Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Good and the Grotesque

Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept the fact that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction.

Flannery O'Connor, "Introduction to A Memoir of Mary Ann," Mystery and Manners. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York: 1970) p. 226.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Random Ten

Ten songs that come up on a shuffle of the iPod:

1. Jethro Tull, Bungle in the Jungle
2. Mark Collie, Even the Man in the Moon Is Crying
3. Francis Cabrel, Je t'aimais, je t'aime, je t'aimerai
4. Kamelot (with Simone Simons), House on a Hill
5. Tim Minchin, If I Didn't Have You
6. Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You
7. Metallica, Nothing Else Matters
8. Nightwish, Amaranth
9. Kimmie Rhodes, Windblown
10. David Gray, Ain't No Love

ADDED LATER: I'm about to walk out the door, but, while all of these are good, if you have any taste for country music at all and haven't heard Rhodes's song, you should definitely listen to it; that and her "Desert Train" are massively underappreciated, and should be better known than they are.

Ernan McMullin

Ernan McMullin died recently; McMullin was both a Catholic priest and a well-known philosopher of science. Michael Ruse offers an appreciation.

The Closer to Truth website offers several videos of McMullin discussing God and science.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday Virtue/Vice: Solertia and Eustochia

Aquinas's classification of the virtues is based on a sort of mereological analysis. Every virtue has quasi-integral parts, subjective parts, and potential parts. A quasi-integral part of a major virtue is another virtue that belongs to the essence of the major virtue. In effect, quasi-integral parts are minor virtues that are needed for the major virtue. So, for instance, the virtue of avoiding evil is a quasi-integral part of justice. It is a virtue covering part of what justice covers, and part of the very nature of justice is to organize it with other virtues. A subjective part of a virtue is a species of that virtue in a particular domain that requires it to have a distinctive way of going about things. So, for instance, there might be a kind of fortitude suitable for military valor and a kind of fortitude suitable for everyday life, and these are subjective parts of fortitude. Each of these would be wholly fortitude, having the full proper nature of fortitude, but in each case specialized for a particular set of circumstances. And a potential part is an ancillary virtue that is closely related to a major virtue but does not have exactly the same nature. For instance, justice in the strict sense is about rendering what is due to others in an equal exchange; most of the potential virtues for justice have to do with rendering what is due to others in an unequal exchange -- for instance, piety renders what is due to our parents or country, and religion renders what is due to God. These virtues can be considered justice in a broad sense; but justice in a broad sense is not a single virtue but a family of resembling virtues.

This background is useful for understanding today's virtue, which is solertia, often translated as shrewdness or quickwittedness or ingenuity; and one can't talk about solertia without talking about its relations to prudence and to eustochia, the virtue that has to do with good guessing (happy conjecture, as it is sometimes described). The terms come from Aristotle's discussion of practical wisdom or prudence. Prudence has to make inferences about many things; and inferences require means of inferences (middle terms in syllogisms, for instance). Thus the ability to give an educated guess about what path we should take to draw a good conclusion is an important one for prudence.

Thomas Aquinas shifts his views about solertia over time. In early works like the commentary on the Sentences, Aquinas argues that solertia and eustochia are potential parts of prudence: they could be considered prudence in a broad sense, but they have quirks that make them different from prudence in a strict sense. In this conception, solertia is the disposition that lets you very quickly find the means of inference in any matter, whether practical or speculative, whether necessary or contingent; while eustochia is the disposition that lets you very reliably find the means of inference in contingent matters.

Later, however, having read the Nicomachean Ethics more closely, and particularly by being influenced by the commentary of Andronicus of Rhodes, he came to the conclusion that it would be more consistent with the general count of prudence and with Aristotle's terminology to think of eustochia or ingenuity, now understood as simply the virtue of happy conjecture under any circumstances, and solertia is a subjective part of eustochia, namely, the kind of eustochia that finds means of inference very quickly and easily. Solertia is also a quasi-integral part of prudence. This is the position he takes in Summa Theologiae 2-2.49.4, quoting Andronicus: "Solertia is a disposition by which what is appropriate is rapidly discovered."

