Saturday, August 20, 2016


Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, O. Cist., Doctor of the Church. He spent a great deal of his life trying, with a complete lack of success, to avoid conflict and controversy; he was a religious reformer, and thus inevitably became mired in controversy, and people kept thrusting him into responsibilities of arbitration and negotiation, with the result that he was continually criticized for meddling in matters that did not concern him. He established the Abbey of Clairvaux, helped to solidify the status of the Knights Templar, participated in the Second Lateran Council, and preached the Second Crusade. The most famous theological work of the Doctor Mellifluus is his Sermons on the Song of Songs, but he has a number of other works. The following is from the opening of his Life of St. Malachy:

It is indeed always worth while to portray the illustrious lives of the saints, that they may serve as a mirror and an example, and give, as it were, a relish to the life of men on earth. For by this means in some sort they live among us, even after death, and many of those who are dead while they live are challenged and recalled by them to true life. But now especially is there need for it because holiness is rare, and it is plain that our age is lacking in men. So greatly, in truth, do we perceive that lack to have increased in our day that none can doubt that we are smitten by that saying, Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold; and, as I suppose, he has come or is at hand of whom it is written, Want shall go before his face. If I mistake not, Antichrist is he whom famine and sterility of all good both precedes and accompanies. Whether therefore it is the herald of one now present or the harbinger of one who shall come immediately, the want is evident. I speak not of the crowd, I speak not of the vile multitude of the children of this world: I would have you lift up your eyes upon the very pillars of the Church. Whom can you show me, even of the number of those who seem to be given for a light to the Gentiles, that in his lofty station is not rather a smoking wick than a blazing lamp? And, says One, if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Unless perchance, which I do not believe, you will say that they shine who suppose that gain is godliness; who in the Lord's inheritance seek not the things which are the Lord's, but rather their own.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dashed Off XVIII

fluid foil as seventh simple machine (Mitts0
rotation: axle, pulley, lever; slide: incline, wedge, screw, foil
the block or wall itself a sort of simple machine (press as moving blocks)
as well as link (Willis & Whewell)

the drunkenness of Noah as establishng that sin cannot be removed from the world by punishment alone

The more fundamental the particle, the less sense it makes to think of it as not a part of a larger system, i.e., the less sense it makes to think of it in abstraction from its context. This clearly starts to be true even before isolation becomes impossible.

the parallels between organisms and caves

Two substances become one substance. Either (1) there is only the one substance; or (2) the two substances are still complete substances but also incomplete substances; or (3) the two substances are now only incomplete substances.

Frankfurt examples all involve cooperative action of some kind;that is why they are outside a given power to choose.

Analytic philosophy seems throughout to have difficulty with reduplication.

virtual inexistence as a mereological parthood relation

Humean metaphysics as an attack on principiation (substance, cause, identity, rational primacy, sovereignty)
-- but as Shepherd notes, it requires one kind (impressions as principles of ideas) and regularly frames things in ways suggestive of principiation (mind/imagination expressed in principle terms is very common)

neutral mutations as shifting potential for future pathways (e.g., a mtuation that itself makes no difference might replace something that would have made some possible pathways nonviable or it might make some pathways reachable in the future, allowing for other conditions, being able to change survival/reproduction under different circumstances)

'Ockham's Razor' cannot be applied without consideration of causes; parsimony is an implicitly causal notion.

'X is explainable in terms of Y' does not suffice for 'X is reducible to Y'.

chemical reactions as parts of vital activities

the category of relatio as anti-reductionist 9A being related to B, categorically, implies that no reduction is possible without including B, and thus is locally resistant to reduction)

the relation between knowledge and intimacy

In an error-ridden world, understanding requires repentance.

Accounts in which nothing can be both sublime and beautiful are defective accounts of both sublimity and beauty.

diversifications of beauty
(1) according to how it is seen
(2) according to how it pleases
e.g., picturesque is what pleases on being seen with painter's eye; charm is what pleases with calm sensible pleasure on being seen; intelligible beauty is what pleases on being seen in the intellectual sense; harmony is what pleases on being 'seen' i.e., perceived, by ear, etc.

