Friday, February 27, 2009

Announcement Announcement exclamation mark

For my next composition assignment, I am going to set the 'Four and a Half Romantic Sonnets' (published earlier on this blog) to music. As far as I know, no composer has ever set their own poetry to music before.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That the Musician should be Poet

Despite the rationality and love of precision possessed by the Ancient Greeks,
there was one distinction they failed to make. Due to an accident in
terminology, both Homer and Pythagoras were said to have practiced the same
profession: the art of music. For music, as is clear from The Republic, went
far beyond the system of pitched sound that we identify with the art today; upon
reading The Republic, one might think that the poetry, not the notes, were
primary, while the music was secondary.
Ah, that the philosopher might be king, Plato moans (and then proceeds to train
them so that they are anything but philosophers; his system would make them into
inhumane illiberal eugenicists, but that is, unfortunately, beside the point).
He did not moan that the philosopher might be musician, for not only would he
consider this an inferior role for such a person, but it had already been done.
Pythagoras, philosopher, mathematician, and musician, had embodied such a
person, blessed with a vision of truth to enhance his artistic beauty.
And the result was quite good, to say the least. For Pythagoras discovered the
basics of what we now term “Tonality,” the system of rules embedded in the very
nature of music by which our principles of harmony function. Every note was
governed by a ratio, and these completely rational mathematical principles
produced a music that was perfect, proportionate, sonorous, truthful, and
beautiful. What has Homer produced to compare with it: an over-long, rambling
duet of poems about stupid humans and stupider gods using, of all things, the
imperfect medium of language? How does this compare to the perfection of
And what is the perfection of Pythagoras? Hammers in a prescribed size ratio
banging simultaneously on an anvil! Oh joy.
Perhaps a king would be better as a philosopher, but there is one thing that is
absolutely needful for a musician: he must be a poet, for poets are human. The
commonsense of humans assents to Pythagoras’ theory, even if it does not
understand it. Yet, simultaneously, it recognizes that art can, and (to save
itself from itself), must have other aims besides it. Why do we remember the
Iliad, but not a single music of Pythagoras? Because Homer was trying for mere
perfection (whether he achieved that is debatable), but was willing to risk the
chance of losing perfection for the sake of making something besides another
perfect fifth. Why do we remember the Preludes and Fugues of Bach, but not the
musical works of Pythagoras? Because mere perfection is a paltry and easy
target: just as one might become a sinless saint by dying directly after
Baptism. The later philosophers of music recognized this, and seeking
philosophical perfection but being unwilling to find it in the system of
tonality, denied it and true musical perfection along with it. The earlier
musical poets, by accepting Pythagoras but preserving their poetry, were able to
become both Pythagoreanly perfect and everything else as well.

Monday, February 23, 2009

February 20, 2009, Part 1

In the first hour, I crept to the cavern,
The crater beneath the treacherous tarp
Where Bacchic dancers declaim, sing, and tap
Waiting for the film to break, overturn
And thus upset the balance of the world.

Had there been gargoyles (there were then none)
With lustful devils lurking by each one
Casting spells of decay-smelling powder
That numbs the mind with depressing power
More death in the air that day would not have swirled.

And there I planted a papyrus perfume
That on March Ninth would hopefully bloom.

In the second hour, I limped from the place
With tears streaming down the back of my face
For from the ordeales, I wanted to flee,
My mind was filled with fair far scenery.

A tree-filled meadow, sunny and green
Dotted yet open with tannish buildings
Filled with books and words that are destined to last
Where some things are ugly, but nothing is dullest.

I desired that place like a potter, who spins
His clay on the wheel, but when does he win
The cup he is making? Is perfection achieved
When exhausted and spent he regretfully cease?

In the third hour, when tumbling tears
Of fear and regret made thundering storm
I tried to sit quietly, though my mind leered,
In front of my God, to recite the form
Of prayeres learned in long-forgotten years.
From this, only exhaustion there was born.

But when I fixed my gaze upon Him
Tried to wrench the round key of my Image-Machine
That lover’s pen, drunken anti-turpentine
Wild monster of swamps unheard, unseen,
Into Truth’s small square unspoiled key-hole
To “put” God in that ring of paltry rubied gold,
He grabbed me, threw me, twisted me (like a newspaper’s
Darling politicians tweaks truth over long years
To bend opinions into an eastern circle)
So my every drawn breath was a feverish oracle
In praise of Him.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Do We Have A Dead Blog?

Where have all the new posts gone? Long time passing..... Anyway, it would seem that this blog has had a lot of dead time lately. How much dead time does it take for the blog to be dead? Old Fashioned Liberal, I think we need another dead blog poem.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Honor of St. Valentine

The Love Sonnet Aragorn Never Wrote

I ponder, Arwen, if I ought to speak
To honor you, with tones of lore and song
Or whether, to be honest, I should speak
With sharp but gutt’ral Ranger talk and tongue.
Are you, perchance, the lovely drops of pools
Residing in the blessed realm undead
Molded in Yavanna’s craftsman-schools
To be a symblemune, but soft and red?
Or are you, sweet, more like Athelas plant
That, when the ranger flees across the bleak
Rain-driven windy moors of adamant,
He sees you, finds an unknown pow’r: to speak!
For you the child of Elf and Dunedain are,
Both blossoms are you, Arwen Evenstar.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Religious Fiction: Preaching and Preaching

Recently, I finished reading "The Masterful Monk" by Owen Francis Dudley. You might say that it belongs to rare genre of "religious fiction."