The reason for treating solertia as a quasi-integral part of prudence is that prudence concern gives us good judgments about practical matters; these good judgments need to be reached by inferences, and there are two ways one can facilitate inference to good judgment. One way is by getting help, and the virtue that deals with this is docilitas, teachableness; but the other way is by learning how to hypothesize, conjecture, and guess in reasonably reliable ways. This needs a name, and the most convenient name was solertia, which Andronicus had already insisted was a part of prudence. This makes it possible to use the name 'eustochia' for the more general virtue concerned with conjecture, which it fits better, anyway.

So there is a virtue of good guessing, called eustochia. More precisely, eustochia is the developed disposition to swift and likely conjecture or hypothesis, the aptitude for rapid discovery of congruities and incongruities. Not all conjectures, of course, are equal, and there is one form of conjecture that makes eustochia an especially interesting virtue. Reasoning, as we know, proceeds from a starting point to a terminal point, but it can't just be a series of stages. "The switch was flipped; the light must have gone on" is not an inference or bit of reasoning; it's just a series of claims. Reasoning or inference generally requires that we move from one claim to another by something conjoining them, whether explicit or not; this is called the middle term, and it's simply the means of getting from premise to conclusion. Thus, in "The switch was flipped, so the light must have gone on" there is an implicit middle term (or series of middle terms, it makes little difference) that links flipping the switch with the light going on. This middle term is the means of drawing a conclusion from the original premises or data. Eustochia is the virtue of being good at hypothesizing a middle term; and solertia is eustochia for practical circumstances, and something required for making prudent decisions.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Morals, Medicine, and Magic Oomph

Tim Dean at "Ockham's Beard" has some interesting comments on the health/well-being analogy used by Sam Harris and they are at least related to some arguments that have been made by Chris Schoen in comments here. The basic argument is this:

The thing with health – and the problem with the health-morality analogy – is that one can have exhaustive knowledge of the facts about health, and the facts about what one ought to do to be healthy, but they can still rationally (if imprudently) say “so what?” There is nothing about the facts of health that compel one to pursue health, nor that condemn that individual as being irrational if they don’t value health and go off and guzzle doughnuts.

Likewise, someone could have exhaustive knowledge of all the facts about wellbeing (assuming it’s even possible) and still say “so what?” Yes, this person is perhaps acting imprudently, but there’s nothing rationally binding about these facts that commit them to pursuing wellbeing.

This is basically a revival of the open question argument and is open to all the worries an open question argument can engender. A big worry that always arises with open question arguments, for instance, is whether the argument begs the question. In this case the worry definitely does arise: if there are moral facts about health (which, if they exist, would have to be included in the set of all facts about health), then there might well be facts that "compel one to pursue health," so saying there aren't seems to beg the question against Harris. If we leave out moral facts altogether, then all the argument says is that medicine is not ethics and it just flat out asserts that Harris is wrong; thus the question is begged another way, since from a claim that Harris need not deny we get without any apparent intermediary steps that Harris is wrong.

The third alternative is to deny that moral facts are not the sort of thing that can compel. This could be done in two ways: either we could be rejecting the notion that the facts to which Harris appeals could even exist, in which case we are begging the question in a third way, or we are saying that they do exist but simply lack the power to "compel". In any case, the argument would boil down to this power to compel.

So what is this missing compulsion-power? Dean gives several characterizations of it: morality compels, it rationally binds, it has practically-motivating punch, it involves worthiness for pursuit; a review to which he appeals of Bloomfield's Moral Reality, which also uses the analogy, calls it a "certain kind of practical authority" and says that morality "demands a certain evaluative response from us irrespective of our interests," and in particular "demands that we be motivated." Now there are three things that are immediately obvious here: (1) it is not in the least clear that these are all the same thing; (2) the characterizations are metaphorical; and (3) they strongly suggest, and in some cases clearly require, a fundamentally deontological account of morality. It is deontologists, believers that morality is at root nothing more than rules or the like that carry their own force with them, who make a big deal about practical necessities, binding obligations, the demands and authority of moral claims, that cannot be reduced to a purely utilitarian or virtue-ethical analysis. (If one allowed utilitarian reduction, the criticism would lose all force, because Harris is a utilitarian. If one allowed virtue-ethical reduction, it isn't clear at first glance why a utilitarian couldn't do something similar.) It is deontologists who demand that morality be something other than interest, rising above all interests and overriding them somehow. It is utterly unclear why Harris is now only allowed to have succeeded in showing that morality is thoroughly a matter for scientific study if he can show that moral science proves deontology right. This comes entirely out of nowhere in a number of discussions, and is never, ever, ever justified.

