Tuesday, October 06, 2015


Honest Trailers gives the perfect, and completely accurate, review of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Wisdom and Play

Here one must consider that the contemplation of Wisdom is suitably compared to play on two counts, each of which is to be found in play. First, because play is delightful and the contemplation of Wisdom possesses maximum delight, whence Ecclesiasticus XXIIII <27> says by the mouth of wisdom: "My spirit is sweet above honey." Second, because things done in play are not ordered to anything else, but are sought for their own sake, and this same trait belongs to the delights of Wisdom. For it happens at times that someone is delighted within by considering what one desires, or proposes to do, but this delight is ordered to something external, which one struggles to attain. If there should be a failure or a delay no small affliction is joined to delight of this sort, in accord with the saying of Ecclesiasticus XXXIII <in fact, Proverbs 14:13>: "Laughter is mixed with sorrow." But the delight of contemplating Wisdom has within itself the cause of delight; hence one suffers no anxiety, as if awaiting something that might be lacking. On this account it is said in Wisdom VIII <16>: "Its conversation" (namely that of wisdom) "has no bitterness, nor does dwelling with it have any tedium." And therefore divine Wisdom compares her delight to play, in Proverbs VIII <30>: "I was delighted every day playing before Him," so that through the different 'days' the consideration of different truths might be understood.

St. Thomas Aquinas, An Exposition of the "On the Hebdomads" of Boethius, Schultz and Synan, trs., The Catholic University of America Press (Washington, D.C.: 2001), p. 5

Monday, October 05, 2015

Four Paths

Now, there are four ways a person may be prompted toward good and drawn away from evil: namely, by the precepts of a most powerful authority, by the teachings of a most wise truth, by the examples and benefits of a most innocent goodness, and finally, by a combination of these three ways. That is why the four kinds of Scriptural books were handed down in both the Old and New Testaments, as they correspond to these four ways. The legal books move people by the precepts of a most potent authority; the historical, by the examples of a most innocent goodness; the sapiential, by the teachings of a most prudent truth; and the prophetic, by a combination of the foregoing, as their content clearly illustrates. Hence these latter are, as it were, a recalling of all legal and doctrinal wisdom.

St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Prologue 1.3 [Franciscan Institute Publications (Saint Bonaventure, NY: 2005) p. 7.]

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Lightning Flashes Diamond Fire

The Voice and the Dusk
by Duncan Campbell Scott

The slender moon and one pale star,
A rose leaf and a silver bee
From some god’s garden blown afar,
Go down the gold deep tranquilly.

Within the south there rolls and grows
A mighty town with tower and spire,
From a cloud bastion masked with rose
The lightning flashes diamond fire.

The purple-martin darts about
The purlieus of the iris fen;
The king-bird rushes up and out,
He screams and whirls and screams again.

A thrush is hidden in a maze
Of cedar buds and tamarac bloom,
He throws his rapid flexile phrase,
A flash of emeralds in the gloom.

A voice is singing from the hill
A happy love of long ago;
Ah! tender voice, be still, be still,
‘’Tis sometimes better not to know.’

The rapture from the amber height
Floats tremblingly along the plain,
Where in the reeds with fairy light
The lingering fireflies gleam again.

Buried in dingles more remote,
Or drifted from some ferny rise,
The swooning of the golden throat
Drops in the mellow dusk and dies.

A soft wind passes lightly drawn.
A wave leaps silverly and stirs
The rustling sedge, and then is gone
Down the black cavern in the firs.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Sceptre and Chrism of Kings

The Chrism of Kings
by Thomas O'Hagan

In the morn of the world, at the daybreak of time,
When Kingdoms were few and Empires unknown
God searched for a Ruler to sceptre the land,
And gather the harvest from the seed He had sown.
He found a young shepherd-boy watching his flock
Where the mountains looked down on deep meadows of green;
He hailed the young shepherd-boy king of the land
And anointed his brow with a Chrism unseen.

He placed in his frail hands the sceptre of power,
And taught his young heart all the wisdom of love;
He gave him the vision of prophet and priest,
And dowered him with counsel and light from above.
But alas! came a day when the shepherd forgot
And heaped on his realm all the woes that war brings,
And bartering his purple for the greed of his heart
He lost both the sceptre and Chrism of Kings.

Posting is likely to be light this next week due to grading.

Friday, October 02, 2015

In Dreams Too Deep to Tell

Be Quiet, Wind
by Charles G. D. Roberts

Be quiet, wind, a little while,
And let me hear my heart.
You chiming rivulet still your chant
And stealthily depart.

You whisperings in the aspen leaves,
You far-heard whip-poor-will,
You slow drop spilling from the rose—
You, even you, be still.

I must have infinite silence now,
Lest I should miss one word
Of all my heart would say to me—
Now, when its deeps are stirred.

Hardly I dare my breath to draw
Lest breathing break the spell,—
While we commune, my heart and I,
In dreams too deep to tell.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cette rose effeuillée est la fidèle image

La rose effeuillée
par Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus

Air : Le fil de la Vierge ou La Rose mousse.

Jésus, quand je te vois soutenu par ta Mère,
Quitter ses bras,
Essayer en tremblant sur notre triste terre
Tes premiers pas;
Devant toi je voudrais effeuiller une rose
En sa fraîcheur,
Pour que ton petit pied bien doucement repose
Sur une fleur.

