Friday, August 30, 2013

Beorn To Be Alive

There seems to be a little controversy about Peter Jackson's portrayal of Tolkien's ursine skinchanger in the forthcoming movie, The Desolation of Smaug. That last picture is a blurry reveal, and what has most people grumbling is what has been referred to as a "mohawk/mullet" or "Sonic the Hedgehog hairstyle."

Update!! Revealed at last! Beorn from the 2014 calendar!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Old Adam, the Carrion Crow

Old Adam, the Carrion Crow

Old Adam, the carrion crow,
The old crow of Cairo;
He sat in the shower, and let it flow
Under his tail and over his crest;
And through every feather
Leak'd the wet weather;
And the bough swung under his nest;
For his beak it was heavy with marrow.
Is that the wind dying? O no;
It's only two devils, that blow,
Through a murderer's bones, to and fro,
In the ghosts' moonshine.

Ho! Eve, my grey carrion wife,
When we have supped on king's marrow,
Where shall we drink and make merry our life?
Our nest it is queen Cleopatra's skull,
'Tis cloven and crack'd,
And batter'd and hack'd,
But with tears of blue eyes it is full:
Let us drink then, my raven of Cairo!
Is that the wind dying? O no;
It's only two devils, that blow
Through a murderer's bones, to and fro,
In the ghosts' moonshine.

Thomas Lovell Beddoes

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Time and Space: Something From Chapter Thirteen

"[H]e made short work of what I have called my "chronological snobbery," the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also "a period," and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them."
--C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, Ch. 13.

"The opposite mode of thought which he had often mocked and called in mockery The Empirical Bogey, came surging into his mind — the great myth of our century with its gases and galaxies, its light years and evolutions, its nightmare perspectives of simple arithmetic in which everything that can possibly hold significance for the mind becomes the mere by-product of essential disorder. Always till now he had belittled it, had treated with a certain disdain its flat superlatives, its clownish amazement that different things should be of different sizes, its glib munificence of ciphers. Even now, his reason was not quite subdued, though his heart would not listen to his reason. Part of him still knew that the size of a thing is its least important characteristic, that the material universe derived from the comparing and mythopœic power within him that very majesty before which he was now asked to abase himself, and that mere numbers could not over-awe us unless we lent them, from our own resources, that awfulness which they themselves could no more supply than a banker’s ledger."
— C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, ch. 13

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Satyrday: Sorcery, by Walter de la Mare

SORCERY, by Walter de la Mare

"What voice is that I hear
Crying across the pool?"
"It is the voice of Pan you hear,
Crying his sorceries shrill and clear,
In the twilight dim and cool."

"What song is it he sings,
Echoing from afar;
While the sweet swallow bends her wings,
Filling the air with twitterings,
Beneath the brightening star?"

The woodman answered me,
His faggot on his back:--
"Seek not the face of Pan to see;
Flee from his clear note summoning thee
To darkness deep and black!"

"He dwells in thickest shade,
Piping his notes forlorn
Of sorrow never to be allayed;
Turn from his coverts sad
Of twilight unto morn!"

The woodman passed away
Along the forest path;
His ax shone keen and grey
In the last beams of day:
And all was still as death:--

Only Pan singing sweet
Out of Earth's fragrant shade;
I dreamed his eyes to meet,
And found but shadow laid
Before my tired feet.

Comes no more dawn to me,
Nor bird of open skies.
Only his woods' deep gloom I see
Till, at the end of all, shall rise,
Afar and tranquilly,
Death's stretching sea.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Few Pictures Squirreled Away

We had to memorize that squirrel poem in first grade--that and "Who Has Seen The Wind?"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Greek Paganism, Six Centuries Before The Birth Of Jesus Christ

"The sixth century [B.C.], in which Aeschylus passed his early years, was one of great stir and movement in matters of religion and speculation. The old theogonies of Homer and Hesiod, with their primitive morality and simple conception of the gods, had long since failed to satisfy the higher minds among the nation. The prevalence of deeper aspirations and a more searching curiosity is proved by many symptoms...

"The work which Aeschylus set himself to perform, as a moral teacher, was to reconcile the popular religion with the more advanced conceptions of his time, by purifying its grossness and harmonizing its various inconsistencies. In this attempt he was more successful than might have been expected. The primitive legends, remodelled and reilluminated by his genius, acquire ... an unwonted grandeur and impressiveness. But the task was one of insuperable difficulty. The old Greek mythology, with its medley of beauties and monstrosities, and of graceful fancies and coarse brutalities, hardly admitted of being systemized into a perfect whole. It was impossible, therefore, that Aeschylus, in endeavouring to accomplish this result, should avoid occasional incongruities, or that the scheme expounded in his writings should be complete and symmetrical in all its parts. Few, however, will deny that in his hands the religion of the Greeks has been raised to a higher level of moral dignity than it ever attained either before or since.

"The first point to be noticed, in regard to his religious views, is the sublime conception of Zeus as the supreme ruler of the universe. The other deities are represented as merely the ministers of his will, and though still possessing their usual characteristics, stand in subordinate rank. The language applied to Zeus is monotheistic in tone, and his praises are chanted in strains of the loftiest exaltation. He is "king of kings, most blessed of the blessed, most mighty of rulers." His power "knows no superior, nor is any one enthroned above him; swifter than speech is the accomplishment of his purpose." He "holds for ever the balance of the scales: nothing comes to mortal man but by the will of Zeus." "Zeus is sky, and earth, and heaven; Zeus is all things, yea, greater than all things." His power, though invisible, is omnipotent and omnipresent. "Dark and shadowy," it is said, "are the pathways of his counsels, and difficult to see. From their high-towering hopes he hurleth down to destruction the race of men. Yet setteth he no forces in array, all his works are effortless. Seated on holiest throne, from thence, unknown to us, he bringeth his will to pass."

"This noble conception of Zeus, it cannot be denied, is scarcely consistent with the character which he bears in Greek mythology, or with the actions which he sometimes performs even in Aeschylus himself...

"Zeus, then, in the conception of Aeschylus, is the ruler of all created things. But he is not a capricious monarch, swayed by casual passions, like the Zeus of Homer. To act with injustice is impossible to him; he is "constrained" never to assist transgressors. There is a universal law of justice, a moral ordinance governing the whole world, to which even he must submit. This law is called by different names -- Fate, Destiny, Justice, Necessity; but under these various terms the same all-embracing rule is denoted, as many passages will prove. Thus Fate is said to "whet the blade of Justice"; Destiny "forges for Justice her sword"; the Fates "guide the helm of Necessity." The special instruments by which, in the case of the more heinous offences, this law of strict justice is enforced are the Furies, the daughters of the Night. These dread goddesses of the underworld, in whom the spirit of vengeance is personified, derive their functions from Fate; whence they are called, in mythical fashion, the sisters of the Fates. Their mission is to pursue criminals, and crush them with misery and misfortune. Their aspect is loathsome and horrible, so as to strike terror into the guilty soul."

--from The Tragic Drama of the Greeks. A.E. Haigh. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896. pp. 86-96.

The entire essay is online, and well worth a read.

Minority Interest To Mainstream Popularity

"...I felt on the one hand vindicated and on the other a little deflated, as though the crowd had found their way into the secret garden. One of the most unattractive human traits, and so easy to fall into, is the resentment at the sudden shared popularity of a previously private pleasure. Which of us hasn't been annoyed when a band, writer, artist or television series that had been a minority interest of ours has suddenly achieved mainstream popularity? When it was at a cult level we moaned at the philistinism of a world that didn't appreciate it, and now that they do appreciate it we're all resentful and dog-in-the-manger about it."

---Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles, p. 370.

I know I felt this way after the Lord of the Rings films came out, if the vast fandom Tolkien had before can be considered a "minority" compared to the widespread awareness it now enjoys. Still have twinges of that annoyance now and then.

The Conversion of Iceland

Þorgeir Þorkelsson Ljósvetningagoði (born ca. 940) was an Icelandic lawspeaker in Iceland's Althing from 985 to 1001.

In the year 999 or 1000, Iceland's legislative assembly was debating which religion they should practice: Norse paganism or Christianity. Þorgeir, himself a pagan priest and chieftain (a goði), decided in favour of Christianity after a day and a night of silent meditation under a fur blanket, thus averting potentially disastrous civil conflict. Under the compromise, pagans could still practise their religion in private and several of the old customs were retained. After his decision, Þorgeir himself converted to Christianity. Upon returning to his farm Ljósavatn, he is said to have thrown the idols of his gods into a nearby waterfall, for which it is now known in Icelandic as Goðafoss, the "waterfall of the gods".

Þorgeir's story is preserved in Ari Þorgilsson's Íslendingabók.

Source: Wikipedia.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Fairy Hunt, by Francis Ledwidge

A Fairy Hunt

Who would hear the fairy horn
Calling all the hounds of Finn
Must be in a lark's nest born
When the moon is very thin.

I who have the gift can hear
Hounds and horn and tally ho,
And the tongue of Bran as clear
As Christmas bells across the snow.

And beside my secret place
Hurries by the fairy fox,
With the moonrise on his face,
Up and down the mossy rocks.

Then the music of a horn
And the flash of scarlet men,
Thick as poppies in the corn
All across the dusky glen.

Oh! the mad delight of chase!
Oh ! the shouting and the cheer !
Many an owl doth leave his place
In the dusty tree to hear.

Francis Ledwidge

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Skulk of Foxes

"A fox passing through the wood on business of his own stopped several minutes and sniffed. "Hobbits!" he thought. "Well, what next? I have heard of strange doings in this land, but I have seldom heard of a hobbit sleeping out of doors under a tree. Three of them! There's something mighty queer behind this." He was quite right, but he never found out more about it." -The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien.