Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Dread of Tyrants

There has been recently, especially in academic circles, a great deal of dispute about freedom of speech due to cases of 'protesters' trying to shout down speakers. From Frederick Douglass, A Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston

No right was deemed by the fathers of the Government more sacred than the right of speech. It was in their eyes, as in the eyes of all thoughtful men, the great moral renovator of society and government. Daniel Webster called it a homebred right, a fireside privilege. Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason of righteousness, temperance, and of a judgment to come in their presence....

...There can be no right of speech where any man, however lifted up, or however humble, however young, or however old, is overawed by force, and compelled to suppress his honest sentiments. 

 Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money....

The whole thing is excellent and worth reading, and an essential text in understanding the importance of the freedom of speech.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Cyrillus Hierosolymitanus

 Today is the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church. From his Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 18:

The root of all good works is the hope of the Resurrection; for the expectation of the recompense nerves the soul to good works. For every labourer is ready to endure the toils, if he sees their reward in prospect; but when men weary themselves for nought, their heart soon sinks as well as their body. A soldier who expects a prize is ready for war, but no one is forward to die for a king who is indifferent about those who serve under him, and bestows no honours on their toils. In like manner every soul believing in a Resurrection is naturally careful of itself; but, disbelieving it, abandons itself to perdition. He who believes that his body shall remain to rise again, is careful of his robe, and defiles it not with fornication; but he who disbelieves the Resurrection, gives himself to fornication, and misuses his own body, as though it were not his own. Faith therefore in the Resurrection of the dead, is a great commandment and doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church; great and most necessary, though gainsaid by many, yet surely warranted by the truth. Greeks contradict it , Samaritans disbelieve it, heretics mutilate it; the contradiction is manifold, but the truth is uniform.

Although he himself seems to have been orthodox his entire career, he was for a long while at least very sympathetic to Semi-Arianism, and appears to have been willing to allow for the possibility that the Nicene party of orthodoxy was being excessively intolerant. However, long disputes with other bishops over the matter seems to have slowly convinced him that the Semi-Arians were not acting or speaking in good faith; he was a Conciliar Father at the First Council of Constantinople, where for the first time that we know of in his career he came down firmly against the Semi-Arian position and voted for the homoousios. His Catechetical Lectures, delivered while Bishop of Jerusalem, are some of the most important catechetical works in the course, and the gold standard for catechesis prior to the rise of catechetical innovations in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. He is also quite important, in his later Mystagogical Lectures, for the theology of the sacraments (particularly baptism, confirmation, and eucharist), of which he has a very robust view.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Then the Wrath of the King Abated

Besides being St. Patrick's day, it is also Purim.  

And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman's face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman's house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.

[Esther 7:7-10 ESV

The sheer artistry of this turn of the plot and how everything in the story suddenly comes together is not always appreciated adequately, I think. What immediately leads to Haman's death, ironically, is begging for his life, an opportunity which he had not allowed the Jews. The whole episode is possible because Haman follows the advice of his advisors and wife to build the gallows to avenge himself on Mordecai (Est. 5:14) and fulfills the warning that Haman's advisors and wife had given him right before it happens when they learned that Mordecai, whom the king had just forced Haman to honor, was Jewish(Est. 6:13). Haman was so furious at Mordecai in the first place due to Mordecai's failure to bow down before him (Est. 3:5). But it's implied that Haman falls on the couch of Queen Esther, Mordecai's niece, from trying to bow down before her in begging for his life. Then Haman is hanged on his own gallows literally (the gallows themselves) and figuratively (his plot leads to his own death, and the gallows are the physical representation of his plot), which in the context of the whole story is itself clearly also more broadly symbolic (as representing the turning of the plots of enemies of the Jews in general against themselves), and thus he is executed at his own house on the charge of having assaulted the king's wife in the king's own house.

A Fountain Rose with Brimming Bound

 The Baptism of Saint Patrick
by Aubrey de Vere

“How can the babe baptiséd be
 Where font is none and water none?”
Thus wept the nurse on bended knee,
 And swayed the Infant in the sun. 

 “The blind priest took that Infant’s hand:
 With that small hand, above the ground
He signed the Cross. At God’s command
 A fountain rose with brimming bound. 

 “In that pure wave from Adam’s sin
 The blind priest cleansed the Babe with awe;
Then, reverently, he washed therein
 His old, unseeing face, and saw!

