Saturday, December 07, 2002

An infamous Noonan memorandum
from chapter 11 of What I Saw at the Revolution : A Political Life in the Reagan Era (Ivy/Ballantine Books, 1990)

"Ich Bin ein Pain in the Neck"

The following is an excerpt from a lengthy memorandum that the wonderful Peggy Noonan, quondam Presidential speechwriter, sent to a group she called "the mice" -- a committee of persons who would excise the more spicy & controversial words from any speech she wrote for President Reagan ("communism," for instance) ... and replace them with the most insipid spoonfuls of Similac in the storied & gloried History of Pabulum.

pp. 227-8 If Ted Sorensen had had to deal with your Committee in the writing of the 1961 Berlin speech, he would have submitted for your consideration the phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner." [It] would have been edited out by the Committee and replaced with "We in the United States feel our bilateral relations with West Germany reflect a unity that allows us to declare at this time that further concessions to the Soviet Union are inappropriate."

You would not have been serving your President well with this edit. But you would have made it because a) "Ich bin ..." was an inherently dramatic statement, and dramatic personal declarations serve as red flags to Committees (sorry I said "red," that must be the 11th communist reference in this memo); b) The Official Worrier on your Committee would have pointed out, "A statement that strong really paints us in a corner when it comes to negotiations down the road. The press'llpick up on it and use it against us in the trade talks"; and c) the Literal Mind on your Committee would have pointed out, "The President isn't from Berlin and everyone knows it. He's from Massachusetts." ...

Required reading. Seriously. Stop ye, drop what ye do, and obtain a copy of this book -- even if on the temporary basis allowed by a public library. Miss Noonan is monumental.
mostly sunny today

with an increasing chance of ... clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee and ...

after reading a meditation at Sainteros (and it is remarkable, isn't it, how songs you haven't heard in 20 years or so, can come back to you word for word, given the right triggering mechanism?) I went to that part of the Carly Simon site that has the lyrics for, and discusses the genesis of, "You're So Vain."

Scroll down a ways to the following exchange that took place on Phil Donahue's show in 1990 :

An audience member asks Carly: Was 'You're So Vain' about Warren Beatty? And did Mick Jagger sing vocals on that?

Carly: I've never, ever told who 'You're So Vain' is about. But I will tell you since you're so very pretty in that pink's about the young Oprah Winfrey.
outside it was New York and beautifully snowing

and Peggy Noonan has noticed and given us another pleasurable treasure to cherish.

December 7, 1941 was the bombing of Pearl Harbor; in 1993, Colin Ferguson's violence on a Long Island commuter train; in 374, the election by popular acclamation of (St) Ambrose as Bishop of Milan; and in 1875 ... a calamity at sea :

:: :: :: :: ::

Thou mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.

[ :: :: :: ]

Five! the finding and sake
And cipher of suffering Christ.
Mark, the mark is of man’s make
And the word of it Sacrificed.
But he scores it in scarlet himself on his own bespoken,
Before-time-taken, dearest prizèd and priced—
Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token
For lettering of the lamb’s fleece, ruddying of the rose-flake.

[ :: :: :: ]

Dame, at our door
Drowned, and among our shoals,
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward:
Our King back, oh, upon English souls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our hearts’ charity’s hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord.

:: :: :: :: ::

A link to the whole poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ.
A sin of omission
in the favorite order sweepstakes

How could I not mention the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament? With the intrepid Saint Katharine Drexel as foundress, and some splendid exemplars of joyful Christianity in the here and now.
The vote, so far ... no chads! huzzah!
including my top three, but not my honorable mentions

6 votes


4 votes


3 votes


2 votes

Missionaries of Charity
Society of Jesus

1 vote

Daughters of St Paul
Oblates of the Virgin Mary
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sisters of Mercy

:: :: :: :: ::

You are free to cast further votes, but there is no guarantee that they will be tabulated.

How's that for an election law, eh?
dylan's favorite religious orders

I feel slightly guilty for not having selected the Carmelites or the Dominicans or the Missionaries of the Poor or the Missionaries of Charity or the Benedictines. (Or, after a recent post by Mr Serafin about Boston's Mission Church, the Redemptorists.) They all get honorable mention. I may go back & tabulate the top vote-getters, excluding my choices. Here they are, by alphabetical order of their initials :

CFR : The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

The order that had its genesis in the early 1990s in the South Bronx. Perhaps coming generations will call them "the Groeschel Franciscans" as we speak of the Hawthorne Dominicans. The personal charisma of the founder has much to do with this choice, but I am fascinated, too, by their combination of a deeply contemplative and Eucharistic spirituality and an unselfsparing contact with the modern world in one of New York's, uhm, busiest bailiwicks.

