"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave by Aphra Behn, Part 1

This is a novel and an author I had never heard of before and not something I would typically have picked up to read out of my own desire.  A friend of mine, Mary Sue, who is a graduate student in Literature at New York University, sent me an email asking me about the Eucharist because she thought it played a role in this novel.  Mary Sue is not Catholic, and apparently Aphra Behn may have been, or at least had Catholic sympathies during the English Restoration period.  The hero of the novel, Oroonoko, an enslaved African Prince, at his downfall starts cutting off his flesh to hand out, and this perhaps could be a literal allusion to the Christ’s exhortation to consume His body.

Well, I pointed Mary Sue to John Chapter 6 and a few books on the theology and history of the Eucharist, but the penetrating image of a man cutting off his flesh for others was so captivating that I had to read the novel for myself.  The novel is only around a hundred pages, so it wasn’t going to be a burden to find the time.  So I first read up on Aphra Behn and this novel and the time period.

Let me summarize it before getting to the novel.  
AphraBehn—born Aphra Johnson—lived from 1640 to 1689, which was at the beginning of the English Civil War and then lived through the reign of the restored Stuart monarchy in the persons of Kings Charles II and James II.  Behn died just after the deposition of James II and the installation of William and Mary of Orange in what has come to be known as the Glorious Revolution.  

It is surmised that Behn was Catholic, but I could not find anything definitive.  She certainly had royalist sympathies when it came to the monarchy versus parliamentary conflicts.  At this time, England had a solid Protestant majority, so Behn, if she were Catholic, she would have been in a minority.  It’s also in the realm of possibility (probably likely) that Behn was Protestant, and that in the political polarity of her day she sided with the monarchy.   

Pertinent also to understanding the novel I think is the fact that Behn is a woman.  Indeed, some of the fascination with her writing today seems to be that she is viewed as a proto-feminist.  Behn is attributed to be the first professional woman writer in England, and Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned the right to speak their minds.”  There are some strong female characters in Oroonoko, but it is still a male dominated story. 

It’s an interesting novel.  It’s only a hundred pages or so, and so the epic scale of the central character belies the brief narrative length.  It’s bi-furcated in that the African section seems somewhat dislocated from the Surinam section.  Still the central character holds the sections together credibly. 

Historically she’s a generation before Daniel Defoe.  I can’t place her literary models.  The early sections seem like a woman’s amatory novel, the African battle recalls The Iliad, and the Surinam section recalls a slave narrative.  The strength of the novel comes from Behn’s narrative voice, which makes the scenes credible and vivid, and on the character of Oronooko, who is grand, noble, and epic. 

Note.  All quotes are taken from Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko, the Rover and Other Works (Penguin Classics). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.



Part I:
Description of Surinam and its people, and a description of Oronooko when the narrator first meets him.

Part II
Oronooko falls in love with Imoinda, but the old king takes Imoinda for his concubine.

Part III
The old king tells Imoinda that Oroonoko no longer has interest in her; she resolves to settle as a concubine.  But when Oronooko visits the court and the two meet, their passion is resumed.  When the king finds the two in an embrace he explodes in anger and determines to send Oronnoko away to battle.  But Oronooko with the help of his aid Aboan and another of the king’s concubines, Onahal, is able to meet with Imoinda for an hour of love.
            -This becomes a woman’s amatory novel and one of court romance.

Part IV
Oronooko barely escapes Imoinda’s bedroom, and when the king discovers what has occurred sells Imoinda and Onahal into slavery.  With Oroonoko off to battle, the king sends a messenger to Oronooko to tell him Imoinda has been killed, though in reality she has been sold.  Oronooko refuses to fight but when his comrades are losing the battle, being pushed back to the camp, Oronoonko suits up and turns the tide to his side.  –Very much like Achilles in the Iliad.

