poem 5

Poem 5
by Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84-54 BC)

VIVAMUS mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

:: :: :: :: ::

1 Let us live, my Lesbia, and love, 2 and value at one farthing 3 all the talk of crabbed old men. 4 Suns may set and rise again. 5 For us, when the short light has once set, 6 remains to be slept the sleep of one unbroken night. 7 Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred, 8 Then another thousand, then a second hundred, 9 then yet thousand, then a hundred. 10 Then, when we have made up many thousands, 11 we will confuse our counting, that we may not know the reckoning, 12 nor any malicious person blight them with evil eye, 13 when he knows that our kisses are so many.


Soliciting opinions

If you were asked to choose the worst day in American history between November 22, 1963 (assassination of President Kennedy) and September 11, 2001 (Islamist terrorist attacks killing over 3000 Americans), which date would you choose? Which incident, and why?

I have my candidates. But one day, one incident, stands head and shoulders above the rest for having been particularly gruesome and corrosive of national unity. I'd like to hear about six or seven possible answers to the question above, before I proffer my opinion.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Minuit, chrétiens

O Holy Night
it's better in French

Minuit, chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle
Ou l’homme Dieu descendit jusqu’à nous,
Pour effacer la tache originelle,
Et de son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
A cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple, à genoux, attends ta délivrance!
Noël! Noël! Voici le Rédempteur!
Noël! Noël! Voici le Rédempteur!

De notre foi, que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l’enfant,
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l’Orient.
Le Roi de rois naît dans une humble crèche;
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur.
A votre orgueil, c’est de là qu’un Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Redempteur!
Courbez vos fronts devant le Redempteur!

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave,
La terre est libre et le ciel est ouvert;
Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave;
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer :
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance?
C’est pour nous tous qu’il naît, qu’il souffre et meurt.
Peuple, debout, chante ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur!
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur!

Out of the mouths of babes

Out of the mouths of babes

A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."

A Sunday school class was studying the Ten Commandments. They were ready to discuss the last one. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. Susie raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, "Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbor's wife."

After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

A dad had been teaching his three-year old daughter the Lord's Prayer; for several evenings at bedtime, she would dutifully repeat the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. The father listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer: "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us some E-mail. Amen."

And one particular four-year-old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

A Sunday school teacher asked her children, as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?" One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."

Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had enough. "You're not supposed to talk out loud in church." "Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers."

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'" Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"

A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore, where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what happened to him?" the son asked. "He died and went to Heaven," the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, "Did God throw him back down?"

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

Lux et tenebræ

Lux et tenebrae : Yesterday and today

I like the yesterday me better than the today me. For some odd reason.

All this dross, all this scrap-metal, all these grudges, all this rant and rodomontade, all this fiercely incontrovertible "rightness" (in inverted commas, as Stephen Fry would say, to lend the properly disreputable air), all this unlove which is a heavenless hell and a homeless home ... really needs to be alchemized in the crucible of an intense prayer-life for which I seem to lack the inclination. Alchemized? Eliminated.

I can say with even more truth than Saint Paul, that I am very much the least of the followers of Christ, and that to recover grace, that leastness must become even less -- illum oportet crescere, me autem minui ... (cf. John 3.30).

Because those who exalt themselves -- such as dylan, your unhumble disobedient nonservant -- will be and should be flung into the depths.

Who will rescue me from this wretchedness (cf. Romans 7.24)?

Those of you who can, send kind thoughts heavenward on this poor soul's behalf.

Which holiday are you?

You think? Oh, I think ...

What Holiday are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

Damn those 65,483 pop-ups that appear as one awaits the results of the quiz. Caveat responsor!

Actually, my real holiday or holy-day has to be, has to be, has to be the Dies irae, dies illa of the Thomas a Celano sequence which Mozart set to music in his Requiem Mass :

Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus!


[This post has been deleted.]

Fun-house mirrors

Saint Paul at the fun-house?

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.

