Some chickens scratch, and
The pebbles mumble,
Afore a rumble
Of Santa Fe train.
The highway hisses
Beyond the horizon,
Telling me, tempting me
To ignore this one
Between night and day.
Some chickens scratch, and
The pebbles mumble,
Afore a rumble
Of Santa Fe train.
The highway hisses
Beyond the horizon,
Telling me, tempting me
To ignore this one
Between night and day.
Some scattered thoughts:
Lastly, ’tis proposed as a singular advantage that the abolishing of Christianity will very much contribute to the uniting of Protestants. 
It’s a kind of backhanded, reverse-psychology, move–Swift seems to say the best way to build disciples is to discipline them. For as Swift observes:
There is one darling inclination of mankind which usually affects to be a retainer to religion, though she be neither its parent, its godmother, nor its friend. I mean the spirit of opposition, that lived long before Christianity, and can easily subsist without it. 
Swift might’ve agreed with Dreher that Moral Therapeutic Deism is milquetoast Christianity:
The two principal qualifications of a fanatic preacher are his inward light, and his head full of maggots; and the two different fates of his writings are to be burnt, or worm-eaten.
Why should any clergyman of our church be angry to see the follies of fanaticism and superstition exposed, through in the most ridiculous manner; since that is perhaps the most probable way to cure them, or at least to hinder them from farther spreading? 
Dreher’s diagnosis on his blog (and most likely in his latest book) seems to agree with Swift’s character of Gulliver who confesses to readers amid his travels that: “I was chiefly disgusted with modern History.” 
I too am disgusted with modern History when I see things like this on my morning commute:
Dreher’s book The Benedict Option is a remedy for this diagnosis of disgust; it seeks, to harmonize the community, something (I think) Swift yearned for:
And I think the reason is easy to be assigned, for there is a peculiar string in the harmony of human understanding, which in several individuals is exactly of the same tuning. This, if you can dexterously screw up to its right key, and then strike gently upon it whenever you have the good fortune to light among those of the same pitch, they will by a secret necessary sympathy strike exactly at the same time. 
Recall that Nietzsche’s hammer was but a tuning fork.
 Swift, “An Argument to Prove that the Abolishing of Christianity in England May, as Things Now Stand, be Attended with some Inconveniences, and Perhaps Not Produce those Many Good Effects Proposed Thereby.” 1708.
 Swift, A Tale of a Tub. 1704. Sect. I.
 Swift, A Tale of a Tub. 1704. “An Apology For the Book.”
 Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver. 1726. III, viii.
 Swift, A Tale of a Tub. 1704. Sect. IX.
 Kaufmann, Walter. Discovering the Mind Vol. II – Nietzsche, Heidegger, Buber. NY: McGraw Hill. 1981. 153–54.
I’ve been trying to lose weight before I head off to Ireland.
Can you imagine anything more absurd than someone uttering the phrase “I’m trying to lose weight” in mid-19th century potato-famished Ireland?
I recall some vivid moments in William Carleton‘s (1794-1869) novel The Black Prophet:a Tale of Irish Famine (1847), such as thinning one’s plate when starving in Ireland:
The next morning the Sullivan family rose to witness another weary and dismal day of incessant rain, and to partake of a breakfast of thin stirabout, made and served up with that woful ingenuity, which necessity, the mother of invention in periods of scarcity, as well as in matters of a different character, had made known to the benevolent hearted wife of Jerry Sullivan. That is to say, the victuals were made so unsubstantially thin, that in order to impose, if possible, on the appetite, it was deemed necessary to deceive the eye by turning the plates and dishes round and round several times, while the viands were hot, so as by spreading them over a larger surface, to give the appearance of a greater quantity. It is, heaven knows, a melancholy cheat, but one with which the periodical famines of our unhappy country have made our people too well acquainted. 
Or sometimes laying on one’s belly:
“What is the matter with you, Con?” asked his mother, “you seem dreadfully uneasy.”
“I am ill, mother,” he replied—“the fever that was near taking Tom away, is upon me; I feel that I have it by the pains that’s in my head and the small o’ my back.”
“Lie down a little, dear,” she added, “its only the pain, poor boy, of an empty stomach—lie down on your poor bed, God help you, and when the supper’s ready you’ll be better.”