Part V
With Oronooko victorius, he is held in high esteem again at court, and in selling the captured enemy over to some English ship Captain, he and his noble men are tricked onto the ship and captured as slaves themselves.  When the Captain gives his word as a “Christian” to let Oronooko free at first opportunity so that Oroonoko would not kill himself, Oronooko acknowledges and returns his sincerity on his honor.  The Captain’s “Christian” word turns out to be false, and on landing in Surinam Oronooko and his men are sold into slavery.

Part VI
The narrator from Part I resumes first person narration.  The owner who bought Oronooko was a man named Trefry, who acted in the region in lieu of the Governor.  Trefry, noticing the nobility, intelligence, and learning in Oronooko raised him to a level above a common slave, and named him Caesar.  Trefry told Oronooko of an equally noble female slave called Clemene, and when Oronooko met her he fell into her arms and it turned out to be Imoinda.  –Here we are told of Oronooko’s divine kingship. 

Part VII
We are told of several exploits Oronooko performs in Surinam, such as the killing of wild tigers and touching of electric eels. 

The narrator takes a trip into the Indian towns where despite the threat of violence from the Indians against the English, they interact and learn of their customs.  Caesar (Oronooko) served as a protector, and he was able to build a relationship with the Indian, even establishing trade.  Shortly after Oronooko, with Imoinda pregnant and the English diverted, gathered up the black slaves and made a passionate appeal to seek freedom.  They all agreed.  –This is where the plot turns toward the climax.

Part IX
Caesar (Oronooko) takes his band of slaves toward the coast but the owners pull together an army and confront them.  They tell the bulk of the slaves to abandon Caesar and no harm will come to them, and all do except his deputy, Tuscan, and Imoinda.  The three put up a gallant fight, but Byam, the Surinam Governor, pledges amnesty if they will cease, and Caesar concedes.  But this is just another lie, and so Oronooko is taken, shackled, and whipped.  –Here we see what can only be described as a parallel to Christ’s Passion: betrayal, imprisonment, and scourging. 

Part X
Trefry takes authority over Byam, citing the plantation as a sanctuary from the governor.  He gives aid to Caesar (Oronooko), allowing him to recover.  Once recovered, Caesar decides to take revenge against those who shamefully whipped him.  Realizing he will die from this exploit, and further realizing that it would leave Imoinda open to rape and disgrace, he comes to the conclusion he must kill her to save her from this ignominy.  He takes her into a wooded area, and tells her of his plan and she agrees that she too must die from his hand.  In tears he kills her with a knife and decapitates her.  He is taken ill from the grief but when he finally recovers escapes the plantation.  A search party confronts him and to show his lack of fear he cut a piece of his flesh off and threw it at them.  When he feels his body weaken, he realizes he could not win in a fight and so disembowels himself in a suicide attempt.  Tuscan rescues the dying Caesar, and taken back is sewed up by a surgeon.  While Caesar is recovering, Byam lured Trefry away so that a Major Bannister could forcibly take Caesar to the whipping post.  There, given a pipe to smoke, Caesar is hacked to pieces, cutting off his “members,” ears, nose, arms until he finally dies.  Afterward Caesar’s body is quartered and posted for spectacle.  –This dismembering and severing of Caesar is a sort of (1) crucifixion and (2) equating to the hung, drawn, and quartering of English practice.


Historical Figures:
Frances Lord Willoughby – Granted propriety rights of the English colony in Surinam by King Charles II.

William Byam – Appointed Governor Surinam by Willoughby.

Major James Bannister – Underling to Governor Byam.

John Treffry – Willoughby’s appointed agent for managing his plantation on Surinam.

The above ae all in a chain of command linked to King Charles II, and therefore all Royalists.

George Marten – Plantation owner and brother to the Oliverian George Marten, presumably a Parlimentarian.

