Saturday, April 16, 2016

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes; and The Return of Tarzan


Opening Passages: From Tarzan of the Apes:

I heard this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other. I may credit the seductive influence of an old vintage upon the narrator for the beginning of it, and my own skeptical incredulity during the days that followed for the balance of the tale.

From The Return of Tarzan:

"Magnifique!" ejaculated the Countess de Coude, beneath her breath.

Summary: John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, is dispatched to British West Africa to investigate complaints that blacks are being mistreated; he goes with his young wife Alice, who is pregnant with their child. They never make it to their intended destination, however, and find themselves on a jungle-touched shore, many, many miles from civilization. Being resourceful people, they survive for a while, building a cabin and bringing their son into the world; but it is a hard thing, and they both die. The son is saved due to the compassion of an ape named Kala, whose only baby has just died; she takes the boy as her own, defending his place in her ape-tribe, where the apes call him 'White Skin': Tarzan. A human boy is more helpless than any ape; but if the point can be reached where the boy's survival can be reasonably assured, the boy has something that outmatches any ape. The fortunes of Tarzan are tied with this, human reason, by which a single man with a tiny bit of leisure can have more ingenuity than an entire civilization of apes. He discovers his father's cabin, not knowing its relation to himself, and by innate curiosity and years of study teaches himself to read and write English, a language he cannot speak.

One day a new group of people is marooned on the same coasts, including William Cecil Clayton, who has become Lord Greystoke in the absence of the rightful heir to the title, and Jane Porter, an American girl from Baltimore. Through his help, they survive to be rescued. Tarzan in the meantime saves the life of a French officer, Paul D'Arnot, and from him learns to speak his first human language: French. With D'Arnot's friendship Tarzan learns the ways of civilization and sets out to find Jane again. He discovers that she has promised her hand to another, and because of it, he renounces any attempt to reclaim his title, returning instead to France, not knowing what he will do with himself alone in white man's civilization.

Which, indeed, proves to be an interesting question as we pick up in the sequel, since Tarzan soon discovers that civilization can be more perilous than the jungle as he finds himself thrust into the middle of a seamy world of blackmail, espionage, and assassination, facing off against the Russian villain, Nikolas Rokoff. This eventually leads him to Algeria on a mission for the French war ministry, and then off to Cape Town. On the way to Cape Town, however, he is pushed overboard by Rokoff and marooned again in his old haunts. He is adopted into the native Waziri tribe and discovers an ancient outpost of Atlantis, called Opar, where the human race has begun to degenerate into bestial ways, or, indeed, worse, since (as we discover throughout The Return of Tarzan) the ingenuity of human reason does not confine itself to good.

In the meantime, Jane, Clayton, and Nikolas Rokoff (under an assumed name) find themselves marooned not far from where everyone, it seems, is always marooned. Jane's life is again saved by Tarzan, who has completed the "cycle of evolution" by living again with his original tribe of apes. The sequel ends with a marriage as the first book had ended with the threat of a marriage, and we see Tarzan returning once more to civilization.

Burroughs writes by what may be called the method of inversions; he delights in turning things upside-down. The English aristocrat is raised by apes. Civilization is more dangerous than the wild. Beasts are more noble and honorable than most men. The perfection of manhood is achieved among the animals of the jungle. The last representatives of what was once the greatest of all civilizations have become degraded to something hardly recognizable as human. Jane, having survived the jungle, goes back home to live in Wisconsin, which, indeed, is in some ways about as opposite to the African jungles of Tarzan as one can imagine.

Burroughs is often criticized for trying to drive stories by coincidences, as witnessed, for instance, by the multiple maroonings of obviously connected people in the same place at convenient times, but I think to some extent this ignores an important feature of all these fortunate and unfortunate happenstances. In general they tend to be doublings that intensify the inversions. Kala is the double of Alice and also her inversion. Lord Greystoke is the contrasting double of Lord Greystoke; at the same moment that the real Lord Greystoke is eating raw flesh in the jungle, the other Lord Greystoke is sending his steak back for being undercooked. The two maroonings of Tarzan of the Apes are contrasted by the presence of Tarzan to assist the second marooned party; the two maroonings of The Return of Tarzan create an inverted double of the originals. The Arabic girl and the Oparian girl are doubled inversions of the others, each assisting Tarzan, one honorably and nobly, and the other selfishly. The first book ends with threat of marriage, the second book ends with marriage -- and a double marriage, at that. Exotic Opar inverts exotic France in civilization and is its double in peril. Through the course of the two books, Tarzan rises from ape to primitive man to civilized man, then descends from civilized man to primitive man to ape; the relation between Jane and Tarzan in the one book is the inverted double of their relation in the other. This is not a mere accident of these two books alone; doublings are extremely common throughout all the Tarzan books, and the very nature of the character, the ape-man, the civilized savage, would guarantee the existence of inversions throughout, even if it weren't the case that the author was obviously enjoying all the paradoxes.

