Liberalism: Satan’s Scheme to Usurp Creation

In 1872 Frederick Engels wrote a letter to Theodore Cuno saying, “The thing to do is to conduct propaganda, abuse the state, organize, and when all the workers are won over, i.e., the majority, depose the authorities, abolish the state and replace it by the organization of the International. This great act, with which the millennium begins, is called social liquidation.” That same year, Fyodor Dostoevsky published a novel about revolution and rebellion titled, The Possessed; other translations have seen it titled, Demons. It is a book about revolution and rebellion “in the name of unlimited freedom” and how the ideas for such acts are connotations of demons. Richard Pevear’s forward to his translation explains it this way, “…implicit at least in his (Dostoevsky) analysis is the possibility of an evil or alien idea coming to inhabit a person, misleading him, perverting him ontologically, driving him to crime or insanity.” In one memorable scene the revolutionary theorist Shigalyov who by today’s standards is considered the modern-day liberal declares, “My conclusion directly contradicts the original idea I start from. Starting with unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism.” Pevear adds, “Here we have the voice of the demonic idea in its pure state.”

Anytime a moment in history defines a reality, there are always prior moments you can go back to in depicting a historical backdrop; so let us go back to the beginning; the Garden, and specifically the fundamental attitude shift in creation when the serpent brought forth the idea to Eve that she could “be like God” if she ate of the fruit. Adam and Eve lived peacefully in the Garden of Eden, perfectly harmonious with God and creation. They had complete freedom to do as they pleased; there was only one rule; they “must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” When the only rule in the Garden was violated, liberalism became ubiquitous with creation because humans got the idea they could “become like God, knowing good and evil” by acting as autonomous individuals who determine what is right and wrong and rejecting established traditions, authorities, and religion.

Rush Limbaugh once said the most prophetic things about liberalism: “I think we wouldn’t be here today if there had been a proper education and understanding of liberalism by a majority of the American people,” and “that so many people on our side do not recognize and have not recognized the threat posed by standard, ordinary, everyday liberalism.” Today, conversations about liberalism are more and more copious. As Rush Limbaugh astutely pointed out, a quick search online reveals the scope of the discussion on the subject—liberalism is the problem, liberalism is the solution, we need to expand liberalism, we need to limit liberalism, we need to improve liberalism, we need to get back to basic liberalism. This essay puts forth the argument that the ideology of liberalism is closely linked with Satan’s manipulation of our passions, with the aim of influencing and directing us. As Christopher Dawson wrote in The Judgment of the Nations, “Here in this world we are staying in an inn where the Devil is the Master and the world is landlady and all kinds of evil passions are servants and these are the enemies and opponents of the Gospel.”

In 1888, Pope Leo XIII wrote that at its source liberalism is demonic, “But many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, “I will not serve…who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves liberals.” The ideology of liberalism aims to dismantle traditional structures and beliefs, and often portrays the past as being dominated by superstitious practices and institutions meant to restrict personal freedom. It does this through politics. In his article, “The Consequences of Catholicism for Political Theory,” Benjamin Studebaker, an honest Marxist holding a PhD, says that our society can be considered “post-Catholic” because Catholics had to subordinate morality to politics embracing pluralism: “This is why liberalism is fundamentally a post-Catholic ideology–it cannot work in a context of full atheism, in which good/truth/God have been rejected. In a context where these things have been wholly rejected, we return to the principle of might makes right. By trying to flesh liberalism out and make it feel more substantive, the liberal theorists have moved more and more people away from good/truth/God toward an emphasis on desire satisfaction and autonomy.”

The realm of politics can be seen as the intersection of liberal ideas and demonic influences, potentially leading to distorted perceptions of reality. Liberals are overactive in the institutions that produce the ideas informing people about so called “new truths,” about who are the real reactionaries, and how to remake the world. For the liberal, politics is everything, and everything is political. Who you are politically means the most to liberals because it is Satan’s way of categorizing his detractors. Bishop Fulton Sheen once commented that politics would be the method for enslaving mankind, saying, “…but he (Lucifer) was suggesting to the Lord theology is politics…the mastery of the world in the future will depend entirely upon politics.” Lucifer has become a symbol of rebellion since the Garden uprising, reflecting the revolutionary political movements of past centuries, which sought liberation from moral restrictions and promised a new Eden.

Around the end of the eighteenth century, revolutionaries “demonized themselves, so to speak, in order to demonstrate their complete rejection of the Christian establishment.” Satan would become a “positive political role model, a symbol of political goodness.” We know that the people we associate with can influence and change our behavior in various ways, from simple things like the sports team we cheer for to the foods we eat. However, it can also influence our opinion about tradition, values, reality, and power. The Russian Mikhail Bakunin was a revolutionary socialist who encouraged anarchism through his writings. In one, titled, God and State, he writes, “But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience: he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.” To Bakunin, Satan symbolizes revolt and reason, and that belief in God was “one of the most threatening obstacles in way of humanity’s liberation.” Satan was seen by many socialists as a symbol not only of intellectual enlightenment, but also of actions that were deemed sinful by certain individuals. In 1907, the socialist magazine Brand published a short story called “In Hell.” The story depicts a proletarian, who is imprisoned, having a dream about Hell. In the dream, Lucifer explains, “Jehovah is conservative, but Lucifer is a democrat,” and Hell is not a place of torment at all: “…Christianity preaches asceticism and self-denial; we preach happiness and pleasure. Hence, all the things considered sinful on earth are practiced here: eroticism, dance, theatre, and cheerful melodies.” Another short-lived socialist publication, Loki: Pamphlet for Youth, asserts that Lucifer is the spirit of liberation, “the human lust for rebellion, the battle between oppressor and oppressed.” West German anarchist-terrorist, Michael Baumann, claims satanist tendencies were widespread in his political circles. “Hail Satan” was actually the internal greeting.

Some people view tolerance as a liberal value. However, others believe it is used as a technique to help establish a totalitarian state by eroding the principles necessary for maintaining freedom. Tolerance advocates manipulating the human will: “Tolerance thus becomes a device to elevate certain liberal ideas and constituencies above public criticism rather than trusting that they will eventually emerge victorious on their merits in open public debate.” Lenin knew that tolerating something against your values would eventually become intolerance towards you. Paul Gabel in his book, And God Created Lenin: Marxism vs. Religion in Russia, 1917-1929, put it this way: “Nothing in thought or aspiration seemed to Lenin more incomprehensible than tolerance. For him it was indistinguishable from lack of principle. It was the beginning of contemptible surrender.” It is common for liberals to believe that they are tolerant simply because they identify as liberal and not as “intolerant Christians.” However, recent studies have shown that Gen Z is less tolerant of opposing views despite considering themselves more tolerant than previous generations. It is clear that Gen Z is very disconnected from reality and history. For instance, they are waging war on statues, distorting historical facts, and disregarding the importance of biology. This behavior could lead to a dangerous shift towards proto-fascism and the imposition of immoral beliefs. You are rendered invalid, if you do not capitulate to such pathologies. Gen Z is, as Blake said of Milton, “of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

A recent study from 2020 found that “political ideology may also be relevant to mental health, as people who are more liberal, especially those identifying as ‘extremely liberal,’ are more likely to have mental health problems. It is suggested that may be because conservatism is associated with greater religiosity.” It is possible that the perpetual cycle of mental illness could be from the prevalence of mental health professionals being liberal. One study found that only six percent of professionals in psychology described themselves as conservative and feared the negative consequences of revealing their political beliefs to their colleagues. The study found they were correct: “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.” There is also research that demonstrates that liberals are less happy than conservatives: “conservatives are more likely to embrace family-first values and virtues that steer them towards wedlock and fulfilling family values” liberals, on the other hand, embrace the “false narrative that the path to happiness runs counter to marriage and family life.” Four studies from several countries concluded that “childlessness leads to liberalism, support for homosexuality, abortion, and promiscuity, while parenthood creates conservatism and traditional values.” In an article from Current Affairs titled, “Why We Should Abolish the Family,” lets you know right in the beginning: “The family is a conservative project that limits human flourishing. The family must be abolished.” Another article from Slate shares the sentiment but calls out the fearful liberals to take credit, “Yes, Culture Helped Kill the Two-Parent Family. And Liberals Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Admit It.”

The insight of Dostoevsky’s Demons of liberal parents producing revolutionary children was again made prophetic with Midge Decter, a century later, with her book, Liberal Parents, Radical Children: “we allowed you a charade of trivial freedoms in order to avoid making those impositions on you that are in the end both the training ground and proving ground for true independence. We proclaimed you sound when you were foolish in order to avoid taking part in the long, slow, slogging effort that is the only route to genuine maturity of mind and feeling.”

Children of liberal parents are more prone to accept revolutionary ideas because liberal parents are more concerned with “injustice” in the world and how they failed to change it. One mother confesses that her son “learned progressive values from my husband and me. When he was in elementary school, we took him door-to-door to canvass for John Kerry and Barack Obama. When he was in middle school, we took him to rallies to protest Scott Walker’s union-busting Act 10. In high school, he learned to make sophisticated arguments for his liberal positions on civil rights and economic fairness.” Then she becomes shocked for creating a monster. Often, the seed of liberal indoctrination parent’s plant gets germinated by the liberal professors, and flowers into revolutionary activity.

Another example on how liberals are revolutionaries bent on destroying the foundation for a free civilization is from Michael Walzer, written in the 1996 issue of the liberal intellectual magazine, Dissent that sought to find the middle ground between communism and liberalism, and gave a list of liberal political successes since the 1980s: affirmative action, feminism, the emergence of gay rights, the acceptance of cultural pluralism, the transformation of family life, changing sexual mores and new household arrangements, the process of secularization and the fading of religion in general, Christianity in particularly from the public sphere—classroom, textbook, legal codes, holidays and so on—legalization of abortion, gun control, environmentalism, and constraining police powers. What one would assume are natural evolutions of human reason and rationality, Walzer admits that these victories were not won in the central arenas of democratic politics but by the revolutionary activities of “liberals and the liberalism of lawyers, judges, federal bureaucrats, professors, school teachers, social workers, journalist, television and screen writers—not the population at large.”

Walzer admits that the sense of cultural collapse we feel is the result of these liberal “victories”: “…and that the victories of the left have caused the collapse.” Completely unconcerned about what type of society we will be left with, when the institutions that make a society dissolves, Walzer ask: “How would it be held together? Would it be stable? What would everyday life be like within it?” Then he confesses, “The focus of the left and liberal politics these last thirty years has been overwhelmingly on “liberation” from various restrictive institutions and practices-not on the creation of new institutions and practices.” When in positions of influence where decisions are made on how culture is shaped, liberals will seek to make their liberal ideas normative. A Disney executive in charge of content was caught on video confessing to having a gay agenda and adding queerness to children’s programming. What helps make sense of this is that she is also a mother to a transgender and a pansexual child.

In my film, It’s Easy Being Green When You Have No Choice: Sustainable Development and the End of History, I explore the concept of elevating creation above the creator, as warned in Romans 1:25. Satan, known as the revolutionary liberator of creation from the confines of Christianity, goes beyond man and women directly to the Earth itself. Interestingly, six months after the official end of the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev’s resignation, he became an environmentalist and attended the first Earth Summit to usher in the phenomenon of sustainable development. Recently, Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks claimed that sustainable development is part of “Satan’s plan” because it is not only about global rationing and control of natural resources but has also become an instrument to impose liberal values.

Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians warned them that our battles are not physical but spiritual, not flesh and blood but against “Principalities and Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.” People are beginning to express that the most viable explanation for what is happening in the world today is supernatural. Jonathan Pageau just comes out with it: “People are afraid to talk about these things… I’ll say it straight out, there’s a demon that is a watcher, watching over a pattern of reality, and that is what is maintaining it together and making its boots work in the world and these people are possessed and are unwilling agents of a demon and they’re bringing about this system.”

As we recognize that politics alone cannot resolve our problems, religion serves as a foundation for values, ethics, and morals. However, with the rise of liberalism, the significance of Christian ethics has declined. While liberals may believe that a world without religious influence will be more ethical and freer, it could lead to tyranny, as we rely solely on our own reasoning to determine what’ is right and wrong. Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger put it this way:

But when we look at the presuppositions and the consequences of this seemingly marvelous expedient that lifts the burden of man’s inconstancy, we realize that this unburdening—“liberation”—is based on the renunciation of morality, that is, on the renunciation of responsibility and freedom, on the renunciation of conscience. That is why this sort of “kingdom” is an optical illusion with which the Antichrist dupes us—such a liberated society presupposes perfect tyranny. I think we must make it clear to ourselves again today, in all earnestness, that neither reason nor faith ever promises that there will be a perfect world someday. It does not exist.

