God made thee mightily, my love

God made thee mightily, my love,
He stretched his hands out of his rest
And lit the star of east and west
Brooding o’er darkness like a dove.
God made thee mightily, my love.

God made thee patiently, my sweet,
Out of all the stars he chose a star;
He made it red with sunset bar
And green with greeting for thy feet.
God made thee mightily, my sweet.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Bank-clerks are without songs”

How did people come to chant rude poems while pulling certain ropes or gathering certain fruit, and why did nobody do anything of the kind while producing any of the modern things?. . .

[There is] an indefinable something in the very atmosphere of the society in which we live that makes it spiritually difficult to sing in banks. . . There is something spiritually suffocating about our life; not about our laws merely, but about our life.  Bank-clerks are without songs not because they are poor, but because they are sad.  Sailors are much poorer.  As I passed homewards I passed a little tin building of some religious sort, which was shaken with shouting as a trumpet is torn with its own tongue.  They were singing anyhow; and I had for an instant a fancy I had often had before: that with us the super-human is the only place where you can find the human.  Human nature is hunted, and has fled into sanctuary.

– “The Little Birds Who Won’t Sing”, in On Lying in Bed.
[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on October 8, 2008 at 7:25 am  Comments (2)  

“Larger inside than out”

It has been suggested…that all laughter had its origin in a sort of cruelty, in an exultation over the pain or the ignominy of an enemy… [But] another philosophy would say, for instance, that the laughter is due not to an animal cruelty but to a purely human realization of the contrast between man’s spiritual immensity within and his littleness and restriction without, for it is itself a joke that a house should be larger inside than out. According to such a view, the very incompatibility between the sense of human dignity and the perpetual possibility of incidental indignities produces the archetypal joke of the old gentleman sitting down suddenly on the ice. We do not laugh thus when a tree or a rock tumbles down, because we do not know the sense of self-esteem or serious importance within.

— “Humour”, in On Lying in Bed.
[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

“The air of a pilgrim”

Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survived all its conquerors. The desperate modern talk about dark days and reeling altars, and the end of Gods and angels, is the oldest talk in the world: lamentations over the growth of agnosticism can be found in the monkish sermons of the dark ages; horror at youthful impiety can be found in the Iliad. This is the thing that never deserts men and yet always, with daring diplomacy, threatens to desert them. It has indeed dwelt among and controlled all the kings and crowds, but only with the air of a pilgrim passing by. It has indeed warmed and lit men from the beginning of Eden with an unending glow, but it was the glow of an eternal sunset.

— “Watts’ Allegorical Painting”, in On Lying in Bed.
[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment  

“To have and to enjoy”

I go back to my writing table; at least I do not exactly go back to it, because they have taken it away, with silent treachery, while I was meditating on death at the window. I sit down on the chair and try to write on my knee; which is really difficult, especially when one has nothing to write about. I feel strangely grateful to the noble wooden quadruped on which I sit. Who am I that the children of men should have shaped and carved for me four extra wooden legs besides the two that were given me by the gods? For it is the point of all deprivation that it sharpens the idea of value; and, perhaps, that is, after all, the reason of the riddle of death. In a better world, perhaps, we may permanently possess, and permanently be astonished at possession. In some strange estate beyond the stars we may manage at once to have and to enjoy. But in this world, through some sickness at the root of psychology, we have to be reminded that a thing is ours by its power of disappearance.

– “On Being Moved”, in On Lying in Bed.
[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on February 6, 2008 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

“A clap of his little hands”

[The birds] in the Byzantine scheme would have been as abstract and typical as the birds of an Egyptian hieroglyphic. The birds of the later realistic epoch, when the painters of the nineteenth century had brought to the last perfection, or the last satiety, the studies of optics or of physics begun in the sixteenth, might well have been a most detailed and even bewildering display of ornithology. But the birds to whom St. Francis preached, in the vision of the thirteenth-century art, were already birds that could fly or sing, but not yet birds that could be shot or stuffed; they had ceased to be merely heraldic without becoming merely scientific. And as, in all studies of St. Francis, we always return to that great comparison which he at once denied with all his humility and desired with all his heart, we may say that they were not wholly unlike those strange birds in the legend, which the Holy Child pinched into shape out of scraps of clay, and then started into life and swiftness with a clap of his little hands.