I had thought that I had never read The Return of Tarzan before, but enough of it was familiar that I must have at some point. In any case, Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan are best read together; they form a completed circle and make for an integrated story, particularly as the latter begins soon after the former ends and it is the latter, not the former, that really brings us to a point suitable for an ending.

The Greeks often recognized three parts to human life: reason, thymos, and desire. Civilization in these books knows plenty of reason and plenty of desire, but of thymos it knows very little. Thymos is that in us which rises to the difficult challenge; and civilization tends to limit the opportunities for the development of this. Indeed, it may well produce Men without Chests, to borrow C. S. Lewis's phrase for it, who, in the end, are merely cunning manipulators out for selfish ends. Tarzan is raised above the beasts of the jungle by reason, but ironically it is thymos, learned from the beasts of the jungle, that raises him above merely ordinary men. Human greatness lies not merely in civilization but in heroism; and we find a heroism civilizaton cannot teach in Tarzan of the Apes.

Favorite Passages: From Tarzan of the Apes:

When in a short time they had reached the beach, only to find no camp in sight, Philander was positive that they were north of their proper destination, while, as a matter of fact they were about two hundred yards south of it.

It never occurred to either of these impractical theorists to call aloud on the chance of attracting their friends' attention. Instead, with all the assurance that deductive reasoning from a wrong premise induces in one, Mr. Samuel T. Philander grasped Professor Archimedes O. Porter firmly by the arm and hurried the weakly protesting old gentleman off in the direction of Cape Town, fifteen hundred miles to the south. (p. 131)

From The Return of Tarzan:

Jane Porter shuddered. "The mysterious jungle," she murmured. "The terrible jungle. It renders even the manifestations of friendship terrifying." (p. 192)

Recommendation: Recommended.


Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, Signet (New York: 2008).

Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Return of Tarzan, Ballantine (New York: 1992).

Where Eternal Prayer is Living

In the Gothic "Duomo" of Milan
by Ruby Archer

Come, chastened light, thou spirit of the sun!
Come, wander where eternal prayer is living;
Come, with a glow from saintly garments won,
Wake the dark walls unto thy wealth of giving.

Glide with thy vivid foot along the aisles,
And touch the fretted marble with thy fingers.
Mingle with tapers borne by priestly files,
Caress the fragrant incense where it lingers.

But leave the dim confessional in gloom,—
Peer not to learn a secret faltered lowly.
Kneel now, and mourn before a chaliced tomb,
Revere the dignity of marble holy.

Lo! 'Tis the Virgin and the Jesus child,
And at their feet some hand hath offered flowers—
Roses and pansies—pure, devout, and mild
As that loved face that blesseth all the hours.

Go, chastened light, thy wings are free again.
Go, meet the sun beyond the sacred portal.
Proclaim that thou hast been in fane of men
And found it worthy of the gods immortal!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Like Multitudinous Forks of Fire

Milan Cathedral
by Herman Melville

Through light green haze, a rolling sea
Over gardens where redundance flows,
The fat old plain of Lombardy,
The White Cathedral shows.

Of Art the miracles
Its tribes of pinnacles
Gleam like to ice-peaks snowed ; and higher,
Erect upon each airy spire
In concourse without end,
Statues of saints over saints ascend
Like multitudinous forks of fire.

What motive was the master-builder’s here?
Why these synodic hierarchies given,
Sublimely ranked in marble sessions clear,
Except to signify the host of heaven.

A Quick Trip to Italy, Part XIII

On Friday we went to Milan, about a three hour ride by high-speed rail.

Mediolanum is an old city, with a very long history. It was settled by Celts in the fifth century BC and conquered by Romans in the third century BC. For a period of time under Domitian it was the capital of the Western Roman Empire. It was a major site of conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. It was one of the major cities of the Italian Renaissance. After Napoleon invaded Italy, it was the capital of the Cisalpine Republic, and later of his Kingdom of Italy. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, its opera houses and theaters were among the greatest in the world. Mozart and Verdi debuted works here. Milan has almost always been a thriving trade center and today is one of the economic powerhouses of Europe.

