Wednesday, June 27, 2007

3 a.m.

Sometimes at night
I see spirits in flight
In the air, along paths I know not where
Like a breath that leaves a warm mouth
and floats
to wintry air
and disappears
So too, these spirits I fear,
Tread on trails men do not dare--
But must
Sometimes at night.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

(by Frederick Turner April 2003)
Few wars are ever quite as pure as this.
Around the world's round haunch you feel the shriek
Of thousands as their burning souls seek bliss,
The weight of guilt that bends us week by week;
But there's another sense, the cooling ebb
Of fever as the great boil, lanced, begins to shrink,
The lightening that dawns across the web
Of human comradeship, the cold sweet drink
Of liberty that's lifted to their lips,
The first small flowers of truth among the lies,
The lancet of a bright apocalypse,
The gasp of joy as death sheds its disguise.
Out of the sacred dust of Babylon,
The groves of Ur where Jacob once sought wives,
Has come the half-bred monster, half our own,
And half the oppression of a billion lives.
And so it's time the youngest breed of men,
Mixing themselves, as Tocqueville foresaw,
Back to the race of Adam, tried again
To build the Babel-tower on a just law.
And our young soldiers are so quiet and fine!
How did we merit their strange chivalry,
Their truthfulness, their loyalty, their spine,
After our decades of dishonesty?
And will again they save us from our flaws,
Those gentle warriors purged of irony,
As they once did, upon as great a cause,
Amidst the blood-drenched surf of Normandy?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Three Davids

Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello tell a story. Michelangelo offers David on the cusp of his coming into his majority--he sees Goliath and salvation history takes a breath as David contemplates the stepping into his role: the boy is about to become the man. Bernini captures David as he enacts the union of intellect and will in perfect action. Donatello shows David over the severed head of the defeated Goliath deliberately fortelling the Archangel Michael's defeat of Satan, even as he establishes the house from which will issue the ultimate sacrifice that will secure the victory of Good over evil . . .

Expensive, delicate ships . . .

Musee des Beaux Arts--W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Copyright © 1976 by Edward Mendelson, William Meredith and Monroe K. Spears,
Executors of the Estate of W. H. Auden.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Last Days First Days

Thomas Kuhn wrote about paradigm shifts as periods in which shifts in culture occur as the result not of an inability to come up with the right answers, but a failure to ask the right questions.

Given the fractal nature of reality, perhaps we should understand overlapping paradigm shifts to account for a kind of biologic seething that forms the shape of a living culture. History is the study of the fossil remains of earlier shifts. And yet, as T.S. Eliot held in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," history as tradition remains part of the present shift, as it continues to exert its force upon the now. William Faulkner once remarked to Malcolm Cowley that his attempt in writing the Prologue to the fourth act of Requiem for a Nun ("The Jail: Not Yet Quite Relinquish") was to capture the sense that "the past was never really past." Hence, the prologue is two sentences long: the first sentence has perhaps thirty eight words; the second is perhaps forty five pages long . . .

This blog will be given over to random ruminations on the nature of reality, to aspects of our present culture--never really cut off from the past and never out of communication with any number of other presents (that are never really absent) that form what we call the "world." It will cover poetry (mostly past, some present), art, religion, culture, literature of the West, politics, philosophy, and current events. It will neither make sense of these things necessarily nor claim or declaim to exhaust them. The attempt here is to participate, to add, to fulminate, to make sense of, and to further.

My hope is that you will join me in a conversation that is actually productive. This sounds like a lot of naval gazing but that's not my inclination or nature. I won't burden readers of this blog with biographical material except as I see imperfectly that it participates in the larger epiphenomenon to which we are all subject--whether we acquiesce, surrender, or deny.