Apr 232011
 

‘Artemis, with bow and quiver,
Stands aloft on Mount Olympus,
As the doe and hind, in silence,
Jump the clear and Star-lit river.

‘Swift they run. Like magic carpets
Are the green and silver forests.
Watch the bears – and bees with honey –
As the Goddess hits her target.

‘“Bravo, Sister!” beams Apollo –
Gazing at the sea below them –
“Never did you miss with arrow!”
Sinks the form of bold Orion”.

‘Lord Apollo watches, silent,
As the virgin’s beau drifts skyward.
Watches as the only question
O’er her virtue learns his lesson.

‘By a cedar stands she grieving,
Bows her head in shame, a-weeping,
Cries upon the smelted moon beams,
Chastens, then, her ruthless sibling.

‘“King of priests, my Lord Apollo,
‘Reasons for his death ring hollow.
While the muses – nine that love thee –
Contemplate their selves, you’d fool me!”

Laughs the god: “Your love’s a martyr,”
Facing fear the charging Taurus,
“Tempted by the Atlas daughters,
Girls who shine on lucid waters.”

Apr 232011
 

‘Now a voice so fair, ascending,
Fills the air with love unending,
Rises on the silver moonbeams
Woven from Apollo’s sun streams.

‘”Bold Orion, Starman leaping,
How my heart for you is beating.
I have set you there so thy fame
Lights the path of this, the sky-train!”

‘Next she calls with gentle words
The creatures of her wooded world,
Speaks to them with tender charm
To keep the slightest safe from harm.

‘“Sweet you are as honey, bee.
Bear and Stag, come follow me.
Jump with me across the river.”
Seeks she souls with bow and quiver.

‘Then the Goddess steps up on it –
Disc of night, the lamp of dreamers –
As the steeds with hooves of onyx
Take to flight with sweet Selene.

Mar 022011
 

“I was the only son of my mother and father, and I was exceedingly aspiring, and my daring was very great. I thought there was no enterprise in the world too mighty for me, and after I had achieved all the adventures that were in my own country, I equipped myself, and set forth to journey through deserts and distant regions.

And at length it chanced that I came to the fairest valley in the world, wherein were trees of equal growth; and a river ran through the valley, and a path was by the side of the river. And I followed the path until mid-day, and continued my journey along the remainder of the valley until the evening; and at the extremity of a plain I came to a large and lustrous Castle, at the foot of which was a torrent.

And I approached the Castle, and there I beheld two youths with yellow curling hair, each with a frontlet of gold upon his head, and clad in a garment of yellow satin, and they had gold clasps upon their insteps. In the hand of each of them was an ivory bow, strung with the sinews of the stag; and their arrows had shafts of the bone of the whale, and were winged with peacock’s feathers; the shafts also had golden heads. And they had daggers with blades of gold, and with hilts of the bone of the whale. And they were shooting their daggers.

“And a little way from them I saw a man in the prime of life, with his beard newly shorn, clad in a robe and a mantle of yellow satin; and round the top of his mantle was a band of gold lace. On his feet were shoes of variegated leather, fastened by two bosses of gold. When I saw him, I went towards him and saluted him, and such was his courtesy that he no sooner received my greeting than he returned it. And he went with me towards the Castle.

Now there were no dwellers in the Castle except those who were in one hall. And there I saw four-and-twenty damsels, embroidering satin at a window. And this I tell thee, Kai, that the least fair of them was fairer than the fairest maid thou hast ever beheld in the Island of Britain, and the least lovely of them was more lovely than Gwenhwyvar, the wife of Arthur, when she has appeared loveliest at the Offering, on the day of the Nativity, or at the feast of Easter”.

The Mabinogion

Jan 072011
 

It is not the purpose of this book to trace the subsequent history of Christianity, especially the later history of Christianity; which involves controversies of which I hope to write more fully elsewhere. It is devoted only to the suggestion that Christianity, appearing amid heathen humanity, had all the character of a unique thing and even of a supernatural thing. It was not like any of the other things; and the more we study it the less it looks like any of them

I have said that Asia and the ancient world had an air of being too old to die. Christendom has had the very opposite fate. Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave. It is so true that three or four times at least in the history of Christendom the whole soul seemed to have gone out of Christianity; and almost every man in his heart expected its end.

The Church in the West was not in a world where things were too old to die; but in one in which they were always young enough to get killed

At least five times, with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died. How complete was the collapse and how strange the reversal, we cars only see in detail in the case nearest to our own time.

A thousand things have been said about the Oxford Movement and the parallel French Catholic revival; but few have made us feel the simplest fact about it; that it was a surprise. It was a puzzle as well as a surprise; because it seemed to most people like a river turning backwards from the sea and trying to climb back into the mountains.

In short, the whole world being divided about whether the stream was going slower or faster, became conscious of something vague but vast that was going against the stream. Both in fact and figure there is something deeply disturbing about this, and that for an essential reason. A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it. A dead dog can be lifted on the leaping water with all the swiftness of a leaping hound; but only a live dog can swim backwards. A paper boat can ride the rising deluge with all the airy arrogance of a fairy ship; but if the fairy ship sails upstream it is really rowed by the fairies.

G K Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, The Five Deaths of the Faith

Nov 072010
 

The grief-stricken birds, the host of wild creatures, the flinty rocks and the woods that had so often followed his songs, all wept for Orpheus. The trees shed their leaves and, with bared heads, mourned for his loss.

Men say that the rivers too were swollen with their own tears, and naiads and dryads tore their hair, and pulled on black garments, over their fine robes. The poet’s limbs were scattered in different places, but the waters of the Hebrus received his head and lyre.

Wonderful to relate, as they floated down in midstream, the lyre uttered a plaintive melody and the lifeless tongue made a piteous murmur, while the river banks lamented in reply. Carried down to the sea, theyleft their native river, and were washed up on the shore of Lesbos, near Methymna.

Here, as the head lay exposed on that foreign shore, its hair dripping with beads of foam, it was attacked by a savage snake: but Phoebus at last appeared, and checked the snake in the very act of biting, turning its open mouth to stone, and petrifying its gaping jaws.

The ghost of Orpheus passed beneath the earth; he recognised all the places he had seen before and, searching through the fields of the blessed, found his Eurydice, and clasped her in eager arms. There they stroll together, side by side: or sometimes Orpheus follows, while his wife goes before, sometimes he leads the way and looks back, as he can do safely now, at his Eurydice.

Ovid, Orpheus in the Underworld

Aug 082010
 

In a chair, at the far side of the room facing the outer door, sat a woman. Her long yellow hair rippled down her shoulders; her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew; and her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies set with the pale blue eyes of forget-me-nots.

About her feet in wide vessels of green and brown earthenware, white water-lilies were floating, so that she seemed to be enthroned in the midst of a pool.

‘Enter good guests!’ she said, and as she spoke they knew it was her clear voice they  had heard singing. They came a few timid steps further into the room, and began to bow low, feeling strangely surprised and awkward, like folk that, knocking at a cottage door to beg for a drink of water, have been answered by a fair young elf queen clad in living flowers.

But before they could say anything, she sprang lightly up and over the lily-bowls, and ran laughing towards them; and as she ran her gown rustled softly like the wind in the flowering borders of a river.

The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien

Aug 022010
 

A short moment later and I was back in the dark void of space, looking down this time upon two golden wheels, of similar size and decoration. The first along with a second. It seemed clear that this second would roll back from the mouth of the cave as had the first and indeed, this is what happened as I approached it.

The scene that next transpired was, initially, virtually identical with what I had seen previously at the mouth of the first cave and I repeated the procedure. I stood at the entrance, taking care not to set even an inch of my toe over this threshold, and called inside for whom or whatsoever lay within to emerge from the darkness. Here the similarity ended.

Almost at once the mouth of the cave became so enlarged and distended that it appeared to encompass the whole side of the mountain. If the last had been an orderly stream, it was a wild and powerful river that emerged from within; golden, blue and multi-coloured beings were mingled with a teeming mass of devotees and even their animals, all pouring out together in a chaotic, impulsive rush of life and energy.

I was curious to note that from the far left of the cave came a very large being that looked just like a solid gold Buddha or statue of Brahma seated in the lotus position. The being seemed immobile of its own accord and I deduced that it was either floating forwards on the tide of its worshippers, or was being pushed on wheels positioned beneath it.

As I was observing this being and its many worshippers, my focus changed imperceptibly to myself until I was looking straight ahead at another being of unusual appearance. This being, which was mobile and animated of its own right, seemed to metamorphosise before my eyes. Its skin was very soft looking and predominantly pale blue, or a blue-grey, although there were other colours to its human but non-human seeming form. This was a male – or predominantly male – being, or so it seemed, and it looked into my eyes with an expression that I was not able to fathom, tinged with a kind of cool humour and bright with a light that was not like the light of other eyes.

I had not been looking for long at this being when suddenly – at lightening speed – an electrifying, dark blue female figure emanated from it like a breathtaking whirligig, with limbs flailing like knives in all directions. This enormous energy rushed straight towards me – shrieking silently  – in what may have been perceived as a threatening manner, but I did not feel afraid. It seemed to skim past or through the right side of my body and where this – or I –went next, I could not say for I do not remember.