Very little of this is obvious, though. Rome always feels very big and overcrowded; Milan, the second most populous city of Italy, rarely feels so, with plenty of walkable areas and gardens all over the place. You can hardly move around in Rome's historic center without stumbling on something ancient; Milan's ancient Roman history only very rarely comes out. And in World War II, as the economic center of Italy, Milan was very heavily bombed throughout the war. Almost a third of its buildings were destroyed; very few of its great medieval and Baroque buildings and monuments escaped being at least damaged, and some vanished entirely. Milan, almost everywhere, seems very modern, because Milan, almost everywhere, is indeed very modern.

But despite the pulverization of so much of its history, Milan still has treasures. The most obvious is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente -- most often known as the Duomo di Milano:

A photograph does not in any way do it justice. The Duomo, the heart of the Ambrosian Rite of the Latin Church, is the largest church in Italy. (St. Peter's is larger, but, of course, it is not technically in Italy.) It is usually said to be the fifth largest church in the world. It is over 10,000 square meters in area, over 440,000 cubic meters in volume, and it took nearly six centuries to build. The fortunes of the cathedral are closely connected with the history of Milan.

In 1385, Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Pavia seized Milan by overthrowing his uncle Bernabo by breaking a few promises. Bernabo was, however, very unpopular with the Milanese because of his very oppressive taxes. Using his new position as Signore of both Pavia and Milan, he went on to take Verona, Vicenza, and Padua (although he would later lose the last of these). One of the things he did as his fortunes were quickly rising was promise to the Milanese a grand new cathedral. The Milanese, happy to be out from the heel of the taxing taskmaster, were enthusiastic about the project -- so Gian Galeazzo, very cleverly, began to take donations for it, and the first stone was laid in 1386. Construction proceeded quite swiftly, and soon half the brick structure was built. But Gian Galeazzo died of fever in 1402, and very little was done afterward, although bits and pieces would be done here and there. The very Gothic cathedral got a few High Renaissance touches here and there.

In 1564, St. Carlo Borromeo became Archbishop of Milan, and one of his insights was to recognize that the guild controlling the construction of the cathedral was part of the problem; he used his influence to change the statutes and appoint Pellegrino di Tibaldo de Pellegrini as chief engineer. They planned on toning down the Gothic character of the cathedral (Gothic was increasingly seen as a Franco-German style) and giving it a more Italian Renaissance flair. But there was an immense of cathedral there, and an immense amount of cathedral yet to be done. Construction continued through the sixteenth century into the seventeenth, when the facade finally began to be developed. Construction continued through the seventeenth century into the eighteenth century, and in 1762, the Madonna's Spire was erected by Carlo Pellicani, with a gold-plated bronze statue of Mary placed on top of it, the Madonnina:

We were in Milan the day after Italian Unification Day, so that's why the Virgin Mary is waving the Italian flag. The Madonnina is one of the key touches of Milan. By tradition, no building in Milan is allowed to be higher than the Madonnina. But, tall as the Madonna's Spire is, Milan is a city of skyscrapers, and has been for decades! How can this be? When the Pirelli Tower was built in the 1950s in Milan, it was the tallest building in Italy. So they made a small replica of the Madonnina and put it at the top of the building. Skyscraper or now, it is still not higher than the Madonnina! When the Palazzo Lombardia rose even higher, they did the same. They did the same with the Allianz Tower of CityLife. One of the most famous folk songs in Milan, often regarded as the anthem of the city, refers to the Madonnina in its chorus:

Oh mia bela Madunina, che te brilet de luntan,
tüta d'ora e picinina, ti te dominet Milan,
sota a ti se viv la vita, se sta mai cui man in man.

It was written by Giovanni D'Anzi in the 1930s, and this bit means something like, "O my beautiful Madonnina, you shine brightly from afar; wholly golden and tiny, you rule over Milan. Life is lived beneath your feet without twiddling one's thumbs."

Life went on, and then came Napoleon. He wanted to be crowned King of Italy in the Duomo, so he promised the archbishop that if they finished the facade, he would reimburse the entire expense. That finally got things in full gear; the facade was finished and Napoleon was crowned King there in 1805. He then went off to fight in Russia and never got around to reimbursing anyone.

Arches and spires continued to be built through the nineteenth century. The last gate was put in on January 6, 1965, and this is usually the date given for the end of construction -- although there are still parts of the cathedral where you find blocks of stone that are supposed to be carved into statues at some point. There's so much going on with the cathedral, however, that you wouldn't notice it unless you were looking for it. It makes for an impressive whole.

Here is one of the doors, not the largest:

Inside, it is like a forest of columns. We were only allowed on the right-hand side (and thus actually missed a number of the most famous features of the cathedral).

