Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Quick Trip to Scotland, Miscellanea II

Edinburgh: Old Calton (continued)

Edinburgh: Calton Hill

Edinburgh: Views from Bridges in Old Town

Edinburgh has a lot of bridges (over valleys, since it lies on an area that geographically is cut by deep ridges). I tried to get some pictures of views from them, but most of the photographs turned out very busy -- the whole of Old Town is very crowded.

One over the Cowgate, which, as the name suggests, was the route people would take with their herds to get to the markets in the medieval city:

Edinburgh: Miscellaneous

More around the cathedral:

Various in and around Princes Street Gardens:

Out near Holyrood:

This is St. Andrews, a government building done in Art Deco style, a bit institutional-looking but very striking on the ground:

A famous statue of Wellington:

St Andrew Square, the Melville Monument, which commemorates Henry Dundas, the Viscount Melville:

Dundas was a major player in the political government in his day, so much so that he was sarcastically referred to as King Harry the Ninth and the Great Tyrant. He helped establish New Town, obstructed the abolition of slavery for years, expanded British domination of India, and was the last person in the United Kingdom to be impeached by the House of Lords (although he was acquitted).

Looking the other direction, the striking St. Andrew's and St. George's West Church:

to be continued

Friday, July 20, 2018

Thursday, July 19, 2018

He Dared the Lightning in the Lightning's Track

Frederick Douglass
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

A hush is over all the teeming lists,
And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn,
Laments the passing of her noblest born.

She weeps for him a mother's burning tears—
She loved him with a mother's deepest love
He was her champion thro' direful years,
And held her weal all other ends above.
When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust,
He raised her up and whispered,"Hope and Trust."

For her his voice, a fearless clarion, rung
That broke in warning on the ears of men;
For her the strong bow of his pow'r he strung
And sent his arrows to the very den
Where grim Oppression held his bloody place
And gloated o'er the mis'ries of a race.

And he was no soft-tongued apologist;
He spoke straight-forward, fearlessly uncowed;
The sunlight of his truth dispelled the mist
And set in bold relief each dark-hued cloud;
To sin and crime he gave their proper hue,
And hurled at evil what was evil's due.

Thro' good and ill report he cleaved his way
Right onward, with his face set toward the heights,
Nor feared to face the foeman's dread array—
The lash of scorn, the sting of petty spites.
He dared the lightning in the lightning's track,
And answered thunder with his thunder back.

When men maligned him and their torrent wrath
In furious imprecations o'er him broke,
He kept his counsel as he kept his path;
'Twas for his race, not for himself, he spoke.
He knew the import of his Master's call
And felt himself too mighty to be small.

No miser in the good he held was he—
His kindness followed his horizon's rim.
His heart, his talents and his hands were free
To all who truly needed aught of him.
Where poverty and ignorance were rife,
He gave his bounty as he gave his life.

The place and cause that first aroused his might
Still proved its pow'r until his latest day.
In Freedom's lists and for the aid of Right
Still in the foremost rank he waged the fray;
Wrong lived; His occupation was not gone.
He died in action with his armor on!

We weep for him, but we have touched his hand,
And felt the magic of his presence nigh,
The current that he sent thro' out the land,
The kindling spirit of his battle-cry
O'er all that holds us we shall triumph yet
And place our banner where his hopes were set!

Oh, Douglass, thou hast passed beyond the shore,
But still thy voice is ringing o'er the gale!
Thou 'st taught thy race how high her hopes may soar
And bade her seek the heights, nor faint, nor fail.
She will not fail, she heeds thy stirring cry,
She knows thy guardian spirit will be nigh,
And rising from beneath the chast'ning rod,
She stretches out her bleeding hands to God!

The Teacher

Today is the feast of St. Macrina the Younger, also known as the Teacher, grand-daughter of St. Macrina the Elder, daughter of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emmelia, and sister of St. Basil the Great, St. Naucratius, St. Peter of Sebaste, and St. Gregory of Nyssa. An interesting passage from St. Gregory's On the Soul and the Resurrection, an account of his dialogue with his older sister when she was on her deathbed:

As for the thinkers, the Teacher went on, outside our own system of thought, they have, with all their diverse ways of looking at things, one in one point, another in another, approached and touched the doctrine of the Resurrection: while they none of them exactly coincide with us, they have in no case wholly abandoned such an expectation. Some indeed make human nature vile in their comprehensiveness, maintaining that a soul becomes alternately that of a man and of something irrational; that it transmigrates into various bodies, changing at pleasure from the man into fowl, fish, or beast, and then returning to human kind. While some extend this absurdity even to trees and shrubs, so that they consider their wooden life as corresponding and akin to humanity, others of them hold only thus much — that the soul exchanges one man for another man, so that the life of humanity is continued always by means of the same souls, which, being exactly the same in number, are being born perpetually first in one generation, then in another. As for ourselves, we take our stand upon the tenets of the Church, and assert that it will be well to accept only so much of these speculations as is sufficient to show that those who indulge in them are to a certain extent in accord with the doctrine of the Resurrection.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

End in Itself

544. The human person is an end because of the divine element which informs it. This element, which in God is God, cannot be employed as a simple means even by God himself, who, being essentially end, cannot use himself as means. Hence Scripture says that God made himself the end of all things, and could not do otherwise.