UPDATE: Forgot about this gem from the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser (1553-1599), who lived in Ireland for much of his adult life:
Out of every corner of the woods and glynnes they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legges could not beare them; they looked like anatomies of death, they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eate the dead carrions, happy where they could finde them, yea, and one another soone after, insomuch as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and, if they found a plot of water-cresesses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue therewithal; that in short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentifull country suddainely left voyde of man and beast; yet sure in all that warre, there perished not many by the sword, but all by the extrremitie of famine, which they themselves had wrought. 
 Carleton, William. The Black Prophet: a Tale of Irish Famine. Belfast: Simm and McIntyre. 1847. “III, A Family on the Decline—Omens.” 34–35.
 Carleton, The Black Prophet: a Tale of Irish Famine. “XI, Pity and Remorse.” 107.
 Spenser, Edmund. A View of the State of Ireland. 1596. 1633. Edited by Andrew Hadfield and Willy Maley. Blackwell, Oxford. 1997. pp. 101–02.
Northern Ireland’s “Gloria” (1967):
Republic of Ireland’s “Gloria” (1981):
Compare Joseph Le Fanu (1814-1873):
And so he went on; and she was more silent and more a listener than usual. I don’t know all that was passing in pretty Lilias’s fancy—in her heart—near the hum of the waters and the spell of that musical voice. Love speaks in allegories and a language of signs; looks and tones tell his tale most truly. So Devereux’s talk held her for a while in a sort of trance, melancholy and delightful. There must be, of course, the affinity—the rapport—the what you please to call it—to begin with—it matters not how faint and slender; and then the spell steals on and grows. See how the poor little woodbine, or the jessamine, or the vine, will lean towards the rugged elm, appointed by Virgil, in his epic of husbandry (I mean no pun) for their natural support—the elm, you know it hath been said, is the gentleman of the forest:—see all the little tendrils turn his way silently, and cling, and long years after, maybe, clothe the broken and blighted tree with a fragrance and beauty not its own. Those feeble feminine plants, are, it sometimes seems to me, the strength and perfection of creation—strength perfected in weakness; the ivy, green among the snows of winter, and clasping together in its true embrace the loveless ruin; and the vine that maketh glad the heart of man amidst the miseries of life. I must not be mistaken, though, for Devereux’s talk was only a tender sort of trifling, and Lilias had said nothing to encourage him to risk more; but she now felt sure that Devereux liked her—that, indeed, he took a deep interest in her—and somehow she was happy. 
Compare (American) Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):
Thus long I have been in Cambridge this term (three of four weeks) & have not before this moment paid my deviors to the Gnomes to whom I dedicated this quaint & heterogeneous manuscript. Is it because matter has been wanting—no—I have written much elsewhere in prose, poetry, & miscellany—let me put the most favourable construction on the case & say that I have been better employed. Beside considerable attention however unsuccessful to college studies I have finished Bisset’s Life of Burke as well as Burke’s regicide Peace together with considerable variety of desultory reading generally speaking highly entertaining & instructive. The Pythologian Poem does not proceed very rapidly though I have experienced some poetic moments. Could I seat myself in the alcove of one of those public libraries which human pride & literary rivalship have made costly, splendid, & magnificent it would indeed be an enviable situation. I would plunge into the classic lore of chivalrous story & of the fairy-land bards & unclosing the ponderous volumes of the firmest believers in magic & in the potency of consecrated crosier or elfin ring I would let my soul sail away delighted in to their wildest phantasies. Pendragon is rising before my fancy & has given me permission to wander in his walks of Fairy-land & to present myself at the bower of Gloriana. I stand in the fair assembly of the chosen; the brave & the beautiful; honour & virtue, courage & delicacy are mingling in magnificent joy. Unstained knighthood is sheathing the successful blade in the presence of unstained chastity. And the festal jubilee of Fairy land is announced by the tinkling of its silver bells. The halls & beauty. The birds partake & magnify the happiness of the green-wood shades. & the music of the harp comes swelling on the gay breezes. Or other views more real[,] scarcely less beautiful should attract, enchain me. All the stores of Grecian & Roman literature may be unlocked & fully displayed—or with the Indian enchanters send my soul up to wander among the stars till “the twilight of the gods[.]”
 Le Fanu, The House by the Churchyard, “Chapter XXIV – In Which Two Young Persons Understand one another Better, perhaps, than ever They did Before, without Saying So,” 115–16.
 Emerson, Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks. Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard UP. 1960-82. Vol. I, March 11, 1820, pp. 10–11.
Things Previously Read and Re-reviewed
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. 1954.
Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. 1791.