OCSO : Order of the Cistercians of the Stricter Observance

The Trappists. For all the reasons you might expect. Thomas Merton remains a compelling figure, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his flaws. Spent a week on retreat at a Trappist monastery once (and alas, only once). Used to subscribe to the Cistercian Studies Quarterly : I'll still occasionally send away for back issues. A priest-friend says that if God can be seen or heard anywhere on this earth, it's at a Trappist monastery.

OMV : Oblates of the Virgin Mary

... who staff the Saint Francis Chapel in Boston's Prudential Center. As a reader says in a comment to post a way's beneath this one, "These men are in love with God." The order was founded by the Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri early in the 19th century, and brought to these shores in 1976. The director of the aforementioned chapel is such a superlative exemplar of the faith that one feels only the Pope would be an improvement. The eldest priest at the chapel, who was instrumental in bringing the OMVs to the USA, is eutrapelia personified. That's a good thing. All joyfully orthodox, with the adverb increasing in direct proportion to the adjective.

:: :: :: :: ::

Other categories (addenda tenebrosa)

My favorite Jesuit : Has to be Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89). Too many temperamental affinities to ignore. The shiniest of shiny silver medals goes to Henri Cardinal de Lubac, the 20th century theologian, one of whose books I have read.

My favorite ex-Jesuit : Must be the Very Rev. Richard Ho Lung, founder of the Missionaries of the Poor.

My least favorite Jesuit : A number than numbskull who once heard my confession. The experience, almost too ghastly to describe. The collarless presbyter saw it as an opportunity to practice a little amateur psychology. He asked for a thumbnail sketch in words of my life since age 18. Not knowing where he was going with this, and not wanting to disappoint, I did my best. Then, when I was done, the fun began. Enchanted by the sound of his own voice, and emboldened by my unwillingness to interrupt, he monologized for over half an hour, occasionally looking up to ask "Is any of this ... making any sense ... to you?" This pleasant little ramble -- as pleasant as it was little -- was punctuated by his attempt to foist upon me a book by a psychologist with the glorious surname of Horney (pronounced "whore-nigh") that would prove helpful, its would-be donor said, in curing any lingering "fundamentalisms" I might have. I told him I had more than enough to read at the moment, thank you. But I was absolved, in the normal fashion, and sent on my merry way to ponder the enticing diversity of our Church, the great number of truly extraordinary characters that one encounters therein.

:: :: :: :: ::


Once I was watching the Mass on EWTN. I don't do that too often, but I recognized the celebrant : Fr Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life, instrumental (be it noted) in the conversion to Catholicism of Miss Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe.

I turned on during the middle of the sermon. A lapidary utterance. "Theology," he said, acknowledging that he was quoting someone whose name I don't remember, "begins with an Amen. With a yes. With an assent to all that God has revealed through Scripture and the tradition of his holy church. Prayer ends with an Amen; theology begins with an Amen. Theology picks up where prayer leaves off."

This sort of thinking is quite prevalent, for the most part, in the orders that I chose as my favorites and in the orders that most of you chose as your favorites. This sort of thinking is not quite as prevalent in some of the other orders, perhaps illustrious once upon a time in their zeal for the "faith of our fathers, holy faith"; but currently, suffering from the unfortunate urge to put a question-mark where God has placed a period -- or even an exclamation point!

Friday, December 06, 2002

Possibly upcoming

Austin Farrer (nineteen-oh-something to 1968), Anglican titan, with :

-- another variation on "through a glass darkly"

-- a fitting-for-Advent-and-Yuletide theme of lux in tenebris lucet

There's a certain type of Anglican that might be considered one of my favorite "religious orders" : mid-20th century, British, higher-than-High-Church, more Catholic than the Curia, smells & bells Anglo-Catholics with gloriously orthodox theological inclinations. Among them : the aforementioned Austin Farrer, Eric Milner-White (vide infra), E. L. Mascall, John Baillie, A. M. Allchin, and the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury (including in that numbering both Romans and C of E) Arthur Michael Ramsey.

You've heard of the OSBs, OFMs, OPs, SJs ??

These are the RCAs : the Really Cool Anglicans !!
Request for prayer

Do pray for the good Mr Riddle of Flos Carmeli, for the restoration of health to his wife (bronchial and sinus ailments) and son (signs of the same), and for their safe travelling through the recently snowed-upon (south)eastern seaboard.
c A p I t A l L e T t E r S m A y S o O n R e T u R n

in recent days i became conscious of the need to lower my voice, & so resorted to the estlinarian lowercase, except for direct quotation.

a very catholic thing to do : an outward symbol (like the purple vestments of advent & lent, symbolizing penitence), a visual equivalent of sotto voce. an external sign of an internal reality. a visible emblem of the invisible change that was most urgently needed. don't shout so much. speak softly and carry a big lexicon.

