Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Columba aspexit...

I have said before that one of my liturgical interests is the plethora of Sequences in the Latin Rite. All but four were suppressed by the Missal of Pius V, a grievous loss in my opinion. I guess all that ''organic development'' of the Liturgy demanded their curtailment. Anyway, one of my favourite Medieval Sequences is the Columba aspexit, composed by Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th century German Benedictine mystic in honour of St Maximinus, the 4th century Bishop of Trier. I must find out more about this pious woman, she was clearly very gifted and apparently had visions (which modern science attributes to migraines!). Anyway, you can listen to Emma Kirkby chant the beautiful Sequence on YouTube. Here is the text:

Columba aspexit
per cancellos fenestrae
ubi ante faciem eius
sudando sudavit balsamum
de lucido Maximino.

Calor solis exarsit
et in tenebras resplenduit
unde gemma surrexit
in aedificatione templi
purissimi cor dis benevoli.

Iste turris excelsa,
de ligno Libani et cupresso facta,
iacincto et sardio ornata est,
urbs praecellens artes
aliorum artificium.

Ipse velox cervus cucurrit
ad fontem purissimae aquae
fluentis de fortissimo lapide
qui dulcia aromata irrigavit.

O pigmentari
qui estis in suavissima viriditate
hortorum regis,
ascendentes in altum
quando sanctum sacrificium
in arietibus perfecistis.

Inter vos fulget hic artifex,
paries templi,
qui desideravit alas aquilae
osculando nutricem Sapientiam
in gloriosa fecunditate Ecclesiae.

O Maximine,
mons et vallis es,
et in utroque alta aedificatio appares,
ubi capricornus cum elephante exivit,
et Sapientia in deliciis fuit.

Tu es fortis
et suavis in caerimoniis
et in coruscatiane altaris,
ascendens ut fumus aromatum
ad columnam laudis.

Ubi intercedis pro populo
qui tendit ad speculum lucis,
cui laus est in altis.

I must do a thorough translation of this when I get the time. The eighth stanza reads: ''Thou art strong and sweet in the ceremonies and in the shining [coruscatione seems to connote tremulous light, like that of the sun seen through the leaves of trees] of the Altar, ascending as an aromatic smoke to the column of praise.'' Notice how strange the style of pronunciation is, it's neither purely Classical nor Ecclesiastical but a strange mix of the two! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

My ideal exam question...

''Write everything you know about J.R.R Tolkien and his work.''

Asperger's and I...

''People with Asperger's syndrome are natural experts.'' (Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, Chapter VII, Special Interests, p. 178).

I thought I'd develop a post about Asperger Syndrome and how ''special interest'' relate to academia, since I find this interesting and perhaps some of my readers do also. Although people with Asperger Syndrome have difficulties in reciprocal social interaction (the intensity of this can decrease over time), most have a remarkable ability in a chosen area of expertise. In 1944, Hans Asperger wrote of one of his patients:

''Another autistic [it was not, of course, known as ''Asperger Syndrome'' in those days, but by a strange term - ''autistic psychopathy''] child had specialized technological interests and knew an incredible amount about complex machinery. He acquired this knowledge through constant questioning, which it was impossible to fend off, and also to a great degree through his own observations.''

An essential component of a specialized interest for someone with Asperger Syndrome is the accumulation and categorization of facts and the collection and cataloguing of objects related to it (such as books). Since, however, the ''special interest'' is of clinical significance, the interest is more than a mere hobby. Indeed, what makes the special interest of clinical significance is the abnormality of its intensity or focus. I was always good at drawing as a child (my Primary School teachers used to ''use me'' to draw school displays on what we had studied, such as the Romans), but until I was about 7 years old, I used to draw nothing but Crucifixes or depictions of the Crucifixion - they were accurate as well, after the manner of Duccio who painted accurate crucifixions, even if other depictions, such as that of Perugino or Raphael, tend to be more aesthetically pleasing! I clearly remember the first thing I think I ever drew which was not a Crucifix (after a thrashing from my mother, who was always more strict with me, because I was ''odd,'' than with my siblings) was the Apple Tree at the bottom of our garden - my mother kept it, but I haven't seen it since. I remember being tempted to depict Christ's Corpus suspended from the branches, remembering that someone had said that: ''the Lord reigns from the Tree,'' but I knew that this would upset my mother and so I left it out.

I am not so close to classic Autism on the Autistic Spectrum as to have remained altogether unchanged in my special interests over the years. My interest in Crucifixes has developed into a general interest in Religious art and the history of Art. This is comparatively common in in many children with Asperger Syndrome. The complexity and number of interests differs according to developmental and intellectual factors; some children can develop interests in specific periods of history (in my case, the Angevin Empire and the early Plantagenets), or some other interest. I used to read the Oxford English Dictionary and was fascinated by the entries, specifically the etymological explanations, which has developed into an interest in the Latin language. Having a strong interest in Art and language, I also became enamoured of styles of script and so my mother brought me a Calligraphy set to practice my handwriting. Unlike most children with Asperger Syndrome, my subtle motor coordinations were not erratic, nor did they fluctuate, and my handwriting has often been described as very neat. Alas, though, I no longer own a calligraphy set - I must acquire one, calligraphy is a noble art, one could say, a special union of Art and Intellect. This subtlety was also exemplified in my perfect sense of rhythm. My mother, as I have said in a previous post, took me to Irish dancing lessons (mostly in her attempts to instill within my siblings and I that we were Irish and not British - the British being equated with Protestantism in the eyes of my family!) and I developed a talent for that, and enjoyed it immensely.

I first read The Hobbit when I was 7 years old. My first copy was in fact a First Holy Communion present (an odd one, most others consisted of Mass books, Rosaries and devotional medals!). I enjoyed it immensely, and still do. I consider the book to be a masterpiece of childrens' literature. Having read and re-read The Hobbit several times, I asked my mother when I was 8 or 9 to find any other books about Hobbits, and so I was presented with the first part of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, and I enjoyed that even more than I had enjoyed The Hobbit. By the time I was 13 (at about the time the Peter Jackson trilogy was first shown in cinemas around the world) I had read it about twice a year every year. I think I have only read it once this year, owing to academic pressures (which I will come to in a moment) - this will have to be rectified at Christmas! My mother gave my siblings (I have a younger brother and a younger sister, now 20 and 18 respectively) and I tickets to go and see the trilogy. In hindsight, I must have ruined everyones' experience of the film, because I had to keep telling my sister to shut up (she kept screaming, at the Black Riders mostly - she was only 10 at the time, and talking) and I kept commenting about the differences between the book and the film. When I was 15, I brought my first copy of The Silmarillion, and although I found all the names and different places difficult to remember at first, I enjoyed it greatly. Later I brought Unfinished Tales, and enjoyed that because of the greater detail. At Sixth Form, I began to read The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien and Tolkien's Biography, and I also began to collect the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth, beginning with the Lost Tales. Also, I began to read the Classics at Sixth Form - Plato and Aristotle, Homer, Virgil and Cicero - I also began to teach myself the rudiments of Latin. Indeed, I think I learned more in my two years at Sixth Form than I did in five years at school.

And so, having passed my A Levels (I did Religious Studies, Philosophy, History and Fine Art), I went to University to began my studies in Theology and Latin. I was optimistic at first, especially when I received the feedback from my first two essays in Church History and Fundamental Theology, on Origen's interpretation of Scripture and Avery Cardinal Dulles' book on the Models of Revelation respectively, and my first test in Latin (for the first one, we were asked to Conjugate Paro in the Present Tense, and I was given Optime! as the mark!). I got a First for my Church History essay, and a 2:1 for my Fundamental Theology essay - which was described as ''highly conservative and militant'' by my tutor - to my everlasting delight! But soon afterwards, I became too bogged down with making my work ''perfect'' and I spent literally hours over the connotations of single words, and the subtle implications of this point and that, and being so inclined towards my work, I began to miss deadlines and became very depressed and anxious. I felt literally crushed when my essay on the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Genesis Creation story only achieved a 2:1, because I had spent a great deal of time making it ''perfect.'' Some essays I found too beyond my experience as to not bother at all about, and I dropped out of the course soon afterwards. I still have difficulty with time-management and I still cannot shake off my labour-intensive approach to work, but I try now, and I was more than a little encouraged when I got a First for my Latin - although my ''pushy'' mother was disappointed that it was a ''low'' first.

This brings me to one of the points of this post. A friend of mine asked me recently how Asperger Syndrome could possibly have a ''significant impairment in important areas of functioning'' aspect for me, because I seemed to be very polite, shy and intelligent (I don't know about the latter, but that seems to be the general consensus anyway). My answer is that, although I don't tend to think much about it, it pervades over almost every aspect of my life. One ''everyday'' aspect is simply doing the washing up (something I hate doing). I won't go into the minute details, but rest assured that everything has to be clean (thoroughly so) and well-ordered. My mother tells me that where it takes me, say, 2 hours to do the washing up, it would take her about 20 minutes to do the same amount. This is just one example, there are plenty of others (some I had not heretofore thought of in this way, until they were pointed out to me by friends or relatives). My approach to work perfectly encapsulates my academic difficulties. I am a natural perfectionist; something is either worth reading, or it isn't, something is black or white, there is no grey area. If I am asked, absurdly in my opinion, to write an essay on something entirely new to me then I think the better option is to not bother with it, because my appraisal or critique of the subject will be ultimately flawed, less than perfect.