A lot of more modern Scripture translations say "in a mirror, dimly" or speak of "puzzling reflections in a mirror." but veering a little ways off the path of how the Pauline verse hereabove should be translated, I wonder if we strugglers and stragglers on earth don't spend a bit too much time in the fun-house of carnivals and state-fairs.

The fun-house with its distorting mirrors that swell our heads to the size of Ohio, or make our legs the size of thumbtacks.

How often do our attempts at living in accordance with the will of God spectacularly fail because we've over-emphasized one excellent quality and underemphasized another?

Do we exalt tolerance at the expense of veracity? Fortitude at the expense of prudence? Honesty at the expense of charity?

Do we make a point of "speaking the truth" as we see it through our tinted or blurry lenses ... but forget that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love? Are there times when we should be silent and let other people be "wrong"? Yes, even if they are demonstrably and utterly and obnoxiously wrong?

Are there times when we are inclined to steamroll people with invective, opprobrium and fulmination, when we should instead stop, pray ("Lord, I am not high-minded" : but am I?), and let our words be few and charitable -- to the point but not ... laceratingly to the quick?

Do we make small things large and large things small? Do we exalt ephemera and forget the Last Things (and the first things, for that matter)?

Sometimes, a blogger can "let fly" -- blast an opponent into the stratosphere -- and tell himself that it is honesty; and honesty is a virtue. Sometimes a valid, even a necessary, objection can be raised to a thought or opinion, in a way that is far from charitable. Sometimes, we can't elude W. H. Auden's line, "How wrong they are in always being right."

So how does one calibrate the response to something that inspires a vehement immediacy of disagreement? And how does one make sure that one's not looking at a fun-house mirror distortion of reality?

(Robert Graves once ended a poem "at a careless comma"; not being nearly as daring, let's let the question-mark at the end of the previous paragraph serve as our inconclusive conclusion.)

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Creativity as surrender

Creation (creativity) as surrender, as kenosis
also : as a dialectic between expertise and inspiration

A beautifully articulated, Hammarskjöld-inspired meditation at Sainteros.

Also added today

Also added today

Links to various translations of Sacred Scripture (see Places Oft Visited, between "Anglican Sites" and "Other Sites") ... the King James Version & Revised Standard Version, the Vulgate, and the Crosswalk search engine.

We gather together

A hymn for the day

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens his will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing:
sing praises to his Name; he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning:
thou, Lord, wast at our side: all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
and pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!


Words: Nederlandtsche Gedenckclanck, 1626;
trans. Theodore Baker, 1894.

St Peter Chrysologus

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna (d. 450)
from the Meditation for the Day, Wed. 27th, in Magnificat

... words which differ in letter and in spirit quite noticeably from the incendiary tenor of some of my more recent rhetorical flailings and thrashings ... A kindred reflection to the "war" thoughts of Peter Kreeft, proffered recently by Mr Riddle ...

He who wants to overcome vices should fight with the arms of love, not of rage. A wise man can readily see why endurance of injuries gives training to a Christian way of living. Nevertheless, there are those who fail to understand that to do what follows is indeed a mark of strength, the summit of goodness, the pinnacle of piety, something characteristic of the divine outlook rather than the human : not to resist the evil-doer, but to overcome evil with good ...

When the disease of sin, the crime that springs from vices, and the madness of impiety permeated human minds and smothered whatever knowledge, perception, and reason were present, by its insane fury it brought the nations scattered over the earth to flee from God, follow devils, worship creatures, condemn their Creator, yearn for vices, shrink in horror from virtues, live under the pressure of the sword, and fall with wounds. It brought living men to perish in death.

The result was this. Men could not be healed save by arming themselves with all the long-suffering goodness of the heavenly Physician. Thus they could stand the injuries of those who suffered from madness, bear with curses, sustain blows, and be cut to pieces with wounds, until they could lead the evil-doers back to a sobriety of outlook, to sincerity of spirit, to sanity of mind. Through all this the evil-doers were to learn to seek God, flee the devils, grow aware of their apathy, relish health, cast off vices, acquire virtues, abstain from woundings, shrink away from blood, refuse to kill, and desire continuance in life.