Nothing can be an inference license unless it is also something else, which can then serve to license in whatever particular way it does.

We appear to learn what logical implications are by first thinking of them indirectly in causal terms.

Knowing how to use modal vocabulary requires knowing more than the modal vocabulary.

sensation belongs to intentional order
(1) aptness for judgment
(2) suitability for being treated as knowing in a broad sense
(3) sensation is naturally understood in the same structural way as intentional cognition
(4) the features of sensation Berkeley identifies as language-like
-- note that Sellars makes the 'intellect in the real order' what a Thomist would call an internal sense; indeed, Sellars' account ends up being a good account of internal sense, at least in human beings.

Beyond very narrow limits, reductionism seems to be mostly a set of excuses for not having to take seriously what everyone recognizes, including the reductionist in practice.

the problem of developing energy sources that are simultaneously safe, distributed, and dispatchable

Identifying a genuine trend requires identifying reasonable beginning and a reasonably expected end.

random variation = lots of varying reasons

blessing as intermediary between law and grace

Custody of religion is an ineliminable part of a complete society.

Bodily integrity is always with respect to our ends as rational animals, which make us whole as rational animal bodies.

People need a vocabulary to think at length of anything profound.

To appreciate a system of thought one must stroll around it as if it were a city.

Lk 2:52 & confirmation
Lk 2:52 // 1 Sam 2:26 // Pr 3:34

constrained outlets for buffoonery as an important aspect of society-building

moral sentimentalism as perspectival approach to ethics (Hume recognizes this very well)

anticipatory signs as having a different structure from memorial signs

casuistics as ethics of reasonable doubt

Experimentation is equipment behavior analysis.

Angels are only known qua intermediate causes.

Marriage obligates more than the immediately involved parties.

Much rhetorical maneuver in argument is concerned with shifting the assumed domain; this is why avoiding ignoratio elenchi is often important.

title to heaven under claim of inheritance; title to heaven under claim of reward

the refreshing of intellectual systems
(1) by new examples
(2) by further extension
(3) by shift of perspective
(4) by practical use
(5) by historical rediscovery

knowledge of other minds as quasi-memory

Lk 1:45 & Lk 11:28 : we participate or share the faith of Mary; Mary's faith as model of ours

other minds & the sense of something as ours

The human person is that in which a world is known.

the act of writing as a full cognitive loop: idea - imagination - mechanical implementation - sensation - reflection on the written - idea

The mind needs an immense amount of pollination.

the historical books of the Bible & (1) the elusiveness of perfection (2) the importance of repentance (3) the possibility of restoration

The infinity of God requires that every revelation of Him be layered.

reason as the field of evangelism

prototyping, testing, & monitoring of experimental apparatus

the corporate liabilities of the human race

signative, pictorial, and perceptual intending

the structural beauty of well designed law

Mathematical consensus seems to be built on the basis of tiny problems linked together.

zero as universal part for natural numbers (successor function as mereological)

sanctioning authority as arising out of completeness of care

recognition as one of the fundamental principles of fine art

Historical dating is a thoroughly causal exercise (this is esp. clear with regard to testimonial evidence, such as Assyrian record of the 763 BC eclipse, but is also true of more complicated forms of dating, like the use of the Thera eruption, and methods used, like radiocarbon or tree rings).

synchronisms as common-cause effects (independent attestation)

condign vs congruous punishment

The loyalty of men arises from participation in what is great, and nothing saps it like refusing to recognize that participation (as when superiors take credit for the work of subordinates).

It is a common error to confuse 'All physical effects are part of a physical causal system' and 'All physical effects have physical causes'.

metaphors as activation keys for reasoning

If the Land symbolically represents Torah and the Church, 'be strong and of good courage' is also a hermeneutic principle, and a principle for dealing with heresy.

prayer of the saints for those on earth 2Macc 15;14

1 Macc and Aquinas' arguments for military religious order 2-2.188.3

metaphor as a means of compressing inference

How evidence is esteemed affects how it is weighed.

