Category : Poetry & Literature

Walt Whitman Reads “America”: The Only Surviving Recording of the Beloved Poet’s Voice

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Read and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Poetry & Literature

Remembering D-Day–The Poem “For the Fallen” by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

Still More Poetry for Memorial Day–Patterns

I walk down the garden-paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jeweled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden-paths.
My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.
And the splashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover.
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon–
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
“Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se’nnight.”
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
“Any answer, Madam,” said my footman.
“No,” I told him.
“See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer.”
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.”
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

–Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

More Poetry for Memorial Day–Theodore O’Hara’s “Bivouac of the Dead”

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

More Poetry for Memorial Day–Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

In Flanders Fields for Memorial Day 2020

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve; KSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in Canada, Health & Medicine, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

(CC) Books worth wrestling with

Several recent books by leading economists have critiqued the capitalist worldview and its structures as inherently flawed. Branko Milanovic’s Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World, offers a slightly different take: it’s complicated. While capitalism needs major corrective measures, he argues, it is the only viable option. He brilliantly frames structural deficiencies and articulates goals, but many of his proposed measures fall short.

Milanovic traces the emergence of capitalism as the globally dominant socioeconomic system and distinguishes a Western form of capitalism—“liberal meritocratic capitalism”—from the “poli­tical capitalism” prevalent in au­thori­tarian regimes. He attributes growing inequality in countries like the US to a concentration of wealth at the top, higher dividends on wealth, and marriage patterns. Milanovic posits “people’s capitalism” as an alternative that can grant everyone an equal share of income.

It’s a noble idea, but how do we accomplish it? Some of Milanovic’s suggestions, like tax breaks for the lower and middle classes or more investment in public schools, might help. But he pays insufficient attention to the massive wage gap, the lack of guaranteed universal income, and the way factors like race and gender accentuate meritocratic capitalism. He suggests incremental shifts that would keep poor people alive but without leading to major structural changes.

Read it all and see what you make of the book choices also.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Books, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Monday Food for Thought–When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Poetry & Literature

Eleanor Parker–A medieval spring poem for Eastertide

When I see blossoms spring,
And hear the birds’ song,
A sweet love-longing
Entirely pierces my heart,
All for a love new
That is so sweet and true,
That gladdens all my song:
I know in truth, iwis,
My joy and all my bliss
On him is all ylong. [is all because of him]

Of Jesu Christ I sing,
Who is so fair and free, [noble]
Sweetest of all thing;
His own ought I well to be.
So far for me he sought,
With suffering he me bought,
With wounds two and three;
Well sore he was swung,
And for me with spear was stung,
Nailed to the tree.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Easter, Poetry & Literature

Helena Bonham Carter reads Christina Rossetti’s Song poem for the poet’s Feast Day

Listen to it all there.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

Posted in Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Christina Rossetti

O God, whom heaven cannot hold, who didst inspire Christina Rossetti to express the mystery of the Incarnation through her poems: Help us to follow her example in giving our hearts to Christ, who is love; and who is alive and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Spirituality/Prayer

Malcolm Guite–Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature

“Then today look how majestically”

All year, death, after death, after death.
Then today look how majestically clouds float in the sky

–Barbara Ras (1949- )

Posted in Poetry & Literature

The Charcoal Burner, An A A Milne Poem to Begin the day

Read it all.

Posted in Poetry & Literature

Heaven Haven

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail,
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

George Herbert–Easter

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

Gerard Manley Hopkins for Easter–Gather gladness from the skies

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe.
Chaplets for disheveled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

JRR Tolkien for Easter–Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?

Sam believes that Gandalf has fallen a catastrophic distance and has died. But in the end of the story, with Sam having been asleep for a long while and then beginning to regain consciousness, Gandalf stands before Sam, robed in white, his face glistening in the sunlight, and says:

“Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?”

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from bed… “How do I feel?” he cried.” Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel” –he waved his arms in the air– “I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”

— J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), The Return of the King

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that pierced died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

–John Updike (1932-2009)

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Poetry & Literature

Easter Night

All night had shout of men, and cry
Of woeful women filled His way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display
Smote Him; no solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was Death; but Power, but Might,
But Life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shutter’d dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.

–Alice Meynell (1847-1922)

Posted in Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

In the End A Sort of Quietness

I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been, if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you, you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

John Donne–Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church History, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

How shall I measure out thy bloud?

O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?

Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.
Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.

Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:

That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.

Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

–George Herbert (1593-1633)

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

Saint Peter

St. Peter once: ‘Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?’-
Much more I say: Lord, dost Thou stand and knock
At my closed heart more rugged than a rock,
Bolted and barred, for Thy soft touch unmeet,
Nor garnished nor in any wise made sweet?
Owls roost within and dancing satyrs mock.
Lord, I have heard the crowing of the cock
And have not wept: ah, Lord, thou knowest it.
Yet still I hear Thee knocking, still I hear:
‘Open to Me, look on Me eye to eye,
That I may wring thy heart and make it whole;
And teach thee love because I hold thee dear
And sup with thee in gladness soul with soul
And sup with thee in glory by and by.’

–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Posted in Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

John Donne’s Batter My Heart for his Feast Day

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–Holy Sonnet XIV

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(CH) John Donne–Thanksgiving in the Midst of Fear

These poems speak, as [Philip] Yancey says, to “the guilt and fear and helpless faith that marked [Donne’s] darkest days.” They also answer one of the toughest questions we can face, “In the midst of plague times, how can we give thanks?”

Here are the three poems excerpted by Yancey, with his clarifying revisions of Donne’s eighteenth-century language…

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(CLJ) The Catholic Artist in a Neo-Pagan Age

Mariani stands apart from this. His poetry, as explained in my essay, restores the term “confessional” to its sacramental significance. It is not a secret diary blown open by the wind or a police blotter plunging downward in a column of newsprint, as it were, but a prayerful record of self-discovery made in the presence of God. Saint Augustine’s Confessions is the most obvious antecedent alongside those distinctly modern features of his poetry that come from Lowell among others. I return to Mariani’s work, once again, because his own discussion of the vocation of the Catholic poet seems such a fruitful point of departure in answering the question, what must the Catholic artist do, in our day or in any day?

For his answer, Mariani draws our attention finally and above all to the example of Saint Paul, and to surprising effect. In the very center of the Acts of the Apostles, we watch as Paul comes to Athens; he finds a great “market place” of ideas, where “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” meet him amid the Jews and gentiles of a city that, as Paul himself proclaims, must be “very religious” (17:18; 22). Very religious indeed, as the city is chock full of idols; their various devotions are multiplied by their decadent curiosity, which Luke describes by recording that “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). This is not the Athens of Plato, where the question of philosophy was a question of life and death, but the Athens of the Roman Empire, where Roman curiosity has become a kind of indulgent decadence, a place where interest in ideas was only increased by a doubt that any of them finally were to be credited and adopted. They had an interest in wisdom but little hope that anyone actually could be wise.

These pagans had, however, arrived at an intellectual maturity, where philosophical reflection had deepened traditional religion until the bold natural theology of Aristotle, with its prime mover and final cause, and Plato’s absolutely transcendent Good, understood as one god, supreme, father of all, had become something like the common sense of all educated persons.[2] They represent therefore an unfortunate but familiar coupling: genuine intellectual sophistication, rigorous refinement, and decadent unseriousness.

Saint Paul, as he comes to address these pagans in the Areopagus, appeals to both dimensions of their character. To their sound metaphysics and natural theology, he proclaims that the “unknown god” at last has been given a name and may be known to each person most intimately: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth . . . is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’”(17:24; 27-28). More subtly, he corrects their clever unseriousness, by wryly observing, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious,” and by provoking them to recall that, beneath decadent curiosity, lies a genuine eros to know the truth and to be saved, to “seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him” (17:22; 27).