Places Oft

Recently added to Places Oft Visited

Two rambunctiously political and youthfully effervescent web-sites :

Doctrinaire (a collaborative affair in which one participant, Rachel, says she wants to end rachel profiling) and the nice Republican in her 20s who has lost not one of her forty winks, Girl on the Right.

And in terms of Catholic blogs, there is (for obscurity's sake?) Vita Brevis.

Laudate Dominum

Propers for Thanks-giving

from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

from Psalm 147. Laudate Dominum.

O PRAISE the LORD, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God; * yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.

The LORD doth build up Jerusalem, * and gather together the outcasts of Israel.

He healeth those that are broken in heart, * and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.

O sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; * sing praises upon the harp unto our God :

Who covereth the heaven with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth; * and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the use of men;

Who giveth fodder unto the cattle, * and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; * praise thy God, O Sion.

For he hath made fast the bars of thy gates, * and hath blessed thy children within thee.

He maketh peace in thy borders, * and filleth thee with the flour of wheat.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

Benedictus Domine

Benedictus Domine
by Dr Eric Milner-White (1884-1963), Anglican churchman, Dean of York Minster

dylan comments : Although this is a "demanding" prayer which I could not say with complete candour and truthfulness, it is a beautiful prayer that perhaps some day I shall be able to say, and in its text, we find a salutary if implicit recognition of the world's difficulties, complexities, and adversities -- a recognition that seems absent from the more facile "Serenity Prayer."

It also seems apt for the day of thanks-giving.

Blessed be thou, O Lord, in all things that have befallen me :

Blessed be thou in my temptations, when I have continued with thee,
and in thy deliverances when I have wandered away.

Blessed be thou in thy wholesome reproofs,
in all discipline and chastisement of my pride,
and in thy lifting up, when I have sought thy face :

Blessed be thou in any advances and victories,
the whole praise whereof I ascribe unto thee
with a thankful heart :

Blessed be thou for guiding my steps, most wonderfully,
when I knew not, understood not, nor even cared :

Blessed be thou for my holy calling,
for the joy of oblation,
for communion with thyself,
for aught thou hast wrought through me :

Blessed be thou for all whom I have loved,
and who have loved me :

And for THY love, from all eternity, beyond compare or compass :
merciful, tender, unalterable, irremovable.

Blessed be thou in all things that befall me,
and that shall befall me;

O grant me this last blessing, O GOD of my praise --
to be true to thee, and close to thee,
unto the end, and without end.

E. Milner-White, My God, My Glory : Aspirations, Acts, and Prayers on the Desire for God, ed. Joyce Huggett (London : Triangle/SPCK, 1994), p. 118
to Sir (J. P. McC.), with love ... 6/18/1942

Maybe I'm amazed

at the seeming inability of Sir Paul McCartney to write a bad song. The effortlessness with which, over a period of forty years, he has produced songs that are part of the "permanent" language of rock 'n' roll, pop music ... a medium dominated by disaffecting ephemera.

The sheer wholesomeness of the sexagenarian Beatle, the infectious exuberance, and yes, the lyrics of all those old songs which are memorable even if you haven't heard them for fifteen or twenty years.

Is it possible to be sad or mad, or anything other than glad, when you hear ... Ju-judy-judy-judyjudyjudy !! ?

Is it possible to be unmoved when you hear "The Long and Winding Road"?

Is it remotely possible to have a skeptical, cynical or bad feeling about the man who gave us "Let It Be"? Or "Blackbird"? Or "Here, There and Everywhere"?

He was one of the tetrarchs of the 1960s, part of a group that was the Shakespeare of popular music.

Comparisons to Shakespeare are always precarious adventures -- I bristled when a teacher in high school compared Woody Allen to Shakespeare -- but I'll go further and say that the Beatles were the Shakespeare, Donne, Herrick and Herbert of popular music, impossible to elude -- indebted to the very few rock 'n' roll "ancestors" that existed in their time, immeasurably improving upon all their influences, the hyperprolific superprogenitors of everyone who followed. Look at the catalogue of songs. For their universal diversity of mood, style, lyric, manner and cadence, the comparison to Shakespeare seems ... if not exactly fitting, or moderately and nicely phrased, then much less madly audacious and exaggerated than one would think at a first hearing.

And into his solo career, McCartney has excelled in producing simple unpretentious melodies that really can't be effaced or evicted from the memory. It does seem like he can do this in his sleep. (John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Tracy Chapman ... also excel at the "basics" that most musicians find hard to achieve.)

There was a 2-hour concert on ABC this evening (yesterday evening, now that it's after 12). Among the things that I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving was the chance to see this concert, and Sir Paul, and to be reminded of how beautifully human some human beings can be.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Merton : the love poems

I was pleasantly surprised upon reading Volume 6 of the Journals how tender and esthetically controlled were some of the love poems he wrote to a Louisville nurse. It is to be deplored that all eighteen of the poems are not more generally available; four, or perhaps five of them, can be found in the aforementioned sixth volume of his journals, Learning to Love.
A short list

The blogger at Res et Rationes gives us a list of the only poems worth reading, according to him. Of the first three on the list, two are by the Chesterbelloc, and as wonderfully Catholic as those souls were, they are poets from whom we can manage to withhold our veneration.

He includes the irreproachable Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman, but we find ourself wishing he had chosen different poems, especially in Longfellow's case ("Snow-flakes," "Divina Commedia," "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport," the sonnets about Chaucer, Keats, Milton).

From S. T. Coleridge, he prefers the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to "Kubla Khan" or "Frost at Midnight" or "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," and he is in good company. Emma Lazarus's sonnet "The New Colossus" should be more widely known (everyone knows the Give me your tired, your poor part, but we agree with Mr Roesch : the whole thing's worth reading). Rudyard Kipling is perhaps not fashionable nowadays, but his poem "If" does have the great merit of being unforgettable ("If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run ...", etc.)

Clement Clarke Moore rocks! And so, needless to say, does Shakespeare.

We gather from the list that Mr Roesch has an impatience with ambiguity. It is a salutary impatience, for the most part. But as Mr Cummings reminds us, poetry is not a slogan. Poetry is to ordinary language as dance is to walking : it is gloriously non-utilitarian, and the primary purpose of poetry is not didacticism, but enchantment.

All we are saying is "Give ambiguity a chance!" Three cheers for significant obscurity and meaningful obliquity!

Seriously, there is some great poetry that we'll miss if we demand that it be even more free of guile than Nathanael was. And there are some memorable poems of considerable lucidity that are missing from this otherwise excellent list.

Certainly, Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is part of the language, oft quoted by sportswriters, especially here in Boston, when, for instance, the Red Sox have a September winning streak after being eliminated from playoff contention. "They're not going gentle into that good night!"

Shakespeare's sonnets. A few things by Cummings. In terms of a poem that is mildly obscure but still quintessentially American, what of the introductory poem to Hart Crane's The Bridge, of a momentous verbal "music" that we do not wish were more prosy :

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest,
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty --

Then with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away
Till elevators drop us from our day --

And so on. The punctuation might be off; am quoting from memory.

There is the poet Countee Cullen, much beloved by this blogger and a few others, the African-American poet who died in 1946, whose beautiful songs are universal in their appeal and quite gorgeous in their music.

And is there no room for anything by Emily Dickinson? And where, for humor's sake, is Ogden Nash?

For religious poetry : why the Chesterbelloc, when there is George Herbert, the hymnographers, the Christmas carols? What of Cardinal Langton's Veni, Sancte Spiritus / Et emitte coelitus / Lucis tuae radium? Thomas a Celano's Dies irae, dies illa (incorporate in Mozart's Requiem)?

These are all just suggestions. Look around. There are excellences in poetry hiding behind every corner, even if it's just the bawdy limerick or the tart satirical couplets of Martial ... or of J. V. Cunningham (1911-1985).