Cette rose effeuillée est la fidèle image,
Divin Enfant!
Du coeur qui. veut pour toi s'immoler sans partage
A chaque instant.
Seigneur, sur tes autels plus d'une fraîche rose
Aime à briller;
Elle se donne à toi, mais je rêve autre chose
C'est m'effeuiller...

La rose en son éclat peut embellir ta fête,
Aimable Enfant!
Mais la rose effeuillée, on l'oublie, on la jette
Au gré du vent...
La rose, en s'effeuillant, sans recherche se donne
Pour n'être plus.
Comme elle, avec bonheur, à toi je m'abandonne,
Petit Jésus !

L'on marche sans regret sur des feuilles de rose,
Et ces débris
Sont un simple ornement que sans art on dispose,
Je l'ai compris...
Jésus, pour ton amour j'ai prodigué ma vie,
Mon avenir;
Aux regards des mortels, rose à jamais flétrie,
Je dois mourir !

Pour toi je dois mourir, Jésus, beauté suprême,
Oh ! quel bonheur!
Je veux en m'effeuillant te prouver que je t'aime
De tout mon coeur.
Sous tes pas enfantins je veux avec mystère
Vivre ici-bas ;
Et je voudrais encore adoucir au Calvaire
Tes derniers pas...

Still thinking through how this might be best translated; the title is "The Depetaled Rose". In any case, today (Thursday) is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Music on My Mind

Dion DiMucci, "The Thunderer". Today was the feast of St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, so a song about the saint seems appropriate. The lyrics are from a poem by Phyllis McGinley.

Zhong Yong (Part I)

There has been considerable discussion over the centuries about the exact meaning of the title of the fourth of the Confucian Four Books, the Zhong Yong. The phrase derives from the Analects (VI.29), which is quoted in the book. Zhong means something like 'undeviating, neither to one side nor the other, neither too much nor too little', and is the foundation for the most common English title (due to Burton Watson), The Doctrine of the Mean; Gardner suggests 'maintaining perfect balance'. Early commentators, at least according to Legge, tend to understand yong to mean 'employment' or 'use', but later commentators tend to interpret it as meaning 'ordinary, constant'. Latin translators have tended to translate the whole title as De medio sempiterno; Legge suggests it would be less misleadingly called The States of Equilibrium and Harmony, taking zhong and yong as coordinate terms.

The Doctrine of the Mean, like The Great Learning, was originally a chapter in the Book of Rites, although as a later addition it seems to have had a long history of commentary treating it as a standalone work. When read as one of the Four Books, it is usually taken with Zhu Xi's comments and chapter divisions. Zhu Xi argued that the book had a Confucian provenance, being written by Zisi, who was Confucius's grandson; this gives the Four Books a nice symmetry, since it lets one say that we have here a series of four teachers; Confucius (Analects) hands down teaching to Zengzi (Great Learning) who hands down teaching to Zisi (Doctrine of the Mean) who hands down teaching to Mengzi(Mencius). Zhu Xi's arguments for attributing the work to Zisi have never been universally accepted, although they did become the standard view.

The Doctrine of the Mean can be read online in James Legge's translation at the Chinese Text Project. I am beholden also to the excerpts and commentary of Daniel K. Gardner's The Four Books and to James Legge's notes on the work.

Chapter I

The Neo-Confucian reading of the work, deriving from the Cheng brothers and becoming popular due to Zhu Xi, was to see it as having an egress-regress structure: it begins with a single principle, takes in the universe, and then returns it all to the principle again. The first chapter begins with essential ideas. Nature is what Heaven establishes, following nature is the Way, cultivating the Way is education. Following the Way requires not deviating, which requires close vigilance over one's own life. Human beings move from a tranquility prior to the passions to a unity of the passions, each with its proper proportion; these are Legge's 'equilibrium' and 'harmony'.

Chapters II-XI

According to Zhu Xi, the next ten chapters illustrate with quotation the principles outlined in the first chapter. (Chapter II, incidentally, is odd in that it refers to Confucius in a nonstandard way, for no known reason.) The noble take into account circumstances in order to be constant (2), and this is the highest achievement, one few are able to reach in these days (3). Why are few able to reach it? Because those with talent think it beneath them, too simple to study, and those without talent think it above them, too hard to practice (4). The example of Shun shows the good that can come of giving it its proper attention (6). He did it by taking advice, drawing out the good from it, and applying it without deviation. This is precisely what the mean is, and precisely what made Shun the hero he was. No matter how much people might insist that they know how to live their lives, the results show otherwise: they may choose to hold to the Way, but they swiftly begin to deviate (7). They are not like Yan Hui, who made the choice and seized it firmly (8). People can do apparently difficult things with hard work and patience, but seem to have difficulty with this very fundamental thing (9).

The strength that sets others in order comes in more than one type (10). It can involve patience and reasonableness in conduct, and the power to endure hardship, even death. These are the traits of the noble in their pursuit of good and their resistance of bad. When we look for who is able to do these things and keep to the mean, we find that people often fall short or overshoot; in order to find a model, we need to look to the sage (11).

to be continued