Gantz, Jeffrey. Early Irish Myths and Sagas. NY: Penguin. 1981.
Graves, Robert. Oxford Addresses on Poetry. NY: Garden City. 1962.
Joyce, James. Dubliners. 1914. Penguin Classics with Notes by Terence Brown. 1992.
Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. The House by the Churchyard. London: Tinsley, Brothers. 1863. Reprint. Dublin: James Duffey. 1904.
Lewis, Clive Stapes. “The Inner Ring.” They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses. London, G. Bles, 1962.
Patrick (Saint). Il Confessio. (Declaration of Patrick.) From St. Patrick – His Writings and Muirchu’s Life. Edited and Translated by A. B. E. Hood. Phillimore & Co. London. 1978.
Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. 1756–1767. NY: Oxford World Classics. Edited by Ian Campbell Ross. 1983. 1998.
Thompson, E. A.. “Introduction” Who was Saint Patrick? Rochester, NY Boydell & Brewer Ltd. 1982. Electronic Edition 1999.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels: Jonathan Swift. Edited by Albert J. Rivero. NY: Norton Critical Edition. 2002.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. 1890. Barnes & Noble Classics Edition. 2003.
Books Read for the First Time
Beckett, Samuel. Murphy. 1938. NY: First Grove Press Edition 1957. First Printing, Collected Works. 1970.
Boswell, James. Life of Johnson (1791)
Carleton, William. The Black Prophet: a Tale of Irish Famine. Belfast: Simm and McIntyre. 1847.
Davis, B. E. C. Edmund Spenser: a Critical Study. Cambridge UP. 1933.
Dillon, Martin. The Shankill Butchers: a Case Study of Mass Murder. London: Arrow Books. 1990.
Doyle, Roddy. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. London: Secker & Warburg. 1993.
Goldsmith, Oliver. The Vicar of Wakefield. 1766.
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1916. NY: Penguin. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Seamus Deane. 1993.
O’Brien, Edna. The Country Girls. 1960. NY: Penguin. 1963. 1975.
O’Casey, Sean. Shadow of a Gunman. 1923. Two Plays. NY: Macmillan Co. 1925.
O’Connor, Frank. A Short History of Irish Literature: a Backward Look. NY: Viking. 1967.
O’Hara, Maureen with John Nicoletti. ‘Tis Herself. NY: Simon and Schuster. 2004.
Spenser, Edmund. A View of the State of Ireland. 1596. 1633. Edited by Andrew Hadfield and Willy Maley. Blackwell, Oxford. 1997.
Shaw, George Bernard. The Doctor’s Dilemma. NY: Brentano’s. 1909. [and “Preface”]
State, Paul. F. A Brief History of Ireland. NY: Facts on File Inc. 2009.
Yeats, William Butler. The Celtic Twilight. 1893.
Abravanel, Genevieve. “American Encounters in Dubliners and Ulysses.” Journal of Modern Literature. Vol. 33. No. 4. (Summer 2010.) 153–66.
Bierman, Joseph. “What The Quiet Man Said: Shifting Contexts and the Polysemy of the Text.” Journal of Film and Video. Vol. 63. No. 3. (Fall 2011.) 30–44.
Cremin, Kathy. “The Dispersed and Dismissed: the World of Irish Women’s Best-sellers.” Critical Survey. Vol. 15. No. 1. (2003.) 60–76.
Dobson, Henry Austin. “IX Oliver Goldsmith,” The Cambridge Encyclopedia of English Literature. 1909–1919.
Haliday, Charles. “On the Ancient Name of Dublin.” The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. Vol. 22 (1849.) 437–51.
Jackson, Alvin. “Unionist Myths 1912–1985.” Past & Present. No. 136. (August 1992.) 164–85.
Kirk, Robin. “Belfast: City of Walls.” The American Scholar. Vol. 80. No. 4 (Autumn 2011.) 7–11.
Kirkland, Richard. “The Spectacle of Terrorism in Northern Irish Culture.” Critical Survey. Vol. 15. No. 1. (2003.) 77–90.
Kittredge, George Lyman . “III.––Sir Orfeo.” American Journal of Philology. Vol. 7. No. 2. (1886.) 176–202 at 195–97.
Lysaght, Patricia. “Visible Death: Attitudes to the Dying in Ireland.” Merveilles & contes. Vol. 9. No. 1. (May 1995.) 27–60.
Markwick, Marion. “Marketing Myths and the Cultural Commodification of Ireland: Where the Grass is Always Greener.” Geography. 86:1. (January 2001.) 37–49.