I'll start providing my thoughts on the various themes in my next post on Oronooko.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 5

This is part of a series on St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life.  You can read Part 1 here.  
Part 2 here.  
Part 3 here. 
Part 4 here 

Part V: Renewing and Confirming the Soul in Devotion
1. It is Well Yearly to Renew Good Resolutions by Means of the Following Exercises
2. Meditation on the Benefit Conferred on us by God in Calling us to His Service
3. Examination of the Soul as to its Progress in the Devout Life
4. Examination of the Soul's Condition as Regards God
5. Examination of your Condition as Regards Yourself
6. Examination of the Soul's Condition as Regards our Neighbour
7. Examination as to the Affections of the Soul
8. The Affections to be Excited After Such Examination
9. Reflections Suitable to the Renewal of Good Resolutions
10. First Consideration - On the Worth of Souls
11. Second Consideration - On the Excellence of Virtue
12. The Example of the Saints
13. The Love Which Jesus Christ Bears to Us
14. The Eternal Love of God for Us
15. General Affections Which Should Result From These Considerations, and Conclusion of the Exercise
16. The Impressions which should remain after this Exercise
17. An Answer to Two Objections Which may be Made to This Book
18. Three Important and Final Counsels

Part V offers more exercises to strengthen one’s resolution to the devout life, an annual personal examination to assess status, progress, or backsliding, and final concluding counsels. 

Some notable quotes from Part V

From Chapter 1:
The first point in these exercises is to appreciate their importance. Our earthly nature easily falls away from its higher tone by reason of the frailty and evil tendency of the flesh, oppressing and dragging down the soul, unless it is constantly rising up by means of a vigorous resolution, just as a bird would speedily fall to the ground if it did not maintain its flight by repeated strokes of its wings. In order to this, my child, you need frequently to reiterate the good resolutions you have made to serve God, for fear that, failing to do so, you fall away, not only to your former condition, but lower still; since it is a characteristic of all spiritual falls that they invariably throw us lower than we were at the beginning.

From Chapter 4:
With respect to Jesus Christ as God and Man--how does your heart draw to Him? Honey bees seek their delight in their honey, but wasps hover over stinking carrion. Even so pious souls draw all their joy from Jesus Christ, and love Him with an exceeding sweet Love, but those who are careless find their pleasure in worldly vanities.

From Chapter 8:
When you have quietly gone through each point of this examination, and have ascertained your own position, you will excite certain feelings and affections in your heart. Thank God for such amendment, however slight, as you may have found in yourself, confessing that it is the work of His Mercy Alone in you.

From Chapter 10:
Consider how noble and excellent a thing your soul is, endowed with understanding, capable of knowing, not merely this visible world around us, but Angels and Paradise, of knowing that there is an All-Mighty, All-Merciful, Ineffable God; of knowing that eternity lies before you, and of knowing what is necessary in order so to live in this visible world as to attain to fellowship with those Angels in Paradise, and the eternal fruition of God.

From Chapter 18:
Finally, my beloved child, I intreat you by all that is sacred in heaven and in earth, by your own Baptism, by the breast which Jesus sucked, by the tender Heart with which He loves you, and by the bowels of compassion in which you hope--be stedfast and persevere in this most blessed undertaking to live a devout life. Our days pass away, death is at hand. "The trumpet sounds a recall," says Saint Gregory Nazianzen, "in order that every one may make ready, for Judgment is near." When Saint Symphorian was led to his martyrdom, his mother cried out to him, "My son, my son, remember life eternal, look to Heaven, behold Him Who reigns there; for the brief course of this life will soon be ended." Even so would I say to you: Look to Heaven, and do not lose it for earth; look at Hell, and do not plunge therein for the sake of this passing life; look at Jesus Christ, and do not deny Him for the world's sake; amid if the devout life sometimes seems hard and dull, join in Saint Francis' song,--

"So vast the joys that I await,
No earthly travail seemeth great."

Glory be to Jesus, to Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, now and ever, and to all Eternity. Amen.


