Saturday, August 20, 2022

Mellifluous Doctor

 Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church. From his sermons on the Song of Songs (Sermon XII):

There have been times, if I may digress a little, when as I sat down sadly at the feet of Jesus, offering up my distressed spirit in sacrifice, recalling my sins, or again, at the rare moments when I stood by his head, filled with happiness at the memory of his favors, I could hear people saying: "Why this waste?" They complained that I thought only of myself when, in their view, I could be working for the welfare of others. In effect they said: "This could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor." But what a poor transaction for me, to forfeit my own life and procure my own destruction, even if I should gain the whole world! Hence I compared such talk to the scriptural mention of dead flies that spoil the perfumed oil, and remembered the words of God: "O my people, those who praise you lead you into error."

Friday, August 19, 2022

Dashed Off XX

 law and sacrament as subprovidence

Ockham gives two reasons for why no act of human will is necessarily virtuous:
(1) No act is necessary, therefore no act is necessarily virtuous.
(2) Every act can be brought about by God alone, thus such an act is not within the will's power, so it is not virtuous.
Both of these are bad arguments; (1) makes a modal error and (2) is false -- if God brings about the act *in the will*, this is not necessarily not brought about 'by God alone' but also by the will.

Our abstractions may be more or less complete, clear, precise, etc.; we recognize, however, that they converge on the pure and perfect case.

the aesthetic persona of a natural scene (or an artificial one, for that matter)

Action must be determinate or indeterminate; it can be these in varying degrees. No action can be wholly indeterminate. Insofar as it is determinate it must be disposed a certain way.

If your politics has no abstract principles, it is merely a thirst for power.

In defending liberalism, political philosophers regularly make the mistake of trying to base it on totalitarian constraints on behavior rather than on liberalism's actual strengths, practicable procedures. It's not surprising that they avoid the piecemeal character of the latter, but the result is always something impractical, unenforceable, and structured like a dystopia.

The central issue between polytheism and Judaism is not counting but authority. That is, they are right who locate the difference in the point that our God is a jealous God, a Most High, and has called us to Himself. "You shall not *bow down to them or serve them* for I the Lord your God am a jealous God" (Ex 20:5); "For you shall *worship* no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Ex 34:14); "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God" (Dt 4:24); "God is jealous and the Lord revenges" (Nah 1:2).

position : entropy :: momentum : temperature

Men and women are laid down in layers by their lives.

Every change can be seen in terms of its truth or its goodness; interruption, deviation, and error are seen in the distance between the change qua true and the change qua good.

Yang Xiong
Book of Changes: heaven
Book of History: human affairs
Book of Rites: essentials
Book of Odes: sentiments
Annals of Spring and Autumn: principles

"The older the model, the fresher the imitation." Lu Chi
"Reason may appear in the choice of a single word."
"When the false beliefs have been isolated and rejected, true beliefs differentiate themselves and become established."
"Poetry is the mind of music and sound is its body."
"Beautiful language and clear ideas complement each other as the symbol and the symbolized."

Good writing has its source in the truth, its model in the wise, and its pattern in the classics.

Lu Liben associates (1) Qian, (2) Dui, and (3) Lu with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively. (4) Zhen indicates divine justice and wrath in the flood. (5) Xun represents the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Birth; (6) Kan, the Passion; (7) Gen, the Seven Last Words; and (8) Kun, the redemption of the world.

Confidence does not admit of linear measure.

a right as a personal share in just order
a right as a composite of particular title and general obligation

The right is the res, juridically considered.

Human nature is the title to natural human goods, which are natural juridical goods when considered in light of just order. (cp. Hervada)

subsidiarity as safeguard against totalitarianism (human dignity : person :: subsidiarity : social entity)
subsidiarity & social pluralism

natural rights as seeds of right (Albert: he takes them to be seminal reasons)

One of the most interesting aspects of modern scholarship is the centrality of self-annotation.

We don't usually come to know things by trying to justify beliefs. Indeed, history suggests that we are as likely to get confusion and skepticism by that route, even where we are sure for some reason that something like our belief must be true.

Meeting or interacting at a place and time is always at some level coincidental.

