Friday, April 29, 2011

What I meant to write

~Eldest Daughter (April 29, 1989- )

        I am not a poet: I am a fountain
words run through my veins like fire and blood
        like a bird I am filled up with song
        and my mouth is an unskilled beak.

In the stomach of my mind I hold the words I knew last night
I will turn them and beat
                                                                                      them and
then I will let them drip
                                                  from the ends of
my fingers.
On the straight-ruled page they will lose their shape...

That was not what I meant to write.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This Method of Education Works Even if You're Not Terribly Bright and Don’t Know What You’re Doing—Exhibit A: Eldest Daughter

Poetic Knowledge(Follow the discussion of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, by James S. Taylor at Mystie's blog)

When I first officially started home schooling my children I didn’t have much to go on – just the idea that I wanted them to have a real childhood, something like what C.S. Lewis described in Surprised by Joy and what Raymond and Dorothy Moore described in Home-Grown Kids. So even though I’ve gone through various phases and have changed focus in various ways over the years, what we’ve done has generally been pretty relaxed in one sense, but academically challenging in another.

An awful lot of what Taylor is writing about is putting words to things that I had a vague idea of before, but plenty of it is stuff I’ve never heard of before and can barely understand. I finished reading this section on Friday and I freely admit to having to wade through several pages that felt like a marsh full of reeds, hoping for some solid ground to put my feet on or a tree I could cling to or something.

When the time came to begin writing this post I found that though I’d liked several passages I didn’t have anything to say, so I turned to my eldest daughter and asked her to read the section and pose a question or three for me to answer, since I function better in conversation mode than in essay mode. She took the book read over it, and less than an hour later presented me with the following:

“How does the idea that the most basic form of knowledge of being entails “getting inside it and possessing it spiritually… unassisted by rational dialogue” relate to your studies of astronomy?”

“At this level of knowledge, is the initial “estimation” of a thing’s goodness or badness more or less likely to be correct?”

“Taylor uses philosophical terms in the same way lawyers and doctors use obscure language in text books. Can his ideas be understood through poetic knowledge, or is a “rational act” required to decipher the meaning?”

“Absolute truth – objective truth – subjective truth –
Which one is the Bible?”

If Aquinas is right (p. 62), then chameleons are higher life forms than humans.

I admit that I am almost completely stumped. She is at least ten times smarter than I am, and I like to take some credit for it, because I am, after all, the one who provided her education. My second daughter disagrees. She says that it’s because “genius skips a generation” and Eldest Daughter got it from my daddy. That young lady will be on bread and water for the rest of the week.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Well, if I worked really hard maybe I could come up with answers to a couple of those, but instead I think I’ll go ahead and grant Eldest Daughter her Bachelor of Arts.

In the meantime, here are some of the passages from the book that caught my eye:

“It is the habit of noticing what is happening here and now
and reflecting with the natural powers upon that experience
that cultivates the connatural degree of knowledge.”

“Here, where the ordinary becomes illuminated, is when the habit of poetry sees something marvelous in the thing itself, especially in its relation to another real thing where the art of juxtaposition and metaphor produce a third thing.”

“Poetic knowledge is the wonder of the thing itself—not the essences of trees but the stately presence of the hawthorn in summer is the stuff of poetic experience.”

“…the play’s the thing”

Wholeness and integration…”

“…we are, throughout, poetic beings even as we live and move among the most ordinary and everyday experiences.”

“It is this ‘ordinary’ and ‘everyday functioning’ of the mind with reality that is poetic, that is knowledge, and informs all that can be learned, that most people in the present day have ceased to believe in.”

“What is important is engagement with reality, not simply discerning of reality.”

“…it is the appetites that move us toward the perceived good.”

“…appetite assimilates one to what is desired;
one becomes like what one loves…”

The Song of the Jellicles

~T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

                  Jellicle Cats come out to-night
                  Jellicle Cats come one come all:
                  The Jellicle Moon is shining bright –
                  Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.
Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.

Jellicle Cats develop slowly,
Jellicle Cats are not too big;
Jellicle Cats are roly-poly,
They know how to dance a gavotte and a jig.
Until the Jellicle Moon appears
They make their toilette and take their repose:
Jellicle Cats wash behind their ears,
Jellicle dry between their toes.

Jellicle Cats are white and black,
Jellicle Cats are of moderate size;
Jellicle Cats jump like a jumping-jack,
Jellicle Cats have moonlit eyes.
They're quitet enough in the morning hours,
They're quitet enough in the afternoon,
Reserving their terpsichorean powers
To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats (as I said) are small;
If it happends to be a stormy night
They will practise a caper or two in the hall.
If it happens the sun is shining bright
You would say they had nothing to do at all:
They are resting and saving themselves to be right
For the Jellicle Moon and the Jellicle Ball.

Monday, April 25, 2011

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry

~Christopher Smart (1722-1771)
from Jubilate Agno

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually—Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Christopher Smart was in a lunatic assylum for several years, during which time he wrote this paeon of his sole companion, his cat, Jeoffry, but isn’t it wonderful? He knew and loved that cat.

I was going to pick out my favorite lines, but that’s about a half of them. :-)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Day

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Words cannot utter
    Christ His returning:
Mankind, keep jubilee,
    Strip off your mourning,
Crown you with garlands,
    Set your lamps burning.

Speech is left speechless;
    Set you to singing,
Fling your hearts open wide,
    Set your bells ringing:
Christ the Chief Reaper
    Comes, His sheaf bringing.

Earth wakes her song-birds,
    Puts on her flowers,
Leads out her lambkins,
    Builds up her bowers:
This is man’s spousal day,
    Christ’s day and ours.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Even

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

The tempest over and gone, the calm begun,
    Lo, “it is finished” and the Strong Man sleeps:
All stars keep vigil watching for the sun,
        The moon her vigil keeps.

A garden full of silence and of dew
    Beside a virgin cave and entrance stone:
Surely a garden full of Angels too,
        Wondering, on watch, alone.

They who cry “Holy, Holy, Holy,” still
    Veiling their faces round God's Throne above,
May well keep vigil on this heavenly hill
        And cry their cry of love,

Adoring God in His new mystery
    Of Love more deep than hell, more strong than death;
Until the day break and the shadows flee,
        The Shaking and the Breath.

“A bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me.”

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Thy Cross cruciferous doth flower in all
    And every cross, dear Lord, assigned to us:
Ours lowly-statured crosses; Thine how tall,
    Thy Cross cruciferous.

    Thy Cross alone life-giving, glorious:
For love of Thine, souls love their own when small,
    Easy and light, or great and ponderous.

Since deep calls deep, Lord, hearken when we call;
    When cross calls Cross racking and emulous:—
Remember us with him who shared Thy gall,
    Thy Cross cruciferous.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Evening

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

“Bring forth the Spear.”

No Cherub’s heart or hand for us might ache,
    No Seraph’s heart of fire had half sufficed:
Thine own were pierced and broken for our sake,
            O Jesus Christ.

Therefore we love Thee with our faint good-will,
    We crave to love Thee not as heretofore,
To love Thee much, to love Thee more, and still
            More and yet more.

Good Friday

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Lord Jesus Christ, grown faint upon the Cross,
    A sorrow beyond sorrow in Thy look,
        The unutterable craving for my soul;
            Thy love of me sufficed
To load upon Thee and make good my loss
    In face of darkened heaven and earth that shook:—
        In face of earth and heaven, take Thou my whole
            Heart, O Lord Jesus Christ.

Good Friday Morning

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

“Bearing His Cross.”

Up Thy Hill of Sorrows
    Thou all alone,
Jesus, man’s Redeemer,
    Climbing to a Throne:
Thro’ the world triumphant,
    Thro’ the Church in pain,
Which think to look upon Thee
    No more again.

Upon my hill of sorrows
    I, Lord, with Thee,
Cheered, upheld, yea, carried,
    If a need should be:
Cheered, upheld, yea, carried,
    Never left alone,
Carried in Thy heart of hearts
    To a throne.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

“And the Vine said…Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?”

The great Vine left its glory to reign as Forest King.
“Nay,” quoth the lofty forest trees, “we will not have this thing;
We will not have this supple one enring us with its ring.
Lo, from immemorial time our might towers shadowing:
Not we were born to curve and droop, not we to climb and cling:
We buffet back the buffeting wind, tough to its buffeting:
We screen great beasts, the wild fowl build in our heads and sing,
Every bird of every feather from off our tops takes wing:
I a king, and thou a king, and what king shall be our king?”

Nevertheless the great Vine stooped to be the Forest King,
While the forest swayed and murmured like seas that are tempesting:
Stooped and drooped with thousand tendrils in thirsty languishing;
Bowed to earth and lay on earth for earth’s replenishing;
Put off sweetness, tasted bitterness, endured time’s fashioning;
Put off life and put on death: and lo! it was all to bring
All its fellows down to a death which hath lost the sting,
All its fellows up to a life in endless triumphing,—
I a king, and thou a king, and this King to be our King.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

            Gaily bedight,
            A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
            Had journeyed long,
            Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

            But he grew old—
            This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow
            Fell as he found
            No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

            And, as his strength
            Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
            “Shadow,” said he,
            “Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?”

            “Over the mountains
            Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
            Ride, boldly ride,”
            The shade replied—
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Written in the year of his death, I like to think that this poem is autobiographical and that Poe was looking forward to the Heavenly City of Gold.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sailing to Byzantium

~William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I first read this one a couple of months ago and like way it sounds and the imagery of it. I couldn't find a copy of Yeats reading it, but I did find him reading "Innisfree" and a couple of others. It's very interesting -- he's chanting the poem, almost Gregorian style.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Trying to understand the concept of irascible emotions or affections, I came across this:

And he that follows theſe Advices of Reaſon, and conducts his Iraƒcible Affections by them, has a Mind that is elevated above the Reach of Injury; that ſits above the Clouds in the calm and quiet Æther, and with a brave Indifferency hears the rowling Thunders grumble and burſt under its Feet.

[The Christian Life, John Scott, Rector of St Peter Poor, London; published 1686 (p.68)]

I don’t quite know what he’s saying, but didn’t he say it beautifully?

The Donkey

~G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

When forests walked and fishes flew
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then, surely, I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening bray
And ears like errant wings—
The devil's walking parody
Of all four-footed things:

The battered outlaw of the earth
Of ancient crooked will;
Scourge, beat, deride me—I am dumb—
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour—
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout around my head
And palms about my feet.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Compare this to Aesop’s story “The Ass Carrying the Image.”

A sacred Image was being carried to the temple. It was mounted on an Ass adorned with garlands and gorgeous trappings, and a grand procession of priests and pages followed it through the streets. As the Ass walked along, the people bowed their heads reverently or fell on their knees, and the Ass thought the honor was being paid to himself.

With his head full of this foolish idea, he became so puffed up with pride and vanity that he halted and started to bray loudly. But in the midst of his song, his driver guessed what the Ass had got into his head, and began to beat him unmercifully with a stick.

“Go along with you, you stupid Ass,” he cried. “The honor is not meant for you but for the image you are carrying.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Do Chesterton and Aesop have the same attitude toward the donkey?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Domini est terra

The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof;
      the world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas,
      and established it upon the floods.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?
      or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
      who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity,
      nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD,
      and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him,
      that seek thy face, O Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
      and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
      The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
      and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
      The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.