The 'desert base' is a constitutive cause of deserving (its form).

All experience is an experience of the potential become actual.

Mary as Queen of Courtesy

Oppression by taxation is not the most violent oppression; but history shows it to be one of the most devastating, because it does not cease.

One often finds people criticized for being otherworldly, but there is precious little evidence that thisworldly thinkers make less of a hash of things than otherworldly thinkers.

the Babbage principle: "The master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be executed into different processes, each requiring different degrees of skill or of force, can purchase exactly that precise quantity of both which is necessary for each process; whereas if the whole work were executed by one workman, that person must possess sufficient skill to perform the most difficult, and sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the operations into which the art is divided."

That is actually intelligible which is intellectually active.

The wise learn even from the foolish; the foolish do not learn even from the wise.

faith as the victory of justice (Is 42:6-7; 1 Jn 5:1-9)

If Christ intercedes with the Father, teh saints of His Body intercede with the Father in and through Him.

pain, pleasure, and natural desert

Effort alone is never a basis for desert. Desert is tied more closely to the ends of what is deserved than anything to do with the action of doing what deserves (which is not to say that the latter is always irrelevant -- that depends on the ends).

Desert seems to work like occasional causation.

Rome, Naples et Florence: October 1816, Part II

We pick up on page 34. This bout I found a bit rough in the going.

[20 octobre]

It's always worth remembering, as Stendhal indicates, that Italian is much more dialectally diverse than we usually remember; this is more true the farther back you go. As I've mentioned before, when Dante or Petrarch or Manzoni write in Italian, they have to brew up the version of Italian they think is appropriate to their task, and tend to draw on more than one dialect.

It's interesting that Stendhal is so acidic on the English class system, comparing it to Indian castes. I actually wonder if Stendhal's bite here is deliberately playing on English self-image and turning it upside-down -- the English, particularly in the nineteenth century, regarded candor as an essential part of their national character, so to contrast them unfavorably with the Milanese on precisely that point seems less than accidental.

Pierre Jean de Béranger was a poet who became famous as a songwriter, and in this period was writing pieces critical of the establishment. Jean François de Saint-Lambert, who wrote The Seasons, was in Voltaire's circle; his mistress was Emilie de Châum;telet -- she would become pregnant with his child and die from complications a few days afterward.

[25 octobre]

I confess that I was not expecting an account of the game of Tarot; but, as Stendhal says, apparently it was very fashionable in Milan at the time. Stendhal's description seems quite careful: a game of not less than fifty-two cards, three times the size of a standard playing-card, with a score or more cards with the function of an ace or trump, beautifully illustrated. The trumps he notes -- the Pope, the Papess Joan, the Fool, the Hanged Man, the Lovers, Fortune, Death -- are all recognizable, as are the suits of bastoni (staves), danari (coins), spade (swords), and coppe (cups). According to Daniel Muller's notes, Francesco Reina was a notable bibliophile of the time, although one could perhaps gather that from Stendhal's comment about the library. Stendhal's repeating of Reina's claim is the first I've heard of the idea that Michelangelo invented the game of tarocco itself, and as far as I know or have been able to discover, nobody else suggests it.

Regardless, the picture of Milanese Tarot players swearing at each other at the top of their lungs while playing, and yet not actually taking any offense, is priceless. And I think the better of Stendhal for being charmed by it, and his comment is worth quoting in full:

Dans ce siècle menteur et comédien (this age of cant, dit Lord Byron), cet excès de franchise et de bonhomie entre gens de plus riches et de plus nobles de Milan me frappe si fort, qu'il me donne l'idée de me fixer en ce pays. Le bonheur est contagieux.

And I also think the better of him for his rejection of the notion that this frankness and goodwill is unsophisticated or unrefined. Stendhal comes off as a bit of a pretentious snob sometimes; it's good to know he has another side.

[27 octobre]

The Milanese like a beautiful house; and, indeed, it does seem likely that architecture, at least in Milan, was a more thriving art than painting or sculpture. I did find the notion of architectural style as that physiognomy that «inspire un sentiment d'accord avec sa destination», as well as the idea that it is often connected with respect.

[28 octobre, á 5 heures du matin, en sortant du bal]

And here we have the statement that called my attention to this work in the first place: «La beauté n'est jamais, me semble, qu'une promesse du bonheur». And, of course, it turns out that Stendhal is talking about pretty girls at a dance; whenever you hear a profound statement from Stendhal and look it up, you always find that he said it in the most superficial way possible. I confess that I just skimmed some of the ballroom gossip.

[30 octobre]

John Scott was the editor who revived The London Magazine in 1820; the revival was an astounding success, and put the magazine at the heart of English literary life, as its contributors included the major Romantics and 'Cockney School' poets of the day -- Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and the like. The magazine's major rival was the powerhouse of literary critics, Blackwood's Magazine, and a literary feud developed between the two when John Gibson Lockhart began publishing articles critical of Keats and the rest for their working-class diction -- Gibson famously calling Keats a "vulgar cockney poetaster". Scott began an extended assault on Blackwood's and on Gibson; Gibson called Scott a liar and a scoundrel; Gibson's agent, Jonathan Henry Christie, insulted Scott to his face; and a duel was scheduled. It took place on February 16, 1821, and Scott died in the second round of the duel. Christie was tried for murder and acquitted. Those were the heroic days of literary criticism, of course, the days in which a man set to page criticism for which he was willing, if necessary, to put his life on the line.

And that is October of 1816. As I said above, I found this installment rough going, but the tarocco in Milan was worth it. We pick up in about two weeks or so on page 54, and finally with November Stendhal actually starts showing us around Milan, beginning with the Piazzo Reale and the Duomo.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Way of Disruption

Sacred places are the first places to be destroyed by invaders and iconoclasts, for whom nothing is more offensive than the enemy's gods. And we should recognize that much of the destruction of our environment today is deliberate, the result of a willed assault on old and despised forms of tranquillity. For there are two broad approaches to building: the way of settlement, and the way of disruption. Often when we settle we fit our lives into an existing and already consecrated pattern, strive to inherit the order established by those who have come before us, and to honor the spirit of the place: in this sense, as Heidegger points out in an important essay, to build is to dwell. But the iconoclast seeks to replace old gods with new, to disenchant the landscape and to mark the place with signs of his defiance.

Roger Scruton, The Face of God, Bloomsbury (New York: 2015), pp. 123-124.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Some in the Pool, Some in the Flower-Bell

The Summer Rain
by Henry David Thoreau

My books I'd fain cast off, I cannot read,
'Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large
Down in the meadow, where is richer feed,
And will not mind to hit their proper targe.

Plutarch was good, and so was Homer too,
Our Shakespeare's life were rich to live again,
What Plutarch read, that was not good nor true,
Nor Shakespeare's books, unless his books were men.

Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough,
What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town,
If juster battles are enacted now
Between the ants upon this hummock's crown?

Bid Homer wait till I the issue learn,
If red or black the gods will favor most,
Or yonder Ajax will the phalanx turn,
Struggling to heave some rock against the host.

Tell Shakespeare to attend some leisure hour,
For now I've business with this drop of dew,
And see you not, the clouds prepare a shower--
I'll meet him shortly when the sky is blue.

This bed of herd's grass and wild oats was spread
Last year with nicer skill than monarchs use.
A clover tuft is pillow for my head,
And violets quite overtop my shoes.

And now the cordial clouds have shut all in,
And gently swells the wind to say all's well;
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin,
Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell.

I am well drenched upon my bed of oats;
But see that globe come rolling down its stem,
Now like a lonely planet there it floats,
And now it sinks into my garment's hem.

Drip drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.

