Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dr. Thursday's Thursday Post

We have returned to the tempus per annum which some call "Ordinary Time" because the weeks are marked with ordinals (first, second, seventhy-ninth, ten-thousand-and-twenty-fifth, etc). This remarkable time, which is remarkable just as (for us Chestertonians!) the "common man" is remarkable, offers us the delights of anything and everything which is the one single subject of our interest.

But yes, perhaps I ought to say just a word or two about ChesterCon07 which has just ended - or I should say, has just completed... for it has not truly ended. It is just deferred. Someone has pointed out that these conferences are a tiny foretaste of "the Inn at the End of the World" - the one for which "the Good Wine has been Kept" - those of us who know about scripture remember that this coming banquet wil be a Wedding-Feast, and happy are those who are called to partake. I readily grant that, in our fallen state, we poor weak ones tend to make a mess of things, and even at a ChesterCon will find speed-bumps, and spilled wine or beer (or mead!), or talks we do not like, or talks we disagree with, and even, yes, even people who are bumpy or spilled or disagreeing or disagreeable. This reminds me of a very famous letter from GKC to his fiance:
11 Paternoster Buildings
(postmarked July 8, 1899)
... I am black but comely [See Canticle of Canticles 1:4] at this moment: because the cyclostyle has blacked me. Fear not. I shall wash myself. But I think it my duty to render an accurate account of my physical appearance every time I write: and shall be glad of any advice and assistance....
[GKC to Frances Blogg, quoted in Maisie Ward's Gilbert Keith Chesterton 108]
Hence, let us sincerely be sure to shall wash ourselves (cf. Rv. 7:14) before we get that invitation to the banquet.

So it might be useful for me to draw attention to one small matter.
Continue reading.
At least one speaker mentioned GKC's very important essay titled "If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach" which was printed in The Common Man, presently not in print - but can be found on line, and was also reprinted in On Lying in Bed and other Essays which is available from the ACS. I mention it because it is GKC's solemn sermon on Pride and Humility. I have just learned that the mere mention of GKC's sermon led to its being referred to in an actual sermon preached last Sunday. Clearly it has a very important lesson for all of us. Consider just this one excerpt:
Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making the truth the test. It is not pride to wish to do well, or even to look well, according to a real test. It is pride to think that a thing looks ill, because it does not look like something characteristic of oneself.
Yes, it can be easy to forget, amid all the verbal fireworks, the real reason for our meeting.

But all in all, it was a wonderful conference, and I met many friends there - some old, some new - some unfortunately not yet friends - nevertheless I will indeed pray for all of you, and hope that we shall all meet again, whether at a future ChesterCon, or at the Inn at the End of the World. Please likewise pray for me; I've used the cyclostyle.

Meanwhile, I shall resume my exploration of the books which GKC read, referred to, or commented on, and which are still available.

Today's book is DorĂ©’s Illustrations for Ariosto’s "Orlando Furioso", available through Dover Publications. It is suggested by this quote: and man together making an image that is to him human and civilised, it will be easy, as it were, to lift horse and man together into something heroic or symbolical; like a vision of St. George in the clouds. The fable of the winged horse will not be wholly unnatural to him: and he will know why Ariosto set many a Christian hero in such an airy saddle, and made him the rider of the sky. For the horse has really been lifted up along with the man in the wildest fashion in the very word we use when we speak “chivalry.”
[GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:148]
Ludovico (or Lodovico) Ariosto, (1474-1533) was an Italian poet and dramatist. His best known work is the chivalric epic poem Orlando Furioso, (Roland the Mad) a sequel to Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato (Roland in Love); containing 50,000 lines of such things as magic, winged horses, evil Orcs, a trip to the moon on a hippogriff, and Christian knights, it is generally considered the most perfect poetic expression of the Italian Renaissance, and a principal model for Spenser's Faerie Queene.

In Orlando Furioso, the hero travels on a hippogriff, a mythological creature which is part eagle, part horse. There is also a flight to the moon in Elijah's chariot, which is drawn by winged horses. See pages 105 and 113 in the Dover edition. Here are some other suggestive GKC quotes:

The cow jumping over the moon is not only a fancy very suitable to children, it is a theme very worthy of poets. The lunar adventure may appear to some a lunatic adventure; but it is one round which the imagination of man has always revolved; especially the imagination of romantic figures like Ariosto and Cyrano de Bergerac.
[GKC, ILN Oct. 15, 1921 CW32:254]

We speak of the Renaissance as the birth of rationalism; it was in many ways the birth of irrationalism. It is true that the medieval School-men, who had produced the finest logic that the world has ever seen, had in later years produced more logic than the world can ever be expected to stand. They had loaded and lumbered up the world with libraries of mere logic; and some effort was bound to be made to free it from such endless chains of deduction. Therefore, there was in the Renaissance a wild touch of revolt, not against religion but against reason. Thus one of the very greatest of the sixteenth-century giants was almost as much of a nonsense writer as Edward Lear: Rabelais. So another of the very greatest wrote an Orlando Furioso which might sometimes be called Ariosto Furioso.
[GKC Chaucer CW18:328]

Let it be agreed, on the one hand, that the Renaissance poets had in one sense obtained a wider as well as a wilder range. But though they juggled with worlds, they had less real sense of how to balance a world. I am sorry that Chaucer "left half-told the story of Cambuscan bold" and I can imagine that that flying horse might have carried the hero into very golden skies of Greek or Asiatic romance; but I am prepared to agree that he would never have beaten Ariosto in anything like a voyage to the moon. On the other hand, even in Ariosto there is something symbolic, if only accidentally symbolic, in the fact that his poem is less tragic but more frantic than "The Song of Roland"; and deals not with Roland Dead but with Roland Mad.
[ibid CW18:330-331]


  1. At our church we don't do ordinal time or ordinary time (what a flatfooted phrase!) We count Sundays after Pentecost.
    ~ Gramps

  2. I wanted so much to be able to go to the conference this year, but we really couldn't afford it. As it turned out we spent conference week hosting my blind niece from NYC so it was a worthwhile week anyway. Now I have to see about getting the conference tapes/DVD's yet again. Maybe next year... If I could just get my doctor to write a prescription for the conference laughter as a needed health care item do you think the insurance would pay for it?

    However, Chestertonians everywhere must work harder at getting the word out. I just talked with someone at my high school reunion who always read the best of literature (she even read Winnie the Pooh and quoted it while in high school when it was not very sophisticated to still enjoy children's literature) and she had never even HEARD of Chesterton. I'm not sure how that can be because I'm pretty sure there was a Chesterton short story in one of our high school anthologies, but she certainly was not familiar with him. I'm planning on putting some Chesterton in my car the next time I anticipate seeing her. I so often talk about Chesterton with friends, students, family that I forget that there's a whole world out there that don't know about him at all.


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