If you are liberated from the right moral formation on how to act, what is going to be the result? Irrational behavior. And when enough people start to act irrationally, you are going to get a reaction (and it is not Donald Trump)—it is banks closing your account or refusing to do business with you because of what you think. It is the FBI placing parents on a terrorist watch list for acting like parents, or being banished from participating in the economy or community for not agreeing with the evolving liberal morality, and technology being used for the wrong reason and in unethical matters. In the Garden, Adam and Eve were free. As Pope John Paul II explains, their freedom had limits, “The man is certainly free, in as much as he can understand and accept God’s commands. And he possesses an extremely far-reaching freedom since he can eat of every tree of the garden. But his freedom is not unlimited: it must halt before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The problem with liberalism is that it has no limits, and sometimes you need limits. Tyranny shows up when liberalism runs its course and passions are incapable of being contained, and a new order is needed to keep the emerging disordered society functioning. The problem with most liberals is that they do not understand the consequences of their actions. This essay argues that demons are guiding those unknowingly liberal actions. Lucifer comes to you as a representative of liberalism and says he will liberate you—but what it really means is liberation from the moral order; and once liberated from the moral order, you are put under another form of control, not of your choosing.

Liberal elites spend billions of dollars socially engineering the manipulation of passions on how the reality of race, sex, science and religion is perceived. The culture is being deformed and molded into a ceaseless confrontation between every man, woman, and child. In principle, what is going on is the marketing of the idea of liberalism—it is being sold like a product, and it has no competition at the level that it is currently being consumed. The solution is not our side acting like play-by-play announcers on the sidelines, constantly commenting on the malaise or the occasional anti-woke slices of entertainment. Our target is not preaching to the choir but engaging directly with liberals and appealing to their concept of what they are for and against. Many individuals want freedom and oppose tyranny. However, some have been misled into thinking that liberalism is the only path to achieve freedom and happiness. They may even reject alternative worldviews based on the Bible, often dismissing them from historical context because they view the Bible as restricting their personal freedom and view it as oppressive, to enforce a moral code that goes beyond their individual autonomy. It is essential to understand that embracing liberalism can lead to a loss of freedom and the rise of oppressive political systems.

Instead, it is crucial to value Christian morality, traditional families, and customs as they serve as a true safeguard for freedom and liberty. This can be achieved by rejecting liberal ideologies and promoting the alternative idea that liberation without end will lead to a totalitarian state.

Anyone promoting liberal ideas needs to be prevented from reinfecting society and people need to be persuaded to stop voting for liberals.

We need to associate every social, cultural and political malady with liberalism—write books about it, publish articles and op-eds, and produce entertainment demonstrating the ineptitude of liberalism and liberal ideas in stories.

If you need an example why liberals need to be rejected the way, as Christians and conservatives are, read about the teacher who is “proud as f–k to be a liberal” and is in love with Communism; and if you want to see what happens when liberals are have power, watch this.

If the word “Mother” and “Father” can be eliminated and redefined, then so can liberalism. If Robin DiAngelo can publicly say and have CNN promote the idea that if “you’re a white person in America you’re a racist, pure and simple, and without a lifetime of conscious effort you always will be,” then we can promote the idea that if you are a liberal, you are undermining society in diabolical ways, and with a little conscious effort you can reverse the slid to tyranny.

Conclusion

Prioritizing individual autonomy and choice above all else will result in tyranny. Many people believe that any limitation on equality and freedom as a result of non-liberal values is oppressive. The liberal believes that the main goal of government is to protect its citizens from this type of oppression. As a result, it strives to eliminate these values from an ever-growing range of daily activities. James Kalb in his article, “The Tyranny of Liberalism,” explains how liberalism become tyrannical this way, “[liberalism] demands submission to arbitrary principles and conclusions. It insists on controlling everything that affects public life, including the human soul. It responds to criticism by silencing the critic. It destroys concrete freedom by centralizing power, by undermining standards that make free social life possible, and by destroying our connections to others and so making us dependent on universal systems utterly beyond our control. And in the name of giving us what we want it denies us everything worth having.”


Frank Pinski is a filmmaker and writer on politics and culture who also works as a researcher in the legal field. His debut film, It’s Easy Being Green When You Have No Choice: Sustainable Development and the End of History, explores the impact of sustainable development on freedom.