Moorjani, Angela. “Andre Gidé Among the Partisan Ghosts in the ‘Anglo-Irish’ ‘Murphy.’” Samuel Beckett Today. Vol. 21. (2009.) 209–22.
O’Brien, Peggy. “The Silly and the Serious: an Assessment of Edna O’Brien.” The Massachusetts Review. Vol. 28. No. 3. (Autumn 1987.) 474–88.
Pierse, Michael. “The Shadow of Seán: O’Casey, commitment and writing Dublin’s working class.” Saothar. Vol. 35. (2010.) 69–85.
Rapuano, Deborah and Jessica R. Fernandez. “Remembering and Living Irishness: Tourism, Place and Memory.” International Review of Modern Sociology. Vol. 36. No. 1. (Spring 2010.) 1–21.
Townshend, Charles. “The Making of Modern Irish Public Culture.” Journal of Modern History. Vol. 61. No. 3. (September 1989.) 535–54.
Weston, Elizabeth. “Constitutive Trauma in Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls Trilogy: the Romance of Reenactment.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. Vol. 29. No. 1. (Spring 2010.) 83–105.
Movies, Television, Advertisements
Trailer to The Field
Like Swift does, I need to get outside my own point-of-view (and socioeconomic context) and ridicule it with a fictional character. To use writers whom I detest, and use them in a favorable light to make whatever-it-is point I’m making—that is what Walter Kaufmann does!
“It grieved me to the heart when I saw my labours, which had cost me so much thought and watching, bawled about by the common hawkers of Grub Street, which I only intended for the weighty consideration of the gravest persons. This prejudiced the world so much at first, that several of my friends had the assurance to ask me whether I were in jest; to which I only answered coldly, ‘that the event would show’. But it is the talent of our age and nation to turn things of the greatest importance into ridicule.”
“‘Now, therefore, I began to associate with none but disappointed authors, like myself, who praised, deplored, and despised each other. The satisfaction we found in every celebrated writer’s attempts, was inversely as their merits. I found that no genius in another could please me. My unfortunate paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of comfort. I could neither read nor write with satisfaction; for excellence in another was my aversion, and writing was my trade.”
“We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
Don’t go beyond your doorway, your threshold:
“Every man, as a member of the commonwealth, ought to be content with the possession of his own opinion in private, without perplexing his neighbour or disturbing the public.” [R6] 
But if you must go beyond your doorway:
“There are but three ways for a man to revenge himself of a censorious world. To despise it; to return the like; or to endeavour to live so as to avoid it. The first of these is usually pretended; the last is almost impossible; the universal practice is the second.” 
A little superstition goes a long way:
“There is a portion of enthusiasm assigned to every nation, which, if it hath not proper objects to work on, will burst out and set all into a flame. If the quiet of a state can be bought by only flinging men a few ceremonies to devour, it is a purchase no wise man would refuse. Let the mastiffs amuse themselves about a sheepskin stuffed with hay, provided it will keep them from worrying the flock.”
A little superstition quells the motives:
“fear and hope are the two greatest natural motives of all men’s actions.”
 Swift, “Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff” 1709. Jonathan Swift – Major Works. 216.
 Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield, “20. The history of a philosophic vagabond, pursuing novelty, but losing context.”
 Swift, Apothegms and Maxims [from Journal to Stella] Jonathan Swift – Major Works. [‘Various Thoughts Moral and Diverting’, in Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, 1711]  181.
 Swift, Apothegms and Maxims [from Journal to Stella] Jonathan Swift – Major Works. 185.
 Swift, Apothegms and Maxims [from Journal to Stella] Jonathan Swift – Major Works. 181.
 Swift, “An Argument to Prove that the Abolishing of Christianity in England May, as Things Now Stand, be Attended with some Inconveniences, and Perhaps Not Produce those Many Good Effects Proposed Thereby.” 1708. Jonathan Swift – Major Works. 224.
 Swift, “The Testimony of Conscience [a Sermon].” 1714. Jonathan Swift – Major Works. 383.
For the past several months my writing on this blog has been stuck in a rut, lodged between two dikes:
(1) writing posts about current events, outrages, and crises and trying to relate those things to various literary references and book-jewels picked up over the years;
(2) writing posts on things that attempt to ignore the historical, cultural, political, and economic contexts in which I live, things that think not of posterity, things which take very seriously Oscar Wilde’s definition of the art of doing nothing:
Gilbert. Nothing that one can imagine is worth doing…. Let me say to you now that to do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual. To Plato, with his passion for wisdom, this was the noblest form of energy. To Aristotle, with his passion for knowledge, this was the noblest form of energy also. It was to this that the passion for holiness led the saint and the mystic of mediaeval days.
Ernest. We exist, then, to do nothing?
Gilbert. It is to do nothing that the elect exist. Action is limited and relative…. Yes, Ernest: the contemplative life, the life that has for its aim not doing but being, and not being merely, but becoming—that is what the critical spirit can give us…. The necessity for a career forces every one to take sides. We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid. And, harsh though it may sound, I cannot help saying that such people deserve their doom. The sure way of knowing nothing about life is to try to make oneself useful…. It can do for us what can be done neither by physics nor metaphysics. It can give us the exact science of mind in the process of becoming. It can do for us what History cannot do. It can tell us what man thought before he learned how to write…. 
There is such a thing as robbing a story of its reality by trying to make it true…. [which is why] The justification of a character in a novel is not that other persons are what they are, but that the author is what he is. Otherwise the novel is not a work of art….
Or perhaps this whole post is merely one more exercise in my “luxury in self-reproach”:
He covered page after page with wild words of sorrow and wilder words of pain. There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution. When Dorian had finished the letter, he felt that he had been forgiven…. [For] to become the spectator of one’s own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life. 
Nonetheless, lately all attempts at blog criticism––no matter how unorthodox, whether analogical or literal––seem but Biblically lukewarm.
Right now instead of blogging about books, I feel like listening to Heino sing country songs while I work in my father’s vineyard.
Some random thoughts that run through my head while under the sun, among the vines, amid the Sänger musik:
Surely that song spoiled the city’s prior exclusivity. Afterward it allowed everyone who wanted to migrate Out There. This ruined it for the locals, forcing them to become totally lamestream, or as Wilde puts it: “to be popular one must be a mediocrity.”
 Wilde, “The Decay of Lying” in Intentions (Volume 7 of The Complete Writings of Oscar Wilde). New York: The Nottingham Society, 1909. pp. 3–57 at 10–11.
 Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. 1890. NY: Barnes & Noble Classics Edition. 2003. VIII, 100; IX, 114.
 See Revelation of Saint John 3:16:
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
And from Richard McKeon (1900-1985):
Literally or analogically conceived, therefore, the philosophic principles which lie behind the discussions of the critic select for him, by defining his terms, a subject matter and principles from the vast diversity which those terms might encompass. [First] If the poet is the source of distinctions or analogies, the discussion may be of character, knowledge, or technique; or of imagination, taste, or genius; or of beauty, truth, or moral goodness. [Second] If the poem is fundamental, all problems may be translated into those of form and content; or of imitation and object; or of thought, imagination, and emotions; or of activity and effects. [Third] The effects finally, if they are fundamental, may be treated in terms of expression and communication; or of context and moral, social, economic, or semantic determination; or of influence and emotion. (“The Philosophic Bases of Art and Criticism,” Modern Philology, XLI: 2. (Nov. 1943.) pp. 65–87 at 75.)
 Picture of Dorian Gray XVII, 201.
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD):
I bring no charge against the words which are like exquisite and precious vessels, but the wine of error is poured into them for us by drunken teachers….
Johann von Goethe of Weimar (1749-1832):
The man spoke with dignity and with a certain radiance on his face. This is what he said: “the duty of a teacher is not to preserve man from error, but to guide him in error, in fact to let him drink it in, in full draughts. That is the wisdom of teachers. For the man who only sips at error, can make do with it for quite a time, delighting in it as a rare pleasure. But a man who drinks it to the dregs, must recognize the error of his ways, unless he is mad.” 
Karl Kraus of Vienna (1874-1936):
A school without grades must have been concocted by someone who was drunk on non-alcoholic wine.
 Augustine, Aurelius. Saint Augustine – Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick. NY: Oxford UP. 1991. I, xvi (26), p. 19.
 Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.) 1795–96. Edited and Translated by Eric A. Blackall. NY: Suhrkamp Publishers. 1983. VII, ix, 302.
 Kraus, Karl. Half–truths & one–and–a–half truths: selected aphorisms. Edited and Translated by Harry Zohn. Engendra Press: Montreal. Reprint Chicago UP. 1976. p. 75.
From Irish writer and critic Frank O’Connor (1903-1966) comes an interesting specimen circa 1967: