Saturday, January 11, 2003

Sensation Time at the Home

In 1968, when Thomas Merton died, he was preparing two poetry manuscripts : one, the long poem The Geography of Lograire, an opus which his most resolute admirers find nearly incomprehensible; and the other, a collection of shorter lyrics to which he gave the provisional title Sensation Time at the Home.

It's fair to say that after 1963 Merton's poetics became a bit freer in form and prosody, sometimes to the point of being slipshod. His verse was often surrealist : rambunctiously & endearingly so in the sequence Cables to the Ace, but often the attempt to be "new" fell flat. He had written several moving & quietly artful lyrics during this time, most notably his poems to the nurse, five of which appear in the sixth volume of his journals, Learning to Love. But the poems of Sensation Time at the Home (Collected Poems, pp 611-665) seem very much hit or miss.

But the funny thing about being "hit or miss" is that, occasionally, there are hits! Here is my list of recommended Merton poems from Sensation :

With the World in My Blood Stream
Reading Translated Poets, Feb. 1
First Lesson About Man
Picture of a Black Child with a White Doll
Elegy for a Trappist
Le Secret (in French)
Early Blizzard

and maybe "A Baroque Gravure" and "Seneca," the latter much admired by Robert Lax.

:: :: :: :: ::

Elegy for a Trappist
by Thomas Merton, OCSO (1915-68)

Maybe the martyrology until today
Has found no fitting word to describe you
Confessor of exotic roses
Martyr of unbelievable gardens

Whom we will always remember
As a tender-hearted careworn
Generous unsteady cliff
Lurching in the cloister
Like a friendly freight train
To some uncertain station

Master of the sudden enthusiastic gift
In an avalanche
Of flower catalogues
And boundless love

Sometimes a little dangerous at corners
Vainly trying to smuggle
Some enormous and perfect bouquet
To a side altar
In the sleeves of your cowl

In the dark before dawn
On the day of your burial
A big truck with lights
Moved like a battle cruiser
Toward the gate
Past your abandoned and silent garden

The brief glare
Lit up the grottos, pyramids and presences
One by one
Then the gate swung red
And clattered shut in the giant lights
And everything was gone

As if Leviathan
Hot on the scent of some other blood
Had passed you by
And never saw you hiding in the flowers.
Vintage Peggy
Noonan, that is ...

From just before the 2000 GOP convention (advice to W as his speech did impend), and from just after (praise for W's speech, and for the convention's inclusivity).
the cup is raised the toast is made yet again
one voice is clear above the din
proud Arianna one word my will to sustain
for me the cloth once more to spin

Mrs Huffington on the ever-labile apostrophe. Via Nihil Obstat !!
Credo ut intelligam

blogs (in English) this splendid excerpt from a Karol Wojtyla poem about St Stanislaus.

Another post nearby -- just above, if memory serves -- gives us a small, wry poem by Gilbert Keith Chesterton.
as the first result of this quiz attests

I have my watery moments.

You're ice! You can be very cold and distant and you are NOT a people person. You're pretty mean but you can be a select few.

What element are you?
I was just wondering

1. What do you like on your pizza?

2. What do you think of the following entertainers (pro, con or neutral shrug)?
      a. Andy Kaufman
      b. Melissa Etheridge
      c. Bob Dylan
      d. Susan Sarandon

3. For those of you who've read a heap o' Merton, what are your favorite moments in his writing (books, passages, poems)?

4. For those of you who've seen more than just one Benigni film, would you rather watch Life Is Beautiful or Johnny Stecchino?

5. Who is your favorite politician outside your own party?

6. Should we care if J. Edgar Hoover was a drag queen?

7. Who is your favorite pre-Chaucerian poet?

Friday, January 10, 2003

Added to Places Oft Visited

Under the un-red rubric of "Poetry, culture, politics (and so forth)" -- First Things, the Journal of Religion and Public Life.
Two war articles

via Lane Core :

Oriana Fallaci's How the West Was Won and How It Will Be Lost, from The American Enterprise; and How We Could Lose by Michael Ledeen, in National Review Online.
from Thoughts in Solitude, part one, essay IV (my copy : Image Books, 1968, p. 33)

The pleasure of a good act is something to be remembered -- not in order to feed our complacency but in order to remind us that virtuous actions are not only possible and valuable, but that they can become easier and more delightful and more fruitful than the acts of vice which oppose and frustrate them.
by Countee Cullen (1903-46)

Break me no bread however white it be;
It cannot fill the emptiness I know;
No wine can cool this desert thirst in me
Though it had lain a thousand years in snow;
No swooning lotus flower's languid juice
Drips anodyne unto my restlessness,
And impotent to win me to a truce
Is every artifice of loveliness.
Inevitable is the way I go,
False-faced amid a pageant permeate
With bliss, yet visioning a higher wave
Than this weak ripple washing to and fro;
The fool still keeps his dreams inviolate
Till their virginity espouse the grave.

