27 December 2009

Machines (Michael Donaghy)

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsichord pavane by Purcell
And the racer's twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers
And in the playing, Purcell's chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante's heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn't, of course, I've fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsichordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

23 December 2009

from Brideshead Revisited, chapter IV (Evelyn Waugh)

'But my dear Sebastian, you can't seriously believe it all.'

'Can't I?'

'I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.'

'Oh yes, I believe that. It's a lovely idea.'

'But you can't believe things because they're a lovely idea.'

'But I do. That's how I believe.'

Lesbia in Orco (David Vessey)

Reading Catullus on the Northern Line
in Fordyce's edition (which omits the obscene),
I wondered if Lesbia would have got out at Hampstead
or come on with me to Golders Green.

Somehow I don't picture her
on the platform at Bank,
jostled in a smoking carriage
by a man who stank

of 'The Daily Telegraph' and Players plain.
Perhaps I am wrong
there may be somewhere a Lesbia
worthy of song

from Gaius Valerius Catullus, who
counts her kisses like stars in the sky:
but for some reason
she escapes my eye

as I read his carmina on the Underground.
She must be as rare
as the nymph who picked up Peleus
near Weston-super-Mare

as he sailed in the Argo on a virgin sea.
(But isn't that Attis in a shiny suit
asking a dame to dance with him
to the sound of dinning cymbal and of shrilling flute?)

Who? Lesbia? I know her: she went to Leicester Square
and hurried through to Soho in the evening rain,
where she helps the sons of Romulus
drink Japanese champagne.

17 December 2009

The Oracles (A.E. Housman)

'Tis mute, the word they went to hear on high Dodona mountain
When winds were in the oakenshaws and all the cauldrons tolled,
And mute's the midland navel-stone beside the singing fountain,
And echoes list to silence now where gods told lies of old.

I took my question to the shrine that has not ceased from speaking,
The heart within, that tells the truth and tells it twice as plain;
And from the cave of oracles I heard the priestess shrieking
That she and I should surely die and never live again.

Oh priestess, what you cry is clear, and sound good sense I think it;
But let the screaming echoes rest, and froth your mouth no more.
'Tis true there's better boose than brine, but he that drowns must drink it;
And oh, my lass, the news is news that men have heard before.

The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air,
And he that stands will die for nought, and home there's no returning.

The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.

13 December 2009

O Captain! My Captain! (Walt Whitman)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

23 November 2009

from Uncle Vanya, Act Two (Anton Chekhov, trans. Michael Frayn)

ASTROV. A woman can become a man's friend only through the following progression: first - acquaintance; then - mistress; thereafter, certainly - friend.

21 November 2009

from How to be Topp, 8, Extra Tew (Geoffrey Willans)


How many days till the end of term, o molesvitch 2? Some say 20, others 90, little bro, is the fruit upon the aple tree in the orchard? Only the blosom so you will hav to wait a month or two before you can pinch them o measly weed it is 2006 miles to Moscow. Who cares sa fotherington tomas from a corner of the room where he hav been trussed up who cares a row of butons. i love only robins. Unless you love robins father christmas will not bring you any presents. A volley of shots rings out. WAM! 900 robins bite the dust. That only leaves father christmas, i sa, how flat life is . . . . . .

The swots tell me that rusian used to be like that chiz but it is all different now everybode is joly.

06 November 2009

from The Competition Wallah (G.O. Trevelyan), Letter XII and last, Education in India since 1835

The natives of India have, with marvellous eagerness and unanimity, abandoned the dead or effete learning of the East for the living and vigorous literature of England. Whoever can spare the time and money greedily avails himself of the instruction which we offer. 'To such an extent, indeed, is this the case' (I quote the Report on Public Instruction for Bengal Proper) 'that many of our best native scholars can write English and even speak it with greater facility than their mother-tongue'. Interest and ambition, the instinct of imitation and the thirst for knowledge, urge on the students; and, by the aid of a delicate taste, and a strong power of assimilation, their progress is surpassing to one accustomed to the very slender proficiency in the classical tongues obtained by the youth of England after a boyhood devoted almost exclusively to Xenophon and Cicero. Of two hundred scholars who leave Eton in the course of a year, it is much if some three or four can construe a chorus of Euripides without the aid of a translation, or polish up with infinite pains a piece of Latin prose which a Roman might possibly have mistaken for a parody of the 'De Officiis', composed by a Visigoth in the time of Diocletian.

07 October 2009

Epitaph to A.E. Housman, in the antechapel, Trinity College, Cambridge


from Winnie the Pooh, Chapter Eight, in which Christopher Robin leads an expotition to the North Pole

'Hush!' said Christopher Robin, turning round to Pooh, 'we're just coming to a Dangerous Place.'

'Hush!' said Pooh, turning round quickly to Piglet.

'Hush!' said Piglet to Kanga.

'Hush!' said Kanga to Owl, while Roo said 'Hush!' several times to himself very quietly.

'Hush!' said Owl to Eeyore.

'Hush!' said Eeyore in a terrible voice to all Rabbit's friends-and-relations, and 'Hush!' they said hastily to each other all down the line, until it got to the last one of all. And the last and smallest friend-and-relation was so upset to find that the whole Expotition was saying 'Hush!' to him, that he buried himself head downwards in a crack in the ground, and stayed there for two days until the danger was over, and then went home in a great hurry, and lived quietly with his Aunt ever-afterwards. His name was Alexander Beetle.

20 September 2009

from Middlemarch, chapter LXXXIII (George Eliot)

Will looked doubtfully at Dorothea, but his manner was gathering some of the defiant courage with which he always thought of this fact in his destiny. He added, 'You know that it must be altogether painful to me.'

'Yes - yes - I know,' said Dorothea, hastily.

'I did not choose to accept an income from such a source. I was sure that you would not think well of me if I did so,' said Will. Why should he mind saying anything of that sort to her now? She knew that he had avowed his love for her. 'I felt that' - he broke off, nevertheless.

'You acted as I should have expected you to act,' said Dorothea, her face brightening and her head becoming a little more erect on its beautiful stem.

'I did not believe that you would let any circumstance of my birth create a prejudice in you against me, though it was sure to do so in others,' said Will, shaking his head backward in his old way, and looking with a grave appeal into her eyes.

'If it were a new hardship it would be a new reason for me to cling to you,' said Dorothea, fervidly. 'Nothing could have changed me but -' her heart was swelling, and it was difficult to go on; she made a great effort over herself to say in a low tremulous voice, 'but thinking that you were different - not so good as I had believed you to be.'

'You are sure to believe me better than I am in everything but one,' said Will, giving way to his own feeling in the evidence of hers. 'I mean, in my truth to you. When I thought you doubted of that, I didn't care about anything that was left. I thought it was all over with me, and there was nothing to try for - only things to endure.'

'I don't doubt you any longer,' said Dorothea, putting out her hand; a vague fear for him impelling her unutterable affection.

He took her hand and raised it to his lips with something like a sob. But he stood with his hat and gloves in the other hand, and might have done for the portrait of a Royalist. Still it was difficult to loose the hand, and Dorothea, withdrawing it in a confusion that distressed her, looked and moved away.

In Wokingham on Boxing Day at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill (Sophie Hannah)

Two earnest customers compare
a ribbed and unribbed sleeve.
I wonder what I'm doing here
and think I ought to leave,
get in my car and drive away.
I stand beside the till
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

All of the other shops are closed.
Most people are in bed.
Somehow I know that I'm supposed
to find an A-Z.
Somehow I sense I must obey
an unfamiliar will
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

I parked in a disabled space
so either I'm a cheat
or a debilitating case
of searching for your street
has started to erode away
my locomotive skill,
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill,

somewhere perhaps you've never been.
I doubt you're into wool.
Even if mohair's not your scene
the atmosphere is full
of your proximity. I sway
and feel a little ill
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

The sales assistants wish me luck
and say they hope I find
the place I want. I have been stuck
with what I left behind,
with what I've been too scared to say,
too scared to say until
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill

I tell myself the time is now;
willingly I confess
my love for you to some poor cow
in an angora dress
whose get lost loony eyes convey
her interest, which is nil,
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

I find your house. You're still in bed.
I leave my gift and flee,
pleased with myself, not having said
how you can contact me,
driven by fears I can't allay,
dreams I did not fulfil
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Chains are the most distressing shops.
The crop up everywhere.
The point at which the likeness stops
squeezes my lungs of air.
When I see jumpers on display
I wish that I was still
in Wokingham on Boxing Day
at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

17 September 2009

2 Kings 4.8-10 (NRSV)

One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. She said to her husband, 'Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.'

11 September 2009

from Pride and Prejudice, chapter 55 (Jane Austen)

It was an evening of no common delight to them all; the satisfaction of Miss Bennet's mind gave a glow of such sweet animation to her face, as made her look handsomer than ever. Kitty simpered and smiled, and hoped her turn was coming soon. Mrs. Bennet could not give her consent or speak her approbation in terms warm enough to satisfy her feelings, though she talked to Bingley of nothing else for half an hour; and when Mr. Bennet joined them at supper, his voice and manner plainly showed how really happy he was.

Not a word, however, passed his lips in allusion to it, till their visitor took his leave for the night; but as soon as he was gone, he turned to his daughter, and said:

'Jane, I congratulate you. You will be a very happy woman.'

Jane went to him instantly, kissed him, and thanked him for his goodness.

'You are a good girl;' he replied, 'and I have great pleasure in thinking you will be so happily settled. I have not a doubt of your doing very well together. Your tempers are by no means unlike. You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.'

30 August 2009

from 'Are Women Human?' (Dorothy L. Sayers)

Let me give one simple illustration of the difference between the right and the wrong kind of feminism. Let us take this terrible business - so distressing to the minds of bishops - of the women who go about in trousers. We are asked: 'Why do you want to go about in trousers? They are extremely unbecoming to most of you. You only do it to copy the men.' To this we may very properly reply: 'It is true that they are unbecoming. Even on men they are remarkably unattractive. But, as you men have discovered for yourselves, they are comfortable, they do not get in the way of one's activities like skirts and they protect the wearer from draughts about the ankles. As a human being, I like comfort and dislike draughts. If the trousers do not attract you, so much the worse; for the moment I do not want to attract you. I want to enjoy myself as a human being, and why not? As for copying you, certainly you thought of trousers first and to that extent we must copy you. But we are not such abandoned copy-cats as to attach these useful garments to our bodies with braces. There we draw the line. These machines of leather and elastic are unnecessary and unsuited to the female form. They are, moreover, hideous beyond description. And as for indecency - of which you sometimes accuse the trousers - we at least can take our coats off without becoming the half-undressed, bedroom spectacle that a man presents in his shirt and braces.'

So that when we hear that women have once more laid hands upon something which was previously a man's sole privilege, I think we have to ask ourselves: is this trousers or is it braces? Is it something useful, convenient and suitable to a human being as such? Or is it merely something unnecessary to us, ugly, and adopted merely for the sake of collaring the other fellow's property? These jobs and professions, now. It is ridiculous to take on a man's job just in order to be able to say that 'a woman has done it - yah!' The only decent reason for tackling any job is that it is your job, and you want to do it.

16 August 2009

from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Primary Phase (Douglas Adams)

ZAPHOD: Trillian, the ship picked them up all by itself, right?


ZAPHOD: Right. So, that already gives us a high improbability factor. It picked them up in that particular space sector, which gives us another high improbability factor. Plus, they were not wearing spacesuits, so we picked them up during a crucial thirty-second period.

TRILLIAN: I’ve got a note for that factor here.

ZAPHOD: Yeah, put it all together and we have a total improbability of … yeah, well it’s pretty vast, but it’s not infinite. At what point did we actually pick them up?

TRILLIAN: At Infinite Improbability level.

ZAPHOD: Which leaves a very large improbability gap still to be filled. Look, they’re on their way up here now, aren’t they?


ZAPHOD: With that bloody robot. Can we pick them up on any monitor cameras?

TRILLIAN: I should think so.

[Camera is turned on]

MARVIN: … and then of course I’ve got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side.

ARTHUR: Is that so?

MARVIN: Oh yes. I mean I’ve asked for them to be replaced, but no one ever listens.

ARTHUR: I can imagine.

TRILLIAN: Oh God, I don’t believe it!

FORD: Well, well, well. Zaphod Beeblebrox.

ZAPHOD: Faaaaaa!

