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.

Id., 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.

Id., 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.

Id., 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.

31 May 2017

A Shot in the Dark

A transcript of a clip from Barbet Schroeder's The Charles Bukowski Tapes :
Schroeder: You said that starving doesn't create art, that it creates many things, but mainly it creates time.

Bukowski: Oh, yeah, well, that's very basic. I hate to use up your film to say this, but you know, if you work an 8-hour job, you're going to get 55 cents an hour. If you stay home you're not going to get any money but you're going to have time to write things down on paper. I guess I was one of those rarities of our modern times who did starve for his art. I really starved, you know, to have a 24-hour day unintruded upon by other people. I gave up food, I gave up everything, just to... I was a nut. I was dedicated.

But you see, the problem is that you can be a dedicated nut and not be able to do it. Dedication without talent is useless. You understand what I mean? Dedication alone is not enough. You can starve and want to do it [laughing]. Hey, you know ... And how many do that? They starve in the gutters and they don't make it.

Schroeder: But you knew you had talent.

Bukowski: They all think they have. How do you know that you're the one? You don't know. It's a shot in the dark. You take it, or you become a normal, civilized person from 8 to 5: get married, have children, Christmas together, here comes grandma, "Hi Grandma, come on in, how are you?" Shit, I couldn't take that. I'd rather murder myself.

I guess, just, in the blood of me, I couldn't stand the whole thing that's going on, the ordinariness of life. I couldn't stand family life. I couldn't stand job life. I couldn't stand anything I looked at. I just decided I either had to starve, make it, go mad, come through, or do something. Even if I hadn't made it on writing ... something. I could not do the 8 to 5. I would have been a suicide. No, something. Something. I'm sorry, I could not accept the snail's pace, 8 to 5, Johnny Carson, happy birthday, Christmas, New Year's. To me this is the sickest of all sick things.


29 May 2017

No Strength Without Truth

Ernst von Feuchtersleben, The Dietetics of the Soul (London: John Churchill, 1852), pp.140-142:
All morality consists in truth, and all depravity in falsehood. Life and health accompany the former; the latter is destruction. Constant falsehood and painful self-restraint corrode the innermost springs of life, like a hidden poison; while we ourselves experience a morbid pleasure in feeding the worm which destroys us....

All thinking men have recognised this evil, and directed the attention of their brethren to it. "Your salvation depends on truth; be true at every breath;" and what they say to the species, the physician enjoins to the individual. To play a part throughout life must weary us out before our time; even if we could exclaim as justly as Augustus, in the closing scene, "Plaudite." Hufeland has compared this condition of the mind to a continual mental convulsion — a slow nervous fever. Why, then, submit to it? Is it not more easy to be true? — to appear what we are? To man I would say, "there is no strength without truth; and to woman, there is no beauty without truth."

I have a discovery to reveal as easy and as difficult as that of Columbus and his egg: it is this; that genius is nothing but truth. That writer will appear original to us who, instead of consulting books on his subject, replies with truth to the questions he asks himself. In this manner he writes what the learned will read with envious surprise, and with a freshness which even poets might covet. It is certain that we should be better authors by being more moral and true. At present we are nothing, because we are false, and therefore diseased. Shame and repentance are the enervating consequences which await us on our course. Yet we might avoid this fatal tendency by assuming courage enough not to belie ourselves or others — by daring to be what we really are. Can any happiness equal the feeling that we carry our own bliss constantly with us? Always and everywhere will thought then furnish food for self-communion, imagination create a world of fancies, and life give scope to feeling, or to the promptings of a pure will.
The original can be found in Feuchtersleben's Zur Diätetik der Seele (Halle: Hermann Gesenius, 1893), pp. 121-123.

24 May 2017

Ha'nacker's Down and England's Done

Hilaire Belloc, "Ha'nacker Mill," Stories, Essays and Poems (London: J. M. Dent, 1938):
Sally is gone that was so kindly,
Sally is gone from Ha'nacker Hill
And the Briar grows ever since then so blindly;
And ever since then the clapper is still,
And the sweeps have fallen from Ha'nacker Mill.

Ha'nacker Hill is in Desolation:
Ruin a-top and a field unploughed.
And Spirits that call on a fallen nation,
Spirits that loved her calling aloud:
Spirits abroad in a windy cloud.

Spirits that call and no one answers;
Ha'nacker's down and England's done.
Wind and Thistle for pipe and dancers,
And never a ploughman under the Sun:
Never a ploughman. Never a one.
Belloc can be heard singing this lament at the 1:43 mark on this Youtube video.

23 May 2017

None Would Live Past Years Again

John Dryden, Aureng-Zebe, IV. i:
When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat;
Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay:
To-morrow’s falser than the former day;
Lies worse, and, while it says, we shall be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possest.
Strange cozenage! None would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;
And, from the dregs of life, think to receive,
What the first sprightly running could not give.
I'm tired with waiting for this chemic gold,
Which fools us young, and beggars us when old.
Related posts:

The Nonesuch edition of Dryden's dramatic works (6 vols.) can be had for about $200  — further proof that the earthly paradise for bibliophiles is at hand.

22 May 2017

No Use Ploughing the Air

C. H. Spurgeon, "Things Not Worth Trying," John Ploughman's Talk (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1896), p. 93:
Long ago my experience taught me not to dispute with anybody about tastes and whims; one might as well argue about what you can see in the fire. It is of no use ploughing the air, or trying to convince a man against his will in matters of no consequence. It is useless to try to end a quarrel by getting angry over it; it is much the same as pouring oil on a fire to quench it, and blowing coals with the bellows to put them out. Some people like rows — I don't envy their choice; I'd rather walk ten miles to get out of a dispute than half-a-mile to get into one. I have often been told to be bold, and take the bull by the horns, but, as I rather think that the amusement is more pleasant than profitable, I shall leave it to those who are so cracked already that an ugly poke with a horn would not damage their skulls.

18 May 2017

Conscience

Francis Meynell's answer when called before the draft board during the First World War, My Lives (London: Bodley Head, 1971), pp. 94-95:
I feel that I cannot surrender my conscience, my right of judgement, to anybody else's keeping. It is, in the common phrase, the soldier's duty 'to do and die and not to reason why'. Well, Sir, if I were a soldier and told 'to do' such a thing as sink the Lusitania or shoot so-called rebels in Ireland, or take part in the starvation of a population, or drop bombs on civilians, I should refuse.

16 May 2017

But You Do Not Know Greek

Sir Joseph Pope, The Day of Sir John Macdonald (Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Company, 1920), p. 116:
John's relations with Lord Dufferin had always been pleasant, though I think he considered the governor-general a bit of a humbug. Speaking to me one day of men's liking for flattery, Sir John said that 'almost anybody will take almost any amount of it,' but he thought that Lord Dufferin transgressed even those wide limits. 'He laid it on with a trowel.' Sir John added that Lord Dufferin was proud of his classical acquirements. He once delivered an address in Greek at the University of Toronto. A newspaper subsequently spoke of ' His Excellency's perfect command of the language.' 'I wonder who told the reporter that,' said a colleague to the chief. 'I did,' replied Sir John. 'But you do not know Greek.' 'No,' replied Sir John, 'but I know men.'
Pope is mistaken. Lord Dufferin delivered his Greek address at McGill University on February 13, 1878. The classics were not even on offer at the University of Toronto in the 1870s, the only courses of study at the time being Calvinist theology and livestock management.

13 May 2017

Don't Have Any Kids Yourself

Philip Larkin, "This Be the Verse," High Windows (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), p. 30:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

Photo from The Importance of Elsewhere: Philip Larkin's Photographs

A related post:

10 May 2017

With Apple-Butter on a Hay-Press

Interview VI with "Mr. G.", Extracts From an Investigation Into the Physical Properties of Books as They Are at Present Published (Boston: W. A. Dwiggins and L. B. Siegfried, 1919), pp. 15-16:
What's the use of talking about standards in connection with things like these? These are not books. They aren't fit to wad a gun with. I wouldn't have them in the house.... You can't hope to get anything like a decent book until you do away with the damnable cheap paper and the vile types. And then you will have to start in and teach the printer how to print. There aren't more than a half a dozen presses in the country that know how to print. Most printing looks like it had been done with apple-butter on a hay-press —

— What you say is unhappily true. What we are trying to find out are the causes of this state of things.

The causes are everywhere — all through the rattle-trap, cheap-jack, shoddy work that is being done in every kind of trade. Nobody cares for making decent things any more.

The only cure is to get back to decent standards of workmanship in everything again. But the case seems to me to be hopeless. I try to do printing up to a decent standard — and that is about all any of us can do. I don't believe you can hope to do much good through your societies and investigations. I believe in each one doing his own job in the best way he knows how. That's the only way you can raise the standard. It's the work you turn out that counts.


A related post: Shoddimites