:: :: :: :: ::

Countee Cullen died on 10th January 1946, fifty-seven years ago today.
Strange morning

but I haven't fallen off the edge of this round planet; at least, not yet.

The approximate mood sequence : Misery, wrath, despondency, to minor joy over a sizable problem solved, to apprehension, to wanting to run away and hide. Am almost at the point of tears.

What next? It's not even 10 yet!

Thursday, January 09, 2003

From today's installment of
Samuel Pepys

my wife and I went to Mr. Mossum’s, where a strange doctor made a very good sermon
Gerard Manley Hopkins

A hymn in Latin to the Mother of God, on the feast of the Nativity. With a translation by Philip Fischer, SJ.

Via the December 2001 (thirteen months ago) First Things.
Philip Baraka McKinney Berrigan
via the website of Fr John Dear.

A litany of sorts, with some puzzling elements :

"The following occur to me as worthwhile subjects of prayer:

-- that we disarm our hearts and our society;

-- that the Holy Spirit subvert, stalemate, and expose preparation for the invasion of Iraq;

-- that God intervene in the ecological crises as Lord of Creation, because we refuse to change our abuse of the earth;

-- that Americans begin to understand and resist the three-pronged aims for the Bush Administration: the trashing of civil liberties, perpetual war, and world domination;

-- that the swindle of 'foreknowledge' by the Bushites of 9/11 be fully disclosed;

-- that the 'crime' of 57 years of nuclear and its consequent wasting of our lives and planet, be revealed;

-- that Americans grasp that war is our #1 business; that we are a violent, killer people; and that we know virtually little of the nonviolence of Jesus and the Gospel;

-- that the scourges of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty will be ended;

-- that the U.S. withdraw all economic and military aid from Israel;

-- that the global war against children be lifted;

-- that the rich West contribute medication and food to the global victims of HIV-AIDS; and

-- that each of us become people of fidelity, nonviolence, and justice.”

-- Philip Berrigan

The swindle of 'foreknowledge' by the Bushites of 9/11?

One wonders if the late Mr Berrigan's concept of 'justice' ever included the obligation to refrain from calumny, slander, detraction, mendacity, etc.
The Meaning of Life
via Wilfrid Stinissen's Nourished by the Word : Reading the Bible Contemplatively (Liguori, 1999, pp 8-9)

What does the Bible say concretely about life's meaning? What is the Bible's fundamental message? I believe that one can summarize it in this way. You, human being, who think that you are alone, you are not alone. God exists, and he is a God for you.

Martin Heidegger (1899-1978) speaks about Geworfenheit as one of the basic categories of human existence. When one is not anchored in God, one has the impression of being cast into existence and left there to fend for oneself. One who doesn't flee from himself and seek his identity in work and performance can scarcely avoid feeling a fundamental loneliness :

"In reality, no one is interested in me. What really moves, drives, and inspires me leaves others unmoved. However much my friends may assure me that they are not at all indifferent, that they share all that concerns me, there is nevertheless one last disappointment left. I am basically alone and uninteresting."

No, the Bible says you are not alone. You are not geworfen (thrown out/away), but geborgen (protected). God is so interested in you that he is not content just to give you fine presents, but share his situation with you. He comes to where you are; he walks into your life.

The quintessence of God's word is : I am with you, I am with all of you. All those who believe in the Bible are persons who possess this wisdom : The Lord is with us [ ... ] In the New Testament, he is Emmanuel, God with us. God is with his people.

For us, who are stamped by a milieu where God is hushed up, it is a good antidote to read the Bible, and there get to see how God is always with us, how nothing happens outside him, how everything that happens is an element in your loving relationship with him.

That which is oldest is most young and most new. There is nothing so ancient and so dead as human novelty. The "latest" is always stillborn. It never even manages to arrive. What is really new is what was there all the time. I say, not what has repeated itself all the time; the really "new" is that which, at every moment, springs freshly into new existence. This newness never repeats itself. Yet it is so old it goes back to the earliest beginning. It is the very beginning itself, which speaks to us.

-- Thomas Merton, from "Sentences," chapter 15 of New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions Paperbook 337, 1961), p. 107
Survey of Literature
by John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974)

In all the good Greek of Plato
I lack my roastbeef and potato.

A better man was Aristotle,
Pulling steady on the bottle.

I dip my hat to Chaucer,
Swilling soup from his saucer,

And to Master Shakespeare
Who wrote big on small beer.

The abstemious Wordsworth
Subsisted on a curd's-worth,

But a slick one was Tennyson,
Putting gravy on his venison.

What these men had to eat and drink
Is what we say and what we think.

The influence of Milton
Came wry out of Stilton.

Sing a song for Percy Shelley,
Drowned in pale lemon jelly,

And for precious John Keats,
Dripping blood of pickled beets.

Then there was poor Willie Blake,
He foundered on sweet cake.

God have mercy on the sinner
Who must write with no dinner,

No gravy and no grub,
No pewter and no pub,

No belly and no bowels,
Only consonants and vowels.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Taking cues from the flock?
see the 4th comment to the post immediately herebelow

Actually, in terms of "taking cues from the flock," we can imagine instances in which a pastor, a liturgist, or a bishop is somewhat too avant-garde & "the flock" has got things exactly right, because they're rambunctiously orthodox.

Vice President Quayle was fond of condemning a "progressive (or : liberal) élite" that was removed from, and arrogant about, the concerns of ordinary people. One can encounter something similar in ecclesial circles.

And indeed, in The Ratzinger Report, the estimable prelate tells of an Episcopal parish in New York City that some jacobins wanted to renovate to make less "archaic" & more "modern." The layfolk, largely poor and not suffering from the chronic itch to innovate and tinker, put a halt to the proposed renovations. Bravo to them!

But certainly the democratic heresy (voting on dogma, jettisoning doctrine that seems to a plurality of layfolk to be outdated) should be avoided, rebuked, driven out, cast into hell.

It's curious that those who are most clamorous about "separation of Church and State" would also be those readiest to employ the tools of the State (plebiscite, referendum, majoritarian tyranny) to re-shape & re-invent the Church !!
Back to women's ordination

What's really galling about this St Louis Post-Dispatch editorial is its conclusion that the ordination of women would help "the numbers problem."

Numbers of vocations? Numbers of active Catholics?

Ignore the theology, for a moment. On a demographic basis, it's just not true.

Talk to the Episcopalians. In 1974, when women's ordination began (uncanonically), the ECUSA had 3.5 million members. Currently, they're down to about 2.2 million ... An elimination of one-third of the laity. (We'll refrain from mentioning the point of comparison that immediately suggests itself.)

And perhaps some impeccably moderate souls who might initially have favored or been indifferent to women being ordained must have noticed, as time went on, that their church was becoming a kind of High-Church Relativism, or Progressivism with Stained Glass, and that the "values" being preached were basically those of far-left politicians. A fellow Bay State blogger has spoken of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts as "the Green Party at prayer."

Jesus Christ -- the same yesterday, today and always -- is difficult to find in an ecclesial body whose raison d'être is to make as many Spongian concessions to the Zeitgeist (rather, to what progressives believe to be the Zeitgeist) as you possibly can.

When churches begin to show signs of believing that academicians, politicians, and theoreticians are wiser than God, that Church crumbles, or becomes quite vacant.

Unless the Lord build the house, its builders labor in vain. This is, in part, why the Holy See is under no obligation to listen to the editorial writer of the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
A vast St Blog's conspiracy ... to resurrect disco!

Or at least, to have disco tunes, songs, and anthems echoing through the avenues & corridors of our brains, all the livelong day.

The epicenter of this conspiracy is in the American Midwest. One family, in particular.

There's a blogger who has chosen what she claims is an echo of Charles Dickens' Bleak House as the title of her weblog, but as we know, with equal feasibility and greater singability, it could be an echo of the Commodores' "Brick House."

A junior member of this same family has a weblog with a title which instantly causes us to think of the late Van McCoy's choreographical imperative "Do the Hustle!"

And since there is so much warmth, domesticity & good vibes emanating from this family of blogs, we have no choice but to remember that epic and epochal tribute to familiaris consortio -- no, not the papal document, but Sister Sledge's exuberant sibling rallying-cry "We Are Family."

We're on to you. You thought you could subvert all things normal and decent with these incessant disco references and subliminal 70s messages. But you've been found out!
Boston Herald's Margery Eagan

on the candidacy, the rhetoric, and the ever-changing coiffures of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Eagan is very much one of "the usual suspects" when she writes on Church matters; but with increasing frequency of late, she's been eminently readable on politics -- prompting a 20-minute laughing fit at this address when she referred to unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shannon O'Brien and US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as "the Doublemint Twins."
"Ordain women & drop the celibacy requirement!"

Mark Shea's contest, the rules of which are posted at exceptionalmarriages dot com. Based on one of the usual suspects proferring the usual solution to all the church's ills.

If Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner hadn't been so distracted by pondering the gender-inequities of the Roman Catholic Church, he would have ably fielded that simple grounder, and the Red Sox would have won the 1986 World Series. It is painfully obvious, in retrospect.

Oh, yeah. Big time. And Chappaquiddick wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been these silly archaic laws against drunk driving.
From Hopkinton, Mass.

The town's vandals are getting shorter, more destructive and growing bushy tails.

Curiosity killed the ... squirrel.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

An oversight remedied

The Mighty Barrister has been added this day to Places Oft Visited.

I had added it long ago to personal "favorites," and naturally assumed that it was also listed here.
All right. What's wrong? Main page : no stuff. Wherefore?
Books purchased yesterday
with the last of the gift certificates!

With a Happy Eye, But ... : America and the World 1997-2002 by George F. Will

A Far Rockaway of the Heart by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

:: :: :: :: ::

Yes, you can all start humming, crooning, singing or whistling Neal Hefti's most famous composition, the Odd Couple theme!

I think I like Ferlinghetti. He seems to have stayed away from drugs and lethal drink; he doesn't habitually perpetrate exhibitionist palinodes to his own sex life; he abstains from most other things that seem daring to the sophomore, but wearisome to the veteran.

He's got an appealing simplicity that is really not at odds with a certain sophistication : a kind of carefully orchestrated insouciance. Poetry is not spontaneity, as Marianne Moore reminds us, but "a simulacrum of spontaneity"; and to achieve that simulacrum is often hard work.

It might be worth noting that Ferlinghetti has served as translator into English of both Jacques Prévert and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Particularly with Prévert, the kinship is salient, and the resemblance almost striking.

I may offer an excerpt presently, but the steam from yonder coffee beckoneth.


September. Oh, you linger, summer buzz.
We crave a starker season, north and neat:
The purity of winter, day-long night.

We seek the solstice, dark sticks, chaste chill,
Where vocables of frost compose themselves
Beneath the crisp unflourishing leaves earthfallen.

Polestar of pallor, snow beneath moonlight,
Cities as quiet as country vacancy,
The timeless birth of zero, birth of death,

Dives impoverished, cloistered, penitent,
Stripped of all but his awe, December's prayer,
The shiver-quiver, spoken ghost of breath,

Cold calendar, perennial ebb of warmth,
The proximate diminishment of light.

© 2001, 2003 by Thomas D

this post has been removed
At sixes and sixes

It snowed in Boston on December 6, 2002, and it snowed in Boston on January 6, 2003 !!

A snowy Saint Nicholas Day and a snowy Epiphany !! Not to mention a snowy Christmas night !!

Will it snow on the 25th anniversary (Feb. 6) of the Blizzard of '78 ?? Let's go for the trifecta !!

Forgive the un-Pepysian exclamation points. I must get back to my ale, brawn-middlings, and cheese.

Or is it a venison pasty of palpable beef, before the morning draught?

(Maybe a few tablets of the literary antacid, Pepysid-AC.)
The communion of saints
yesterday, tomorrow ... today

Yesterday at chapel, the Mass of Blessed "Frère André" (Bessette) was celebrated, and the celebrant mentioned that he knew some elderly folk who remembered Blessed André ... from times that the saintly Holy Cross brother spent in Rhode Island.

I have met a nun (fittingly, a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament) who met Saint Katharine Drexel!

Fr Benedict Groeschel has estimated that he's met at least four canonizable saints, and several other folk (among them, non-Catholics) whose saintliness would be well-nigh indisputable.

'I believe in the communion of saints' is, for me, one of the easier sentences in the Creed to say. It's made all the more easier by the reminder that it's something that's still going on, still being increased, still growing ...

And certainly, there's a dimension of futurity there. To believe in the communion of saints also means to believe that God isn't quite finished with this world -- never finished, until the world's last day, working in the world through his holy ones. So : 'I believe in the communion of saints' isn't merely a "yesterday" thing (let's look back at all these holy souls, and be encouraged and inspired by their example); it's a "tomorrow" thing (there will continue to be saints)!

And then of course, it's a "today" thing.

But herein lies a dimension I'd like to thrust aside. The universal call to sanctity, or sainthood. The "I want you!" side to sainthood. It's as if God's attempting to wake me up : "Rise and shine, time to become saint dylan" -- yikes!!

Pillow over the head. Duck back under the covers. Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute ...

You mean that minimizing mischief isn't enough?
Psalm 119 : 'Mine eyes prevent the night watches'

XIX. Clamavi in toto corde meo.

I CALL with my whole heart; * hear me, O LORD; I will keep thy statutes.

146 Yea, even unto thee do I call; * help me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.

147 Early in the morning do I cry unto thee; * for in thy word is my trust.

148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches; * that I might be occupied in thy word.

149 Hear my voice, O LORD, according unto thy lovingkindness; * quicken me, according to thy judgments.

150 They draw nigh that of malice persecute me, * and are far from thy law.

151 Be thou nigh at hand, O LORD; * for all thy commandments are true.

152 As concerning thy testimonies, I have known long since, * that thou hast grounded them for ever.

XX. Vide humilitatem.

O CONSIDER mine adversity, and deliver me, * for I do not forget thy law.

154 Avenge thou my cause, and deliver me; * quicken me according to thy word.

155 Health is far from the ungodly; * for they regard not thy statutes.

156 Great is thy mercy, O LORD; * quicken me, as thou art wont.

157 Many there are that trouble me, and persecute me; * yet do I not swerve from thy testimonies.

158 It grieveth me when I see the transgressors; * because they keep not thy law.

159 Consider, O LORD, how I love thy commandments; * O quicken me, according to thy loving-kindness.

160 Thy word is true from everlasting; * all the judgments of thy righteousness endure for evermore.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Possible autobiography titles

Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty

Getting Down to the Nitty-Witty

Getting Down to the Witty-Gritty

:: :: :: :: ::

Other rhyming words suggest themselves ... but we wish to keep things comparatively decorous.

And of course, my home state is in the process of getting down to the Mitty-politty.
I get a kick from Champaign

... rather, from Champaign, Illinois's native son George F. Will. Two briefish snippets from his compilation of Clinton-era columns The Woven Figure :

p. 223

Oregon, a progressive place, is pioneering a new wrinkle in democratic practice. The primary and general elections that will choose a successor to Senator Packwood will be the nation's first elections of a federal official conducted entirely by mail.

Like most improvements, this is atrocious.

:: :: :: :: ::

p. 221

John Silber, the sandpapery president of Boston University, might have been governor of Massachusetts -- he was the Democratic nominee in 1990 -- were he not given to speaking his formidable mind as bluntly as he did when a voter asked what we should teach our children. "Teach them that they are going to die." And have a nice day.
Archaic English

from the website of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)

... added yestreen to Places Oft Visited

A parent worries about the blunt psychic trauma that his children shall have to endure if exposed to thees and thous at the Divine Liturgy. Will there be an impediment to his children's understanding the prayers? Why must the language be so stilted?

A priest responds to these concerns by gracefully praising "archaic English" and by showing the down-side to vernacularity, novelty, and obsessive contemporaneity.
Is the glass half full?

Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald shares the thoughts of a correspondent who says that life isn't so bad in anno gratiae 2003, and deplores the tactics of high-school teachers who encourage their students to complain.

Mr Fitzgerald's correspondent misses much that is ominous, but he does successfully make the point that American life is not nearly as arduous as it could be, or as it once (not too long ago) was.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

A General Confession
from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

DEARLY beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us, in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy. And although we ought, at all times, humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart, and humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying --

¶ To be said by the whole Congregation, after the Minister, all kneeling :

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Waferfest 2003?

Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings gives us a bit o' New Year's blogging on ... well, Barney-hymns & community & all other things that make the average guy want to alter the Boomtown Rats lyric to "I don't like Sundays."

I had hoped he was joking about the New Jerusalem Bible's rendering of Matthew 16:18; alas, he wasn't. "On this rock I will build my community."
Le tombeau d'Edgar Poe
by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-98)

Tel qu'en Lui-même enfin l'éternité le change,
Le Poète suscite avec un glaive nu
Son siècle épouvanté de n'avoir pas connu
Que la mort triomphait dans cette voix étrange !

Eux, comme un vil sursaut d'hydre oyant jadis l'ange
Donner un sens plus pur aux mots de la tribu,
Proclamèrent très haut le sortilège bu
Dans le flot sans honneur de quelque noir mélange.

Du sol et de la nue hostiles, ô grief !
Si notre idée avec ne sculpte un bas-relief
Dont la tombe de Poe éblouissante s'orne

Calme bloc ici-bas chu d'un désastre obscur
Que ce granit du moins montre à jamais sa borne
Aux noirs vols du Blasphème épars dans le futur.