Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy Feast Day!


This short post is just to wish Sylvester a happy Feast Day!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

More Sitemeter...

I've reached 10,000 visitors on my Sitemeter; I am quite chuffed about that! I had hoped to get 10,000 before the New Year started, but at the beginning of December I didn't have quite enough to match my monthly average (about 1,500), but with a few kind referrals the statistics have shot up. Thanks to all readers!

Just if anyone is curious, the 10,000th visitor was someone at Tiscali who lives in Leicester...

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

St Thomas Becket...


Happy Feast day all readers. St Thomas of Canterbury is one of my favourite English Saints.

After-Christmas exercise...


I have always been skinny. Naturally, my parents attribute this grace to a high metabolism, as do I. Although I have noticed in the last year that I have developed a sort of ''gut'' - which I am not happy about at all. I walk everywhere, all the time (another advantage to not driving - I get more exercise, plus I don't have to pay for fuel, maintenance, road tax, insurance etc, although I must finally get round to actually passing my test...), and I am also accustomed to go for long walks in the woods, but this doesn't seem to have helped any this year. When I did Irish dancing, now more years ago than I care to remember, I was always fit. Can any readers recommend any exercise that isn't too vigorous? I am terrified that I may end up like one of those obese people on those documentaries where they're so fat they can't even get out of bed...

Congratulations...

...to Mrs G M Meller, who reads Mulier Fortis, for successfully completing my Quiz (with a score of 19/20!). I must first apologise, but lots of things have managed to push this out of my mind in the last week or so, but I shall post the prize as soon as I get organised. Once again, congratulations!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Retro meets the Wii...


I went to the loveliest Christmas party last night at a friend's house. Her two sons had asked me to bring my old retro Nintendo games and console (every game in fact, but I didn't bring every one). So I brought two old consoles (the Super Nintendo, some games of which are older than I am, and the N64, with a few games). I rang the doorbell, and one of the boys opened, lit up, and asked ''did you bring 'em?'' I answered yes, went to put the two bags in the living room, and went to join the others. After what seemed a brief time, I was dragged back into the living room to set the SNES up with Yoshi's Island 2 (Nintendo 1995!). The boys absolutely loved it, and took to it almost immediately. One of them even said that he wanted it for Christmas next year!

About 20-30 minutes later, the other boys arrived. They sat down with their own games, looked rather dubiously at the retro stuff, and asked me about it. I said they were my old Nintendo games. One of them said: '''dat ain't a Nintendo.'' And so, we set the Wii back up. I proved useless at the Wii Sports Resort (I also found it rather boring - which, I suppose, is one thing that puts me off about the Wii, which I do in fact own - most of the games just don't appeal to me - plus I don't like having to stand up and wave my arms about when I play games consoles, preferring instead to lay prostrate on my bed twiddling the console with my thumbs!), and so we switched to the new Super Mario Bros'. This game was fun, even if it is a bit of a rip-off of the old games, and I was quite good at it (I have only played the Wii once before).

The boys then wanted me to set up Tetris on the N64, so perforce I did so. I had planned on showing them how to play it, and then going to join the adults, but as soon as I got up, they begged me to stay. Tetris proved a ''sick'' game, and one of the boys asked me how much it was (probably about £200 at the time my mother brought it), where he could get one and if I had any more games for the N64! I did have about 30 games for the N64, but I remember that after a big argument with my brother over something years ago, he had actually thrown them out in spite (many of them were birthday and Christmas presents too) - and I now only have a handful which I managed to save. I also used to have a lot of accessories, extra handsets, rumble packs etc, but they got damaged or whatever over the years. Also, as of 2007, Nintendo aren't repairing retro games consoles anymore because the parts aren't readily available anymore. For a retro gamer like me, this is quite sad.

When it was time to quieten down, I finally got a little time to spend with the adults. I am loath to say this, but one story cracked me up - a certain somebody whom I will not name (you know who you are!) had been to Mass that evening, and spent a good deal of it staring at the neck of an elderly chap in the front pew. They were in fact staring at a very long, lonely, protruding hair just begging to be plucked. Being at last driven mad, they yielded to temptation and actually went ahead and plucked it! I wonder - does this constitute common assault?!

I had a lovely time last night!

The Holy Innocents...


Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a very poignant day within the liturgical Octave celebrating the Nativity of the Lord reminding us that Herod strove impiously and cruelly to slay the newborn Christ and Saviour. Whenever this Feast comes around, I can't help thinking of many, too many, other holy innocents these days killed simply because their parents find that raising children might be irksome or a burden, or they are killed mercilessly by some witchdoctor for some other excuse. I only hope that God grants these murderers time to relive their deeds in the uttermost shame.

The Introit of today's Mass is quite lovely, and is one which I think of often:

Ex ore infantium, Deus, et lactentium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos. Domine Dominus noster: quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! Gloria Patri.

Out of the mouths of infants, O God, and of sucklings, you have perfected praise according to your enemies. O Lord, our Lord: how admirable is your name in the whole earth! Glory be to the Father.

You can read about the Holy Innocents, of course, in St Matthew's Gospel, and The Catholic Encyclopedia has a detailed article about the event and the Feast.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas...


I am just in from Midnight Mass, which was lovely. But alas, I am very weary and I am going to bed now. I wish all my readers a solemn and blessed Feast of the Nativity. I know the image is wrong - but actually finding a nice painting of the Nativity in Google Images was surprisingly hard. To bed now!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas stuff...

My Christmas post may be delayed somewhat. Since I work in retail (probably the bane of my life), I have understandably been at work all week (I am working 7:00am-4:00pm Christmas Eve, after a late shift on the 23rd!) - a friend of mine said the other day ''just think of the money, and all those books!'' - just doesn't work I'm afraid. I was in John Lewis today looking at these wonderful feather pillows and bed linen (while out Christmas shopping for people other than myself!) and I was just flooded with the grim reality: ''you can't afford it Patrick...''

That aside, I had planned on translating at least part of some wonderful Lesson from Matins for Christmas but haven't got round to doing it, and I won't have time tomorrow (I may go to Bexleyheath to finish Christmas shopping after work, provided it's still open, then I have wrapping to do, and writing cards, then Mass at Midnight etc) so readers may be disappointed this Christmas...I guess it can't be helped though. With overtime at work, I at least try to look helpful to them so that when Holy Week comes round, I can get time off then. I only hope that next Easter I won't have a nasty chest infection. Anyway, I'm off to bed now since I have to be up at 6:00am...come Wednesday next week, though, I have 12 days holiday (my first since April!)...so ends another frivolous post by Patricius!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

O Emmanuel...


Today is the 23rd day in the month of December, and the last day of Advent before the Vigil of the Nativity, and so let us look at the seventh of the Antiphonae Maiores:

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and law-bearer, the expectation of the nations and their Saviour: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Wiki...

About five years ago, I used to be one of the editors for Wikipedia's Middle-earth Portal. I subsequently stopped doing it because I often re-read articles only to discover that my edits were changed back to what they were before. One of the drawbacks of a commercial and ''user-friendly'' encyclopedia I guess. As such, I seldom use Wikipedia. Amusingly, one of my Biblical Studies lecturers, in her rather long admonition against using Wikipedia, told us that when marking students' essays, she would always turn to Wikipedia if the style of their composition suddenly changed and would 9 times out of 10 discover a near verbatim quote!

I say I seldom use Wikipedia, but I do sometimes. I also sometimes read the Tolkien stuff, if only to laugh at the appallingly bad and certainly unTolkien-like syntax, grammar, errors, want of sources and information. I looked up Laurelindórenan this afternoon, one of my favourite Tolkien words, and was amused to read that two of the ''legacies'' of Lothlórien are that a ''neopagan'' retreat has been established in Indiana named after the Golden Wood and an all-vegetarian house and cooperative affiliated with the BSC in California. Heaven and Earth! What would Tolkien say!?

Read the article here.

Blog Quiz...

