...except the sudden restlessness of a January night.
Only at midnight
When the hands of the clock stood up tall
Did we guess how large
The world was
When the round curve
Of the moon in unbroken deeps
Shivered the scudding clouds
And burst past branches
With a revelation:
The loneliness betwixt
Might be, not in her,
But us. It may be we
(An old deep legend) who
Are broken, while the world
Dances through unspoken
Beauty confounds us
By being good.
It is not the dead that
Walk at this deep birth
Of dawn, but the Living
And all things shake loose
Our words, brimming to
Being, and sow us
Speechless with wonder.
1) first of all, clearly the most relevant thing about the last month of my life is that I am currently wearing a striped nightcap that is edged with fur and has bells at the end. This is because one of my housemates, Rachael, is awesome and made me one over break!
2) classes start on Wednesday: I'm taking intermediate German (GESUNDHEIT!), Artes Liberales (a course on the liberal arts? YES.), Latin prose composition (O TEMPORA O MORES), Shakespeare (maybe auditing?), and writing my thesis...and of course bagpipes and highland dance. And working (stuffing envelopes has never been so glamorous!). Busy, but it should be fun.
3) applying to the University of Dallas for its program in Humanities! Wish me luck.
4) books over break! I actually got some reading done.
> The Divine Comedy (Dante): for my thesis, though it was equally "pleasure reading." I thought it was good in high school; this time around it was great. I came back from last semester, after two classes in the Victorian to Modern period (one in English literature, one in American), thoroughly depressed and even a little shaken. Carlyle, Arnold, Tennyson, Frost, Pound, Stevens--strong men with broken hearts, desiring beauty (an impossibility) in an emtpy universe (the last absurdity) and framing that terrible, godless pilgrimage with such intensity and eloquence that it twists your soul to read them. And then men like Beckett and Stoppard, who at last have the honesty to give up the quest. Life is one long wait for death, so you might as well laugh and dance but it means nothing and you mean nothing and the universe means nothing. Hemingway's famous "nada" is over all. No wonder the Great Conversation falters, when even the indignant 20th century monologues to the void trail into silence and the throb of telos wrenched from essence subsides into dull ache of coping with existence, the slow acceptance of final despair. Even your hunger for "truth" meant nothing. Atoms in the void. 2000 years of sophisication later and we have returned to Lucretius, and terror is in his eyes.
Dante lead me back. Back to a world where the Great Conversation could exist because words and humans--and, incidentally, the whole universe--meant something. Back to a literature where a poet could say something that was beautiful not with the piercing elegance of framing an Absence, but with the thundering physical joy of describing that which is. Back to a place where the necessary logical conclusion of philosophy is not the abandonment of philosophy and humanity, things and ideas equally unmeaning, but the affirmation of both as participants in a greater dance, seekers together of the the End of Desire (and neither the End nor the desire denied). Back to a time before the broken heart had lead (as it always must) to a broken mind.
Back, finally, to a place where the search that we call life (and education) is not an eternal wandering--but a Return. Ultimately it may be that that is the only basis on which either can be justified.
> The Discarded Image (Lewis): pleasure reading. A fascinating and succinct summary of the medieval worldview.
> The Roman Triumph (Mary Beard): read for a paper I may or may not be working on. Anyhow, a very in depth treatment of what the triumph meant in Roman culture and how much we actually know about the ceremony itself. Great for hardcore classics nerds!
> The Place of the Lion (Charles Williams): Plato meets Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite...and 20th Century England. My favorite Williams book and my third time through it--another one that has improved with each reading.
Next on the list, besides school stuff: The World of Late Antiquity (Peter Brown) and Gilead (Marilynne Robinson).
I ought to be working on my application. What books have you read of late? :)
It occurs to me that it has been a very, very long time since I updated. And VPA peeps—I miss you all so much.
It’s November. The time when you start to wonder if you ever weren’t studying. I stayed in Hillsdale over break to work on papers; I have an 11 page draft on the Forum of Augustus and a couple pages on a modern short story (though not much at all on David Copperfield/Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man…) to show for it. (it didn’t help that, according to my Thanksgiving tradition, I got sick on Thursday and haven’t kicked the bug yet.) OOOONNNE MOOOORE DAAAY, OOONE DAAAY MOOORE--and then two swift weeks till finals.
As antidotes to the stress (Kelly somehow I think you’ll appreciate this):
Last week, Monday morning at 6:30 AM (OUT OF OUR MINDS) two of my good friends, Rachael and Laura, and I dressed up as a German polka band (Rachael with her accordion (and a stuffed monkey), Laura with a tambourine, I with my fiddle), donned cardboard signs that said “elevator music” and “need a lift?” and proceeded to lurk in the elevator of the teachers’ building from 7-8:30, BURSTING into song every time the door opened. After that we targeted favorite professors (I translated the chorus to “you are my sunshine” into Latin for my Latin professor), culminating in a leisurely, obstreperous stroll down the top floor of the administration building where we amused the provost and associate provost (and their secretaries) with a rousing version of “waltzing with bears.” It was a vision of insanity.
The weather was super warm and spring-like last week, oddly enough…so one night instead of studying at 1am, I took an hour long walk with Laura. We danced in the street and played leapfrog in the grass and lay looking at the cloudy sky, and probably convinced security we were drunk on something besides life and stress and the sharp realization of being seniors.
Now there is ice on the puddles; winter has descended upon the trees and it smells of snow.
I’ll be in Phoenix over Christmas. Will you?
Let’s hang out.
So, in case any of you don't know, I'm off to Turkey w/ the honors program tomorrow....ergo if/when you try to call me, you will be receiving a very lovely voicemail until about the 30th of May!
Here's the schedule: looks like fun.
Sun, May 09, Depart Detroit (DTW)
Mon, May 10 Arrive Istanbul by KL 1615 at 1:45 pm. Tue, May 11 Hagia Sophia, Archaeology Museum, Blue Mosque, Underground Cistern, Grand Bazaar
Wed, May 12 Travel to Ankara. Visit Ataturk Mausoleum.
Thu, May 13 Anatolian Civilization Museum, Ankara citadel, travel to Bogazköy, Hattusas tour
Fri, May 14 Drive to Cappadocia, Pigeon Valley, Uçhisar, Cave restaurant
Sat, May 15 Derinkuyu underground city, Göreme, Carpet Shop, Sirca Seramik(optional: Whirling Dervish performance)
Sun, May 16 Travel to Urfa- Antioch on the Orontes, St Peter church/cave
Mon, May 17 Abraham cave, Citadel, Church/Mosque Shopping, leisure
Tue, May 18 Travel to Nemrut, Ataturk Baraji, Nemrut climb, sunset.
Wed, May 19 Travel to Içel/Mersin, stop in Tarsus, leisure, swim at hotel, Maiden Castle
Thu, May 20 Travel to Antalya, via the long Mediterranean Coast.
Fri, May 21 Visit Perga, Aspendos and award winning Archaeological Museum.
Sat, May 22 Travel to Pamukkale via Mound of Colossae and Laodicea
Sun, May 23 Hierapolis, Cotton Castle, Aphrodisias
Mon, May 24 Efes, St Mary Church, Museum, St John, shopping.
Tue, May 25 Travel to Pergamum via Sardis, Philadelphia, Thyatira, leisure, swim at hotel
Wed, May 26 Visit Pergamum Acropolis - Drive to Çanakkale
Thu, May 27 Travel to Istanbul via Troy, Ferry across Dardanelles, visit Gallipoli
Fri, May 28 St Chora, Topkapi Palace, Boat Tour, Dinner and Show at Istanbul Inn Night Club. Late evening transfer to Istanbul Airport.
Sat, May 29 Depart by KL 1610 departure at 06:40 am.
Most excited about: "travel to Istanbul via Troy." OH YEAH HEINRICH HERE I COME. In the footsteps of Michael Wood? For sure. Will I be sleeping with a copy of the Iliad under my pillow? It's possible. Watch out, Asia Minor.
Veritas peeps: I miss you guys. Sorry I fail at updating lj pretty much....ever. Let's hang out this summer.
“Home is where we start from.”
We scanned the stars, but found in them
Scarce food for such a hunger. In our pools
They were no nearer, but they were pure
And so satisfied, for a while, our thirst
For the bright eternal. By day our visions
Mocked us: they had not the gentle tangibility
Of roses, or goblets, or our roofs
At evening when the patterned infinite
Untouchable troubled our souls.
This star was different. We followed,
Did not dare to hope—knew not what to hope
Or if the restless dream was more
Than our own inescapable interstices.
When we arrived, after long doubt
And journeying and sunrises
We wanted to think of as meaningful,
We only recognized the end of the journey
When we felt we had reached its beginning.
The common forms which at home had been
A dull ache without revelation, now broke us with joy
As we read the galaxies in his impossible eyes
And worshipped the bodily God.
I want the spring again, but not this falling.
Or rather both, without the return: each season
Shows us not enough, birth ending
In death, hearts renewed and dried
And restless in the chill October—
Seeking in vain to be shattered
Feet wander under a cerulean sky, alone.
Vermillion hands caress the wind with whispers
Of some fierce and homely thing, so near
That our hearts break for proximity
But cannot remember. What is its name? Do we
We cannot see behind the clouds, nor catch
The singing of the trees at dawn. Their leaves are
Drifting. Our hearts fall with them, fluttering
With crimson desire.
Will the wandering lead us home?
And who shall brave for us
The quiet winter
And who shall clothe these thunderings
And who shall grace us
The old ways surrender
To the unity of snow,
Forgotten. This at last
Is the soul of their pattern.
What mystery troubles the air
With peace? What purity
Glints on the lamp-lit world
And makes it small?
Night is swaddled in stillness and stars,
And everything waits—without
The restlessness of summer,
Or the pang of autumn, or the sudden
Comfort of spring; and patience
Dances at midnight
It is the heart of winter
The silent benediction
Soothing daffodils and dead leaves,
Birth and death and aching
Silent waiting for a Coming,
Silent knowledge that it has already come,
And the second coming will justify
The schism of the seasons.
I have been posting most sporadically this semester...but scenes such as the one outside tonight are not such as can be kept to oneself. Long story short: We just had a surprise April snowfall. Short story longer:
I just walked back through one campus and it was possibly the most beautiful I have ever seen it. 3am, early April, and four inches of (still falling) wet, flaky snow that has clung to everything. Every twig, every branch, the bark and the lamps, everything—covered in inches of snow. Everything filled out, made larger, made new and mysterious; and for the first time I saw the lamps dotting campus for what they really are. They are the lights of faerie. They are not the dull orange lamps of the rest of the year; they are the bright eyes of another realm filling the alabaster world with their cheerful, cold, living glow. Trees and bushes bend beneath the weight of the snow, sometimes rustle beautifully in the wind, dropping chunks of their burden (silvae laborantes!); it is faerie. Campus is literally different tonight. There is reality out there, in the snow carefully clinging to every point of the eagles’ wings, and the shining seldom-revealed lights and the tall white enrobed trees; reality that only now and then—perhaps only today, only today out of all eternity—has shown itself to the mortal eyes of a few students, stumbling to their dorms through grace and wonder and falling snow.
A walk back from late night Latin studying, and a new world of fresh fluffy snow to walk through: half an hour's scribbling later, and here we are. Just thoughts, scattered and free as the snow though considerably less delicate and tragically less graceful. Perhaps I shall someday harmonize them into poetry. perhaps not.
The ways that had become familiar
Collide softly with the less known
Campus bisected and defined by circuitous paths
Becomes a mysterious unity of whiteness
Shapes usually large and imposing in the daily air
Shrink before the simple monstrosity of purity
All thoughts are suspended, all daily life
(which should have this at its heart, which should
Through the paths remember the whole
And remember the waiting which our patterns
Are meant to enfold, to reveal) is swaddled in stillness
And everything waits: without the restlessness
Of summer twilight, without the vague dissatisfaction
Of autumn or the sudden comfort of spring, waits
And patience is indissoluble from joy .
In the stillness, between the bleary awe of finals-weary students,
The snow angels cheerfully emblazoned by the more industrious, and
Cloudcover and covered paths and yellow lights of Fairie—
Silent waiting for a Coming, silent knowledge that it has already come
And the second fulfillment will justify the schism of the seasons
The world hangs gently
Between the stars’ bright eyes
And your dragon breath
On the winter air
Walk softly, lest you wake
Our Savior, coming now with the frost
Sparkling hard on the fall ground
(your heart too frosted, and beautiful
In its breaking, His breaking, and
Through these half-fallen leaves
And branches bare in the restless crisp
Of darkness, walk softly
(at the edges of things, where hope is sharp
And souls are sleeping);
Somewhere behind these trees,
Behind your soul—more bare than they—
One is moving with the deep thrill
Of winter wind
And trees leaf-fallen and fallen heart
Will birth to life again