 “He saw the earth; he saw the skies,
 And that all-wondrous Child decreed
A pagan nation to baptise,
To give the Gentiles light indeed.” 

 Thus Secknall sang. Far off and nigh
 The clansmen shouted loud and long;
While every mother tossed more high
 Her babe, and glorying joined the song.

Secknall is the name of a Christian bard said to have been trained by St. Patrick.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

But Woe to Him, Who Dares to Raise Ambition's Throne in Blood

Good Out of Evil
March Sixteenth
by John Holland

“A multitude of events appear to have either no intelligent cause, or no one adequate to their production; and because the operations of the Divine hand are disregarded, historians and biographers often disquiet themselves in vain to find out the causes and reasons of the circumstances and transactions which they record.”—Dr. Adam Clarke. 

 'Tis God's prerogative, all things to bend
 In one great aim, by heaven's eternal law;
 Thus, good from evil evermore to draw --
Thus, to evoke ev'n from worst means, best end--
Thus, with high Providence, to superintend
 All the affairs of this sublunar sphere --
Belongs alone to Him, who earth and sky
 Surveys each moment with omniscient eye;
While past and future, present, thus appear,
Jehovah will His sovereignty maintain,
 Yea, make the wrath of man his power to praise:
Awhile the tyrant triumphs in his ways,
 But woe to him, who dares at once to raise
Ambition's throne in blood, and boast a godless reign.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

'Dogwhistle' and Murdered Metaphors

 We talk of 'dead metaphors', but we often don't reflect on what makes them die. I suspect we usually think they all die a natural death of old age. But I think at least occasionally they are murdered; a group of people seize the metaphor and stab it many times until it starts to die. Reading José Ramón Torices's "Understanding Dogwhistles Politics" (PDF) brought this to mind. The paper is actually quite good, but it shows, I think, that 'dogwhistle' is in the process of being murdered.

A dog whistle, of course, is used to train and command a dog; it is a high-pitched whistle that humans (usually) cannot hear but dogs can. They are usually just over 20 kHz to somewhere near 45 kHz. Dogs can hear the whole range (cats can hear it even better), but human hearing even optimally tops out at around 20 kHz; children with good hearing may be just able to hear an unusually low-pitched dog whistle, but in general the most any human can hear is a slight whiff of air if they are close. The exact way in which it became applied to politics is difficult to trace, but the usually accepted explanation is that it began in polling circles, to indicate the phenomenon of the respondent hearing something in a question that the pollster did not. From there it got reworked by people in political campaigns to characterize their opponents' rhetoric as deliberately being structured to rally specific audiences who could hear an implication while not alienating audiences that would not hear it. This is a phenomenon that happens. It requires an actual pre-existing jargon with specific implications. A very obvious example would be a Communist talking to a mixed audience in generic terms about fighting fascism; 'fascism' is jargon in Communist circles, and includes things like American-style liberalism, whereas for most people -- normies, as we might say on the internet -- fascism simply doesn't have the Communist meaning, and so they, unless they for some reason become fluent in Communist or the Communist accidentally oversteps so that people start getting suspicious, will interpret it as just meaning what they would ordinarily mean. Another, messier but well established and commonly given, example is that of using 'state's rights' in the American Deep South; for historical reasons, it has associations there that it wouldn't necessarily have elsewhere -- most people would take it to mean what it says, but in some Southern communities due to the pre-existing jargon a politician could use it to signal that they might be simpatico with people who try to subvert civil rights legislation, without doing so in a way that would cause problems with other communities, in which this pre-existing set of associations doesn't exist and people just assume that the politician is affirming his adherence to the principles of federalism.

It should be pretty clear from this (1) that this is a phenomenon that can and does sometimes occur and (2) that it requires a very specific set of conditions. But of course, the potential value of the metaphor for simultaneously implying that your political opponent is sneaky and manipulative while insulting the people he is trying (and presumably succeeding) to dogwhistle as trained dogs was too good to pass up. (Another reason for its being tempting is that if you can get it to stick, you can treat anything your opponent says, whatever they may say, as a really a secret code for evil things they did not say.) So, while it has had ups and downs in popularity, political commentators of all stripes have tried to characterize all sorts of political rhetoric as dogwhistles. Such abuses don't murder the metaphor, because the whole point is to keep the metaphor in place; it's just being deliberately applied inappropriately for rhetorical purposes.