St. Charles Borromeo, of course, is quite prominent here:

Now we will descend into the crypt, under the grand altar of Milan Cathedral, and receive an impressive sermon from lips that have been silent and hands that have been gestureless for three hundred years.

The priest stopped in a small dungeon and held up his candle. This was the last resting-place of a good man, a warm-hearted, unselfish man; a man whose whole life was given to succoring the poor, encouraging the faint-hearted, visiting the sick; in relieving distress, whenever and wherever he found it. His heart, his hand, and his purse were always open. With his story in one's mind he can almost see his benignant countenance moving calmly among the haggard faces of Milan in the days when the plague swept the city, brave where all others were cowards, full of compassion where pity had been crushed out of all other breasts by the instinct of self-preservation gone mad with terror, cheering all, praying with all, helping all, with hand and brain and purse, at a time when parents forsook their children, the friend deserted the friend, and the brother turned away from the sister while her pleadings were still wailing in his ears.

(Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, Chapter XVIII)

Even just seeing the right side of the church, there was a lot of it. And we came out again; a truism, perhaps, but perhaps also a bit less of one than it would be with another building. People sometimes get lost in forests.

What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems in the soft moonlight only a fairy delusion of frost-work that might vanish with a breath! How sharply its pinnacled angles and its wilderness of spires were cut against the sky, and how richly their shadows fell upon its snowy roof! It was a vision!—a miracle!—an anthem sung in stone, a poem wrought in marble!

to be continued

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Full Many a Spiry Pinnacle

Milan Cathedral
by John Ruskin

The heat of summer day is sped ;
On far Mont Rose the sun is red ;
And mark you Milan's marble pile
Glow with the mellow rays awhile !
Lo, there relieved, his front so high
On the blue sky of Italy !
While higher still above him bear,
And slender in proportion fair,
Fretted with Gothic carving well,
Full many a spiry pinnacle ;
And dazzling bright as Rosa's crest,
Each with his sculptured statue prest,
They seem to stand in that thin air
As on a thread of gossamer.
You think the evening zephyr's play
Could sweep them from their post away,
And bear them on its sportful wing
As autumn leaves, wild scattering.

Ruskin was not a fan of the Milan Cathedral, however; he regarded it as a barbarous mish-mash, and the "spiry pinnacles" were practically the only thing he thought good in it.

Mark Twain on the Duomo of Milan

At last, a forest of graceful needles, shimmering in the amber sunlight, rose slowly above the pygmy housetops, as one sometimes sees, in the far horizon, a gilded and pinnacled mass of cloud lift itself above the waste of waves, at sea,—the Cathedral! We knew it in a moment.

Half of that night, and all of the next day, this architectural autocrat was our sole object of interest.

What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems in the soft moonlight only a fairy delusion of frost-work that might vanish with a breath! How sharply its pinnacled angles and its wilderness of spires were cut against the sky, and how richly their shadows fell upon its snowy roof! It was a vision!—a miracle!—an anthem sung in stone, a poem wrought in marble!

Howsoever you look at the great cathedral, it is noble, it is beautiful! Wherever you stand in Milan or within seven miles of Milan, it is visible and when it is visible, no other object can chain your whole attention. Leave your eyes unfettered by your will but a single instant and they will surely turn to seek it. It is the first thing you look for when you rise in the morning, and the last your lingering gaze rests upon at night. Surely it must be the princeliest creation that ever brain of man conceived.

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, Chapter XVIII

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Two New Poem Drafts and Some Poem Re-Drafts

(The second is based on a rare version of the apocryphal Psalm 151.)


Elusive is the vale,
an evening-colored petal
quivering in violet breezes.

The moon is full tonight
over fireflies in the air,
drunken stars in inky darkness,
iridescence on the petal.

A Song of David

Less was I than all my brothers,
youngest of my father's sons,
a simple shepherd of the flock,
a ruler of kids and goats.

I fashioned from the reed a pipe;
my fingers shaped a fair harp;
thus gave I glory to the Lord.
The mountains cannot tell Him.
The hills cannot proclaim His Name.

Take up my words, tall-topped trees,
sing my melodies, baaing sheep.
Who will else declare or speak?
The Lord our God has seen all things;
our God gives His attention.

He sent His anointing prophet:
Samuel came to grace me.
My brothers went out to meet him,
handsome-formed and handsome-faced.
They were tall and their hair was thick,
but God did not make them kings.

He fetched me from behind the flock,
anointed me with pure oil,
and made me prince of His people,
ruler in his covenant.

Birds Hunting Crickets

The sky is so blue you could dive right in and swim,
the sun so bright that it burns like hidden sin,
the breeze so cool upon harsh, sunburned skin;

I'd give a penny for your thoughts,
but you're probably thinking of him,

so instead I'll muse on truth and rule of law
and watch birds hunting crickets outside the coffee shop.

