Saturday, September 02, 2017

Dashed Off XVIII

Suppose a contingent being exists. Then it is a contingent state of affairs that it exists. Suppose a contingent being that could exist does not. Then it is a contingent state of affairs that it does not. Since for any contingent being, it exists or does not, if contingent beings are possible it is necessary that there are contingent states of affairs.

Tiresias as figure of the philosopher

eucharist & angelic sacrifice (cf. Albertus Magnus on Mass, and also Honorius)

the rhetoric of televised politics as concerned with prediction and gaffe

- someone should do a study of scientific rediscoveries

foraging, farming, fabrication

3D printing as the miniaturization of fabrication

negotiation with one's self (discursive reason, esp. in practical matters, often has this aspect)

appropriateness of actions to immortality

the being-in-God and the being-in-human-life of the Chruch
being-in-God, being-with-God, being-for-God

Our sympathy with the human will of Christ in its submission to His divine will unites us with the latter

Jn 6:38 on monothelitism

Orthopraxis is the theological virtues working outwardly. Orthodoxy is the theological virtues working inwardly.

∀ and ∃ as modal operators for counting operations

Envy often mimics righteous indignation.

Basics of Schleiermacher: The sense of freedom and the sense of dependence are common to all experiences of acting and being acted upon, respectively, that belong to self-consciousness. The sense of absolute dependence accompanies our activity as a whole and is simultaneously a sense of not being absolutely free. God is the other term of the sense of absolute dependence and our consciousness of this sense becomes consciousness of relation to God, especially as this sense becomes articulated and expressed in reflective self-awareness during devotional moments of life. God is not given in experience; rather, what is given is our utter dependence on another.

A 'truthmaker', to fulfill its function, must be a union of being and possibility of being understood. that is to say, talk of truthmakers is just a way to talk about being insofar as it can be understood.

sense of dependence
sense of comparative insignificance
sense of inability to grasp

Crucifixion of the understanding is pointless unless there is a resurrection in greater glory.

sense of wonder -> notion of wisdom itself

Translation is a stretched elastic cord.

Some scientific ethics are conducive to progress toward truth and some are not. This is straightforward fact; honesty and reasonableness are non-negotiables of inquiry. But this has implications few have traced.

The most convenient units of a field arise from its practice, not directly from nature. Since its practice is inquiring practice, this does not imply that they are fictional (although the units themselves could be, considered solely on their own). But even with units carving up the real world in real ways, to which science tends, it is the practices of scientists that make these in particular salient.

the scientific practice of physics and the assumption of downward causation

Out of His mercy, we may repent and through repentance receive mercy.

The nine particles of Fraction in the Mozarabic Mass: Incarnation, Birth, Circumcision, Apparition (i.e., Baptism), Passion, Death, Resurrection, Glory, Kingdom.

Note Descartes AT 7:90, 15-16 // PP IV sect 207, VIII-i, 329, 8-9 (see Marion on this)

the intrinsically iconographic character of charity

icons as "the brilliance of the visible" (Marion)

image in a mirror vs image through a window

"Love doesn't pretend to know, it postulates its own giving without restriction." (Marion)
"Theology cannot aim at any other process than its own conversion to the Word."

Ascension removes a lesser presence of Christ for the sake of a higher presence of Christ.

institution : Passion :: epiclesis : Pentecost

"Transubstantiation...has the merit of clearly marking the unbridgeable difference between the divine Other and ourselves." (Marion)

the stupidity-likeness of laziness

Noah's Ark and the family as hope

Spaemann's futurum exactum argument ("Rationality and Faith in God")
(1) To say about something that it is now is at the same time to say that it will have been.
(2) Therefore the present remains as the past of the future present.
(3) The enduring reality of the past must be due to a consciousness taking up all things past and present.
(4) This we call God.

To apologize is to accept a social punishment. There are times one must, morally speaking, apologize, just as there are times you must simply face the consequences of your deeds. But it is baffling when people talk about apologizing as if it did not make your social position worse. To apologize is nothing other than to concede the point that people are right to demand some penalty from you; it is to bow your head for the blow.