The murdering comes about when academics get a hold of it, which has largely happened in the past decade, when philosophers of language decided that it would be useful to have an analysis of it. (And perhaps, given some of the things they say about it, they saw it as striking a blow for justice; philosophers have the quirk that they often think that if they have analyzed some terms they have defended the oppressed.) Unfortunately, many of the analyses that have become popular among academics stretch the term so far that it is clear that it is now covering entirely different phenomena from what the metaphor originally, and very usefully, and quite neatly picked out, and the differences are differences that do active harm to the metaphor. For instance, it's become common to talk of dogwhistles that are covert to the people who are supposed to hear them and dogwhistles that are communicated unintentionally. Both of these make nonsense of the metaphor; they are just two different ways to shoot it in the face. One might as well start talking about instances of bravely and curiously sticking one's head in the sand or of music making one's heart swell small; it's the sort of violence to a term that you'd do for a joke, not for a serious analysis of the metaphor. Obviously the salient features of the metaphor are that non-target audiences can't hear it and that you can use it rally the target audience that does. If you went around talking about a dog whistle that dogs cannot hear or that isn't deliberately used to communicate with dogs, you are obviously stretching the term -- more in the former case than the latter, but the primary use of a dog whistle is to train or command the dogs who can hear it, so if either of these are missing, then you probably need to explain yourself. It doesn't get less stretched when we do this to the metaphor; in fact, the problem gets worse, since an actual dog whistle is a multi-faceted thing, but the metaphor was applied in politics specifically on those two structural features of what a dog whistle is.

Some of the discussion that results is interesting, and does identify genuine rhetorical phenomena. And one could argue that murdering the metaphor is worth some of the resulting analysis. (For my part, I think much of the discussion is too speculative to make this argument with what has been done so far, but we could reach a point where it would be quite a forceful argument.) Metaphors, unlike human beings, have no right to life. But there is potential confusion in not seeing that you are in fact murdering the metaphor, and that the new phenomena you are identifying, the 'dogwhistles' the dogs cannot hear, the 'dogwhistles' that command without the dogwhistler commanding, are new and not the phenomena with which you started. It also raises classification worries. Are you in fact classifying all of these things properly by lumping them together when they have such clearly identifiable differences and can't be salient for the same reasons? And, of course, it raises worries about how you keep honest with an approach in which there is a category by which you can attribute meaning (usually very negative meaning) to someone that is (1) not what they explicitly said; (2) not the way they were taken by their audience; and (3) not what they intended to say. This is a true entry into esotericism. In this very paragraph, I used the phrase 'right to life'. 'Right to life' is a phrase associated with pro-life movement. One can well imagine someone coming along and saying, "Ah-ha! This is a dogwhistle! We all now know what Brandon is really saying when he talks about how analyses of dogwhistles don't respect the metaphor, and it's entirely about abortion." Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. How does one establish that this is not true, if I can't protest that I'm not talking about abortion, and no one can testify that they didn't understand me to be talking about abortion, and I can't appeal to the fact that 'right to life' is used in lots of contexts associated with murder because of course as a dogwhistle it has to be a secret meaning? Apparently it gets noticed by an infallible extrasensory perception. Such a thing makes one suspicious that we are actually looking at a different phenomenon that is being misclassified by being forced together with things more appropriately called 'dogwhistles'.

A further problem, quite closely related to this esotericism problem, is that it becomes very difficult to distinguish 'dogwhistles' from a lot of ordinary rhetorical figures of speech. A good example comes up in Torices. He uses, as an example of a dogwhistle, a comment from a speech by George W. Bush:

For so many in our country, the homeless, and the fatherless, the addicted—the need is great. Yet there is power—wonder-working power—in the goodness, and idealism, and faith of the American people.

