Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Catching Borogoves for Beginners


This is maybe my favourite poem ever: Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.
'Twas brilling, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
I apologise for the necessity of placing dashes between the stanzas. Blogspot would not format it correctly otherwise.

End of October Update


Judging by the number of excerpts I've posted, you can maybe tell my creative energy is being directed elsewhere. This is true. I am writing a fair bit, but I'm not posting much because of the vain belief that I could actually get it published. I may have to send it off to a magazine or something to actually do that, but all in good time.

I do have more excerpts to post, though, but maybe I'll follow them up with discussion.

And, in parting:


Monday, 29 October 2007

Further Excerpts from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity

In a book that re-affirms old-fashioned values and conservatism, I found the following section quite fresh. Of course, I'm not advocating that it's true--I tend not to advocate very much as true--but I am suggesting you think about it, especially in light of the emphasis on "pagan nudity" in colonial missionary texts. I feel somewhat uncomfortable posting this, but I do like to instigate thought, so here we go.

From Book 3: Christian Behaviour, Chapter 5: Sexual Morality

"We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity. The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of 'modesty' (in one sense of that word); ie. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing harldy any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally 'modest', proper, or decent, according to the standard of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare's time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely adandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable. I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing. At its present stage, however, it has this inconvenience, that people of different ages and different types do not all acknowledge the same standard, and we hardly know where we are. While this confusion lasts I think that old, or old-fashioned, people should be very careful not to assume that young or 'emancipated' people are corrupt whenever they are (by the old standard) improper; and, in return, that young people should not call their elders prudes or puritans because they do not easily adopt the new standard. A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most of the problems."

See the previous C. S. Lewis post for references.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

A Sampling of John Donne

In my humble opinion, John Donne is pretty awesome. Here are some cases in point:

Elegy 19. To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labor, I in labor lie.
The foe ofttimes having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear
That th' eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed-time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals
As when from flowery meads the' hill's shadow steals.
Off with that wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow;
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love's hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven's angels used to be
Received by men; thou, angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet's paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
There where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee.
As souls unbodied, bodies clothed must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's balls, cast in men's views,
That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings, made
For laymen, are all women thus arrayed;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see revealed. Then since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
Here is no penance, much less innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first, why then
What need'st thou have more covering than a man?

And then his Holy Sonnets


Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
but is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy.
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.
What! is it she which on the other shore
Goes richly painted? or which, robbed and tore,
Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
Is she self-truth, and errs? now new, now outwore?
Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
First travel we to seek, and then make love?
Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,
And let mine amorous soul court thy mild dove,
Who is most true and pleasing to thee then
When she is embraced and open to most men.

To help interpretation, Christ's spouse is understood to be the church . . . the more people welcome in the church, the better it is . . . so this is an interesting working of the idea that the more men Christ's wife is "open" to--read that with a dirty mind--the more he loves her.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Excerpts from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity

Lacking any writing that I feel that I can publish here--I do have some writing, but due to the theoretical possibility of publishing it in print, I'll avoid posting it here--I will post assorted excerpts from Mere Christianity to keep whatever readers I have entertained until I manage to scratch something together.

As a sidebar: recall the time period in which Lewis was writing. I most certainly do not agree with some of the things Lewis says, especially regarding gender equality or same-sex issues. However, that does not change the basis of the arguments I quote here.

From Book Three: Christian Behaviour, Chapter 4: Morality and Psychoanalysis

"When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. One is that act of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious. Thus fear of things that are really dangerous would be an example of the first kind: an irrational fear of cats or spiders would be an example of the second kind. The desire of a man for a woman would be of the first kind: the perverted desire of a man for a man would be of the second. Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man better raw material for his acts of choice; morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.

"Put it this way. Imagine three men who go to a war. One has the ordinary natural fear of danger that any man has and he subdues it by moral effort and becomes a brave man. Let us suppose that the other two have, as a result of things in their subconscious, exaggerated, irrational fears, which no amount of moral effort can do anything about. Now suppose that a psychoanalyst comes along and cures these two: that is, he puts them back in the position of the first man. Well it is just then that the psychoanalytical problem is over and the moral problem begins. Because, now that they are cured, these two men might take quite different lines. The first might say, 'Thank goodness I've got rid of all those doo-dahs. Now at last I can do what I always wanted to do--my duty to my country.' But the other might say, 'Well, I'm very glad that I now feel moderately cool under fire, but, of course, that doesn't alter the fact that I'll still jolly well determined to look after Number One and let the other chap do the dangerous job whenever I can. Indeed one of the good things about feeling less frightened is that I can now look after myself much more efficiently and can be much cleverer at hiding the fact from others.' Now this difference is a purely moral one and psychoanalysis cannot do anything about it. However much you improve the man's raw material, you have still got something else: the real, free choice of the man, on the material presented to him, either to put his own advantage first or to put it last. And this free choice is the only thing morality is concerned with.

"The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to be repented of, but to be cured. And by the way, that is very important. Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathelogical horror of cats forces himself to pick up a cat for some good readon, it is quite possible that in God's eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown winning the V.C. When a man who had been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God's eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend."

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1952.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A New Update


I don't have much to update. I'm terribly busy right now.
I have labeled all of the posts, though, so if you read anything you like, you can look up others you like.
If I do get anything good, I'll post it.
Oh, and I've been updating my list of Books I Think People Should Read (August 2007), so if it's been awhile, you may want to check that out.


Friday, 5 October 2007

Benediction to Reason (A Hymn of Confusion)

God, in His infinite wisdom,
Chose not to make sense;
God, in His infinite wisdom,
Defies the laws that we obey;
God, in His infinite wisdom,
Made logic a bridgeless void.

How, God, do You dare craft a realm of reason
for the people of Your creation
to find order and solace and comfort
and then mutate it
so that You appear an impotent father,
a cruel benefactor,
or an idle warden?

Why, God, do You give us minds of reason
that explore the form of Your creation
to order and find and conform
and then demand us
to worship something rebelling against
the limits that You imposed
when You forged us?

O God,
I was comfortable in my bed
of reason in the earth;
I was comfortable contained
in the rigid box of geometry;
I was comfortable buried
beneath the weight of evidence.

O God,
I like the linear planks
composing the base of my bed;
I like the corners’ symmetry
pairing from side to side;
I like the neat stitches
marching along the fabric edge.

I hear You knock, O Grave-robber
on the logical lid;
I heard the blade of Your shovel
overturn the stones and the grit;
You pry at the lid
but I do not know what I will find
in the open spaces
above the firmness
of soil’s history and touch.

My heart pushes
in irregular rhythm
dying blood through my body,
yet it rebels against the tomb
my life resides in
and it affects my stubborn brain.

Excavate me O God
drag my corpse from the dying grounds
steal my cadaver
from the structure of plots
take my body through the formal cemetery gate
and into your paradoxical paradise

I think that I can do better than this. Sometime soon I will try to render this into something that starts out with form and then changes to free verse. But I wanted to post something new and decided that this would have to do until then.
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