~Psalm 24

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Moon was but a Chin of Gold

~Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)

The Moon was but a Chin of Gold
A Night or two ago—
And now she turns Her perfect Face
Upon the World below—

Her Forehead is of Amplest Blonde—
Her Cheek—a Beryl hewn—
Her Eye unto the Summer Dew
The likest I have known—

Her Lips of Amber never part—
But what must be the smile
Upon Her Friend she could confer
Were such Her Silver Will—

And what a privilege to be
But the remotest Star—
For Certainty She take Her Way
Beside Your Palace Door—

Her Bonnet is the Firmament—
The Universe—Her Shoe—
The Stars—the Trinkets at Her Belt—
Her Dimities—of Blue—

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Grass

~Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The grass so little has to do,—
      A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
      And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
      The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
      And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
      And make itself so fine,—
A duchess were too common
      For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass
      In odours so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
      Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
      And dream the days away,—
The grass so little has to do,
      I wish I were the hay!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Dance

"The Kermess," by Pieter Brueghel (1520?-1569)

In Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess.

~William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

This poem and the painting are in my college literature book (of all the textbooks I kept this one gets used the most often -- yesterday's poem came from it too) while flipping through it this morning looking for a poem today. Obviously, after yesterday's post on Poetic Knowledge, this one caught my eye. While searching online for a copy of the painting to use, I found this site, which you might want to check out. It shares some information about kind of dance that might be represented in the painting plus there's a video of the kind of music they might be dancing to, and there's a link to a recording of William Carlos Williams himself reading his poem. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Music, poetry, and gymnastic

Poetic Knowledge(Follow the discussion of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, by James S. Taylor at Mystie's blog)

What interested me most about the first part of chapter two is the idea of music, poetry, and gymnastic as the way to prepare your child for an education.


[P]oetic knowledge… tends to take us inside the objects of knowledge through the immediate powers of the sense and emotions. For example, this would be the difference, for the beginner, between studying music—theory, harmony, rhythm—and actually doing music, by singing and dancing, to become, in a sense, music itself.

[S]ongs, poetry, music, gymnastic—are meant to awaken and refine a sympathetic knowledge of the reality of the True, Good, and Beautiful, by placing the child inside the experience of those transcendentals as they are contained in these arts and sensory experiences.

[T]he child's natural disposition [is] to learn by imitation; that is, not only to attempt to duplicate what they hear and see but to become the thing that is imitated…

[M]inute sifting of the particular passages of poetry, music, and movements of physical exercise to be taught [is required], so that only a balanced and refined character emerges to take up much later the rigor of those higher modes of knowledge contained in geometry, logic, and, finally, dialectic.

The “rhythm and harmony” is not meant to be restricted to music, but under the Greek notions of proportion and integration, would be applied to all prerational modes of knowledge.

Music has always been a large part of our daily lives, and about three years ago when I started using Ambleside Online’s suggestions I began reading a poem a day to the children and became more diligent in memorizing Scripture with them. Well, they’re memorizing it anyway—I’m reading it to them and hoping it sinks into myself since it seems my ability to memorize has evaporated.

Something this chapter impressed on me was that quality is very important. Not that I’m going to be a perfectionist about every poem, Psalm, and song they learn, but that at any given time we need to have one piece that we’re perfecting. Our tiny church doesn’t have a choir so my family is asked to sing during communion on occasion, so it would be a good idea to have a hymn that we’re perfecting at all times, so we can be ready when asked, but also so that they learn what excellence is. This is significant to me because I tend to be a “that’s good enough” kind of mom.

What we’re doing precious little of is gymnastic. The children spend plenty of time out-of-doors, but beyond me correcting them for their posture on occasion there’s not much that could be considered physical training. On special occasions we move the dining room table out of the way and dance country and square dances. We love that, so I should probably do more of it… find a way to incorporate it on a weekly basis, at least.

