[W]hen they were landed Sir Tristram set up his pavilion upon the land of Camelot, and there he let hang his shield upon the pavilion. And that same day came two knights of King Arthur's, that one was Sir Ector de Maris, and Sir Morganor. And they touched the shield, and bade him come out of the pavilion for to joust, an he would joust. Ye shall be answered, said Sir Tristram, an ye will tarry a little while.I shall be gone for a few days. I commend you to my brothers in arms, who keep the Hall as well as I can.
If you are interested in the Pope's new encyclical, you can read it here. There have been a number of reactions, including Southern Appeal, The Anchoress, , Father John Zuhlsdorf, and First Things (keep scrolling).
Although I am not a Catholic, I am increasingly convinced that they are the main serious thinkers on these matters extant today. This current Pope is particularly impressive.
Since we have been discussing aesthetics and ethics, this debate on sacred music and chant is highly appropriate. This may set the tone for what follows:
The old heroic poetry was of a different character from the 13th century hymns and chants, in that it was composed at the moment of the performance. The act of writing it down adds a solidity that was not present in the ancient poems, which were performed live by poets who took their audience's tastes and mood into account, extending or shortening segments accordingly. (See Albert Lord's The Singer of Tales.)"It is only natural that the worship of God is to be expressed in song. ...praise cannot be reduced to the 'language of this world,' stripped of all balance, rhythm, and harmony. The word of God and man's response to it ....is not the reflection of an 'ordinary' conversation. As soon as the word becomes identified with the contents of its message, it calls for order (rhythm) and melos (arrangements of pitch), i.e., a musical form. In this way, the perfect word, the fully developed word, most always has the nature of song."--quoting DrillockA reflection of this thought is easily available to anyone familiar with good poetry reading, and is further reinforced by the knowledge that epic poetry such as The Odyssey was always sung....
That said, there is an excellent point here -- one that Joe and I were discussing the other day. The more binding poetic forms create a power that isn't present in everyday language. It is, indeed, the natural language for prayer and sacred meanings. The Ynglinga Saga states that Odin spoke everything in rhyme, so that his words gave the form to the poetry of the skalds who followed him.
The greatest poem of the 20th Century, The Ballad of the White Horse, has three forms -- or rather, one basic form, and two extended versions. Usually the longest is used to draw out the mind along an image, so that a stanza of the second-longest can follow to seal the image in the mind.
A bronzed man, with a bird's bright eye,I often think of those lines when Eric stands forth to proclaim the glory that was Rome: and honor him for it.
And a strong bird's beak and brow,
His skin was brown like buried gold,
And of certain of his sires was told
That they came in the shining ship of old,
With Caesar in the prow.
His fruit trees stood like soldiers
Drilled in a straight line,
His strange, stiff olives did not fail,
And all the kings of the earth drank ale,
But he drank wine.
The words convey a meaning, and the meaning a purpose. That is what words are for.
"One ....would have to add that 'word' in the biblical sense (and also the Greek sense) is more than language and speech, namely, creative reality [In Hebrew, 'dabar'].... For "word" in the sense of the Bible is more than "text," and understanding reaches further than the banal understanding of what is immediately clear to everyone."Word," in other words, is logos. It is more than the written word: it is the reason for the words.
Silence is not broken for no cause. Not by God.
Grim is occasionally fond of recounting a tale of John Randolph. A guest is coming to dinner; Mr. Randolph is not prepared to receive him; he opens the door to the guest and says, "Sir, I am not home"; the guest leaves, without attempting to say in any way that Mr. Randolph is being less than truthful. Only Grim tells it with more elegance and fewer semicolons.
In my first job out of law school (a judicial clerkship), I learned that on some matters, a lawyer could make an assertion as an "officer of the court," and in the absence of a dispute, this would be accepted as true. As with the Virginia gentry standard, this assumption was made without any regard to the attorney's actual reputation for truth or untruth. I don't doubt it arises from the same source: when class was far more a reality than now, lawyers were gentlemen by birth, and treated as such. (In British courts, lawyers are still wearing robes and wigs in court - for no better reason I know than that gentlemen once dressed that way.)
I've got a case now, away from my home station, in which I think the other side's staff judge advocate has an office policy that creates a legal issue (and I'm not saying what the policy is, nor the issue, nor even where it is). In my brief to the judge, I simply asserted that opposing counsel told me about the policy, and went on to what I think the issue is. In response, the other side didn't say, "Yes, we do that," or "No, we don't," but simply said, "Joseph W. isn't producing any witnesses to our conversation, so he can't prove what he says."
Don't fear for me - I've got ways of proving it, all right, even if the old doctrine doesn't apply here (and I'm not going to stand on it, anyway). I'm not claiming the profession has fallen to new depths, either - courtroom duels used to lead to actual duels, a couple of centuries back, when the advocates didn't remember how to separate the personal from the professional (a longstanding issue in our profession). One of us two lawyers is about to learn something. I mention it simply because some here might be interested in the standard, and this is what brought it to my mind.
In googling the Randolph story, I ran across a lengthy Vanderbilt law review article on the subject of social norms and the legal profession, with a long section on honor and shame, but time does not permit me to study it right now.
(Let me say also - I am not going to be using this weblog to do advocacy on the public for my cases; and whoever catches me doing it is free to deal me a mighty thwack.)