Saturday, May 03, 2003

Old Man no more

Franconia, New Hampshire

The Old Man in the Mountain collapsed last night.

Story from the Union-Leader (LRR, just age and zip).


A few confessions ago, the confessor (an exuberant Italian septuagenarian, around whom it is impossible to be tristful) paraphrased to me the verse about Our Lord dying that we might have life & have it more abundantly, and about God wanting us to be happy, & caring for us, & wanting us never to lose the promise of joy in the midst of sorrows, etc. To myself, I said, "I'll take his word for it." He was obviously "telling the truth," because Fr V doesn't lie, but it was a truth that I've not really quite discovered yet. As if he were to tell me that summers are pleasantly cool in Vancouver, and rarely if ever sweltering. To continue with that : It's as if I've spent the last 11.5 years (back in the church) hearing about the weather in Vancouver, but never actually being IN Vancouver.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

The Apostles' Creed

as given in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer
of the Episcopal Church

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen.

A while ago

when the Curt Jester and his readers were taking a look at politically correct literary classics, did we overlook Charlotte Brontë's environmentalist classic Clean Eyre?

Splendor paternæ gloriæ

The hymn by St Ambrose. Am noting especially the lines :

Laeti bibamus sobriam
Ebrietatem Spiritus.


Accounting for each
idle word
... the verse shocks us
into brief silence.


Gerard Manley Hopkins

The May Magnificat at

Bishop Sheen

Archbishop Fulton Sheen
from Treasure in Clay (Doubleday, 1980)

On a train trip from New York to Boston, I sat next to an Episcopalian clergyman. We began a friendly discussion on the validity of Anglican Orders. He contended he was a priest as much as I was, that he could offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and that he could forgive sins. He was well versed in history and in theology and our discussion proved to be so interesting that many passengers gathered around us to listen to the friendly debate. He got off the train at Providence. He advanced several steps, then turned around and, facing the audience which we both enjoyed, thought he would give me the last telling challenge by saying, "Remember, Bishop Sheen, I can do anything you can do." I just had time to answer : "No, you can't. I can kiss your wife, but you can't kiss mine."

op. cit., p. 300

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Who's cooler?

Who's cooler?
Or are they equal? Or "haven't a clue ..."?

Pat Benatar or Debbie Harry?
Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp?
John Keats or Percy Bysshe Shelley?
Fr Benedict J. Groeschel or Fr Richard John Neuhaus?
Bishop Bruskewitz or Archbishop Chaput?
Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell?
Marlon Brando or Jack Lemmon?
Calvin Coolidge or Gerald Ford?
John Major or Tony Blair?
Wittgenstein or Husserl?
Brandy or J. Lo?
The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off?
Audrey Hepburn or Katharine Hepburn?
Two? Too, too ... two!

The 2,222nd comment at dylanblogs (error503 and this one combined) belongs to William Luse.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
from his autobiography Treasure in Clay

In the early days when I was on national radio, a man came into St. Patrick's Cathedral one Monday morning and, not recognizing me, said : "Father, I want to go to Confession. I commute from Westchester every day. I had three friends with me -- all Protestants. I became very angry and spoke most disparagingly and bitterly of that young priest that is on radio, Dr. Fulton Sheen. I just cannot stand him. He drives me crazy. I am afraid that I probably scandalized those men by the way I talked about a priest. So, will you hear my confession? I said : "My good man, I don't think you committed a serious sin. There are moments in my life when I share exactly the same opinion about Dr. Sheen that you do. Go to communion and reserve your confession for another day." He left very happily, saying : "It certainly is wonderful to meet a nice priest like you."

op. cit. (Doubleday & Company, 1980), p. 298

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

It is possible

that things at more last than star may begin to move at a slower pace. Today seems to have been comparatively normal by the standards of the last half-year, but I begin to think that maybe one or two posts a day here might be more fitting, as it will enable more time for other pursuits (both the enticingly creative and the urgently necessary) and more time for the mind to sit in silence.