and of course, whether i type small or type large, whether the words "appear" to be whispering & weesleekit, or strapping & stentorian, there will always be chez nous those moments of stridency -- as well as those moments of (comparative & somewhat impaired) serenity. an emotional chiaroscuro. gnome sane?
priorities of the episcopate

as an addendum to posts popping up -- hither (mark s) & yon (mark s) -- criticizing cardinal law for doing something-or-other to annoy a priest from newton, massachusetts. (here is an article from boston's boring broadsheet that may help to explain.)

a september editorial in the pilot explores the ecclesiology of the priest in question & his alliance with noise of the fretful.

noise of the fretful's new ideas seem to me as new as henry viii of england. it is the heresy that the ecclesia must conform itself to the desiderata of our preferred from of government. whether that government be monarchical -- and a monarch other than christ the king is to be here understood -- or democratic. nihil novum sub sole. between noise of the fretful & the pontiff's choice, i'll take the pontiff's choice. to paraphrase the poet : i am not margery eagan (anti-ecclesia boston herald columnist), nor was meant to be.

i think the question chez mark & mark, with cardinal law and fr cuenin has more to do with the timing. why now, when the fellow has had these views, it seems, for a long time? yes, but : had he always been giving interviews to the new yorker?

you know what our bishops really need to do. they need to get their priorities straight once & for all.

it has to be said. said clearly, & said plainly. without hesitation, equivocation or qualification ...

the new american bible must go!

they need to get the new american bible translation irrevocably & completely out of the lectionaries.

that is a sizable & significant scandal that has not gotten its fair share of attention.

in my copy of the NAB -- but interestingly, not on the USCCB webpage for the NAB : the translation undergoes more chromatic mutations than a chameleon on plaid -- psalm 46 verse 11 (10 in many other translations) is rendered : Desist! and confess that I am God.

need. we. say. more.
michelle foucault
known to her friends as The Pendulum

the sublime eve tushnet has a new contest going. philosophers who say : dansez! chantez! (rupaul de man?)

and was that an italo calvino reference on her most recent post?
j. lo wants a church wedding

... prompting a friend of mine to wonder aloud :

is affleck
a caffleck?
george w loves george w

recently, mr o'rama linked to crisis magazine for a ralph mcinerny poem (quod vide), and i was in the mood to wander down roads less travelled ... & pretty soon i found myself on the website of fr george rutler's parish in new york city.

i always thought fr rutler was a brit, but if i read this brief curriculum vitae correctly he was born & raised (excuse me, born & reared) in new jersey.

in 1996, the governor of texas made fr rutler an honorary resident of the lone star state.
ad maiorem sinistrae gloriam

found this pleasant little rumination while doing a yahoo-search on the name of the newton, mass. priest mentioned midway through this article. (cardinal law and he are at loggerheads over something or other; i confess to being not an obsessive follower of such things. i confess, further, that i don't have it as my ambition to be charlie mccarthy to the boston globe's edgar bergen.)

but this little piece ties in to a discussion chez monsieur shea on the dire state of the society of jesus. i believe mr shea, in his own comment-box, phrased his view -- the right view, to my mind -- with a shyness, a reticence, a nicety, even a primness, a trepidation, a hesitancy, a salutary fear of the hyperbolic : the jesuits need a (paraphrase) good cleaning-out.

and this brings us to the latest ...

:: :: :: :: ::

quiz at tenebrae

to all the rc's out there, kickin it old-school, representin & repentin, 24/7, on the down low, on the up high :

what are your (three) favorite religious orders?

three's just a suggested number. make it two, or five, but not much more than five. (nope. make it exactly three. by the tenebriate equivalent of the edict of nantes.) cite reasons, or exemplary figures, or influences in your life. what have you. will wait to receive at least a half-dozen responses before i post my three ... tomorrow early or late.
by eric milner-white, late dean of york (1884-1963)

O LORD, my years grow long,
        my time short :
Let me make haste with my repentance
        and bow head and heart :
Let me not stay one day from amendment,
        lest I stay too long :
Let me cease without delay
        to love my own mischief,
and abandon without a backward look
        the unfruitful works of darkness.

Lord, grant me new watchfulness
        to lay hold upon opportunity of good :
Make me at last put on
        the whole armour of light :
Rank me among them who work for their Lord,
        loins girded, lamps burning,
                till the night shall pass
                        and the true light shine.

Let me sing the new song,
        following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,
        loving wheresoever he loveth,
        doing whatsoever he biddeth,
                unto the perfect day
                        and for ever and ever.

:: :: :: :: ::

Eric Milner-White, My God, My Glory : Aspirations, acts, and prayers on the desire for God, ed. Joyce Huggett (London : Triangle/SPCK, 1994), p. 16
Benedictus. St. Luke i. 68.
from the 1928 edition of the book of common prayer, episcopal church of the usa

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; * for he hath visited and redeemed his people;

And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, * in the house of his servant David;

As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, * which have been since the world began;

That we should be saved from our enemies, * and from the hand of all that hate us.