And to the readers of this web-log who haven't yet done so, check out the other "pointless" lists of Mr Roesch. I'm glad to have this opportunity to discuss this particular list of his, because it reminds me of how good those other lists are. The incredibly funny utterances of his teachers & professors, the list of great television shows -- complete with reasons why.

One of these shows in particular caught my eye. I silently exclaimed Yes! and made an act of thanksgiving when I saw it on the list. And I meant to write a little something about it -- but a little later, perhaps.

A website which warns us of the omnipresent danger of Dihydrogen Monoxide.

It astonishes us that this substance has not yet been banned in all civilized nations. When you consider the internecine capacity for death and mayhem that this lethal compound can cause ... some maniac could put it in our lakes and streams and reservoirs ... what would become of us then?
With apologies to Céline

Every night in my house
It's freezing
I'm sneezing
How I hope my heat will come on

I should pay my gas bill
It's five months
Then they'll let my heat come back on

It's ... cold ...
This house is so old
And I pray that my heat will go on

Heat's dead?
Use blankets instead!
I will stay in my bed
Till my heat comes back on and on
A political parable by Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962)
from the book Etcetera, poems published for the first time in 1983

come from his gal's
alf whistle song
meet frankiegang
"join us or else"
"what for i should"
alf drop like dead

gang grow&grow
grab all the dough
everyone give
who want to live
we small it strong
it right we wrong

so goodbye alf
you just a bum
go fug yoseself
because freedumb
means no one can
dare to be man

:: :: :: :: ::

Cummings is so straightforward he needs to be explained. This is a parable of an individual (alf) being murdered by a gang of collectivists (the frankiegang). The editor of Etcetera mentions that this poem was on Cummings' desk on the day of his death in 1962, but the first draft or version of the poem might have existed as much as 25 years earlier. Recall, that in the 1936 election, the presidential candidates of the two major US political parties were named Alf Landon and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Cummings was not a man to whom hatred came easily, but it's fair to say that he despised FDR, as a crypto-socialist, a friend of Stalin's, the prime progenitor of the modern American progressivism -- which states that the human being is dependent upon government for his validity, his rights, his authenticity, his "social" "security." Recall, too, in 1937, that Roosevelt tried to expand the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen -- a move which appeared to allies and opponents alike as an obvious grab for greater, almost plenipotentiary, political power. Cummings saw the "progressive socialism" in Russia, and knew it to be a murderous and vile thing where the individual was assassinated, in effect, before he was even born.

Some folks dismiss Cummings' lowercase "i" as a sophomoric typographical quirk, but he ably defended it on the grounds that in virtually every other foreign language, the first-person pronoun is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence. But more : Cummings saw the "i" -- the small and vulnerable, perpetually imperilled individual -- as constantly being menaced by "hypergangs of superthugs" (like the Soviets). He knew that "sorrow is a system" : the five-year or ten-year or thousand-year plans intended to bring us secular salvation, the schemes of Marxists and other systematizers, invariably brought nothing but misery and inhumane treatment.

This political parable has inspired us to ask ourselves (and any others who might be eavesdropping) a series of vitally important, lethally trivial questions :

Why be an individual when you can be a category?

Why be a man when you can be a millionth of a "march," a semi-quadruped, an anthropoid particle lost and adrift in the swarming drowning Whole?

Why, for Christ's sake, dare to be a human being, when you can be a statistic, a demographical datum, a filler of quotas, a "thing" that is set aside?

Why be an adult when you can sit forever in a toddler's high chair of affirmative passivity?

Why "dive for dreams" -- to quote saint estlin yet again -- when it's so much easier to let a slogan topple you?

Why be you -- why decide things for yourself -- why deign or dare to think independently or to feel personally -- when you can sit like a lump on a bog breathing in the hallowed vapours of incense emitted by television?

You needn't answer. We were just wondering.
A poem by John Berryman (1914-1972)

The Poet's Final Instructions

Dog-tired, suisired, will now my body down
near Cedar Avenue in Minneap,
when my crime comes. I am blazing with hope.
Do me glory, come the whole way across town.

