The Gridding Sword and the Wandering Wood

“Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince
. . . lead forth to battle these my sons
Invincible . . .
Equal in number to that godless crew
Rebellious; them with fire and hostile arms
Fearless assault, and, to the brow of Heaven
Pursuing, drive them out . . .

John Milton, Paradise Lost, book vi

If the Orthosphere has a patron saint, it is surely the archangel Michael, for his image has always graced our banner and his sword has always inspired our words.  It was by Saint Michael’s “gridding sword” that “Satan first knew pain,” and although our adversaries have been the merest flunkies of Hell, we hope our words have made them likewise smart. Continue reading

All Talk

I once had a colleague who fancied himself a shrewd politician.  As he was neither powerful nor popular, he had plenty of time to evolve theories and tell them to me, a man even less shrewd, powerful and popular than himself.  There was something ludicrous about this Machiavelli manqué sententiously yarning in the dim office of his even dimmer junior colleague, but it seems to me he that he did have a certain theoretical understanding of campus intrigue and machination.  He was simply a failure when it came to practical intrigue and machination. Continue reading

Check Your “Scornful Jests”

I will not attend the big geography shindig this year, but if I did, they say I would be sheltered from abuse by a new “Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy.”  That such a policy was written might lead you to suppose that uncouth louts routinely run amok at these conferences, and that learned debate often breaks down in a tumult of scurrilous shouts, snarled invectives, and intimidating jabs with a sharp map pointer. Continue reading

’Tis the Season to be Cynical

You may have seen that the Archbishop of Canterbury has enjoined Anglican’s to give up cynicism for Lent.  With all due respect to His Grace, I submit that he understands neither the word cynicism nor the season of Lent.  Lent is, above all else, a season to let our cynicism off its leash.  For what is cynicism but the proposition that the world is filled with tinsel and dross, and what is Lent but forty days of meditation on the fact that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Continue reading

The Most Monstrous Empire of All

International Woman’s Day, 2019

“And therefor I say . . . that this monstrous empire of women, which amongst all enormities that this day do abound upon the face of the whole earth, is most detestable and damnable.” 

John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women (1558)

John Knox wrote this stirring line to protest the first queen regnant of England, Mary Tudor, whom the Reformer especially hated for her energetic persecution of his fellow Protestants.  But the ink was hardly dry when Knox was embarrassed by the death of “Bloody Mary,” and the ascension to England’s throne of Elizabeth, who was a Protestant, but a woman all the same. Continue reading

Those Who Go to the John

There once was a land where everyone was equal but the people were divided into three rigid and antagonistic classes.  At the top were the Patricians, or Pats; next in line were the Plebeians, or Plebs; and at the bottom were the Morlocks about whom it was universally agreed, the less that was said, the better.  The Pats called the Plebs Upper Morlocks, the Plebs called themselves Lower Pats, and the Morlocks called them both by a name I cannot print here. Continue reading

Our American Credo

The word affirmation is grounded in a metaphor of stability, and it denotes a further (and therefore stabilizing) attestation that some previous assertion is true. In the liturgy of most Christian churches, for instance, a recitation of the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed is called an “affirmation of faith.”  The faithful are saying “Yup, our faith is firm.  We still believe this Sunday what we believed last Sunday.” Continue reading

With a Werewolf by My Side

Lupus est homo homini

Plautus, Asinaria (c. 200 B.C.)

“They err, who write no wolves in England range;
Here men are all turned wolves, O monstrous change.”

James Howell, Epistolae Ho-elianae (1644).

Plautus was not the first to remark man’s inhumanity to man, but his apothegm has come down the centuries as a compact testament to the fact that “man is wolf to man.”  The wolf is an emblem of everything stealthy, malignant and pitiless in this world, and man finds this age-old enemy not only skulking in the shadows of the circumjacent forest, but also seated with him at the fire in the very heart of the human camp.  Wolves sit with him because men are wolves.  How droll that “man’s best friend” was bred from his oldest enemy.  How ironic that this shaggy symbol of misanthropy makes its lair in man’s own heart. Continue reading

“Over the Top”

“Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens, and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’” Job 20: 6-7.

I am not a pacifist, but I do believe that old men in all ages have been spendthrifts when it comes to the blood and bones of men younger than they. A pacifist says that nothing is worth a fight.  Safe in their infirmities, these crafty old men can discover a casus belli in just about anything. Thus I am suitably sickened when I watch the movie Gallipoli. Continue reading