545. He is end, therefore, in so far as he communicates himself to humankind, either through the light of reason or through gifts superior to nature. This teaching, which ennobles human creatures, is echoed in divine Scripture when it says that God, in his absolute, all-powerful dominion, treats mankind 'with great reverence'.

[Antonio Rosmini, The Philosophy of Right, Volume 4: Rights in God's Church, Cleary & Watson, trs., Rosmini House (Durham: 1995) p. 26.] The passages referred to are Proverbs 16:4 and Wisdom 12:18, respectively.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Two Poem Drafts

Kora of Sicyon was, according to Greek legend, the first person to draw the human form itself; she traced her lover's shadow on the wall with charcoal.


Psyche looked on Eros,
thought on love,
to capture him in vision
who moved in might;
the deathlessness of love
took startled flight
and lost and chained was thought.

Undying life cannot be caught;
the mind can barely catch a glimpse
when, turning around
amid the currents of the dark,
it sees itself a work of love;
but love cannot be held.
It hides from sight,
forever veiled.

Yet not unknown:
caress in darkness,
love with thought,
gives communion higher than all sight,
interweaves the night with joy divine,
a joy that does not die,
transcending joys that have been sought.

Psyche looked on Eros,
thought on love,
to capture him in vision
who moved in night;
the god was holy-hidden
but patient tears
with yearning heart restored him,
and splendidly were joined
thought and love.

Kora of Sicyon

He is gone too swiftly,
a waver in the burning sun,
and I,
too soon alone,
am turned to shadow.
I will keep him,
his presence secure,
give him outline
more sure than the sun's,
that I always may see him,
though only in shadow.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Voyages Extraordinaires #30: Nord contre Sud

Florida was annexed to the American federation in 1819; it was organized into a state a few years afterwards. By the annexation the area of the republic was increased by some 67,000 square miles. But the star of Florida shines with second-rate brilliancy in that constellation of thirty-eight which spangle the banner of the United States of America.

Florida, throughout, is a low, narrow tongue of land, and its rivers, with one exception—the St. John's-owing to the narrowness of the country, are of no importance. From such a slight rise, there is not sufficient fall for the watercourses to be of any rapidity; there are no mountains, only a few lines of “bluffs” or low hills such as are numerous in the central and southern regions of the Union. In form the peninsula is not unlike the tail of a beaver dipping into the ocean between the Atlantic on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.

North against South, also known in English as Texar's Revenge, tells the story of a Northerner and abolitionist, James Burbank, who owns a plantation in Florida in the midst of the Civil War. He is opposed by a man of Spanish background, named Texar, who has a longstanding grudge against him and who stirs up the pro-slavery sentiment against him in an attempt to burn down his plantation. Texar kidnaps Burbank's little daughter, Dy, and her caretaker, the recently freed slave, Zermah, and hides them deep in the Everglades.

The work, published in 1887, flopped in the United States; Americans were not particularly thrilled at a foreigner telling a tale about the Civil War, and the book was criticized as being shot through with inaccuracies. Not being a Civil War buff, and not making an effort to double-check timelines and such, I didn't notice anything outright. (And such inaccuracies would, in any case, have to be checked against the French, given how often Verne was garbled in translation.) But Verne very definitely has a decided view about the Civil War, and can't always resist lecturing about it. The example that really stood out to me was his adamant insistence that it was wrong to remove McClellan from command. This is contrary to the usual view that McClellan was a competent strategist but an overly cautious commander, and that Lincoln was probably right in thinking that he was neither aggressive enough in his approach nor, in talent, a match for the likes of Lee. There is, in any case, a considerably amount of nuance Verne has dropped, and it is perhaps not surprising that Americans were unwilling to be lectured about their own Civil War by someone who only knew about it secondhand. It probably also didn't help that the book is not like most of the works that really made his name.

The best way to approach the book, I think, is not to regard it as Civil War fiction so much as a mystery adventure set in the swamps of Florida in a broadly Civil War setting: Texar was seen, by an unimpeachable witness, in the very process of kidnapping Dy and Zermah; but he has an equally unimpeachable alibi for exactly that time. Once all the pieces for that are in place, it's just a race to solve the mystery before it is too late for Zermah and Dy.

A Quick Trip to Scotland, Miscellanea I

Edinburgh: Old Town

Some pictures from the street:

A few miscellaneous shots of the Scott Monument:

Some pictures from and in Princes Street Gardens, especially of the Castle:

Edinburgh: Old Calton

to be continued