The elegant art of eighteenth-century movement was an integral part of daily living for the cultivated elite. All aspects of life related to it. Enthusiasm and excitement should never show. Lord Chesterfield, whose book of letters was in Washington’s library, cautioned his son to curb his excess of passion. “Do everything in Minuet time, speak, think, and move always in that measure, equally free from the dulness of slow, or the hurry... of quick time.” (Dec. 12, 1767, quoted in Annas 54) In his period slow time for military purposes was 60 steps per minute, quick time, 120. (Camus 7)

As might be expected, this suppression of feelings creates an inner tension and intensity that acts as a buoyant force. All movement appears to float without effort; the dancer’s sinking into a demi-plié is a push down through the heel into the floor, and the rise to the demi-coupé is a release upward. Movement is direct, the body does not sway or waver, and the paths are straight or in clear curves. This inner energy should be carried into all dance types, and, in fact, to all movement.

[from George Washington: A Biography in Social Dance, p. 123]

I love that. Doesn’t it make you want to learn the Minuet? This idea of teaching movement in one area so that it translates over to the rest of life only went out of favor recently.

I would love to learn swing dancing, too. It’s so fascinating the way the man leads and woman responds. And it has something in common with the Minuet: in both of them there are particular steps that must be learned (and the Minuet requires that the dance describe a Z-shaped pattern across the floor) but there’s no set order to the steps as in the Virginia Reel. Each dance is an improvization where the man leads by subtle cues and the woman must pay attention in order to do her part. That’s a movement that we could probably all learn a lot from.

A Limerick

~Mark Twain (1835-1910)

A man hired by John Smith and Co.
Loudly declared that he'd tho.
    Men that he saw
    Dumping dirt near his store.
The drivers, therefore, didn't do.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Just for fun. :-D

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Curdie's song

The princess Irene and her nurse, Lootie, have taken a walk up the side of the mountain and unintentionally stayed out after dark. They have gotten lost in their haste to get back home, and Lootie is terrified. Irene doesn't realize that the strange shapes she sees peeping out at them from the shadows are goblins who are the enemies of her King Papa and mean to harm her.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Before, however, she had time to grow thoroughly alarmed like [Lootie], she heard the sound of whistling, and that revived her. Presently she saw a boy coming up the road from the valley to meet them. He was the whistler; but before they met his whistling changed to singing. And this is something like what he sang:

'Ring! dod! bang!
Go the hammers' clang!
Hit and turn and bore!
Whizz and puff and roar!
Thus we rive the rocks,
Force the goblin locks. -
See the shining ore!
One, two, three -
Bright as gold can be!
Four, five, six -
Shovels, mattocks, picks!
Seven, eight, nine -
Light your lamp at mine.
Ten, eleven, twelve -
Loosely hold the helve.
We're the merry miner-boys,
Make the goblins hold their noise.'


'Hush! scush! scurry!
There you go in a hurry!
Gobble! gobble! goblin!
There you go a wobblin';
Hobble, hobble, hobblin' -
Cobble! cobble! cobblin'!
Hob-bob-goblin! -

'There!' said the boy, as he stood still opposite them. 'There! that'll do for them. They can't bear singing, and they can't stand that song. They can't sing themselves, for they have no more voice than a crow; and they don't like other people to sing.'

(George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

This passage and yesterday's are connected by the idea of poetry as spiritual warfare -- something I'd like to keep an eye out for in the future.

Monday, April 11, 2011


For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is as bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:3-4)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

[John, accompanied by a Guide, is traveling to the Landlord’s Island and passes through Luxuria where he sees a great crowd of men “so disfigured that he had not recognized them for men,” who are being given drink from a cup held by a “dark but beautiful woman.” The witch, for so she is, follows John offering him a drink from her cup over and over again, using soothing and almost truthful words, but John steadfastly walks on in silence.]

So she accompanied him for a long way, till the weariness of her importunity tempted him far more than any positive desire. But he forced his mind to other things and kept himself occupied for a mile or so by making the following verses:

                When Lilith means to draw me
                Within her secret bower,
                She does not overawe me
                With beauty’s pomp and power,
                Nor, with angelic grace
                Of courtesy, and the pace
            Of gliding ships, comes veiled at evening hour.

                Eager, unmasked, she lingers
                Heartsick and hunger sore;
                With hot, dry, jewelled fingers
                Stretched out, beside her door,
                Offering with gnawing haste
                Her cup, whereof who taste,
            (She promises no better) thirst far more.