[William of Sherwood]
signification: presentation of the form of something to the understand
supposition: ordering of the of something under something else
copulation: ordering of the understanding of something over something else
apellation: that with respect to which what the term signifies can be predicated

◇ | □
possible | necessary
posterior | prior
ab alio | non ab alio
relative | absolute
secundum quid | simpliciter
propter aliud | propter seipsum
by participation | by essence
potential | actual
composite | simple
mutable | immutable
finite | infinite
effect | efficient
exceeded | exceeding
accident | substance
diverse | same
unequal | equal
finitum | finiens
many | one
exemplate | exemplar
-- Each pair may be taken correlatively or oppositively (one would, of course, need generalized versions of some, e.g., not in another / in another for substance/ accident)
-- What are the most basic pairs, and which reduce to others?
-- What modal maxims apply to each pair? What are the analogies? What disanalogies arise, and why?
-- What implications does the above have for various arguments for God's existence?
-- How does all of this reflect on yet other ◇/□ pairs?
-- Does each of the pairs admit of a per se/ per accidens distinction of some kind?

modes of revelation
- according to moving and being moved (cp. inspiration)
- according to causing and being caused (cp. infusion)
- according to participation (cp. theosis)
- according to governing and being governed (cp. law)
--> What kinds of revelation correspond to the Third Way? (mediated, perhaps?)
--> Are there others according to the pattern of other arguments to God?
--> Are there arguments to God corresponding to every theology of revelation, or at least associated modes of such arguments? (natural theology and the abstract structure of revelation)
--> Can an exhaustive list be made for each, i.e., how many specific examples of kinds of revelation correspond to each?

Good books should be read many times in companionship with many different books, for books read in proximity bring out highlights in each other.


the error of confusing urgency with normativity

faith --> Christ as Truth
hope --> Christ as Way
love --> Christ as Life

diagram: sign that is drawn image of what is signified
testimony: effect that is verbal image of cause

The Church is known in her sacraments.

When people speak of the sacrament of baptism extending beyond the Church, they are speaking in a qualified sense either of baptism or of the Church.

There are many ministries only belonging intrinsically to the character of orders in which others can be involved by instrumental participation. Exactly how this works, or what the instrumental ministry is in its nature, varies according to ministry, but this participation is clearly important to the very nature of sacrament. (It really is a sacrament of ordering and setting in sacramental order.)

The a priori connection between testimony and reality is obviously not rigorous necessity, but it does not follow from this that there is no such connection, nor that there is no indirect or broader necessity involved. (For instance, there may be, by necessity, a limited number of possible links, each with specific conditions.)

To consider: A carefully drawn diagram presumptively establishes what it seems to establish, where there is no specific reason to think this is illusory.
--> Obviously a question here is how the diagram establishes what it does, and the conditions for that.

While it obviously can be important, trustworthiness plays less of a role in actual evaluation of testimony than you would expect from much philosophical discussion of testimony.

Note that in the Letter to a Young Widow, Chrysostom argues that the shining of Moses and the Transfiguration of Christ are both 'tokens and obscure indications' of the glory of the resurrection body.

Austin: In saying, 'I know', we give our word, we give our authority for saying what we do.

verdictives and the sacrament of reconciliation

Outside of verdictives, Austin's classifications of performatives don't seem very helpful.

Austin's infelicities and mishandling of sacraments.
(A1) There must exist an accepted convention.
(A2) The person speaking must be appropriate to the act.
(B1) The procedure must be executed by all participants correctly.
(B2) The procedure must be executed by all participants completely.
(L1) Where procedure involves thoughts and feelings, they must be had.
(L2) The person must conduct themselves appropriately in response.
If not A or B = MISFIRE; if not L = ABUSE; Not A = Misapplication; not B = invalidity and errors

Sacraments are sui generis speech acts; for one thing, they have a performative efficacy entirely different from other performatives.

Calvin's metaphor of sacrament as seal seems to overlook (1) the fact that it is the seal that gives the writing authority and (2) seals have in fact worked as expression of authority simply in themselves. (Institutes 4.14.5)

The sacraments "make us more certain of the trustworthiness of God's Word" by attesting God's benevolence and love "more expressly than by word". (Institutes 4.14.6)

emanatio intelligibilis // sacramental emanation
verbum insitum (incomplexum): Christ :: verbum prolatum (complexum) : sensible sign :: verbum intus prolatum : efficacious sacramental form

Each sacrament is an obscure representation of the Incarnation, or, perhaps more accurately, a representation of the Incarnation under some particular aspect.

verbum as knowing with love
a word proceeds and manifests
notitia is essential to the word, amor is concomitant to the word

creatures in the Word // saints in the Book of Life

Philosophical eclecticism is a sign of an immense amount of work to be done and not enough resources to do it, leading to imperfect assimilation, transformation, and integration

Pascendi dominici gregis as an attack on empiricism as a universal position (i.e., not empiricism in a domain but globally)

The good investigated in ethics has always been more than just good attainable in some degree by human effort, for investigating the latter requires contextualizing it.