To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, * and to remember his holy covenant;

To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, * that he would give us;

That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies * might serve him without fear;

In holiness and righteousness before him, * all the days of our life.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: * for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;

To give knowledge of salvation unto his people * for the remission of their sins,

Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;

To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
psalm 107.33-43

1) grail psalter

He changes streams into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
fruitful land into a salty waste,
for the wickedness of those who live there.

But he changes desert into streams,
thirsty ground into springs of water.
There he settles the hungry
and they build a city to dwell in.

They sow fields and plant their vines;
these yield crops for the harvest.
He blesses them; they grow in numbers.
He does not let their herds decrease.

He pours contempt upon princes,
makes them wander in trackless wastes.
They diminish, are reduced to nothing
by oppression, evil and sorrow.

But he raises the needy from distress;
makes families numerous as a flock.
The upright see it and rejoice
but all who do wrong are silenced.

Whoever is wise, let him heed these things.
And consider the love of the Lord.

:: :: :: :: ::

2) the 1928 book of common prayer

33 He turneth the floods into a wilderness, * and drieth up the water-springs.

34 A fruitful land maketh he barren, * for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

35 Again, he maketh the wilderness a standing water, * and water-springs of a dry ground.

36 And there he setteth the hungry, * that they may build them a city to dwell in;

37 That they may sow their land, and plant vineyards, * to yield them fruits of increase.

38 He blesseth them, so that they multiply exceedingly; * and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.

39 And again, when they are minished and brought low * through oppression, through any plague or trouble;

40 Though he suffer them to be evil entreated through tyrants, * and let them wander out of the way in the wilderness;

41 Yet helpeth he the poor out of misery, * and maketh him households like a flock of sheep.

42 The righteous will consider this, and rejoice; * and the mouth of all wickedness shall be stopped.

43 Whoso is wise, will ponder these things; * and they shall understand the loving-kindness of the LORD.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

the venerable john henry cardinal newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments. He does nothing in vain; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends; He may throw me among strangers; He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me -- still He knows what he is about.

copied & pasted from the margin of ad orientem
excerpts from today's magnificat meditation by sister elvira petrozzi

To be able to follow [Christ], it is necessary that the desire to learn to pray grow inside of us. Prayer is an interior light that shines on our wounds and our defects. Every defect that weighs on our conscience is an open wound that bleeds. If we don't accept the help of others, who see and suffer from our defects every day, we run the risk of accumulating a lot of anger, sadness, and superficiality inside of us.

He does not punish and does not cause fear, because he knows very well what we are like. We shouldn't blame God when all of the idols that we keep for ourselves, making us slaves, bring us to the point of death, be it physical or spiritual.

We were created, rather, to be good, merciful, patient, and to live a clean and transparent life, in our minds, in our hearts, and in reality. To continue to live in our filth does us harm.

We were created for peace and joy, and if we haven't yet found them, we have to ask ourselves why, and begin to search for them inside ourselves.
figgy pudding on olympus

nobody liked my figgy pudding sketch. i am dejected beyond my capacity to describe. the depths of despondency defy any effort to calculate or measure. i fall upon the thorns of life, i bleed!
matter of fact
a poem of sorts by dylan tenebrarum, c. 1991

(author's note : the "he" in line 2 is zac beaulac)

:: :: :: :: ::

he told me when
we were both
about eighteen
"is where it's at."


Mental litter
swept away,
nothing to do but
face the day.

© 1991, 2002 by dylan_tm618
zac beaulac backtrack

the more i read these twenty poems, the more i realize that in my other blogging, i overemphasized his inclination to be melancholic. nearly half of the poems are love poems, quietly tender and (if you will) surprised by joy.

also, i recognize that if i were to spend 50 years attempting to imitate his style, i still wouldn't get it right; there would be something missing.

and comparisons are malapert : there are poets we think of, w. c. williams, thomas hardy, cummings at his most skilfully 'slight,' kenneth rexroth, robert creeley, cid corman, perhaps frank o'hara inasmuch as he notices the time & temperature & day of the week and mentions them ... maybe william blake in his fierce simplicity. but ultimately, zac beaulac is zac beaulac. and we shall not look upon his like again.

wonder where he is, & if he's still writing.

he really doesn't speak in his poems as much as murmur. he draws attention to himself by the unservingly determined effort not to draw attention to himself. there are poets who practice the mannerism of no mannerisms, but with zac, this is the only way he could write, and he is (was?) the only person who could write like this. heck, he manages to impart hithertofore unseen significance to conjunctions and prepositions.

the tone is voice is purposefully, willfully, recklessly atonal : that's his greatest flaw, and his greatest asset. think of a cardiogram that's nearly flat but for the occasional blip.

but still, whether it's the semi-burgeoning of a half-smile as he thinks of a friend or girlfriend (as he scurries to work, or drinks coffee), or the pessimist's anthem that the sun is little more than a herald of the dark, these poems are vitally important, gloriously individual, and absolutely indispensable. to this reader, at least.
saint paul's chapel
episcopal. nyc.

here is their main page : but do go thence to "video & photo" to take a look at some of the photo galleries. this chapel is fairly close to world trade, & sustained little damage. there are some memorable photographs related to september 11, 2001.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

a poem by thomas merton, in religione m. louis, ocso, of gethsemane (1915-1968)

Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect!
Fly vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights in Advent, holy
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our solemn valleys,
You skies : and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets' stately setting,

Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!
chez monsieur serafin
at his catholic page for lovers :

there is the advent 2002 page, containing the quietly splendid poem by jessica powers, in religione sister miriam of the holy spirit, ocd (scroll a little less than halfway down).
disestablishment rocks!

here is the mighty barrister on an idea floating about in the noggin of the 104th archbishop of canterbury and some of the unintended (happy!) consequences that such an idea might have.

it's not so far-fetched. a number of years ago, h.m. queen elizabeth ii became the first british monarch in centuries to attend a catholic religious service (vespers at westminster cathedral, i think).

also at the barrister

a catholic cheat-sheet -- a brief-ish catalogue of everything every 14-year-old catholic should know, but probably doesn't.

Flowers are to cranks

winter 1991-2

originally blogged at error503 on september 13th of this year

Flowers are to
cranks as
      music to
      stone, as the
            drift of
            snow to the
and singing
is to the
      one who
      bickers as
            draught of
                  is to
mr w quoting plato

you become what you behold : an observation which my junior-year (high-school) english teacher attributed to plato.

'tis true, methinks. which is why it seems salutary to take a respite from looking at the less uplifting aspects of The News Of The World, whether current events or events of the recent past. such relentlessness of retrospection conduces neither to peace nor to keeping one's s-of-h (estlin's abbreviation for the most important quality a soulmindheart can have videlicet a sense of humor).

there have always been, and will always be, goddesses and gorgons, harpies and heroes, in any assortment of specimens of our phylum and genus. the ancient hellenic myth about averting one's eyes from the snake-haired monsters -- lest one's blood congeal and flesh petrify -- seems apposite, fitting, and justly admonitory.

disgruntlement will doubtless be in evidence here, perhaps in generous doses, in the none-too-distant future, but hopefully not at the expense of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable or excellent or praiseworthy.
pet pronunciation peeves

-- pronouncing the "al" in albeit like unto the "al" in albert

-- making aforementioned rhyme with laugher mentioned

-- pronouncing the "com" in compass or comfortable like unto the "com" in communist or comrade (believe it or not, i've heard this more than twice)

-- pronouncing colossians so that it rhymes with emotions or erosions

-- meaux-mento (the word is "memento," and has nothing whatever to do with "moment")

-- eleanor clift's a-gangst for against

-- all-time worst : semetic for semitic

(at the risk of sounding overly cretical, it's pathitic)

In that neuter original loneliness
From Brandon to Dunseverick,
I think of small-eyed survivor flowers,
The pined-for unmolested orchid.

-- seamus heaney, "triptych, poem i : after a killing" from field work (fsg, 1979), p. 12
we're overdue
for a bit of fry

Now, I have never believed myself to be physically attractive. There are three reasons for this.

1. I'm not my type.
2. I'm not physically attractive.
3. So there.

-- stephen fry, moab is my washpot : an autobiography, p. 249

i'll have to retake the whose line quiz. it seems i'm ryan stiles. was hoping for either colin or wayne.

incidentally, there really should be a peter's friends quiz, except it's a fairly obscure british film & not a pop-culture phenomenimenon.
lectio estlinaris

cummings on "the doomed exact smile of life's placid obscure palpable carnival" inter alia

:: :: :: :: ::

O Distinct
Lady of my unkempt adoration
if I have made
a fragile certain

song under the window of your soul
it is not like any songs
(the singers the others
they have been faithful

to many things and which
i have been sometimes true
to Nothing and which lives

they were fond of the handsome
moon       never spoke ill of the
pretty stars       and to
the serene the complicated

and the obvious
they were faithful
and which i despise,

admitting i have been true
only to the noise of worms
in the eligible day
under the unaccountable sun)

Distinct Lady
swiftly take
my fragile certain song
that we may watch together

how behind the doomed
exact smile of life's
placid obscure palpable
carnival where to a normal

melody of probable violins dance
the square virtues with the oblong sins
gesticulate the accurate

strenuous lips of incorruptible
Nothing       under the ample
sun, under the insufficient
day under the noise of worms
achtung! jetzt haben wir eine zeitgeistspielerei!

with a nod to pilgrimage, here is a national review column by the venerable william f buckley on the collected conspiracy theories of thomas daschle and al rhymes-with-sore.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

in tenebris section i

by thomas hardy (1840-1928)

percussus sum sicut foenum et aruit cor meum -- ps. ci

    Wintertime nighs;
But my bereavement-pain
It cannot bring again:
    Twice no one dies.