As Torices notes, "wonder-working power" is a phrase that comes from a hymn; you wouldn't know it, unless you were familiar with the hymn, so he classifies it as a dogwhistle. If this is true, dogwhistles would end up being one of the most common things in politics; everything becomes a dogwhistle. It's a common (and often explicitly acknowledged) feature of political speechwriting that to appeal to an audience, you try to match the language of the audience in a register appropriate to the emotion you want to convey. If you are a speechwriter, you want your candidate to sound like he is one of the people -- and since there are lots of distinct peoples, you pick the ones that you need to rally, or that you think you can rally. You see it all the time. Bill Clinton famously used the phrase "new covenant" a lot, also a religious phrase, and one which also ties to old American heritage traditions. Al Gore was advised by his political consultants to start using phrases like "God's green earth" to increase his appeal to religious voters. Politicians have also liked terms like 'crusade' and 'faith', for similar reasons. But it's not just religion; it's everything. Politicians have tried to use gun metaphors, sometimes very implausibly, to appeal to the Second Amendment crowd, they have borrowed terms from ecology to appeal to environmentalists, they have made fools of themselves with accents and folksy local expressions, all for the same goal. At this point it becomes clear that by 'dogwhistle', you really only mean 'allusion', or, perhaps more specifically, 'allusion for the rhetorical purpose of increasing appeal with an audience'. Now, allusions are a very interesting linguistic phenomenon, and in fact Torices says a number of very interesting things with interesting implications for rhetorical allusions in general. (That we are in fact talking about allusion is clear from the fact that so much of what Torices says generalizes so nicely to allusion more broadly.) But it doesn't change the fact that we're murdering 'dogwhistle' to talk about rhetorical allusion, when we could just be talking about rhetorical allusion.


 ...when we are delighted with flowery meadows, and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we see only the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ. When we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see his love and purity. So the green trees, and fields, and singing of birds are the emanations of his infinite joy and benignity. The easiness and naturalness of trees and vines are shadows of his beauty and loveliness. The crystal rivers and murmuring streams are the footsteps of his favor, grace, and beauty. When we behold the light and brightness of the sun, the golden edges of an evening cloud or the beauteous bow, we behold the adumbrations of his glory and goodness, and in the blue sky, of his mildness and gentleness. There are also many things wherein we may behold his awful majesty, in the sun in his strength, in comets, in thunder, in the hovering thunderclouds, in ragged rocks, and the brows of mountains. That beauteous light with which the world is filled in a clear day, is a lively shadow of his spotless holiness, and happiness and delight in communicating himself....

Jonathan Edwards, Miscellanies #108.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Evening Note for Monday, March 14

Thought for the Evening: A Natural Law Theory of Human Rights

I am currently reading Petar Popović's excellent Natural Law & Thomistic Juridical Realism, which is about rights in the sense of juridical goods, and it has led me to try to think through a bit more clearly my own view of how natural law relates to human rights.

We run into terminological issues almost immediately. The original notion of ius is primarily applied to things. We still do use the term 'right' in this way; we might say, for instance, that a particular piece of land is our right. This is right as juridical good, sometimes called (a bit misleadingly) objective right. It can be understood at a general level -- in which case ius is what iustitia or justice is about -- or about a particular case, in which it is the thing (of whatever sort) that is one's right. In our day, though, we very often speak of rights as something possessed by the person allowing them to make claims on something else; these are sometimes called (even more misleadingly) subjective rights. I think further (although this is less often remarked) people often equivocate about whether in speaking of these things they are referring to the title by which we are allowed something or the obligation by which others have to allow it or both together. This all leads to endless confusions.

So let's start with a bit of tidying-up. A right involves:

(1) an obligation
(2) some good designated as due under that obligation
(3) a title by which it is specifically due to the titleholder

All of these are sometimes given the name 'right', but I will call these, successively, law, jural good, and title. I will call the possession of a title by which a jural good is due to you the right to the jural good, whatever that may be. So if you have a right to use an item, this means that there is a law under which use of the item is due to you because of a title connecting you to the use of the item. When speaking of 'human rights', I mean the whole sets of having-rights-to-jural-goods in which the law is due to human reason and the title is possessed by human nature.

The jural good is the keystone here, so let's start with that. We find in human life that we often owe things to people; it is a debt, something due to them. A good example is a trade: I give you something, so you owe me something in return so that this exchange is good for both of us. Justice in the strict sense is the virtue of rendering to another what is due to them according to a standard of equality. The object of justice is the jural good, what it is that is owed. For instance, in a typical trade, if you have given me some product, I owe you payment, which is the jural good. (Note, as a side matter, that I do not owe you money, in a generic sense, but payment. This is actually important for a lot of trades, that what I owe you has to be something that is acceptable to you as payment for what you have given me, and is why I cannot just substitute any monetary equivalence -- for instance, a foreign currency, or an investment with the promise it will collect what I owe -- because there are lots of situations in which things that resulted in you getting the same amount of money would nonetheless not be acceptable as a payment.) But the idea is more general than trades. If you have a right to a trial by jury, trial by jury is the jural good, that which you are owed. And the jural good is the object of the virtue of justice; it is how acts of justice are specified.

Nothing can be owed without an obligation; therefore there must be some appropriate law for there to be any jural good at all. The connection between rights and obligations has long been noted; for every right, there have to be obligations. The reverse is not necessarily true. We have obligations that are not obligations of justice. We are obligated to cultivate every virtue, but some virtues do not affect other people (therefore there is no space for 'rendering to another'), and even when confining ourselves to obligations that concern other people, you can have obligations that do no identify any debt (nothing owed, or owed only in a figurative sense) or that have no standard of equality (no way to render what is owed, so something else must be substituted). However, some obligations do establish a debt and standard for paying it so that the debt is paid, or in other words, they do establish that something is due and what counts as offering what is due. This law establishing a jural good could be of many different things; it can be contract, or a statute, or any number of other things.

If a jural good is due under some law, there must be some way to identify to whom it is due. This is the title. The title is some fact that, under the law, marks you as being the 'owner' of the jural good, that renders it yours, in the sense that it is due to you in particular. Property titles and deeds are the obvious example, but titles can be of many different kind. Parental care is due to the child; the right arises because the child possesses the title for parental care, namely, being the recognizable child of the parent in the sense required by the obligation. 

Natural law theory is a general theory of obligation. According to it, we have principles of practical reason that are also obligations. In Aquinas's account, for instance, a principle of practical reason is an obligation or law when it is ordered to common good. (The other three requirements for an obligation in Aquinas's account -- rationality, legitimate authority, and promulgation -- are automatically true for principles of practical reason; but principles of practical reason can concern matters other than common good.) Common good is not some highly technical term of art; it literally is just good shared in common rather than portioned exclusively out to people. Principles of practical reason are obligations when they concern common good. There are many different common goods, because every community has its own common good. That is what makes it community, communitas literally being the state of having good in common, and every community is defined by its common good. Our concern here is with the common good that constitutes the entire human race as a community. We certainly are such, and there are goods we share in common as human.

This is not quite enough yet, though. Not all obligations result in rights. Rights are formed by obligations indicating that something is due such that it may be rendered to one to whom it is due. These are precepts of justice; they are various, but they all can be interpreted as saying that something, usually an action but often derivatively a physical object as well, is owed to another in such a way that the debt can be satisfied. This is the jural good, and once you have a jural good, you have the basis for rights. 

On the basis of all this, we can say that in some cases we find the following conditions met:

(1) the law designates a jural good by establishing something as owed and renderable;
(2) the law is one that we have by human nature and that concerns the common good of the human race, so that we all owe the jural good all the time;
(3) the title is human nature, that is to say, we are all owed the jural good because we are human.

This is a human right; human right is when natural law intersects natural title. For instance, human beings are owed protection from being arbitrarily killed by natural law, so that it would be unjust not to protect someone from arbitrary killing whenever it was in your power to do so; this establishes a jural good, and the title for that good is human nature, because we owe it to all human beings just because they are human. That we all have a right to life. If someone denies that something is a human right, on the other hand, they are claiming that if fails to meet at least one of the above three conditions.

Related Evening Notes post

Person as Subsistent Right

Various Links of Interest

* Manuel Fasko, The Retrieval of the Letter 'To the Author of the Minute Philosopher' from September 9, 1732: A Note (PDF)

* Oskari Juurikkala, The Two Books of God: The Metaphor of the Book of Nature in Augustine (PDF)

* Charles H. Pence, Whatever Happened to Reversion? (PDF) -- a fascinating look at how an idea (in this case from biology) can be regarded as essential for any scientific theory in a field in one era and then fall away completely.

* Lauren Kopajtic, Learning to Read: A Problem for Adam Smith and a Solution from Jane Austen (PDF)

* Andy Greene, 'What Is a Yute?': An Oral History of My Cousin Vinny

* David P. Barash, Even Worms Feel Pain

* Gabriel Citron, Jewish Philosophical Conceptions of God (PDF)

* Enea Bianchi, Philosophies of Archery (PDF), looks at the influence of archery on philosophy throughout the ages.