Final Goodreads Review:

First and foremost, this book is a manual, a manual on how seek, find, and create a devout life, a life devoted to God.   The book speaks to what is devotion and why we need devotion.  Saint Frances de Sales, great saint that he is and patron saint of writers, leads you through a purification of the soul, the purging of sin in one’s life and, indeed, in the cleansing of one’s soul.  He teaches on how to perfect one’s lifestyle to make these changes permanent.  He takes the reader through the finer points of meditation, establishing a prayer life, integrating with church life, connecting with saints, the use of frequent confession, mass, and partaking of the Eucharist.  He delves into the maintenance, practice, and perfection of various virtues.  He provides insight and guidance for the virtues of patience, humility, gentleness, obedience, purity, poverty, and friendship.  St. Francis discusses the nature of temptation, what constitutes succumbing to temptation, how to fight off temptation, and how to strengthen oneself so that temptations never penetrate.  He goes on to also discuss how one can become spiritually dry, and strategies to combat that dryness.  He offers exercises to strengthen one’s resolution to the devout life, an annual personal examination to assess one's status, progress, or backsliding, and finally offers concluding counsels.    

It's an incredible handbook to spiritual direction.  If you don’t have or want a spiritual director, get this book.  If you want to give spiritual direction, this book is the go-to-guide on how to do it.  It is a marvel of clarity.  Still, I don't know how much of the book will stick with me.  There’s a lot in there.  One can’t absorb it all.  You need to digest it in stages and let it work in you.  It's probably good to keep the book at arm’s reach and randomly peruse it every so often.  I made the mistake of buying the Kindle version.  A hardcover handbook to keep on one’s night stand is the perfect role for this treasure.  I found this book way more enriching than Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Matthew Monday: Getting Ready for Little League

This virus lockdown has postponed what would have been Matthew’s first year of playing Little League Baseball.  They have not cancelled the season yet but we are still waiting for Little League sports to be allowed to play.  We still hope to play. 

The last few days, we’ve gotten up early and headed to the park to train.  We go through throw and catch, hitting off a tee, hitting from my pitching, fielding grounders and pop ups.

I took a picture and video clip of him hitting off a tee.

He almost hit me with the ball as I’m filming it!

He loves to put on the equipment.

Hope we get to play!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 4

This is part of a series on St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life.  You can read Part 1 here.  
Part 2 here.  
Part 3 here. 

Part IV: “Some Ordinary Temptations”

1. We Must Not Trifle with the Words of Worldly Wisdom
2. The Need of a Good Courage
3. Temptations, and the Difference Between Experiencing Them and Consenting to Them
4. Two Striking Illustrations of the Same
5. Encouragement for the Tempted Soul
6. When Temptation and Delectation are Sin
7. Remedies for Great Occasions
8. How to Resist Minor Temptations
9. How to Remedy Minor Temptations
10. How to Strengthen the Heart Against Temptation
11. Anxiety of Mind
12. Sadness and Sorrow
13. Spiritual and Sensible Consolations, and How to Receive Them
14. Dryness and Spiritual Barrenness
15. In Illustration

In Part IV, St. Francis discusses the nature of temptation, what constitutes succumbing to temptation, how to fight off temptation, and how to strengthen oneself so that temptations never penetrate.  He goes on to also discuss how one can become spiritually dry, why one becomes spiritually dry, and strategies to combat that dryness.

Some notable quotes from Part IV

From Chapter 1:
Directly that your worldly friends perceive that you aim at leading a devout life, they will let loose endless shafts of mockery and misrepresentation upon you; the more malicious will attribute your change to hypocrisy, designing, or bigotry; they will affirm that the world having looked coldly upon you, failing its favour you turn to God; while your friends will make a series of what, from their point of view, are prudent and charitable remonstrances. They will tell you that you are growing morbid; that you will lose your worldly credit, and will make yourself unacceptable to the world; they will prognosticate your premature old age, the ruin of your material prosperity; they will tell you that in the world you must live as the world does; that you can be saved without all this fuss; and much more of the like nature.

From Chapter 3:
Picture to yourself a young princess beloved of her husband, to whom some evil wretch should send a messenger to tempt her to infidelity. First, the messenger would bring forth his propositions. Secondly, the princess would either accept or reject the overtures. Thirdly, she would consent to them or refuse them. Even so, when Satan, the world, and the flesh look upon a soul espoused to the Son of God, they set temptations and suggestions before that soul, whereby--1. Sin is proposed to it. 2. Which proposals are either pleasing or displeasing to the soul. 3. The soul either consents, or rejects them. In other words, the three downward steps of temptation, delectation, and consent. And although the three steps may not always be so clearly defined as in this illustration, they are to be plainly traced in all great and serious sins.

From Chapter 10:
Examine from time to time what are the dominant passions of your soul, and having ascertained this, mould your life, so that in thought, word and deed you may as far as possible counteract them. For instance, if you know that you are disposed to be vain, reflect often upon the emptiness of this earthly life, call to mind how burdensome all mere earthly vanities will be to the conscience at the hour of death, how unworthy of a generous heart, how puerile and childish, and the like. See that your words have no tendency to foster your vanity, and even though you may seem to be doing so but reluctantly, strive to despise it heartily, and to rank yourself in every way among its enemies. Indeed, by dint of steady opposition to anything, we teach ourselves to hate even that which we began by liking. Do as many lowly, humble deeds as lie in your power, even if you perform them unwillingly at first; for by this means you will form a habit of humility, and you will weaken your vanity, so that when temptation arises, you will be less predisposed to yield, and stronger to resist.

From Chapter 11:
Examine yourself often, at least night and morning, as to whether your soul is "in your hand;" or whether it has been wrested thence by any passionate or anxious emotion. See whether your soul is fully under control, or whether it has not in anywise escaped from beneath your hand, to plunge into some unruly love, hate, envy, lust, fear, vexation or joy. And if it has so strayed, before all else seek it out, and quietly bring it back to the Presence of God, once more placing all your hopes and affections under the direction of His Holy Will.

From Chapter 14:
So much for what is to be done in times of spiritual consolations. But these bright days will not last for ever, and sometimes you will be so devoid of all devout feelings, that it will seem to you that your soul is a desert land, fruitless, sterile, wherein you can find no path leading to God, no drop of the waters of Grace to soften the dryness which threatens to choke it entirely. Verily, at such a time the soul is greatly to be pitied, above all, when this trouble presses heavily, for then, like David, its meat are tears day and night, while the Enemy strives to drive it to despair, crying out, "Where is now thy God? how thinkest thou to find Him, or how wilt thou ever find again the joy of His Holy Grace?"

Monday, May 18, 2020

Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3

This is part of a series on St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life.  You can read Part 1 here.  
Part 2 here.  

Part III: “The Practice of Virtue,” Chapters 1 through 22

1. How to Select That Which We Should Chiefly Practise
2. The Same Subject Continued
3. Patience
4. Exterior Humility
5. Interior Humility
6. Humility Makes Us Rejoice in Our Own Abjection
7. How to Combine Due Care for a Good Reputation with Humility
8. Gentleness Towards Others and Remedies Against Anger
9. Gentleness Towards Ourselves
10. We Must Attend to the Business of Life Carefully, but Without Eagerness or Over-Anxiety
11. Obedience
12. Purity
13. How to Maintain Purity
14. Poverty of Spirit Amid Riches
15. How to Exercise Real Poverty, Although Actually Rich
16. How to Possess a Rich Spirit Amid Real Poverty
17. Friendship: Evil and Frivolous Friendship
18. Frivolous Attachments
19. Real Friendship
20. The Difference Between True and False Friendship
21. Remedies Against Evil Friendships
22. Further Advice Concerning Intimacies

Part III delves into the maintenance, practice, and perfection of various virtues.  In the first half of the chapter, he provides insight and guidance for the virtues of patience, humility, gentleness, obedience, purity, poverty, and friendship. 

