Saturday, January 24, 2015

Francis de Sales on Devotion

Today is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, Doctor the Church. From his Introduction to the Devout Life, a classic so popular that it even circulated in abridged Protestantized versions:

You aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God’s Divine Majesty. But seeing that the small errors people are wont to commit in the beginning of any under taking are apt to wax greater as they advance, and to become irreparable at last, it is most important that you should thoroughly understand wherein lies the grace of true devotion;—and that because while there undoubtedly is such a true devotion, there are also many spurious and idle semblances thereof; and unless you know which is real, you may mistake, and waste your energy in pursuing an empty, profitless shadow. Arelius was wont to paint all his pictures with the features and expression of the women he loved, and even so we all colour devotion according to our own likings and dispositions. One man sets great value on fasting, and believes himself to be leading a very devout life, so long as he fasts rigorously, although the while his heart is full of bitterness;—and while he will not moisten his lips with wine, perhaps not even with water, in his great abstinence, he does not scruple to steep them in his neighbour’s blood, through slander and detraction. Another man reckons himself as devout because he repeats many prayers daily, although at the same time he does not refrain from all manner of angry, irritating, conceited or insulting speeches among his family and neighbours. This man freely opens his purse in almsgiving, but closes his heart to all gentle and forgiving feelings towards those who are opposed to him; while that one is ready enough to forgive his enemies, but will never pay his rightful debts save under pressure. Meanwhile all these people are conventionally called religious, but nevertheless they are in no true sense really devout.

That one point, "we all color devotion according to our own likings and dispositions", is one of the most important things to grasp when dealing with religious devotion at all. As St. Francis goes on to note, devotion cannot be determined from any particular practice, which is often just a matter of taste; one only has devotion when one has a genuine love of God acting "carefully, diligently, and promptly".

Virtues Growing from the Ground

A Ballade of an Anti-Puritan
by G. K. Chesterton

They spoke of Progress spiring round,
Of light and Mrs Humphrey Ward--
It is not true to say I frowned,
Or ran about the room and roared;
I might have simply sat and snored--
I rose politely in the club
And said, `I feel a little bored;
Will someone take me to a pub?'

The new world's wisest did surround
Me; and it pains me to record
I did not think their views profound,
Or their conclusions well assured;
The simple life I can't afford,
Besides, I do not like the grub--
I want a mash and sausage, `scored'--
Will someone take me to a pub?

I know where Men can still be found,
Anger and clamorous accord,
And virtues growing from the ground,
And fellowship of beer and board,
And song, that is a sturdy cord,
And hope, that is a hardy shrub,
And goodness, that is God's last word--
Will someone take me to a pub?

Prince, Bayard would have smashed his sword
To see the sort of knights you dub--
Is that the last of them--O Lord
Will someone take me to a pub?

Chesterton's ballades are always primarily humorous ways of making one very large point, but the workmanship in the details of the stanza starting 'I know' is excellent.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dashed Off I

As always, only dashed off notes.

Hypothesis and confirmation only get us to verisimilitude; a theory of confirmation is indeed a theory of relative verisimilitude.

free indirect discourse in the Gospel of John

the conditions under which contiguity is possible influence?

the gifts of the Holy Spirit as delineating gneeral roles needed in the work of the Spirit (spiritual life)

In a good allegorical poem or tale, real people look flat in comparison. (We get something close to this in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Usually, however, allegories don't oblige us by putting real people in as characters so that we can see how robust the allegory is by direct comparison.)

projective mereologies
mereology from a point of view
-> compare to interval calculus
mereological relations that vary according to scale
projective mereology, interval calculus, and relativity of simultaneity

"Proverbs are words of exhortation serviceable for a whole path of life; for to those who seek their way to God, these serve as guides and signs to revive them when wearied with the length of the road." Hippolytus of Rome

Extensionality fails for permeating parthood relations.

The scope of an authority is determined by the good it involves.

Heracles as the ideal Cynic (Epictetus 3.22.57; Diog Ep 26; Dio Chrysostom 8.26-27; Julian the Apostate Or 6.187c)

the picture of society found in Jesus' parables

thesis, reason, analogy, example, exhortation

From what we know of Teles of Megara and others, we have every reason to think that much of the famous Cynic tendency to brevity is due as much to how their comments were preserved as anything else.