I couldn't rest from hell just anywhere,
in commonplaces. Choiring & strange my pall!
I might not lie still in the waste of St Paul
or buy DAD's root beer; good signs I forgive.

Drop here with honour due, my trunk & brain
among the passioning of my countrymen
unable to read, rich, proud of their tags
and proud of me. Assemble all my bags!
Bury me in a hole, and give a cheer
near Cedar on Lake Street, where the used cars live.

:: :: :: :: ::

First Quatrain :

No one but Berryman could have given us this quirky-jerky, clumsily acrobatic, jam-packed, punning, dublintendering 24- or 25-syllable first sentence. "Suisired" catches our eye and ear simultaneously and immediately :

(1) tired to the point of suicide
(2) sired by himself; or, most likely and most aptly,
(3) sired by a man who committed suicide.

"Will now my body down." The "will" is so emphatic as to be shouted, seeming less a future auxiliary verb than an imperative. Of course, you can't avoid the echo of "last will and testament," as this sonnet itself is something of a "will," giving final instructions. Also, as Berryman foresaw, he willed his own death, he willed that his body go down. The sound of "body" in the line is much less emphatic than the sounds of "will" and "down."

"Near Cedar Avenue in Minneap." There's a winsome particularity and pecularity about the line. Cedar Avenue : his Minneapolis readers will doubtless say, Oh, yes, near the used car dealership. And readers who have never been to Minneapolis will try to picture Cedar Avenue. But let's look longer at "Minneap." A lot of cities have nicknames that are abbreviations (Balto, LA, Philly, San Antone, San Fran), but I don't think "Minneap" was used before or since Berryman (Mpls, maybe). Did he stop on the third syllable because the line reached the limit of ten syllables at that point? Or is this another foreshadowing? Just as the poet cuts off "Minneapolis" before its natural end, years later the poet will abbreviate his own life. Or perhaps, 'tis to consider too curiously to consider so.

"When my crime comes." Not "when my time comes." Why? Well, perhaps the poet has spent much of his time doing things he feels guilty about, so his time on earth has been a crime. But this "crime" is his death, and again, the poet is seeing into the future, we can't help but feel, when he will commit the crime -- according to the laws of God and of his Church (Berryman was a Catholic) -- of taking his own life.

"I am blazing with hope." Suitably deadpan. Reading this, you want to laugh at the poet and say, "Oh, sure you are! Big time." But there is the "hope" that at this point, as he is being buried, he will be free of pain and torment. "Do me glory, come the whole way across town." He wants this obsequy to be a momentous moment, "Do me glory." Can one read the line without picturing a brass band playing "When the Saints Come Marching In"? (Or, a more recent and perhaps not universally known cultural reference, Tracy Chapman's song, "Say Hallelujah" describing an atmosphere of Lord-praising good cheer when "the bucket is kicked, the body is gone.")

Second Quatrain :

"I couldn't rest from hell just anywhere, in commonplaces." Rest from hell. That is, rest from the torment of this earthly life. And he can't do it just anywhere, because (like each and every one of us) he's special, he's unique. For heaven's sake, he's a poet! He's giving us a poem telling us what to do, and where to put him! So listen up. "Commonplaces" can either be "common places," or the commonplace book, an anthology of one's favorite quotations. Will Berryman be quoted after his death in someone's commonplace book? If so, it's because his words are uncommon. His words, like his "pall," are "Choiring & Strange"! (And of course, there's an echo, with common, of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which Berryman almost certainly encountered, although he wasn't Anglican.)

He might not lie still in the waste of St Paul, because he is a restless soul. Energetic and quirky. His lines, sometimes, are like those of Cummings; they'll do just about anything (somersaults, entrechats) to get your attention. "DAD's root beer." The DAD of the root beer is, again, a reminder of his own father's suicide, but he can "forgive" the advertisement, because it is a "good sign," only trying to sell root beer, and not aimed directly at the poet's painful memory.

Sestet :

"Drop here, with honour due, my trunk & brain." Drop, with honor. If I may employ an abstruse critical term from the apparatus of post-hermeneutical lexico-exegesis : Gotta love it. The gracelessness of "drop" next to the grace of "honour." Awesome. Splendid. Way cool. Notice it's not his soul or his mind that's being dropped, but his very heavy, very substantial, almost burdensome "trunk" and "brain." The brain which has given him his just fame as a litterateur, and the trunk which has gotten him into trouble. This battered clumsy old thing. Of course, "trunk" anticipates the used cars in the last line.

"among the passioning of my countrymen, unable to read, rich" : His countrymen's "passions" are by and large, trivial pursuits. We're a rich nation, with a lot of silly hobbies, and some of us are "unable to read" not because of illiteracy, but because our silly pastimes get in the way. Passioning -- and here this amateur critic is telling you what you already know -- also suggests "passion and death," the Passion : passus et sepultus est. The countrymen are proud of their "tags" (price tags of their houses and yachts and cars? their Boy Scout or other kind of merit badges? their medals of valor?), but gauche as his countrymen sometimes are, they also have the good taste to be "proud of me," John Berryman.

"Assemble all my bags!" He can't wait to go on this trip. His bags are just about all packed. And here's another one of those wonderfully paradoxical juxtapositions, "Bury me in a hole, and give a cheer."

If you read it aloud, you can't help but be startled by the arresting phonemic similarity of "Bury me" with the poet's own name, Berryman. "Berryman's in a hole! So give a cheer!" It's almost scary how much fun the poet is having, burying Berryman. The brute bluntness of "in a hole." Then the hip-hip-hooray at the end of the line. And back to the particularity : "near Cedar on Lake Street," and one final genius of a paradoxical strangeness, "where the used cars live." Used cars don't live, do they? Those last few little words are really incredible. He might have said, where the dead cars live.

John Berryman is a vexingly uneven poet, but this very strange and gleeful sonnet about his own death has been justly rewarded with anthologization, most notably in Hayden Carruth's 1970 capaciously generous selection The Voice That Is Great Within Us, still widely available in paperback.

Monday, November 25, 2002

not that one

An article in this morning's Boston Herald lets us know about, and summarizes the contents of, a piece in the 12/2 issue of The New Yorker on our junior senator, John F. Kerry, likelier than likely candidate for president in twenty oh four.

Am charmed by some of what he says here. Wouldn't vote for him if you paid me, but still :

Apparently eager to dispel his aloof, overly earnest image as he preps for a White House run, Kerry, 58, also makes a fleeting admission about his footloose younger days.

``Look, I was a very serious guy except for when I was a non-serious guy,'' he said. ``I knew how to have a lot of fun, sometimes too much. There were plenty of times when I was disengaged, frivolous, four sheets to the wind on a weekend.''

Sunday, November 24, 2002

From i : six nonlectures
by e***** e***** c*******

some of the bolder sentences have been emboldened by the blogger for emphasis

You will perhaps pardon me, as a nonlecturer, if I begin my second nonlecture with an almost inconceivable assertion : I was born at home.

For the benefit of those of you who can't imagine what the word "home" implies, or what a home could possibly have been like, I should explain that the idea of home is the idea of privacy.

But again -- what is privacy? You probably never heard of it.

Even supposing that (from time to time) walls exist around you, those walls are no longer walls; they are merest pseudosolidities, perpetually penetrated by the perfectly predatory collective organs of sight and sound. Any apparent somewhere which you may inhabit is always at the mercy of a ruthless and omnivorous everywhere. The notion of a house, as one single definite particular and unique place to come into, from the anywhereish and everywhereish world outside -- that notion must strike you as fantastic. You have been brought up to believe that a house, or a universe, or a you, or any other object, is only seemingly solid :

really (and you are realists, whom nobody and nothing can deceive)

