Marvels of Midsummer

Having been summoned from daydreaming, ruminating, and general gathering of wool, I have my own corner of aestival excellence to share.  Here are some facets of life that have loomed large of late in the kaleidoscope of my imagination:

Lawns.  Is it odd to have such affection for a big patch of grass?  Very well, I shall be odd.  My particular lawn has been carefully cropped, groomed like an Oxford quad, but without the threat of severe displeasure from some vexed gardener should any dare to set foot upon it.  It is rich, opulent, luxurious the way carpets wish they could be – particularly when combined with

Rain!  Nothing like rain to break the summertime swelter, drops pelting the parking lot at work, the road home, one arm flung out the window as I head back.  Nothing like luxuriating in soaking wet grass, wriggling my toes among the drenched blades.  Nothing like turning my face to the sky, though the drops fall too hard to keep my eyes open in the face of them.

My commute.  I keep wanting to post about this and then stop because it Roundaboutseems bizarre and hypocritical; if I could, I’d teleport to and from work to save myself some time.  But then I’d miss passing the farms on Ann Arbor Road, with their cows and horses and hay bales.  I’d miss the fields and foliage down Prospect.  I’d miss my favorite roundabout (…yep, I’ve got a favorite roundabout) on Geddes, that takes me down a two-lane road so shadowed by trees that it feels like a secret.  Pairs well with…

Driving with the windows down.  Instead of being packed like a lemming in my shiny metal box, I like to let the wind blow my hair around, thrust my hand out into the buffeting air, and feel the bite of rain showers.  It reminds me that I’m real.  It also helps me appreciate another fact about the summer: there’s no better time of year to listen to some good old country songs (which means, evidently, songs that aren’t quite as old as I am…).  Maybe it’s me, but there’s something summery these songs capture that newer tunes just don’t quite catch…a quiet drawl of slower days, perhaps, or a lack of pretension.

Clouds.  Storms.  Melpomene’s right on: clouds are a thing fantastic, rippling and shifting as if alive.  The light that glimmers upon them, or the shadows looming within them, is marvelous.  Add in flashes of lightning and the distant rumbling of thunder and you have my idea of summer, right there.  My co-workers all wonder why I run outside precisely when they run in…

Fireflies.  For those less fond of lightning itself, there’s always the lightning bug.  The back lawn is a haven for them; for hours every evening, they flicker on and off, little green will-o-the-wisps, a creature of faerie my camera cannot capture.  A friend caught one, but it’s just as fun to watch them fly about without pursuing them.

Fireflies

[These fireflies were captured by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu.]

Crepes.  Turns out that they’re much easier to make than I had thought.  Keep the batter thin and the pan hot, and voila!  You have yourself a lovely little vehicle for all manner of cheese, meats, fruits, jam, or (of course) Nutella.

Adventures.  This is an awfully big umbrella.  New films, drinks, sushi, and chocolatiers fit under it.  The heptacycle and all seven people riding fit under it.  A lovely old quadrangle with selections from Brideshead Revisited fits under it.  So does Neil Gaiman and the theater waiting to hear him.  So does the art gallery in need of a good mocking.  So do Shakespeare, grass stains, and six-hour road trips.  So does the process of meeting a friend through a friend, and thus meeting more friends, and suddenly having more friends and three jars of homemade jam.  Get out your adventure umbrella, y’all, because that’s what summer’s for!

Thursday Dances: Books’ Theme Songs

So.  The order of the day is Books I’d Give a Theme Song To.  This presents me with some difficulty; typically, a book’s plot or themes are more complex than any given song, and as such the song can’t necessarily represent the entirety of the book thematically…at least, not many songs I know.  Have we mentioned I don’t deal well with instrumental music?  I really have difficulty with musical comprehension without lyrics to grab hold of.

One way to circumvent both obstacles is to find a wordladen song for a not-very-wordy book: Smitten by Rachel Hale.  One of my brothers, knowing my love for kittens, gave it to me.  It’s not very involved (kittens accompany a variety of proverbs and other aphorisms), but I know the perfect song for it.