Countercultures very commonly justify themselves by golden ages, past or future or even at times present in idealized foreign places.

onset-discovery-confirmation-confrontation in horror stories

'Folk psychology' is a folk psychological term.

one's life as containing the total cause of one's death

Brentano's names for intentionality: intentional inexistence of an object, relation to a content, direction toward an object, immanent objectivity

Bayesian epistemology often confuses the provisional with the probable; it registers full provisional acceptance as if it were the same as probable acceptability.

hierarchy of sacraments, of icons, and of doctrines

Dying is the accumulation of vital errors.

Every sacrament is a union of nature, human art, and divine art, although in different ways, and all three play an important role, although in different proportions in different sacraments.

All theology is both dogmatic and systematic.

rhetoric as concerned with vivacity, beauty, sublimity, and novelty of communicated reasoning

Von Wright's logic of change is actually a logic of difference; pT~p can apply just as well to different places or different organizations as times. Likewise d(pT~p) could just as easily be an act of differentiating as an act of changing, and similarly with f(pT~p). One could also take it to be synchronic (logical moments or instants of change) rather than diachronic.

What is called the 'design stance' (Dennett, etc.) is actually many different stances lumped together.

Debunking arguments need not merely the claim that something has gone wrong, but a causal account of the way in which it goes wrong.

communal eating as a metaphor for tradition (banquet, symposium)
musical performance as microtradition
internal sense theory as capturing forms of tradition (qua transmission)

humanitas, misericordia, intentio professionis and the medical profession

(1) One may have powers (capabilities) that are inactive.
(2) Inactive and active powers show that the actual and the potential are two ways things may be.
(3) The actual is prior to an nobler than the potential.

energeia as operativeness, at-work-hood
entelechia as complete-being-ness, persisting-full-grown-ness

literary canons as us-formation

the humanitarian tradition of medicine, rooted in Hippocratic Oath and developing from there

tradition : memory :: inquiry : reason

Knowledge is of its nature a single principle admitting of contrary effects.

Metaphysics IX is a complete answer to Hume, in the sense of providing all the principles required for an answer.

the tradition of how, the tradition of that, the tradition of what
episodic vs habitual (dispositional) tradition
declarative vs nondeclarative tradition
the elative and illative faces of tradition
institutional identity and tradition

the significance of the fact that memory is so naturally described with spatial metaphors

All interpretation presupposes tradition; and there can be no such thing as interpretation without trusting to someone's tradition.

All perception presupposes memory; and there can be no such thing as perception without trusting to memory.

When declarative tradition is distinct and determinate, and those handing it down are sensible and of good character, we naturally treat it almost as if it we had direct perception of what is declared.

Tradition does not merely retain the past; it also holds the present and anticipates the future.

things drawn forth from the more remote treasuries of tradition, collected again that they may be known as if new, pulled together from their dispersion

Although true inspiration belongs to saints, yet some poets not in this group are found to participate a kind of inspiration, not by a divine movement in the proper sense, but out of a natural movement involving sense and imagination.

Tradition in the Church is not primarily of abstract system but of teachings (including icons) and sacraments.
->meditation on icons as one of the ways of receiving the Tradition's treasuries

memory as trace with measure of time

modernity and the pursuit of understanding that does not set things in order

traditions as sources of problem-concerns and hermeneutic anticipations
tradition as a library of templates

The power of reflection incorporates in reflecting the anticipations of tradition, such as, for instance, the anticipations found in the tradition of language, when the latter is an instrument of reflection.

the Hippocratic Oath as a part of the language of medicine -- it is in effect a complex term applied figuratively to the practice of medicine so as to convey its richness and the richness of its end; it is a symbolon, although unlike the Creed it is not applied literally. The same may be said for the Declaration of Geneva, which is, however, generally used more literally, as a rich concept, a complexity capable of being taken as a unified whole for conveying the spirit of the humanitarian tradition of medicine

The Tradition of the Church is in the care of the Holy Spirit as Principal Evangelist.

truth from another
tradition & docility
tradition as public reason

In Tradition the Church draws on itself in order to hand itself down.

the Romantic fragment as allowing the permeation of thought by thought

Middlemarch on self-diffusive good (Dorothea's good on others as 'incalculably diffusive')

the detective story as a metaphor for philosophy

Belonging to a profession involves an implicit commitment to participate in and contribute to a practical tradition of how to handle common problems. Indeed, this commitment is the root of much of the fruitfulness of a profession as a profession.

analogical, best explanation, and criterial versions of design arguments

climates of virtue as encouraging actions of trust

deliberative vs expressive signs (some things, like interjections, are both)

Every assertion implies an intelligible universe.