[Camera is turned off]

ZAPHOD: I don’t believe it! This is just toooo amazing. Look, Trillian, I’ll just, er, handle this. Is anything wrong?

TRILLIAN: I think I’ll just wait in the cabin. I’ll be back in a minute.

ZAPHOD: Oh, this is gonna be great! I’m going to be so unbelievably cool about it, it would flummox a Vagan snow lizard. This is ter-rific! What will you call? Several out of ten million points for style!

TRILLIAN: Well, you enjoy yourself, Zaphod. I don’t see what’s so great myself. I’ll go and listen for the police on the sub-ether waveband.

ZAPHOD: Right. Which is the most nonchalant chair to be discovered working in? Yeah … OK.

DOOR: [Opens] Hummmm-yummm … Glad to be of service.

[MARVIN walks in]

MARVIN: I suppose you’ll want to see the aliens now. Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I’m standing?

ZAPHOD: Show them in, please, Marvin!

[FORD and ARTHUR enter]

ZAPHOD: Ford. Hi. How are you? Glad you could drop in.

FORD: Zaphod, great to see you. You’re looking well … the extra arm suits you. Nice ship you’ve stolen.

ARTHUR: You mean you know this guy?!

Know him? He’s …! Oh Zaphod, this is a friend of mine, Arthur Dent. I saved him when his planet blew up.

ZAPHOD: Oh sure. Hi, Arthur. Glad you could make it.

FORD: And Arthur, this is my –

ARTHUR: We’ve met.

FORD: What?!

ZAPHOD: Oh, er … have we? Hey …

FORD: What do you mean you’ve met?! This is Zaphod Beeblebrox from Betelgeuse Five, you know, not, not bloody Martin Smith from Croydon!

ARTHUR: I don’t care; we’ve met. Haven’t we, Zaphod? Or should I say Phil?

FORD: What?!

ZAPHOD: Er ... y-you’ll have to remind me. I have a terrible memory for species.

ARTHUR: It was at a party.

ZAPHOD: I rather doubt it.

FORD: Cool it, will you, Arthur.

ARTHUR: A party six months ago … on Earth … England … London …


ARTHUR: Islington!

ZAPHOD: Oh – hey, that party…

FORD: Zaphod, you don’t mean to say you’ve been on that miserable little planet as well?

ZAPHOD: No, of course not. W-well, I may have just dropped in briefly... on my way somewhere…

FORD: What is all this Arthur?

ARTHUR: At this party there was a girl. I had my eye on her for weeks. Beautiful, charming, devastatingly intelligent, everything I’d been saving myself up for. And just when I’d finally managed to get her for myself for a few tender moments, this friend of yours barges up and says, ‘Hey doll, is this guy boring you? Come an’ talk to me. I’m from a different planet.’ I never saw her again.

FORD: Zaphod?!

ARTHUR: Yes. He only had the two arms and the one head and he called himself Phil, but –

TRILLIAN: But, you must admit that he did actually turn out to be from a different planet, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Good God, it’s her! Tricia McMillan! What are you doing here?

TRILLIAN: Same as you, Arthur. I hitched a ride. After all, with a degree in maths and another in astrophysics, it was either that or back to the dole queue on Monday. Oh, I’m sorry I missed that Wednesday lunch date, but I was in a black hole all morning.

ZAPHOD: Oh God! Ford this is Trillian. Hi. Trillian, this is my semi-cousin Ford who shares three of the same mothers as me. Hiii. Trillian, is this sort of thing gonna happen every time we use the Infinite Improbability Drive?

TRILLIAN: Very probably, I’m afraid.

ZAPHOD: Zaphod Beeblebrox, this is a very large drink ... Hi.

12 August 2009

from Medea, Bacchae etc. [probably] (Euripides)

καὶ τὰ δοκηθέντ’ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη,
τῶν δ’ ἀδοκήτων πόρον ηὗρε θεός.