In 1938, Hans Asperger observed:

''Where it is about logical thinking, where the issue is meeting their special interests, they are ahead, surprise their teachers with their clever answers; where it is about more or less mechanical learning by heart, where concentrated learning is demanded (copying, spelling, methods of arithmetic) these 'clever' children fail in a severe kind of way, so that they often are on the brink of failing their exams.''

The idea is that people with Asperger Syndrome have a peculiar profile of intelligence and cognitive ability. I have taken I.Q tests before and they always indicated that I am of below average intelligence. This, to me, indicates a serious discrepancy between what is written on paper and reality. I.Q tests seem to be geared more towards pattern recognition and arithmetic than actual learning. Is somebody's intelligence measurable? This is a complex question and beyond the scope of this post anyway, but it is worth considering. What does ''intelligence'' consist of? Does it entail the ability to memorize facts by rote? One thing that I have learned from some of the feedback from my essays is that I nearly always have a poor box ticked for the assessment criterion called: ''Focus on Key Issues.'' Why is this I wonder? My mother tells me that it is because I ''don't see the wood for the trees'' or some such saying. One tutor commented that he gave me a better mark on an essay not so much because of the content but because he recognized that there was ''intelligence'' behind it. And then there is that ''common sense'' phenomenon, which I will not elaborate here, as I did so in a previous post.

I have often wondered why I struggled so much at University when there were other people, clearly less intelligent than I, who didn't. During lectures, I listened patiently to some of the questions asked, no doubt sincerely, by some of the students, but privately I thought to myself: ''you're studying Theology at University level and you didn't even know that?'' It greatly irritates me that some people have University degrees when in my opinion they don't deserve them (some of my school teachers fall into this category). I personally think it scandalous that some people come out of University, on paper, more qualified than I, with better job prospects than I, and yet cannot string a sentence together without making some grammatical solecism. I am often astounded at how little they know about anything. I would go back to the days when University was the province of the Upper classes and the intelligent. I think it stupid that everyone is encouraged to go to University, because University is not suited to everyone. I also think that to deprive a child of a decent education (as I was) when they have better prospects than their peers is a form of abuse. Sometimes I think that everything I know, at least that which I consider to be of any importance and worth (save Latin), I have in fact taught myself.

I think I had better finish now. What I am going to do in life remains a mystery at present. I am technically irregular by default for Ordination (ever since I was little, everyone has assumed that I would become a priest - fortunately, I have no such vocation anyway!), my Latin is at present too embryonic to do anything with, and Theology is not my area (of course, as Tolkien said, nothing is ever one's sole area - one is either humbly engaged in learning or one obscenely attempts to adorn it - this is what people generally mean when they say ''my subject'' - as an aside, I wonder if this can relate to professional liturgists shut up in the Vatican who devised the Novus Ordo?). People suggest a doctorate in Tolkien - which is not of itself objectionable, but I would rather object to teaching ''Tolkien studies'' to hippies or other unsavoury people, and besides, one needs a respectable degree in order to even ponder doctoral theses. I would like to do Classics though, since devotion to the Classics is perhaps, next to Theology, the noblest form of study.

The above photograph is of Hans Asperger, after whom the condition is named, with one of his ''little professors'' (for so he was accustomed to name his patients).

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A short story by Patricius...

I've had quite a full day and feel rather tired, but I promised a very good friend of mine today that I'd write her a short story to better explain something. And so, this is a story about a special boy named Joseph who saw things differently from most people.

Joseph is 25 years old. Since his earliest days, he has had a remarkably advanced language. He was speaking his first words at 9 months and by 18 months had a vocabulary well-beyond his years. His first word, amusingly, was ''cantankerous'' - probably derived from his father who frequently complained about the elderly woman who lived next door who was more than a little awkward. Joseph's parents were understandably proud of their firstborn son, who by 2 years old could read the small-print on the back of the family VHS tapes.

Joseph went to nursery, where his ''teachers'' were concerned that he was ''living in a bubble.'' When he started school, his social ineptitude became more apparent. He was never interested in other children, but often ''stalked'' the adults about, telling them of his favourite book The Hobbit, and would talk endlessly about it if not interrupted. He spent hours in his bedroom alone, often making lists or writing out the dates of birth of people he knew and working out how much older they were than he. He would often spend considerable time opening and closing doors, manipulating light-switches and curtains, to no purpose that his parents or anyone else could see. He learned the scripts of some of his favourite films (such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, he adored Audrey Hepburn!) by rote, and would often correct relatives if they quoted a film in jest if they got it wrong.

Joseph was frequently in trouble in Primary School for disregarding the school timetable, preferring to sit in the Library alone with history books. When constrained by the Headmaster (who called his parents in because of Joseph's frequent tantrums) to audit lessons, he would often interrupt the teacher if she made a sweeping statement, an assertion of fact or an opinion. The teacher felt troubled, for she could see that Joseph was intelligent and curious, but she was concerned about his disruptive behaviour. And so, Joseph was referred to a Child Guidance Clinic. However, because Joseph's mother thought the therapist team were a ''bunch of hippies,'' he was removed and continued school as normal. Joseph's mother was concerned that the boy be raised ''normal'' like everyone else, and refused support grants, and even the finances to build an extension to their house so that Joseph could have his own separate room away from his brother, with whom he often fought because he was untidy.

Joseph passed his SATs tests with high scores for English but below average scores for Science and Maths, and he went to Secondary School with no great optimism. Secondary School proved even worse for Joseph, where he was bullied by older girls and even by some of the teachers (whom he accused of being in league with them). He became increasingly ''obsessed'' with areas of his interest, such as Art and History and Literature, and he frequently argued with his teachers. He was annoyed that he was accused of being ''pre-occupied'' with a subject long since ''dealt with'' on the Syllabus, and he retorted that if a subject was worth learning, it was salutary to learn everything one could about it rather than briefly going over it. He was shocked at what passed for education at Secondary School (he went to a mainstream school), describing the History syllabus as designed for idiots and constantly truanting from P.E lessons. He little understood what was socially appropriate, when enough was enough, or when he might be considered abusive or boring. It was not all bad though - he got on well with his Art teacher (who allowed him to sit in his classroom during break-times and read his books) and (astoundingly one might say) the Science teachers; his Maths teacher was patient with his attempts at Maths.

Joseph passed his GCSE exams respectfully and went onto Sixth Form College and University. He had little difficulty at Sixth Form, and passed his exams respectfully, starting University with a positive outlook. At University he developed a small group of friends, with whom he had much in common, and while not all the academic topics covered in the Syllabus were to his liking, he tried to get on with them as best he could, but often found procrastination and attention an issue, his attention often being drawn away to ''pleasures'' (since he adored the literary works of Oscar Wilde, he became obsessed with ''youth,'' he did nothing untoward or devious though) such as good food and drink, buying of books, first editions and all sorts. His lifestyle exceeded his income (he had a part-time job, the bane of his life as he called it) and he was often in debt, but his parents, happy that he was getting to be more ''normal'' as each day passed, were proud when he passed his degree. He is now, perforce, alone, but he is content with life as it is, and is often thought of as that ''shy'' but slightly ''odd'' chap who knows a lot about Star Trek...may the Force be with you!!!

The above image is of an ammonite fossil. It has nothing to do with the post, but I like looking at Ammonites, rather like staring into infinity.

The Lay of Leithian, an Introduction...

In later days when Morgoth first,
fleeing the Gods, their bondage burst,
and on the mortal lands set feet,
and in the North his mighty seat
founded and fortified, and all
the newborn race of Men were thrall
unto his power, and Elf and Gnome*
his slaves, or wandered without home,
or scattered fastnesses walled with fear
upraised upon his borders drear,
and each one fell, yet reigned there still
in Doriath beyond his will
Thingol and deathless Melian,
whose magic yet no evil can
that cometh from without surpass.
Here still was laughter and green grass,
and leaves were lit with the white sun,
and many marvels were begun.

In sunshine and in sheen of moon,
with silken robe and silver shoon,
the daugther of the deathless queen
now danced on the undying green,
half elven-fair and half divine;
and when the stars began to shine
unseen but near a piping woke,
and in the branches of an oak,
or seated on the beech-leaves brown,
Dairon** the dark with ferny crown
played with bewildering wizard's art
music for breaking of the heart.
Such players have there only been
thrice in all Elfinesse, I ween:
Tinfang Gelion*** who still the moon
enchants on summer nights of June
and kindles the pale firstling star;
and he who harps upon the far
forgotten beaches and dark shores
where western foam for ever roars,
Maglor whose voice is like the sea;
and Dairon, mightiest of the three.

Now it befell on summer night,
upon a lawn where lingering light
yet lay and faded faint and grey,
that Lúthien danced while he did play.
The chestnuts on the turf had shed
their flowering candles, white and red;
there darkling stood a silent elm
and pale beneath its shadow-helm
there glimmered faint the umbels thick
of hemlocks like a mist, and quick
the moths on pallid wings of white
with tiny eyes of fiery light
were fluttering softly, and the voles
crept out to listen from their holes;
the little owls were hushed and still;
the moon was yet behind the hill.
Her arms like ivory were glimmering,
her long hair like a cloud was streaming,
her feet atwinkle wandered roaming
in misty mazes in the gloaming;
and glowworms shimmered round her feet,
and moths in moving garland fleet
above her head went wavering wan -
and this the moon now looked upon,
uprisen slow, and round, and white
above the branches of the night.
Then clearly thrilled her voice and rang;
with sudden ecstasy she sang
a song of nightingales she learned
and with her elvish magic turned
to such bewildering delight
the moon hung moveless in the night.
And this it was that Beren heard,
and this he saw, without a word,
enchanted dumb, yet filled with fire
of such a wonder and desire
that all his mortal mind was dim;
her magic bound and fettered him,
and faint he leaned against a tree.
Forwandered, wayworn, gaunt was he,
his body sick and heart gone cold,
grey in his hair, his youth turned old;
for those that tread the lonely way
a price of woe and anguish pay.
And now his heart was healed and slain
with a new life and with new pain.

He gazed, and as he gazed her hair
within its cloudy web did snare
the silver moonbeams sifting white
between the leaves, and glinting bright
the tremulous starlight of the skies
was caught and mirrored in her eyes.
Then all his journey's lonely fare,
the hunger and the haggard care,
the awful mountains' stones he stained
with blood of weary feet, and gained
only a land of ghosts, and fear
in dark ravines imprisoned sheer -
there mighty spiders wove their webs,
old creatures foul with birdlike nebs
that span their traps in dizzy air,
and filled it with clinging black despair,
and there they lived, and the sucked the bones
lay white beneath on the dank stones -
now all these horrors like a cloud
faded from mind. The waters loud
falling from pineclad heights no more
he heard, those waters grey and frore
that bittersweet he drank and filled
his mind with madness - all was stilled.
He recked not now the burning road,
the paths demented where he strode
endlessly...and ever new
horizens stretched before his view,
as each blue ridge with bleeding feet
was climbed, and down he went to meet
battle with creatures old and strong
and monsters in the dark, and long,
long watches in the haunted night
while evil shapes the baleful light
in clustered eyes did crawl and snuff
beneath his tree - not half enough
the price he deemed to come at last
to that pale moon when day had passed,
to those clear stars of Elfinesse,
the hearts-ease and the loveliness.

Lo! all forgetting he was drawn
unheeding toward the glimmering lawn
by love and wonder that compelled
his feet from hiding; music welled
within his heart, and songs unmade
on themes unthought-of moved and swayed
his soul with sweetness; out he came,
a shadow in the moon's pale flame -
and Dairon's flute as sudden stops
as lark before it steeply drops,
as grasshopper within the grass
listening for heavy feet to pass.
''Flee, Lúthien!'', and ''Lúthien!''
from hiding Dairon called again;
''A stranger walks the woods! Away!''

Before it gets too long (perhaps I am too late!), I shall stop. This is part of Canto III of The Lay of Leithian as found in The History of Middle-earth Volume III, The Lays of Beleriand - an invaluable book - and tells of the coming of Beren into Doriath and his first sight of Lúthien the Fair, dancing among the hemlocks. As you can see, the Lay is written in the staple octosyllabic couplets of romance, which must be very difficult to compose, and thus we can glimpse through another window into Tolkien's genius. It is a great honour to read Tolkien in verse, because it is how the traditions of the Elder Days were preserved by the Eldar - indeed, the Great Tales of the Elder Days would have been sung in Rivendell to the Hobbits by the minstrels of Elrond in this fashion. From the Lay comes the impoverished chapter ''Of Beren and Lúthien'' in The Silmarillion. It is much better to read it in verse. In my treatment of the synopsis of this great tale, I shall perhaps include one or two stanzas from the Lay, as I think it is important. I shall say no more than ''feast your eyes upon it!''

*Gnome was a name formerly used by Tolkien as synonymous with Noldor. Interestingly, as the the Quenya Istar is related to the English Wizard in the mind of Tolkien, so Noldor was probably philologically related to Gnome. I had not hitheto thought of this.
**Dairon was later changed to Daeron; they remained the same person, although the character was altered considerably between the Lost Tales (where he is conceived to be the brother of Lúthien) to the legends of The Silmarillion.
***Tinfang Gelion, a character resurrected from the Lost Tales. The name Gelion is not explained, although the name was used later to designate a great river in East Beleriand. Tinfang Gelion is not a character in The Silmarillion.

The above image I found in Google Images, and depicts Lúthien dancing. I had already used the Ted Nasmith one, so I thought better of using it again.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Another Academic Year...

Term starts on Monday, and I am nervous and excited about it. I enjoy getting back into the ''work'' routine, it adds somewhat of a rhythm to my life, which is always needed. I only hope that I can concentrate better this year; after three years of ''taking things easy'' (in a very anxious kind of way!) let's say, I need to get on and do some work. No more procrastinating for me! I think it would be better if I stayed behind until closing time in the Theology Library to do assignments instead of leaving them until I get in, which is perilous because of the many distractions (Tolkien is the chief culprit!) present. I humbly ask my readers to pray for me that I can finally get a Degree so that I can get out of this nightmare of a part-time job. Also, everyone keeps telling me to get on and do my ''doctorate'' in Tolkien!

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Men of Dorthonion...

It has been told how the House of Bëor was well-nigh destroyed, and Barahir would not forsake Dorthonion, even when it had become a region of such horror and dark enchantment that even the Orcs would not dare pass that way, unless driven by some great need. Twelve companions remained to Barahir, and they were hard put to it.

In the south the forest highlands of Dorthonion rose into mountainous moors, and in the east of those highlands there was a clear lake, Tarn Aeluin, wild with many heaths and untamed grasslands, and even in the days of the Long Peace none had dwelt there. The waters of Tarn Aeluin, however, were held in reverence by the Eldar, for it is told that in ancient days Melian herself had hallowed that lake. It was here that the outlaws fled and made there their dwelling, and Morgoth could not discover it. But the heroic deeds of against the Orcs enraged Morgoth, and he commanded Sauron to find them and smoke them out.

Among the twelve that remained to Barahir in those days was a certain Gorlim son of Angrim. His wife Eilinel was lost, for when he returned from war, he found his dwelling plundered and forsaken. So he fled to the outlaws bound to Barahir, and he proved fierce and desperate, but ever doubt gnawed at him, thinking that perhaps his wife was not lost, and that she wandered hopelessly in the hills. And so, he was accustomed to return in secret to his house that stood alone amid the woods, and this was soon detected by the agents of Sauron.

In the Autumn of the Year, he came to the house at dusk and he wondered much, for he descried as it were a light from one of the windows, and coming warily he looked within. There he saw Eilinel, her face worn with grief and hardship, and it seemed to him that she called upon him. But even as he cried out to her, the fire was blown out in a cold wind, he heard the howling of Wolves, and on his shoulders he felt the iron hands of Sauron's servants. And so, Gorlim was brought into the very presence of Sauron, being deceived about his wife and promising to reveal the dwelling place of Barahir if he might be restored to her. And Sauron said unto him: ''I hear now that thou wouldst barter with me. What is thy price?'' And Gorlim answered that he would be set free and restored to his wife. Sauron smiled and said: ''This is a small price for so great a treachery. So shall it surely be. Say on!'' But Gorlim would have drawn back, knowing the peril of treating with the servants of the Enemy, but he was daunted by the eyes of Sauron, greatest and most terrible of the Maiar, and he betrayed the outlaws. Great indeed was the joy of Sauron, and he mocked Gorlim, for the being he had seen mourning in the house was but a phantom devised by the arts of Sauron to ensnare him, and Eilinel was dead. ''Nonetheless,'' said Sauron, ''I will grant thy prayer and thou shalt go to Eilinel, and be set free of my service.'' And Gorlim was thus put cruelly to death.