A teacher doe snot for the most part tell a pupil what he ought to do on the basis of what the pupil wants to do, but on ends appropriate to the problematic of the situation.

HoP is ideal for people of affable temperament and rebellious mind

unordered pair as weakest form of 2-◇
◇ and unordered list

the four forms of comfort in the anointing of the sick: courage, patience, hope, communion

Thebes as symbol of boundary-breaking in Greek tragedy

"While faith provides the basis for works, the strength of faith only comes out in works." Leo

traditions in the mode of cultivation, of renovation, of nostalgia

Plato's myths as defenses of philosophy

Note that Cicero's criticism of divination in De Div is analogous to Platonic criticisms of sophistry.
the perpetual issue of claims of expertise not grounded in understanding

the purgatorial character of love

love as setting boundaries to evil

matrimony : communal :: unction : individual

Three Poem Drafts and a Poem Re-Draft

(The fortnightly book will be delayed another week.)


Flotsam and jetsam are scattered around;
the heavens were pouring, the air full of sound,
the lightning was flashing as bright as the day.
Now moonlight is falling on the crest of the wave.

The world is all water; it rises and rolls,
fishy and briny, bitterly cold.
Rushing in circles, the racing sharks play
as moonlight is falling on the crest of the wave.

The storm has gone quiet except in my soul,
where it rages with violence and still takes its toll.
How long it will fury, no prophet can say,
but moonlight is falling on the crest of the wave.

Rome is Dead

-- Rome is dead; its pillars fall,
they crumble down to blowing dust.
The rabbits bound in ruined hall,
a shell, a long-degrading husk.
A lonely pier into the seas
is stretching boatless, unremarked.
Upon the hills the careless breeze
heeds not things buried by the park.
The temple formed for sacred rite
by gawking tourist's heedless tread
is unrevered, its holy might
a souvenir; yes, Rome is dead.

-- The heart is stirred by Latin word,
the hand inspired by Roman deed.
The names we have in splendor heard;
from press of time they have been freed.
This temple stands, a church now made,
and Christ now rules, a greater king,
where once to Jupiter they prayed
or to Minerva hymns would sing.
All things recall; that power still
constrains the world like earth and sky.
Where Rome has stood, it ever will:
Rome is dead, but does not die.


The scent of tea,
the sound of rain,
the rose in bloom,
the bursting spray,
the green of spring,
the golden grain,
the soaring gulls,
the children's songs,
the country church,
the quiet lane,
the lover's hope,
the help of grace:
such providential treasures pour
from holy heaven's open door!

Autumn Rain

I did not listen; morning light
and rain had washed my thoughts away;
the night before did not secure
attention for the coming day.
The tea was hot, the bagel good,
the scent of autumn rain was strong;
forgive me for the pointless wrong:
I did not listen as I should.
The words I heard, and understood,
but meanings spaced between the words
were lost; I gazed out on the woods
and memory leaves the rest in blurs.
The tea was hot, the bagel fine,
the scent of autumn rain was strong;
I did not listen; now I long
to hear between the spoken lines.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Adams on Miracles and the Uniformity of Nature

...experience teacheth us that lead and iron are heavier than water: but a man, by projecting these heavy bodies, may make them swim in water, or fly in air. Should the same be done by any invisible power, it would be a miracle. But the uniformity of nature is no more disturbed in this case than the former: nor is the general experience, which witnesses to the superior gravity of these bodies, any proof that they may not be raised in air and water by some invisible agent, as well as by the power of man.