Nonetheless, suppose we set this aside and instead of assuming deontology here, we simply say that, whatever it may be, Harris can't get the magic oomph, the punch, the force, that makes morality bossy and demanding. We need to say what it is. For it is certainly the case -- and it has been known since at least Plato -- that people can take morality at its face and still, in Dean's phrase, ask "So what?" Glaucon, for instance lays out some suggestions for the grounds on which someone might well say such a thing in the face of the demand to be just in Book II of the Republic. Nor was it a purely theoretical exercise. So either there is no special oomph to morality, or it can't be the mere fact that someone can say, "So what?" that causes the problem here. There is nothing about morality that literally compels people to follow it, or even to recognize it, since if there were everyone would have to follow it, and that's certainly false. Anyone can shrug in the face of a moral 'demand'. So we can't just rest satisfied with saying morals compel; we need to establish that this purely metaphorical compulsion can't itself be reduced to interests, or facts about well-being, or the like. We need to define this oomph that morality can give just on its own, that is such that in the moral case it can't be chased away by the question, "So what?" A categorical imperative? A transcendental good? Or something else? Otherwise we aren't really saying what's being left out of Harris's proposal.

Dean goes on to argue as if his argument showed that "the lynchpin of morality – the commitment to pursue health/wellbeing – have no foundation in scientific fact, only in our own agreement to pursue them." Coming to this conclusion seems to require that the oomph is based on agreement. But that obviously won't work: we can ask "So what?" of any agreement, and these agreements are just sociological, or depending on your exact view perhaps at least partly biological, facts. And likewise, if we accept Dean's further conclusion, "Morality is really a deep kind of prudence: if you value wellbeing, do X, and demand that others do X too," the oomph has vanished away. (And put in this conditional form there's nothing to press toward the anti-realism that Dean says Harris should be advocating, because it can be seen as a problem-solution pair: problem: to find the action that maximizes well-being, solution: X. And there's nothing about that that's particularly problematic for a moral-science realist: physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences are filled with such problem-solution pairs. That's how Newton built his physics, in fact. Now, realism/anti-realism debates are tricky, but it seems a bit abrupt to say that something that lots of realists think should be interpreted in a realist way strongly suggests anti-realism is right. Only if morality isn't of this conditional form could there be anything that could possibly gum up the works of Harris's project. That's why the oomph, if it delivered on all the promises, would be a problem. But we have no reason to think that the oomph wouldn't equally be a problem for moral anti-realism, most versions of which don't have any obvious room for an oomph transcending all interests, placing demands and compelling, which cannot possibly be ignored, none of which sounds particularly anti-realist.) Either the oomph really exists, in which case Harris does have to account for it because everyone has to account for it, in which case it's pretty crucial to know what it is so that we can actually see that it might be a problem; or it does not exist, and it's difficult to see how this nonexistent thing could cause problems for the health analogy or, indeed, for anything in Harris's project.

This is all very brief, really; in spite of the short space of the argument, there are a lot of issues raised, not all of which I could do justice to in a a post on a blog. But (while I don't think this is true of all of them) most of the criticisms raised against Harris either are too indiscriminate (which is what Harris is using the health analogy to argue) or are have-your-cake-eat-it-too (posing a problem for Harris that magically shows up only for Harris and not the objector, on no identifiable principle) or are really attacks on Harris's utilitarianism and are thus not the criticisms of the basic theses on moral science that they claim to be. The last of these three can generate legitimate objections to Harris, but it's also precisely the point at which critics should stop pretending that they are in uncontroversial territory in formulating their criticisms and that Harris's argument just obviously falls down because of them.

Her Tender-Taken Breath

Bright Star
by John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever-or else swoon to death.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A World Full of Gods: Chapter Two

In Chapter One, Greer set the stage for the book, but in order to address the subjects he wishes to discuss, he has to overcome a hurdle at the very beginning, namely, certain basic issues of religious epistemology. Greer identifies three basic positions:

(1) We can know about gods on the basis of religious authority (e.g., a sacred text or prophet or some such).

(2) We cannot know anything whatsoever about gods, either because statements about them do nothing but express attitudes and emotions (and therefore are not the sort of thing knowledge deals with) or because statements about them have no meaning except for those who believe them.

(3) We can know about gods on the basis of reasoned inference from experienced evidence (and this may, of course, take either an atheistic form, in which what we can know about gods is that they don't exist, or a theistic form, in which we can know that they do).

Greer suggests that the typical Pagan view strongly upholds the third option: Paganism, in both its ancient forms and its modern revivals, usually places a strong emphasis on religious experience, which then forms the basis of conclusions that are refined through processes that have been developed by the community. This is the foundation for the fact that Pagan religious life can be very baroque, with a bewildering variety of approaches: it is very common for Pagan communities to try things out, and if it works in such a way as to meet the approval of the community, it is kept and over time integrated into the whole fabric. This is why Paganism has traditionally handled religious diversity so easily: people with diverse religions come into contact with each other, shared experiences are integrated with each other, and disagreements are at least to some extent tested against those shared experiences. This emphasis on religious experience will be found throughout the book, and forms its core. It also provides most of the more interesting arguments of the work.

In response to (1), Greer recognizes that testimony does play a major role in our understanding of the world. Not all testimony is equal, of course, but some of it could be good. If one takes the view of a religion with a sacred text inspired by God, the basic idea would be that one can trust the testimony given here completely. This is, says Greer, "sound in the abstract; if one did have access to an omniscient witness, and reason to trust his honesty, it would be entirely reasonable to accept his statements at face value" (p. 23). The problem, he suggests, arises from religious diversity: were there only one candidate being put forward this might be a strong position, but things get complex very quickly when one considers all the different texts put forward in this way -- the Bible, the Quran, the many Ofudesaki of recent Japanese religions, and so forth. This provides a challenge that has to be met. Greer actually provides no arguments that it can't be met. He also doesn't consider at all the important complications arising from what might be called fallibilistic interpretations of sacred texts, in which the testimony ultimately derives from an omniscient and trustworthy witness but filtered through fallible human beings; one variety of this opinion, which one at least occasionally does find in the wild, is that all the major sacred scriptures are of this sort, and such a position will handle religious testimony in pretty much exactly the way Greer says Pagans handle religious experience. But it is worthwhile to keep in mind Greer's goal in the book, which is not to provide definitive answers but to make the case that polytheists have something interesting and philosophically significant to say to the questions.

Greer also discusses, with regard to (1), fideistic and Reformed epistemology variations on it; these are very quickly discussed, and this quick discussion (along with the discussion of Schleiermacher in the next section) is, I think, far and away the weakest part of this chapter: it really needed more discussion than Greer decided to give it, even given the goal of the book.

With regard to expressivist forms of (2), Greer notes Wayne Proudfoot's claim that it is a defensive tactic devoted nothing other than to stopping inquiry outright, and says that it is harsh but not inaccurate. Greer notes that a purely expressivist approach is very difficult to square with actual religious claims, experiences, and practices. He then considers Wittgensteinian "form of life" accounts of (2), arguing (it is an interesting discussion, but I won't go into it here) that it is crucially and fatally vague.

With regard to atheistic forms of (3), Greer quite rightly notes that the sheer diversity of religions makes the position necessarily very complex: merely from the fact that some religious claims are rejected one cannot conclude that all are, so the claims that are proven wrong would have to be very broad and very widespread; this then, is the challenge that would have to be faced by the atheistic defender of (3).

Given the shortness of the chapter, it's best to see it as simply identifying the major challenges for the major competitors to the Pagan epistemological view that Greer will develop in Chapters Five through Seven. He does not at any point give a sufficient argument for anyone to conclude that the challenges are unanswerable, but given, again, that the point of the book is simply to make a case of the philosophical interest and significance of Pagan thought, he doesn't really need to do so. As noted above, I do think that he fails to make a very plausible case for a major challenge to fideism, to Reformed epistemology, and to Schleiermacher-style expressivism; the questions he raises are more of the "well, why not?" type than anything that speaks to the heart of the projects being addressed.

But in a sense we are all still dealing with preamble, and the weakness here isn't very problematic for the argument as a whole. Some of these positions will also be re-addressed at least somewhat along the way, so it's important not to jump the gun. But as Greer goes forward with a theistic version of (3), he has more obstacles to get out of the way: there are very definitely monotheistic versions of (3) with some very recognizable arguments that, if they get off the ground, could very well make the development of a polytheistic version of (3) moot. This will be the subject of what Greer calls a "detour" through Chapters Three and Four; Three will try to make a limited case that at least some of these arguments need not be seen as inconsistent with polytheism, and Four, far and away the weakest chapter in the book, will try to make another limited case that at least some typical atheistic challenges need not be seen as inconsistent with polytheism, either. I think this "detour" should have been better integrated into the overall argument, and think that even the limited case Greer is trying to build is very weakly supported by his actual argumentative approach; but I'll discuss them in more detail in a later post.

Links and Notes

* An excellent discussion of Michael Jackson at "Catholic Kung Fu"

* Apparently there's a campaign building to encourage the producers of the next Superman movie to cast Rashida Jones as the next Lois Lane; and I have to say, she could pull it off. Lois Lane has never really been done justice on the screen, whether small or large, although Margot Kidder did manage to convey something of the personality of a girl who could be a top-notch reporter at a major newspaper. What one really needs is an actress who can play smart, level-headed, dynamic, and ambitious. And Jones could probably manage it.

* Massimo Pigliucci reviews Harris's The Moral Landscape. This is pretty much how to criticize Harris.

* The Mississippi River System laid out like a subway map.

* I was reading about recently for examples of magic grinder myths; I remember reading a version of one a very long time ago that was very striking, and some of the details have always stayed with me. I was looking for that version, but I didn't find the exact version -- there are so many variations. But here are a few that I did find:

Gróttasöngr (the prototype of most magic grinder myths of the Why-the-Sea-is-Salt type)
Why the Sea is Salt (a simple prose version of the above)
Why the Sea is Salt (a modernized version for kids to act out)
Why the Sea is Salt by Sarah Cone Bryant (which adds a Rich Brother / Poor Brother theme)

The version I remember reading definitely had bacon as a key plot theme, so the kid's play is likely from the same source, or at least a related one.

* Which incidentally led me to look for a version of what was once one of my favorite fairy tales, The Magic Tinderbox (another version, which tries harder to keep the tone of Anderson's original). I always remember the dog with eyes like millstones -- somehow I find that more striking a description than the one with eyes like the Round Tower. "The Magic Tinderbox" was one of Anderson's first tales. There are other variations on the tale, like The Three Dogs and The Blue Light.

* An equation for assigning a dollar value to planets. The point seems widely misunderstood, and I've seen this misreported even on economics blogs; the equation isn't supposed to (and doesn't) put a price tag on the planet: it's supposed to give an approximate value, using the expected success of the Kepler mission, on the discovery of a planet from wherever you are (in our case Earth) in light of (a) how Earth-like it is in features known to be valuable for life and (b) how soon you've made the discovery relative to the Kepler mission. So for instance, we've already discovered one perfectly Earth-like planet from Earth, and did so a very long time ago: Earth itself. And the equation puts the value of that discovery at a bit over 5 quadrillion dollars. Mars and Venus were discovered a long time ago from Earth, but Venus has more of the features in question than Mars (closer in mass, etc.) and, due to one of the weird quirks in the equation actually gets a bump up just because it's closer to the sun, so the discovery of Mars is valued at $14000 and the discovery of Venus originally very high but now (given our current information about its surface temperature) at less than a cent.

* I recently had someone come to my blog by searching for the question, "How does Virginia Woolf kill the Angel in the House?" The answer, of course, is by working to be honest and open in her writing, or, as she put it, flinging the inkpot at the Angel everytime she showed up. You can read more about it in Virginia Woolf's Professions for Women. I talked about Woolf's use of the phrase here.

* Incidentally, everyone should read Woolf's fine skewering of modern poetry, which has the only correct recommendation for learning how to write poetry:
Write then, now that you are young, nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley, imitate Samuel Smiles; give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and syntax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch, coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Ship of State

My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness
Thomas Wyatt

My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
'Tween rock and rock; and eke mine en'my, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every owre a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance;
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain;
Drownèd is Reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.

Wyatt's poem is a translated version of Petrarch's Canzionere 189:

Passa la nave mia colma d'oblio
per aspro mare, a mezza notte il verno,
enfra Scilla et Caribdi; et al governo
siede 'l signore, anzi 'l nimico mio.

A ciascun remo un penser pronto et rio
che la tempesta e 'l fin par ch'abbi a scherno;
la vela rompe un vento humido eterno
di sospir', di speranze, et di desio.

Pioggia di lagrimar, nebbia di sdegni
bagna et rallenta le già stanche sarte,
che son d'error con ignorantia attorto.

Celansi i duo mei dolci usati segni;
morta fra l'onde è la ragion et l'arte,
tal ch'incomincio a desperar del porto.

Which is a reworking of Horace (Odes, Book I, Ode 14):

O nauis, referent in mare te noui
fluctus. O quid agis? Fortiter occupa
portum. Nonne uides ut
nudum remigio latus,

et malus celeri saucius Africo 5
antemnaque gemant ac sine funibus
uix durare carinae
possint imperiosius

aequor? Non tibi sunt integra lintea,
non di, quos iterum pressa uoces malo.
Quamuis Pontica pinus,
siluae filia nobilis,

iactes et genus et nomen inutile:
nil pictis timidus nauita puppibus
fidit. Tu, nisi uentis
debes ludibrium, caue.

Nuper sollicitum quae mihi taedium,
nunc desiderium curaque non leuis,
interfusa nitentis
uites aequora Cycladas.

All three are very critical of the navigators of the ship of state: Horace laments the ship itself, begging it to find harbor and get repairs, while Petrarch and Wyatt despair as sailors.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Three Poem Re-drafts

The Hunt

Sad moon shines with sorrow,
a soft and lunatic light;
dark and cold themselves are chilled --
now comes the dreaded night
with clipping hoof of herald's horse,
a call of ram-theft horn,
a terror looming in the sky
as heart-wrung clouds are torn.
Like famine, conquest, slaughter,
the hunter pours out hell:
his pallid steed leads pallid hounds
in a hunt beyond all pale.

Kalaratri in the Starlight

Come now, come now, said her smile
as she leaned on the wooden fence,
come now, come now: a woman's voice
that coaxes and never relents.
She looked me over with sparkling eye
blushed and smiled once more,
flirted at me with lash, with glance,
with form that held good things in store.

My love is another's, I quietly said.
Though your deep eyes are bright,
Though you reach up with willow-tree grace,
My love's for another by right.

She smiled again, with softest of purrs
replied that true love left no choice:
when true lovers meet beneath a full moon
fate speaks in inexorable voice
of destiny laid from the first of the world
that cannot be turned or undone.
When she loved a man, that loving was sure,
and she loved, and I was the one.

But a bright, lovely girl awaits me, I know,
hopes to see me in clear morning light.
How can a man seek honor and truth
who dallies with strangers at night?

Ah, said the lady (as she drew near
I felt a brush of the warmth of her breath),
these frail mundane loves pass us like sighs;
I speak true, or my name is not Death.
Then she trickled her finger down the bridge of my nose,
took my face up into her hands,
smiled at me under cold stars --
and we kissed, and I fell to the sand.


Her hair is sun turned into strand,
her skin is light like cream;
by endless ocean's endless wave
she endlessly shall dream:
a lady by the salted sea,
she sleeps forevermore;
forever on the sands I walk
her beauty to adore.
I loved her deeply in my youth,
but she my brother wed;
I wove enchantment in the air
that struck my brother dead.
I spoke a word of ancient might
that turned her soul to sleep
and cast a spell on time itself,
eternal love to keep.
Now walk I on this weary sand
for ages none can tell,
and keep my heart upon her form,
and weep, and love in hell.