And so the outlaws were ensnared, and all save one were slain. For Beren, son of Barahir, was far from the dwelling upon an errand. As he slept that night, it seemed to him that in his dreams he saw the figures of carrion birds sat upon trees, dripping blood from their beaks upon the leaves, and when he woke, he looked across the lake, and the unquiet spirit of Gorlim came to him to warn him of the danger, and that he repented of his deeds before Sauron. And rushing back to the lair, Beren found that they had indeed been betrayed. And as he looked up across the lake, he saw indeed the carrion birds of his dreams, and they croaked at him in mockery. There, Beren buried the bones of his father and raised a cairn over him, and swore upon it an oath of vengeance. Thenceforth he forswore war and hatred against all save the servants of Angband, and first pursuing the murderous Orcs, he came to their camp by night and slew their captain, who holding aloft the hand of Barahir (upon which was his Ring, the token of Felagund), boasted of their heinous deeds. And Beren saved the Ring, and escaping the arrows of the Orcs, he fled.

Beren dwelt for four more years as a solitary outlaw in Dorthonion, and the birds and beasts not in the service of Morgoth befriended him, and they aided him, and as of that day he slew no living thing not in the service of Angband. At length, so great a hurt did he do to the servants of Morgoth that Morgoth put a price upon his head no less than the price of the High King of the Noldor, and the Orcs fled rather at the rumour of his name than sought him out. And so, Sauron was sent against him, and he brought hither the fiercest Orcs and Werewolves and other fell beasts. Under the sorcery of Sauron, Dorthonion became now wholly filled with evil and dark phantoms, and all clean things were fled far away, and at length even Beren fled the land. He came southwards into the Mountains of Terror, where dwelt the foul brood of Ungoliant, a land where not even the Eldar would dare to tread, and there he descried afar the Kingdom of Doriath, where dwelt Thingol and Melian, Lord and Lady of Beleriand, and it came into his heart that he might enter the forbidden kingdom.

And so, weary and hungry after a long and lonely exile, Beren, first of Mortal Men, came within the borders of Doriath, and the Girdle of Melian and the will of the King might not stay him, and wandering in the Summer months among the fair woods of Neldoreth, he came upon Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian at a time of evening under Moonrise, and at that point, the history of Elves and Men changed...

The above painting is by Ted Nasmith and is called simply ''Lúthien.'' Not quite as I imagined her, but then I guess that the art shows more of the subjectivity of the artist...

Of Húrin and Huor et al...

We have now reached the last part of Chapter XVIII of The Silmarillion, which deals with the strange fortune of the brothers Húrin and Huor.

At this time (in aftermath of The Battle of Sudden Flame) Húrin and Huor, the sons of Galdor Lord of Dor-lómin, dwelt with the Haladin in the Forest of Brethil. These two Houses of Men were joined in the afterdays of the Bragollach, for Galdor and Glóredhel the children of Hador the Golden were wedded to Hareth and Haldir, the children of Halmir, Lord of the Haladin. And so, the sons of Galdor were treated well in Brethil, and dwelt with their uncle Haldir, and according to the custom of Men in those days, they went to do battle with the Orcs along the borders of the Forest, in spite of their tender years. It was in this way that, being sundered from their company, they were alone pursued to the Ford of Brithiach, and there they would have been taken or slain but for the power of Ulmo. He revealed his power, and a mist arose from Sirion and hid them from the sight of their foes, and they escaped into Dimbar, wandering hopelessly among the foothills of the Crissaegrim. It was in this way that Thorondor, King of the Eagles of the North, espied them, and he bethought him to bring them even to Gondolin, which no Mortal Man had yet seen.

In Gondolin they were well-received by Turgon the King, for he had received dreams concerning his own doom of woe, and Ulmo counselled him to treat kindly with the House of Hador. And so, Húrin and Huor dwelt as guests in the King's house for almost a year, and they learned much of the lore and purposes of the Eldar. But the brothers soon wearied of the Hidden City, desiring to return to their own kin beyond the Mountains, and they spoke earnestly to the King of their design. Turgon was clement at this time, though he grieved at their parting, but he foretold that they may yet meet again. But Maeglin, the King's nephew, was not grieved at all at their going, and he made this plain: ''The King's grace is greater than you know, and some might wonder wherefore the strict law is abated for two knave-children of Men. It would be safer if they had no choice but to abide here as our servants to their life's end.'' But Húrin answered that if their word was not enough then they would swear oaths to them. And the brothers swore never to reveal the counsels of the King or the location of his City, and Thorondor came to take them away by night and set them down in Dor-lómin before the dawn.

When they returned to their own people, they were questioned, but not even to their father would they reveal where they had been, for many thought that they were lost or slain. But many guessed at the strange fortune of the sons of Galdor, and this soon reached the ears of the servants of Morgoth.

When Turgon learned of the breaking of the Siege of Angband, he saw the first signs of the downfall of the Noldor, and thenceforth he would suffer none of his people to venture forth to war, for he deemed his City to be strong and trusted yet to the vigilance of Thorondor. But Turgon had companies of the Gondolindrim sent to the Mouths of Sirion, and there they built ships and set sail into the West seeking for Valinor. But the seas were wild and treacherous, and but few returned to the coastlands. Morgoth learned of these deeds, and it is said that he was unquiet amidst his triumph, and he greatly desired to learn all that he could of Turgon and Finrod Felagund. He knew of Nargothrond, but the name only, but of Gondolin he knew nothing, and so, seeing that he could not yet make a final and decisive victory against the Eldar, he sent ever more spies into Beleriand, but recalled the greater hosts of the Orcs. Great though his victory had been, his own loss had been grievous also, and though he held Taur-nu-Fuin and the Pass of Sirion, the Eldar had begun to recover their own lands against him. Thus there was a semblance of peace in the northern lands, but in the North the forges of Hell were full of labour.

The above painting is of course by Ted Nasmith and depicts the Great Sea. I couldn't find a painting that depicted the scenes from this part of the Chapter. It would be nice to see a painting of the Eagles setting down the brothers in their land before the Dawn.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Choir Ceremonies etc...

Michaelmas Term starts on Monday and I am both nervous and excited about it all. I have spent the day packing in some last minute non-academic reading, (mostly Wilde and Tolkien). Today I was reading my 1943 edition of Adrian Fortescue's The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described. I enjoy reading this book because one of my interests is Church ceremonial and Liturgy. I was reading his section on the Quarant' Ore, but then turned to the chapter on Choir Ceremonies. I was reminded to do so because something was irritating me. I then came across this delectable quote:

''All text books of ceremonial insist on certain obvious points of deportment in choir. It goes without saying that the members of the choir should know what they have to do beforehand, so as to be ready to act at once when the time comes. Although their part of the ceremony is comparatively small, nevertheless they have a part in it. They must know this part, as the servers know theirs. They should kneel, stand and sit straight, behaving always with such reverence as to give edifying example to the people in church. They should not spend the time in choir reading irrelevant books, even pious ones. They should not, for instance, say their Office during Mass nor anticipate their own Matins during Vespers.

''They should attend to the public service at which they assist, making this their prayer. When they recite or sing any text of the service they should mean what they say; Orabo spiritu, orabo et mente: psallam spiritu, psallam et mente (I Cor. XIV,15). Otherwise their attendance would not be really an act of religion at all, and they would deserve the words: This people honours me with its lips; but its heart is far from me (Is. XXIX, 13).'' (Adrian Fortescue, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, Chapter V, The Choir and Assistants at Ceremonies, p 29).

I wonder, does this admonition against reading ''irrelevant books, even pious ones'' extend to doing other things in Choir?

The above image depicts the wonderful Choir stalls from the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Astley, Warwickshire.

Papal Visit to these Isles...

I am always the last to find out anything, but it seems that the Holy Father is coming to these Isles. I wonder what use it would do? I suppose that it may kindle interest in the Faith, and perhaps inspire those lapsed from the Faith to come back. It is a shame he won't visit Northern Ireland though, or is at least unlikely to, since my family are from Derry - my mother told me that they were all very disappointed when Pope John Paul II didn't visit (my uncle was so annoyed that he wrote a letter of complaint to the Vatican!), but this was 30 years ago and during the worst of The Troubles. My parents and grandparents, as do some of my readers I expect, remember the visit of Pope John Paul II to England in 1982 (some 6 years before I was born!). My grandparents went to the Masses at Wembley Stadium (they still have their tickets, I saw them once whilst rummaging through old photos) and Westminster Cathedral. Of course, they saw nothing at Westminster (as my mother told them before they left, she wisely stayed at home to watch it on TV)! Birmingham, Oxford and Edinburgh are part of the draft itinerary - I suppose Birmingham because of Cardinal Newman's Beatification. I wonder if the Holy Father knows that J.R.R Tolkien used to serve Mass there? Probably not, so I shall have to inform him when he comes to celebrate High Mass at Blackfen...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

''Of the Ruin of Beleriand...''

I have decided to entitle this post ''Of the Ruin of Beleriand'' for I can't actually think of what else to call it. I think that Christopher Tolkien had this problem too, when organising his father's material in the '70s, for this chapter covers a multitude of events, and none of them constitute a ''ruin'' of Beleriand. I think that by this point in the tale, Christopher had run out of original ideas and decided to try and ''sum up'' (haphazardly) in the title of each Chapter what happened. It achieves nothing, of course, except the flattening out of the tale. I would rather the titles of each chapter contained some hint at what happened but nothing too explicit (if that were achievable).