We diagnose reasoning in order to simplify and condense refutation; debunkers regularly err by assuming you can diagnose in order not to have to refute.

characters as ludic persons

the cogitative power and the intrinsically symbolic level of human sexuality

cogitative power and human facility with signs

conditions under which survival of retorsion-testing is itself a reason to think true (e.g., account is general and not particularized)

toxic empathies vs just empathy

Behind every actual thing we experience is infinite intelligibility.

Empathy is extremely dangerous for people who think they have no choices.

Polite expressions have a scope, e.g., saying 'Thank you' can cover a number of things (thanks to this action, to behavior in general, etc.).

virtues and vices as kinds of willed nature

the intellect as intermediating nature and will

taste as sensory perception of harmony in variety

Gottsched suggests that taste concerns clear and indistinct ideas.

Poetry and philosophy as two ways in which the soul is all things.

Gottsched is criticized for giving rules to poetry; but he doesn't think that poetry is done by rule, but that the philosopher/critic may distill the rules by which poetry works.

Art imitates nature
(1) in its producing (first and primarily)
(2) in its products
(3) in its order

We learn from nature making works of nature, the skill or art of making works of art.

Gottsched on fictional stories representing 'pieces of possible worlds'

analogues of reason in the passions and senses

Baumgarten defines aesthetics as the science of sensible cognition but also calls it:
the theory of liberal arts
the logic of lower cognitive capacities
gnoseologia inferior
the art of thinking beautifully
the art of the analagon rationis

Baumgarten's perfections of cognitions
(1) ubertas (wealth)
(2) magnitudo (vastness, greatness)
(3) veritas
(4) claritas
(5) certitudo
(6) vita (liveliness)

aesthetic dignity : aesthetic magnitude :: part : whole  [Baumgarten]

The numinous by its nature evokes a sense of ritual obligation.

the glamorous as a power of appearance suggestive for desire
-- NB that 'suggestive may be but is not necessarily 'stimulative'

conjectural history vs fictional genealogy
Queloz: fictional (or pragmatic) genealogy as conceptual reverse-engineering -- it's really conceptual analysis told as a narrative, and thus a philosophical fiction rather than a history.

divinity as principle of absolute community (Fries)

language as the primary art (Tolkien)

The force and effect of teaching is strengthened by affinity, by urgency, and by authority.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Coronation (Re-Post)

This is a light revision of a post originally published in 2013.

I've often been struck by the fact that the Eastern name for the sacrament of Matrimony is 'coronation' or 'crowning'. In a Maronite wedding ceremony, for instance, bride and groom are literally crowned. The priest says:

Like a crown, God has adorned the earth with flowers, the heavens with stars, and the land with the sea. With a crown he has shown the special calling given to the holy kings, priests, prophets and apostles. In his bountiful mercy may he bless + these crowns through the prayers of the Mother of God and all the saints.
Then the groom is crowned with a wreath as the cantor sings from Psalm 21:2-5, and the priest continues:
May the Lord who crowned our holy fathers with justice look upon you with love. You have come to the holy Church seeking assistance, may the Lord bless you, protect you always, and lead you to everlasting life.
Then the bride is also crowned as the cantor sings from Psalm 45:11-14, and the priest continues:
May God who crowned all the holy women and blessed Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, bless you, be merciful to you, and exalt you with the crown of glory. Adorned with fruits of the Spirit may you flourish as a blessed vine in the midst of the Church may the Lord God fill you with joy as you dwell with your husband in love and abiding peace; may you bring forth children pleasing to God; through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, and all the saints.
The specially designated witnesses are crowned as well.

The Melkites and Byzantine Catholics, about whom I know less, also do the same thing, with different ceremony, and I particularly like the Melkite hymn that is often sung: "O Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor, and grant them dominion over the works of your hands."

