Saturday, November 29, 2008

GKC quotation

No kind of good art exists unless it grows out of the ideas of the average man.

(Bibliographical data unknown.)


Do we agree with Chesterton? Discuss.

A tale of two poets

Yvor Winters (1900-67) and Hart Crane (1899-1932), rationalist and romantic, are examined in this essay at by Timothy Donnelly.

I remember reading a reminiscence of Yvor Winters by Donald Hall (possibly in Their Ancient Glittering Eyes), in which Hall records his finding Winters perusing some poems by Hart Crane and grumbling about the "pantheism" and "irrationality" he found there. Hall asked Winters, "So why do you read [Crane's] poems?"

The sober, often acerbic, critic Winters answered, "Because they're beautiful."

Civics quiz

This quiz is making the rounds (again? I seem to remember it from about five years ago ...). I scored 87.88%, missing four questions pertaining to the dismal science, economics.

"The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes"

Above, the somewhat arresting first line of "Account" by Czeslaw Miłosz. (Does anyone know how to make the Polish L-with-a-line-through-it in html? I got it here by copying-and-pasting.)

The Flaming Ember

"Mind, Body and Soul," 1969:



Is Hades hot? A bad surmise!
The flames are there to tantalize.
The icy soul that fain would melt
Seems close to warmth that is not felt.

1995 or 6

Saturday's Marianne Moore

Must a man be good to write good poems? The villains in Shakespeare are not illiterate, are they? But rectitude has a ring that is implicative, I would say. And with no integrity, a man is not likely to write the kind of book I read.

from an interview with Donald Hall published in The Paris Review, 1960

November 29, 2008

Saturday of the last week in Ordinary Time. Old calendar: St Saturninus, martyr. The details of his torture bring to mind lines from the Dylan Thomas poem: 'Twisting on racks when sinews give way ... And death shall have no dominion.'

Friday, November 28, 2008

In No Strange Land

by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

'The Kingdom of God is within you'

O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!


If I could perpetrate lucidity, I would be joyful beyond my ability to calculate. I would consent to be interviewed by the stars of the midnight sky. I would compose immortal odes to Cynthia. I would recover the losses of eighteen years ago. I would be embarrassingly precise, especially about birthdays. I would make the mystics blush. I would find the perpendicular bisector of the segment connecting contemplation and distraction. I would search for my favorite season. Nameless angels would impinge upon my terrible hours of leisure. I would be thankful for three nights of imprisonment. I would grab the nearest Muse and wrestle her to ecstasy. I would broadcast several episodes of wonder. I would praise the braids of an arcane temptress. Sleep would bring dreams of a distant dormitory, the perfect emporium of bliss.

Opening a canned ham

Isn't it fun?

Friday's Marianne Moore

It is for himself that the writer writes, charmed or exasperated to participate; eluded, arrested, enticed by felicities. The result? Consolation, rapture, to be achieving a likeness of the thing visualized.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 506

November 28, 2008

Friday of the 34th Week of Ordinary Time. The catholicculture website counsels: Get your Advent wreath ready!

Can anyone identify the young female saint depicted in the upper left corner of the page?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


A poem is not a thought, but a grace.

José Garcia Villa in Doveglion: Collected Poems, p. 250

Okay ...

Thursday's Marianne Moore

One should above all, learn to be silent, to listen; to make possible promptings from on high. Suppose you "don't believe in God." Talk to someone very wise who believed in God, did not, and then found that he did. The cure for loneliness is solitude. [...] And lastly ponder Solomon's wish: when God appeared to him in a dream and asked, "What wouldst thou that I give unto thee?" Solomon did not say fame, power, riches, but an understanding mind, and the rest was added.

from "If I Were Sixteen Today," in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 504

November 27, 2008

Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time. Also known as Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

... to all who visit here!

That is to say, Happy Thanksgiving to all visitors from the United States, which is, I think, the only country that celebrates a Thanksgiving holiday in late November ...

To the rest of you, have a great day (today and tomorrow)!

Wednesday's Marianne Moore

To use the temptations in the wilderness or the Christian symbols, blood or cross, as handy apparatus of trade, is soul-diminishing.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 366


(Some poets I greatly admire, do this from time to time. Dylan Thomas. José García Villa.)

November 26, 2008

Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time. Old calendar: St Sylvester and a few others.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alberto de Lacerda

The tiger that walks in her gestures
Has the insolent grace of the ships

(Lines by Alberto de Lacerda quoted by Marianne Moore in her essay, "Subject, Predicate, Object," in Complete Prose, p. 505)

Tuesday's Marianne Moore

[...] the testament to emotion is not volubility.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 349

November 25, 2008

Memorial of St Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Metablogging? (I'm never sure if I'm using that word correctly)

A brief hiatus is soon to come hereabouts, from this afternoon until tomorrow afternoon, or possibly later.

Also, the Marianne Moore selections might not be a daily occurrence after today. Apologies to the legions of readers who wait each day for these excerpts with bated breath and limitless anticipation!

Spiritual oases for humanity

The Holy Father on monasteries.

Spotted at Vivificat!

Monday's Marianne Moore

I believe verbal felicity is the fruit of ardor, of diligence, and of refusing to be false.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 437

November 24, 2008

Memorial of St Andrew Dung-Lac and companions.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday's Marianne Moore

I have a very special fondness for writing that is obscure, that does not quite succeed, because of the author's intuitive restraint. All that I can say is that one must be as clear as one's natural reticence allows one to be.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 435

November 23, 2008

Solemnity of Christ the King.