For shame the sun will never show himself,
Who could not with his beams e'er melt me so;
My dripping locks--they would become an elf,
Who in a beaded coat does gayly go.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Question of Aesthetics

He said that such a statement as "That bass moves too much" is not a statement about human beings at all, but is more like a piece of Mathematics; and that, if I say of a face which I draw "It smiles too much," this says that it could be brought closer to some "ideal," not that it is not yet agreeable enough, and that to bring it closer to the "ideal" in question would be more like "solving a mathematical problem." Similarly, he said, when a painter tries to improve his picture, he is not making a psychological experiment on himself, and that to say of a door "It is top-heavy" is to say what is wrong with it, not what impression it gives you. The question of Aesthetics, he said, was not "Do you like this?" but "Why do you like it?"

What Aesthetics tries to do, he said, is to give reasons, e.g., for having this word rather than that in a particular place in a poem, or for having this musical phrase rather than that in a particular place in a piece of music.

G. E. Moore, "Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-1933," in Classics of Analytic Philosophy, Ammerman, ed., Hackett (Indianapolis: 1990) p. 278.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fortnightly Book, August 14

(Due to the end of term, I am running on a bit of a delayed schedule here, so this is a day late.)

I have been going back and forth about what to do for the next Fortnightly Book. I'll have a fair amount of time, but I'm also coming off a grueling end of summer term, so it makes sense to do either a re-read or something relatively easy. After some thought, I've decided to do Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which I haven't read for a bit.

P&P was Austen's second published novel, after Sense and Sensibility, and was originally published not under Austen's own name, but under the byline, "by the Author of Sense and Sensibility." The working title seems to have been First Impressions, and, if so, it failed to get a publisher in the late 1790s. Austen went back to it in 1811 to revise it, and this is usually thought to have involved changing it from an epistolary novel to its current form, but we don't know exactly what was involved in the revisions, since we lack the original. The reason for the title which became famous was probably just to have a distinctive parallel to the title of Sense and Sensibility, but could also be due to a passage in the last chapter of Fanny Burney's Cecilia, with which Austen was certainly well acquainted:

“The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr Lyster, “has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE....Yet this, however, remember; if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination....

...Thus the same passions, taking but different directions, do mischief and cure it alternately...."

Austen, who wasn't expecting a resounding success, sold the copyright outright to avoid taking on any risk (in publishing Sense and Sensibility she had indemnified the publisher from any loss); her total payment for what would become the greatest novel in the English language was £110. (The publisher made at least four times that on the first two editions alone.)

Maronite Year LXVII

Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Romans 12:9-15; Luke 1:46-55

Surely the Lord raises up the lowly,
giving goodness to those who seek His ways,
for He has mercy upon all nations
from generation to generation.
From Mary the Sun of justice has dawned:
He has showered His Mother with graces,
filling us with spiritual praises,
on this her feast of exaltation.

Surely the Lord raises up the lowly,
and blessed is His Mother for all ages,
fountain of blessings, holy treasure-ship,
pure Mother of God and leaven of life,
sanctified censer and fragrant rose,
vessel of the forgiving ember,
shining temple of the Holy Spirit,
bridal chamber of the heavenly King.

Surely the Lord raises up the lowly,
so that You, O Mary, may pray for us:
beseech the Lord who has appeared from you
for pardon for sins, peace for our churches,
contemplation for our monasteries,
strength for the aged and wisdom for the young,
good education for all our children,
O fair Mother of the salvific Word.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun


Opening Passage:
Four individuals, in whose fortunes we should be glad to interest the reader, happened to be standing in one of the saloons of the sculpture-gallery in the Capitol at Rome. It was that room (the first, after ascending the staircase) in the centre of which reclines the noble and most pathetic figure of the Dying Gladiator, just sinking into his death-swoon. Around the walls stand the Antinous, the Amazon, the Lycian Apollo, the Juno; all famous productions of antique sculpture, and still shining in the undiminished majesty and beauty of their ideal life, although the marble that embodies them is yellow with time, and perhaps corroded by the damp earth in which they lay buried for centuries. Here, likewise, is seen a symbol (as apt at this moment as it was two thousand years ago) of the Human Soul, with its choice of Innocence or Evil close at hand, in the pretty figure of a child, clasping a dove to her bosom, but assaulted by a snake.