In truth, the writer of religious fiction is in quite a tight spot. No matter what he does, he will be accused of preaching. Few people read fiction for edification, and even among these, few expect the message to be blatant. Peter Kreeft even goes so far as to suggest that the moral theme of a work always be hidden, so that it can better pass the watchful dragons of our suspicious conscious mind.

But those who would use this as a criticism of religious fiction, which would include (in addition to The Masterful Monk) such diverse works as "Come Rack! Come Rope!" by Robert Hugh Benson and "Father Elijah" by...I can't remember :(, are missing a significant element of the genre. Aside from the psychological debate about whether obvious moralizing in a book is good, the main thing that sets religious fiction apart from other genres of fiction is that, unlike works with a hidden moral, in religious fiction, the subject of the moralizing is equivalent to the plot material and the source of drama. In the Masterful Monk, the storyline centers around a wavering Catholic attracted by a Margaret-Sanger style eugenicist and her lover, a man attracted to the Catholic Church who converts to Catholicism in the middle of the story. Take out the obvious religious element, and the story goes with it.

Contrast this with a genuinely preachy story, such as my ill-fated "An Old-Fashioned Guy." In such a work, the moralizing is obvious in a way out of proportion to the role it plays in the plot. Remove all the references to Hegel in the story, and the characters still get thrown in jail and tell stupid (but funny) jokes.

Once a reader can make the distinction between preachy and obviously religious in a literarily necessary manner, they can read religious fiction without being repulsed by its imagined preachieness.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Polls Are Closed!!!!

I will assume the role of statician here. As I'm sure you've all noticed,
the two polls have been closed for some time now. Popular opinion
states that polls are usefull and the Romantic Period was the greatest
era in music. That sums it up folks!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Judge Him by His Music, not His Athiesm

All of you NEED to go listen to the prelude from Tristan und Isolde. I don't care if Wagner was an athiest, his music has enough beauty to have been composed by a Christian.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Whenever I think about genders, I find myself up against a big wall. They are
so complex, that any approximation of their essences is quite beyond me, and
without their essences, how can I find what qualities and behaviors match them?
So, when I try to form an opinion on the statement “Women are the superior sex,”
I find it nearly impossible to get anything beyond a vague, but highly poetic,
opinion, better expressed in poems than in philosophic word-tangles. So here

By the way, I was just beginning to write the second stanza when I was told to pick up my sister from work. In my poetical abstraction, I ran into my garage door with my car as the door was going up.

Four-And-A-Half Romantic Sonnets

O pity not my hands, sunburnt, begrit,
That rest abiding in your smoothed palm.
Abhor my dull and clumsy speech and wit
Insensitive to mental tension‘s qualms.
I will not ever rant or rave or rail
If you but ignore, deprive, insult.
I must obey my queen, or else I fail.
Respect for you befits even a dolt.
Discard me, shove this man, O shut your eyes,
Upon my dirtied clothing and visage.
Grab your silken glove and strike, despise
My swarthy cheek with royal shame-barrage.
O find uncouth all things that make a man
But Sweet, I pray thee, do not pity what I am.

O every word that from your soft speech drips
Adorns you with the wisdom learned by fire’s
Thrice-Godly edge. O when you move your lips,
Your facile mind’s Bach’s pen, Liszt of lyres.
When circumstances play you (sorrow and delight)
Or others puzzle you beyond mere mind’s
Frail power to untangle, your fright
Shows not, great heart, but insight the day does win.
I languish in the yelling, bloodied air;
Heartless, I live and act by thoughts alone
Indoors, all beauteous things are your care
And not a king could want a hol’er throne
Than the one you own in times of urgent dread
When, through love, you tend a sick one’s bed.

O what am I, but a muckle thinking sword
Whether I deal in weights or corn or steel
Bright numbers, soldiery, or Micr’soft word?
I cannot match your double mental wheel!
In what fair school, by what strong exercise
Can I obtain one-tenth of what you have
In way of love? If I am not supplied
With love, I am merely very bad.
How can I hope to have the worthiness
To speak, though I love you and you love me.
I know you burn to give me just one kiss
But my acceptance would be unworthy.
My strength must grow before I take your hand
O sap it not by pitying what I am.

TELL me not, Sweet, I am unkind
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more. (This stanza by Richard Lovelace)

The rainbow has descended from the sky
As I return from my campaigns abroad
In which I chased the foe and he did fly
And I walked o’er newly conquered sod.
From glories of my peacock retinue
In midst of which I sit in triumphed state
And perfect peace, while clerics pay their due
To me, for God and I our foes did abate,
While as I sit, in content solemnity
In virgin white and manly martyr-red
There is one thing I want. It is to see
You, and for us twain to be be-wed.
I have returned from wars in foreign lands.
Which of us is now the better man?

Divine Irony

Our God is like a heptagon
To nothing can they be compared.
When Aquinas, the paragon,
Thinks upon God, he says “Beware!”

Our God is above smallest sense,
Too delicate and large for thought
The shape is below math-art’s talents
Drawn with the Tools, this it cannot

For God cannot be seen, and shape,
Is unlike love, or spring’s first rose,
Or mountain peak, or taste of cake
Or Catholic life that by grace grows.

But one way He is unlike the shape
For any shape cannot do this:
Reveal Himself in Human Make
So let us rejoice in this!