I haven't commented much on the book.  That's because I don't really don't have much to say.  It's an incredible handbook to spiritual direction.  I don't know how much of the book will stick with me.  It's probably good to keep the book at arms reach and randomly peruse it every so often.  I am finding this book way more enriching than The Imitation of Christ.

Some notable quotes from Part III

From Chapter 1:
When we are beset by any particular vice, it is well as far as possible to make the opposite "En son beau vestement de drap d'or recame, Et d'ouvrages divers a l'aiguile seme." virtue our special aim, and turn everything to that account; so doing, we shall overcome our enemy, and meanwhile make progress in all virtue. Thus, if I am beset with pride or anger, I must above all else strive to cultivate humility and gentleness, and I must turn all my religious exercises,--prayer, sacraments, prudence, constancy, moderation, to the same object.

From Chapter 3:
Be patient, not only with respect to the main trials which beset you, but also under the accidental and accessory annoyances which arise out of them. We often find people who imagine themselves ready to accept a trial in itself who are impatient of its consequences. We hear one man say, "I should not mind poverty, were it not that I am unable to bring up my children and receive my friends as handsomely as I desire." And another says, "I should not mind, were it not that the world will suppose it is my own fault;" while another would patiently bear to be the subject of slander provided nobody believed it. Others, again, accept one side of a trouble but fret against the rest--as, for instance, believing themselves to be patient under sickness, only fretting against their inability to obtain the best advice, or at the inconvenience they are to their friends. But, dear child, be sure that we must patiently accept, not sickness only, but such sickness as God chooses to send, in the place, among the people, and subject to the circumstances which He ordains;--and so with all other troubles. If any trouble comes upon you, use the remedies with which God supplies you.

From Chapter 9:
One important direction in which to exercise gentleness, is with respect to ourselves, never growing irritated with one's self or one's imperfections; for although it is but reasonable that we should be displeased and grieved at our own faults, yet ought we to guard against a bitter, angry, or peevish feeling about them. Many people fall into the error of being angry because they have been angry, vexed because they have given way to vexation, thus keeping up a chronic state of irritation, which adds to the evil of what is past, and prepares the way for a fresh fall on the first occasion. Moreover, all this anger and irritation against one's self fosters pride, and springs entirely from self-love, which is disturbed and fretted by its own imperfection. What we want is a quiet, steady, firm displeasure at our own faults.

From Chapter 13:
Be exceedingly quick in turning aside from the slightest thing leading to impurity, for it is an evil which approaches stealthily, and in which the very smallest beginnings are apt to grow rapidly. It is always easier to fly from such evils than to cure them.

From Chapter 19:
Do you, my child, love every one with the pure love of charity, but have no friendship save with those whose intercourse is good and true, and the purer the bond which unites you so much higher will your friendship be. If your intercourse is based on science it is praiseworthy, still more if it arises from a participation in goodness, prudence, justice and the like; but if the bond of your mutual liking be charity, devotion and Christian perfection, God knows how very precious a friendship it is! Precious because it comes from God, because it tends to God, because God is the link that binds you, because it will last for ever in Him. Truly it is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for ever there. I am not now speaking of simple charity, a love due to all mankind, but of that spiritual friendship which binds souls together, leading them to share devotions and spiritual interests, so as to have but one mind between them. Such as these may well cry out, "Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity!"


Part III: “The Practice of Virtue,” Chapters 23 through 41

23. The Practice of Bodily Mortification
24. Society and Solitude
25. Modesty in Dress
26. Conversation; and, First, How to Speak of God
27. Unseemly Words, and the Respect Due to Others
28. Hasty Judgments
29. Slander
30. Further Counsels as to Conversation
31. Amusements and Recreations: What are Allowable
32. Forbidden Amusements
33. Balls, and Other Lawful but Dangerous Amusements
34. When to Use Such Amusements Rightly
35. We Must be Faithful in Things Great and Small
36. A Well-Balanced, Reasonable Mind
37. Wishes
38. Counsels to Married People
39. The Sanctity of the Marriage Bed
40. Counsels to Widows
41. One Word to Maidens

St. Frances continues to explain the practice of virtues in the second half of Chapter III.  Here he delves into the topics of mortifications, dress, conversation and slander, amusements, and purity again, this time for married people and widows.

Some more notable quotes from Part III.

From Chapter 23:
If you are able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church, for besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast. The early Christians selected Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as days of abstinence.

From Chapter 27:
Saint James says, "If any man offend not in word, the same is, a perfect man." Beware most watchfully against ever uttering any unseemly expression; even though you may have no evil intention, those who hear it may receive it with a different meaning. An impure word falling upon a weak mind spreads its infection like a drop of oil on a garment, and sometimes it will take such a hold of the heart, as to fill it with an infinitude of lascivious thoughts and temptations. The body is poisoned through the mouth, even so is the heart through the ear; and the tongue which does the deed is a murderer, even when the venom it has infused is counteracted by some antidote preoccupying the listener's heart. It was not the speaker's fault that he did not slay that soul. Nor let any one answer that he meant no harm. Our Lord, Who knoweth the hearts of men, has said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." And even if we do mean no harm, the Evil One means a great deal, and he will use those idle words as a sharp weapon against some neighbour's heart. It is said that those who eat the plant called Angelica always have a sweet, pleasant breath; and those who cherish the angelic virtues of purity and modesty, will always speak simply, courteously, and modestly. As to unclean and light-minded talk, Saint Paul says such things should not even be named among us, for, as he elsewhere tells us, "Evil communications corrupt good manners."

From Chapter 35:
When I read in the Life of Saint Catherine of Sienna of her ecstasies and visions, her wise sayings and teaching, I do not doubt but that she "ravished" her Bridegroom's heart with this eye of contemplation; but I must own that I behold her with no less delight in her father's kitchen, kindling the fire, turning the spit, baking the bread, cooking the dinner, and doing all the most menial offices in a loving spirit which looked through all things straight to God. Nor do I prize the lowly meditations she was wont to make while so humbly employed less than the ecstasies with which she was favoured at other times, probably as a reward for this very humility and lowliness. Her meditations would take the shape of imagining that all she prepared for her father was prepared for Our Lord, as by Martha; her mother was a symbol to her of Our Lady, her brothers of the Apostles, and thus she mentally ministered to all the Heavenly Courts, fulfilling her humble ministrations with an exceeding sweetness, because she saw God's Will in each.

From Chapter 38:
Therefore, husbands, do you preserve a tender, constant, hearty love for your wives. It was that the wife might be loved heartily and tenderly that woman was taken from the side nearest Adam's heart. No failings or infirmities, bodily or mental, in your wife should ever excite any kind of dislike in you, but rather a loving, tender compassion; and that because God has made her dependent on you, and bound to defer to and obey you; and that while she is meant to be your helpmeet, you are her superior and her head. And on your part, wives, do you love the husbands God has given you tenderly, heartily, but with a reverential, confiding love, for God has made the man to have the predominance, and to be the stronger; and He wills the woman to depend upon him,--bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh,--taking her from out the ribs of the man, to show that she must be subject to his guidance. All Holy Scripture enjoins this subjection, which nevertheless is not grievous; and the same Holy Scripture, while it bids you accept it lovingly, bids your husband to use his superiority with great tenderness, lovingkindness, and gentleness. "Husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel."

From Chapter 40:

A devout widow should chiefly seek to cultivate the graces of perfect modesty, renouncing all honours, rank, title, society, and the like vanities; she should be diligent in ministering to the poor and sick, comforting the afflicted, leading the young to a life of devotion, studying herself to be a perfect model of virtue to younger women. Necessity and simplicity should be the adornment of her garb, humility and charity of her actions, simplicity and kindliness of her words, modesty and purity of her eyes,--Jesus Christ Crucified the only Love of her heart.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Notable Quote: The Natives of Surinam from Oronooko by Aphra Behm

This is from a novel named Oronooko by a 17th century woman named Aphra Behn.  The style is a little dated but I thought there was a richness in the language.  The novel is set in the new world in a region colonized by the Dutch and English named Surinam.  Here she describes the people in terms of Edenic innocence.

But before I give you the story of this gallant slave, ’tis fit I tell you the manner of bringing them to these new colonies; for those they make use of there, are not natives of the place; for those we live with in perfect amity, without daring to command them; but on the contrary, caress them with all the brotherly and friendly affection in the world; trading with them for their fish, venison, buffaloes, skins, and little rarities; as marmosets, a sort of monkey as big as a rat or weasel, but of a marvellous and delicate shape, and has face and hands like an human creature; and cousheries, a little beast in the me, and I gave them to the King’s Theatre, and it was the dress of the Indian Queen,  infinitely admired by persons of quality, and were inimitable. Besides these, a thousand little knacks, and rarities in Nature, and some of art; as their baskets, weapons, aprons, etc. We dealt with them with beads of all colours, knives, axes, pins and needles; which they used only as tools to drill holes with in their ears, noses and lips, where they hang a great many little things; as long beads, bits of tin, brass, or silver, beat thin; and any shining trinket. The beads they weave into aprons about a quarter of an ell long, and of the same breadth; working them very prettily in flowers of several colours of beads; which apron they wear just before them, as Adam and Eve did the fig leaves; the men wearing a long strip of linen, which they deal with us for. They thread these beads also on long cotton threads, and make girdles to tie their aprons to, which come twenty times, or more, about the waist; and then cross, like a shoulder-belt, both ways, and round their necks, arms and legs. This adornment, with their long black hair, and the face painted in little specks or flowers here and there, makes them a wonderful figure to behold. Some of the beauties which indeed are finely shaped, as almost all are, and who have pretty features, are very charming and novel; for they have all that is called beauty, except the colour, which is a reddish yellow; or after a new oiling, which they often use to themselves, they are of the colour of a new brick, but smooth, soft and sleek. They are extreme modest and bashful, very shy, and nice of being touched. And though they are all thus naked, if one lives for ever among them, there is not to be seen an indecent action, or glance; and being continually used to see one another so unadorned, so like our first parents before the Fall, it seems as if they had no wishes; there being nothing to heighten curiosity, but all you can see, you see at once, and every moment see; and where there is no novelty, there can be no curiosity.

How vivid and rhythmic is the prose, though she could have broken up into several paragraph.  Behn was the first woman professional writer in England.  I will have more to say on this novel. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Music Tuesday: Little Richard, Rest in Peace

LittleRichard, the 1950’s Rock and Roller and one of the originators of the musical genre, passed away this passed away Saturday, May 9th.  Flamboyant, loud, energetic, he fused boogie-woogie with his southern African-American R&B style into something the young, white generation could shake to.  The New York Times had a nice obituary:

 Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, who combined the sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records, died on Saturday in Tullahoma, Tenn. He was 87.

I can’t say I was a big fan of his music—it’s kind of one dimensional—but when the history of rock ‘n’ roll is written, no very few could generate more energy than Little Richard.  Here’s one of my favorites, “Good Golly Miss Molly.”

The howling vocals, the driving piano, the short staccato rhythm, everything was created for energy.  And he can really belt out the vocals.  Here’s his first great hit, “Tutti Frutti.”

Also what made him so original was the articulation of some rather convoluted syllables: “Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop bom bom.”  Now trying to say that several times while playing and singing.

He lived a rather strange life.  He claimed to be homosexual, and yet married a couple of times, and became a Baptist preacher later in life.  You can read about it in his Wikipedia entry and the obituary.  Here are a few more of his hit songs.

“Long Tall Sally”

And perhaps my favorite of his songs, “Lucille.”

He really did find faith late in life.  You can find videos of his preaching.  He even goes on the Dave Letterman Show and renounces his homosexuality and preaches for faith in Jesus Christ.  

Eternal rest in peace, Richard.