13 December 2006

from Have His Carcase, chapter XIII, Evidence of Trouble Somewhere (Dorothy L. Sayers)

'Thank you,' said Wimsey. 'I may be everything you say - patronising, interfering, conceited, intolerable and all the rest of it. But do give me credit for a little intelligence. Do you think I don't know all that? Do you think it's pleasant for any man who feels about a woman as I do about you, to have to fight his way along under this detestable burden of gratitude? Damn it, do you think I don't know perfectly well that I'd have a better chance if I was deaf, blind, maimed, starving, drunken or dissolute, so that you could have the fun of being magnanimous? Why do you suppose I treat my own sincerest feelings like something out of a comic opera, if it isn't to save myself the bitter humiliation of seeing you try not to be utterly nauseated by them? Can't you understand that this damned dirty trick of fate has robbed me of the common man's right to be serious about his own passions? Is that a position for any man to be proud of?'

'Don't talk like that.'

'I wouldn't, if you didn't force me. And you might have the justice to remember that you can hurt me a damned sight more than I can possibly hurt you.'

'I know I'm being horribly ungrateful -'


All endurance has its limits, and Wimsey had reached his.

'Grateful! Good God! Am I never to get away from the bleat of that filthy adjective? I don't want gratitude. I don't want kindness. I don't want sentimentality. I don't even want love - I could make you give me that - of a sort. I want common honesty.'

'Do you? But that's what I've always wanted - I don't think it's to be got.'

'Listen, Harriet. I do understand. I know you don't want either to give or to take. You've tried being the giver, and you've found that the giver is always fooled. And you won't be the taker, because that's very difficult, and because you know that the taker always ends by hating the giver. You don't want ever again to have to depend for happiness on another person.'

'That's true. That's the truest thing you've ever said.'

'All right. I can respect that. Only you've got to play the game. Don't force an emotional situation and then blame me for it.'

'But I don't want any situation. I want to be left in peace.'

'Oh! but you are not a peaceful person. You'll always make trouble. Why not fight it out on equal terms and enjoy it? Like Alan Breck, I'm a bonny fighter.'

'And you think you're sure to win.'

'Not with my hands tied.'

'Oh! - well, all right. But it all sounds so dreary and exhausting,' said Harriet, and burst idiotically into tears.

'Good Heavens!' said Wimsey, aghast. 'Harriet! darling! angel! beast! vixen! don't say that.' He flung himself on his knees in a frenzy of remorse and agitation. 'Call me anything you like, but not dreary! Not one of those things you find in clubs! Have this one, darling, it's much larger and quite clean. Say you didn't mean it! Great Scott! Have I been boring you interminably for eighteen months on end? A thing any right-minded woman would shudder at. I know you once said that if anybody ever married me it would be for the sake of hearing me piffle on, but I expect that kind of thing palls after a bit. I'm babbling - I know I'm babbling. What on earth am I to do about it?'

'Ass! Oh, it's not fair. You always make me laugh. I can't fight - I'm so tired. You don't seem to know what being tired is. Stop. Let go. I won't be bullied. Thank God! there's the telephone.'

'Damn the telephone!'

'It's probably something very important.'

She got up and went to the instrument, leaving Wimsey on his knees, looking, and feeling, sufficiently absurd.

15 November 2006

The More Loving One (W.H. Auden)

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

13 November 2006

Vespers: Saturday Evening (Peter Abelard)

o quanta qualia
sunt illa sabbata
quae semper celebrat
superna curia,
quae fessis requies,
quae merces fortibus,
cum erit omnia
Deus in omnibus.

vera Ierusalem
est illa civitas,
cuius pax iugis est,
summa iucunditas:
ubi non praevenit
rem desiderium,
nec desiderio
minus est praemium.

quis Rex, quae curia,
quale palatium,
quae pax, quae requies,
quod illud gaudium,
huius participes
exponant gloriam,
si quantum sentiunt,
possint exprimere.

nostrum est interim
mentem erigere
et totis patriam
votis appetere,
et ad Ierusalem
a Babylonia
post longa regredi
tandem exsilia.

illic, molestiis
finitis omnibus,
securi cantica
Sion cantibimus,
et iuges gratias
de donis gratiae
beata referet
plebs tibi, Domine.

illic ex sabbato
succedet sabbatum,
perpes laetitia
nec ineffabiles
cessabunt iubili,
quos decantabimus
et nos et angeli.

perenni Domino
perpes sit gloria,
ex quo sunt, per quem sunt,
in quo sunt omnia:
ex quo sunt, Pater est,
per quem sunt, Filius,
in quo sunt, Patris et
Filii Spiritus.

