Archive for December, 2014

December 26, 2014

that trinity of eating, drinking and praying

Dickens had in his buffoonery and bravery the spirit of the Middle Ages. He was much more mediaeval in his attacks on medievalism than they were in their defences of it. It was he who had the things of Chaucer, the love of large jokes and long stories and brown ale and all the white roads of England. Like Chaucer he loved story within story, every man telling a tale. Like Chaucer he saw something openly comic in men’s motley trades. Sam Weller would have been a great gain to the Canterbury pilgrimage and told an admirable story.

…It would be hard to find a better example of this than Dickens’s great defence of Christmas. In fighting for Christmas he was fighting for the old European festival, pagan and Christian, for that trinity of eating, drinking and praying which to moderns appears irreverent, for the holy day which is really a holiday. He had himself the most babyish ideas about the past. He supposed the Middle Ages to have consisted of tournaments and torture-chambers, he supposed himself to be a brisk man of the manufacturing age, almost a Utilitarian. But for all that he defended the mediaeval feast which was going out against the Utilitarianism which was coming in. He could only see all that was bad in mediaevalism. But he fought for all that was good in it. And he was all the more really in sympathy with the old strength and simplicity because he only knew that it was good and did not know that it was old. He cared as little for mediaevalism as the mediaevals did. He cared as much as they did for lustiness and virile laughter and sad tales of good lovers and pleasant tales of good livers.

From G.K. Chesterton’s book on Dickens.

December 4, 2014

this unlikely, unexpected generosity from a non-human agency

From The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel by Michel Faber:

Maybe it was simple claustrophobia, although he’d never been claustrophobic before, and had once even bedded down inside an industrial garbage skip with the lid closed over him—and was grateful to have the shelter. He could still remember his sense of wonder when, at some point during the night, the mound of garbage on which he lay started heating up, enveloping his half-frozen body with warmth. This unlikely, unexpected generosity from a non-human agency was an early foretaste of how he would feel in the bosom of Christ.

December 2, 2014

King of all kings for her son she chose

‘I syng of a maiden’
Anonymous (1400)

Middle English original:

I syng of a mayden
That is makeles,
king of alle kinges
to here sone che chees.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dew in Aprylle,
That fallyt on the gras.

He cam also stille
To his modres bowr
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the flowr.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder lay
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the spray.

Moder & mayden
Was nevere noon but she:
Well may swich a lady
Godes moder be.

Modern English version:

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.

He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
There was never, ever one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

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