– “Giotto and St. Francis”, in On Lying in Bed.
[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

St. Francis Preaching to the Birds

Published in: on November 14, 2007 at 11:46 am  Comments (1)  

“Hubbub in stone”

On my last morning on the Flemish coast, when I knew that in a few hours I should be in England, my eye fell upon one of the details of Gothic carving of which Flanders is full. . . It seemed to represent men bending themselves. . .to certain primary employments. Some seemed to be sailors tugging at ropes; others, I think, were reaping, others were energetically pouring something into something else. . . If there was one thing the early medievals liked it was representing people doing something. . . The Middle Ages is full of that spirit in all its monuments and manuscripts. . . [for] a mass of medieval carving seems actually a sort of bustle or hubbub in stone. Sometimes one cannot help feeling that the groups actually move and mix, and the whole front of a great cathedral has the hum of a huge hive.

– “The Little Birds Who Won’t Sing”, in On Lying in Bed.

[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on July 25, 2007 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Behaving like asses”

We can at once test the ethics of publicity by removing it from public life; by merely applying it to private life. What should we think, at a private party, if an old gentleman had written on his shirtfront in a fine large flowing hand: ‘I am the only well-bred person in this company’? What should we think of any person of taste and humour who went about wearing a placard inscribed ‘Please note quiet charm of my personality’? What should we say if people gravely engraved on their visiting card the claim to be the handsomest or the wildest or the most subtly, strangely attractive people about town? We should not only think, with great accuracy, that they were behaving like asses… we should also think they were wantonly reversing and destroying a principle of social amenity and moral delicacy. Yet modern business, especially in America, does really enforce this sort of publicity in public life.

– “The American Ideal”, in On Lying in Bed.

[original source unknown (to The Hebdomadarian)]

Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  

“Utterly different”

Some time ago, when a stir was made by a rather striking book called Who Moved the Stone? which might almost be described, with all reverence, as a divine detective story and almost a theological thriller, a pugnacious little paper in Fleet Street made a remark which has always hovered in my memory as more mysterious than any mystery story in the world. The writer said that any man who believes in the Resurrection is bound also to believe in the story of Aladdin in The Arabian Nights. I have no idea what he meant. Nor, I imagine, had he… There is no sort of logical connection between believing in one miraculous event and believing in another, even if they were exactly alike and not utterly different. If I believe that Captain Peary reached the North Pole, I am not therefore bound to believe that Dr. Cook also reached the North Pole, even if they both arrived with sleds and dogs out of the same snows. It is a fallacy, then, even where the two things are close enough to be compared. But the comparison between the Gospel miracle and the Arabian fairy-tale is about the most unfortunate in the world. For in the one case there is a plain and particular reason for thinking the thing true, or at least meant to be true. And in the other there is a plain and particular reason for realizing that the tale is not only untrue, but is not even meant to be true.

The historical case for the Resurrection is that everybody else, except the Apostles, had every possible motive to declare what they had done with the body, if anything had been done with it. The Apostles might have hidden it in order to announce a sham miracle, but it is very difficult to imagine men being tortured and killed for the truth of a miracle which they knew to be a sham. In the case of the Apostles’ testimony, the general circumstances suggest that it is true. In the case of the Arabian tale, the general circumstances avow and proclaim that it is false. For we are told in the book itself that all the stories were told by a woman merely to amuse the king and distract his attention from the idea of cutting off her head. A romancer in this personal situation is not very likely to confine herself strictly to humdrum accuracy, and it would be impossible to more plainly inform the reader that all the tales are taradiddles. In the one case, then, we have witnesses who not only think the thing true, but do veritably think it is as true as death, or truer than death. They therefore prefer death to the denial of its truth. In the other sense we have a storyteller who, in trying to avoid death, has every motive to tell lies. If St. John the Baptist had wished to avoid being beheaded, and had saved his life by inventing a long string of Messianic or early Christian legends on the spur of the moment, in order to hold the attention of King Herod, I should not regard any ‘resurrection myth’ he might tell as a strong historical argument for the Resurrection. But, as the Apostles were killed as St. John was killed, I think their evidence cannot be identified by sound scholarship as a portion of the Arabian Nights.

– “About Beliefs” in On Lying in Bed.

(original source unknown [to The Hebdomadarian])

Published in: on April 11, 2007 at 12:46 am  Comments (1)