William Adams, An Essay in Answer to Hume's Essay on Miracles (1767), pp. 17-18. Hume tended to dismiss his critics out of hand, but he seems to have had a certain amount of respect for Adams's criticism, although apparently was not convinced by it. The reason seems to have been Adams's very civil tone and approach. The quality of the critique is also good; it is not as brilliant or rigorous as some of the later criticisms, George Campbell's or Lady Mary Shepherd's, but it is perhaps the earliest critique to identify in a clear way some of the major problems with Hume's essay that will recur in the history of criticism of the work.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Ares. Hermes

Ar. Did you hear Zeus's threat, Hermes? most complimentary, wasn't it, and most practicable? 'If I choose,' says he, 'I could let down a cord from Heaven, and all of you might hang on to it and do your very best to pull me down; it would be waste labour; you would never move me. On the other hand, if I chose to haul up, I should have you all dangling in mid air, with earth and sea into the bargain' and so on; you heard? Well, I dare say he is too much for any of us individually, but I will never believe he outweighs the whole of us in a body, or that, even with the makeweight of earth and sea, we should not get the better of him.

Her. Mind what you say, Ares; it is not safe to talk like that; we might get paid out for chattering.

Ar. You don't suppose I should say this to every one; I am not afraid of you; I know you can keep a quiet tongue. I must tell you what made me laugh most while he stormed: I remember not so long ago, when Posidon and Hera and Athene rebelled and made a plot for his capture and imprisonment, he was frightened out of his wits; well, there were only three of them, and if Thetis had not taken pity on him and called in the hundred-handed Briareus to the rescue, he would actually have been put in chains, with his thunder and his bolt beside him. When I worked out the sum, I could not help laughing.

Her. Oh, do be quiet; such things are too risky for you to say or me to listen to.

Lucian of Samosata, Dialogues of the Gods, Dialogue XXI. Throughout this work, of course, Lucian is mocking the Homeric presentation of the gods; the comment of Zeus that Ares paraphrases here is from Book VIII of the Iliad, and is, of course, the passage that ultimately gives this blog its name, and from which its motto is taken: Hang from heaven a chain of gold. There seems to be, as in much of Lucian's work, a double blade here; Ares mocks the genuine absurdity of the boast, but comes across as somewhat less than bright in badmouthing Zeus to Zeus's own herald. The 'do be quiet' in Greek is Siopa : euphemei -- Be silent! Speak well! -- but one is tempted to translate it as 'Quiet! Euphemize!'

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rene Descartes and the Battle of White Mountain

While out for a walk this evening, I started thinking for some reason about Descartes and the Battle of White Mountain. Descartes, of course, was a mercenary soldier; he had joined and trained with the army of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Baillet, who is generally quite reliable about such things, says that he was at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 with the Imperial troops. We have, despite occasional skepticism, no serious reason to doubt it, but there are a number of puzzles about this.

The Battle of White Mountain marked the end of what is often called the Bohemian Revolt during the Thirty Years' War. The Protestant princes of Bohemia were more or less attempting to have Bohemia secede from its union with the Holy Roman Empire for religious reasons; they chose as their king Frederick V, the Elector Palatine, in autumn of 1619. Frederick's army was smashed to pieces on November 8, 1620 by Count Tilly just outside of Prague on the plateau of Bílá Hora, which gives the battle its name. Frederick and his family had to flee to the Netherlands. It's not surprising that they'd go there; Prince Maurice of Nassau, who was a Protestant relative (his uncle, I believe) with whom he was on good terms, had encouraged him to accept the crown of Bohemia and had financed and supported them with troops.

And therein is the first puzzle. Descartes, while Catholic, had been a soldier in the army of Prince Maurice. There is good reason to think he had left for a while, but what was he doing with the Imperial troops, given that Prince Maurice was on the other side? We don't know. Descartes never mentions anything about it in any of his surviving works; he tells very little about any of his actual life as a soldier. But Baillet is quite clear that Descartes was with the troops of the Holy Roman Empire at this time; he tells us that Descartes joined them in January of 1619 and that he continued on with them after White Mountain through the campaign into Moravia until he gave up being a soldier in the summer of 1621 -- after which he returned to the Netherlands.

Interestingly, we have no reason to think that he fought in any battles; Baillet doesn't say that he fought at the Battle of White Mountain, as you might expect, but simply that he was there and observed it. He does not tell us what that involved. Indeed, some of what he says suggests to me that he may not have known himself.

A. C. Grayling suggests that he was spying -- in particular, that he had been spying on the Dutch. This would make some sense of the limited evidence, but it's also the case that Descartes being a spy is Grayling's solution for almost every mystery in Descartes's life, so one is wary of falling back on unprovable espionage as a magical key.

Descartes, of course, would later meet (briefly) and then have a famous correspondence with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, the daughter of Frederick V. Such a turn of history is so perfect it is difficult to avoid imagining some connection between the two events; in a novel an author would certainly attempt to make such a connection, and if he did not, the reader would tend to do it for him. But such things may be entirely in the mind. The fact of the matter is, we don't know enough about Descartes's military career to say much about how it affected him, beyond the very tiny amount he says himself and the obvious fact that he seems to have used soldiering as a means for visiting places of scientific and philosophical interest. We don't know what he did at White Mountain, when he 'observed' the battle as part of the army that crushed Elisabeth's father's rule and forced her family into exile. We don't know if either of them ever thought of the fact that they were indirectly connected in this way -- after all, given the nature of the Thirty Year's War, the same could be said for a very large portion of the European population. So many unknown, and apparently undiscoverable, things.

Anne Line

Today is the feast of St. Anne Line on at least some calendars (she is also commemorated with the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales).

St Anne Line

Born into a Puritan family in the sixteenth century, she became Catholic and was disinherited. The local priest set up a haven for Catholic priests on the run from the Elizabethan persecution, and she became quite involved with this, eventually taking it over after he was arrested, eventually transitioning into other ways to help the persecuted. On the Feast of the Purification in 1601, however, she was hosting a clandestine Mass, and too many people showed up for it; neighbors, noticing the crowd, reported them to the police, and she was arrested, sentenced to death, and died by hanging on a snowy February 27.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

More on Hurricane Harvey

Things have been pretty mild in Austin; we did have some flooding, here and there fairly serious, and winds at about what was expected. There was temporary loss of electricity; brownouts kept giving a problem Saturday and Sunday. Other than that, Austin was barely affected; Harvey headed east more directly and quickly than expected; looking at the whorl of rains across Texas on weather maps all weekend, it was very obvious that the whorl was flattened to the northeast, which meant that Austin itself, while getting a lot of rain, was always only at the very outermost edge of everything.

Of course, the big event was that Harvey went fairly quickly to Houston and then sat above it. Houston, of course, is flooded on a scale that is difficult to grasp. The last number I saw was that Harvey had dumped an estimated three hundred billion gallons of water just on the city of Houston proper. If we expand outward, just the urban part of the Greater Houston area is the size of Rhode Island; much of that was under water, and we're not talking a shallow pool. People talk about unprecedented disasters, but in a lot of ways this really was one.

I've seen some people try to use the situation to raise blame in one way or another -- Houston infrastructure, or the slowness to evacuate. This is, in my view, completely ignorant. Houston's infrastructure for flooding is unusually good. To be sure, Houston is so huge that it is very difficult to keep it all up to date, and they are constantly falling behind. But Houston is prone to floods, because the ground doesn't absorb water well, and the bulk of Houston is built with floods in mind. Houston is primarily drained by bayous, which are fairly effective as far as they go; the street system is largely designed to serve as a back-up for this, and while it is still in development, quite a bit of work has been done on this. What people are not grasping is that it is literally impossible to build a city to handle this much rain. Everything worked well nigh perfectly -- but the rain kept coming in massive amounts, without stop, until everything began to be completely filled. There is no possible infrastructure you could have for a city the size of Houston that could handle that. You might as well propose that Houston should have been built on a city-size boat.

Likewise, people claiming that evacuation should have been done earlier or more extensively seem not to grasp that Houston is the one of the largest cities in the United States; its population is huge. This causes problems for evacuations, problems that were made very clear with Hurricane Rita. Something like 3 million people were evacuated, and something like a hundred people died just in the evacuations, before the storm even arrived. Travel from Houston to Austin, usually a three hour trip, took twelve hours; cars were running out of gas just from being in traffic. And what is worse, the sheer number of people coming from Houston clogged up the evacuation attempts of the entire area; places under much more immediate threat had difficulty implementing their evacuation plans. It was a disaster. This was handled immensely better. Instead of trying to evacuate on a large scale, the priority was evacuating the most serious cases first, while letting others assess according to their best evaluation, and also putting an immense amount of effort into rescue of those who were suddenly stranded. And it has worked, to the extent that anything can work in the face of something of this scale. There are probably things that could have been done differently; but most cases are due to the fact that nobody expected anything of this scope to develop at this speed, so it's difficult to argue that any decisions have been wrong given the information that was actually available at the time.