Summary: Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, and Donatello are four young friends enjoying the artistic life of Rome. Miriam and Hilda are painters; Miriam does original pieces while Hilda paints copies of the great works of Rome. Kenyon is a sculptor in charge of a workshop. And Donatello is an Italian, the Count of Monte Beni; the book opens with the other three noting the remarkable resemblance of Donatello to the Faun of Praxiteles, and teasing him about whether he has a faun's ears under his curls:

The Faun of Praxiteles - Capitol Museum Rom

Of the four, Kenyon is attracted to Hilda and Donatello to Miriam. In both cases, however, there is some distance -- Hilda is wholly devoted to her virginal life of art, studying the Great Masters, and Miriam, with her carefully hidden past, is reserved and fends off attentions with biting wit and sarcasm. But Miriam has some unknown connection with a stranger who shadows her and whose image haunts her painting, and the lives of the four friends will change fatefully when Donatello, jealous and protective, throws the man off a cliff to his death. The guilt of Donatello, and of Miriam who may have incited the deed with a glance, will hang heavily over them from this point.

Besides the Marble Faun itself, a work that repeatedly shows up in the story is this one, which Hilda has recently copied:


In Hawthorne's time it would have been known as The Portrait of Beatrice Cenci, by Guido Reni, and it was one of the most famous paintings in the world, a continual fascination to artists of the Romantic movement. Beatrice Cenci was raped by her father, and with her mother and brothers plotted to assassinate him. They tried to poison him, but when this failed, they bludgeoned him to death and threw him off the balcony in the hope that it would look like an accident. The plot was uncovered, however, and Beatrice Cenci was executed at the age of 22. According to the legend, the portrait was painted the day before her execution. The tale became (and still to some extent is) famous, and the calm, ambiguous, possibly innocent expression of a figure who was both victim of awful crime and perpetrator of violent murder played a significant role in the painting's fame, and Hawthorne in his Italian notebooks reflected on the hard-to-define fascination of the work, wondering if it would exert the same fascination on someone who did not know the story behind it. (A worthwhile question, given that now it is widely thought that the painting is neither by Guido Reni nor of Beatrice Cenci.) The entire story of The Marble Faun is a layering of ambiguities in the same way. Miriam is an ambiguous figure much as Beatrice was -- in some sense murderess yet in some sense innocent. And yet it is Hilda who was fascinated by the painting and was able to copy it with faithfulness.