26 October 2006

from The Four Loves, chapter IV, Friendship (C.S. Lewis)

Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.

19 October 2006

from The Roman Revolution, chapter VII, The Consul Antonius (Ronald Syme)

Born in 82 B.C., Antonius was now in the prime of life, richly endowed with strength of body and grace of manner, courageous, alert and resourceful, but concealing behind an attractive and imposing façade certain defects of character and judgement that time and the licence of power were to show up in deadly abundance. The frank and chivalrous soldier was no match in statecraft for the astute politicians who undermined his predominance, stole his partisans, and contrived against him the last coup d’état of all, the national front and the uniting of Italy.

The memory of Antonius has suffered damage multiple and irreparable. The policy which he adopted in the East and his association with the Queen of Egypt were vulnerable to the moral and patriotic propaganda of his rival. Most of that will be coolly discounted. From the influence of Cicero it is less easy to escape. The Philippics, the series of speeches in which he assailed an absent enemy, are an eternal monument of eloquence, of rancour, of misrepresentation. Many of the charges levelled against the character of Antonius – such as unnatural vice or flagrant cowardice – are trivial, ridiculous or conventional. That the private life of the Caesarian soldier was careless, disorderly, and even disgraceful, is evident and admitted. He belonged to a class of Roman nobles by no means uncommon under Republic or Empire, whose unofficial follies did not prevent them from rising, when duty called, to services of conspicuous ability or the most disinterested patriotism. For such men, the most austere of historians cannot altogether suppress a timid and perhaps perverse admiration. A blameless life is not the whole of virtue, and inflexible rectitude may prove a menace to the Commonwealth.

05 October 2006

from The Etiquette of Party Giving: Bachelor Parties (Mrs. Heaton Armstrong)

A marked feature of modern society is the number of entertainments given by bachelors. In the former days men used to go everywhere without a thought of returning hospitality; but of late years the conscience of the bachelor appears to have grown morbidly sensitive on this point, and he is always trying to get up something in the way of entertainment. Tea in the Temple after the Chrysanthemum Show is a very ancient institution, and a tea-party in a man's rooms has always been a necessary incident in going round the colleges; but these entertainments have been of a thoroughly informal character, and it is only of late years that the bachelor has grown bold enough to send out invitation cards notifying the fact that he is at home, and intends to swell the list of party-givers. A bachelor must be well known before he can give parties, and an unpopular man should not make such an attempt.

But if the host is popular he is likely to find great support; he becomes exceedingly interesting to all his lady acquaintances, who are always delighted to give him advice as to the arrangements. When they arrive, they come determined to be pleased, and they make up their minds to overlook all deficiencies. Bachelors' parties always go off well, and it is possible that all entertainments would be equally successful if the guests always came in such a kindly spirit. Ladies always wear their prettiest dresses out of compliment to a bachelor host, and they are careful to assume their best tempers with their most becoming bonnets.

[...] Flowers should be a great feature in a bachelor entertainment, as their presence is a delicate compliment to the lady guests. Bouquets are generally presented to the lady vocalists by the host, and if he cannot ascertain the colour of their costumes beforehand, he should be careful to get colours which will not clash with any dresses. A bouquet which upsets the costume is a dreadful present, and the feelings of a lady are decidedly mixed when she receives a present of a bouquet of crimson roses when she is wearing a nasturtium-coloured gown. The host cannot be too attentive to his guests. He should effect plenty of introductions, and if there are any ladies unattended by gentlemen, he should escort them to their carriages, supposing it to be an evening party.

[...] A party is rather an anxiety to a bachelor, and it is a great relief to him when it goes off well.

29 September 2006

The Old Familiar Faces (Charles Lamb)

I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days -
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies -
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a Love once, fairest among women:
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her -
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man:
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like I paced round the haunts of my childhood,
Earth seem'd a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert not thou born in my father's dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces -

How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed -
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

14 September 2006

To the Balliol men still in Africa (Hilaire Belloc)

Years ago when I was at Balliol,
Balliol men - and I was one -
Swam together in winter rivers,
Wrestled together under the sun.
And still in the heart of us, Balliol, Balliol,
Loved already, but hardly known,
Welded us each of us into the others:
Called a levy and chose her own.

Here is a House that armours a man
With the eyes of a boy and the heart of a ranger,
And a laughing way in the teeth of the world
And a holy hunger and thirst for danger:
Balliol made me, Balliol fed me,
Whatever I had she gave me again,
And the best of Balliol loved and led me:
God be with you, Balliol men.

I have said it before, and I say it again,
There was treason done, and a false word spoken,
And England under the dregs of men,
And bribes about, and a treaty broken:
But angry, lonely, hating it still,
I wished to be there in spite of the wrong.
My heart was heavy for Cumnor Hill
And the hammer of galloping all day long.

Galloping outward into the weather,
Hands a-ready and battle in all:
Words together and wine together
And song together in Balliol Hall.
Rare and single! Noble and few! ...
Oh! they have wasted you over the sea!
The only brothers ever I knew,
The men that laughed and quarrelled with me.

Balliol made me, Balliol fed me,
Whatever I had she gave me again,
And the best of Balliol loved and led me:
God be with you, Balliol men.

The Lay of Dervorguilla (F.S. Boas)

Sir John de Balliol is stricken sore,
And he hath but a day to live or more,
And he plans, as he thinks upon many a sin,
How the Devil to cheat and Heaven to win.
And he says to the lady that loves him true,
'Spend pounds a many or pounds a few,
Sing masses and aves, and let me be
But a very few moments in purgatory.'
O merry the days, and merry the ways,
And merry the shining siller,
Of the Balliol bold in the days of old
And the Lady Dervorguilla.

Outspake the lady who loved him true,
A very sweet dame, but a bit of a blue,
'Sir John de Balliol, alack, I trow,
Of masses and aves we've sung enow.
But a college we'll build so tall and fair,
And the Greek and the Latin will flourish there,
And the blessings of scholars will set you free
In a very few moments from purgatory.'
O merry the days, and merry the ways,
And merry the shining siller,
Of the Balliol bold in the days of old
And the Lady Dervorguilla.

The lady she rode into Oxford town
On a milk white steed, in a scholar's gown,
And she halted her horse, and she turned a sod,
And she traced the lines of the garden quad,
Till the college it rose so fair and tall,
With chapel and tower and with blazoned hall,
And its bells rang out, and its doors stood free,
To high and to low and to each degree.
O merry the days, and merry the ways,
And merry the shining siller,
Of the Balliol bold in the days of old
And the Lady Dervorguilla.

Sir John and his lady are lying low,
They have gone where the knight and his dame must go,
But the college still rises so tall and fair,
And the Greek and the Latin still flourish there,
But they've brought some friends thro' the open door,
The racquet, the bat, and the flashing oar,
And thus may they flourish, while time shall be,
Like the best of good fellows in company.
O merry the days, and merry the ways,
And merry the shining siller,
Of the Balliol bold in the days of old
And the Lady Dervorguilla.

12 September 2006

from The Lord of the Rings, book 4, chapter 4, Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)

All about them were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs. The long journey from Rivendell had brought them far south of their own land, but not until now in this more sheltered region had the hobbits felt the change of clime. Here Spring was already busy about them: fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf, birds were singing. Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate, kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.

South and west it looked towards the warm lower vales of Anduin, shielded from the east by the Ephel Dúath and yet not under the mountain-shadow, protected from the north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea far away. Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam. The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops. Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-opened heads in the grass: deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin.

Matthew 14:25 - 15:2 (NIV)

... Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!'

The Pope (A.E. Housman)

It is a fearful thing to be
The Pope.
That cross will not be laid on me
I hope.
A righteous God would not permit
The Pope himself must often say
After the labours of the day
'It is a fearful thing to be