Anyway, Fingon is now lord of the House of Fingolfin, and by hereditary right, High King of all the Noldor (in Middle-earth that is), and he sent his young son Ereinion (afterwards called Gil-galad) to the Havens. Morgoth's power now overshadowed the Northlands. Barahir, of the House of Bëor, would not forsake the highlands of Dorthonion, and Morgoth pursued his people with hatred until but few remained. By the arts of Morgoth (and later, of Sauron) the highland woods were turned into a region of dark enchantment and phantoms, so that even the Orcs would not go there willingly; Taur-nu-Fuin it became known in the Sindarin tongue, the Forest under Nightshade. They were so worsted that Emeldir, the wife of Barahir, gathered all the women and children of Bëor's House and departed southward into Beleriand, and came at last into the Forest of Brethil, where they were received by the Haladin. Some, however, scaled the Mountains of Shadow and came into Dor-lómin, among them Rían, daughter of Belegund, and Morwen Eledhwen, daughter of Baragund. None, however, saw the Men of that House again, for they were each of them driven mad and then cruelly slain by the servants of Morgoth until only twelve remained. Desperate outlaws they became, who could not escape and would not relent, and at last they abandoned the woods (which held nothing for them except horror and madness) and they took to the rocky moors, wandering hopelessly, hunted as beasts by the agents of the Dark Lord.

Nearly two years after the Dagor Bragollach, the Noldor still defended the upper passes of Sirion, for the power of Ulmo, Lord of Waters, was in that river, and Minas Tirith, the tower of Felagund, withstood the Orcs. But after the fall of Fingolfin, Sauron, the greatest and most terrible of Morgoth's servants, was come, and he took Minas Tirith by assault, for the Elves fled before him in terror, and at last, Orodreth was driven out and retreated to Nargothrond, where dwelt Felagund his brother. Minas Tirith Sauron turned into a watchtower for Morgoth, and Tol Sirion became Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves. None could pass that way save by the will of Sauron, and the terror of Morgoth filled the nearby woods and hills. The spies of Morgoth now went hither and thither about the Elf-lands clad in false forms, and many were taken to Angband and there were enslaved. Few of the Noldor were ever put to death by Morgoth because of their skill in mining and craft. And the lies of Morgoth were soon believed by those who hearkened to the spies, because of the Doom of Mandos and the Kinslaying. Some of the thralls in Angband escaped, but these ''escapes'' were often arranged and well-known to Morgoth, for thus would they return to their lands, find no welcome, and return in misery and want to Morgoth, who exerted the magnitude of his will upon them.

The Men of the noble Houses paid no heed to the messengers, and Morgoth sent his messengers over the Mountains. Thus did the Swarthy Men come into Beleriand from the East. Some were already under the dominion of the Dark Lord, and came at his summons, but others came because of the fame of Beleriand, its riches and its wars. Small love was there between the Easterlings and the Men of the Three Houses, and they met seldom, for the Easterlings dwelt yet in East Beleriand. The House of Hador were shut up in Hithlum, Bëor's House was mostly destroyed, and the Haladin dwelt yet in a watchful peace in the south of Brethil, and behind their guard against the Orcs, Nargothrond had respite and mustered its strength.

Tolkien...a British spy?

Yesterevening, Jonathan presented me with an article published in The Telegraph last Thursday entitled: ''Spy chiefs earmarked Tolkien as code breaker.'' The article, written by ''Daily Telegraph Reporter,'' reports that Tolkien trained as a code-breaker in March 1939, in the immediate run-up to the Second World War. I initially said that this was contrary to what his Biography (Humphrey Carpenter, 1977) said; that Tolkien did not enter the War Office, nor was he required (as most other academics were) to undertake work for some government department (instead, he did night work as an Air Raid Warden - which mostly entailed wandering the streets of Oxford at night and in the cold with a helmet and a rifle to check whether neighbours had prevented all interior lighting from escaping their windows); also, I remembered that sometime in March of that year, Tolkien had delivered his famous (DPhil material!) lecture On Fairy Stories to the University of St Andrews.

However, although the Biography makes no mention of it (indeed, it fails to mention a great many things), the Scull/Hammond Chronology that I own tells us that on 27th March 1939, Tolkien began a four day course (the article in The Telegraph says three days) in cryptography at the Foreign Office. The article says that he was given training in Scandinavian languages and Spanish - I can't quite understand why he would have needed training in any Scandinavian language, since as an Undergraduate at Oxford he had often amused himself by reading the Finnish Kalevala in the original, and by 1939, Tolkien had been giving lectures in the Old Norse language and Sagas (the Elder Edda etc) for at least 13 years! He also knew Swedish and Russian. I am unsure how well-versed Tolkien was in Spanish (he had often begged Fr Francis Morgan of the Oratory, his guardian, to teach him Spanish, but he refused) but he later remarked that he found Spanish the most aesthetically pleasing of the Romance languages, which indicates that he knew at least some of it.

The article says that documents relating to the course indicate that Tolkien was ''keen'' but declined the offer of a job paying £500 per annum. This is all relatively new to me, but I'd like to know who wrote the article since there are some errors in it, among them an assertion that Tolkien was a ''respected linguist'' - he was in no ordinary sense a ''linguist'' (he himself said so!), he was a philologist; and if this whole material was previously unseen, then it fails to account for its (confessedly) brief mention in the Chronology. I was simply unaware of it.

Award thingy...

Mac over at Mulier Fortis has given me some award for reading her blog, and I have been asked to put the picture up. Since she has already tagged the other famous bloggers who occasionally read this blog, I won't bother tagging anyone myself, although I do thank them for reading!

Monday, 21 September 2009


I have been viewing my site meter lately and I have noticed two things: I, the number of daily visitors has declined (from an average of 50 to an average of 45) and that no one followed the link to the Ad Occidentem article. I am not surprised about the latter, but I wonder if the former is because some people have realised that I don't really have much to say on anything besides Tolkien?

I had started to write a post about Anglicanism the other day, but it developed into something beyond my experience or interest (the general history of the Church of England); it began as a look at the Book of Common Prayer and people like Cranmer and Cromwell - and how Cranmer had a much greater influence than Cromwell. I abandoned it because I actually know very little about the Church of England beyond the days of Archbishop Laud. But the complex questions of language, liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer I find especially interesting - especially when compared with later liturgical deform (that is not a typo) in the Latin Church. Cranmer understood with, one would almost say, a devilish understanding, the liturgical principle legem credendi statuat lex supplicandi - that in order to rend the common people from the ancestral and ''superstitious'' beliefs in Popery and Penance, it was necessary to change the liturgical books. This was emulated centuries later by liturgists like Bugnini.

The Book of Common Prayer is a masterpiece of English literature. Cranmer, for all his faults (and they were many, cowardice and hypocrisy not the least) had an excellent command of the English language, and the Prayer Book is rich in good liturgical English - much better than anything ICEL have ever produced. But it is also a masterpiece in a more sinister way - it is a masterpiece of ambiguity. In the early days of the Prayer Book, it was designed to be a ''via media'' between the ambivalent Englishmen of the time - fanatical Protestants (the Black Rubric and all that) and good, honest Catholics. Later revisions fluctuated in their sympathies. The 1552 Prayer Book was plainly a work of heresy. The 1559 edition was a compromise between these two. Elizabeth, the illegitimate tyrant and more ''bloody'' than her half-sister Mary ever was, was ambivalent herself. Her mother Anne Boleyn had wrought the destruction of the Catholic Church in England, and Elizabeth herself desired to bring the pendulum of the religious controversies to a steady middle. And so the 1559 Prayer Book still has the old Calendar of Saints' Days, priests were required to wear ''vestments'' of a sort (including the Surplice, which is older than the Roman cotta), and it was salutary for a priest to be celibate. I tend to think that what defeated the Catholic hope of a true restoration of Catholicism in England was the very length of Elizabeth's reign (45 years at the end of her life).

The ambiguity of the Book of Common Prayer moulded the sad minds of Englishmen well into the 20th century. There are perhaps still Anglicans out there, of a dying breed, who are still enamoured of tomfool English ritual and label the Holy Father as ''anti-Christ.'' I have spoken to many Anglicans in my life, and every one of them has presented to me a different view of the Church. One elderly woman I spoke to (whose liturgical preferences can be said to resemble ''high church'' practices) said that she considered the Thirty-Nine Articles to be ''centuries out-of-date.'' She snorted when I asked whether belief in the Divinity of Christ was out-of-date (I only followed her approach to religion!). Another man I spoke to, whose Anglicanism can be said to be that of the ''broad-church'' variety, queried almost every article in the Nicene Creed - except one - ''crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato.'' When I was little, my mother and I spoke to a woman outside a very ''high-church'' variety church, and when my mother told her that we were Catholic, she responded ''oh, we're almost Catholic.'' My mother aptly replied, with a somewhat triumphalist air: ''yes, well not quite.'' My old next-door-neighbour, who sadly passed away at around this time last year, died an Anglican. He was a nice and generous chap, and very tolerant, but on the few occasions that we discussed the finer points of religion, his manner was as one who didn't care much - this was a man who was very involved with his parish church too.

I understand that these are just four not-very-convincing examples, but I cannot give every example (even if I remembered them all). But it must be said: Anglicanism is a pathetic and nonsensical religion - a religion of tomfool snobs enamoured of out-moded and superstitious ritual, the ritual being the mere window-dressing and affectation of a completely shallow religion, and misguided common folk, so lapsed as to make a laughing stock of the lapsed Catholic. As an ex-Anglican, I think that Tolkien deserves a say. Tolkien's mother Mabel brought him and his brother Hilary into the True Faith in the Year of Our Lord 1900, when Tolkien was 8 years old. She immediately incurred the wrath of her Baptist and Unitarian family (she herself had been of the ''high-church'' variety of the Church of England), who were outraged that a respectable Suffield should have ''Poped.'' Tolkien's later opinions of Protestantism, particularly the Church of England, would thus be formed not only by his knowledge of the fissiparous and stupid nature of this sect, but also his immediate experience of the prejudice and persecution - treatment hardly applicable, even to Jews as he later remarked - which fell upon those who dared to convert.

In a letter which Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher during the Second World War, Tolkien said:

''But hatred of our church is afterall the only final foundation of the C of E - so deep laid that it remains even when all the superstructure seems removed (C.S.L [C.S Lewis] for instance reveres the Blessed Sacrament, and admires nuns!). Yet if a Lutheran is put in jail he is up in arms; but if Catholic priests are slaughtered - he disbelieves it (and I daresay really thinks they asked for it).'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 83).

Of course, the Church of England in Tolkien's day was far-removed from what it is now. It was still merely the religious department of state, but at least it hadn't yet gone completely mad and started ordaining women and homosexuals, and other people ordinarily irregular by default in the Catholic sphere. Tolkien mentions C.S Lewis in the above letter - a man with whom he had a long-standing and mutually profitable friendship. In 1931, Lewis converted from ''theism'' to Anglicanism (in my opinion, he might as well have just stayed atheist), which was largely Tolkien's doing; although Lewis' decision to go back to the Church of England (which really constitutes no genuine conversion at all) was of profound disappointment to Tolkien (and probably others too). Lewis is these days held aloft as some sort of archetypal Christian, the ideal man. Such a misinformed attitude greatly irritates me. Lewis, while clearly a brilliant man, an intellectual, poet, clever wordsmith and a Classicist, clearly had no real grasp on any fundamental of Faith. His apologetical works exhibit his overtly Anglican look, which is shallow at best. There is no substance to his work, it is all rather like surface-shine on a cubic zirconia, compared with the many-faceted diamond of the True Faith, in which the light of Truth is reflected anew in many divers hues and colours, all the more marvellous and self-evident as one contemplates them.

Tolkien knew all this. Anglicanism was to him much as it is to me, although his view of it was perhaps better articulated than my own. In the aftermath of the Council, Tolkien complained:

''As Christians those faithful to the Vicar of Christ must put aside the resentments that as mere humans they feel - e.g. at the 'cockiness' of our new friends (esp. C[hurch] of E[ngland]). One is now often patted on the back, as a representative of a church that has seen the error of its ways, abandoned its arrogance and hauteur, and its separatism; but I have not yet met a 'protestant' who shows or expresses any realization of the reasons in this country for our attitude: ancient or modern: from torture and expropriation down to 'Robinson' and all that. Has it ever been mentioned that R[oman] C[atholic]s still suffer from disabilities not even applicable to Jews? As a man whose childhood was darkened by persecution, I find this hard. But charity must cover a multitude of sins!'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no.306).

This sheds an interesting light on the modernist idea of Ecumenism, which we all know originated in Protestant mindsets. Why on earth has the Church not cut off relations with the Anglicans? I can think of many reasons for doing so. We have little to nothing in common. Some Ecumenical enthusiasts may bring up Anglican ritual, which is based on the old Sarum Use, but as I have already mentioned, the meaning and importance behind it has been lost, or forgotten by all save people like Henry Chadwick (whose, confessedly, eminent knowledge of the history of the Church has been recognized even in the Catholic Church - one wonders why he never himself actually crossed the Tiber). Anglican ritual is meaningless and ridiculous, and God help any Catholic silly enough to make such a declension as to become an Anglican...

I wonder whether I will ever see the day when most Anglicans realize that they don't need to go to a building to worship God (why bother when you can worship God in your own way, according to your own whims, and perhaps not at all?) and the Church in England will be able to get the old ancestral churches and cathedrals back, and re-orient them to the correct (Old Rite) worship of God as they were of old? In a post-Summorum Pontificum world, this may be an encouraging thought. If I have been repetative or just incomprehensible, it's likely because I haven't looked at this post for a while, but I got bored of thinking about it and decided to publish it anyway!

The Fall of Fingolfin...

Fingolfin rode north with all speed, and all fled before his face, for by seeing the light of his eyes many thought that Oromë himself was come. He rode northwards until he came to the brazen doors of Angband, and he sounded his horn, and challenged Morgoth to single combat. And Morgoth came.

Even from his vast subterranean throne he came, and the rumour of his approach could be heard and felt as tremors in the earth. It is said that he did not want to come forth, for he was craven, but he could not refuse the challenge in front of his thegns and captains, for Fingolfin named him coward and wielder of thralls. And as he came forth from the doors of Hell, he seemed tall like a tower, clad in Iron, and his shield cast a dark shadow over the Elven-king like a stormcloud. Fingolfin gleamed silver in defiance and he drew his sword Ringil in challenge.

Then Morgoth hurled aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and aimed it at the Elven-king, who sprang aside, and it rent a mighty pit into the earth from which fire and poisonous fumes issued. Morgoth essayed to beat down Fingolfin many times, and many times Fingolfin sprang aside, and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth cried in anguish, whereat his servants in the deeps of Hell fell upon their faces in dismay.

But at last the King grew weary, and Morgoth crushed him to the ground with his black shield for the last time and he stumbled, and Morgoth set his foot upon his neck so as to kill him, but with his last breath he smote the foot with Ringil and the blood which flowed from that wound filled the pits around him.

Thus died Fingolfin son of Fëanor, mightiest of the Noldor in the Elder Days. The Elves do not sing of that confrontation, for their sorrow is too deep, but it is still remembered in Elven lore, for Thorondor, King of the Eagles, was come, and rescuing the body of Fingolfin from Morgoth (who broke it and would cast it to his wolves) and marring his face, he flew far above the darts of the Orcs and came to Turgon in Gondolin. There, in the northern peaks of the Encircling Mountains, he was laid to rest by Turgon, who raised a cairn over his body. In sorrow therefore, Fingon took up the kingship of the Noldor and great was the lamentation of the Elves.

The above image is of course by Ted Nasmith, and depicts the duel between Fingolfin and the Dark Lord. I have never been personally able to imagine what Morgoth (or indeed Sauron) looked like (Sauron did not, incidentally, look like a giant floating eyeball wreathed in fire and what looks like lightning as is portrayed in the films!), the descriptions given are vague - that he was ''monstrous,'' or ''terrible to behold'' etc. I tend to think that maybe he matched Dante's description of Satan in the Inferno (except without three faces). What do readers think?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Patricius by Niggle...

Everyone I know, with the exception of my esteemed and talented Latin teacher, uses the Ecclesiastical fashion of Latin pronunciation. I sometimes find this irritating, particularly given the fact that the Romans did not pronounce Latin in this way. I suppose that it's fair enough (well appropriate actually) to use the Ecclesiastical way when reading tracts or lessons in real Church Latin, but it sounds rather odd to me to listen to someone quoting Virgil or Horace and making tomfool ''ch'' and ''ts'' sounds and mispronouncing diphthongs. Caecilius, for example, sounds fairer to me pronounced in the Classical style than in the Ecclesiastical style - ''kai-kil-ee-us'' rather than ''chae-chil-ee-us.'' The same with Patricius - I say ''part-reek-ee-us'' rather than ''part-rich-ee-us.'' I was taught to read Classical Latin, and I suppose that I am being pedantic; and these are questions of taste rather than imperatives. I do like having the name Patricius though...

On a more humorous note, I found this site called Colloquia Cottidiana, which is Latin at ''the cat sat on the mat'' level. Going through it, I found a section on ''How are you?'' Readers may or may not find this funny, but I found this response humorous (particularly the highlighted part):

''Quomodo te habes, hodie? Infelix sum. Nihil pecuniae habeo. Unum amicum habeo, et ille mihi non placet! (How are you today? [I don't like that construction, I would say ''quomodo vales'' or ''quid agis''] I am unhappy. I have no money. I have one friend, and I don't like him! [literally: he is not pleasing to me].''