    Flower-petals flee;
But, since it once hath been,
No more that severing scene
    Can harrow me.

    Birds faint in dread:
I shall not lose old strength
In the lone frost's black length:
    Strength long since fled!

    Leaves freeze to dun;
But friends can not turn cold
This season as of old
    For him with none.

    Tempests may scath;
But love can not make smart
Again this year his heart
    Who no heart hath.

    Black is night's cope;
But death will not appal
One who, past doubtings all,
    Waits in unhope.
zac beaulac
again, not his real name

very spare, minimalistic, bare-bones poet from my high-school days who was cooler than cooler than cool. radically different from me, on the surface of it. very much, like this poor penman, an autumnophile. he was always writing these very depressing poems in short-line vers libre of carefully balanced antithesis and "symmetry" ... or rhymed quatrains that made thomas hardy's winter trees seem comparatively exuberant & unwintry. i think he was influenced not only by eliot and cummings (the only 2 influences he'd admit to), but by the unrelentingly depressing alternative music to which he was always listening.

he did have his lighter moments but he hewed assiduously to that kind of spare, prosy, deadpan tone with -- every twice or thrice in a while a strange archaism or estlinarian quirk.

why am i zac-tracking through the hallowed halls of memory about mr beaulac? well, it seems i have a carefully preserved stapled sheaf -- from way back when -- of 20 of his poems. they are cistercian in their simplicity. they would be puritanical in their simplicity were it not for the wry wit & understated smile that surfaces unexpectedly every now and then.

i've been reading these poems of his, all written between 1985 and 88. he claimed in a cover-letter (still attached to this most generous gift) that they were almost all 1st drafts. zowie. i thought, looking at one piece of especial rhythmic dexterity & expert effortlessness, if this is a 1st draft, i am about to expire from an overdose of envy.

sorry to tease, but i don't think i can't post any excerpts. wouldn't be, as someone once said, prudent. or right. or just. but take thomas hardy or (he'd resent the comparison) emily dickinson, add some morrissey and new order : season lightly with cummings & a salubrious dose of stoicism approximating christian hope in the face of disheartening realities, & you've got zac beaulac.

maybe merton's poem "first lesson about man" comes close to being beaulackian, and maybe i'll blog that presently.

but old zachary's poems are being re-perused & re-absorbed these days, & (though they're the work of someone under 21, and perhaps because of that) they speak to me quite powerfully.

i once spent a year trying to write like him -- his minimalism being at the antipodes of my customary method, attitude, aesthetic, inclination, habit : but as a reader, i couldn't ignore the sheer force of his unforcefulness -- and there were some happy results. happily melancholic results.
on being rash

a while back, i took out from the margin the links to some of the poetry i had posted here and at error503. should i restore those links?

also, possibly upcoming : a bit more on the dire state of my catholicism; and a look back to high school and a character i'll call zac beaulac (not his real name) ... a poet of considerable ability & force. an archrival of sorts.
Injustice and Praise
by Vernon Watkins (Wales, 1906-67)

When the unjust, uncivil
Or brutal act wrongs
A man, and he can call
No judge to answer the throng's
Bestial hatred, then
Not to retaliate
Against wicked men
Becomes him and his fate.

If in the ritual
Of vengeance he live,
He makes perpetual
His failure to forgive.
No; to those arbiters
Of true behaviour
There is no strength but stirs
To honour its saviour.

A tyrant's victory
Even in the old tales
Left with the dead the glory
Dropped from unequal scales.
When power on every side
Spelt ruin, defeat,
Never was theme for pride
More certain, more sweet.

Plagues, with hostile weather
Driving from chance or hate
When evils come together
In Job could consecrate
A strictness, a trust
Inviolable. To sing
When taunted by the unjust
Is a most sacred thing.

But what if pride of race
That enemy prove,
How shall a man efface
The inhuman scar on love?
How suffer, not pay back
With sworn antipathy
That scar's degrading lack
Where divine love should be?

Though worst injustice came,
He would be right
Not to sully that name
Which give him light,
Scourged Christ, by whom the devil
Finds himself outwitted,
Whose breast encounters evil
But cannot commit it.
sed contra

led thither by a recent theme of discussion chez shea, i see that mr morrison addresses a problem one has encountered more than once : "progressive" and "compassionate" presbyters of the ecclesia (or spiritual directors) who preach softsoap on sexual sin, even in the sacramental context of confession.

i remember a particularly syrupy chap in friar's garb who condensed the gospel to this single and vexingly curious imperative : be gentle with yourself !!
john donne
preached at st paul's, upon christmas day, in the evening, 1624

