30 June 2017

Lament for a Nation

George Grant, Lament for a Nation (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1994), p. 25:
Growing up in Ontario, the generation of the 1920s took it for granted that they belonged to a nation. The character of the country was self-evident. To say it was British was not to deny it was North American. To be a Canadian was to be a unique species of North American. Such alternatives as F. H. Underhill’s - “Stop being British if you want to be a nationalist” - seemed obviously ridiculous. We were grounded in the wisdom of Sir John A. Macdonald, who saw plainly more than a hundred years ago that the only threat to nationalism was from the South, not from across the sea. To be a Canadian was to build, along with the French, a more ordered and stable society than the liberal experiment in the United States. Now that this hope has been extinguished, we are too old to be retrained by a new master. We find ourselves like fish left on the shores of a drying lake.

Ibid., pp. 55-56:
The crucial years were those of the early [nineteen] forties. The decisions of those years were made once and for all, and were not compatible with the continuance of a sovereign Canadian nation. Once it was decided that Canada was to be a branch-plant society of American capitalism, the issue of Canadian nationalism had been settled. The decision may or may not have been necessary; it may have been good or bad for Canada to be integrated into the international capitalism that has dominated the West since 1945. But certainly Canada could not exist as a nation when the chief end of the government’s policy was the quickest integration into that complex. The Liberal policy under [C. D.] Howe was integration as fast as possible and at all costs. No other consideration was allowed to stand in the way. The society produced by such policies may reap enormous benefits, but it will not be a nation. Its culture will become the empire’s to which it belongs. Branch-plant economies have branch-plant cultures.

Ibid., pp. 82-83:
[Early Canadian settlers felt] an inchoate desire to build, in these cold and forbidding regions, a society with a greater sense of order and restraint than freedom-loving republicanism would allow. It was no better defined than a kind of suspicion that we in Canada could be less lawless and have a greater sense of propriety than the United States. The inherited determination not to be Americans allowed these British people to come to a modus vivendi with the more defined desires of the French. English-speaking Canadians have been called a dull, stodgy, and indeed costive lot. In these dynamic days, such qualities are particularly unattractive to the chic. Yet our stodginess has made us a society of greater simplicity, formality, and perhaps even innocence than the people to the south. Whatever differences there were between the Anglicans and the Presbyterians, and however differently their theologians might interpret the doctrine of original sin, both communities believed that the good life made strict demands on self-restraint. Nothing was more alien to them than the “emancipation of the passions” desired in American liberalism. An ethic of self-restraint naturally looks with suspicion on utopian movements, which proceed from an ethic of freedom. The early leaders of British North America identified lack of public and personal restraint with the democratic Republic. Their conservatism was essentially the social doctrine that public order and tradition, in contrast to freedom and experiment, were central to the good life.

Ibid., p. 106:
Those who loved the older traditions of Canada may be allowed to lament what has been lost, even though they do not know whether or not that loss will lead to some greater political good. But lamentation falls easily into the vice of self-pity. To live with courage is a virtue, whatever one may think of the dominant assumptions of one’s age. Multitudes of human beings through the course of history have had to live when their only political allegiance was irretrievably lost. What was lost was often something far nobler than what Canadians have lost. Beyond courage, it is also possible to live in the ancient faith, which asserts that changes in the world, even if they be recognized more as a loss than a gain, take place within an eternal order that is not affected by their taking place. Whatever the difficulty of philosophy, the religious man has been told that process is not all. “Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore.”

29 June 2017

The Heaviest Burden

Today's post on Anecdotal Evidence reminds me of a passage I often think about in Friedrich Nietzsche's The Joyful Wisdom (§ 341), from The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, tr. Thomas Common (New York: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 270-271:
The Heaviest Burden — What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: "This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence — and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!" — Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him: "Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!" If that thought acquired power over thee as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard to all and everything : "Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?" would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favourably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft  is in Vol. 12 of the Musarion edition of Nietzsche's works but it is one of the volumes I have yet to find online. So for the original, see Vol. 5 of Alfred Kröner's edition (Stuttgart, 1921), pp. 265-266.

A related post: Do You Like This Idea?

28 June 2017

The Libraries of Heaven

Robert Leighton (1822-1869), "Books," quoted in The Book-Lover's Enchiridion, ed. Alexander Ireland (London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1884), p. 397:
I cannot think the glorious world of mind,
Embalm'd in books, which I can only see
In patches, though I read my moments blind,
Is to be lost to me.

I have a thought that, as we live elsewhere,
So will these dear creations of the brain;
That what I lose unread, I'll find, and there
Take up my joy again.