Then again, perhaps I can think of a couple stories encapsulated in song.  It’s been a while since I’ve read The Great Gatsby, but given what I recall of “the Trimalchio of West Egg,” either Richard Cory or If I Had it All would be apt.  Or, while rereading Brideshead Revisited, it would be appropriate to listen to Running Against the Sunset, This is the Time, or the outro (the last 3 minutes) of Broken Line.

But generally it’s much easier to think of a character I’d give a theme song to – or even a soundtrack!

For example, since my adolescence involved a lot of Harry Potter and a good deal of Billy Joel, certain of his songs inevitably bring Sirius Black to mind.  The man who enchanted an ordinary motorbike to fly would most certainly sing You May Be Right to whatever witch caught his fancy.  On reaching the English/wizarding drinking age (whichever comes first), he would indubitably act like a Big Shot.  And when his friends demand to know why he did such stupid things, his defense would sound an awful lot like I Go to Extremes.

Then the bomb hits.  Then they are all betrayed; then James and Lily die at Voldemort’s hand, Harry is entrusted to his relatives, and Sirius is led off to Azkaban.  It’s a completely different situation from the Vietnam War, and yet the tone of Goodnight Saigon strikes me as fitting.  Going crazy.  People getting killed around you.  Holding on to the few you can trust, and leaving more of your childhood behind with every day.  And when Sirius escapes, attempts to clear his name, rejoins the Order, and goes down in battle against Bellatrix Lestrange, I think the playlist goes from An Innocent Man to Honesty to Only the Good Die Young.

But Sirius isn’t the only one with a playlist.  More often than not, Dave Matthews Band’s tunes make me think of Severus Snape.  Given his years of love and admiration for Lily Evans, I am certain he would Sleep to Dream Her.  When the Dark Lord killed her on account of Snape’s reports of The Prophecy, he mourned that Grace is Gone.  From that moment, he was once more Captain of his own will rather than Voldemort.  He goes on living, turning against one master to serve another by brewing potions, not mutiny.  This, in some wise, serves as his penance: the unending certainty that you Pay for What You Get, and his payment is to watch over the Chosen OneHalf-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows play out to the tune of Cry Freedom, I Did It, and What You Are.

The last of my somewhat lengthy list is not from Harry Potter and may be a bit of a cheat, I fear.  “Prelude/Angry Young Man” brings Mr. Stephen Mayfield to mind, though he is not always angry and certainly not boring.  But unfortunately for most of you, Mr. Stephen Mayfield hails from the pages of Radicals and Royalists, a book which my friend Emily is working to publish and which I have gotten to read by virtue of having edited it.  So read a bit of it here, if’n you like, and I shall let you know when you can learn more of this particular character!

Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Thirty

The Book Meme Challenge: Your favorite book of all time

As you might well expect, my mind and my words are divided.

The first answer
It is folly to even think I could pick a favorite, if for no other reason than the fact that one cannot judge the whole before one has seen the whole – and well might I believe that I have not already met with all the books that I shall meet through the remainder of my life, however long or short it may be.  Were I to pick one of the books I have encountered already, that choice might come to look like folly later on.  Have you not yet learned enough from the posts you have already seen?

The second answer
Behold.

These are a few (which is to say, just over a hundred…forgive me for stretching the word past breaking point) of my favorite books.  Several should be recognizable from the past month; those that weren’t mentioned prior may prove fodder for later posts.

The third answer
Well has it been said that “all time” eventually excludes all outside the inspired Word of God.  Look here.

And now I bid May its last and official adieu, and go my way for other friends, friends fallen of all the wide world’s ends.  Thank you for reading, and please pardon all my indecision!

Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Eighteen

The Book Meme Challenge: A book that disappointed you

Sometimes you read a book expecting to dislike it, especially when forced to by The Man, or The Schoolteacher, or what have you.  And then you may be proven right, or else happily surprised.