I know I didn't put a deadline on the Christmas Quiz, but I have decided to get it over and done with. I had five responses, which in all honesty was more than I expected, and I was glad to read that you all enjoyed it. When I get the results tallied up, I'll sort out who won etc...

O Rex gentium...


Today is the 22nd day in the month of December, so let us commence with the Antiphonae Maiores:

O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desired one, and the stone of the corner, you who make both sides one: come, and save Men, whom you formed from the mud.

The above fresco needs no introduction, but I couldn't find the Blake painting in Google Images - Michelangelo is much better of course, being the greatest of all artists...

Monday, 21 December 2009

O Oriens...


Today is the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, the 21st day of the month of December, so on with another of the Greater Antiphons, and one of my favourites:

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Rising Sun, splendour of the eternal light and the sun of Justice: come, and illumine those sitting in the darkness and under the shadow of death.

But, in Middle-earth, the Sun is, unlike most other mythologies, seen as a second-best thing, and the sign of a fallen World...I couldn't find any appropriate Rising Sun images in Google Images, so I have settled for this Nativity scene from an old Book of Hours instead.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Chess and Crib complex...


It's been a rather full day for me today. When I got up this morning (after a very strange dream about being chased around the woods by a man in a bumblebee outfit), feeling very tired and somewhat bewildered, I peered through the curtains at the cold grey world and sighed. Snow is just lovely when you don't have to go anywhere, and you watch it coming down while you're wrapped up in a quilt and drinking hot chocolate (or in my case, this time of year at least, Irish Coffee!) next to a warm fire. It is less lovely when, after two or three days, it has turned to a foul, discoloured, frozen and perilous slush and you have to slide down the hill, hoping against hope that you don't slip and break something. Fortunately, though, my father was willing to give me a lift this morning.

After Mass, I went into the parish club for a cup of tea and a catch-up with friends, one of whom said that I should have a game of chess with her son Ryan (who had brought a small travel-board). So we went to an adjacent table and sat down. I won the first round but, not having played Chess for some time, forgot to say ''check'', so according to my opponent, the victory didn't count. We then had another go, and I lost. Ryan got bored, and his younger brother replaced him, and I lost that game too - yes, Patricius the Great lost a Chess match to an 8 year old boy! Will I ever live it down? Although in all fairness, I didn't make up the rules as I went along...but that just may be the hubris of the defeated...

At around 2:00pm I decided to go into the Sacristy to read the Altar Missal. I didn't bother going home for lunch, because I didn't fancy facing the icy roads uphill to my house, there was only an hour go to before the Children's Crib service, and because I decided that I had eaten too much yesterday (made doubly worse by the fact that it was a fast day). I read the pericopes for the three Masses of the Natvity. Presently, Fr Finigan came in with his camera and tripod and we had a brief chat about the history of the Altar Missal and Adrian Fortescue. By this time, the sound of children could be heard from the small hall. After clearing up, I went to help some of them get dressed into their outfits, which was amusing.

The Children's Crib service was, in all honesty, one of the most adorable things I have ever seen. The entrance ''procession'' was accompanied by carols, Mary and Joseph sitting in a pew towards the back of the Church, and the shepherds, angels and the four Kings, adding one eager boy to the traditional three of the Scriptures (who spent a great deal of the service chasing one of the shepherds around the choir), going to stand in the choir (the Kings to sit at the Sedilia). After a series of readings and prayers, and more carols, Joseph and Mary came to the front and were presented with a baby girl, (Jesus) and we all sang Away in a Manger. After this, Joseph read more prayers and Fr Finigan gave a short speech. I greatly enjoyed myself! I think the mere fact of youth is so wonderful, and I love children (this is probably why I have adopted a somewhat avuncular attitude to some of them). Whenever I see them, I am reminded of that wonderful remonstrance of Our Lord to the Apostles when the people brought their children to him to be blessed. ''Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter into it. And embracing them and laying his hands upon them, he blessed them.'' (Mark 10:14-16).

Fr Finigan has photos of the Crib Service up already, and Mac was there taking photos too...

O clavis David...


Today is the 20th day in the month of December, so on with the precious O Antiphons...

O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis et nemo claudit; claudis et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel: you who open and no one closes; you close and no one opens: come and lead the captive from the house of prison, sitting in the darkness, and under the shadow of death.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Christmas Sibyl...


In ancient days, there are said to have lived wise women who dwelt in temples and caves, the legendary seeresses of antiquity, who dwelt under the influence of the gods, and to whom men came from far and wide for counsel and prophecy. We call these women Sibyls, from the Greek sibylla which means ''prophetess.'' (It is interesting that in the renowned Sequence for Requiems, the Dies Irae, the Sibyl is ranked alongside David in import). One such Sibyl dwelt at the ancient Etruscan town of Tibur (modern day Tivoli), about fifteen miles north east of Rome. Her temple (which still stands to this day) stood in the midst of a sacred grove, the streams of which flowed out into the Tiber.

Augustus Caesar met with the Tiburtine Sibyl on the very afternoon of Our Lord's Nativity. The story is to be found in Jacobus de Voragine's 13th century Golden Legend, and goes:

''...here is what Pope Innocent III tells us: in order to reward Octavian for having established peace in the world, the Senate wished to pay him the honours of a god. But the wise Emperor, knowing that he was mortal, was unwilling to assume the title of immortal before he had asked the Sibyl whether the world would some day see the birth of a greater man than he.

Now on the day of the Nativity the Sibyl was alone with the emperor, when at high noon, she saw a golden ring appear around the sun. In the middle of the circle stood a Virgin, of wondrous beauty, holding a Child upon her bosom. The Sibyl showed this wonder to Caesar; and a voice was heard which said: "This woman is the Ara Caeli [Altar of Heaven]!"

And the Sibyl said to him: "This Child will be greater than thou."

Thus the room where this miracle took place was consecrated to the holy Virgin; and upon the site the church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli stands today. However, other historians recount the same event in a slightly different way. According to them, Augustus mounted the Capitol, and asked the gods to make known to him who would reign after him; and he heard a voice saying: "A heavenly Child, the Son of the living God, born of a spotless Virgin!" Whereupon Augustus erected the altar beneath which he placed the inscription: This is the altar of the Son of the living God.''

More ''release from bondage...''


When, by the foul arts of Sauron, Beren, Finrod and company were stripped of their hideous réaf, Sauron had them thrown into the pits of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, but he could not discover their names or purposes. He threatened to slay them with torture, but the companions were faithful to Felagund and to Beren and none betrayed them to Sauron. Often, though, two eyes would be seen kindled in the dark and a great werewolf would devour one of the prisoners, until only Beren and Felagund were left.

Eventually, only Beren and Felagund were left, and Sauron purposed to keep Felagund to the last, seeing that he was a Gnome of great might and wisdom, and he deemed that in Felagund lay the purpose of their quest. But when the great werewolf came for Beren, Felagund put forth his powers and burst his bonds, and killed the werewolf. But Felagund was himself wounded to the death, and dying he said unto Beren: ''I go now to my long rest in the timeless halls beyond the seas and the Mountains of Aman. It will be long ere I am see among the Noldor again; and it may be that we shall not meet a second time in death or life, for the fates of our kindreds are apart. Farewell!'' He died then in the cold dark of Sauron's Isle, whose great tower he himself had wrought. Thus died King Finrod Felagund, fairest and most beloved of the House of Finwë, in the redemption of his oath to Barahir, and Beren mourned beside his friend in despair.

In that very hour came Lúthien, and standing upon the bridge she sang a song of power that came even to Beren in the pits of despair. Beren heard (though I daresay he thought he dreamed), and he sang in answer a song in praise of the Sickle of the Valar, those Seven Stars set in the North by Varda as a sign for the fall of Morgoth; but all strength left him and he remembered no more. Lúthien, hearing his voice, then sang a song of greater power, and the Wolves howled and the Isle trembled. Sauron in his high tower heard that voice, and he smiled to hear her voice, knowing her to be Lúthien the daughter of Melian. The rumour of the beauty of Lúthien had long gone forth out of Doriath, and he purposed to make her captive and hand her over to the power of Morgoth, for his reward would be great...