The Moon Sang Soprano

The moon sang soprano to the bass of the sea:
The fish danced in schools and pavaned ecstasy
As the waves crashed the shore with a drum-beaten bliss
That was voiced by a deep and unending abyss.
The tide measured time and the waves measured shore
As the song like a chorus resounded the more;
The moon sang its light, and that moonlight was borne
By the weight of the sea in the sound of its horn.


The stars fell down; we felt
the light shift vivid red
and somewhere in Orion's belt
you fell down dead.
Your dreams whispered in ears
not made to hear your song,
beyond their sundry fears;
self-destroying, headlong,
they sullied face and name
with thoughts good sense would quell,
like moth to nova-flame,
like unfound souls to hell;
still you stood, stood still,
unchanged by the changing winds,
a quiet rill
opposing rushing tides of men.
All stars fail; in sharp light
they will forever fall
into eternal night,
that deepest night that conquers all;
and all too soon.
Your words ring in our heads.
Beneath some strange and weirding moon
your spirit fled.


The hollow-laden willow waves the leaflets of its limbs
in winds that whip around it through the shadowed evendim;
my heart is hale and singing with a hymn of hope and praise,
a hymn of hope and praise that I have learned from summer rain,
a healing psalm so soulful that it saves from fear and pain
and lengthens out like prayer all the wonders of my days.
With the waving of the willow I with spirit rise and sway
as the raindrops, kissed by moonlight, on my eyelids leap and play.

Birthtime of Beauty and of Poesy

April Sonnets
by Francis Bennoch

No. I: April Kind

April, though treacherous and changeling named,
Wanton and wayward in thy nature, still
Revealest thou those mysteries that fill
All hearts with love's deep sympathy, and famed
For blooms that odorous balm distil.
Birthtime of beauty and of poesy:
When birds betrothed melodious from the hill
Rain down their morning song of ecstasy.
When amorous bees toy fondly with the flower,
And drain its humid sweets deliriously,
Faint with excess, in love's delicious bower
Softly infolded, blossom-couched he lies:
Whilst draughts of fragrant dew oblivious sleep supplies.

April, 1855.

No. II: April Cruel

April, ah me! how swiftly changes come,
How soon the month we love we learn to hate,
When boughs deflowered hang down disconsolate,
And clouds of grief make dark our garden home,
Where genial sunshine lingering loved to wait;
With joy we grafted in thy wounded rind
The fairest branch that ever blossom bore;
Clasped close, incorporate as one combined,
A newborn rapture trembled in thy core
As budding life expanded, more and more
We longed to reap the fruit; but woke to find
Hope in a morning blighted ; from the shore
A ruthless wind stole with untimely frost,
And all thy cherished bloom was shrivelled, loosed, and lost.

April, 1855.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Part XII

Heading back from St. Peter's Square we passed, of course, Castel Sant'Angelo:

Castel Sant'Angelo is the Mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, built in the second century; it was used to store the ashes of the Roman emperors for the next several decades. The ashes seem to have been scattered in one of the sacks of Rome, and most of the original decorations of the building have been lost. According to a legend, the Archangel Michael appeared at the top of the building to signal the end of a plague in the sixth century, which is the reason for the current name. In the late Middle Ages, the building became a fortified castle for the popes; it later became a prison and, beginning in 1901, a museum. A statue of an angel was first put on top of the building in the sixteenth century; that original marble statue was replaced by a bronze statue made by Peter Anton von Verschaffelt in 1753, which is still there.

Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius across the River Tiber, part of which makes up the current Ponte Sant'Angelo:

In the sixteenth century Raffaello da Montelupo, who had sculpted the original stone angel for the top of Castel Sant'Angelo was commissioned to decorate the bridge with fourteen statues of angels. By the late seventeenth century they weren't aging well, so Clement IX commissioned Bernini, near the end of his life, to design replacements. Bernini had the idea of ten angels holding the Instruments of the Passion of Christ. He managed to do two of them with his son Paolo, the Angel of the Crown of Thorns and the Angel of the Superscription. Neither, however, is on the bridge: the pope liked them so much that he kept them, so the current versions of those angels are copies of Bernini's statues by other artists. The Angels are:

(1) The Angel of the Column
(2) The Angel of the Whips
(3) The Angel of the Crown of Thorns
(4) The Angel of the Sudarium
(5) The Angel of the Garment and Dice
(6) The Angel of the Nails
(7) The Angel of the Cross
(8) The Angel of the Superscription
(9) The Angel of the Sponge
(10) The Angel of the Lance

