missionary ground

Apr 18

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

” — Patrick Kavanagh, “Advent”

Apr 17

This February report on Kate Rothschild is really something -

Kate, then 21, was a vision of understated beauty with flowers in her hair as she wed Ben Goldsmith, bringing together two of Britain’s most fabulously wealthy dynasties. He was worth £300 million; his bride a comparatively paltry £18 million. 

Now, her marriage destroyed, she spends her life trying to control a wannabe rapper. As Jay’s manager, Kate, 31, has had to fit in with him — swapping designer dresses and jolly lunches for tracksuits and snatched cigarettes outside recording studios. 

Meanwhile, Jay, who has a daughter by a previous relationship and a penchant for marijuana and Jack Daniels, has introduced her to life a world away from her comfortable upbringing.

When they go out partying, which is often, Jay likes to make an impression. His reputation is as a man who doesn’t care who he offends — a trait that many blame for his failure thus far to turn talent into record sales.

A smitten Kate, however, feels he can do no wrong. Witness the events of last week, when Jay, 37, (real name Timothy Elpadaro Thedford) demonstrated that while you can take the rapper out of the deprived housing projects of New Orleans, a questionable legacy remains.

Apr 16

Bishop William Henry Elder’s 1864 letter to Abraham Lincoln

To His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States:

Excellent Sir, It becomes my duty as Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Natchez, which comprises the State of Mississippi, to claim Your Excellency’s protection against an attempt of Brigadier General J. M. Tuttle, to interfere with my ecclesiastical administration.

Pardon the length of this communication. I have condensed it as much as I could do, consistently with my obligation of giving you the information, which the importance of the case makes it necessary for you to have.

General Tuttle requires me to read, or direct the priests under my jurisdiction to read, in the public services of the Cathedral Church of Natchez, a certain prayer, which is found in some Catholic prayer-books, for the public authorities, ecclesiastical and civil. He did, indeed, say that he gave me no order, but only a request to read it as a favor to him. But he immediately nullified his own distinction by declaring that, if I did not comply with his requests, he would consider it as a proof of disloyalty, which would be subject to punishment. He further declared his meaning in these words: ‘you are free to read it or not, as you see fit, but if you do not choose, you must take the consequences.’ And in reply to my inquiry, whether he would not before passing a sentence against me, make a specific charge and allow me a hearing on the matter, he said that I might have a trial and I might not. I have not recited the prayer, not directed others to recite it. I have explained to General Tuttle that said prayer is not at all a part of our regular church service, and is not found in the book which contains our service — the Missal; that it has indeed been recited sometimes during the divine services, but only at the free choice of the priest or Bishop, and even with some stretch of his discretionary powers, since the canonical usage of the Church excludes the public recital during Mass of prayer for any person not contained in the Missal; and that in a great many Churches of the United States — I believe the majority of them — it never has been recited publicly.

It has been remarked to General Tuttle by an officer of the United States Army, that this prayer would be especially incongruous at present, because it recommends to the favor of Almighty God both the Government of the United States, and the Governor, Legislature, and civil officers of this State — Mississippi — the declared enemies of the United States. The General says that he wishes it to be read with the self-contradiction ‘just as it is in the book’. I have told him that in Natchez, during the time that I have been here (about seven years), we sometimes read it, sometimes omit it, and sometimes read other prayers in its place; that for a while, I read a similar prayer for the Confederate authorities, but afterwards I laid aside all these prayers of a local character, and conformed more closely to the approved usages of the Church by adopting a prayer, belonging to the authorized Liturgy, the Litany of the Saints. This change was made in November, 1862, long before the United States forces occupied Natchez, and while the Confederate military were in quiet possession of the place. And I have told General Tuttle that if the Confederate authorities had attempted to compel me at that time to resume the reciting of the prayer in their behalf, I should have resisted them as I resist now.

I have the honor to remain with profound respect, Your Excellency’s most humble servant,
William Henry Elder
Bishop of Natchez


The poems of Henry Timrod

Dark Ecology || In which Kingsnorth finds himself eeriliy sympathetic to Ted Kaczynski -

Is it possible to read the words of someone like Theodore Kaczynski and be convinced by the case he makes, even as you reject what he did with the knowledge? Is it possible to look at human cultural evolution as a series of progress traps, the latest of which you are caught in like a fly on a sundew, with no means of escape? Is it possible to observe the unfolding human attack on nature with horror, be determined to do whatever you can to stop it, and at the same time know that much of it cannot be stopped, whatever you do? Is it possible to see the future as dark and darkening further; to reject false hope and desperate pseudo-optimism without collapsing into despair?

It’s going to have to be, because it’s where I am right now. But where do I go next? What do I do? Between Kaczynski and Kareiva, what can I find to alight on that will still hold my weight?

I’m not sure I know the answer. But I know there is no going back to anything. And I know that we are not headed, now, toward convivial tools. We are not headed toward human-scale development. This culture is about superstores, not little shops; synthetic biology, not intentional community; brushcutters, not scythes. This is a culture that develops new life forms first and asks questions later; a species that is in the process of, in the words of the poet Robinson Jeffers, “break[ing] its legs on its own cleverness.”

What does the near future look like? I’d put my bets on a strange and unworldly combination of ongoing collapse, which will continue to fragment both nature and culture, and a new wave of techno-green “solutions” being unveiled in a doomed attempt to prevent it. I don’t believe now that anything can break this cycle, barring some kind of reset: the kind that we have seen many times before in human history. Some kind of fall back down to a lower level of civilizational complexity. Something like the storm that is now visibly brewing all around us.

“And in his soul fight, fight, fight to preserve that which is life in him from the ghastly kisses and poison — bites of the myriad evil ones. Retreat to the desert, and fight. But in his soul adhere to that which is life itself, creatively destroying as it goes: destroying the stiff old thing to let the new bud come through. The one passionate principle of creative being, which recognizes the natural good, and has a sword for the swarms of evil. Fights, fights, fights to protect itself. But with itself, is strong and at peace.” — D.H. Lawrence, “St. Mawr”

Apr 15

One of several very interesting reports on SIS-Basque diaspora cooperation during World War II -

more here

“It was a period when writers besought the deep blue sea ‘to roll.’” — Henry James, via Ezra Pound