Thursday, January 16, 2020

Christopher Tolkien Passes Away at Age 95

I really didn't want to write this post, for several reasons. Primarily, of course, because this is very sad news. Less of importance is the further weight it places on my seasonal gloom. I cannot add anything more to his importance: how he heard "The Hobbit" from J. R. R. Tolkien as a bedtime story with his siblings, the support and interest he showed his father during the writing of "The Lord of the Rings", his re-drawing of the Middle Earth maps to replace his father's original sketches, his constant work as conservator of his father's legendarium up until almost a year ago. Did he resign because he knew he was going to die, or did he pass away because he felt he could finally rest?

What can I say that would add to that? I can only recount my own opinions of him through the years. When I first heard about Christopher Tolkien, I couldn't help but feel jealous. Next to actually being Professor Tolkien, what could be better than being his son? Then I was annoyed with him in the person of the Tolkien Estate, and the slowness of the release of unpublished work. Only gradually did I become aware of the enormous task he had taken on his shoulders, and his protection of his father's legacy. The more I learned about his own unique qualifications, his enormous scholarship, his careful analysis of the ancient, sometimes overwritten pile of manuscripts that had become scattered through the years, the more I appreciated his efforts. In the end I respected him almost as much as his father, if only for protecting Middle Earth from even my own juvenile desires.

What happens to this legacy now that the door-warden is gone? I shudder to think what comes after. But Christopher Tolkien's work will still stand as an enduring monument, whatever grows up around it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Dane-Geld

Dane-Geld

A.D. 980-1016

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"

--Rudyard Kipling

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Reporter, a Prose Poem by Ivan Turgenev

Two friends were sitting at a table drinking tea.

A sudden hubbub arose in the street. They heard pitiable groans, furious
abuse, bursts of malignant laughter.

'They're beating someone,' observed one of the friends, looking out of
window.

'A criminal? A murderer?' inquired the other. 'I say, whatever he may be,
we can't allow this illegal chastisement. Let's go and take his part.'

'But it's not a murderer they're beating.'

'Not a murderer? Is it a thief then? It makes no difference, let's go and
get him away from the crowd.'

'It's not a thief either.'

'Not a thief? Is it an absconding cashier then, a railway director, an army
contractor, a Russian art patron, a lawyer, a Conservative editor, a social
reformer? … Anyway, let's go and help him!'

'No… it's a newspaper reporter they're beating.'

'A reporter? Oh, I tell you what: we'll finish our glasses of tea first
then.'

Saturday, January 4, 2020