We lunched in the Piazza Navona, which is built on the site of the ancient Stadium of Domitian:

The church is Sant'Agnese in Agone. The 'in Agone' is actually just the earlier name of the plaza, which was corrupted over time to 'navona'. The church marks the spot where St. Agnes of Rome was supposed to have died in the early fourth century (the other major church devoted to her, St. Agnes Outside the Walls, marks her burial spot). The current church was built in the seventeenth century; Pope Innocent X had his family residence in the recently built Palazzo Pamphili immediately to the left of the current church, and he wanted to make the church that was previously there a chapel appropriate to his new family home. He commissioned Girolamo and Carlo Rainaldi to design it. The Rainaldi plan was extremely controversial, though, and they were replaced by Francesco Borromini, who had to use the Rainaldi floor plan but made liberal changes in other respects. Borromini became frustrated with his employers and resigned the commission; Carlo Rainaldi took over again. Carlo was replaced by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. And shortly afterward, Bernini was replaced by Carlo again. (Different members of the Pamphili family seem to have had different tastes in architects.)

In front of the church is one of the most famous fountains of Rome, Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi:

Each of the Four Rivers is from a different continent, symbolizing the spread of papal authority: the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges, and the Rio de Plata.

After lunch, we headed to our next destination: the church of Saint Mary and the Martyrs, or, as it is better known, the Pantheon:

While the Pantheon was (as the inscription suggests) commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in the reign of Augustus, that version seems to have been destroyed, and the one that currently exists appears to be a restoration that wasn't actually completed until the second century in the reign of Hadrian. Its dome is, after two thousand years, still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, and it is one of the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. In the seventh century, the Emperor Phocas gave it as a gift to Pope Boniface IV and it became a Christian church. A number of notable people are buried there, including King Vittorio Emanuele II, but the most notable is the the artist Raphael Sanzio. Alas, I did not get a good photograph of his tomb; here is one from Wikimedia:


And that was Thursday, and the end of Rome. One of the things that is very clear is how little we actually saw: even for places we visited, like the Forum or St. Peter's, we only saw small slices. Everywhere there were too many things to see, not enough time, and too many things to work around to see what we could. It would have been nice to see some other things -- St. Mary Major, for instance -- but it was not to be. The Raphael Rooms in the Vatican Museums were what I most wanted to see -- but they were undergoing restoration, so, just like Florence, I didn't have any opportunity to see my only must-see thing. But it is better that the Raphael Rooms be preserved than that I should see them, and with such an abundance of things to see it would be foolish to complain.

We then returned to the original city into which we had flown, Milan.

to be continued

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Goddess of the White Man

Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" was written on the occasion of the American invasion of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Shortly after it came out, an American author wrote a scathing satirical response to it, noting a point of some significance: it was never the white man who actually had to carry the white man's burden.

The Black Man’s Burden
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Take up the white man’s burden,
The yoke ye sought to spurn;
And spurn your father’s customs;
Your father’s temples burn.
O learn to love and honor
The white God’s favored sons.
Forget the white-haired fathers
Fast lashed to mouths of guns.

Take up the white man’s burden,
Your own was not enough;
He’ll burden you with taxes;
But though the road be rough,
“To him who waits,” remember,
“All things in time shall come;”
The white man’s culture brings you
The white man’s God, and rum.

Take up the white man’s burden;
‘Tis called “protectorate,”
And lift your voice in thanks to
The God ye well might hate.
Forget your exiled brothers;
Forget your boundless lands;
In acres that they gave for
The blood upon their hands.

Take up the white man’s burden;
Poor simple folk and free;
Abandon nature’s freedom,
Embrace his “Liberty,”
The goddess of the white man
Who makes you free in name;
But in her heart your color
Will brand you “slave” the same.

Take up the white man’s burden;
And learn by what you’ve lost
That white men called as counsel
Means black men pay the cost.
Your right to fertile acres
Their priests will teach you well
Have gained your fathers only
A desert claim in hell.

Take up the white man’s burden;
Take it because you must;
Burden of making money;
Burden of greed and lust;
Burden of points strategic,
Burden of harbors deep,
Burden of greatest burdens;
Burden, these burdens to keep.

Take up the white man’s burden;
His papers take, and read;
‘Tis all for your salvation;
The white man knows not greed.
For you he’s spending millions —
To him, more than his God —
To make you learned, and happy,
Enlightened, cultured, broad.

Take up the white man’s burden
While he makes laws for you,
That show your fathers taught you
The things you should not do.
Cast off your foolish feathers,
Your necklace, beads, and paint;
Buy raiment for your mother,
Lest fairer sisters faint.

Take up the white man’s burden;
Go learn to wear his clothes;
You may look like the devil;
But nobody cares who knows.
Peruse a work of Darwin —
Thank gods that you’re alive —
And learn the reason clearly: —
The fittest alone survive.

The Perfection of the Mind

True knowledge, and not science falsely so called, is a 'divine thing,' as an excellent pen has proved it. For to know is to perceive truth, and the perception of truth is a participation of God Himself who is the truth, and the participation of God is the perfection of the mind.
[Mary Astell, in The Christian Religion, section 262, as quoted in Jacqueline Broad, The Philosophy of Mary Astell, Oxford UP (New York: 2015), p. 40.]

Broad comments:

Norris is the 'excellent pen' to whom Astell refers, and the passage in question appears in the second part of his Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World (1704), where he says that since 'truth is of a divine extraction, and has a real divinity in its nature, what a divine thing must all true science be'. Astell's subsequent point likewise echoes Norris's observation that 'the Truth which we see is Divine, and...the knowledge which we have of Truth, is, in some degree a participation of the Divine Nature, and a kind of possession of God himself.'

Broad is referring to Part II of An Essay Toward a Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World; she could also have noted the role played by truth as perfective of the mind in Part I (e.g., p. 334):

But besides, how comes Truth to be Perfective of our Minds? That it is so, may well be supposed our Understanding being then confessedly most perfect, when in the fullest Possession of Truth, when it has the clearest and largest View of it. But does not the whole Perfection of the Mind consist in its Union with God? Is not he our only perfective and beatifying Object, and can any thing else but his Divine Substance be the Good of our Souls?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Part XI

There was quite a bit of preparation going on everywhere around St. Peter's for a number of upcoming events, so it took some work to get around them. Rather than the usual way, our guide took us indirectly through the Treasury. No photography was allowed, but we saw several of the tombs of the popes. (I thought Paul VI's was interesting; it's just a plain slab, but it draws attention to itself for that very reason, as if you had been walking by a decorated wall and suddenly came to a completely blank section; all the others blend into the architecture, but that one sticks out in an obvious way.)

We also saw the tomb of Queen Christina of Sweden, which I was happy to see. Queen Christina is an interesting historical character. She was the polymathic queen who invited Rene Descartes to her court to organize a scientific academy. They did not get along well at all, and quarreled, it is said, over whether it was more important for her to study physics or Ancient Greek, so she mostly stopped seeing him, and he died of pneumonia not long afterward. In 1652, Christina began to study the Catholic faith, and she abdicated her throne in 1654, setting out for the Catholic countries of Europe; she then officially converted in Brussels. She soon came to Rome, which she would visit several times, and would die in Rome in 1689 at the age of 62. She asked to be buried in the Pantheon, but Pope Clement X decided to bury her in St. Peter's. You can see a picture of her sarcophagus here. I didn't even think to look for her monument in the church, but here's a nice picture of it from Wikimedia:

0 Monument funéraire de Christine de Suède - St-Pierre - Vatican (1)

So we finally came up inside St. Peter's; almost the first thing we could see was this:

You can see, of course, part of the inscription around the base of the dome, Christ's words to St. Peter, in Latin: Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum -- You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; I give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

A very old tradition says that St. Peter was executed at the Circus of Nero on October 13, in the Year of Our Lord 64. His remains were rumored to have been buried somewhere on the Vatican hill near the Circus. The Emperor Constantine ordered that the shrine that had come to be built to commemorate St. Peter's death and burial should be upgraded to a basilica, and St. Peter's Basilica -- now called Old St. Peter's Basilica -- began somewhere around 320 and took about three decades to build. The church grew in importance over the next few centuries, but also suffered the ravages of time; for instance, it was sacked and heavily damaged when in 846 a Muslim raiding party sacked it and a few other important buildings outside of Rome itself. Its fortunes the next few centuries were not all that much better, since the decampment of the Popes to Avignon led all the churches of Rome to be neglected for decades, so the church was in very poor condition by the fifteenth century. Some efforts were made to restore it, Leon Battista Alberti being one of the architects to try his hand at it.

Then Pope Julius II decided to tear the whole thing down. It was a shocking and controversial proposal: the church represented the continuity of the papacy, it was a symbol of the claims of the See of Rome to be in right authoritative succession from Peter himself and to be sanctified, so to speak, with the blood of Peter's martyrdom. And it was also a massive project. Julius seems to have decided to tear it down and rebuild around 1505. He would start the project, and it would continue through the papal reigns of Leo X, Adrian VI, Clement VII, Paul III, Julius III, Marcellus II, Paul IV, Pius IV, St. Pius V, Gregory XIII, Sixtus V, Urban VII, Gregory XIV, Innocent IX, Clement VIII, Leo XI, Paul V, Gregory XV, Urban VIII, to be finished up in 1626 in the reign of Innocent X.

A great design contest was held, and Donato Bramante's design won. He had the idea of a Greek Cross:


It was to be topped with a dome inspired in part by the Pantheon and in part by Brunelleschi's dome in Florence. Over time, however, the design changed as different architects were put in charge of it. There was an increasing tendency to change the design from a Greek Cross to a Latin Cross, however.

The key early architect was certainly Michelangelo, in his seventies, who did not want the job but took it under pressure from Paul III. Up to him, the work had progressed very slowly, and there were many competing ideas playing off of Bramante's original conception. It was Michelangelo who unified all the previous ideas into one conception; he reverted to Bramante's Greek Cross plan, however. And it was Michelangelo, allowed a free hand, who really got the building going.

The most important contribution of Michelangelo, however, was to redesign the dome, taking ideas from all the previous suggestions and blending them together as only Michelangelo could do. He died before finishing it, however, and it has been a matter of controversy since whether the ovoid, rather than hemispherical, shape of the dome was actually Michelangelo's final intent or not.

The next major architect to be involved was Carlo Maderno, who was appointed in 1606 by Paul V. At this point, opinions were reverting back to a Latin Cross design, and there was also a general feeling that the new St. Peter's should be on the same ground as the old St. Peter's. So Maderno proposed the extension of the nave to meet both these requirements, which was built very quickly. It works beautifully, from the inside; it greatly amplifies the already significant space. The facade, which Maderno also did, is usually considered not to work quite so well.

One of the most visible things inside is the Papal Altar with its famous baldacchino:

Urban VIII appointed Gian Lorenzo Bernini papal architect after Maderno, and one of his first tasks was to design the baldachin or canopy over the Papal Altar, which only the Pope can use. Urban VIII trusted him completely: he was given a blank check, no budget restrictions at all. Bernini's design is essentially a freestanding bronze sculpture that fits neatly into the immense space beneath the dome while still allowing free view of the Cathedra Petri behind it. It took nine years to make and an immense amount of bronze that could only be obtained by raiding bronze from various sources, including the Pantheon.

It was Bernini who also created the bronze throne housing the Chair of Peter, which symbolizes the apostolic authority of Peter himself:

There are better pictures easily found online; as I mentioned before, there was a great deal of preparation going on, meaning that walking around the church was somewhat restricted and more crowded than usual, so it was difficult to take good pictures inside.

It was also Bernini who designed the striking tomb for Pope Alexander VII:

The tomb was in an odd place, right above a door, but Bernini made use of that very fact in a brilliant fashion. Notice Death itself in front, partly covered by the shroud, the skeleton with the hourglass. There are two women on each side, Charity and Truth; the one you can see from this angle is Charity.

Here is a mosaic, based on a painting by Raphael:

Vatican City, of course, has the most advanced mosaic workshop in the world, and one reason is that the major churches, like St. Peter's, have few paintings -- they use mosaics instead. But the mosaic-work is so well done that you can hardly tell that it is mosaic rather than painting if you just glance at it.

The most famous work of art in the basilica, however, is again by Michelangelo, and is so popular that they have to put it behind glass to preserve it:

And then we went out. Here is the view of St. Peter's Square from St. Peter's itself, followed by a series of pictures as we walked down and around the Square, which was itself cordoned off:

The masterstroke of Bernini's contribution to the basilica is certainly the two-part piazza, starting with a trapezoidal section near the entrance and then suddenly swinging open to a wide circular section that contextualizes the gigantic facade so that it is more easily taken in, and yet also somehow makes the whole thing seem even larger. Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Maderno, Bernini, over a hundred and twenty years: this is what goes into building the world's basilica.

to be continued

Maronite Year XLI

After New Sunday, the Maronites return to the liturgy of Easter for most of the Sundays of the Resurrection Season.

Third Sunday of the Resurrection
2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 24:13-35

On this day the Lord arose from the tomb;
death and the devil He conquered with life,
thus giving life to Adam's progeny.

This is our gospel: Christ rose from the dead;
because of Him we fear not chain nor bond,
but bear all for the salvation of all,
dying in Him that we may live in Him,
by passion preparing to reign with Him.
Was it not thus that Christ suffered for us?

Your servants praise You, for You conquered death.
Your saints glory; You sealed them with Your Name,
thus giving life to Adam's progeny.