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Art, Poetry & Literature, Roman Catholic, Theology

(CLJ) Jessica Hooten Wilson–Flannery O’Connor Versus the Marvel Universe

In his 2007 Commencement Speech delivered at Stanford University, Dana Gioia proposes an experiment “to survey a cross-section of Americans and ask them how many active NBA players, Major League Baseball players, and American Idol finalists they can name.” He would follow this question with another: “How many living American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors, and composers they can name?” While many of us can name celebrities in the former category, our culture has deprived of us of the ability to name prominent artists or thinkers. Gioia argues that the loss is twofold—we neither honor those whose work is long lasting and transcendent nor do we uphold models for “a successful and meaningful life that are not denominated by money and fame. Adult life begins in the child’s imagination, and we’ve relinquished that imagination to the marketplace.”

In concert with Gioia, I wonder if the curators of our imagination are not training us away from virtuous living towards autonomous evaluations of value. Last year, acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese lit into the Marvel industry:

Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes . . . That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.

In other words, the industry that shapes the American imagination the most caters to the lowest common denominator, our bank account, selling us what we want versus challenging us towards higher questions, deeper thinking, or richer emotional responses. We are being catered to like domesticated animals by a film industry that wants to exploit our basest instincts and capitalize on them financially. James Matthew Wilson, in speaking about licentious poetry that cares nothing for form or content but is published in mass quantities, refers to the problem as “shopping in bulk.” There may be one taste of an indulgence that was pleasurable on its own—not that it validates the taste necessarily— but when the example is proliferated over and over again, the series of similar mundanities anesthetizes us to any taste for something more. Scorsese foresees his critics: “If you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree . . . If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.” It is a frightful thing to imagine we are being cultivated without our discernment.

What is it about the Marvel Universe that enraptures us?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Poetry & Literature

George Herbert on his Feast Day–The Thanksgiving

Oh King of grief! (a title strange, yet true,
To thee of all kings only due)
Oh King of wounds! how shall I grieve for thee,
Who in all grief preventest me?
Shall I weep blood? why thou has wept such store
That all thy body was one door.
Shall I be scourged, flouted, boxed, sold?
‘Tis but to tell the tale is told.
‘My God, my God, why dost thou part from me? ‘
Was such a grief as cannot be.
But how then shall I imitate thee, and
Copy thy fair, though bloody hand?
Surely I will revenge me on thy love,
And try who shall victorious prove.
If thou dost give me wealth, I will restore
All back unto thee by the poor.
If thou dost give me honour, men shall see,
The honour doth belong to thee.
I will not marry; or, if she be mine,
She and her children shall be thine.
My bosom friend, if he blaspheme thy name,
I will tear thence his love and fame.
One half of me being gone, the rest I give
Unto some Chapel, die or live.
As for thy passion – But of that anon,
When with the other I have done.
For thy predestination I’ll contrive,
That three years hence, if I survive,
I’ll build a spittle, or mend common ways,
But mend mine own without delays.
Then I will use the works of thy creation,
As if I us’d them but for fashion.
The world and I will quarrel; and the year
Shall not perceive, that I am here.
My music shall find thee, and ev’ry string
Shall have his attribute to sing;
That all together may accord in thee,
And prove one God, one harmony.
If thou shalt give me wit, it shall appear;
If thou hast giv’n it me, ’tis here.
Nay, I will read thy book, and never move
Till I have found therein thy love;
Thy art of love, which I’ll turn back on thee,
O my dear Saviour, Victory!
Then for thy passion – I will do for that –
Alas, my God, I know not what.

–George Herbert (1593-1633)

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature

(NYT) George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90

George Steiner, a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature’s moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. David Steiner.

An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic — he succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for The New Yorker from 1966 until 1997 — Mr. Steiner both dazzled and dismayed his readers with the range and occasional obscurity of his literary references.

Essential to his views, as he avowed in “Grammars of Creation,” a book based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, “is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, France, History, Judaism, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture