Fourth Wall

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Rainy Day Poem/Shakespeare Wrote the Bible

I am wet.
So very wet.
My jeans will never be dry again
And my hair will never untangle.
But, ah!
My books are safe.

* * * * *

I recently found the following quote in Nabokov's "Speak, Memory" and promptly forwarded it to Veronica.

"I have ransacked my oldest dreams for keys and clues--and let
me say at once that I reject completely the vulgar, shabby,
fundamentally medieval world of Freud, with its crankish quest
for sexual symbols (something like searching for Baconian
acrostics in Shakespeare's works) and its bitter little
embryos spying, from their natural nooks, upon the love life
of their parents."

We don't support Baconian acrostics here at Fourth Wall, but here's a Shakespearian word game (in honor of the 443rd anniversary of his baptism yesterday) that my high school English teacher taught me as evidence that Will himself was brought in to make the KJV translation of the bible more elegant.

1) Shakespeare was 46 the year the KJV was published (1611). Find a King James Bible and turn to Psalm 46.

2) Count 46 words down from the beginning of the Psalm.

3) Count 46 words up from the end of the Psalm (inclusive of the "Selah").

4) What word does that make?

(Caveats: I do, in fact, know that the KJV was translated from 1604-1611, so there's no way Will could have known how old he would be when it was published. Furthermore, he actually turned 47 in April 1611, so it would have to have been published early in the year. And if Shakespeare was, as triumphalist rumor has it, Catholic, this entire thing may elide the question of whether or not he thought of the Psalm as number 46 or number 45. But hey, it's a fun--er, nerdy--parlor trick, for those who have parlors outfitted with KJV bibles.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Mordu notes that it is, in fact, John Stuart Mill. Clearly my spelling was influenced by my crush on Jon Stewart (unattainable crush #...7?).

My father notes that he, in fact, was the one who sent the package. I wasn't exactly paying attention to *that* kind of mail, although I did note that my mother's handwriting looked unusually messy...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How to have an *Interesting* day.

1) Stay up until 3:00 am doing reading for your 9:00 am class. Stress-inducing factors keeping you awake: "what am I doing next year? What if Toronto doesn't like me? Why haven't I heard from The Viking in weeks, did I make him mad at me? Get up at 8:05.

2) During the ten-minute break for your medieval manuscripts class, lean over in the bathroom and have your wallet fall out of your pocket, into the toilet. Spend the rest of the break washing cards in hot water, washing the wallet in hot water, and throwing out receipts and "collect-ten-stamps" latte cards.

3) After class, have one of your perennial disagreements with the haberdasher'd one. Leave campus half an hour later than planned, with only an hour to do all your errand-running for the dinner you're making. Get stuck behind the slowest women in history at the Med bakery. While in the bakery, your phone rings. It is not your dinner-guest, but a friend from class who wants to know if you have the reading. You are so flustered, you almost leave without the loaf of bread.

4) Rush home. Be thinking to yourself about all the ways you are going to let the legions of curious people in your life know about the Toronto decision, if they ever actually make the decision. Upon arriving home, check the very full mailbox and discover, at the very back, one very full envelope from the University of Toronto. Open whilst standing in the vestibule, loaf of bread in one arm and package from mother in the other. Read the words "I am pleased to offer you..."

5) Stop caring that you are going to be late for your dinner guest. Call the Viking, he invites you out to the pub for a pint.

6) Actually relax.

Why don't they make brown mantillas?

The traditional white=maidens, black=wives dichotomy for chapel veils does not match the color scheme of my wardrobe. (Yes, yes, vanity, vanity...)


"Asterisks? So soon?"-- E.B. White, "One Man's Meat"
In other news: check out the sexy updates to the sidebar! The webcomics section is...embarrassingly long.


In other, other news: today was the feast of St. George. Being part Welsh and part Scottish, my general reaction was, "you want me to celebrate what, now?" But this was before I learned about the Catalan traditions surrounding the feast. In their story, after George has saved the fair maiden from the dragon, the dragon's blood turned to roses. Therefore, men traditionally give their sweethearts red roses on the day. In return, honoring the death of Shakespeare, Cervantes, and another famous writer, women give their sweethearts books. Books! This is a saint's day tradition for the University of Chicago.

In the talk I attended, "The Never-Ending Catalan Middle Ages," there was an offhand remark to England (like Catalonia) being a country with a "chivalric" ethic. So I thought I'd share some of that chivalry with you. From Rhygyfarch's "Lament":

Why have the blind fates not let us die? Now the labors of earlier days lie despised; the people and the priest are despised by the word, heart, and work of the Normans. For they increase our taxes and burn our properties…The honest man’s hand is branded by burning metals. A woman now lacks her nose, a man his genitals…Serfdom is brought to the neck with a meat-hook, and learns that nothing can be had at will…O unhappy and lamentable fate; slothful in seeking peace, slothful in taking up arms. O Wales you are afflicted and dying…An alien crowd speaks of you as hateful…O country deserted by God…What is now left for you but to weep excessively?


In the "Yes, we have these conversations" department:

A: I really should learn to drive, though, in case some day one of my kids needs to be driven to the hospital in an emergency or something.
C: Or to soccer practice.
A: I don't think that I would have very athletic children. Dance class, maybe, or choir practice... they could probably ride their bikes to the library...
C: The library? Won't they have their own library? Aren't you going to raise them on Cicero and Shakespeare?
A: Well, you can't do that too early. Otherwise they end up like John Stewart Mill, and nobody wants that.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Translated from the Scots Gaelic*

When my mother teaches poetry, she starts her students with list poems. The preeminent example of the list poem (and one which she uses as an example) is the section of Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno on his cat.** You probably know this poem, even if you don't know that you know it.

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him...

Sound familiar? I thought so. I think it's a part of most everyone's AP English education.

I was thinking about this to myself, and realized that it was particularly interesting to read many of the medieval prayers and charms that we studied in "Religion and Society in the Medieval West" as early list poems. Indeed, many of the earliest list poems are of a religious nature. Por ejemplo:

Bless the Lord, all rain and dew;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all you winds;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. (Daniel 3:64-66, RSV)

Or, of course, as it is translated for liturgical use (pain and suffering),

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.
All you winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord.

And then there's the Catholic take on it all:

Speculum iustitiae, ora pro nobis.
Sedes sapientiae, ora pro nobis.
Causa nostrae laetitiae, ora pro nobis.
Turris Davidica, ora pro nobis.***
Turris eburnea, ora pro nobis.
Domus aurea, ora pro nombis.

(Mirror of Justice, pray for us. Seat of Wisdom... Cause of our Joy...Tower of David...Tower of Ivory...House of Gold, pray for us.)

So, the whole purpose of this prefatory background information is as follows: I wanted to quote to quote the following from the Carmina Gadelica, a blessing for a bride on her wedding day. I hope that some fellow Celticist reads it to me on my hypothetical wedding day.**** (I'm part Scottish! It would make sense!)

The Invocation of the Graces

I bathe thy palms
in showers of wine,
in the lustral fire,
in the seven elements,
in the juice of rasps,
in the milk of honey,
And I place the nine pure choice graces
In thy fair fond face,
The grace of form,
The grace of voice,
The grace of fortune,
The grace of goodness,
The grace of wisdom,
The grace of charity,
The grace of choice maidenliness,
The grace of whole-souled loveliness,
The grace of goodly speech.
Dark is yonder town,
Dark are those therein,
Thou art the brown swan,
Going in among them.
Their hearts are under thy control,
Their tongues are beneath thy soul,
Nor will they ever utter a word
To give thee offence.

A shade art thou in the heat,
A shelter art thou in the cold,
Eyes art thou to the blind,
A staff art thou to the pilgrim,
An island art thou at sea,
A fortress art thou on land,
A well art thou in the desert,
Health art thou to the ailing.
Thine is the skill of the fairy women,
Thine is the faith of Mary the mild,
Thine is the tact of the women of Greece,
Thine is the beauty of Emir the fair,
Thine is the tenderness of Darthula delightful,
Thine is the courage of Maebh the strong,
Thine is the charm of Binne-bheul.
Thou art the joy of all joyous things,
Thou art the light of the beam of the sun,
Thou art the door of hospitality,
Thou art the surpassing star of guidance,
Thou art the step of the deer on the hill,
Thou art the step of the steed on the plain,
Thou art the grace of the swan swimming,
Thou art the loveliness of all lovely desires.
The lovely likeness of the Lord
Is in thy pure face,
The loveliest likeness that
Was upon the earth.

The best hour of the day be thine,
The best day of the week be thine,
The best week of the year be thine,
The best year in the Son of God's domain be thine.

Peter has come and Paul has come,
James has come and John has come,
Muriel and the Virgin Mary have come,
Uiriel the all-beneficent has come,
Ariel the beauteousness of the young has come,
Gabriel the seer of the Virgin has come,
Raphael the prince of the valiant has come,
And Michael the chief of the hosts has come,
And Jesus Christ the mild has come,
And the spirit of true guidance has come,
And the king of kings has come on the helm,
To bestow on thee their affection and their love,
To bestow on thee their affection and their love.

We have editions of the "Carmina Gadelica" in the Celtic lit section of the Reg (did you know there was a Celtic lit section of the Reg? I did, but then, of course I did). Take a look if you're intrigued.

* The alternative title for this post was "Blockquote Abuse".
** "For I am the seed of the Welch Woman and speak the truth from my heart." Yes, Roedd Christopher Smart Cymro.
*** Can you tell that I just added the last section because "Turris Davidica" is my favorite Marian title? (After "Star of the Sea," which isn't in the Litany) Is it just unforgivably nerdy to have a favorite Marian title?
**** The corollary to this statement is probably, "I would most likely marry any man who recited the more romantic parts of this poem to me."

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Your (Belated) Easter Present!

Inspired by the Dictionary Exhibit in Special Collections: An Alice-to-English glossary.

A.T.W.?: (Written, editing) According to whom? Variations include A.T.M (According to Mom), etc.

Anachronism: How to win any debate in a medieval history class.

B.V.M: Blessed Virgin Mary

Chalice Chipper: (via Rachel M) A young woman who tempts a man away from the priesthood. (See: Fisher of Men)

Cuba Libre: Rum & Coke. "It's a drink with historical significance!"

Cwino, cwino, cwino: (Welsh) Complain, complain, complain.

D. Robes: (Veronica & Alice) Everyone's favorite Whapster.

Das Boot: An art project with which I was absolutely, positively, not involved.

Fisher of Men: (via D. Robes) A young woman who is such a bad date, she drives men to the priesthood.

St. Gaspar del Bufalo: Founder of the Society of the Precious Blood, and (due to Fr. Keyes' obsession therewith) something of a 11am Choir joke.

Ginormous/Gigantescor: Silly, exaggerating, superlative adjectives.

H.W. (abbreviation, Dawn L): Holy Writ, i.e., the Bible

The Haberdasher'd One: A certain observant Jew of my acquaintance who prefers not to be cited by name.

John the Bunny-Eared Baptist: I believe Emily says it best. "I ask you to cast your minds back over the whole of your acquaintance with Miss Pretz and to consider how it *might* have come about that a decapitated chocolate bunny was swimming in red cake coloring on a dessert tray in the basement of Calvert House after dinner on Easter last. "

The Ninja Jesuit: Fr. Paul Mariani

Oh, Hi...: ("in" joke) A reference to the movie Grey Gardens, which Larry occasionally channels.

P-Dawg: (Dawn L) Classics Professor Peter White

Papier Nietzche: Ask Steph.

Pobrecita/o!: (Spanish) Poor little thing!