Liberty of conscience depends on the expectation of conscientiousness, that is, on the concomitant responsibility.

To lie is not an act of love.

Sectarian issues become more intense the more integrated a people become.

guessing as structured by congruity and incongruity
a Bayesianism of guessing, with probability representing degree of congruity

The Church may be called the mother of saints insofar as she brings for their acts from her conception of the end, which works as a seed.

two ways of determining appropriate liturgy
(1) Old Testament worship as filtered through the coming of Christ
(2) Revelation as presenting ideal liturgy

confirmation Acts 8; 19:6
indulgence Nm 12; 2 Cor 2

infused virtues as virtues for the witness of faith

Law is essential to sovereignty.

Rationality is not a matter of having arguments, which human minds can make up with ease; it would be more accurate to say that it is a matter of having arguments of establishable relevance for a coherent problematic serving as its context.

Baptism, confirmation, ordination, and marriage are sacraments establishing entire jurisdictions, or areas of legal regime.

eucharist : priest :: penance : king :: unction : prophet

The right to religious liberty is the right to civil liberty in matters of religion, as arising from protection of human dignity as the condition for just society.

nature as a forum for grace, a stage for scenes of grace
the natural order as in itself implying the possibility of an order of grace (1) in origin (principle) (2) in order (3) in perfectibility

What counts as evidence depends on one's standpoint.

Building a vocabulary is usually needed to find an answer and always needed to communicate it.

Necessity in cognition is universality of form.

Human knowledge intrinsically involves the suggestion of a standard of knowledge to which it may be held.
Knowledge has gradation and admits of more and less, even with the same object.

'what the Lord taught, the Apostles preached, the Fathers preserved, the Martyrs confirmed'

Belief is not of or to propositions but by means of them.

Community requires a common means of communication.

baptism as the mother of creed

care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity

'the Nemean Lion, which Hera, the good wife of Zeus, brought up and made to haunt the hills of Nemea, a plague to men'

From the intelligibility of the particular and concrete we rise to the intelligibility of the universal principles of the same, thus to catch some intimation of the True.

The liturgy does not merely represent the archetypes of the world's order; it contains and presents them

the Modes of Skepticism as methods for argument-testing

Given the course of the determinism debate, one can easily see that determinists will eventually be accusing indeterminists of something equivalent to 'free will of the gaps' and 'chance of the gaps'; it is already an old argument, but has become less popular due to moral responsibility issues and the complications created by quantum mechanics. But all tendencies are to its return in force.
'God of the gaps' // 'free will of the gaps' // 'chance of the gaps'
-> all of these implicitly get their force by smuggling in the assumption that the other side is only arguing from lack of local evidence to support an otherwise presumptively right closure principle, rather than giving an argument from evidence that that particular closure principle is wrong, or at least presumptively wrong.

The patience of God is the heart of repentance.

Repentance implies that there is a patience in moral law, at the very least in a figurative sense.

doubt : inquiry :: pity & fear : tragedy

Scarcity drives improvement of technique; necessity really is the mother of invention.

disorder in sins against nature
(1) horror of corruption: deviation from reason in favor of arbitrary autonomy
(2) horror of abomination: deviation from human nature (e.g., as self-preserving)
(3) horror of reprobation: idolatry-likeness

Practically every incarnational heresy has implicitly been recapitulated in biblical criticism with respect to the 'Jesus of history' and 'Christ of faith' -- Docetic, Nestorian, etc., And here, as there, only the Chalcedonian is right.

"Whatever reality in its true nature is, it must form a self-consistent, all-comprehensive, and coherent whole; and these characteristics are not found in the world of perception." John Watson

Part of understanding the world is understanding ourselves in our act of understanding the world.

Naturalistic closure principles are imitation conservation laws. (This is very clear when one looks at their history.)

To be an object is to be an object-for; and to be a subject is to be a subject-of.

Nothing is identifiable as many unless it is also identifiable as one.

'the concrete presentation of ideas in definite pictorial form'

Note Watson's correct linking of Newman's theory of development to the idea of the visible church as revelatory.

Not only must a religious ritual be adequate to express in symbol the emotions and ideas of the soul; it must do so in such a way as to unite hearts and minds, which for human beings means it must in some way, direct or indirect, be a shared inheritance.

"The religion which excludes beauty is necessarily of an abstract character." John Watson

A virtuous person cannot but want virtue to be rewarded; virtue is inconsistent with splitting virtue and desert or merit -- virtue cannot deny the intrinsic worthiness and value of virtue.

rational unity as the principle of natural theology

Poetics 1450b16: catharsis and wonder do not necessarily depend on the performance

One problem with many of the speculations about the originating communities of Scriptural texts is that none of the texts (not the Four, not Thomas, not Q if it existed) could possibly be produced by a community that had nothing to draw on but what it contained. Sometimes we have internal indication (e.g., Hellenistic philosophy in the case of John, or Roman words in the case of Mark) or linked external confirmation (e.g., Acts in the case of Luke) suggesting some of this broader field, but often even this leaves us with only tiny patches to reason with.

the need for something like double-entry bookkeeping in historical reasoning

"A very little truth will sometimes enlighten a vast extent of science." Beattie

Charity is efficiently from the whole Trinity and from the Holy Spirit by exemplar appropriation.

Defect occurs either by cessation or by disorder.

Who uses a gift well may merit new gifts, depending on the end of the original giving.

Nothing is moved to the impossible.

Virtues converge to taht which charity provides

charity as a mediating virtue
charity as a provident virtue

Charity sets alight the other virtues, whether acquired or infused, through greater union to the end of any and every virtue.

Love moves the greater to provide for the lesser, equals to commune with equals, and the lesser to contemplate the greater.

prudence and the sigillation of virtue

"A cause is essential to an effect as genus is essential to species, whereas an effect is related incidentally to a cause. For the effect follows on the being of the cause as species follows on genus, unless the effect is something of the cause, since in that case effect will be compared to cause in the manner of an integral part, which is actually and essentially in the whole, while insofar as the effect is soemthing of the cause, it is not distinct from it but one with it." Aquinas

Prayer informs acts of mercy as charity informs the virtue of mercy.

Perception, sensible or intelligible, is not mere hypothesis.

the resemblance of the potential to the actual

Even though resemblance is symmetric, the ground of resemblance may not be, creating a kind of asymmetry. Thus a man resembles the painting of him, but the painting more properly resembles the man because of the asymmetry in teh reason for the resemblance.

Beattie on Cockburn 28 July 1789

internal sense theory as a theory of basic evidence

minatory formulae in philosophical argument

the resemblance of resemblance to sameness

Even though prudence does not directly determine obligations, it is required in order to apply them, and without it no virtue relevant to the obligations can arise.

the second Helvitic Confession is very good on the significance of Scripture as preached

To claim that the Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the only NT sacraments is like claiming that Circumcision and Passover are the only OT sacraments.

the indelible characters as capturing three aspects in how we can, through and in Christ, say "Our Father"

circumcision as indelible visible sign // baptism as indelible invisible sign

Natural faith, hope, and love, despite not being virtues, are the primary natural motivators for many virtues, allowing people to accomplish much that they would not otherwise accomplish, and undergo discipline that would otherwise be too harsh to bear.

Cicero, Laelius on Friendship (Part I: The Greatness of Friendship)

Laelius de Amicitia, sometimes known simply as De Amicitia (On Friendship) is one of a series of philosophical dialogues written by Marcus Tullius Cicero describing what is usually called the Scipionic Circle, a loose group of people gathered around the Stoic philosopher Panaetius and the statesman Scipio Aemelianus Africanus (himself best known for being the general who destroyed Carthage and ended the Third Punic War) who would discuss intellectual topics of interest. (It is not known whether this Scipionic Circle really existed or is an idealized picture or even fiction by Cicero.) The other Scipionic Circle dialogues are Cato maior de senectute, De oratore and Cicero's great work, De re publica. In De amicitia, Scipio has just recently died, and a number of people gather with his old friend Laelius to discuss friendship. The work shows many signs of being directly influenced by discussions of friendship in Plato (Lysis), Xenophon (Memorabilia), and Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics), and possibly also a lost treatise on friendship by Theophrastus; but as with all of Cicero's philosophical works, much of the distinctively Ciceronian is found in what he does with his sources.

You can read Laelius de Amicitia online in English at Project Gutenberg. There is a nice set of webpages by Tom Sienkewicz with basic study resources on the dialogue, including an outline of the dialogue.


  Gaius Laelius
Laelius is an old friend and political ally of Scipio. He was often nicknamed Sapiens because of his moderation and willingness to listen to the objections of his critics. He is also a character in Cicero's Cato Major and De Re Publica. He is obviously the main character of this dialogue, which is structured as a conversation in which Laelius makes three major speeches.

  Quintus Mucius Scaevola
Scaevola is Laelius's son-in-law (married to his eldest daughter). Scaevola was one of Cicero's own teachers and is also a character in both De Oratore and De Re Publica.

  Gaius Fannius
He is also a son-in-law of Laelius (married to his younger daughter). In real life he and Scaevola seemed not to have gotten along; Scaevola was younger, but by marrying the older Laelia had managed to get the coveted position of augur, which Strabo may have wanted for himself. It's difficult to be clear about his real life, though, because he is often confused with another Fannius, and Cicero himself seems to have had only a very rough notion of his actual history.

In addition, Cicero directly addresses Titus Pomponius Atticus, to whom the work is dedicated; Atticus was an old friend and ally of Cicero; he was also a student of Scaevola and a lover of philosophy, and in fact seems to have taken the name 'Atticus' to indicate how much he loved Athens and its philosophy. Cicero and Atticus were both in their sixties when the dialogue was written.

Dedication to Atticus

Cicero gives an account of the background of the dialogue, attributing it to his teacher, Scaevola. According to the story Cicero relates, Scaevola was sitting with a number of friends and the discussion came to the topic of friendship. Atticus had apparently suggested that Cicero write on friendship, and so he presents this work to fulfill that, writing, he says, "to a friend in the friendliest spirit on the subject of friendship" by presenting a conversation in which Laelius, "pre-eminent on account of his own glorious friendship, will speak about friendship" (I/5). He asks Atticus to forget him for a while and imagine that it is Laelius himself who speaks, and to recognize in Laelius's exposition of friendship a portrait of Atticus himself.

Opening Conversation

Fannius opens the dialogue in the middle of the discussion by complimenting Laelius on his wisdom, and noting that people have asked him how he is coping with the death of his friend Scipio, since he missed a meeting he scrupulously attends. Scaevola says that when people have asked him, he always says that Laelius missed not because of his grief, which he has but keeps under control, but because of illness. Laelius confirms that he has been sick, and says he thinks obligations should be fulfilled as long as one is well, regardless of the situation. He notes, though, that he would be lying if he said that he was unaffected by Scipio's death, "since I have been deprived of a friend such as I suppose there will never be again" (III/10). But Scipio himself had lived such a full life that a few more years could have hardly added to his honors, so nothing bad has happened to Scipio; and dwelling too long on his own misfortune in losing Scipio would be a mark not of his love for his friend but of his love for himself.

Laelius rejects the idea that the soul dissolves at death, on the ground of authority: his ancestors gave honors to the dead that showed that they thought this was false, and the Pythagoreans teach reincarnation, which show that they think it false, and Socrates, judged wisest by the oracle of Apollo himself, was on this point not obscure and puzzling but quite clear. Scipio held this view as well. Thus one can reasonably expect that one so good as Scipio would be rewarded for his excellence. But even if one held that the soul was destroyed at death, then it follows that even if there is nothing good in death, there is also nothing bad in it for the dying. Thus the only misfortune here is Laelius's, but he will always have the memory of their friendship.

Laelius's First Discourse

Fannius and Scaevola both take this as an opportunity to ask him to talk about friendship. Laelius says that it is an excellent subject, but rejects the idea that he is well suited to speak on it. All he can do is encourage them to recognize that friendship is the greatest thing in human life. True friendship, however, can only arise between those who are good. He rejects the idea that this is due to a particularly restrictive definition of friendship itself, or that it is unattainable; what he means is that friendship requires ordinary decency and strength of character of the sort that we can actually find in real life.

The very fact of our being born makes it so that we live in society, but proximity creates special bonds, so that those who are our compatriots are closer than foreigners, and kin closer than strangers. This make up a natural friendship, although not stably so, for friendship in a proper sense is greater than any of these -- after all, we can be related to people without any benevolence or goodwill existing between us, but friendship requires benevolence. Friendship is far more powerful than ordinary society, even familial society, because it takes all that connection and concentrates it. Affection (caritas) is always found between two, or at most a small group.

Laelius then gives his definition of friendship: "friendship is in fact nothing other than a community of views [consensio] on all matters human and divine, together with goodwill and affection [cum benevolentia et caritate]" (VI/20). Of all gifts of the gods, only wisdom can be seriously regarded as its rival for the greatest. People do often treat other things as more important -- wealth, health, power, public honor, honors, or even pleasures. These things are not stable enough. To be sure, one could say that virtue is the greatest good, but virtue is such that it produces and sustains friendship. Again he insists that we should take virtue here in our ordinary, everyday sense, such as we attribute to great men like Cato or Scipio, not in any rarefied philosophical sense, and then gives some of the advantages such men derive from friendship.

The greatest advantage of friendship, however, is that "it lights a beacon of hope for the future, nor does it allow the human spirit to weaken or to stumble" (VII/23). Who sees a true friend in some sense sees himself, to such an extent that we can say that through friendship the dead live, because of the memory of their friends, so that on this alone we can in some sense say that the dead are blessed. Were benevolence gone from the world, it would all fall apart; friendship and concord hold the world together.

This is, again, simply common sense: anyone can know it, and everyone in their practice endorses it. We see this in the fact that people who are true friends will face danger together, and that we all praise such action.

Having said his piece, Laelius recommends again that they might be better served by finding a professional philosopher to discuss the subject. But his sons-in-law will insist that he speak more, and we'll see what's said in a future post on the dialogue.

  Additional Notes

* In the course of discussing Scipio's belief in the afterlife, Laelius makes a reference to a discussion captured in another of Cicero's dialogues, De re publica, in which Scipio recounts a dream had by his father. This is one of the most famous and influential passages in all of Cicero, the Somnium Scipionis, on which Macrobius wrote a commentary that was very influential in the Middle Ages. The Dream of Scipio is about the reward waiting for the good and noble statesman.

* Laelius explicitly identifies (V/18) four virtues as part of the character required for friendship: fides (good faith or honesty), integritas (soundness or integrity), aequitas (fairness), and liberalitas (generosity). He excludes three three vices: cupiditas (greediness), libido (wantonness), and audacia (shamelessness or brazenness). He also says that friendship requires magna constantia (great constancy).

* Cicero's talking about friendship (amicitia) in terms of affection (caritas) is certainly an influence on another, much later discussion of friendship: Aquinas's discussion of charity (caritas) in terms of friendship (amicitia). The discussion of what is the greatest good (VI/20) is also fairly clearly an important influence on the argument of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, and the major influence on the overall structure of that work's argument.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Two Senses of 'Pain'

But the truth is that the word Pain has two senses which must now be distinguished. a. A particular kind of sensation, probably conveyed by specialised nerve fibers, and recognisable by the patient as that kind of sensation whether he dislikes it or not (e.g., the faint ache in my limbs would be recognised as an ache even if I didn't object to it). b. Any experience, whether physical or mental, which the patient dislikes. It will be noticed that all Pains in sense a become pains in sense b if they are raised above a certain very low level of intensity, but that Pains in the b sense need not be Pains in the a sense.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Collier (New York: 1962) p. 90.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some Poem Drafts

Today is the feast of St. Agnes, of course; thus the first two. The first is a very slight re-draft, the second new. St. Emerentiana, the friend who was stoned to death for praying at St. Agnes's tomb, has her feast day on the 23rd. They were both about fourteen years old, of course, and lived in the fourth century.

A Poem of St. Agnes

The little lambs on heaven's field
remind me of a girl who fought
against the darkness, for the fair,
whose heart was free from trembling fear,
who would not falter, did not fail,
but held her ground against the foe.
"I faithful stay to Spouse and Friend,
my Jesus; I am truly free
with him," she said, her voice not faint.
And then she bent her head, with faith
exposed her neck. The death-stroke fell.

Agnes and Emerentiana

The world in rage will not endure
a girl who hears a higher call;
to blood it turns a prayer pure
and destines her to velvet pall.
And should a girl on girl depend
to keep her image in her heart,
the world will hate as well her friend,
for friendship is the purest art.
It hates the pure; such will not bend,
through grace transcending scripted part.
Then sword will fall, or stones descend --
they yet unconquered meet their end.


The world, this ship,
around the harbor sails
as sun and ships of heavy war
protect it from the gale.
The winds all blow in silent curves
by enchantment of a star:
thus roundly round the sailing goes
until the final war.

Two Tragedies

We take two turns to learn one truth:
therein the tragedy of youth.
We write our best, but smear the page:
therein the tragedy of age.


The azure-plaited naiads swim
beneath the falling water's foam;
the stars that grace the evening dim,
of finest-watered adamant,
reflect in eyes like ponds of blue --
and yet they are less fair than you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Thing You Grab as You Flee for Your Life

An interesting question: If you had to flee for your life, only taking what you could carry, knowing you might never come home again, what's the one precious thing you would be sure you had as you went out the door? I'm not sure I have a definite answer myself.

But many Iraqi Christians have had to answer that question for real in a hurry, and not hypothetically at leisure. Photographer Matt Cardy at a refugee camp for Iraqi Christians who have had to flee home has a short series of portraits of refugees with that one thing they had to grab as they fled. The portrait of Rafo Polis is the best one, but they are all poignant.

Grasp the Jewels Ere the Door Be Shut

by Walter Malone

One fateful hour may be life's diadem,
Each of its moments be a precious gem;
Then grasp the jewels ere the door be shut,
Lest thou shouldst lose thy palace for a hut.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Saint Wolf-Stone

Today is the feast of St. Wulfstan, also known as St. Wolstan or St. Wulstan. He was an Anglo-Saxon saint, all of whom are usually forgotten but all of whom had very interesting lives. Wulfstan was born in Warwickshire to a well-established family; but his family lost their lands when King Cnut invaded. He became priest and eventually joined the Benedictines. A major shift in the course of his life occurred when Bishop Ealdred of Worcester was chosen to be Archbishop of York. Actually to take position of the latter required papal approval, but Pope Nicholas refused to give Ealdred the approval unless he could guarantee that he would not hold both York and Worcester at the same time. Ealdred got Wulfstan elected. Unfortunately, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, was the reason why Nicholas was so insistent on the one-see rule: he was simultaneously Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury, and refused to let the former go. Because of that, Stigand was excommunicated. So Wulfstan was in the difficult position that the person who was technically over him and supposed to consecrate him was also excommunicated. So he was consecrated in 1062 by Ealdred instead, and just tried to live in peace with Stigand without officially recognizing him.

Those of you who know their basic English history know that 1062 puts Wulfstan's consecration right on the edge of one of the most significant events in English history, the Norman Conquest. King St. Edward the Confessor died in early January of 1066, touching off a massive crisis as different people claimed the right to succeed him. Harold Godwinson was crowned by Ealdred. The Archbishop of Canterbury had the right to do coronations, but, remember, Stigand was excommunicated. This would throw everything off; the Anglo-Saxons couldn't leave Stigand out for political reasons, but Harold also couldn't be crowned by an excommunicated bishop, which is why he was crowned by the Archbishop of York. However, the mere fact that Stigand assisted at the ceremony gave other claimants a way to argue that Harold was not actually legitimately crowned at all. Both Duke William of Normandy and King Harald Hardrada of Norway claimed that they were the true successor of St. Edward. After initially promising gains, the Norwegian army invading from the north in September was eventually crushed by Harold Godwinson, but only at great cost. In the meantime, William began invading from the south. William, of course, would defeat Harold at the Battle of Hastings in October. The Anglo-Saxons first attempted to put forward Edgar the Ætheling as the new successor, but then they lost their nerve and surrendered. William was crowned by Ealdred on Christmas Day.

In the meantime, trouble was brewing in the Church hierarchy. Stigand died. Lanfranc was appointed to Canterbury. Ealdred also died, and a man named Thomas succeeded him. But after so many years of York having the de facto primacy, Thomas of York was not willing to let it go. This led to a grave political crisis. Thomas would eventually be forced to submit by King William. Wulfstan supported Lanfranc and signed the Accord of Winchester affirming the primacy of Canterbury. You can see his signature below, the one farthest down on the left.


But the tensions between York and Canterbury would go on for years. (You see just how much trouble one excommunicated bishop causes for everyone else!)