O radix Iesse...


Today is the 19th day of the month of December (and also Ember Saturday in Advent, lots of lovely long Lessons!), so on with the Antiphonae Maiores:

O radix Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

O root of Jesse, you who stand a sign of the people, over whom kings will not open their mouths, whom the Gentiles will pray: come to free us, tarry now no longer.

Friday, 18 December 2009

O Adonai...


It is the 18th day in the Month of December today, and so we shall observe another of the Greater Antiphons, with my translation:

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and Leader of the House of Israel, you who appeared unto Moses in the fire of the flaming bramble [that's literally what rubus is, either that or blackberry!] and gave unto him the Law in Sinai: come to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Moving on with the Lay...


Sauron, Gorthaur the Cruel and chief servant of Morgoth, seeing that there were strange tidings abroad, was filled with suspicion and sent many Wolves into the Elven-lands. Therefore, in that time when Lúthien came unto the eaves of Doriath, nigh to the Guarded Plain, she found that Celegorm and Curufin were abroad with their hunting-hounds, the chief of these being Huan of Valinor. Huan it was that espied her fleeting as a shadow beneath the trees. He slept not by day or by night, and no enchantment could deter him, and so coming to Lúthien, he brought her to his lord Celegorm. So great was her sudden beauty revealed in the sunlight of the plain that Celegorm stood aghast and enamoured, but he spoke her fair, and when she revealed her purpose to the lords of the Noldor, they besought her to return with them to Nargothrond where she would find aid and counsel. By no means would they reveal that they knew already of Beren and the Quest, nor that the matter of the Silmarils touched them near as the sons of their Maker.

And thus was Lúthien betrayed by the Sons of Fëanor, for they took her cloak and would not suffer her to pass beyond the gates of Nargothrond, nor to speak with any save the brothers Celegorm and Curufin. Celegorm purposed, therefore, (believing that Beren was lost without hope, or dead) to take Lúthien to wife by force, and thus would the power of the Sons of Fëanor be far advanced, for with Felagund dead they would be the mightiest lords of the Gnomes. They purposed not to pursue the Silmarils yet by force or by craft until all the kingdoms of Beleriand were under their dominion. Orodreth, Felagund's brother, was powerless to withstand them, for the Sons of Fëanor held vast sway in Nargothrond and had a large following. And Celegorm sent messengers into Doriath urging his suit.

But Huan was honest and true, and he grieved at the captivity of Lúthien. And so, coming nightly to her prison door, he would sit and listen to all that she had to tell, for he understood the tongues of all things with voice, but it was permitted for him to speak himself with voice thrice only ere he died. But Huan devised the desperate rudiments of a plan for the succour of Lúthien in her need, and coming to her at night again, he brought her her cloak, and by secret ways they escaped Nargothrond and rode away north.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cynewulf and the Great Antiphons...


Since I began to read the works of Medieval authors in my Latin studies (such as St Bede), besides their inherent beauty and genius, one thing has struck me, which hitherto I had only half-heeded: these holy and wise men must have been profoundly steeped in the Latin Liturgy and in the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers - much more than any modern Catholic, besides perhaps a few devout theologians here and there (such as the Holy Father). They write as if they breathe an air of undiluted holiness - O to have been alive in the 12th century! Since I read the short article in The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Antiphonae Maiores, I looked up this wonderful article in Google Books by Thurston called The Great Antiphons, Heralds of Christmas. It is well worth the read; he cites liturgical uses of the Antiphons, and quotes extensively from Cynewulf, an Anglo-Saxon poet (the successor of Cædmon) who, judging by the nature of his marvellous poem Crist, must have been well acquainted with the Antiphons. To my everlasting beatitude and felicity, I have thus established a link between Middle-earth and the Sacred Liturgy! In my post on the Flammifer of Westernesse (interestingly, another -fer word appears in O Emmanuel, namely legifer - law-bringer), I noted that Crist was the poem in which, as a young man of 21, Tolkien had first discovered the name Earendel, a name which can be interpreted ''radiance of the Dawn,'' in deference to St John the Baptist, the herald of Christ's coming. Tolkien was struck by the peculiarly beautiful charm of this word, a name that encompasses many aspects and many facets of Old Testament symbolism about the coming of Christ, almost as the first dawn to illumine the cold lands of Men. In The Silmarillion, Eärendil the Mariner, with the Silmaril as the star upon his brow, penetrated the shadows of the wild seas about the Blessed Realm, and besought the Powers as the messenger of Elves and Men to move them to pity upon their sorrows; and thus was the realm of the Dark Lord brought to ruin. I have often marvelled at this poignant link between the Mariner and the Prophet. Well, the poem Crist is simply bathed in a Catholic exuberance which is scarce to be found nowadays.

This section of Crist represents O Emmanuel. It is beautiful:

O thou God of spirits! how wisely thou
wast named, with name aright, Emmanuel!
As the Angel spake the word in Hebrew first,
which in its secret meaning fully now
is thus interpreted: ''The Guardian of the skies,
God's self, is now with us;'' e'en as of yore
old Men said truly that the King of Kings,
and eke the cleanly priest, would come anon.
Thus long ago the great Melchisedech
so wise of soul, revealed the majesty
of the eternal Ruler; he was the law-bringer
he gave them precepts, who had waited long
his advent hither, for it was promised them
that the Son Himself of the all-ruling Lord
would purify the nations of the earth
and in His course would seek too the abys
by the might of His spirit. Patiently
have they waited in their fetters, till God's Child
should come to the afflicted; wherefore spake Him
those cast in torments: ''Come thou now Thyself
Sovran of Heaven! Bring us salvation
weary thralls oppressed, worn out with weeping
with bitter burning tears. With thee alone
resteth their cure for those in direst need.
Visit us here, captives so sad of mood,
nor leave behind Thee, when thou turnest from hence,
so great a throng! But royally show forth
Thy mercy unto us, O Saviour Christ!''

O Sapientia...


Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press blog has reminded me that traditionally in England, today the Church begins the Great (or O) Antiphons, a day earlier than the Universal Church. They are quite lovely. Here is O Sapientia with my translation:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, you who proceed from the mouth of the Most High, touching from end unto end mightily, and setting all things in order sweetly: come to teach us the way of prudence.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Fugit ex Doriath...


It is told in the Lay of Leithian how Lúthien escaped her prison. Since, however, this is (or is at least supposed to be) a Synopsis of the content, and the content is quite lengthy, it suffices to just skim the surface this time - no need to describe how long the Lady Uinen's hair is etc! Shutting his daughter away in mighty Hírilorn, Thingol caused guards to be set at its feet so as to prevent her escape, although her maidservants brought her such things as she needed. But Lúthien put forth her arts of enchantment and caused her hair to grow to great length, and making of it a robe of enchantment, she cloaked herself in deep shadows. With the strands that were left, she wrought a long rope and let herself out of the tree, and as the rope swayed over the heads of the guards, they fell into a deep sleep. Then, wrapped in her shadowy cloak, she departed from the land of Doriath.

Recubens...


I love this photo. Not my favourite Audrey Hepburn photo by a long shot, but this one is more ''home-like'' as Samwise Gamgee would say, she appears not less beautiful in this somewhat domestic scene, but charming and beautiful in a more familiar mode. In most fashion-type photos or screen-shots, where she is shown in a gorgeous Givenchy-type gown, she appears far-removed, remote, beautifully worshipful. Here she is adorable, familiar and very human. Notice also that she is wreathed in smoke!

Monday, 14 December 2009

This is it!

I have finally got round to setting up my Christmas Quiz. It is a Tolkien quiz, so sorry to disappoint anyone without the slightest interest in Tolkien, but the questions are Multiple Choice, so even if you don't know the answer, there is a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right anyway. There are 25 Questions, five of them on The Hobbit, ten on The Lord of the Rings, and another five on Tolkien the man. The prize is that marvellous new book I enjoyed: The Ring of Words: Tolkien and The Oxford English Dictionary. You don't need to answer every single question right in order to win; the person with the most correct answers will be the prize-winner. Email me your answers: Paddysheridan1@aol.com is my email address. Good luck!

The Hobbit
Question I: Which if Gandalf's ''cousins'' lived at Rhosgobel on the borders of Mirkwood?
A: Saruman
B: Radagast
C: Gimli
Question II: What was the name of the Goblin whom Dáin slew in Moria?
A: Bolg
B: Azog
C: Carc
Question III: What name did Beorn give to the great rock in the upper reaches of the Great River of Wilderland?
A: Carrock
B: Mount Fang
C: Taniquetil
Question IV: What was the name of the old Raven to whom the Dwarves spoke at Ravenhill?
A: Thorondor
B: Landroval
C: Roäc
Question V: What was the name of the man who slew the Dragon Smaug?
A: Bard
B: Girion
C: Beorn
The Lord of the Rings
Question I: What name did the Elves give to Tom Bombadil?
A: Olórin
B: Iant Iaur
C: Iarwain Ben-adar
Question II: By what name was Gandalf known to the Dwarves?
A: Orald
B: Tharkûn
C: Incánus
Question III: The Exiles of Númenor brought how many Palantíri to Middle-earth?
A: Seven
B: Three
C: Five
Question IV: What was the name of the inn in which Gandalf and the Hobbits stayed on their return from Rivendell?
A: The Green Dragon
B: The Golden Perch
C: The Prancing Pony
Question V: What was the name of the tower of Isengard?
A: Orthanc
B: Barad Nimras
C: Dol Guldur
Question VI: The title of the second volume of The Lord of the Rings is The Two Towers. To which ''two towers'' does this refer? [there is in fact more than one ''correct'' answer]
A: Orthanc and Cirith Ungol
B: Minas Tirith and Barad-dûr
C: Cirith Ungol and Cirith Gorgor
Question VII: What are the names of the Three Elven Rings?
A: Menelya, Valanya and Elenya
B: Cermië, Nárië and Narquelië
C: Narya, Vilya and Nenya
Question VIII: To whom did Gandalf say this: ''Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need''?
A: Shadowfax
B: Gwaihir
C: Saruman
Question IX: By what name was Lothlórien known in Rohan?
A: Dwimordene
B: Dwimmerlaik
C: Dwimorberg
Question X: The ''Mouth of Sauron'' was a renegade of which race?
A: The Orcs
B: The Nazgûl
C: The Black Númenóreans
Tolkien the man
Question I: In which year did Tolkien become Merton Professor of English Language & Literature at Oxford?
A: 1925
B: 1945
C: 1959
Question II: In which church did Tolkien serve Mass as a boy?
A: The Oxford Oratory
B: The London Oratory
C: The Birmingham Oratory
Question III: To whom did Tolkien write: ''The Lord of the Rings is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work''?
A: C.S Lewis
B: Fr Robert Murray, SJ
C: Christopher Tolkien
Question IV: Between 1931-1947 Tolkien lived at which address?
A: 20 Northmoor Road
B: 50 St John's Street
C: 3 Bagshot Row
Question V: Which of Tolkien's sons was ordained priest in 1946?
A: John
B: Michael
C: Christopher

O Tempora!


I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came, and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Lúthien's house...

Instead of going on about Gaudete Sunday, which you'll find on almost any Catholic blog today, I thought I'd say more about the Lay of Leithian. When Beren departed from the Land of the Girdle, Lúthien became silent and would sing no more, and the heart of Thingol was troubled. When Beren with Felagund and company were ensnared by Sauron, an ill feeling came upon her, so that going to Melian her mother for counsel, she learned that he was a prisoner in Tol-in-Gaurhoth without hope of escape. She resolved, therefore, to go herself to rescue him, and she besought Daeron to give her aid, but he betrayed her purpose to the King. The Lay goes on:

In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep. He would not bind
in caverns deep and intertwined
sweet Lúthien, his lovely maid,
who robbed of air must wane and fade,
who ever must look upon the sky
and see the sun and moon go by.
But close unto his mounded seat
and grassy throne there ran the feet
of Hírilorn, the beechen queen.
Upon her triple boles were seen
no break or branch, until aloft
in a green glimmer, distant, soft,
the mightiest vault of leaf and bough
from world's beginning until now
was flung above Esgalduin's shores
and the long slopes to Thingol's doors.
Grey was the rind of pillars tall
and silken-smooth, and far and small
to squirrels' eyes were those who went
at her grey feet upon the bent.
Now Thingol made men in the beech,
in that great tree, as far as reach
their longest ladders, there to build
an airy house; and as he willed
a little dwelling of fair wood
was made, and veiled in leaves it stood
above the first branches. Corners three
it had and windows faint to see,
and by three shafts of Hírilorn
in corners standing was upborne.
There Lúthien was bidden dwell,
until she was wiser and the spell
of madness was left her. Up she clomb
the long ladders to her new home
among the leaves, among the birds;
she sang no song, she spoke no words.
While glimmering in the tree she rose,
and her little door they heard her close.
The ladders were taken and no more
her feet might tread Esgalduin's shore.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Another lovely book...


When I was little, my mother borrowed a book from the Library for me one Christmas called The Good Little Christmas Tree, by Ursula Moray Williams. Sadly, it is out of print, but it is such a lovely, heart-warming Christmas story, and with gorgeous illustrations by Gillian Tyler. For those of you who haven't read it, I'd strongly recommend it - especially if you have young children.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Work etc...


I am rather swamped with work at present, so blogging may be sporadic depending on how much I get done later today and tomorrow (and I have the washing up to do...). I went to work this morning, and I know it's close to Christmas and all, but I was rather put out in trying to explain to my Supervisor that I actually have a life outside work and that I have more important academic stuff to focus on - this was my response to her request that I stay for overtime today. Yesterday I spent all day in the Library doing translations. I managed to get some St Bede done, as well as a translation of St Matthew Chapter II (at one point I was so tired that I very nearly failed to notice a wonderful Ablative Absolute!), but I am still terribly behind.

Usually when things get on top of me, I try to forget about them. This happened yesterday in fact, at around 4:00pm. I was sitting at my desk with the Lewis & Short, my Grammar, and several texts, and I was trying to translate a rather hard passage from St Bede. Having gone over and over the same sentence endlessly, I began to ''doodle'' (usually depictions of the Crucifixion, which I am rather good at, or scenes from Tolkien). Getting bored with this, I got up and went down to the Stacks. I perused Classics and a few Periodicals (The Downside Review mostly) and then came to the Scripture section. I picked up an old Vulgate from 1868 and sat down to read it - to my pleasure I actually noticed two spelling errors! I put this back and then found something I never knew existed - the ideal Christmas present for J.R.R Tolkien in fact, had I known him - a book of the Four Gospels in Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, Middle English (Wycliffe) and Early Modern English (Tyndale) translation, arranged in parallel columns. It is a handsome book, and sitting down to peruse it, I came across something almost immediately that made me chuckle. The Anglo-Saxon translation of Matthew 5:14 reads: Ge synd middan-eardes leoht. ''Ye are the light of the worlde'' as rendered by Tyndale...another early reference to Middle-earth, this time it seems by Our Lord!

Tolkien's earliest academic publication was his Middle English Vocabulary, which was (at least supposed to be) published with Kenneth Sisam's Middle English Reader. I have a copy of this in my library, and the works by John Wycliffe (the Englishman best known as one of the Lollards) are the easiest to read. Middle English is not as remote or ''alien'' as Old English, and the language is very similar to Modern English in many words and devices. Old English is entirely foreign, and I only recognise a few words. Gothic is even more so! Last year, I ordered a Gothic Primer from Amazon - so convinced was I of Tolkien's arguments for its inherent beauty and genius! - but so far my attempts at learning the language have been in vain. That sort of thing requires tuition (I was rather disappointed, since Tolkien taught himself many tongues). But I don't suppose I'll ever master the language.

Anyway, I digress. I borrowed the book in the hopes of looking through it in more detail, but I haven't had the time since then. Maybe next week...anyway, I have work and chores to do now, o me miserum!

The above image is of the Gothic Alphabet - it's nicer than the Latin alphabet isn't it?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

To Sauron's Isle...

In my previous post, we saw how Finrod Felagund resolved to fulfill his oath to Barahir and accompany Beren on his Quest to wrest the Silmaril from Morgoth's Iron Crown and together with ten companions they left Nargothrond and went north to Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves, where Sauron was lord. In the woods along the way, they waylaid a band of wandering Orcs, and taking their gear, they were by the arts of Felagund made as hideous as the Orcs, and thus they continued their journey. At length they left the mild lands of Beleriand and came to the hither regions, dark and morrowless, about Taur-nu-Fuin and the upper vales of Sirion, and there amidst the river there stood a hill upon which was set Minas Tirith, built of old by Finrod Felagund himself, but which now served as a watchtower for Morgoth, under the dominion of Sauron.

Now in that hill was the abode
of one most evil; and the road
that from Beleriand thither came
he watched with sleepless eyes of flame.
(From the North there led no other way,
save east where the Gorge of Aglon lay,
and that dark path of hurrying dread
which only in need the Orcs would tread
through Deadly Nightshade's awful gloom
where Taur-na-Fuin's [Taur-nu-Fuin] branches loom;
and Aglon led to Doriath,
and Fëanor's sons watched o'er that path.)
Men called him Thû [Sauron], and as a god
in after days beneath his rod
bewildered bowed to him, and made
his ghastly temples in the shade.
Not yet by Men enthralled adored,
now was he Morgoth's mightiest lord,
Master of Wolves, whose shivering howl
for ever echoed in the hills, and foul
enchantments and dark sigaldry*
did weave and wield. In glamoury*
that necromancer held his hosts
of phantoms and of wandering ghosts,
of misbegotten or spell-wronged
monsters that about him thronged,
working his bidding dark and vile:
the werewolves of the Wizard's Isle.
From Thû [Sauron] their coming was not hid;
and though beneath the eaves they slid
of the forest's gloomy-hanging boughs
he saw them afar, and wolves did rouse:
''Go! fetch me those sneaking Orcs,'' he said,
''that fare thus strangely, as if in dread,
and do not come, as all Orcs use
and are commanded, to bring me news
of all their deeds, to me, to Thû.''
From his tower he gazed, and in him grew
suspicion and a brooding thought,
waiting, leering, till they were brought.
Now ringed about with wolves they stand,
and fear their doom. Alas! the land,
the land of Narog left behind!
Foreboding evil weights their mind,
as downcast, halting, they must go
and cross the stony bridge of woe
to Wizard's Isle, and to the throne
there fashioned of blood-darkened stone.
(The Lay of Leithian, Canto VII).
**These strange words are listed in the Word Study section of The Ring of Words. ''Sigaldry,'' meaning ''enchantment, sorcery'' is recorded only in Middle English texts until Tolkien revived it. It is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word sigalder, meaning a ''charm or incantation.'' The Middle English form sigaldrie appears in one of the manuscripts of the Ancrene Riwle, the medieval religious work edited by Tolkien. ''Glamoury'' means ''occult knowledge, magic, necromancy'' It is an odd word, related (somehow) to the word ''grammar.'' The Oxford English Dictionary explains that in the Middle Ages, the Latin word grammatica chiefly meant the study and knowledge of the Latin language. Since all academic and Ecclesiastical learning was done in Latin (as it ought still, in my opinion), the word eventually came to mean any learning in general, and this encompassed also the ''secret'' knowledge of occult things and astrology.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ave Maria, Gratia plena...


Athanasius of Suffering World has an excellent post on Our Lady's Immaculate Conception - we are not, of course, too late to talk about it, since the Feast of old had an Octave (and still does as far as I am concerned). He has also made use of his skills as a Classicist and has traced the etymological significances of the Latin Gratia and the Greek Kharis in relation to the unique relationship between God and His Immaculate Mother. His introduction to this exquisite piece was informative also, since I had forgotten that Pope Pius IX had sought the ''opinion'' of the Bishops on the matter of this logical Doctrine. I can't say I agree with the Pope in this sense - by implication his actions mean that doctrinal orthodoxy rests solely upon consensus rather than the authority of the Church (what would the position of the Traditional Latin Mass now be if the present Holy Father had sought the opinion of the Bishops!?). I once spoke to an eminent Church historian (my tutor in fact) about why the Orthodox faithful, with their wonderful liturgical tradition (preserved in tact, unlike us Westerners, in the last 40 years - well except the Russians and the Greeks of course), disagreed so vehemently with the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and his response was that we placed more emphasis upon St Augustine's understanding of Original Sin than they did. Indeed, St Augustine was little known in the East until the Middle Ages. To me, the doctrine represents the logical result of one argument to the next. That is not to say that Catholic Doctrine can be ''explained'' always using syllogistic arguments (can anyone fully explain the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, or the Hypostatic Union?), but in the case of Our Lady, whose personal spotlessness and eternal beauty are far beyond the reach of any of our minds, the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception is both a mystery and very logical - I wonder whether in this respect she acts as a kind of mediator between the eternal mystery of God and the understanding and logic of the minds of Men? Surely understanding and mystery emanate from the same Divine source?

Do read the post, it's excellent.

Monday, 7 December 2009

A Christmas ''quiz''

I spoke to the eminent Zephyrinus in person on Sunday, a faithful reader of this blog, and he suggested to me that I might put up a ''quiz'' after the manner of the mouldy Fr Mildew who I have since added to my blogroll. Any suggestions to a topic would be nice, and what would be the prize? I was thinking of that wonderful book I read recently, The Ring of Words, but others with less of an all-absorbing fascination with Tolkien might appreciate something else...

Were I to commence with a quiz, answers would be sent to my email address and you will of course need to provide me with your name and address, unless of course you know me personally, in which case I can personally present you with the ''prize'' with some degree of ''ceremony...''

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Hobbit...


I am supremely confident that this is one of the greatest masterpieces of children's literature ever to have been written, although Tolkien was somewhat embarrassed by it later in life. I plan to translate this work into Latin one day (what would Tolkien think of this, I wonder? He'd have preferred Old Norse of course), if only to amuse and stimulate my own intellect. I amazed myself the other day: I wrote out the names of all 13 Dwarves, and a number of their relatives (and dates of birth - it gets scarier!) - and I didn't think I knew that much about The Hobbit, having read this work the least among Tolkien's legendary works.

From memory, the Quest of Erebor consisted of 15 persons in toto, namely: 1. Thorin Oakenshield son of Thráin II son of Thrór of the House of Durin, 2. Balin and 3. Dwalin sons of Fundin, 4. Bifur, 5. Bofur, 6. Bombur (the fat one), 7. Dori (whose name, amusingly, is Old Norse for ''borer'' - in the sense of someone who drills not a bore like me!), 8. Nori, 9. Ori, 10. Glóin and 11. Óin the sons of Gróin, and 12. Fíli and 13. Kíli, the sons of Dís, the only Dwarf-woman mentioned in the whole history of Middle-earth, the daughter of Thráin II and therefore sister of Thorin. Much of this connexion is made of in the later chapters. The 14th and 15th persons were, of course, Gandalf the Wizard (not given the title ''the Grey'' until The Lord of the Rings) and the star of the show, the professional hired ''burglar'' Bilbo Baggins, son of Bungo Baggins and the great Belladonna Took, one of the daughters of the Old Took.

I greatly enjoyed this book when I read it for the first time - I think because I liked Dragons and hunting treasure and I adored Bilbo, and wanting to find out as much as possible about Hobbits, I was brought The Lord of the Rings. I have never stopped reading it!

For the last however-many-years I have vainly wanted a signed First Edition of The Hobbit to add to my collection of Tolkien books (I'd also like the 1951 Second and the 1966 Third editions, purely for the purposes of private study and to add to my Tolkien collection) - there is one signed First Edition on sale on Abebooks for £75500.00. It's worth a browse actually, here's the link. It would make a nice Christmas present you know...

Venturi sunt?


I have wanted to post this painting for a while now, but being stuck in the First Age of the Sun in my silly synopsis of The Silmarillion, we have some thousands of years to go yet. I have actually covered a significant portion of the history of Arda in my ''synopsis'' already. The events surrounding the lives of Beren and Lúthien mainly occur in the 465th year since the first rising of the Sun, many thousands of years since the Creation of Arda (how many, I know not - having, perforce, to rely on semi-''canonical'' stuff in The History of Middle-earth); the War of Wrath takes place in the 583rd year since the first rising of the Sun and so ends the First Age. The Second Age is a period of marked advancement in the lives of the Men of the Three Houses, those who went into the West to Númenor, the Elendili, the Lords of Men, the sires of Aragorn. However, Men were ill-content with the wisdom of the Eldar and their longevity, and wanted more - the above painting, by Ted Nasmith, depicts the great Eagles of Manwë, rising out of the West in great thunderous and threatening clouds to warn the Men of their imminent doom. I'd like to have seen these clouds myself...

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Problems with Sitemeter...

I am having trouble with my Sitemeter (O Lord, when does it end?). Last night before bed, I checked my sitemeter (as is my wont, I find it interesting), and for Friday 4th December I had 63 visitors, with a total of 8,528 since I set the thing up on 12th May. I have just sat down and checked it again, and for some obscure reason it has gone back to 8,491 visitors, and indicates that yesterday I had only 19 and today only 6. Very strange. I have sent them an email about it, but I don't expect to hear anything soon...

Friday, 4 December 2009

New look for New Advent...


Sorry about that awful cliché, but I thought this to be of interest. The Catholic Encyclopedia Online, an invaluable resource, has improved its Scripture section. Now one can read the English text alongside the Greek and the Latin. Follow this link to read St John Chapter VI, part of which I translated yesterday.

Beren among the Gnomes...


Let's go back to the wonderful Lay of Leithian. This ''synopsis'' of The Silmarillion has proven no such thing at all, but I do enjoy ''going on'' about Tolkien and since this is my blog, I can say what I want anyway! Let us return to the caves of Nargothrond where Felagund is Lord:

Behind closed doors, Finrod the Beloved heard in wonder the tale of Beren, and Beren wept for the loveliness of Lúthien and the cruel doom of Thingol. And so Finrod declared the doom of Beren before his people. By ill luck, Celegorm and Curufin, the sons of Fëanor, were dwelling within the realm of Finrod, for they had fled the Dagor Bragollach and had sought refuge with their cousin Finrod, and upon hearing that Beren would wrest from Morgoth a Silmaril as the brideprice of Lúthien, Celegorm arose, eyes aflame with wrath and the memory of the terrible Oath, drew his sword, and lifted his voice above the crowd:

''Be he friend or foe, or demon wild
of Morgoth, Elf, or mortal child,
or any that here on earth may dwell,
no law, nor love, nor league of hell,
no might of Gods, no binding spell,
shall him defend from hatred fell
of Fëanor's sons, whoso take or steal
or finding keep a Silmaril.
These we alone do claim by right,
our thrice enchanted jewels bright.''

Many wild and potent words he spoke,
and as before in Tûn [Túna] awoke
his father's voice their hearts to fire,
so now dark fear and brooding ire
he cast on them, foreboding war
of friend with friend; and pools of gore
their minds imagined lying red
in Nargothrond about the dead,
did Narog's host with Beren go;
or haply battle, ruin, and woe
in Doriath where great Thingol reigned,
if Fëanor's fatal jewel he gained.
And even such as were most true
to Felagund his oath did rue,
and thought with terror and despair
of seeking Morgoth in his lair
with force or guile. This Curufin
when his brother ceased did then begin
more to impress upon their minds;
and such a spell he on them binds
that never again till Túrin's day
would Gnome of Narog in array
of open battle go to war.
With secrecy, ambush, spies, and lore
of wizardry, with silent leaguer
of wild things wary, watchful, eager,
of phantom hunters, venomed darts,
and unseen stealthy creeping arts,
with padding hatred that its prey
with feet of velvet all the day
followed remorseless out of sight
and slew it unawares at night -
thus they defended Nargothrond,
and forgot their kin and solemn bond
for dread of Morgoth that the art
of Curufin set within their heart.

So would they not that angry day
King Felagund their lord obey,
but sullen murmured that Finrod
nor yet his son were as a god.
Then Felagund took off his crown
and at his feet he cast it down,
the silver helm of Nargothrond:
''Yours ye may break, but I my bond
must keep, and kingdom here forsake.
If hearts here were that did not quake,
or that to Finrod's [Finarfin's] son were true,
then I at least should find a few
to go with me, not like a poor
rejected beggar scorn endure,
turned from my gates to leave my town,
my people, and my realm and crown!''

Hearing these words there swiftly stood
beside him ten tried warriors good,
men of his house who had ever fought
wherever his banners had been brought.
One stooped and lifted up his crown,
and said: ''O king, to leave this town
is now our fate, but not to lose
thy rightful lordship. Thou shalt choose
one to be steward in thy stead.''
Then Felagund upon the head
of Orodreth set it: ''Brother mine,
till I return this crown is thine.''
Then Celegorm no more would stay,
and Curufin smiled and turned away.
(The History of Middle-earth, Volume III, The Lays of Beleriand).

The above painting is a sketch by Ted Nasmith depicting the oath of Fëanor.

Comments on this Blog...

Having taken the advice of the wise Mulier Fortis, I have edited the comment moderation on this blog. I do not accept Anonymous comments, but bloggers who wish to comment as of now no longer need to fill in the ''word verification'' thingy to indicate they're not robots or whatever. If I remember rightly, the reason I installed that in the first place was because I received a spam comment, but as I was advised today, since I am in charge of what appears in the Comment box anyway, I can delete or publish at my whim. I hope leaving comments is now not such a bother anymore...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Dixit Patricius lectoribus suis...


After the last two days of near-constant whinging and much unneeded stress, I spent today resting and didn't go to University, which is a shame since Thursday means Latin and Latin means civilisation and art and Liturgy, which is the beautifully harmonious mingling of all classical and theological and aesthetic graces. I spent the day reading by the grey shores of Middle-earth (that is to say, on my bed!) doing translations of St John's Gospel and reading wonderful books. I wish my Bachelor's degree were over by now though, and I had my Masters, and I were truly at leisure to do these things...

I was taught to read Latin, which means that when I see Latin (in a Missal for example) it is easy enough to read. However, if the Missal is removed and I am asked to compose Latin, my mind goes blank. I wonder whether this is the correct way of going about the earnest study of a language. I would that, like Tolkien or Wilde, I knew Latin (and Greek) so thoroughly...until then, I am rather stuck. I find it rather worrying, especially since I would like to make Latin my profession.

The above painting is by John Howe and depicts the Grey Havens. I like the colour grey, and it crops up in Tolkien quite a lot and in different senses - most famously, Gandalf the Grey (which signifies merely the colour of his raiment), the Grey Havens, the Ered Lithui (mountains as grey as ash, seen by Frodo and Sam as threatening sentinels or pillars of broken teeth on the edge of sight from the Emyn Muil and the Marshes), Círdan the Shipwright refers to ''these grey shores,'' which probably means refers to their fading or age, when speaking of Middle-earth, the grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all that...nice. The day here has been wet, miserable and overcast, with the clouds as a great dull mournful canopy blocking both sun and light; but there are consolatory qualities in miserable weather, especially English wintertide weather. I expect it behoves us to accept the good with the bad; there'd be no green grass or orchards or forests or flowers without rain...oh please, I am commenting on the weather! Now to get my dinner and amble off to Benediction...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

New ICEL...

I am not really interested in new translations of the New Rite ''missal'' - not being that interested in the New Rite - but it seems that the new ''missal'' is overdue for another year. The way I see it, if priests are well-versed in the Latin language, which according to Canon Law they should be, why not use a Latin New Rite ''missal'' and translate as they go along? I know of at least one priest who did this, being appalled at what passed for a modern translation of the prayers of the ''missal.'' He was, of course, in trouble for doing so, but what on earth for? His extempore translation was, I have no doubt at all, a lot more accurate...

Better still, why not just say the Old Rite and not bother translating? Let the whingers whinge all they want; to whom can these geriatrics possibly turn! Rome? Rome favours the Old Rite...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Climate change, suffering etc...


In these latter days, I am always instinctively suspicious of anything so pushed by the Government. Why? Because I think the Government is packed full of dishonest, misguided, Modernist, vegetarian, teetotal, Protestant, secular, feminist, liberal (which, paradoxically, means precisely the opposite of freedom) Freemasonic idiots with a violently anti-Catholic agenda. I am filled with wrath whenever I hear about ''5-a-day'' (something which in my opinion has little or no scientific basis whatsoever), swine flu, climate change, ''carbon footprints'' etc, and I also get rather annoyed whenever I hear ''charities'' such as Cafod or Christian Aid or Oxfam going on about people starving in Africa, and dying of HIV/Aids on account of contraception. This requires some explanation, so I shall do my best without sounding too prejudiced.

Take my mother: 48 years old, with more than enough in her own life and in the life of our family to worry about (which I will not elaborate here without her leave) - why should she spend a great deal of her spare time feeling miserable about the suffering of people thousands of miles away? Now, I grieve at those sufferings, but does it really behove us as Catholics to be constantly and vividly aware of them? It seems to me to run counter to the nature of Man as created by God to live lives annexed to a constant misery on account of suffering. I wonder, were we ever supposed to be aware of such suffering? Modern technology is to blame of course, that and journalism and propaganda: they seem to have burdened or imposed upon our sympathies. Was human emotion ever intended for such burdens? It seems that if we do not sympathise with anonymous people thousands of miles away, or fret over carbon footprints or whatever we are accused of prejudice or callous indifference.

If somebody you know, a relative or friend, is having a ''difficult patch'' (lets say), such as the death of a loved one or a divorce - well, it is becoming that you sympathise and condole with them. But if Joe Bloggs living in Nigeria is having a ''difficult patch,'' is it equally becoming to sympathise and condole with him in the same manner? I think it is quite impossible. More Saints come from eras in the Church's history when there were no blogs, internets, TVs etc. Are they any less holy and heroic because they were simply unaware of climate change!? Was St Francis of Assisi worried about his ''carbon footprint!'' Certainly not. And yet he is derided and scoffed at these days for being indoctrinated by the silly Romish Medieval religion by stupid people truly brainwashed by journalism and modern governments about climate change! Such people are haughty and arrogant busy-bodies under the pretence that their zeal for curtailing Co2 emissions is the real concern for the race of Men. I am personally more concerned for the marring of the human soul by Sin and the overthrow of the human mind by idolatry and superstition than the effects of climate change - which are probably grossly exaggerated anyway. I wonder - is indifference the answer? I have long ceased to care about the news, which passes through the clogged and muddied filter of journalism and triviality before it is stared at by people who bother to watch TV. I hope this doesn't sound too callous? I wonder if people think likewise...
Whenever thinking about things of this sort, I am reminded of this Scripture quotation: For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always (Matthew 26:11).

Middle-earth...


The Oxford English Dictionary defines ''Middle-earth'' as ''the world regarded as a middle region between Heaven and Hell, or as occupying the centre of the Universe.'' As you know, it is not an invention of Tolkien's anymore than the words Dwarf, Elf and Gnome were, and neither did he use it to convey the idea of an imaginary world. In a letter to W.H Auden, he wrote:

''I am historically minded. Middle-earth is not an imaginary world. The name is the modern form (appearing in the 13th century and still in use) of midden-erd>middel-erd, an ancient name for the oikoumené [related, incidentally, to ecumenical], the abiding place of Men, the objectively real world, in use specifically opposed to imaginary worlds (as Fairyland) or unseen worlds (as Heaven or Hell). The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live, but the historical period is imaginary.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no.183).

According to this wonderful book, The Ring of Words, the compound has a long history and prehistory. It is a Germanic formation, found in the oldest Germanic language Gothic, of which Tolkien was especially enamoured, as early as the 4th century in the form midjun-gards, meaning, roughly, ''the middle enclosed region.'' The Old Norse equivalent was Miðgarðr or Midgard, referring to the world of Men between the encircling seas, accounted one of a number of separate regions, such as the more familiar Ásgarðr or Asgard, the dwelling place of the gods.

In Old English, between the 8th-12th centuries, the form was middangeard, which meant simply, as Tolkien says, ''the world in which we live.'' As I wrote in my previous post, the form appears in the Anglo-Saxon translation of St Bede's Ecclesiastical History, in Cædmon's hymn, which refers to the Creation of the World. By the beginning of the 14th century, the form had changed, and in Middle English the form was Middle-earth.

Tolkien did not use the term Middle-earth in the earliest writings of the Legendarium. In the Lost Tales for instance, Tolkien refers to what later became Middle-earth as the Great Lands, the Outer Lands or the Hither Lands. Neither does Middle-earth appear in The Hobbit (which, incidentally, I read for the first time this year over the last two days!). It appears that Tolkien adopted the term in the mid-1930s; we can glean this from its occurrence in the Anglo-Saxon Annals of Valinor found in Volume IV of The History of Middle-earth. I like the form personally, it is fitting philologically and geographically, but I sometimes also use the terms Outer Lands or Great Lands - if only in mere comparison to the smaller, but pleasanter, land of Aman in the West. Outer Lands has a rather negative connotation, adopted by the Eldar of Tirion no doubt to signify the cold, dark and primitive lands whence they came. I use the terms synonymously.

I could have chosen any number of paintings of Middle-earth, but I chose this one by Ted Nasmith depicting the valley of Rivendell because I like Rivendell as a place, and I like the painting. It is one of those places I always wanted to live!

More Lay of Leithian...


I thought instead of going to a '62 Rite High Mass in Hatfield this morning that I'd take a much needed sojourn in the Great Lands instead. Let us return to the gest of Beren and Lúthien. Canto V of The Lay of Leithian does not cover a narrative of any significant length, merely the mourning of Tinúviel, the treachery of Dairon [Daeron], the building of the Tree-house in great Hirilorn and finally the escape of Tinúviel (and one could add, perhaps, the repentence and wandering of Dairon, something which survives into The Silmarillion), and even appears to be at variance with the narrative of The Silmarillion on at least one point (the ''curse of silence'' for example - whence came this?), and so I shall skip to Canto VI instead, which speaks of the wandering of Beren.

Now Beren came unto the pools,
wide shallow meres where Sirion cools
his gathered tide beneath the stars,
ere chafed and sundered by the bars
of reedy banks and mighty fen
he feeds and drenches, plunging then
into vast chasms underground,
where many miles his way is wound.
Umboth-Muilin [Aelin-uial], Twilight Meres,
those great wide waters grey as tears
the Elves then named. Through driving rain
from thence across the Guarded Plain
the Hills of the Hunters Beren saw
with bare tops bitten bleak and raw
by western winds; but in the mist
of streaming rans that flashed and hissed
into the meres he knew there lay
beneath those hills the cloven way
of Narog, and the watchful halls
of Felagund beside the falls
of Ingwil [Ringwil] tumbling from the wold.
An everlasting watch they hold,
the Gnomes of Nargothrond renowned,
and every hill is tower-crowned,
where wardens sleepless peer and gaze
guarding the plain and all the ways
between Narog swift and Sirion pale;
and archers whose arrows never fail
there range the woods, and secret kill
all who creep thither against their will.


Yet now he thrusts into that land
bearing the gleaming ring on hand
of Felagund, and oft doth cry:
''Here comes no wandering Orc or spy,
but Beren son of Barahir
who once to Felagund was dear.''


So ere he reached the eastward shore
of Narog, that doth foam and roar
o'er boulders black, those archers green
came round him. When the ring was seen
they bowed before him, though his plight
was poor and beggarly. Then by night
they led him northward, for no ford
nor bridge was built where Narog poured
before the gates of Nargothrond,
and friend nor foe might pass beyond.


To northward, where that stream yet young
more slender flowed, below the tongue
of foam-splashed land that Ginglith pens
when her brief golden torrent ends
and joins the Narog, there they wade.
Now swiftest journey thence they made
to Nargothrond's sheer terraces
and dim gigantic palaces.


They came beneath a sickle moon
to doors there darkly hung and hewn
with posts and lintels of pondrous stone
and timbers huge. Now open thrown
were gaping gates, and in they strode
where Felagund on throne abode.


Fair were the words of Narog's king
to Beren, and his wandering
and all his feuds and bitter wars
recounted soon. Behind closed doors
they sat, while Beren told his tale
of Doriath; and words him fail
recalling Lúthien dancing fair
with wild white roses in her hair,
remembering her elven voice that rung
while stars in twilight round her hung.
He spake of Thingol's marvellous halls
by enchantment lit, where fountain falls
and ever the nightingale doth sing
to Melian and to her king.
The quest he told that Thingol laid
in scorn on him; how for love of maid
more fair than ever was born to Men,
of Tinúviel, of Lúthien,
he must essay the burning waste,
and doubtless death and torment taste.
(The History of Middle-earth, Volume III, The Lays of Beleriand).

Monday, 30 November 2009

Yay!


Just a little reminder that the New Rite is 40 years out of date today. It seems an anniversary worth commiserating, since we have all had our run-ins with it - I am sorry to say that I grew up with it. When I was a teenager, I read about the Second Vatican Council, and making my mind up about the doctrinal and liturgical shortcomings of the post-Conciliar Church, I ''converted'' to the Old Rite and haven't looked back since. I only wish I had done so rather further back than a mere 4 years ago.

I wonder if the misguided old people (people generally over 60) so attached to the New Rite hate the Old Rite so much because their only experience of it was Low Mass, and that the priests who celebrated Mass were mumbling, clumsy and just garbled the whole thing? A little while ago, I attended a ''lecture'' (let's call it that), where arguments for the aliturgical practices of the New Rite were propounded by several old men, and my only thoughts (other than I have heard these arguments before, and I am even less convinced by them when conveyed in so hackneyed and impertinent a manner) were that I feel sorry that you are so insane and that your faith is clearly rather lukewarm and severely damaged - it just reminded me of the general marring of the human soul by Sin and I felt sick that they were so Protestant. These misguided people are, I presume, sincere in their beliefs - but then I guess so are members of the Flat Earth Society. I, of course, blame Low Mass and the '62 Missal for the New Rite, so I think I shall start praying for the end of both these unfortunate things; less Low Mass and more Sung Office as I have always said - Mass is so commonplace, and the miracle which occurs at Mass, which ought to be the high point of anybody's day, has just become somewhat stale and samey because of it...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Advent...


Well, Advent is finally upon us. It is less sombre than Lent, and the Church, even as the Gnomes standing upon the high walls of Gondolin watching for the dawn with expectancy, and to raise their voices in song at its uplifting, too waits for the coming of Christ, the liturgical Sun and the Sun of Justice. It is a liturgical season of rather blended feelings; on the one hand, the use of violet colour Vestments reminds us of our penance and the sorrow of the Church Militant unites itself to the sorrow of the old Israelites awaiting the Messias (indeed it behoves us all to unite ourselves to the old Israelites in asking God for the Christ-child), but on the other hand, the Church ceases not to say Alleluia in the Liturgy of the Mass, nor wholly to assuage gladness in the Sanctorale. As Dom Prosper put it: ''This is the reason why the Alleluia accompanies even her sighs, and why she seems to be at once joyous and sad, waiting for the coming of that holy night which will be brighter to her than the most sunny of days, and on which her joy will expel all her sorrow.'' (The Liturgical Year, Volume I, Advent).

I wish all readers a solemn and blessed Season of Advent. Follow this link to listen to the Tallis Scholars sing Byrd's Vigilate, an excellent motet for Advent. I tried to upload it but it didn't work...

Letters from Fr Christmas...


During Advent and Christmastide between the years 1920 and 1943, the children of J.R.R Tolkien received letters from Fr Christmas (yes I realise this spans 23 years, but there was a 12 year age difference between the eldest and the youngest). Every December (sometimes earlier) an envelope bearing a beautiful stamp from the North Pole would arrive at the Tolkien household addressed to the Tolkien children, and inside would be a letter written in a strange spidery script (not dissimilar to that of Bilbo's hand), beautifully coloured watercolour paintings, drawings, runes and sometimes even a present. These letters were full of heartwarming stories about life at the North Pole; about the accident-prone but good-natured North Polar Bear, how the reindeer escaped and scattered presents all over the place, the wars they all had with the nasty goblins who lived in the caves near Christmas House etc. I wish I could receive a nice letter and some drawings from Fr Christmas! Here is sample, from the first letter to John, then aged only 3:

Christmas House, North Pole
22nd December 1920.

Dear John,

I heard you ask daddy what I was like and where I lived. I have drawn me and my house for you. Take care of the picture. I am just off now for Oxford with my bundle of toys - some for you. Hope I shall arrive in time: the snow is very thick at the North Pole tonight.

Your loving Father Christmas.

Tempus Adventus...


Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent, which I am especially pleased about. ''Time after Pentecost'' gets a bit ''samey'' after so many weeks, and Advent is one of my favourite Seasons of the Liturgical Year. I simply adore Christmas, liturgically mind you, and in the theology of the Church - the whole apostate and meaningless ''festive season'' just fills me with wrath; especially since one is now expected, ritual requires it, to buy presents for people etc. Now, I enjoy buying things for people, because I like to make people happy and feel special, but I prefer to buy things spontaneously and of my own volition, not because I am expected to as a matter of principle. So far I have brought only one Christmas present, for my father (which was, despite the 65% off, more than I could afford), and buying for my mother is impossible. She is the sort of woman who tells you she likes something, then when you buy it for her changes her mind; or you buy something that you think is nice and she hates it. Buying presents for people is especially hard for someone like me, since I can't be expected to know fully what people like - I am genuinely not interested in the whims or private tastes of people - but saying this to most people, and pretty much everything else which I have written so far, only makes people think that you hate Christmas. I know I won't get what I really want...perhaps, though, it is enough to just watch and wait for the coming of Our Lord and at Midnight of Christmas Day to simply think about the dual significance of Christmas - the humility of the Christ-child, as frail as any newborn baby, and just as adorable, but also the immensity of His Majesty declared by the voices of the Angelic host, singing:

Gloria in Excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

The above photo has nothing to do with Advent liturgically, it just depicts the dawn seen over the leagues of the Sea. One thing from Tolkien that rather reminds me of Advent, or Christmas, is the first Dawn of the Sun seen from Beleriand by the Woodland Elves. In Book III of The Lord of the Rings, there is a delicious description of Merry and Pippin looking out from the woods at the battle between the Men of Rohan and the Uruk-hai. Tolkien says: ''Out of the shadows the hobbits peeped, gazing back down the slope: little furtive figures that in the dim light looked like elf-children in the deeps of time peering out of the Wild Wood in wonder at their first Dawn.'' At the first light of the Sun, the horns rang, and the Orcs were defeated. This may or may not be resonant with most people, but I think it is a nice simile - Advent, dawns, beginnings, new hope etc.