each seeming solidity is a collection of large holes -- and, in the case of a house, the larger the holes the better; since the principal fucntion of a modern house is to admit whatever might otherwise remain outside. You haven't the least or feeblest conception of being here, and now, and alone, and yourself. Why (you ask) should anyone want to be here, when (simply by pressing a button) anyone can be in fifty places at once? How could anyone want to be now, when anyone can go whening all over creation at the twist of a knob? What could induce anyone to desire aloneness, when billions of soi-disant dollars are mercifully squandered by a good and great government lest anyone anywhere should ever for a single instant be alone? As for being yourself -- why on earth should you be yourself; when instead of being yourself you can be a hundred, or a thousand, or a hundred thousand thousand, other people? The very thought of being oneself in an epoch of interchangeable selves must appear supremely ridiculous.

Fine and dandy : but, so far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be a question of individuality. If poetry were anything -- like dropping an atombomb -- which anyone did, anyone could become a poet merely by doing the necessary anything; whatever that anything might or might not entail.

But (as it happens) poetry is being, not doing.

If you wish to follow, even at a distance, the poet's calling (and here, as always, I speak from my own totally biased and entirely personal point of view) you've got to come out of the measurable doing universe into the immeasurable house of being. I am quite aware that, wherever our socalled civilization has slithered, there's every reward and no punishment for unbeing. But if poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities etcetera ad infinitum and remember only one thing only : that it's you -- nobody else -- who determine your destiny and decide your fate. Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else.

Toms can be Dicks and Dicks can be Harrys, but none of them can ever be you.

There's the artist's responsibility; and the most awful responsibility on earth. If you can take it, take it -- and be. If you can't, cheer up and go about other people's business; and do (or undo) till you drop.
and finally
a third sonnet from this foolishwise proudhumble citizen of ecstasies because

some devils are only driven out by prayer, fasting, and edward estlin cummings

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

let's,from some unworld's most rightful wrong

climbing,my love(till mountains speak the truth)
enter a cloverish silence of thrushsong

(and more than every miracle's to breathe)

wounded us will becauseless ultimate
earth accept and primeval whyless sky;
healing by our immeasurable night

spirits and with illimitable day

(shrived of that nonexistence millions call
life, you and i may reverently share
the blessed eachness of all beautiful
selves wholly which and innocently are)

seeming's enough for slaves of space and time
--ours is the now and here of freedom. Come
you know who two
yes another sonnet

luminous tendril of celestial wish

(whying diminutive bright deathlessness
to these my not themselves believing eyes
adventuring, enormous nowhere from)

querying affirmation;virginal

immediacy of precision:more
and perfectly more most ethereal
silence through twilight's mystery made flesh--

dreamslender exquisite white firstful flame

--new moon!as(by the miracle of your
sweet innocence refuted)clumsy some
dull cowardice called a world vanishes,

teach disappearing also me the keen
illimitable secret of begin
you know who (1894-1962)

unlove's the heavenless hell and homeless home

of knowledgeable shadows(quick to seize
each nothing which all soulless wraiths proclaim
substance;all heartless spectres,happiness)

lovers alone wear sunlight. The whole truth

not hid by matter;not by mind revealed
(more than all dying life,all living death)
and never which has been or will be told

sings only--and all lovers are the song.

Here(only here)is freedom:always here
no then of winter equals now of spring;
but april's day transcends november's year

(eternity being so sans until
twice I have lived forever in a smile)
And on cold leather seats, well, it suddenly struck me

I just might die with a smile on my face after all.

Compared to the mood of the tenebrous one, your average Smiths song is the Partridge Family theme.
Misanthrope's concerto. Monster's Ball.

Wil Haygood's Dec. 2000 article on the 44th President of the United States, as some have called her.
Odi et amo; quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
    Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.

-- Catullus, poem 85

:: :: :: :: ::

I hate; I love. Perhaps you ask me why.
Damned if I know. These feelings crucify.

-- Catullus, poem 85, translated by the tenebrous one, Thomas D (alias dylan)

Happy birthday to the estimable, venerable, formidable, perennially delightful William F. Buckley, Jr., born this day in 1925.