God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies ; In paradise, the fruits were ripe, the first minute, and in heaven it is alwaies Autumne, his mercies are ever in their maturity. We ask panem quotidianum, our daily bread, and God never sayes you should have come yesterday, he never sayes you must againe to-morrow, but to-day, if you will heare his voice, to-day he will heare you. If some King of the earth have so large an extent of Dominion, in North, and South, as that he hath Winter and Summer together in his Dominions, so large an extent East and West, as that he hath day and night together in his Dominions, much more hath God mercy and judgement together : He brought light out of darknesse, not out of a lesser light ; he can bring thy Summer out of Winter, though thou have no Spring ; though in the wayes of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted until now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclypsed, damped and benummed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the Sun at noon to illustrate all shadowes, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries ; all occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons.
lectio estlinaris

all which isn't singing is mere talking
and all talking's talking to oneself
(whether that oneself be sought or seeking
master or disciple sheep or wolf)

gush to it as deity or devil
--toss in sobs and reasons threats and smiles
name it cruel fair or blessed evil--
it is you(né i)nobody else

drive dumb mankind dizzy with haranguing
--you are deafened every mother's son--
all is merely talk which isn't singing
and all talking's to oneself alone

but the very song of(as mountains
feel and lovers)singing is silence
the glory is fallen out of the sky, the last immortal leaf is dead

Don't have the book on hand, but this is part of an early Cummings poem, from Tulips & Chimneys I think. Perfect description of late November, early December ... those gorgeous unbright winter days when the sun is nothing more than a feeble white bloodstain faintly seeping through a thick gray gauze of cloud.

I could use weather like this, oh, thirteen months a year.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Lectio Estlinaris
via i : six nonlectures, p. 69

concerning [as estlin notes] this selfstyled world's greatest and most generous literary figure: who had just arrived in our nation's capitol, attired in half a GI uniform and ready to be hanged as a traitor by the only country which ever made even a pretense of fighting for freedom of speech

Re Ezra Pound -- poetry happens to be an art;and artists happen to be human beings.

An artist doesn't live in some geographical abstraction,superimposed on a part of this beautiful earth by the nonimagination of unanimals and dedicated to the proposition that massacre is a social virtue because murder is an individual vice. Nor does an artist live in some soi-disant world,nor does he live in some so-called universe,nor does he live in any number of "worlds" or in any number of "universes." As for a few trifling delusions like the "past" and "present" and "future" of quote mankind unquote,they may be big enough for a couple of billion supermechanized submorons but they're much too small for one human being.

Every artist's strictly illimitable country is himself.

An artist who plays that country false has committed suicide;and even a good lawyer cannot kill the dead. But a human being who's true to himself--whoever himself may be--is immortal;and all the atomic bombs of all the antiartists in spacetime will never civilize immortality.
I love you, George Washington

If Mr Riddle's story this morning doesn't melt your heart, I don't know what will.
Poesia dal c(u)ore

Lane Core really is the master of finding forgotten late-19th early-20th century poets with three-tiered names who write unpretentiously splendid verse. Rescuing happy things from the marauding jaws of oblivion.

Check out Edith Lovejoy Pierce. Scroll down : it's the poem whose every stanza closes with a disyllabic line.
... Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous

Eve Tushnet-who-rocks has given us an ample post entitled O Reason Not the Need!.

I wish I could say that I'm recommending the post on that basis alone : its name. But I've actually read a little of it, and it looks real good. Really good. I must go back to read more.

She's refuting the godawful notion that art should be, or must be, utilitarian. If I understand aright.

She is on the side of the angels. I should quote Cummings on what happens when Art is confused with propaganda -- or maybe I already have, somewhere in the archives? -- but right now, back to Eve-who-rocks, to read more.
Recently added to Places Oft Visited

Under Other Sites (Poetry, Culture, Politics) :

Fred On Everything
Peggy Noonan's OpinionJournal Archive
The Paintings of E. E. Cummings
and Classical Christian Poetry

And under Orthodox Sites :

In Communion : Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

With the caveat, on that last, that it is there more for its devotional meditations than for its geopolitical thoughts.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Lady Margaret

Not Thatcher. Noonan.

A memorandum to snivelling hypocritical lefties, wincing from the vehemence with which their views are repudiated by some :

Stand up and take it like an American.

Via ELC's Blog from the Core.
Results of an election
A long-time incumbent has gone down to defeat

OLYMPUS (AP) -- In a recent referendum, the gods decided unanimously to retain nectar as their drink of choice, but in the area of solid comestibles, there has been a stunning upset. Long-time incumbent ambrosia has been soundly rejected by the Olympian electorate, and will no longer be known as "the food of the gods." As a source close to one high-ranking divinity noted, "They always had trouble remembering the ingredients."

Ambrosia will be replaced by figgy pudding, a choice championed by 58% of the immortals. With a well-heeled campaign and an endorsement from the ever-mercurial Hermes, enjoying his newfound role as kingmaker, figgy pudding managed to overcome an early 20-point deficit in the polls and high negative ratings due to a long-time association with Christian fundamentalists.

Figgy pudding will be inaugurated as the new food of the gods on January 1, 2003. A spokesman for the Figgy Pudding campaign was heard to say, "We're delighted. We're walking on air. Thanks be to the gods!"

Efforts to begin a write-in campaign for Country Kitchen Scotch Oatmeal Bread faltered in the early stages, due to lack of publicity and an insufficiency of capital. The perennial fringe candidate, Cheez Whiz, garnered no significant support, leading some to suggest that the product is well past its political prime.

As one long-time Olympus observer phrased the matter, "Cheez Whiz is earning a well-deserved reputation as the Harold Stassen of snack food."
Too funny. And too true.

Fred On Everything, a Washington Times columnist. On the racial & cultural chasms oft spoken about in this here space in recent days.

This guy makes Ted Nugent look like Lincoln Chafee. A pretty sharp cookie, too, despite the deliberately provocative (or should I say ... controversial ??) tone.

Do check out, if you have the appetite for it, the whole bloody archive of columns. At least, scan the titles.

Note : I have no idea why, on every Fred link, there's always a "6 items remaining" message at the bottom of one's screen.
Marianne Moore
from her poem "In Distrust of Merits"

Hate-hardened heart, O heart of iron,
    iron is iron till it is rust.
A pair of boots is worth more than Shakespeare

Scholarly, precise, and unflinchingly incisive New Criterion article by Roger Kimball, from a decade ago, on the progenitors of the intellectual climate at your average marxist-rodhamite quotaversity -- conditions seen in the embryonic stage early in the 20th century, and opposed by essays entitled La trahison des clercs and La Défaite de la pensée.

Not easy reading, but worth a long look. Via the Lady of Shalott.
The Bible
A meditation by Dr Eric Milner-White (1884-1963)

Grant me, O Lord, to take the Book of books
    as from the hands of thine angel,
        with expectancy of faith,
        with brimming hope,
        and with the love that kindles knowledge;
    to open and reopen, read and reread,
        ponder and reponder
            THY WORD OF LIFE.

Convey to me, O Holy Spirit,
    through the familiar phrases, fresh understanding;
    through the passages passed over or unapprehended,
            new treasure;
    through thy grace -- insight, conviction, guidance,
            revelation, glory.

Shew me, O Holy Spirit of Light, by the holy Book
    all that has fellowship with light :
    reveal truth, who art Truth,
    illuminate divine mysteries,
    make plain my duties in the eternal order;
        humbling and uplifting the mind,
        waking purpose in the will
            and energy in the deed,
        breathing devotion into the heart,
            exaltation and oblation into the soul :
that I may live and move and rest in thee,
    Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;
        who art GOD alone,
        who art love, who art life,
        who art Spirit, who art a consuming fire
            from everlasting, world without end.

:: :: :: :: ::

Eric Milner-White, My God, My Glory : Aspirations, Acts, and Prayers on the Desire for God, ed. Joyce Huggett (London : Triangle/SPCK, 1994), p. 120
Brief passages that resonate
from a book about drinking called Drinking : A Love Story
by Caroline Knapp (1959-2002)

In an Author's Note, the late Ms Knapp makes it clear that in certain passages the names and other identifying characteristics have been changed, to protect the anonymity of the persons to whom she alludes.

p. 216 : Reality sets in at last, chips away at denial. Some of us lose our jobs, or our spouses, or our children. Some of us get into car wrecks, and are ordered by judges to go to AA. For a man I know named Richard, hitting bottom meant reaching a level of self-loathing so deep that all he wanted to do was kill himself, and then hating himself even more because he didn't have the guts to do it. For a man named Troy, hitting bottom meant looking up from his chair one day and realizing that the only two things he had in his life were a twelve-inch black-and-white TV and a bottle of gin, the props of pure isolation. For my friend Ginny it meant losing control in the most literal sense, driving too fast down a winding road in the middle of the night, careening off the road, flying through the windshield of her car, headfirst. She surrendered just before her head hit the glass. "Okay," she whispered, letting go of the wheel, "I give up." These are all people in their thirties, with good jobs and intact families. Richard is an urban planner, Troy is an English professor, Ginny is a lawyer. If you saw them on the street, even while they were drinking, you'd never know a thing. Hitting bottom is usually something that happens internally, where no one else can see it.

:: :: :: :: ::

p. 186 : I'd drink less when my life got better, when I had fewer reasons to drink. I knew I would.

"You'd drink, too, if you had my problems." That's the thinking.

"I'm not unhappy because I drink; I drink because I am unhappy."

That is the logic, and every alcoholic on the planet uses it.

[ ... ] Almost everyone I know who's quit drinking describes that feeling, the sense that life has turned stale and colorless and slowly ground to a halt.
Hoc poema scriptum nunc

Who beeps his car horn
At three in the morn?

Most everyone in
This city of sin!