Wrong Turns and Bad Choices

Commenter Dale Nelson just shared a quote that deserves better than the swift oblivion of a comment thread, so I am elevating it to the slightly less swift oblivion of a post.  He tells me that the passage was written by Robert Aickman (1914-1981), an English conservationist and writer of weird tales, and that it was warmly approved by the American paleoconservative and ghost-story writer Russell Kirk. Continue reading

A House With Nobody In It

“Out of the drear and desolate place
So full of ruin’s solemn grace”

William Dean Howells, “The Empty House” (1861)

Pathos is the power by which a human heart is stirred to pity and compassion for the suffering of little people, for the decay of ordinary things.  Pathos is dangerous when it becomes an excuse for weeping sentimentality, but a man who has never been touched by pathos is not altogether a man.  Shakespeare called it the “melting mood” because pathos for a moment liquefies a frozen heart; because the south wind of pathos starts the eye dripping like an icicle in spring. Continue reading

A Bagatelle

There is no moral, theological or religious point to this item, but as Paul advised taking a little wine for the sake of the stomach, so I advise a little frivolity for the sake of the soul.  And it may be well to remind ourselves and our readers that the grumpy old professors who write for the Orthosphere once gave their old professors something to grump about.  

When I was a stripling student at the State College,* broomball was one of my less disgraceful diversion.  As shrewd readers may surmise, broomball is a game played with brooms and a ball.  Its object and rules resemble those of ice hockey, and at this State College, it was in fact played in the hockey arena. Continue reading

The Peril of Learned Lumber

“The bookish blockhead, ignorantly read,
With loads of learned lumber in his head.”

Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism (1711)

If we set aside the imputation of blockheadedness, I don’t suppose any bookish person will deny the essential truth of these lines. Like the capacious attic of a packrat, a retentive and bookish head will eventually be crammed to the rafters with “loads of learned lumber”; and much of this learned lumber will be broken, moth-eaten, moldy, begrimed, or meant for uses that the owner has forgotten or never understood. Continue reading

The Odd One

I have a student, apparently male, who sometimes comes to class dressed as a female anime character. It’s a large class, and he sits at the back, but his costumes are flamboyant and include large wigs, so he catches the eye. He first caught my eye the morning after I posted my piece on “Draggieland,” and I’ll admit that I thought his appearance in the class might not be a coincidence. Continue reading

The Pomp of Words and Pedant Dissertations

“But you are learn’d; in Volumes, deep you sit;
In Wisdom shallow: pompous Ignorance!”

Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745)

We have our words pomp, pompous and pomposity from the Latin pompa, and in the days of ancient Rome a pompa was a loud and flamboyant procession that wound through the streets of the city to to publicize some person or event. The Ludi Circensus was one such event, and the pompa circensis with which it was announced was nothing other than a circus parade. Continue reading

Scratch Any Itch You Can Get Away With Scratching

A “health promotion specialist” from the “Division of Student Affairs” has just written to inform me that “Sexual Responsibility Week” will soon be upon us, and that I should clear my calendar to make way for a veritable banquet of “program content and activities.” Now I must make clear that the “sexual responsibility” of which she speaks has nothing to do with what used to be known as “conjugal duty” or “repaying the conjugal debt.” Indeed, if it did, there is no program content or activity that could improve on the regimen of Walter Shandy. As his son, the eponymous hero of the Tristram Shandy (1759), explains: Continue reading

I Am Ozymandias

This site’s traffic meter tells me that a couple of people were yesterday reading Tom’s old post on the sorrows of teaching Shelly’s “Ozymandias” to a class of nose-picking yokels.   It so happens that I have been thinking about those “vast and trunkless legs of stone,” and so recently learned that Shelly wrote his sonnet in a competition with his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith. Because I believe that all Smiths should stick together and do what they can to boost the family brand, I dug up the rival poem and give it to you here. Even the healthy favoritism of family pride cannot bring me to pronounce Smith’s production superior to Shelly’s, but “On a Stupendous Leg of Granite” is not without merit. Continue reading

If it’s All Quite the Same to You

“’If it’s quite all the same to you, I don’t want to be spanked any more.’

‘Come hither, Little One,’ said the Crocodile, ‘for I am the Crocodile,’ and he wept crocodile tears to show it was quite true.”

Rudyard Kipling, “The Elephant’s Child,” (1902)

Pope Francis is reported to have told a group of Italian school children that, “we are all children of God.” By “we” he seems to have meant human beings generally, and by “all,” every Tom, Dick and Harry among them. This notwithstanding that Tom is an infidel, Dick a pagan, and Harry a Jew. Continue reading