But here are two titles which I expected to like, at least more than I did:

Tess of the D’urbervilles

I hate to be a spoiling Sue, so I’ll do my level best to stay away from the tail end of this book.  There’s enough disappointment in the first two-thirds or so, really.  It joins Romeo and Juliet on the shelf of books wherein great failures to communicate bring about terrible misfortune.

Trouble begins when Tess’s father, John Durbeyfield, learns that he has come from a noble family and  responds by (alas) behaving less nobly.  It is no way for a husband and father to act.  The responsibility and strain of getting to market, and later working to support the family, falls on Tess, who must “claim kin” and live some miles away.  She was willing to do it, but in the end I think she bore more than she ought to have done…

(there’s a double meaning in that)

Trouble continues, and then abates awhile, and then unhappiness manifests itself in new, more unpleasant ways.  Supposedly the book is meant to explore how modernity pulls men away from nature, to their detriment, and depict the tragedy of certain double standards.  But the fact remains that the characters are too afraid to speak the truth and thereafter suffer for failing to do so; they make other poor decisions besides; and at those times when it is most important for them to be generous and forgiving to each other, they aren’t.

Scoop

This is a simpler matter.  Pay attention in Victorian to Modern British Literature class when your professor mentions how Waugh’s later works differed substantially from Brideshead Revisited.  If you pick up Scoop hoping for something like Brideshead, there will only be tears.  Or, rather, there will be laughter, but at satire on the press rather than youthful ardor and Rex Mottram’s poor understanding of Catholicism.

Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Seventeen

The Book Meme Challenge: Favorite Quote from your Favorite Book

Indecision within indecision = you shall suffer my six or seven pages in Word!  MUAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!

From the lightning and the tempest,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the scourge of the earthquake,
O Lord, deliver us.
From plague, famine, and war,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the place of ground zero,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the rain of the cobalt,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the rain of the strontium,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the fall of the cesium,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the curse of the Fallout,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the begetting of monsters,
O Lord, deliver us.
From the curse of the Misborn,
O Lord deliver us.   –
Prayer from Chapter 2 of Fiat Homo, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller

But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiousity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.  – Charles Ryder, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

“Just the place to bury a crock of gold,” said Sebastian. “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.” – ibid.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. – Albus Dumbledore, HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain. – Arthur Weasley, HP and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

“I’m not blamin’ yeh…but I gotta tell yeh, I thought you two’d value yer friend more’n broomsticks or rats. Tha’s all.” – Rubeus Hagrid, HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

“Ah, of course. There is no need to tell me any more, Ms. Granger. Which one of you will be dying this year?” – Minerva McGonagall, ibid.

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. – Sirius Black, ibid.

“Well, I had one that I was playing Quidditch the other night,” said Ron, screwing up his face in an effort to remember. “What do you think that means?”
“Probably that you’re going to be eaten by a giant marshmallow or something,” said Harry, turning the pages of The Dream Oracle without interest.  – HP and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else… – ibid.

Somewhere out in the darkness, a phoenix was singing in a way Harry had never heard before: a stricken lament of terrible beauty. And Harry felt, as he had felt about phoenix song before, that the music was inside him, not without: It was his own grief turned magically to song that echoed across the grounds and through the castle windows. – HP and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling

“It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.” – Albus Dumbledore, ibid.

“What do I care how ‘e looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave!” – Fleur Delacour, ibid.

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? – Albus Dumbledore, HP and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” – Puddleglum, The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.
If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $20,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”
Just so, you might say to them: “The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.” And what good would it do to tell them that? They would shrug their shoulders, and treat you like a child. But if you said to them: “The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612,” then they would be convinced, and leave you in peace from their questions.
They are like that. One must not hold it against them. Children should always show great forbearance toward grown-up people.  – The Little Prince, Antoine de St.-Exupery

“What are you trying to say?”
“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… you– only you– will have stars that can laugh!”
And he laughed again.
“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… and your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”
And he laughed again.
“It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh…”  - ibid.

“Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger dare, even for an eggshell. Isn’t there something in that?” he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond. “Quite apart from God–though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn’t there something in living dangerously?”
“There’s a great deal in it,” the Controller replied. “Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.”
“What?” questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.
“It’s one of the conditions of perfect health. That’s why we’ve made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.”
“V.P.S.?”
“Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It’s the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences.”
“But I like the inconveniences.”
“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.” There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.
Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. “You’re welcome,” he said.   – Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The renewed shock had nearly made him spill his drink. He drained it quickly before anything serious happened to it. He then had another quick one to follow the first one down and check that it was all right.
“Freedom,” he said aloud.
Trillian came on to the bridge at that point and said several enthusiastic things on the subject of freedom.
“I can’t cope with it,” Zaphod said darkly, and sent a third drink down to see why the second hadn’t yet reported on the condition of the first. He looked uncertainly at both of her and preferred the one on the right.
He poured a drink down his other throat with the plan that it would head the previous one off at the pass, join forces with it, and together they would get the second to pull itself together. Then all three would go off in search of the first, give it a good talking to and maybe a bit of a sing as well.
He felt uncertain as to whether the fourth drink had understood all that, so he sent down a fifth to explain the plan more fully and a sixth for moral support.  – Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams

But then again of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all.  – A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. – The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.  – “As the Ruin Falls,” C.S. Lewis

Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
— No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
— Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.   – “The Naked Seed,” C.S. Lewis

There is no moon in that land, no star pierces the golden roof.  But the darkness was warm.  Sweet new scents came stealing out of it.  The world had no size now.  Its boundaries were the length and breadth of his hammock, swaying ever more and more gently.  Night covered him like a blanket and kept all loneliness from him.  The blackness might have been his own room.  Sleep came like a fruit which falls into the hand almost before you have touched the stem. – Perelandra, C.S. Lewis

“‘What you have made me see,’ answered the Lady, ‘is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before — that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished — if it were possible to wish — you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.   …You have made me see that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it. One can conceive a heart which did not: which clung to the good it had first thought of and turned the good which was given it into no good.  – ibid.

“Would you still obey the Life-Force if you found it prompting you to murder me?”
“Yes.”
“Or to sell England to the Germans?”
“Yes.”
“Or to print lies as serious research in a scientific periodical?”
“Yes.”
“God help you!” – Ransom and Weston, ibid.

“I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are his will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless he bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?” – Ransom, ibid.

As there is one Face above all worlds merely to see which is irrevocable joy, so at the bottom of all worlds that face is waiting whose sight alone is the misery from which none who beholds it can recover.  – ibid.

To walk out of his will is to walk into nowhere. – Tinidril, ibid.

“I will tell you what I say,” answered Ransom, jumping to his feet.  “Of course good came of it.   Is Maleldil a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape?  Whatever you do, He will make good of it.  But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him.  That is lost for ever.  The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought good of it in the end.  But what they did was not good; and what they lost we have not seen.  And there were some to whom no good came nor ever will come.”  He turned to the body of Weston.  “You,” he said, “tell her all.  What good came to you?  Do you rejoice that Maleldil became a man?  Tell her of your joys, and of what profit you had when you made Maleldil and death acquainted.” – ibid.

… He writhed and ground his teeth, but could not help seeing. Thus and not otherwise, the world was made. Either something or nothing must depend on individual choices. And if something, who could set bounds to it? A stone may determine the course of a river. He was that stone at this horrible moment which had become the centre of the whole universe. The eldila of all worlds, the sinless organisms of everlasting light, were silent in Deep Heaven to see what Elwin Ransom of Cambridge would do.  – ibid.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, here goes – I mean Amen – ibid.

“He is indeed but breathing dust and a careless touch would unmake him. And in his best thoughts there are such things mingled as, if we thought them, our light would perish. But he is in the body of Maleldil and his sins are forgiven.  – Malacandra, ibid.