* Valtterri Viljanen, The Early Modern Rationalists and Substantial Form: From Natural Philosophy to Metaphysics (PDF)

* Robert verBruggen, Fatal Police Shootings and Race: A Review of the Evidence and Suggestions for Future Research

* Marc Lange, What is a law of nature?

* Matthew D. Walker, Punishment and Self-Cultivation in Confucius and Aristotle (PDF)


* Gyula Klima has been awarded the Knight's Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit.

Currently Reading

Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis
Petar Popović, Natural Law & Thomistic Juridical Realism
Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Fortnightly Book, March 13

 Henryk Sienkiewicz was born in 1846 in the Polish portion of the Russian Empire. He struggled in school but had some facility for language and literature, and became a tutor in those subjects. He slowly began publishing, and his fiction works in particular gave him a modest fame in literary circles in Warsaw, but his career really took off when in the 1870s he became a traveling correspondent for Polish newspapers, traveling the United States and sending back travel essays. When he returned in 1879, he began to shift from a focus on short fiction to a focus on detail historical novels. His first serious works in this genre, a trilogy on the Khmelnytsky Uprising, put him at the forefront of Polish authors; indeed, the historical epic is still often just known as The Trilogy in Poland today. The critics were not impressed, but the Polish public was, enough that the Russian censors started getting twitchy, and flatly told Sienkiewicz that he was not to publish anything on Polish history ever again. He experimented with various other things, but then in 1896 published a work that would make him not just famous in Poland but famous all the world over. That work was titled Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero, and it is the next fortnightly book.

Quo Vadis, as its subtitle suggests, is a story about Christianity in the Roman Empire, and is about the battle of spiritual power against material power. It's usually thought to have undertones suggestive of the Polish struggle against Russian domination. The critics again seem to have not generally been impressed by it, but the public was, and dealing with a widely known period of history rather than a period of Polish history, which (however interesting it may be) is not widely known, it spread like wildfire out of Poland, and become one of the world's bestselling books. In a matter of years, people were making stage and screen adaptations. The book only got further publicity when Sienkiewicz was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1905, and more screen adaptations were done. Then in 1951 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made an epic film in Technicolor, also called Quo Vadis, which became the highest- grossing film of the year, making the studio a large profit, and more than anything else touched off the Hollywood Golden Age fashion of big, epic Roman-era movies. Even so, Quo Vadis arguably remained the greatest example of the genre until it was overtopped by Ben-Hur.

All of this was well after Sienkiewicz's death, however; he had died in 1916. Nonetheless, the success of the novel even up to that point had been so great that he grew fairly wealthy because of it, even despite the fact that he got almost no royalties for translations of his works published outside of Russia. Remembering his own days of struggling as a writer, he used a significant portion of his earnings to support young writers and other charitable causes. This took up a lot of his time, and none of his later works did well with the critics, so he soon became almost as famous in Poland for philanthropy as he was for literature. After his death, while his global popularity has undergone a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, he has remained perhaps one of the greatest Polish authors of the modern period.

Light from the Light of Light

De Profundis
by Lionel Johnson 

Would, that with you I were imparadised,
 White Angels around Christ!
That, by the borders of the eternal sea
 Singing, I too might be:
 Where dewy green the palm trees on the strand,
 Your gentle shelter, stand:
 Where reigns the Victor Victim, and His Eyes
 Control eternities!
 Immortally your music flows in sweet
 Stream round the Wounded Feet;
 And rises to the Wounded Hands; and then
 Springs to the Home of Men,
 The Wounded Heart: and there in flooding praise
 Circles, and sings, and stays.
 My broken music wanders in the night,
 Faints, and finds no delight:
 White Angels! take of it one piteous tone,
 And mix it with your own!
 Then, as He feels your chaunting flow less clear,
 He will but say: I hear
 The sorrow of My child on earth! and send
 Some fair, celestial friend,
 One of yourselves, to help me: and you will,
 Choirs of the Holy Hill,
 Help me, who walk in darkness, far away
 From your enduring day:
 Who have the wilderness for home, till morn
 Break, and my day be born;
 And on the Mount of Myrrh burn golden white
 Light from the Light of Light.