This sort of symbolism looks in two directions, as can be seen in quotations above. On the one hand, these are crowns of victory. As Chrysostom somewhat amusingly says in passing,
Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors; and after all these, it is a happiness if it be restrained. For as a horse not broken in, or a wild beast untamed, such is youth. But if from the beginning, from the earliest age, we fix it in good rules, much pains will not be required afterwards; for good habits formed will be to them as a law. Let us not suffer them to do anything which is agreeable but injurious; nor let us indulge them, as forsooth but children. Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will he be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. "All bread," it is said, "is sweet to the fornicator." Garlands are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued?
Chrysostom's primary concern in context is completely elsewhere, but even in this passing reference we see the assumption of that the crown is "a symbol of victory". This past-looking element, that marriage is a state one wins through to is important, and I think increasingly overlooked in many discussions of 'singlehood' (which is not, as such, a state you win through to in any sense at all). And it is part of the dignity of marriage that you don't just fall into it: even to get there you have to win the privilege of the other person's consent. In turn, the point reflects on the dignity of human nature itself: the privilege of your consent is something worthy of being won.

The crowns are not merely victor's crowns, though; they look forward as well. We see this in the Melkite hymn quoted above: "crown them with glory and honor, and grant them dominion". I find the subtle insight of the second point particularly interesting. It's a reference to the story in Genesis 1, of course, and makes the point, often forgotten, that when God commands humanity to rule over fish and bird and living creature, it is to humanity as "male and female" who are to "be fruitful and multiply". All marriages are royal marriages.

I took a class once in college, years ago, on Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament, and one of the books required for the class used one of these deconstruction-reconstruction approaches to the text, or, rather, what some theologians today call 'deconstruction' and reconstruction, since it has only the loosest connection with serious deconstruction. In any case, it involves "exploring the problematics of the text", i.e., going out of your way to find something, anything, that could be regarded as a sign of bias in the text, regardless of how strained it may be. And in the discussion of the Song of Songs, the author pinned down one of the biases of the text as "crypto-monarchist" in the vocabulary it used for evaluation. I've always thought that was rather laughably absurd; there is no "crypto" about it. You have only to read the book to see that it is explicitly using language for royalty and royal courts to evaluate the love between the Shulamite and her lover positively. And this is even more clear when you think through many of the metaphors by which the lover and the beloved describe each other: they are metaphors of military power, great wealth, vast territory, and courtly accompaniment. And how could it be otherwise? The whole point of a love song like this is that the crown of love is a more splendid wealth and dominion than any material kingdom. And this is a sense of things found throughout the world, among men and women alike: There is a royal dignity in such things.

If this is true in some degree of every marriage, then it is especially true of that marriage that serves as sign and symbol of the union of Christ and His Church, which is what the sacrament of Matrimony or mystery of Crowning designates. But Christian marriage is always a sign of the Kingdom of God; even the botched ones that are, at their least bad, defective signs of it. Marriage is a coronation.


 As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. (Ex. 34:19-20 NRSVCE)

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, with the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (Jn. 2:13-16 NRSVCE)

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Wrath and Fury and Overbearing

 And as to the spirit of party, which unhappily prevails amongst mankind, whatever are the distinctions which serve for a supply to it, some or other of which have obtained in all ages and countries; one who is thus friendly to his kind, will immediately make due allowances for it, as what cannot but be amongst such creatures as men, in such a world as this. And as wrath and fury and overbearing upon these occasions proceed, as I may speak, from men's feeling only on their own side; so a common feeling, for others as well as for ourselves, would render us sensible to this truth, which it is strange can have so little influence; that we ourselves differ from others, just as much as they do from us. I put the matter in this way, because it can scarce be expected that the generality of men should see, that those things which are made the occasions of dissension and fomenting the party spirit, are really nothing at all: but it may be expected from all people, how much soever they are in earnest about their respective peculiarities, that humanity, and common good will to their fellow creatures, should moderate and restrain that wretched spirit.

Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel, Sermon XII, "Upon the Love of Our Neighbour".

Monday, August 15, 2022

Logres VIII

 Book I continued

Chapter 20

King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igraine were on a night abed, the queen having begun to grow great with child, and the king asked the queen by whom she was pregnant, given the timing, as she had not seen the duke for some time before his death and it seemed too early to have begun after their own wedding. Then the queen began to weep. 

"My lord," she said, "I will not lie to you, but have mercy on me, for even I do not fully know how this has happened. Please do not forsake me over this."

The king replied, "Nothing that you can say would make me leave you."