I don't like to skip days, have days of zero posting, but on a couple of days in the immediate past I came quite close to keeping silence. It's possible, too, that I'm too much of a blogaholic to stay away for too long -- and should that in itself be taken as an indication that I should stay away for a while?

I've done this before -- pledged to reduce the frequency of bloggings, even attempted to force myself out of it altogether -- but that really didn't work. So this isn't a resignation, or even a firm resolve to cut back. Just a recognition of the possibility that things may begin to move a little slower.

Poem Beginning with a Line by Wallace Stevens

It is the word pejorative that hurts

and the word sibling
that makes us lisp and wince
and the word raspberry that puzzles us
with its absence of rasp
and the word secular which
pertains to centuries
as fleet as milliseconds
in eternity's view --
the word subtle,
a rogue with a sly, furtive glare --
the word vehicular, one
of Deborah's favorites, and the word blithe
like an embarrassing lick on the end
of a leash. And vehement
is spearmint-flavored, unlike government,
and tongues wag like tails
of the unforeseen.

It is the word bowdlerize
that bamboozles, confuses, and throws
us for a loop. It is the word
boycott wearing a two-horned
helmet like a post-modern
Viking. It is the word memento
which news-anchors mispronounce,
and the word Kennebunkport

over which Mom always stumbles.

Oblivious gets our goat if it's seen
without of. It is averse from
that goes about town
impeccably tailored.
Vouchsafe and deign collide
like clanging thuribles. Hallowed asks for
and receives three syllables.
It is the word silent
that rhymes with

It is the word barbarian
that causes us to flinch.
It is the word avuncular
that coughs and smokes a pipe.
It is the word hirsute that plays a flute.

It is the word unkempt that sounds
so participial! It is the word
inchoate, cold as March,
that makes us search for April's

Weather in April

One day above 70 is mildly enticing, especially when dry and with a cooling breeze. A stretch of two days above 70 is purgatory : the sun begins to give us its lobster effect. Three days above 70? Well, fortunately, tomorrow the temperature will drop a bit.

How do I get through the summers? We are in the (to my mind) unpleasant six months of the year now. On April 26th each year, the average daily high in Boston goes above 60. Which means that a sane, moderate, sunny 59 is "below normal" on April 26th ... until October 25th, when the average daily high dips back to 59 again.

Too few nights during summer in the city drop appreciably below 55. Too few mornings are cool. So, from now until -- oh, somewhere between Columbus Day and Halloween -- expect complaints about the weather to be nearly quotidian.

I should have been born in the Hebrides.
The quiet virtuosity, casual preter-perfection, & seemingly insouciant dexterity of Theodore Roethke
or, How did he do it?

How did he come up with these lines which, while never raising their voices, reverberate in the memory with greater potency than the stentors? All of the following lines are from one poem, "A Walk in Late Summer" (Coll Po, p. 143) :

Bring me the meek, for I would know their ways;
I am a connoisseur of midnight eyes.


God's in that stone, or I am not a man!


A late rose ravages the casual eye,
A blaze of being on a central stem.
It lies upon us to undo the lie
Of living merely in the realm of time.

:: :: :: :: ::

And he has lines in other poems even quieter, and even more memorable than these (which at second glance are not without their flair and flash!). From the famous villanelle, "The Waking" : God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there; from "I Knew a Woman ... " : She moved in circles, and those circles moved.

I value the poetry of Dylan Thomas, of Hart Crane, of Wallace Stevens, for their daring and (one might say, without derogation) their obvious renovations of the pentameter, their risking a radical estrangement from lucidity in the service of avoiding the trite, the hackneyed, the second-hand. But if we want a lower-key renovation, an uninsistent splendor, a quieter virtuosity, an almost accidental panache, we could do worse than turn to the poet who wrote --

She turns, as if to go,
Half-bird, half-animal.
The wind dies on the hill.
Love's all. Love's all I know.

