Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fortnightly Books Index 2016

For a number of reasons -- a quick trip to Italy, scheduling of classes, and a few heft tomes -- this year was a bit lighter in terms of number of volumes. But the ones done were fairly substantive, and we had a bit of an Italian theme weaving in and out of the other works through much of the year, with Italian authors (Manzoni, Vasari, Eco twice), works involving trips to Italy (Innocents, Childe Harold), some Roman empire (Twelve Caesars, Helena), works about Italy (Romola, North from Rome), and works written in Italy (Prometheus Unbound, Marble Faun), among other things. But we also saw England, Scotland, Africa, the Philippines, the Holy Land, France, and Greece, so, despite the focus on Italy, it was still a well-traveled year.

December 4: Georgette Heyer, A Civil Contract
Introduction, Review

November 20: Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped
Introduction, Review

October 30: Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Introduction, Review

October 14: Nick Joaquin, Cave and Shadows; May Day Eve and Other Stories
Introduction, Review

October 2: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars
Introduction, Review

September 11: George Eliot, Romola
Introduction, Review

August 28: Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum
Introduction, Review, Supplementary Timeline

August 14: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Introduction, Review

July 31: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun
Introduction, Review

July 3: Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Introduction, Review, Three Peculiar Pages

June 19: Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Introduction, Review, Locus Focus, Supplementary Timeline

June 5: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound
Introduction, Review

May 15: Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed
Introduction, Review, Supplementary Timeline

May 1: Sophocles, The Theban Plays of Sophocles
Introduction, Review

April 17: Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
Introduction, Review

March 27: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes; Return of Tarzan
Introduction, Review

February 21: Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters
Introduction, Review

February 7: Evelyn Waugh, Helena
Introduction, Review

January 24: Honore de Balzac, The Wild Ass's Skin; The Quest for the Absolute
Introduction, Review

January 10: Helen MacInnes, North from Rome
Introduction, Review

Fortnightly Books Index 2015

Fortnightly Books Index 2014

Fortnightly Books Index 2012-2013

This Last Vigil of the Year

Old and New Year Ditties
by Christina Rossetti

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

Watch with me, men, women, and children dear,
You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear,
Watch with me this last vigil of the year.
Some hug their business, some their pleasure-scheme;
Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream;
Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.

Watch with me bless├Ęd spirits, who delight
All through the holy night to walk in white,
Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight.
I know not if they watch with me: I know
They count this eve of resurrection slow,
And cry, “How long?” with urgent utterance strong.

Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness:
Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play;
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
Lo, the Bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay:
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.
Though I tarry wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray:
Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
Then I answered: Yea.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Holy Family

The sea when it bore Him was still and calmed, and how came the lap of Joseph to bear Him? The womb of hell conceived Him and was burst open, and how did the womb of Mary contain Him? The stone that was over the grave He broke open by His might, and how could Mary's arm contain Him? You came to a low estate, that You might raise all to life! Glory be unto You from all that are quickened by You! Who is able to speak of the Son of the Hidden One who came down and clothed Himself with a Body in the womb? He came forth and sucked milk as a child, and among little children the Son of the Lord of all crept about. They saw Him as a little Child in the street, while there was dwelling in Him the Love of all. Visibly children surrounded Him in the street; secretly Angels surrounded Him in fear.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymn 3 on the Nativity

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


With holiday matters going on, things are inevitably quiet around here. A few things:

* I bought my mother some Italian limoncello via Dolceterra, and had a very good experience with them. One of the bottles was broken in the mail, and they were quite expedient in handling the matter; excellent customer service.

* Two movies I've seen recently: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One. The first was fun; Dan Fogler's Kowalski was really the thing that made the movie.

Rogue One was also quite well done; more Star-Warsy than anything since the original three. The CGI did not always work well -- the Peter Cushing CGI sometimes looked plastic-like. I saw it the day Carrie Fisher died, having only just learned of her death; which made it interesting. Apparently her scenes were completely filmed for Episode VIII, so we will see her again. Fisher was very multi-talented; she was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood in the nineties, and always had a sober and sensible sense of humor.

* I recently marathoned through the excellent John Adams miniseries, with Paul Giamatti, so I have its striking opening title theme in my head.

Holy Innocents

And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod's madness blazes out into fruitless schemes. He orders all the little ones in Bethlehem to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general sentence against the age he suspects. But that which the wicked king removes from the world, Christ admits to heaven: and on those for whom He had not yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom.

St. Leo the Great, Sermon 31

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Accordingly, brethren, of these mountains was John also, who said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This mountain had received peace; he was contemplating the divinity of the Word. Of what sort was this mountain? How lofty? He had risen above all peaks of the earth, he had risen above all plains of the sky, he had risen above all heights of the stars, he had risen above all choirs and legions of the angels. For unless he rose above all those things which were created, he would not arrive at Him by whom all things were made.

St. Augustine, Tractate 1 on the Gospel of John

Monday, December 26, 2016

First Champion of Martyrs

Let Stephen be killed, the Church of Jerusalem dispersed in confusion: out of it go forth burning brands, and spread themselves and spread their flame. For in the Church of Jerusalem, as it were burning brands were set on fire by the Holy Spirit, when they had all one soul, and one heart to God-ward. When Stephen was stoned, that pile suffered persecution: the brands were dispersed, and the world was set on fire.

St. Augustine, Sermon 66 on the New Testament

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Day by Day Holier

A Christmas Carol
by Christina Rossetti

The Shepherds had an Angel,
The Wise Men had a star,
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together
And singing angels are? –

Lord Jesus is my Guardian,
So I can nothing lack:
The lambs lie in His bosom
Along life's dangerous track:
The wilful lambs that go astray
He bleeding fetches back.

Lord Jesus is my guiding star,
My beacon-light in heaven:
He leads me step by step along
The path of life uneven:
He, true light, leads me to that land
Whose day shall be as seven.

Those Shepherds through the lonely night
Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heavenly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing 'Glory glory'
In festival they keep.

Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven:
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their 'Glory glory'
For my sake in the height.

The Wise Men left their country
To journey morn by morn,
With gold and frankincense and myrrh,
Because the Lord was born:
God sent a star to guide them
And sent a dream to warn.

My life is like their journey,
Their star is like God's book;
I must be like those good Wise Men
With heavenward heart and look:
But shall I give no gifts to God? –
What precious gifts they took!

Lord, I will give my love to Thee,
Than gold much costlier,
Sweeter to Thee than frankincense,
More prized than choicest myrrh:
Lord, make me dearer day by day,
Day by day holier;

Nearer and dearer day by day:
Till I my voice unite,
And I sing my 'Glory glory'
With angels clad in white;
All 'Glory glory' given to Thee
Through all the heavenly height.


Although, therefore, that infancy, which the majesty of God's Son did not disdain, reached mature manhood by the growth of years and, when the triumph of His passion and resurrection was completed, all the actions of humility which were undertaken for us ceased, yet today's festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary: and in adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life. For the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body. Although every individual that is called has his own order, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time, yet as the entire body of the faithful being born in the font of baptism is crucified with Christ in His passion, raised again in His resurrection, and placed at the Father's right hand in His ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.

St. Leo the Great, Sermon 26 (On the Feast of the Nativity)