Then the queen told him that she had lain with a man who seemed in every respect her duke, who had arrived at Tintagel with two men who seemed in every respect like men who were loyal to the duke, but who afterward she knew could not be, for her duke was already dead at the time.

Hearing this, the king said, "You are my wife and we are one by that bond; but we must ask Merlin his counsel as to what to be done with the child."

"My lord," she said, "let it be so."

Some time afterward, Merlin returned from his visit with Blaise, and was informed by the king and Sir Ulfius of all that had happened.

He replied, "Sir Ulfius has made a sort of satisfaction for his sin by making the peace, but I must yet do so."

King Uther Pendragon said, "You are wise enough, I have no doubt you can find a way to do so."

The child replied, "Some satisfactions for sin can only be done with aid; I will need your help."

"Say on," said the king. "I have already agreed that you should have the child; what more do you require?"

"There is in this land a good man who is married and has recently had a male child. Let them both be summoned to swear on the holy book that they shall keep a child who shall be brought to them, and raise that child as if he were their own."

"You have but to say the name and I will find him so that it may be done," said the king.

"That shall not be difficult," replied Merlin, "for you already know him. He is Sir Ector, one of the truest men in all of the realm."

King Uther Pendragon was delighted by this suggestion, and after Merlin had taken his leave to return to Blaise, he summoned Sir Ector, for whom he gave a great feast. Sir Ector was surprised by this and asked the reason for it. To this the king replied, "A great marvel has happened to me, and I must beg aid of you."

To which Sir Ector naturally replied, "Whatever my king and brother requires, I will do."

Then the king said, "I have had a strange and wonderful dream. A man came to me in my sleep saying that you are the worthiest and truest man in my realm."

"That is indeed strange and wonderful," said Sir Ector drily.

"No," said the king, "do you think I do not know my foster brother? That is not strange and wonderful at all. But this is the strange thing. He said that you will receive a male child and must raise him along with your own son as if he were your own."

"Did he say when and where I should receive this child, or where and when he would be born?"

"No," said the king, "but ever since I have had this dream, my heart has been unsettled, for I believe that in some dark way the survival of this kingdom may depend on it."

Sir Ector had his doubts, but he said, "As my king wills, so will I attempt to do, if the occasion arises. I shall let my wife know." Thus he did, and although she too, being of a skeptical disposition, thought it strange and unlikely, she agreed that it would be wise to humor the king.

When the time had almost come for Queen Igraine to give birth, Merlin came again to court and sought out Sir Ulfius in secret.

"Tell the king to go to the queen and tell her that she shall bear her son tomorrow after midnight, that she must give her son over to the first man seen in the hall, and that this must be done all in secret, because there are those who would harm the child if it were known that Uther has an heir."

Sir Ulfius said, with some surprise, "Will you not speak to the king yourself?"

But Merlin said, "No," and would say nothing further. So Sir Ulfius went to the king and told him what Merlin had said, and the king went in turn to the queen and told her, although without telling his source.

"I marvel that you know my condition so well," said the queen to the king, "but I will do as you say, especially if you think that the child may be in danger otherwise.

"My lady," he said, "I know that this is not easy for you, but there are many who would harm the child if they could."

That very day, one of the queen's maids and confidantes was out in the town, giving alms on behalf of the queen, when she was stopped by a beggar, to whom she gave a coin.

"I thank you and your lady," said the beggar, "and in exchange, I will give you this word: May the queen be glad in the birth of her son, for he will do wonderful things of great honor, and may she be comforted as well, for her action shall save the life of the boy, that he may do them. And if she has any doubts later, let her look for the cherries in winter, for by them she shall know that the boy is safe." Then the beggar vanished before her eyes.

Marveling, the maiden returned to the queen and told her what had befallen, so that the queen also marveled.

In the morrow after evensong, the queen went into labor and was delivered of the child shortly after midnight. Then after she had held the boy in her arms for a while, she sent for the maiden who had spoken with the beggar and said, "Take this child and carry it to the hall door, and if you meet a man who asks for it, deliver the child to him, but make note what kind of man he is."

The maid obeyed, and when she reached the hall door, she found there an old and rumpled man.

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"I am here to receive what you bring," he replied.

"What man are you, that I might tell my lady?"

But the rumpled old man said, "That is nothing to you; do as you were commanded and let the queen know that it has been done." So the maid handed over the child, but as soon as she had done so, the man vanished, and she knew not where nor how. She returned to the queen and told her what had happened. And the queen wept.

But in the early morning, as Sir Ector was leaving holy mass, Sir Ector was met by a man so old as to be decrepit, who called to him and asked him to bide a moment. And when Sir Ector had courteously turned aside, the man said, "I have brought you a man-child, and I beg that you baptize him and raise him as if he were your own. If you do so, great good will come to you and your heirs, beyond what you would believe if I were to tell you."

And Sir Ector, astonished, said, "This must be the child which the king told me I was to raise as my own."

"It is the same," said the ancient old man. "And the king and all just men and just women should pray you to do so, as I pray you to do so."

"I will take the child," said Sir Ector.

Then the old man said, "God bless you, Sir Ector! For by this deed you will accomplish more than many generations of knights have ever accomplished." And he handed the child over to Sir Ector and disappeared around a corner, before Sir Ector could ask the question that he had on his mind, which was whether the child was to have a name.

Then Sir Ector looked at the child and saw that he was a strong an handsome infant. He arranged with the priest of the church for the child to be baptized that day. The boy was christened Arthur, for the name sounded like the Breton word for 'bear' and also like the name of the Artorii, a Roman clan from whom Sir Ector was descended through one line. Then he brought the boy home to his wife, and they raised the child as the younger brother of their own son, whose name was Kay.

Chapter 21

There was a knight of the Round Table, named Sir Cleges, valiant and true, who had rendered many services to King Uther, for he was an excellent warrior. He was known for his excellence in battle and his courtesy in all other situations, but he had retired from the deeds of war some time before. In the king's service he had been well rewarded, but he was generous to a fault, giving gold freely to those in need, and holding it beneath his dignity to scramble after coin. He was also generous to his tenants, and gentle with them when they could not pay their debts, never driving them off the land. He loved holding feasts for kith and kin, and if anyone, even a beggar, showed up at the door when he was having such a feast, they would be invited in and feasted as if they themselves were family. His wife, whose name was Claris, was also generous with money, and much devoted to supporting the Church by alms. Inevitably, they were poor.

Each year for Christmas, Sir Cleges and Lady Claris would hold a great feast in honor of Christ's birth, at which they spared no expense. But as their money ran out, and even when their tenants could not pay what was due, they still spent as freely. To make up the difference, Sir Cleges borrowed, putting up his estates as security. Slowly they vanished into the maws of the moneylenders, until he had only one bit of land left, and, as servants vanished when money dried up to pay them, no one lived there in the castle except Sir Cleges, Lady Claris, and their two children.

On the Christmas Eve after Arthur's birth, Sir Cleges was grieved, thinking of the feast that he would in other years have been preparing on this day. He almost thought he could hear the music and laughter, the pipers and harpers and singers, and he began to weep. As he did so, however, his lady wife entered the room, and taking him in her arms, she said, "Away with all your sorrow, my dear and faithful husband! Give thanks to God for what we yet have. Although we have but one simple meal, it is enough to make merry as we can, as is fitting on these holy days during which everyone should be merry and glad."

And this they did, making such cheer as they could over their simple meal, and playing with their children until evensong, after which they went to bed. When the church bells rang in the holy feast of the Nativity, summoning all to church, the knight and his lady and their children went to mass.

As they returned from mass, Sir Cleges felt himself in a more grateful mood, and he knelt beside a cherry tree in prayer, thanking God for all those in need he had been able to feed in years past. To rise, he grabbed the great bough above his head to pull himself up, and saw that it had become green with leaves and rich with cherries. He broke part of it off and carried it to his lady, asking her, "What do you think this means? I have never heard of cherries growing in winter."

They tasted the cherries in curiosity, and found that they were flawless, and , after giving some to their children, Lady Claris said, "This is surely a token of goodness to come. But it would also be surely wrong not to share it. Let us fill a pannier with this fruit, and you will go to the king's court to give it to him as a gift."