Featured: Demons Pulling People into the Jaws of Hell, by Heinrich Kley; painted ca. 1910-1915.


Flos Triticum

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Wheat Flower erat in villa mea pulcherrima puella. Alta, bene erecta, pulchroque sui fiducia gradiens, Clara risum splenduit campis, alta viarum Vendée secat silvas. Cum primis tepidis veris diebus albedo lactea cutis, lentigines sidere punctis

Rustici dicebant: Dominus bonus manipulum furfure in faciem proiecit.

Furfur et farina, ut videtur, nam facies eius sub radiis solis tam alba manebat ac si tritico oppessato pulvere inspergeretur. Hinc cognomen fortasse, vel rufis fortasse capillis Debebat, fulvis magis aequantibus ocellis. Dedit unam impressionem omnium pulcri auri-brunnei toni maturi tritici. Wheat Flower pulcher erat, et hoc sciebat, quia sic tota die narrabatur.

Vir agris non longe abhorret. Sensus eius estheticus non est idem cum nostro. Non linea, forma, gratia formae moventis movetur, sed colore afficitur potenter, sicut omnes quos humanitas non excoluit. Wheat Flower igitur est coloris animali, voluptatem igitur audiendi se pulchram praedicabat, et ad propulsandam lasciviam, interdum robustiores blanditias, virilis iuventutis usque ab Sainte Hermine in Chantonnay. Florem, ubi vis, ibi congregabuntur apes. Ubicumque occurristi pulchritudinis, videbis homines ad pabulandum venientes, oculis et manibus et labiis. Inter urbem et patriam est sola differentia occasus.

Cuius fama ultra pagi fines propagata, Wheat Flower habebat admirantium turbas quae in vicinia per multos dies non visa sunt. Superbia eius in oculis suis praestringitur, et si ad Cleopatram, in quem spectata mundi obtutus dicta esset, non esset certum, quod regina Aegyptia plus prodesse putasset. Rus ancilla. Quam ob rem laudo, quod multam adorantium enumerare stulte lusum est. Regina autem mortua erat et puella rustica: optimum omnium argumentum.

Fabulae iucunda pars est, Wheat Flower, dum se ab omnibus admirari, et invidisse omnibus foeminis, animum suum fidum amico, qui noverat conciliare, in quo egregie a Cleopatra differebat. Ille autem amicus, quoniam ad confessionem tandem veniendus est, nullus alius fuit quam humilis servus tuus. Condonari possim istius advocationis superbiam: Wheat Flower amavi, et Wheat Flower sentiebat de me, quod exhibere minime nolebat. Sequebam eam circa prata cum cane suo “Rubrum Udones,” sic dicta propter quatuor fulvos manus, et dum grex nimis inepte pascebatur ultra limitem ruris custodiae, narravi ei omnia de Nannetensi, ubi. hiemem habui. Obstupui ex libris meis fabulis, aut mecum de animalibus, quid egerunt, quid sentirent, mecum locuta est; quae mihi narravit extraordinarias fabulas. Proximae sibi erant animae nostrae, non eadem pectora nostra dicam, nam tristis amor nostri pars erat, heu, viginti sex vel septem, si starem in gradu. Hoc non difficile est, alterutrum tamen alterum amplecti. Postmodum intellexi meam fortunam.

Nostri optimi dies erant in tempore messis. Nondum rus invaserat fumus arenae machinae nefandus. Scibis adhuc in usu erat. Luce prima viri ac feminae in partes divisae areae circuire incipiebant, motusque eorum numeroso impetu lignei flagelli, humi stramentis obvoluti; pars quadrille sensim cederet, media pars paulatim procederet. Necessitas observandi, et conatus silere deiectos. Sed quam cachinnus et cantus motus cum pice lignea subiguntur, positis paleis! Aspiciet instratam messoribus meridiana torva solis humum, fallaxque timet rusticus umbram. Ad ictum campanae, sonorus concentus scloporum iterum undique aerem replebat.