“We know these things now,” said the king, seeing Ransom’s hesitation, “and this, all that happened in your world, Maleldil has put into our mind. We have learned evil, though not as the evil one wished us to learn.  We have learned better than that, and know it more, for it is waking that understands sleep and not sleep that understand waking.  There is an ignorance of evil that comes from being young: there is a darker ignorance that comes from doing it, as men by sleeping lose the knowledge of sleep.  You are more ignorant of evil in Thulcandra now than in the days before your Lord and Lady began to do it.  But Maleldil has brought us out of the one ignorance, and we have not entered the other.  – Tor, ibid.

“He has no need  at all of anything that is made.  An eldil is not more needful to Him than a grain of dust: a peopled world no more needful than a world that is empty: but all needless alike, and what all add to Him is nothing.  We also have no need of anything that is made.  Love me, my brothers, for I am infinitely superfluous, and your love shall be like His, born neither of your need nor of my deserving, but a plain bounty.  Blessed be He!  - ibid.

“But you will be anxious for me to (if I may use a vulgar expression) ‘cut the cackle, and come to the horses’(!!).  Katherine Climpson, Unnatural Death, Dorothy Sayers

I do hope it is not wrong to make use of the Church of God to a worldly end; but after all, you are only seeking to establish Truth and Justice!- and in so good a cause, we may perhaps permit ourselves to be a little bit JESUITICAL!!!  – ibid.

Peter hung up, whistling cheerfully, and called for Bunter.
“My lord?”
“What is the proper suit to put on,, when one is an expectant father?”
“I regret, my lord, to have seen no recent fashions in paternity wear. I should say, my lord, whichever suit your lordship fancies will induce a calm and cheerful frame of mind in the lady.”
“Unfortunately I don’t know the lady. She is, in fact, only the figment of an over-teeming-brain. But I think the garments should express bright hope, sel congratulation, and a tinge of tender anxiety.”
“A newly married situation, my lord, I take it. Then I would suggest the lounge suit in pale grey- the willow-pussy cloth, my lord- with a dull amethyst tie and socks and a soft hat. I would not recommend a bowler, my lord. The anxiety expressed in a bowler hat would be rather of the financial kind.”
“No doubt you are right, Bunter. And I will wear those gloves that got so unfortunately soiled yesterday at Charing Cross. I am too agitated to worry about a clean pair.”
“Very good, my lord.”
“No stick, perhaps.”
“Subject to your lordship’s better judgment, I should suggest that a stick may be suitably handled to express emotion.”
“You are always right, Bunter. Call me a taxi, and tell the man to drive to Tooting.” – ibid.

The great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.  – Book 2, The Ballad of the White Horse, G.K. Chesterton

“Nor shall all iron dooms make dumb
Men wondering ceaselessly,
If it be not better to fast for joy
Than feast for misery.
..
“Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.

“For our God hath blessed creation,
Calling it good. I know
What spirit with whom you blindly band
Hath blessed destruction with his hand;
Yet by God’s death the stars shall stand
And the small apples grow.”  – Book 3, ibid.

And the King said, “Do thou take my sword
Who have done this deed of fire,
For this is the manner of Christian men,
Whether of steel or priestly pen,
That they cast their hearts out of their ken
To get their heart’s desire.  – Book 5, ibid.

But he came at last to a glade open to the stars, and there Melian stood; and out of the darkness he looked at her, and the light of Aman was in her face. She spoke no word; but being filled with love Elwë came to her and took her hand, and straightway a spell was laid on him, so that they stood thus while long years were measured by the wheeling stars above them; and the trees of Nan Elmoth grew tall and dark before they spoke any word. – The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien

But of bliss and glad life there is little to be said, before it ends; as works fair and wonderful, while still they endure for eyes to see, are their own record, and only when they are in peril or broken for ever do they pass into song. – ibid.

Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Two

The Book Meme Challenge: A Book that You’ve Read More than 3 Times


This could refer to all manner of books, but I’m thinking Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited fits best here.  Unlike several other books I read in high school, Brideshead did not suffer for being under the intense scrutiny necessary for what literary analysis I was then capable of doing, such that I enjoyed it well enough when revisiting it in a British literature course, and re-read it before watching the 2008 film, and again last summer as part of a discussion group.

What keeps drawing me back to this book is the first section, Et in Arcadia Ego, with its descriptions of Charles meeting Sebastian, what mischief they get up to in and out of Oxford, the Brideshead Estate, and the rest of the Marchmain family.  It is perhaps the best example of the aforementioned Kingfisher Days, and Melpomene has mentioned how educational Charles and Sebastian are vis-à-vis drinking wine.  There is, of course, nothing quite so fun as drinking lots of cocktails while imitating Anthony Blanche.  Nor does it hurt that I’ve gotten to visit Oxford, all too briefly, and thus can envision Anthony Blanche “being put in Mercury” at Christchurch, or the Turf in Hell Passage, or the various winding roads.  The narrative is just rich with detail, and has a golden luxurious feel that I quite enjoy – though it’s been noted that Waugh himself, in later life, found the book “infused with a kind of gluttony…which now, with a full stomach, I find distasteful.”  We shall see how well I like it in later years, I suppose.

But the halcyon days hardly comprise the whole book, which is named by the frame of the story, wherein Charles, a middle-aged army man who has lost all love for army life, comes with his regiment to Brideshead, and remembers all the days spent there before.  The golden days of college (alas!) could not last; as Sebastian feels more and more constrained by his mother’s Catholic faith and the watchful eyes of Mr. Samgrass, he sinks further and further into alcoholism.  The old circle of friends breaks up, Charles and Sebastian drift further and further apart, while Charles and Julia drift closer together.

Ultimately, the book is about the operation of grace, though it would take a good deal more space to illustrate that (nor do I want to spoil the book utterly for the neophytes).  Were I a better reader or a better person, that would draw me back more than the youthful days presided over by Aloysius.  Cordelia’s quotation of Father Brown sums it up best:  “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”  Read on, and hark how “him” can refer to any sinner.  Then, should you ever be old or ugly or miserable, read it again and remember.

Perilous Pronouncement

I am preparing to throw myself into warfare with the Latin language this summer.

This is caused primarily because of the Academia-induced-madness, which requires that I be subjected to a language test in order to graduate.

Ergo, I must learn a language.

See that? How I effortlessly slipped a Latin word into my diction?

Latin and I must be fated to be together. My first brief excursion into the world of complicated declensions and conjugations – which are not the same thing! one is done to verbs and one is done to nouns but I can never remember which is which – in 7th and 8th grade has become romantic in the hazy past.

There were fun times with my class. Sitting around a table chanting “amo, amas, amat! amamos, amatis, amant!” Creating ridiculous stories to help us remember our vocabulary. Rolling the sharp syllables around the mouth and declaiming in strong accents, “Vvv-ear-toos ten-tah-mee-nay gow-deht!

All aided by the fact that the Latin I studied was studied under the Ecclesiastical  - or “medieval” – pronunciation of Latin.

In case you were wondering, Medieval Latin is the Latin that evolved through the ages and was passed down to our current time mainly by the usage of the Catholic church. The other kind of Latin, “Classical” Latin, was created by scholars who decided that an evolving language was not the real deal, and so they must make up rules about how they thought the ancient Romans pronounced their words.

Medieval Latin is lovely and graceful, the complete opposite of Classical Latin.

In Medieval Latin, Ceasar would have proclaimed,

V-ee-nie, v-ee-die, v-ee-chie!”

Every “v” pronounced, sounding strong and manly.

In Classical Latin, Chey-zahr would have mounted that hill to survey his conquest and uttered in tones tremulous with triumph,

Weenie, weedie, weakie! MwahahahaHAHAhaha!”  *evil snigger*

I cannot picture thousands of Roman Troops joyously following a leader who pronounced such wimpy sounding syllables. That soft “w” neither inspires trembling hearts not strikes terror into the hearts of enemies.

On the other hand, that would completely explain why those barbarians in the North refused to be cowed by such sissy-speakers. Also why to this day they defiantly pronounce the “w” as a “v”.

True, the barbarians prefered to berzerkly fling themselves onto enemy spears rather than to carefully strategize, but at least that was manly! Quite possibly stupid, but real masculinity is still more attractive than “weakie“.

And as a friend of masculine personage recently explained, “Stupidity and manliness are not mutually exclusive. Not synonymous, but definitely not incompatible.”

The propensity of the ancient world leaders to lisp their “V”s into “W”s and harshen their soft “C”s into “K”s is possible, (if unverifiable,) but I postulate that if we carry this theory through we will severely damage the reputations of the Classical heroes. If only because we will not be able to take their names seriously.

If Cicero was really pronounced as “Kick-er-row”, that is rather passable. We might smirk a bit, but this moniker still has some presence and virility.

But if we start to referring to the works of “Wuhr-gill” than the Aeneid might soon be laughed out of existence.

For some reason this Classical pronunciation of Virgil makes me conjure up a vision of chic Roman ladies, (with fashionably bobbed hair,) meeting at the Coliseum to gossip; “Have you read the latest Wuhrgill? Simply  too too naughty-making, dahling!” Classicism a la Waugh.

He does not approve.

And so with all this background and history of Latin, I prepare for a conquest of the language.

I need a war-cry. Dux Bellorum? I am not sure what that mean. Ora et labora? Not quite stirring enough. Ah.

Excelsior!!

Wine-Tasting With Sebastian Flyte

 

My approach to life is mitigated by my literary experience:

 

I look on foppishness as a form of intelligence. (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

I idealize turf houses. (My Antonia)

I become distressed when fashion logos sport a large, embellished initial. (The Scarlet Letter)

I have baked several different variations of Lembas and Meadowcream Cake. (Lord of the Rings and Redwall)

I see mustachios and begin to think of little grey cells. (Hercule Poirot)

So it is completely natural, rational, and even compulsory that my guide to wine-tasting would be Sebastian Flyte. The explorations that Sebastian and Charles make into the world of fermenting grapes will forever form my methods of trying, tasting, and testing wines.

 

 

 

Step One:

Activate interest and willingness to form new friendships.

“Wilcox welcomed our interest; we had bottles brought up from every bin, and it was during those tranquil evenings with Sebastian that I first made a serious acquaintance with wine and sowed the seed of that rich harvest that was to be my stay in many barren years.”

 

Step Two:

Be open to learning and seeking knowledge.

“We would sit, he and I, in the Painted Parlor with three bottles open on the table and three glasses before each of us: Sebastian had found a book on wine-tasting, and we followed the instructions in detail.”

 

Step Three:

Coax out the best taste and enjoyment.

“We warmed the glass slightly at a candle, filled a third of it, swirled the wine around, nursed it in out hands held it to the light, breathed it, sipped it, filled our mouths with it and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it on the palate like a coin on the counter, tilted our heads back and let it trickle down the throat.”

 

Step Four:

Develope and share the joy.

“Then we talked of it and nibbled Bath Oliver biscuits, and passed on to another wine; then back to the first, then on to another, until all three were in circulation and the order of glasses got confused and we fell out over which was which, and we passed the glasses to and fro between us until there were six glasses, some of them with mixed wines in them which we had filled from the wrong bottle, till we were obliged to  to start over with three clean glasses each, ad the bottles were empty and our praises of them wilder and more exotic .”

 

Step Five:

Expend praise and poetry magnaminously.

” ‘ . . . It is like a little, shy wine like a gazelle.’
‘Like a leprechaun.’
‘Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.’
‘Like a flute by still water.’
‘ . . . and this is  wise old wine.’
‘A prophet in a cave.’
‘ . . . and this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.’
‘Like a swan.’
‘Like the last unicorn.’”

 

Final Step:

Find the point of hilarity, (but not much further,) to paraphrase Thomas Aquinas.

“On a  sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate strawberries and drank the wine – as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together – and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger’s breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.”