                What moves me, then, to drink it?
                —Her spells, which all around
                So change the land, we think it
                A great waste where a sound
                Of wind like tales twice told
                Blusters, and cloud is rolled
            Always above yet no rain falls to ground.

                Across drab iteration
                Of bare hills, line on line,
                The long road’s sinuation
                Leads on. The witch’s wine,
                Though promising nothing, seems
                In that land of no streams,
            To promise best—the unrelished anodyne.

And by the time he had reached the word anodyne the witch was gone. But he had never in his life felt more weary, and for a while the purpose of his pilgrimage woke no desire in him.

[The Pilgrim's Regress, C.S. Lewis]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Domine, Dominus noster

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings
hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies,
that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen,
yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

~Psalm 8

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Education and the arts

I’m reading I’ll Take my Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition slowly. Very, very slowly. This is a reread, since my reading goal this year is to read again a dozen books that have had a major influence on my thinking. I don’t remember when I first read it—it’s not on any of the lists I’ve kept since 2003, but my 2005 list is missing, so maybe it was that year. Certain essays of the book are heavily underlined, but the second one didn't have any underlining at all... until now.

Here’s a fairly long passage that leapt out at me just now:
Education can do comparatively little to aid the cause of the arts as long as it must turn out graduates into an industrialized society which demands specialists in vocational, technical, and scientific subjects. The humanities, which could reasonably be expected to foster the arts, have fought a losing battle since the issue between vocational and liberal education was raised in the nineteenth century. Or, they have kept their place by imitating the technique of their rivals, so that one studies the biology of language, the chemistry of drama, the evolution of the novel, and the geological strata or fossil forms of literature and the fine arts. That is, they abdicate the function by which they were formerly able to affect the tone of society. So far as they still maintain this function, they still face a dilemma. Either they will appear as decorative and useless to the rising generations who know that poetry sells no bonds and music manages no factories, and hence will be taken under duress or enjoyed as a pleasant concession to the softer and more frivolous side of life. Or, the more successfully they indoctrinate the student with their values, the more unhappy they will make him. For he will be spoiled for industrial tasks by being rendered inefficient. He will not fit in. The more refined and intelligent he becomes, the more surely will he see in the material world the lack of the image of nobility and beauty that the humanities inculcate in him. The product of a humanistic education in an industrial age is most likely to be an exotic, unrelated creature—a disillusionist or a dilettante.
(“A Mirror for Artists,” Donald Davidson)

[emphasis mine]

That’s something to think about, isn’t it? How do we guard against that—our children becoming unhappy “disillusionists”? I know I struggle against cynicism.


~William Henry Davies (1871-1940)

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Friday, April 8, 2011


~Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Low on his fours the Lion
Treads with the surly Bear;
But Men straight upward from the dust
Walk with their heads in air;
The free sweet winds of heaven,
The sunlight from on high
Beat on their clear bright cheeks and brows
As they go striding by;
The doors of all their houses
They arch so they may go,
Uplifted o’er the four-foot beasts,
Unstooping, to and fro.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

St. Stephen

(My oldest daughter has decided to draw a series of seven saints. She completed the first today. The picture is a hotlink to the site where she posts her artwork -- if you click it you can click the picture there, and it will take you to a full-size image so you can see the detail better.) Note: I've removed the link to the site where the art is -- we got malware from there yesterday -- first time ever, but I'm deleting the link anyway, as a precaution.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

St Stephen Among the first seven deacons ordained by the apostles was a man named Stephen, who was “full of faith and the Holy Ghost”. Falsely accused of blasphemy by his enemies, he was brought to speak before the high priest and the council, and instead of defending himself, he spoke out against those who had again and again rejected God’s prophets and repaid God’s love with idolatry. Because they knew what he said was true, they hardened their hearts against him. He was dragged out of the city and stoned to death.