Ad vesperum erant choreae et carmina in quibus Wheat Flower excellebat. Sciebat omnis regionis illius cantus, et nasi, indocta voce canebat, delectamentum rusticae auris, poemata ingenua, in quibus “Filius Regis”, “Luscinia” et “Ros” in phantasmatibus apparuerunt; laeta vel tristis. Vatem loci etiam de Wheat Flower, carmen liberioris et liberioris dialecti, fecerat, cuius cantilena florem triticum sub messe flagelli dedere segetem dicebat. Wheat Flower sine pudore falso cantu celebravit se, et erant denique iurgia, si quidam adulescentuli per iocum crederent in agendo abstinentiam ponere.

Serius vel serius, Wheat Flower sub messoris flagello tenebatur. Atque hic lectoris animum ad hanc fabulam voco, cuius meritum est omnium fabulae. Nullius enim maioris erroris scio, quam ut singula- rum rerum casus opinari soleant, quae faciunt vitam iucundam. Si quis inspiciat, reperietur vere mirabilia ea esse quae nobis cotidie accidunt, eaque duella, sica, etiam autocineta, odio comitante, invidia, proditione, amore, perfidia, re vera vulgaria eveniunt. In enorme vitae communis a nativitate ad mortem.

Ut sine ulla nostra voluntate ad huius mundi conscientiam adferamus, fatali concatenatione gaudiorum ac dolorum subiaceat fortunae periculo, et finem in tarda corruptione, quae nos ad antecedentem statum reducit. Nostri, nonne hoc summum casus est? Quid magis opus est ut miremur? Quidam, qui pessimistae vocantur, quodam murmure accipiunt. Alii, optimates existimati, tantam fortunam considerant, ut ad eam per consolationem studiose addant somnium coelestis adventus, quem quisque liberet exornare quantum libet.

Wheat Flower eius mentem non ullo ex hoc vexavit. Viginti erat illa, eo occupatior. Audivit vocem adulescentiae suae sicut praegressae feminae et quae sequuntur eam in terra. In campis, natura tam propinqua, homines minime impediti sunt conventionibus socialibus magis minusve phantasticis, quae humanas necessitudines moderari incipiunt inter duas creaturas, inter se esurientes et sitientes.

Peculiare genus placentae, quae “échaudé” dicitur, praecipuum est fructus industriae meae villae: placentam ex farina et ovis, delectabilem recentem e clibano, sed gravem et gravem sititatis causa, tempore procedente per bracchium usque ad Niortum, Rupellam seu Fontenay. Noctu vehitur vectura longis bigis ab equina trahentibus, cuius tarda et stabilis incessus saxa somnos agitatoris et mulieris comitantis praeesset ad vendendum placentas. Hae plostra terribilia internuntius sunt. Odor filicis periculi plenus est. Iacent duo somno pariter, sub dio. Non semper dormiunt, etiam post longum diem laborem. Forum oppidum procul abest. Inhumani censoresque moenibus suis quattuor inclusi sunt. Temptatio augetur per succussos qui unum contra alterum proiciunt. Quare resistendum est, cum tandem cedendum sit?

Wheat Flower, qui in his liba locupletis domestici mangonis elaboraverat, diem unum egregium ei “dominum” duxit, postquam ei dedit, nemine mirante, duo certa argumenta dociliorum ad gaudium ac munia maternitas. Proximi ruri narrabunt nihil esse extra ordinem in vita. Vir eius tantum diebus dominicis post vesperas, quando nimium biberat, eam verberavit, nec plus vindicavit in eum, quam necesse fuit ut extraneis ostenderet quod ultimum verbum non haberet.

Post aliquantum temporis spatium iterum eam vidi. Manipulus farinae et furfures adhuc erat ibi. Lustrabant oculi, crinemque tenus ardentibus alis tena ardent. Sed mihi visus eius aspectus acutior, iamque labiorum curva taedium prodidit vitae. Pulchellus adhuc nomen ei adhaesit, sed flos florem amiserat. Illa adhuc risit, sed iam non canebat. Ad eam Fortuna venerat, annuli fibulae, torques aureae testatae. Diebus dominicis gerebat pallium sericum et praecinctorium ad ecclesiam, et librum deauratum portabat, rem utilem etiam ab iis qui legere non possunt, cum eis satisfaciat ad excitandam invidiam proximi.

Visitatio mea ad pagum iam brevis et longe distans factus erat. Longe longe vixissemus, cum quadam die ei occurrisset, in una nostra alta via secat, ad pascuum ducentem vaccam. Senex, annosa, fracta, obsoleta mulier. Curabitur ut cessavimus. Mortuus est autem vir suus et reliquerat eam bonis, sed filii instarent ut omnia eis traderet. Dixeruntque “ad notarii” eius salarium se habituros.

“Debeo statuere animum ut faciam” finivit cum gemitu. “Credisne me heri verberare appropinquasse filium meum, eo quod nolui dicere necne?”

Decem amplius anni transierunt. Quodam die, cum per vicinum vicinum iret, mihi monstratum est gurgustium ruinae, et dicebatur “barbotte” ibi suos dies finire. Wheat Flower non fuit. Illa nunc erat “Barbotte” a nomine mariti sui Barbot.

Intravi. In media luce videre potui, sub reliquiis veteris pallii, caput quassans vetulae mulieris, facie siccante, retorrida membrana, oculis duobus flavis transfixis, in quibus obscurissima oculorum vestigia obdormierunt. Vicinus mihi narravit omnia de eo. Liberi non perstiterunt, quod nemo miratur. Res erat usitata. Aliquando, attulerunt ei frustum panis, interdum pulmentum, aut frusta ciborum die dominico, post missam. Anus infirma erat, et aegre se habebat. Putabatur autem servus semel in die venire et videre eam. Saepe oblitus est.

“Cur non querar?”, dixi inconsiderate.

“Dixit quodam die notarium mittere. Verberavit pro eo. Et quis vellet accipere nuntium suum? Nemo studet inimicis facere. Iam liberi eius nulli satis placebant ut quisquam intraret tuguriolum. Nolunt homines rebus suis miscere.”

Per hunc sermonem lacrimae lucebant in oculis nictantes flavo. “The Barbotte” me agnovit.

“Noli me turbari” dixit tenui voce timorem verberum prodidisse. “Nihil egeo. Pueri mei valde benigni sunt. Veniunt quotidie. Forsitan sis sicut ceteri, domine, putes me tempus grave in manibus meis invenire. Scisne quid agam, cum ego hic solus sum? Cano. In corde meo omnia carmina antiquitatis oblitus sum eorum et nunc revertuntur ad me tota die illa cantabo sine ullo sonitu et intus cano in medio eorum cum ego omnia complevi, iterum incipio. Est sicut grana mea narrans. Ridiculum est, annon?”

Et ridere conata.

“Monsieur le curé me obiurgat”, iterum sumpsit. “Vellet me dicere vota mea. Sed preces non prius institui quam carmina redire. Non possum. Meministine, nonne tu, Filius Regis?’ O filius regis! et ‘Luscinia?’ et ‘Rose?’ Tibi unum cantare volo, clare, pro meo animo. Quis? ‘Flos triticum!’ Flos triticeus! Ah… ” Cantare videbatur, sed inde fluens exclamavit: “Vexillum messoris venit. Frumentum sublatum est. Nihil restat nisi palea… et hoc male laeditur. Nimium trituratum est… Carissime domine, qui omnia nosti, potesne mihi dicere quare venimus in hunc mundum?

“Aliud dicam tibi, mi amice, cum iterum venero.”

Sed numquam recesserunt.

1920.


Featured: A Seated Peasant Woman, by Camille Pissarro; painted in 1885.


Long Live the Humanities, Ever Living!

An invitation to reflect on the love for the Humanities.

The meritorious writer, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, who is an on humor in Cervantes and is very much a humorist in his own right, has written a remarkable book. humor Eduardo Aguirre Romero, himself very much a humorist, author of the remarkable books, Vivan las Humanidades, siempre vivas (Long live the Humanities, Ever Living). Previously, he has written, Cervantes, enigma del humor (Cervantes, Enigma of Humor), Cine para caminar (Cinema to Walk With), Blues de Cervantes (Cervantes Blues), and Entrevista a Cervantes (Interview with Cervantes). His latest book was brought to the stage as a “dramatized conference,” at the Aula Magna of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at the University of León, during the institute’s joyful patron saint festivities for San Isidoro on April 18, 2023. The book includes a foreword by Professor José Montero Reguera, Dean of the Faculty of Philology and Translation at the University of Vigo.