Of course, the great story has been the thousands of people pitching in to help -- first responders working until they literally drop from exhaustion, people in boats going around and rescuing stranded people, people checking cars, people cooperating in every way possible. Neighbors helping neighbors just because they are neighbors. If you want to see what a just society looks like, my friends, there it is.

I thought this tweet by Justice Willett was particularly notable:

Four Poem Re-Drafts


An angel in heaven was flying
to and fro o'er all the earth;
an angel in loud voice crying,
"How many, O sons of men?"

In starlit skies, bright-shining,
Mars has wandered to work his will;
the wolves on the plain are howling,
carrion-vultures take their fill.

How many men are fallen, sons of men,
how many dead and dying
in great Ascalon and Tyre?
How many widows crying,
where blood flows down like water
from a horse's smashing hoof?

How many youths lie dead, O sons of men?
How many in graves unwed,
where roses grow, and poppies,
on bloody fields of war?
How many, O ye nations?
How many slip to darkness,
each face to be seen no more?
How many men are fallen, sons of men?

The formless hand its word has written;
mene, mene, tekel and parsin,
no longer is it hidden.
With fire you have shown it, sons of men,
branded it on the children's faces
as they laugh and as they play,
new names to them have given, sons of men:
"Quick pickings, easy prey".

An angel in heaven was soaring
o'er sea and all the earth,
an angel in heaven roaring,
"How many, O sons of men?"


Christ was looking to the heavens,
looking with a sigh and frown,
looking for the time of day;
'Judas, make my way,' he said,
'buy a room in Zion-town.'
Judas said, 'A stately dwelling
I will buy us for the feast --
money rings within the wallet,
bells of silver, thirty piece.'

Judas searched then over, under,
Judas searched then broad and deep.
Nowhere did he find a dwelling,
nowhere was a room for having,
nowhere would his money buy it,
coins of silver, thirty piece.

Tired from his ceaseless searching,
ceased he then to nap a while,
deeply on the lawn he slumbered.
When he woke, the noon-time vanished,
nowhere could he find the wallet,
nowhere could he find the money,
treasured silver, thirty piece.

Judas wept and beat his breast,
crying, 'What can now be done?'
Judas wept for thought of failure,
wept (for what would others say?),
fearing to return to Jesus
without dwelling, without wallet,
without silver, thirty piece.

But a young man near was shouting,
'Have you heard? The priests have posted
prize for word to help them capture
Joshua the Nazorean,
trouble-making, rabble-raising:
prize of silver, thirty piece!'

Straightway Satan spoke to Judas,
'Never has the Lord been caught,
grasping hands he has eluded.
Can they capture one who conquers
blindness, sickness, lameness, death,
walks on water, loaves and fishes
multiplies like grains of sand,
water turns to wedding wine?
Crowds he passes through unharmed!
If he from the temple height
were to fall, the Lord's own angels,
soaring down, would surely save him!
If he were in starving hunger,
stones he'd surely change to bread!
If he wanted all the kingdoms,
kings would fall before his power!'
Judas to the scribes and priests
made a promise to betray,
promised to deliver Jesus,
for reward to fill the wallet,
costly silver, thirty piece.

Judas came again to Jesus,
saying he had found no dwelling,
nowhere taking merely silver.
Christ then looked up to the heavens,
looking with a sigh and frown.
John he called, and also Peter,
gave to them a different mission:
'Silver cannot buy a dwelling,
time is short, too soon too late.
Go now quickly to the city.
When you enter in the gate
you will find a water-bearer;
let him guide you to his home.
Ask the master of the house
"Where is found the special room?
He who asks has pressing need."'

Judas followed, worries lightened,
thinking how he was so clever,
how the priests he had outsmarted,
how he trusted in his Master,
how he had made right the problem,
thinking he would get the money,
shining silver, thirty piece.

The Narcissist

So fair is his existence,
few hearts resist;
a third of heaven would turn traitor
and give up bliss
to catch the lying promise
of his kiss.

His beauty is so great,
his style so nice;
his smile sparkles so,
like starlit ice,
that God might die to make him --
were that the price.

Yes, the Devil is a lovely creature --
and he knows it.
All creation and his smile
show it.

He sits up in the airs,
face like a god,
devoid of heartfelt cares!
(But it is odd
how frozen he is there
with ruler's rod.)

His beauty has no match.
No equal vies
to rival the mighty light
with which he lies;
it is so easy, and so simple,
to despise,
if you lift yourself up higher
than the skies.

Yes, the Devil is a lovely creature --
and he knows it.
Would to God he had the grace
not to show it.

The Harp and the Vine

You ask, and I wonder,
but I still know my mind;
here in the garden the columbine
spirals and curls, begging for rain,
while your words like the thunder
echo from clouds;
I know your pain, but I am proud,
and here in the garden the rosy thorn
still mocks me,
ruthless in its scorn.
You ask, but the iris will pay you no mind
as the wind starts to hum
through the harp and the vine.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Music on My Mind

Alexandre Poulin, "Couleurs Primaires". Even in a world drowning in contradictions, there are things that all other things share.

Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis

Today is the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church. (The 'Aurelius' that is often given as part of his name was an extremely common way to indicate Roman citizenship in his day.) From his work, On Christian Doctrine (1.7):

For when the one supreme God of gods is thought of, even by those who believe that there are other gods, and who call them by that name, and worship them as gods, their thought takes the form of an endeavor to reach the conception of a nature, than which nothing more excellent or more exalted exists. And since men are moved by different kinds of pleasures, partly by those which pertain to the bodily senses, partly by those which pertain to the intellect and soul, those of them who are in bondage to sense think that either the heavens, or what appears to be most brilliant in the heavens, or the universe itself, is God of gods: or if they try to get beyond the universe, they picture to themselves something of dazzling brightness, and think of it vaguely as infinite, or of the most beautiful form conceivable; or they represent it in the form of the human body, if they think that superior to all others. Or if they think that there is no one God supreme above the rest, but that there are many or even innumerable gods of equal rank, still these too they conceive as possessed of shape and form, according to what each man thinks the pattern of excellence. Those, on the other hand, who endeavor by an effort of the intelligence to reach a conception of God, place Him above all visible and bodily natures, and even above all intelligent and spiritual natures that are subject to change. All, however, strive emulously to exalt the excellence of God: nor could any one be found to believe that any being to whom there exists a superior is God. And so all concur in believing that God is that which excels in dignity all other objects.

Hasse's oratorio, La conversione di Sant'Agostino:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Whirling Ocean

The Hurricane
by William Cullen Bryant

Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!

And lo! on the wing of the heavy gales,
Through the boundless arch of heaven he sails;
Silent and slow, and terribly strong,
The mighty shadow is borne along,
Like the dark eternity to come;
While the world below, dismayed and dumb,
Through the calm of the thick hot atmosphere
Looks up_at its gloomy folds with fear.

They darken fast; and the golden blaze
Of the sun is quenched in the lurid haze,
And he sends through the shade a funeral ray --
A glare that is neither night nor day,
A beam that touches, with hues of death,
The clouds above and the earth beneath.
To its covert glides the silent bird,
While the hurricane’s distant voice is heard,
Uplifted among the mountains round,
And the forests hear and answer the sound.

He is come! he is come! do ye not behold
His ample robes on the wind unrolled?
Giant of air! we bid thee hail! —-
How his gray skirts toss in the whirling gale;
How his huge and writhing arms are bent,
To clasp the zone of the firmament,
And fold at length, in their dark embrace,
From mountain to mountain the visible space.

Darker — still darker! the whirlwinds bear
The dust of the plains to the middle air:
And hark to the crashing, long and loud,
Of the chariot of God in the thunder-cloud!
You may trace its path by the flashes that start
From the rapid wheels where’er they dart,
As the fire-bolts leap to the world below,
And flood the skies with a lurid glow.

What roar is that? — ’tis the rain that breaks
In torrents away from the airy lakes,
Heavily poured on the shuddering ground,
And shedding a nameless horror round.
Ah! well known woods, and mountains, and skies,
With the very clouds! — ye are lost to my eyes.
I seek ye vainly, and see in your place
The shadowy tempest that sweeps through space,
A whirling ocean that fills the wall
Of the crystal heaven, and buries all.
And I, cut off from the world, remain
Alone with the terrible hurricane.