["Memory," p. 136]
How can one resist

a teaser that promises "Murder ... Vandalism ... Ted Nugent"?? I may have to read Kathryn Lively's Saints Preserve Us.
Dylan Thomas
from Selected Poems 1934-1952

Hold hard, these ancient minutes in the cuckoo's month,
Under the lank, fourth folly on Glamorgan's hill,
As the green blooms ride upward, to the drive of time;
Time, in a folly's rider, like a county man
Over the vault of ridings with his hound at heel,
Drives forth my men, my children, from the hanging south.

Country, your sport is summer, and December's pools
By crane and water-tower by the seedy trees
Like this fifth month unskated, and the birds have flown;
Hold hard, my country children in the world of tales,
The greenwood dying as the deer fall in their tracks,
This first and steepled season, to the summer's game.

And now the horns of England, in the sound of shape,
Summon your snowy horsemen, and the four-stringed hill,
Over the sea-gut loudening, sets a rock alive;
Hurdles and guns and railings, as the boulders heave,
Crack like a spring in a vice, bone breaking April,
Spill the lank folly's hunter and the hard-held hope.

Down fall four padding weathers on the scarlet lands,
Stalking my children's faces with a tail of blood,
Time, in a rider rising, from the harnessed valley;
Hold hard, my country darlings, for a hawk descends,
Golden Glamorgan straightens, to the falling birds.
Your sport is summer as the spring runs angrily.

op. cit., p. 54 (New Directions, 2003)

Monday, April 28, 2003

Love changes everything

Reflection in the Saint Francis Chapel bulletin for 20th April (scroll down), by the chapel's director.
May is for Madeleine

My reading for the Marian month will be Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water : Reflections on Faith and Art, a borrowing from a kindlier than kindly soul!
Steven at Catholic Bookshelf

delivers an impassioned plea : We need Catholic writing. The latter of the April 27 posts.

Sunday, April 27, 2003



These green dots raised like braille
Against the skin of sight
Are scores of newborn leaves
Delighting in the spring ...


A score of green notes, glad and quick,
Sing from an April tree, "Awake!"

1996 by dylan
Paradiso, xxxi, 130-8
trans. dylan

And at that centre, with their wings outspread,
I saw thousands of celebrating angels
Each with his own degree of light and art.

Upon their merriment, at all their songs,
I saw loveliness smile, and there was joy
In the eyes and hearts of all the other saints.

Even if I had an aptitude of Speech
To match Imagination, I could hardly
Dare to begin to hint at such delight!


e a quel mezzo, con le penne sparte,
vid'io più di mille angeli festanti,
ciascun distinto di fulgore e d'arte.

Vidi a lor giochi quivi e a lor canti
ridere una bellezza, che letizia
era ne li occhi a tutti li altri santi;

e s'io avessi in dir tanta divizia
quanta ad imaginar, non ardirei
lo minimo tentar di sua delizia.
HBO decides

Oliver Stone's cinematic valentine to Fidel is ill-timed, what with a crackdown on Cuban dissidents. From this week's TV Guide.
Wallace Stevens

On her trip around the world, Nanzia Nunzio
Confronted Ozymandias. She went
Alone and like a vestal long-prepared.

I am the spouse. She took her necklace off
And laid it in the sand. As I am, I am
The spouse. She opened her stone-studded belt.

I am the spouse, divested of bright gold,
The spouse beyond emerald or amethyst,
Beyond the burning body that I bear.

I am the woman stripped more nakedly
Than nakedness, standing before an inflexible
Order, saying I am the contemplated spouse.

Speak to me that, which spoken, will array me
In its own only precious ornament.
Set on me the spirit's diamond coronal.

Clothe me entire in the final filament,
So that I tremble with such love so known
And myself am pious for your perfecting.

Then Ozymandias said the spouse, the bride
Is never naked. A fictive covering
Weaves always glistening from the heart and mind.
A blessed Pascha

to all Orthodox readers of this weblog.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!