Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jacques Maritain

"The human being down here in the darkness of his fleshly state is as mysterious as the saints in heaven in the light of their glory. There are in him inexhaustible treasures, constellations without end of sweetness and beauty which ask to be recognized and which usually escape completely the futility of our regard. Love brings a remedy for that. One must vanquish this futility and undertake seriously to recognize the innumerable universes that one's fellow being carries within him. This is the business of contemplative love and the sweetness of its regard."

Jacques Maritain, quoted in A Year With Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals, ed. Jonathan Montaldo (HarperCollins, 2004), p. 273

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dame Edith Sitwell

"I have got a very nice new lunatic -- a lady in Dublin. She has written to tell me that all R.C. priests have lots of illegitimate children -- usually by their 15-year-old nieces.  I am replying that I know they have.  My own dear confessor often brings round his happy little brood of ten to have tea with me.  Four are by his own niece, but he is sadly forgetful about who are the mothers of the rest.  There were eleven, but unfortunately he ate one, in a fit of absent-mindedness, one Friday.

"Osbert says I must not write this, as it will be published, and people will say (A) that I have no moral sense, (B) that I am flippant; but I reply that it will not be the first, second, or third time that these charges have been brought against me."

Edith Sitwell, from Selected Letters 1919-1964, eds. John Lehmann and Derek Parker (Vanguard Press, 1970), p. 253

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Flying Bum

by William Plomer (1903-73)

In the vegetarian guest-house
All was frolic, feast and fun,
Eager voices were enquiring
‘Are the nettle cutlets done?’
Peals of vegetarian laughter,
Husky wholesome wholemeal bread,
Will the evening finish with a
Rush of cocoa to the head?

Yes, you’ve guessed; it’s Minnie’s birthday,
Hence the frolic, hence the feast.
Are there calories in custard?
There are vitamins in yeast.
Kate is here and Tom her hubby,
Ex-commissioner for oaths,
She is mad on Christian Science,
Parsnip flan he simply loathes.

And Mr Croaker, call him Arthur,
Such a keen philatelist,
Making sheep’s-eyes at Louisa
(After dinner there’ll be whist) –
Come, sit down, the soup is coming,
All of docks and darnels made,
Drinks a health to dear old Minnie
In synthetic lemonade.

Dentures champing juicy lettuce,
Champing macerated bran,
Oh the imitation rissoles!
Oh the food untouched by man!
Look, an imitation sausage
Made of monkey-nuts and spice,
Prunes tonight and semolina,
Wrinkled prunes, unpolished rice.

Yards of guts absorbing jellies,
Bellies filling up with nuts,
Carbohydrates jostling proteins
Out of intestinal ruts;
Peristalsis calls for roughage,
Haulms and fibers, husks and grit,
Nature’s way to open bowels,
Maybe – let them practise it.

‘Hark, I hear an air-raid warning!’
‘Take no notice, let em come.’
‘Who’ll say grace?’ ‘Another walnut?’
‘Listen, what’s that distant hum?’
‘Bomb or no bomb,’ stated Minnie,
‘Lips unsoiled by beef or beer
We shall use to greet our Maker
When he sounds the Great All-Clear.’

When the flying bomb exploded
Minnie’s wig flew off her pate,
Half a curtain, like a tippet,
Wrapped itself round bony Kate,
Plaster landed on Louisa,
Tom fell headlong on the floor,
And a spurt of lukewarm custard
Lathered Mr Croaker’s jaw.

All were spared by glass and splinters
But, the loud explosion past,
Greater was the shock impending
Even than the shock of blast –
Blast we veterans know as freakish
Gave this feast its final course,
Planted bang upon the table
A lightly roasted rump of horse.