Sisters of Sts Vitus and Dymphna: A (fictional) religious order on the Amalfi coast, made up of young women wearing pink habits whose charism is to drink champagne, eat bonbons, and ride into town on their lavender vespas armed with lavender super-soakers with which to spray people with holy water. It has a... pre-Counter-Reformation flavor to it. The only known members of this order are Sister Jezebel of the Burning Bush, (Tertiary) Delilah of the Ass's Jaw, and Novice Rahab of the Crimson Ladder.

Taceo: (Latin) I am silent.

Tippen Bach: (Welsh) A little bit.

Tommy A: (Margaret H) St. Thomas Aquinas

Ty Bach: (Welsh) The little house (that is, the bathroom)

The Vapid Paralytic: Larry's cat, Lana.

Voa (abbreviation, Dawn L): The Voice Of Authority-- The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's a maaagical liopleurodon!

Charlie the Unicorn put LSD in my cornflakes. This video may break your brain, but it's worth it...probably.

I was watching it again after quoting some of it to Steph, and it suddenly dawned upon me: Cameron is Charlie the Unicorn.

Seriously. "We're going to Faaaaado,* Caaameron! Caaameron! Order a Black & Taaan, Caameron!"

* Fado is an "Irish" pub in the West Loop which we have begun to frequent because they play U2 and sell Cider with Black.

PS: How can you not love your friends when you have conversations like this?

A: Geoff.
A: Please don't become a male stripper to pay the rent.
A: The sins of all the women you titillate will be on your soul as well.
G: I... have this friend.
A: ...who has this friend...
G: and leather pants?
A: the leather pants will not be on your soul.
G: or me for very long?
A: or your friend.
G: of a friend.
A: exactly. I'm glad we came to this conclusion.

PPS: Shun the nonbeliever! Shuuuuun!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Theology yn y dafarn

Alive and Young explains the Hypostatic Union with a Black & Tan. Really. I wish I had written that post.

(Dissolves in a puddle of coveting her neighbor's weblog.)

In other news: An astute observer has asked, "If you really prefer the Vulgate, why own a translation?" I can think of two reasons, putting aside the weakness of my Latin:
1) There has been some development in the textual criticism of scripture since St. Jerome
2) Evangelism is almost impossible in Latin these days.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Christians are Ruining Scripture.

I know that some of my less messianic readers are saying, "well, obviously," but I'm being serious here. If anything is going to drive me from the faith, it is going to be the idiotic commercialism with which we peddle Holy Writ-- but I get ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning of the story. Thesis: Catholics don't read the Bible, because it's so damn hard to buy a Bible.

As some of you know, my lovely little Catholic RSV bible with its burgundy cover never made it home from Bangor, Wales. I was left with my "New Jerusalem Bible: Saints Devotional Edition," which is nice for finding little passages written by the saints, but far too hefty for actual reading.

And then there is the problem of translation. Allow me to present a (fictive) conversation between myself and the owner of a Christian Bookstore.
Worker: What is your preferred translation?
Yrs Truly: Vulgate.

So you see the problem. The New Jerusalem Bible is out because it uses "Y-hw-h" throughout the Old Testament, a sad attempt by Catholics to pretend to be Jewish which just ends up doing injustice to both traditions. The King James, while beautiful (and what I grew up with) isn't Catholic, the Douay-Rhiems isn't sold for under $100. We're just going to pretend that "The Message" doesn't exist. The NIV is too modern and too Protestant, and the Council of Catholic Bishop's translation (the NAB) is... well... let me demonstrate.

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. David, however, remained in Jerusalem. One evening David rose from his siesta and strolled about on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful. (2 Samuel 11:1-2)

Siesta? When I had to read that passage for mass at Calvert House, I broke out giggling.* Everyone thought that I couldn't handle the adultery, but really: siesta?

So, this leaves a RSV or NRSV translation, in a Catholic edition. I refuse to buy any Bible that claims to have "Apocryphal" books.

That brings me to my next question: Why, at Borders, are there so few Catholic bibles? And why, on the shelf, do they come after books about the Gnostic gospels?

Looking for a Bible at Borders, however, gives one plenty of reasons to a) be glad to be Catholic,** b) be ashamed to be Christian, c) start wondering if we should be fasting in reparation for all the harm done to our holy texts. will help me make my point.

It all started going wrong when they came out with a Woman's devotional bible. Now, there's The Bride's Bible ("Preparing Spiritually for the Most Important Day of Your Life"-- oh, and don't feel left out. There's a Groom's Bible, too, available at Borders but not Amazon.) There's The Adventure Bible, for kids. There's Immerse: A Water-Resistant New Testament and The Duct Tape Bible ("Experience the latest rage - the complete Everyday Bible wrapped in durable duct tape! Take this Bible anywhere you want to go - camping, hiking, mission trips, school, even church youth group.") Oh no! Not the Church Youth Group!

There's A bible that comes with a companion purse. There's "God's Story," presumably for teens who are too cool to read an actual bible. For the WASPy brats in your life, there's God's Little Princess Devotional Bible-- don't miss the tiara. There's the "Drink Deeply" Bible, which comes packaged in a plastic case that really just looks like a Nalgene bottle. If that's not health-conscious enough for you, there's the following "BibleZine,""Divine Health", and if you're really *that* concerned about your health, it might be because you're ready for this book, whose title I first misread as "The Menopause Bible". (It's actually "The Message: Pause")

There's a few problems here. The first is this idea of a special bible for a special group of people. This was discussed more eloquently by a protestant blogger who specializes in Jesus*** Junk & Kitzch, but I can't find his blog right now. If you know it, shoot me the link and receive my eternal gratitute. Second is the blatant commercialization of the faith, discussed rather well here. Third is the fact that this is just embarrassingly kitzchy. This goes beyond Catholic kitzch (think glow-in-the-dark rosaries) to a whole new ballpark.

So what did I end up with? An NRSV from Harper Collins, Catholic Edition. And what, exactly, makes it Catholic?

BY THE WAY: I don't feel so bad about disagreeing with Fr. Orthometer anymore, now that I've seen him take part in egregious copyright infringement of Questionable Content (Scroll down, left-hand side). I'm hoping someone sent him the banner, and that he's not responsible for it.

EDITED: For scriptural errors rooted in my past as an autodidact.

* And this is why I'm glad we're not under a Benedictine rule, and don't need to do penance for misreading a line.
** Or, as Sukie would say, "I'm really very glad we have a Pope."
*** You may think that you're free from this burden, but you're not.

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Sunday afternoons are so much nicer now that I don't have latin class to dread the next day.

Question: Why can't I think of any movies I like? It's not that I don't enjoy movies. I just can't think of any movies that I want to see a second (or third) time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Geoff just reminded me...

That today is the 3rd anniversary of my baptism.

Happy Birthday-into-the-Holy-Roman-Church to me, Happy Birthday-into-the-Holy-Roman-Church to me...

...okay, that's just sad.

(The corollary to the above, of course, is "Happy Birthday-into-the-Orthodox-Church to Geoff, Happy Birthday-into-the-Orthodox-Church to Geoff...". That was a busy Easter Vigil night for many.)

(And, for those who remember from Breck: "Do you reject boys? And all their works? And all their empty promises?)

Friday, April 06, 2007


Somehow it all seems very anti-climactic (maybe because it's Good Friday,) and that's making me grumpy.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Ahem ahem ahem.

For the past few weeks, the following image (from Lackadaisy) has been my desktop background:

But now I should change it, because... as of 7:30 last night, I FINISHED MY DRAFT!

37 pages of Welsh-Saints-Spirituality-Goodness. Prof. Fulton said that it "developed wonderfully."

So now I just need to rewrite it all a la Daniel Gullo in the next five days. Right.

So, what should be my new, non-angfechtung background?

The world's cutest kitten? (From Cute Overload)

The world's cutest puppy? (Also from Cute Overload)

The world's cutest vapidette? (From Larry)

Or...something completely different? (From... Cute Overload)

Decisions, decisions...

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