Friends. Real friends are few and far between. I have never had one (unless you count characters and places in books, which are generally more interesting than some people) but I have enjoyed reading about friends in works of literature. I had school-friends - or rather a small group of people who liked to listen to me talk about The Lord of the Rings on the rare occasions I went into the playground at break times. There was always something wrong with them though, or perhaps my ideal friend exists only in my mind. One of the downsides to having Asperger Syndrome is being at a great social disadvantage - it is not uncommon for children with Asperger Syndrome to desire friendships just as ardently as any other child. What usually follows, though, is rather like a mute trying to communicate something important verbally, finding that they can't, and then...

The title for this post was inspired by Leaf by Niggle, a short story by J.R.R Tolkien, which resonates with much of his own creative process. Having read this post back to myself and perhaps I needn't have bothered with the title, since I have been neither particularly meticulous nor coherent in writing this. The interesting impression I got from reading it (I only read it once though, I shall have to read it again) was the importance of knowing everything about everything, and doing one's best to find it all out. Niggle spent his entire life painting a Tree, and spent a good deal of his time painting each individual leaf, since they were all important and contributed to the whole. I shall perhaps devote a further post to friendship and Asperger Syndrome since I find that sort of thing interesting...

The above book, Tree and Leaf, contains the short story Leaf by Niggle, as well as other interesting works - particularly Tolkien's poem Mythopoeia, written to C.S Lewis.

Ad Occidentem...

A blogger who styles himself Fr John Hunwicke, an Anglican priest living in Oxford, has an interesting post about the complex liturgical questions of ''ad Orientem'' and ''versus Populum'' (''versus Turbam'' I call it) in a Catholic church in Eynsham, where the Sanctuary is in fact at the West end of the Church (with the result that with celebrations of Mass versus Turbam, the Celebrant is in fact facing the correct liturgical direction, whereas the people are not). I once read that in the Patriarchal basilicas in Rome (which are also built in this way, although for purely practical reasons), the lay people would turn around to face the East during certain parts of the Liturgy - this seems to be a good idea, since even in private prayer, to turn Eastwards is salutary, but what happens at the Consecration when you have your back to the Blessed Sacrament? Of course, the idea of the Pope being ''privileged'' to celebrate Mass facing the people soon developed, out of peoples' ignorance (even in the Papal Court) and we thus see images of later Popes in foreign countries celebrating Mass in the same way (for no valid reason whatsoever). There was no excuse for that kind of ignorance. Ignorance of the Liturgy (not to mention laziness) has thus been a contributing factor in later liturgical ''reform,'' particularly the unfortunate changes of the 1950s and 1960s, the Smoke of Satan and all that! It may have been consoling for some traditionalists to hear Paul VI bemoan those changes afterwards, but it was a bit late, and he did approve of them...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Dagor Bragollach...

We've come quite a long way with this Synopsis of The Silmarillion, we've already reached the Dagor Bragollach (I shall explain the name in a moment, for those who don't know). I am writing this now as I have run out of blog post ideas...

Fingolfin son of Fëanor, High King of the Noldor in Beleriand, seeing that his people were become great and grand, and that the alliance of Men was profitable, pondered once again an assault upon Angband. But support for his design was little, for the Noldor were content with things as they were, that their kingdoms should yet enjoy a ''watchful peace,'' a memory of ancient Eldamar beyond the Sea, and they were loath to begin an assault in which many must surely perish. And so the designs of the Elven-king came to naught.

But in the 455th year since the first Rising of the Moon, when the sixth generation of Men after Bëor the Old were not yet come to full manhood, the evil befell that had long been dreaded. For Morgoth had indeed watched and laboured in secret, and he prepared a great force, but his design was not only to destroy the Noldor and their allies, but also to destroy the lands that they had made fair, and it is said that his hatred overcame his counsel, and that had he endured to wait longer, his full design might have been achieved.

In a time of winter, when the night was cold and the watch-fires burned dim and few were vigilant, Morgoth suddenly sent forth great rivers of flame from Thangorodrim, and the rivers flowed over the wide plains of Ard-galen and they perished, and Ard-galen became a desert of sand and scorched bones; Anfauglith it was named anew in the Sindarin tongue, which signifies Gasping Dust. Many of the Noldor perished in that great burning, for they were caught by the running fire and were overtaken ere they reached the heights of Dorthonion or Ered Wethrin. These hills indeed withstood the torrent, but the woodlands on their slopes which looked over the plain towards Angband were set ablaze, and the smoke wrought confusion among the Noldor. Thus began Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame, the Fourth of the Great Battles of Beleriand.

In the front of the fire came Glaurung, Father of Dragons, now full-grown, and in his train were the Balrogs, and behind them came the Orcs, in numbers such as the Elves had never before seen. They assaulted the fortresses of the Noldor and broke the Siege of Angband, and many of the mightiest of the Noldor perished in the first days of that Battle, running hither and thither witless, unable to muster their strength. The Battle ended with the coming of Spring, when the onslaught of Morgoth lessened.

Great was the triumph of Morgoth and the Siege of Angband was destroyed. The Noldor and their allies were scattered and wandered aimlessly as exiles through Beleriand. The Sindar, for the most part, forsook the War and many wandered; some were admitted into Doriath, others wandered into the forgotten lands east of the Mountains. The Sons of Finarfin were worsted, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain. The Men of Bëor's House suffered grievously also. Finrod Felagund, Lord of Nargothrond, came hastening from the south but was cut off from his people. But Barahir, of Bëor's House, came to the aid of the Elven-king and so Felagund escaped, swearing an Oath of abiding friendship to Barahir and his kindred, and in token of this, he gave to Barahir his Ring [incidentally, this Ring was still an heirloom of the House of Isildur well into the Third Age. It was kept safe in Rivendell, and Aragorn came to possess it].

Before the walls of Eithel Sirion fell Hador the Golden-haired, defending the rearguard of Fingolfin. And so Galdor the Tall took the lordship of that House, and because of the valour of that House, Hithlum remained unconquered by the servants of Morgoth. Fingolfin, however, was cut off. The battle had gone ill with the Sons of Fëanor,and near all the east marches were taken. The Pass of Aglon was forced, and so Celegorm and Curufin fled southwards with their people and were at last admitted into Nargothrond. By the valour of Maedhros, whose might in arms was enhanced somewhat since his return from Thangorodrim, the Hill of Himring was not taken, and many from Dorthonion and the east marches rallied to Maedhros and stemmed the black tide from the North. But the riders upon the plains of Lothlann were overwhelmed, for Glaurung was come, and he wrought there great ruin and destruction and blasted the fair lands. The Orcs then passed into Thargelion, and Caranthir's land was worsted, and he fled with his people to Amon Ereb, where they were aided by the Laiquendi of Ossiriand and they maintained some strength of war. Thus the Orcs did not pass into Ossiriand, nor to the wilds of Taur-im-Duinath.

Fingolfin then beheld, as it seemed to him, the utter ruin of the Noldor and their fair kingdoms, and in a fit of impetuous wrath, he mounted his great horse Rochallor and rode into the North alone...
The above image is by John Howe and depicts the Siege of Angband.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dissension among Men...

Let us return to The Silmarillion. We have seen how the Fathers of Men entered the service of the Elven-lords and were sundered from the old and the ''suspicious'' (let's call them) who remained in Estolad. For there were many in Estolad (beside the old, who deemed that their wandering days were over) who mistrusted Beleriand and the Elven-wars (in which can be discerned the influence of Morgoth and his spells). The leaders of discontent were Bereg of the House of Bëor and Amlach, one of the grandsons of Marach, and they declared openly that they came to Beleriand in the hope of escaping the pain and death from which they fled, but they found it here before them, for the Lord of the Darkness dwelt yet in the North, and the Eldar made endless war upon him.

A council of Men was then summoned, and thither came many, and the Elf-friends defended the Eldar at that council against the charges of Bereg and Marach. But there arose one of the sons of Amlach, Imlach by name, who declared that the very Elven-wars and the Light beyond the Sea was but Elvish fancy, tales to beguile newcomers into Beleriand, and those who heard his words became troubled. Afterwards, Amlach denied that he had been at this debate, and there was confusion among Men. And so the Elf-friends declared that there was indeed a Dark Lord in the North who was a Master of Lies, and that his spies and emissaries had been among Men. But still, there were some among Men who desired no enmity with the Dark Lord, and many of the Men of Estolad gathered such sundered companies as leaned rather to their sympathies and departed beyond the Mountains. Afterwards, Amlach entered the service of Maedhros.