30 June 2009

from 'Hamlet' (T.S. Eliot)

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an 'objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked. If you examine any of Shakespeare's more successful tragedies, you will find this exact equivalence; you will find that the state of mind of Lady Macbeth walking in her sleep has been communicated to you by a skilful accumulation of imagined sensory impressions; the words of Macbeth on hearing of his wife's death strike us as if, given the sequence of events, these words were automatically released by the last event in the series. The artistic 'inevitability' lies in this complete adequacy of the external to the emotion; and this is precisely what is deficient in Hamlet. Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear. And the supposed identity of Hamlet with his author is genuine to this point: that Hamlet's bafflement at the absence of objective equivalent to his feelings is a prolongation of the bafflement of his creator in the face of his artistic problem. Hamlet is up against the difficulty that his disgust is occasioned by his mother, but that his mother is not an adequate equivalent for it: his disgust envelops and exceeds her. It is thus a feeling which he cannot understand: he cannot objectify it, and it therefore remains to poison life and obstruct action. None of the possible actions can satisfy it; and nothing that Shakespeare can do with the plot can express Hamlet for him. And it must be noticed that the very nature of the données of the problem precludes objective equivalence. To have heightened the criminality of Gertrude would have been to provide the formula for a totally different emotion in Hamlet; it is just because her character is so negative and insignificant that she arouse in Hamlet the feeling which she is incapable of representing.

19 June 2009

from Jane Eyre, chapter 23 (Charlotte Brontë)

'It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my little friend on such weary travels: but if I can’t do better, how is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?'

I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.

'Because,' he said, 'I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you — especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, - you’d forget me.'

'That I never should, sir: you know —' Impossible to proceed.

01 June 2009

from Gaudy Night, chapter 1 (Dorothy L. Sayers)

The room allotted to her she recognised, after a little calculation, as one that had been occupied in her day by a woman she particularly disliked, who had married a missionary and gone to China. The present owner's short gown hung behind the door; judging by the bookshelves, she was reading History; judging by her personal belongings, she was a Fresher with an urge for modernity and very little natural taste. The narrow bed, on which Harriet flung down her belongings, was covered with drapery of a crude green colour and ill-considered Futuristic pattern; a bad picture in the neo-archaic manner hung above it; a chromium-plated lamp of angular and inconvenient design swore acidly at the table and wardrobe provided by the college, which were of a style usually associated with the Tottenham Court Road; while the disharmony was crowned and accentuated by the presence, on the chest of drawers, of a curious statuette or three-dimensional diagram carried out in aluminium, which resembled a gigantic and contorted corkscrew, and was labelled upon its base: ASPIRATION. It was with surprise and relief that Harriet discovered three practicable dress-hangers in the wardrobe. The looking-glass, in conformity with established college use, was about a foot square, and hung in the darkest corner of the room.

She unpacked her bag, took off her coat and skirt, slipped on a dressing-gown and set out in search of a bathroom. She had allowed herself three-quarters of an hour for changing, and Shrewsbury's hot-water system had always been one of its most admirable minor efficiencies. She had forgotten exactly where the bathrooms were on this floor, but surely they were round here to the left. A pantry, two pantries, with notices on the doors: NO WASHING-UP TO BE DONE AFTER 11 p.m.; three lavatories, with notices on the doors: KINDLY EXTINGUISH THE LIGHT WHEN LEAVING; yes, here she was - four bathrooms, with notices on the doors: NO BATHS TO BE TAKEN AFTER 11 p.m., and, underneath, an exasperated addendum to each: IF STUDENTS PERSIST IN TAKING BATHS AFTER 11 p.m. THE BATHROOMS WILL BE LOCKED AT 10.30 p.m. SOME CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS IS NECESSARY IN COMMUNITY LIFE. Signed: L. MARTIN, DEAN. Harriet selected the largest bathroom. It contained a notice: REGULATIONS IN CASE OF FIRE, and a card printed in large capitals: THE SUPPLY OF HOT WATER IS LIMITED. PLEASE AVOID UNDUE WASTE. With a familiar sensation of being under authority, Harriet pushed down the waste-plug and turned on the tap. The water was boiling, though the bath badly needed a new coat of enamel and the cork mat had seen better days.

20 May 2009

from Culture and Anarchy, chapter 1, Sweetness and Light (Matthew Arnold)

Oxford, the Oxford of the past, has many faults; and she has heavily paid for them in defeat, in isolation, in want of hold upon the modern world. Yet we in Oxford, brought up amidst the beauty and sweetness of that beautiful place, have not failed to seize one truth, - the truth that beauty and sweetness are essential characters of a complete human perfection. When I insist on this, I am all in the faith and tradition of Oxford. I say boldly that this our sentiment for beauty and sweetness, our sentiment against hideousness and rawness, has been at the bottom of our attachment to so many beaten causes, of our opposition to so many triumphant movements. And the sentiment is true, and has never been wholly defeated, and has shown its power even in its defeat. We have not won our political battles, we have not carried our main points, we have not stopped our adversaries' advance, we have not marched victoriously with the modern world; but we have told silently upon the mind of the country, we have prepared currents of feeling which sap our adversaries' position when it seems gained, we have kept up our own communications with the future. Look at the course of the great movement which shook Oxford to its centre some thirty years ago! It was directed, as anyone who reads Dr. Newman's Apology may see, against what in one word may be called 'Liberalism.' Liberalism prevailed; it was the appointed force to do the work of the hour; it was necessary, it was inevitable that it should prevail. The Oxford movement was broken, it failed; our wrecks are scattered on every shore:-

Quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?

But what was it, this liberalism, as Dr. Newman saw it, and as it really broke the Oxford movement? It was the great middle-class liberalism, which had for the cardinal points of its belief the Reform Bill of 1832, and local self-government, in politics; in the social sphere, free-trade, unrestricted competition, and the making of large industrial fortunes; in the religious sphere, the Dissidence of Dissent and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion. I do not say that other and more intelligent forces than this were not opposed to the Oxford movement: but this was the force which really beat it; this was the force which Dr. Newman felt himself fighting with; this was the force which till only the other day seemed to be the paramount force in this country, and to be in possession of the future; this was the force whose achievements fill Mr. Lowe with such inexpressible admiration, and whose rule he was so horror-struck to see threatened. And where is this great force of Philistinism now? It is thrust into the second rank, it is become a power of yesterday, it has lost the future. A new power has suddenly appeared, a power which it is impossible yet to judge fully, but which is certainly a wholly different force from middle-class liberalism; different in its cardinal points of belief, different in its tendencies in every sphere. It loves and admires neither the legislation of middle-class Parliaments, nor the local self-government of middle-class vestries, nor the unrestricted competition of middle-class industrialists, nor the dissidence of middle-class Dissent and the Protestantism of middle-class Protestant religion. I am not now praising this new force, or saying that its own ideals are better; all I say is, that they are wholly different. And who will estimate how much the currents of feeling created by Dr. Newman's movement, the keen desire for beauty and sweetness which it nourished, the deep aversion it manifested to the hardness and vulgarity of middle-class liberalism, the strong light it turned on the hideous and grotesque illusions of middle-class Protestantism, - who will estimate how much all these contributed to swell the tide of secret dissatisfaction which has mined the ground under the self-confident liberalism of the last thirty years, and has prepared the way for its sudden collapse and supersession? It is in this manner that the sentiment of Oxford for beauty and sweetness conquers, and in this manner long may it continue to conquer!

16 March 2009

from Northanger Abbey, chapter 14 (Jane Austen)

'Consider - if reading had not been taught, Mrs Radcliffe would have written in vain - or perhaps might not have written at all.'

Catherine assented - and a very warm panegyric from her on that lady's merits closed the subject. The Tilneys were soon engaged in another on which she had nothing to say. They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and deciding on its capability of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing - nothing of taste: and she listened to them with an attention which brought her little profit, for they talked in phrases which conveyed scarcely any idea to her. The little which she could understand, however, appeared to contradict the very few notions she had entertained on the matter before. It seemed as if a good view were no longer to be taken from the top of an high hill, and that a clear blue sky was no longer a proof of a fine day. She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

20 January 2009

from The Lord of the Rings, book 6, chapter 5, The Steward and the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Then Frodo came forward and took the crown from Faramir and bore it to Gandalf; and Aragorn knelt, and Gandalf set the White Crown upon his head, and said:

'Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!'

But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried:

'Behold the King!'

And in that moment all the trumpets were blown, and the King Elessar went forth and came to the barrier, and Húrin of the Keys thrust it back; and amid the music of harp and of viol and of flute and the singing of clear voices the King passed through the flower-laden streets, and came to the Citadel, and entered in; and the banner of the Tree and the Stars was unfurled upon the topmost tower, and the reign of King Elessar began, of which many songs have told.