In addition, there were still little rebellions going on everywhere. The last of these, and one of the most significant, was that Revolt of the Earls in 1075, which occurred while William was away in Normandy. Wulfstan played an active role in putting down the revolt; as the army of one of the Earls approached Worcestershire, he raised the fyrd of the shire, the fyrd being the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of a free militia. The fyrd managed to bog the army down, preventing it from meeting up with the other army of the Earls, which then had no other reinforcements as it met an even larger force. The Revolt failed. Perhaps because of this and his support of Lanfranc, after 1075 Wulfstan was the only Anglo-Saxon bishop in England. All the others who had not died had been forced out and replaced by Normans.

He was a very active bishop through his entire tenure. He did some massive building and rebuilding in his diocese; he founded the Great Malvern Priory during the reign of Edward the Confessor. With the help of Lanfranc he broke the back of the slave trade in southern England, where Bristol had been a notable slaver port. After Lanfranc's death, there was a period of four years during which there was no Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Anselm was eventually chosen, and Wulfstan was one of his consecrators. The lapse of four years had allowed York to get its strength back, and so much of St. Anselm's tenure as Archbishop was taken up with the struggle over the primacy, although Wulfstan missed most of it. He died 20 January 1095 and was canonized by Innocent III in 1203.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fortnightly Book, January 18

Descriptif : C'est un roc! C'est un pic! C'est un cap!
– Que dis-je, c'est un cap? C'est une pĂ©ninsule!

Since I am likely to be unusually busy the next two weeks, I need something easier to get through -- shorter, perhaps, or a re-read. The fortnightly book is both: Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac.

Rostand, of course, was a playwright, and Cyrano is his most successful play. In the first performance on December 28, 1897, Cyrano was played by Constant Coquelin, France's most famous actor. The performance made theatrical history, one measure of which was that after it was done the audience stayed in the theater, calling for an encore, talking about the play, for two straight hours. Translations were rapidly made, the theaters of the world began to perform it. It has been an international favorite ever since. A little-known fact about the play is that it is the source of the English word 'panache' -- in French it means the plume in a hat or helmet, and the English meaning is based on Rostand's Cyrano.

Cyrano de Bergerac was a real person, although he is highly fictionalized in the play. He was a playwright in the seventeenth century. He fought in the siege at Arras (not to be confused with the more famous and somewhat later Battle of Arras) in the Thirty Years' War. He was a student of Pierre Gassendi. His most famous plays tend to be quite fantastical, almost science-fiction-y, involving trips to the sun or the moon; they were quite influential, with people like Jonathan Swift and Edgar Allan Poe taking ideas from them. He died in 1655, for reasons not entirely known, at the age of 36. He did indeed have a big nose, although not quite so peninsular as one would imagine.
Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac

I'll be reading the work in Louis Untermeyer's blank verse translation, first done for The Limited Editions Club and carried over into the Heritage Press edition. The covers of the book are comb-marbled cloth. The typeface is mixed, with the spoken lines being in fourteen-point Times Roman, the stage directions in eight-point Times Roman, and the names of speakers in six-point News Gothic. It has twenty-one pen-and-brush colored drawings. In addition, it has a lagniappe, a little pamphlet, "Cyrano Composes a Ballade", in which Cyrano's famous improvised ballad in Act I is given in Rostand's original and seven different English translations of it. I present the first lines of each here.

(1) Je jette avec grâce mon feutre (Rostand 1897)
(2) I gaily doff my beaver low (Thomas and Guillemard 1898)
(3) My hat I toss lightly away (Kingsbury 1898)
(4) Lightly I toss my hat away (Hooker 1923)
(5) I doff my beaver with an air (Wolfe 1935)
(6) With nonchalance, I doff my hat (LeClercq 1939)
(7) With grace I cast my felt aside (Bissell and Van Wyck 1947)
(8) My hat is flung swiftly away (Untermeyer 1953)

The Eye for Truth

"...It is this realising of the importance of knowing the truth that prompts the search for truth and gives the eye for truth. I should not pull a man's eye out because he saw crooked. I should endeavour to make him see straight. The blind man does not see crooked because he does not see at all. And so the indifferent man avoids any admixture of superstition in his insight into the spiritual world because he has no insight at all."

Wilfrid Philip Ward, "The Wish to Believe" in Witnesses to the Unseen, and Other Essays, p. 297.