Odious and Odorous Comparisons

When in their nonage, all of my children were eager to discover the ne plus ultra of my likes and dislikes. They were forever asking me to tell them my favorite food, my favorite animal, my favorite author . . .    Indeed they made many attempts to pin me down on my favorite favorite. My children were in those days equally eager to discover the utmost depth and rock-bottom of my loathing, horror and detestation. What was the most disgusting food I’d ever eaten? What was the worst book I’d ever read? What manner of dying did I most decidedly dread? Continue reading

The Meek did not Cringe

“He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”

Luke 22:36

If my versification of the FEAR seemed craven and cringing, you may be heartened by this story of swift and righteous retribution in 1838.  It took place in the town of Washington, now abandoned, about twenty miles south of where I sit.  The narrator is Zachariah “Wildcat” Morrell, an itinerant Baptist preacher on the Texas frontier.  If the Fear does not prompt you to sell your garment for a sword, it should perhaps prompt you to sell it for a hickory walking stick with a buckhorn handle.  The conspiracy of “fiends and mockers” strikes me as a vivid metaphor, the chicken and its choker not excepted. Continue reading

The Blight of Telmarine Science

“To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language . . .”

William Cullen Bryant “Thanatopsis” (1817)

It is hard to say whether Man or Nature is more subject to moods, and therefore whether Bryant’s “various language” originates in peculiarities of the tongue or of the ear.  If silence can be taken as a sort of language—and there can be no doubt that silence is expressive, we cannot deny that Nature often withdraws into cold taciturnity, and that in this mood she appears as the beautiful but icy queen that I yesterday called la belle dame sans mercy. Continue reading

La Belle Dame sans Mercy

“I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a faery’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.”

John Keats, “La Belle Dame sans Mercy” (1819)

A beautiful woman must disappoint most of her many suitors, and the rejected men will naturally salve their vanity by calling her la belle dame sans mercy.  They may of course use coarse and vulgar words, but this is what they mean: she is a beautiful lady without pity, a beautiful lady with a heart of stone.  But the imputation is almost always unjust, since the heart they allege to be made out of stone will someday melt—has perhaps already melted—like butter before the ardent passion of another man. Continue reading

Worthy of Notice

I encourage you to read this recent post by Malcolm Pollack, a life-long agnostic who, with some anxious chagrin, finds himself figeting on the porch of the Church. I should really say on the threshold of theism, but my mood this morning is metaphoric rather than alliterative. Be sure to read the excellent comments. I was particularly delighted to see comments by Deogolwulf, a genius of blogging who is now sadly (and he says permanently) silent. His Joy of Curmudgeonry ended in 2012, but I keep the site bookmarked, and on those days when I find the Internet nothing but rubbish and tripe, refresh myself at that cool spring of mordant philosophy. The pithy penetration of his comments shows that the silence of Deogolwulf is not owing to senility or stupefaction. The other comments are also very good, and the the whole post is a model of serious reflection and exchange.

Beware the Jaws of Ruthless Reason

“Imagination does not breed insanity.  Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.” 

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908)

I think we must grant that the Left is more slavishly addicted to Reason than the Right—or at least than the genuine Right.  There are, needless to say, many spurious men of the Right who betray their spuriosity by boasting about their ruthless reasoning; but genuine men of the Right have always been chary of Reason because they see that Reason is ruthless.

And because Reason is ruthless, they see that it must be kept on a very stout chain. Continue reading

School’s Out

“Girls scream,
Boys shout;
Dogs bark,
School’s out”*

Few eulogies are more fulsome than those in which a university president praises students when their parents are in earshot.  The imaginary students of his panegyrics are, of course, an abstraction drawn from his brief and infrequent interviews with the student body president and memories of his own college years, the latter ripened and heavily redacted by the amiable hand of time.  Since those days of “generous ideals and keen passion,” the man’s actual policy has been to step on his colleagues’ faces in the general scramble to get away from students, and although he is often lyrical in his praise of “the merry music of stimulated minds,” he is pleased to spend his days in one of the few building on campus where students are not cluttering the corridors or chattering outside his door. Continue reading

The Beatitude of Bloody Arms and Broken Bones

“God was in fact doing me a big favour, in making me unhappy”

Bruce Charlton’s Notions (December 6, 2019)

When I read Charlton’s line this morning, the beatitudes were simmering on the backburner of my mind, and I was therefore primed to feel the truth of what he says.  It helped that much of my life as a young man was spent in a melancholy funk very similar to Charlton’s, but it was only because I had just read the first verses of the Sermon on the Mount that I could fully grasp the blessing of that wretchedness. Continue reading

When the Living Ain’t Easy

“The people very indolent and wicked and depending mostly upon game and their herds.  All very friendly and free to give information.” 

A. W. Moore, Journal of a Tour in Texas (1846).

A. W. Moore was a Mississippi planter who made a tour of Texas in 1846, scouting land with an eye to moving west. He wrote this line just north of here, in the sand hills of Robertson County, very near to the place where Aunt Jemima would later be buried. The people he describes were poor whites of the class that folks back east called crackers or tackeys, and they here displayed their usual lack of ambition, enterprise and good order. Continue reading