I have here represented St. Stephen as a young man in the choir dress worn by deacons in the Anglican Church of Virginia. He carries a Bible to represent his knowledge and understanding of the Word, and his head is wreathed with the red roses that symbolize martyrdom. Beneath his feet are stones, and by his side palms, which are associated with both martyrdom and victory.

St. Stephen’s feast day is the 26th of December, and one of the psalms appointed to be read on this day is the 118th (117 in the Vulgate), a hymn of victory which begins “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.” When I first read through it to select a verse to include in this work, I thought that it was hardly an appropriate psalm to read on the day dedicated to the first martyr, and selected verse six – “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” – as the only verse relevant to the subject of my icon.

But when I read it again, the writer's trust in and love for God struck me: “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place … It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in men. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes … The Lord is my strength and song, and has become my salvation.”

The psalmist writes “All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them. They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.” What could be more appropriate for a martyr? For there is victory in death: the men who killed St. Stephen because they could not answer his words wrote their defeat in his blood. Their souls were as destroyed by hate as his was transformed by love. His last words were a prayer: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”

Death could not touch him. The victorious saint sleeps, awaiting the Resurrection.

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. Psalm 118:17

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Imagination, wonder, and science

Poetic Knowledge

(Follow the discussion of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, by James S. Taylor at Mystie's blog)


“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I’m doing something new this year: teaching science to my young children from a textbook – astronomy, to be specific. A couple of weeks ago we were reading about Venus, and in the chapter’s concluding paragraphs, the author says, “It’s a burning hot planet with lava and heat-trapping clouds made of sulfuric acid swirling madly around.”

I snapped the book shut and said, “That made be what Venus is made of but it’s not what she is.”

Venus is the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility who arrives across the sea fully grown and unclothed, her parents unknown, and is clothed by the gods. Venus is the wife of the deformed Vulcan—blacksmith, and god of the fire, patron of craftsmen and artisans—but forever enamored of Mars, the handsome god of war and agriculture.

Venus is the Evening Star that blesses the night with peace and comfort.
Lo! in the painted oriel of the West,
  Whose panes the sunken sun incarnadines,
  Like a fair lady at her casement, shines
  The evening star, the star of love and rest!
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Venus is the Morning Star that brings hope of the rising sun.

Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May…
(John Milton)

The Ancient Greeks originally called the Morning Star Phosphorus, the Light-Bringer, which is Lucifer in Latin, and the Evening Star was Hesperus, Vesper in Latin, from which we get the name of our Evening Prayers. Later they adopted the Babylonian view that these stars were one and the same and named the wanderer Aphrodite, after the Babylonian Ishtar. And since the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, He is now the Bright and Morning Star.

That’s the kind of thing I want to come to my children’s minds when they think of Venus. There is so much to learn about Venus, and when you know all that, you see how fitting it is that the goddess of desire and passion is made of erupting volcanoes and swirling clouds of sulfuric acid. It’s as though God Himself named her. Well, the Psalmist does say “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”

It’s largely because I don’t want my children to turn out like poor Eustace, who had read only the wrong books, that I’ve avoided science textbooks in the early years, focusing mainly on nature studies, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I love the night sky and I wanted a more systematic way to pass on my love and knowledge to my children, thus the textbook.

Naturally, being a mom, I’m second-guessing myself. As good as this book is, should I be using any science textbook at all with young, impressionable children?

Reading Poetic Knowledge assures me that I’m right to be cautious. Taylor says that poetic knowledge is “knowledge from the inside out, radically different in this regard from a knowledge about things. In other words, it is the opposite of scientific knowledge.”

You see, there are two ways to learn about something. If you wanted to learn about roses, you could watch the rose bush in your own garden, day after day observing a particular flower as it progresses from bud to bloom to fruit, noticing how long it stays open, how it smells, what pollinators it attracts, what pests and diseases it is susceptible to, what weather it likes best. You could study roses in the wild, in other people’s gardens, in art, poetry, and music, and in folklore.