Many Men remained in Thargelion, the land of Caranthir. But when Morgoth saw that he could not overcome the newcome Men of Beleriand by deceit and fear he was filled with wrath, and so he sent forth from Angband an Orc-raid, which passed in stealth over Ered Lindon and escaped the leaguer of the North, and so came into Thargelion by the old Dwarf-road and assailed the Haladin. These people did not live in large settlements but rather in small homesteads far sundered, and so they were worsted. But Caranthir came with a host and drove the Orcs into the river; and Caranthir looked kindly upon Men in that hour, and did them honour, whereas before he scarcely heeded them. And he offered recompense to Haleth, lady of the Haladin, for her dead kindred, but she was proud and unwilling to be guided or ruled by the Eldar, and she removed from Thargelion and went to dwell in Brethil by the long and arduous paths between Doriath and the Mountains of Terror, which Thingol claimed as part of his kingdom. Thingol would have denied Haleth this part of his realm, but Felagund obtained this grace for them, that they had leave to dwell in Brethil, so long as they guarded the Crossings of Teiglin against all the enemies of Doriath, and that no Orc could enter those woods. But Haleth found this arrangement strange, and declared that the Elven-king feared the friendship of Men.

In this manner came to be the sundering of Men, one kindred from another, and most of them learned the Grey-elven tongue, as a common-speech among themselves, and because many of them desired to learn the lore of the Eldar. And soon, seeing that it was not fitting for Elves and Men to dwell with eachother in ill-ordered communities, the Elven-lords ordered regions to be set up for Men with chieftains of their own kind. Hador, great-grandson of Marach who entered Beleriand soon after Bëor, entered the household of Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, and was well loved by the king. And so Fingolfin rewarded him with the wide lands of Dor-lómin, and thither came most of the House of Hador. In his house only the Elven-tongue was spoken, but their own speech was not forgotten, and from it came the common tongue of Númenor. The years of the Edain were increased according to the reckoning of Men in those days, but death was not withheld from them, and so in the end old Bëor himself died at the age of 93, of no wound or grief, and the Eldar grieved much at the strange fate of Men. Nonetheless, the Edain learned all of the Eldar that they could of arts and lore, and increased in stature of mind and body beyond all others of lesser Men who dwelt yet beyond the Mountains, and had not heard of the Eldar, nor of the Light of Aman beyond the Sea.


Lately, I have been thinking of my Irish Dancing. I sometimes miss it, because I was very good at it (that is not arrogance, I have the trophies and medals to prove it) and because I miss my old friends, and even the routine - especially crossing the River by ferry to get to Ilford (going by the Tunnel was boring), or going to Catford via Eltham - my mother used to drive past that Anglican church with the tall tower on the roundabout and I liked to look at it - seeing it years later in the distance from the train coming home from London and I wonder at how little aesthetic sense I had...

Anyway, I started dancing when I was 5 years old. I remember my first day in fact - my mother drove my brother and I into Kent to meet the teacher, a woman of about 35 at the time (which makes her about 50 something now) and we came away afterwards with two very different impressions - my brother with how very ''girly'' it was, and I with how very exciting it all was! I think that it was the perfect sense of rhythm, the rigidity of the steps and the music (particularly the Orange Rogue) which first attracted me. I also liked the ''clumpy shoes'' as I called them then. Of course, a minor of my age didn't get to wear them then. I had to wear the soft leather shoes until I was 8. I went through three schools of Irish Dance, the first was with the lady near Bexley called Linda, the second with Anthony at Catford and the third with a couple in Essex called Brenda and Michael.

With Anthony (who I liked the best of them all; he had a pair of ''granny'' glasses at his house, you know the sort with all the patterns on them, so I assumed he was married - I later worked out that they were his) I reached the Advanced Stage, and competed in various feis' (Irish for competition, it's pronounced ''fesh''), winning most of them. Under his tuition, I competed in the Great British Championships in Somerset and the British Nationals in Manchester (coming 2nd Place in both of them - the latter was only because I stopped, but then the music stopped so it wasn't technically my fault, I remember the smug look one of the adjudicators gave me). I best enjoyed my time dancing under Anthony at the Irish Centre. Every St Patrick's Day (or the nearest day to it on the weekend) we used to have a St Patrick's Day parade from the Irish Centre to St Saviour's church at Lewisham where we'd have Mass in Irish (I didn't know of the Old Rite when I was a boy, except the few hints my parents and grandparents used to tell me about how when they were little the Mass was ''all in Latin.'') The parades were great fun. One year (1996 in fact) the Parade fell on my birthday and either before or after the Mass, the entire hall sang Happy Birthday to me. I was looking at that photo the other day; you can see me in my green kilt!

I can't remember exactly when or why, but later on my mother transferred me to another school, and this time on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays after school, we had to go to Ilford and Whitechapel. Under this school, I competed for the Under 11s in the All-Ireland and the World Championships in Co. Clare in Ireland. I came first place for the Qualifier Feis at Wimbledon, but when it came to the major events themselves, I only came 4th Place - I think because my teacher approached me before I danced to inform me that I wasn't welcome at the school anymore (for mercenary reasons I later found out, apparently because my mother couldn't afford Private tuition, I had no place in their school anymore). I was 11 years old and after that I had no desire to return to dancing. Funny how a brief ''traumatic'' experience like that can affect one's future.

I was inspired to write this post because after Benediction this evening, we sang that famous version of St Patrick's Breastplate (at least I think it is) ''Christ be beside me'' - which, when I was little and along with ''Give me Joy in My Heart,'' was my favourite Hymn. They sang Colours of Day, and Gloria in Excelsis (the clapping version) when I was in Primary School but I cordially disliked those and still do. We used to sing ''Christ be beside me'' at the Mass in St Saviour's. I miss those days...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Amo, Amas, Amat and Heresy!

In the little spare time I am allowed, I am currently translating something I have always wanted to translate in toto, namely, St Leo the Great's Tome to Flavian, Bishop in Constantinople, and written in the Year of Our Lord 449. I have done parts of it before, if you remember, and enjoy doing so, since the Latin is at once both Late (one can glean this from Leo's strange use of words like ''dispensatio'' which refers to Our Lord's Incarnation: in Classical Latin, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the concept of incarnations!) and very melodious. The Epistle was written to address the problem of Eutyches, who was an influential monk at Constantinople, who erroneously taught that ''after the [Hypostatic] Union, I confess two Natures, after the Union, I confess only one Nature.'' I have read the Epistle in English translation, and Leo rightly judged that Eutyches was an idiot. It is a masterly treatise on complex Christology. So far, however, due to want of spare time, I have only done the Synopsis, which was quite hard, particularly points IV and V:

I. Quod ignorantia Sanctarum Scripturarum Eutychen haereticum fecerit. (''Because ignorance of the Holy Scriptures made Eutyches heretic'' - I initially thought that ''fecerit'' was in the Future Perfect Tense, whose case endings are ''ero, eris, erit'' etc, but since ''quod'' introduces the sentence as a causal clause, ''fecerit'' is in the Perfect Subjunctive).

II. Contra eos qui in duos Filios dispensationis Dominicae mysterium scindere moliuntur. (This one was the easiest - ''Against those who strive to split into two Sons the mystery of the Lord's Incarnation.'')

III. Contra eos qui passibilem Divinitatem Unigeniti Filii Dei audent asserere. (''Against those who dare to assert the passibility of the Divinity of the Only-Begotten Son of God.'')

IV. Contra eos qui coelestem aut alterius cuiusque substantiae existere formam servi, quam ex nobis assumpsit, insaniendo asserunt. (This one was maddeningly difficult because on first glance, the words don't mean anything when strung together in such a manner, but the sentence says this, roughly: ''Against those who by insanity assert that there is a heavenly form or some other being of a servant he [Christ] took from us'' or perhaps better rendered: ''Against those who in their madness assert that the servant-form he [Christ] took from us is of a heavenly or other substance.''

V. Contra eos qui duas quidem ante adunationem naturas Domini delirant, unam vero post adunationem confingunt. (''Against those who babble/speak nonsense [''delirant'' is hard to translate in the context, but ''deliro'' means ''I speak deliriously,'' we get delirious from this of course] about two natures of the Lord before the union [''adunatio'', it took me a while to work this out], but fabricate/imagine a single one after the union.'')

This is an interesting view of heresy, that it comes from ignorance of the Holy Scriptures. Does this disposition exalt the Scriptures above their actual place in the Tradition of the Church? Perhaps ignorance led Eutyches into heresy, but his Pride in refusing remonstrance at Chalcedon confirmed it - if you read the Acts, the Fathers ask him to anathematize his heresy, and he responds by saying that if he does so, he will anathematize the Holy Fathers [of Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus]. My view is that these are very complex questions of Christology. I remember learning about the Christological controversies of the 5th century and being amazed that the philological significance of words like hypostasis, ousia, homoousion, substantia, consubstantialem Patri etc were all bitterly fought out. When I think of this, the Church's struggle for orthodoxy amidst the tempests of heresy, and that there were Martyrs for its sake, I am made very angry when I listen to people at New Rite Masses mindlessly reciting the Nicene Creed, making it all sound very boring and trivial. When I finish my translation of the Tome, I shall devote several posts to them.