The symbolic complexity of this work is extraordinary. The tale is told as a reenactment of the Fall of Man, with the four friends in the garden of innocent youth are cast out by complicity in a terrible crime. Each of the four friends expresses most fully one of the elements of human personality. Donatello is continually associated with passion, the natural participation in the world. Miriam, on the other hand, expresses imagination, continually haunted by other possibilities. Miriam and Donatello, of course, have the most serious involvement in the actual crime, but there is an odd innocence to them both even in the commission -- Donatello is too natural and primal and passionate a creature fully to understand what he has done, and Miriam's role was inciting the murder with a transient pleading glance to Donatello, a very detached way of causing a human death. And although Donatello and Miriam are both directly involved, Hilda, too, is caught up by it, for she witnesses the act. Nor is this a mere witnessing. Hilda expresses sympathetic aspiration; it is her intense sympathy with what she sees that makes it possible for her to accomplish her ingenious copies. And she sees the murder as if it were a painting, through the frame of a doorway; it is not something merely seen, it is something that enters her, disrupting her entirely. The imagination, by a glance, incites the passions to do wrong, and moral sentiment, witnessing, is tangled up in the deed: it could almost be an allegory for how sin is really committed. Kenyon might seem to escape the doom, since he only becomes aware of the cause of the darkness cast over the friendship relatively late, and is the least disrupted by it, but I think even this is not quite so. Kenyon as a sculptor deals with the embodiment of ideas in unchanging marble; he spends almost the entire work turning works of art into allegories. Dealing with eternal verities, it is not surprising that Kenyon in his intellectuality shows the least obvious signs of disruption, but there are signs that even he is not free of it. When he suggests to Hilda that perhaps the sin was allowed by Providence for good, she reacts with horror at the thought. I'm not convinced that we should take this as solely telling us about Hilda herself, with her high moral sympathies. Rather, this is exactly how intellect is shadowed by wrongdoing: it writes it down as felix culpa in some abstract scheme of things. This makes sense in its own terms, but Hilda is right that there is in it a lack of any sense of the awfulness of evil. Donatello and Hilda, passion and moral sympathy, directly participate in the world (and notably have symbolic links in several ways, with, for instance Donatello living in a Tower with owls and Hilda in a Tower with doves; Miriam and Kenyon, imagination and intellect, are distanced from it, with Miriam haunted by a past that shows up perpetually in her imaginings and by dark possibilities of what could be, and Kenyon constantly placing things in a framework of ideas. In innocence, they work together; but in wrongdoing they are split apart, trying to navigate the shadows in their own, very limited terms. And their responses to it are different, as well; Donatello and Miriam are haunted by guilt of involvement, each in their own way, while Kenyon and Hilda struggle to deal with the very fact of the wrongdoing itself.

Or one could see the four as each expressing some aspect of art, and this is not necessarily exclusive of the first interpretation. In Donatello, we see the primal impulse of art, participation in the world around us; in Miriam with her reserve and distance from the world around her, the imagination of other possibilities; in Hilda, moral sympathy; in Kenyon with his allegories, intellectual ideation. All art expresses all four, albeit in different mixes. But artistic endeavor also exists in a fallen world; the complicity of art in sin, and the sorrow with which one must struggle as a result, throws everything off balance. But, of course, our response to art works much the same way, and this allegorization, while certainly drawing out things in the work that are there, is also an over-Kenyonized reading on its own. One may also participate in the Romance of the tale, which is about four friends rather than abstract concepts, or be intrigued in imagination with the ambiguities of it, or sympathize with its moral ideals and guilts, and in some Eden of reading we would do all four, and all four well; but we, alas, poor fallen readers, have tilting structures that almost guarantee that some of the richness of the work will elude our reading.

When the work was first published, readers protested the ambiguities of the ending, and so, reluctantly, Hawthorne put in an epilogue giving further information about what happened. I think his first instinct was in fact correct: the additional information, about what happened to Hilda when she disappeared, or what happened to Donatello, weakens the tale considerably. It makes an object of description what should be an object of allusion, and reduces the complexity of the work. Hawthorne's early readers had difficulty with the ambivalent character of the work itself -- it is finely balanced so that it can be read either as a realistic tale in romantic, fantastic Italy, or a fantastic tale set in real-world Italy, and rather than maintain a consistent style, it gives us now a painted scene, now a sculptured composition, now an allusion to other works, now a travelogue, now a psychological tale, now an allegory, thus increasing both the realism and the romanticism of the tale. The balance throughout the work is beautifully done; only the epilogue unbalances it, despite Hawthorne's attempt to preserve some ambiguity still.

But even with the epilogue, we never learn the answer to the key question: Is Donatello faun or man?

Favorite Passage:

A picture, however admirable the painter's art, and wonderful his power, requires of the spectator a surrender of himself, in due proportion with the miracle which has been wrought. Let the canvas glow as it may, you must look with the eye of faith, or its highest excellence escapes you. There is always the necessity of helping out the painter's art with your own resources of sensibility and imagination. Not that these qualities shall really add anything to what the master has effected; but they must be put so entirely under his control, and work along with him to such an extent, that, in a different mood, when you are cold and critical, instead of sympathetic, you will be apt to fancy that the loftier merits of the picture were of your own dreaming, not of his creating.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.