O then the bliss of blisses, to be freed
From all the wonts by which the world is driven;
With liberty and endless time to read
The libraries of Heaven!

26 June 2017

The Great Divide

Wendell Berry, Life Is a Miracle; An Essay Against Modern Superstition (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2001), p. 55:
It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.

20 June 2017

His Eyes Were Open

John Collings Squire, "Baudelaire," Books Reviewed (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1922), pp. 41-42:
It is commonly said that Romanticism is distinguished by the desire for "escape": that "Over the hills and far away" is the phrase which best expresses the romantics of all ages and the whole romantic movement of the last century. That passion was present in Baudelaire in its intensest form; but peculiarly. He did not, as did some of our Pre-Raphaelites, turn his back on the contemporary world. He looked hard and long at it; he saw it vile and filthy, and described the foulness he saw with dreadful realism. He was not one of those who avoid life and find happiness by lapping themselves in dreams of things more beautiful and serene, countries of content beyond the horizon and ages golden through the haze of time. He hankered rather than escaped. He was perpetually longing for something "remote from the sphere of our sorrow," but he could never surrender himself to a vision of it; for his eyes were open, and he saw a horrible world and a black universe, terribly anarchic or terribly governed.

15 June 2017

The Ingratitude of Children

Celia Burleigh, "The Rights of Children," The Victoria Magazine, Vol. XXIII (May-October 1874), pp. 119-120:
"Do you realize that you belong to me? that but for me you had never been?" said a father to his son. "And had I been consulted I would sooner not have been, than have been the son of such a father," was the bitter but not inappropriate answer.

The old barbarism still clings to us. We interpret too literally the term "my child," and assume ownership where only guardianship was intended. They are not ours, these young immortals; not wax, to be moulded to any pattern that may please us; not tablets, to be inscribed with our names, or written over with our pet theories. Images of God, filled with His life, consecrated to His work, destined to an immortality of growth and individual development, we may not confiscate them to our uses, nor prescribe their sphere, nor fancy that our care of their infancy has mortgaged to our convenience their after life.

Paternity imposes duties, it does not establish claims. Even between parent and child comes the inexorable fiat of the gods, "You shall have only what you are strong enough to take." I confess I have little sympathy for parents who complain of the ingratitude of children. If the stream is muddy, it is safe to infer that the fountain was not pure. All talk about obligation is futile; "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again."
Related posts:

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son (c. 1821)

13 June 2017

Advice to Booksellers and Publishers

Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1920), p. 40:
As far as books are concerned the public is barely able to sit up and take a little liquid nourishment. Solid foods don't interest it. If you try to cram roast beef down the gullet of an invalid you'll kill him. Let the public alone, and thank God when it comes round to amputate any of its hard-earned cash.

12 June 2017

Among the Humbler Classes

Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1920), p. 12:
The real book-lovers, you know, are generally among the humbler classes. A man who is impassioned with books has little time or patience to grow rich by concocting schemes for cozening his fellows.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

6 June 2017

All the Old Books

Montesquieu, Letter CIX, Persian and Chinese Letters, tr. John Davidson (Washington: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), p. 202:
It seems to me that until a man has read all the old books, he has no right to prefer the new ones.
The original, from Lettres Persanes (Paris: Cité des livres, 1931), p. 240:
Il me semble que, jusqu'à ce qu'un homme ait lu tous les livres anciens, il n'a aucune raison de leur préférer les nouveaux.

2 June 2017

I Wonder How 'Tis With the Dead

John Norris (1657-1711), "The Complaint," A Collection of Miscellanies (London: Edmund Parker, 1730), p. 36:
Well 'tis a dull perpetual round
Which here we silly mortals tread;
Here's nought, I'll swear, worth living to be found,
I wonder how 'tis with the dead.
Better I hope, or else ye powers divine
Unmake me, I my immortality resign.

Still to be vex'd by joys delay'd
Or by fruition to be cloy'd?
Still to be wearied in a fruitless chase,
Yet still to run, and lose the race?
Still our departed pleasures to lament
Which yet when present, gave us no content?

Is this the thing we so extoll,
For which we would prolong our breath?
Do we for this long life a blessing call
And tremble at the name of death?
Sots that we are to think by that we gain
Which is as well retain'd as lost with pain.

Is it for this that we adore
Physicians, and their art implore?
Do we bless nature's liberal supply
Of helps against mortality?
Sure 'tis but vain the Tree of Life to boast
When Paradise, wherein it grew, is lost.

Ye powers, why did you man create
With such insatiable desire?
If you'd endow him with no more estate
You should have made him less aspire.
But now our appetites you vex and cheat
With real hunger, and phantastick meat.