Sir Cleges was delighted by this plan, and that very morning, having filled panniers with cherries, Sir Cleges and his oldest son set out walking for King Uther's court, for they had no horses. Sir Cleges had no sword for defense, but only a stout staff. They both were shabbily dressed and bore baskets on their back, so that Sir Cleges looked more like a poor laboring shepherd than like a knight. Thus when they arrived at the gate, the porter looked suspiciously at him.

"You must withdraw from this place and go the place set aside for beggars," said the porter, "or else, by God and Saint Mary, I will break your head."

But Sir Cleges said to him, "Good sir, I beg you to let me go in. I have not come to beg but to give the king a gift. Then he opened the pannier on his son's back and said, "Look and see for yourself!"

The porter gasped as he beheld the cherries, each one perfect and wholly out of season, and began to consider how such a gift to the king might be rewarded. Then he said, "By God and Saint Mary, you shall not pass this gate unless you promise to give me a third of any gift the king will give you."

Sir Cleges consented to this and therefore he and his son were allowed through the door. Soon he came to a hallway overseen by an usher, who, on seeing such shabby figures said, "Who has let you in here? Get hence or I shall beat you head and foot, and not regret it in the least."

But Sir Cleges replied, "Good sir, by Christ's love, cease your anger, for I have brought a present from the Lord of Heaven who died upon the cross, which I have come to give to the king, your lord and mine." And he lifted the lid of the basket on his son's back, saying, "Look and see for yourself!"

The usher marveled at how beautiful the unexpected cherries were. Then, considering the matter closely, he said, "By sweet Mary, you will not step one foot past the door of this hallway unless you grant me one third of whatever the king may grant you in reward for this gift."

And Sir Cleges consented, seeing no other way to continue, but his face was sober and cheerless in doing so. In the hall beyond the door, he found some wealthy lords, a steward, a deputy serving in the place of Sir Ector, the seneschal, who was away on king's business. All of them were dressed in marvelously fine clothes. Seeing Sir Cleges and his son, the steward boldly went up to them and said, "Churl, who made you such a fool as to come here without being summoned? Withdraw with your shabby clothes at once!"

To which Sir Cleges replied, "Peace, good sir. I have brought a present for my lord the king from the Lord who died upon the cross." And he opened the lid on the basket on his son's back. "Look and see for yourself!"

The steward wondered at the cherries, saying, "I have never in all my life seen such fruit at this time of the year." Then, thinking about the reward such a luxury might command, he said, "You shall come no nearer to the king unless you promise to give me a third part of any gift the king might give you in return for this; promise, or throw yourself out!"

Sir Cleges was silent a long moment, thinking that he would then receive nothing at all for his gift to the king, despite the difficulty of his journey, and that he would perhaps have been better off simply to eat the cherries with his family at home. But, seeing the steward impatient, he finally consented.

Thus finally Sir Cleges received an audience, and he came before King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igraine as they sat upon their thrones. Sir Cleges knelt, offering his present, then, setting the baskets on the ground, he opened them so that all might see the cherries.

The king and the queen both rose at the sight, astonished with delight, and tasted of the cherries; the queen especially held that she had never known cherries so perfect, and her eyes were bright as she said it. She had the cherries served throughout the hall, as the king said, "Make merry, my friends! The one who has brought us this gift will surely be rewarded."

Chapter 22

"I thank you heartily," King Uther Pendragon said to Sir Cleges. "You have made my court joyful and made this day memorable to all. By God's good grace, whatever you wish, I will give, if God does not impede it, whether it be land or anything else your heart desires." And Queen Igraine spoke her approval of this.

Sir Cleges replied, "I thank you, my king, for such a gracious gift, for I am but a poor knight. To give me land, or gold, or silver, is much too much for such as I. Therefore I ask only one thing: to have full permission, as if it were the king himself who did it, to give out twelve stout blows with my staff, safe by king's authority from all penalty or retaliation. By holy charity, this is all I need; grant this to me, so that I may repay what needs repayment."

The king replied, "I repent my grant. By God who made us both, you would do better to take gold as your fee. You seem to need it more."

But Sir Cleges replied that the king had asked and he had given the king his answer, by the guarantee of the king's word. The king was angry and sorely grieved, but he ordered that it be as was agreed. Sir Cleges immediately went through the hall, searching through the great lords, until he found the steward. He struck the steward, who fell down like a stone, and then hit him with the staff three more times.

"Sir, for your courtesy, strike me no more!" cried the steward.

Sir Cleges then went and found the usher, giving him four hard blows over the head, saying, as he did so, "Here is the third of my reward that we both agreed that I should give you!" The usher was given such an ache that he could not fulfill his duties for several days afterward.

Finally Sir Cleges came to the porter, whom he paid with his third so stoutly that the man could neither speak nor fulfill his office for several days, and his shoulder and arm were also broken.

The king meanwhile had withdrawn to a side-parlor to cheer his mood, making mirth and revel with his noblemen and listening to a harpist play. When the harpist had finished, the king said, "Tell me, since you seem to know many people, who was that poor knight who brought the cherries, if you know?"

"That," said the harpist, "was surely Sir Cleges, one of your knights, a man of high stature when his fortune was better."

"That cannot be Sir Cleges!" said the king. "I wish it were, for Sir Cleges did me many a fine service, and I would rather have him than three other knights."

Sir Cleges shortly after returned to the king, having delivered his twelve strokes and, kneeling before the king, thanked him for granting his request. Then the king asked why he had demanded that gift. He replied, "The three men to whom I gave the strokes would not let me enter unless I promised to give them each one third of my reward for the cherries. Since I would then have nothing, I decided to ask for twelve strokes as my reward."

The king and all the barons in the parlor laughed heartily at this. "Whatever the clothes he may be wearing," said some of the barons, "surely this man is of noble kin, because he has a noble wit." And some laughed so hard they fell off their chairs.

The king, however, took a moment's thought and sent for the steward. "I understand you have an agreement with this man; if he has received any further gifts, ask your lawful due."

But the steward said, "I want nothing more to do with this man; I wish I never knew him." And some of the barons began laughing again.

"Tell me your name," the king commanded, turning to Sir Cleges.

Sir Cleges replied, "My lord, men call me Sir Cleges; in a younger day, I was a knight of your Round Table."

"Are you really that man, so noble and free, so strong and hardy?"

"Yes, my lord," said Sir Cleges, "until God chose to take it away."

The king then made sure that Sir Cleges was given all that a knight needed, a good horse, a good sword, and good armor, with excellent clothes and a purse of gold and estates around Cardiff. He also made his son a squire as well as lands of his own, and gave them both a finely wrought cup of gold to give to Lady Claris. 

When they returned home, Lady Claris gave thanks to God for having given her both a knight and squire. On Sir Ector's return, after some consultation, the king made Sir Cleges one of the king's stewards, and the knight, always better at caring for another's treasure than his own, no longer lacked for anything. He died not long afterward, respected by all, and Lady Claris followed him not long after that, having given a generous donation to the Church for prayers for their souls. Their oldest son later became a knight of some renown and was known to all as Sir Amadas; their youngest son, Sir Eglamour, traveled abroad and had even more extraordinary adventures.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fortnightly Book, August 14

 The next fortnightly book is The Good Soldier Švejk, by Jaroslav Hašek, a dark comedy about World War I that is perhaps the most famous Czech literary work. The full title is actually The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War. Hašek originally intended it to be six volumes; he only got through part of the fourth, thus leaving it unfinished.

Hašek participated in the war himself; he was drafted to serve in the 91st Infantry Regiment for the Austro-Hungarian Empire and spent time in a Russian POW camp; after spending some time in volunteer forces afterward, he was again drafted into the 1st Regiment. Given that he was an anarchist and an inveterate practical joker, one imagines that his service often had a somewhat sardonic edge. He became a Bolshevik and spent some time in Russia, but eventually returned; he began writing The Good Soldier Švejk in 1921 in Lipnice and died very early in 1923.

Josef Švejk finds himself stumbling through the events of the Great War, from the very beginning. He manifests an extraordinary patriotism and enthusiasm for the Austro-Hungarian cause -- so extraordinary, in fact, that people cannot decide whether he is doing so sincerely or sarcastically or because he is an idiot. And despite (or because of) his enthusiasm, he manages again and again to take the route that reduces the chances that he will actually be doing much fighting on the front....