Or, you could cut off the flower, take it inside and pull it apart, naming and counting each part—sepals, petals, stamens, stigma—cutting open the ovary to find out what’s inside. There’s a time and place for that sort of thing, but you have to realize that in order to gain that knowledge, you’ve killed the flower.
Poetic experience indicates an encounter with reality that is non-analytical, something that is perceived as beautiful, awful (awefull), spontaneous, mysterious... when the mind, through the sense and emotions, sees in delight, or even in terror, the significance of what is really there.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t want our children to learn real, scientific facts about the creation—we just need to be sure that love for the creation comes first and isn’t killed by the way they learn the facts.

For me, that means I need to share with them the poetry and stories I mentioned above. As I was writing this I realized I’ve never told them any of that, and I don’t know why I haven’t. It also means that I can keep on using the science book as a framework and reference book as long as I am myself giving them “ ‘The One Thing Needful,’ that is, the kind of knowledge that derives from the love of a thing.”

Address to Venus

~Lucretius (ca. 99 B.C. - ca. 55 B.C.)

Delight of Human kind, and Gods above;
Parent of Rome; Propitious Queen of Love;
Whose vital pow’r, Air, Earth, and Sea supplies;
And breeds what e’r is born beneath the rowling Skies:
For every kind, by thy prolifique might,
Springs, and beholds the Regions of the light:
Thee, Goddess thee, the clouds and tempests fear,
And at thy pleasing presence disappear:
For thee the Land in fragrant Flow’rs is drest,
For thee the Ocean smiles, and smooths her wavy breast;
And Heav’n it self with more serene, and purer light is blest.
For when the rising Spring adorns the Mead,
And a new Scene of Nature stands display’d,
When teeming Budds, and chearful greens appear,
And Western gales unlock the lazy year,
The joyous Birds thy welcome first express,
Whose native Songs thy genial fire confess:
Then savage Beasts bound o’re their slighted food,
Strook with thy darts, and tempt the raging floud:
All Nature is thy Gift; Earth, Air, and Sea:
Of all that breathes, the various progeny,
Stung with delight, is goaded on by thee.
O’er barren Mountains, o’er the flow’ry Plain,
The leavy Forest, and the liquid Main
Extends thy uncontroul’d and boundless reign.
Through all the living Regions dost thou move,
And scattr’st, where thou goest, the kindly seeds of Love:
Since then the race of every living thing,
Obeys thy pow’r; since nothing new can spring
Without thy warmth, without thy influence bear,
Or beautiful, or lovesome can appear,
Be thou my ayd: My tuneful Song inspire,
And kindle with thy own productive fire;
While all thy Province Nature, I survey,
And sing to Memmius an immortal lay
Of Heav’n, and Earth, and every where thy wond’rous pow’r display.
To Memmius, under thy sweet influence born,
Whom thou with all thy gifts and graces dost adorn.
The rather, then assist my Muse and me,
Infusing Verses worthy him and thee.
Mean time on Land and Sea let barb’rous discord cease,
And lull the listening world in universal peace.
To thee, Mankind their soft repose must owe,
For thou alone that blessing canst bestow;
Because the brutal business of the War
Is manag’d by thy dreadful Servant’s care:
Who oft retires from fighting fields, to prove
The pleasing pains of thy eternal Love:
And panting on thy breast, supinely lies,
While with thy heavenly form he feeds his famish’d eyes:
Sucks in with open lips, thy balmy breath,
By turns restor’d to life, and plung’d in pleasing death.
There while thy curling limbs about him move,
Involv’d and fetter’d in the links of Love,
When wishing all, he nothing can deny,
Thy charms in that auspicious moment try;
With winning eloquence our peace implore,
And quiet to the weary World restore.

Saturday, April 2, 2011



Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

Because we had so much weather today: first clouds followed by sun, then rain followed by sun, then hail the size of pinto beans, and now it's sunny again!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Rainy Day

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
    And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
    And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
    Some days must be dark and dreary.