The leading parts at the “dramatized conference” were played by:

  • Juan Matas Caballero, Professor and Corresponding Academician of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Fine Arts and Noble Arts of Córdoba, who has recently edited the magnum opus, Sonetos de Luis de Góngora (Sonnets of Luis de Góngora);
  • Marta Roa , the former Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of León, (who is actually the wife of Eduardo Aguirre Romero; this fact actually serves as a gag within a gag in the dramatized lecture);
  • Ángeles Rodríguez the renowned Mexican actress;
  • Juan Álvarez Iglesias, student at the Faculty and Letters;
  • Siro López Lorenzo, the essayist (such as, “Epilogue;” “Letter to Krzysztof Sliwa”), who is one of the most important Spanish graphic humorists and caricaturists;
  • Marcelo Tettamanti and Pedro Fergar, poets both of photography.

In his Prologue, the renowned Cervantes scholar Montero Reguera correctly observes that the role of a Dean of Humanities “is a very laborious job, not given to leisure, in which very curious and sometimes unthinkable things are dealt with… since it is up to us—philologists, philosophers, historians—to make our society capable of looking to the future with an open, expectant, curious, responsible vision.”

The Dramatic Conference.

Reguera rightly suggests that the “theatrical” Eduardo Aguirre Romero explains very well the role of a Dean of the Humanities in our very difficult times and alludes to his teacher the philologist Alonso Zamora Vicente (1916-2006)—who was also the teacher of the Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa (1936-) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (2010), and from whom Reguera quotes these words:

The young Spaniard must always be in the flesh, before Cervantes’ criticism of the society in which he lives, and learn from him the position that an intellectual must maintain in the face of the ever-changing socio-political structures; he must be in the vanguard of them, in permanent constructive opposition, marking an ethic and an inextinguishable desire for improvement” (Vivan, pp. 14-15).

Reguera agrees with Aguirre, and states that

The humanities are fundamental for being human, enriching to the highest degree, but also fun, a lot of fun: the stuff composed by Matas and Aguirre that ended up becoming a gangarilla, with the intervention of a certain de Saavedra [Cervantes], in the guise of Ángeles Rodríguez proves it. Come in, come in and read Aguirre, you will have a good time, and yes, you will end up shouting, with conviction, ‘Long Live the Humanities!’ (Vivan, p. 15).

Moving forward in time, let us now focus on the “dramatized conference,” which is the heart of the play, and in whose theatrical representation the members participate. They are Juan Mata Caballero, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, the Lady (Marta Roa), Miguel de Cervantes (Ángela Rodríguez), and Pancracio de Roncesvalles (Juan Álvarez Iglesias). They profess the challenges of the Humanities in this way:

Aguirre:
“They say that bad winds are blowing for our beloved Humanities… but when have good times ever blown for it?
“Tell me, which times have been good for the Humanities? And for the human?
“Finally, ask your parents or your grandparents about difficult times. Difficulty is part of the test, in studies and in professions, even in love and in life. This is what this minstrel of columns tells you.
“Who has seen many towers fall that I never imagined I would see fall. But I also see others rise. Raise your own towers, be builders of your reality and not mere passive objects of what they want to impose on you. It is not easy. But it never was.
“And yes, how can you deny it: an economic crisis that does not end… the conflict in Ukraine that puts it at risk.
“New totalitarian fascinations, right and left… a crisis of the Spanish educational system—not caused by teachers—that links with the previous one and the previous one and the previous one… the majority’s disaffection towards culture;
“All this is true, but it is not the only truth. Participate in the combat of values in which we have put you… and win it in our name” (Vivan, pp. 19-23).

Indeed, Aguirre emphasizes that “Humanities studies are the master pillar on which civilization has built the best of itself” (Vivan, p. 24). However, despite the crisis of the Humanities, Aguirre writes with elegance and appeals to students, teachers and amateur enthusiasts: “Yearn for excellence, as a first step to achieve that solid formation which must be the shield;” and “overcome the threats with the weapons of our values, but also of your academic formation” (Vivan, p. 26), because “a society without Humanities taught in public education would mean that the only criteria would be economic ones, in the name of what they call professional opportunities. Of course, and when there are not, create them. Let’s say it now, today Culture as we know it, which is not one but the sum of many, is also in danger. We cannot deny the obvious” (Vivan, p. 29).

Alongside this, in defense of the Humanities, Aguirre, who is a columnist for the Diario de León, resurrects Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, King of Spanish Literature, mentions some notorious examples throughout his work, and appeals to students in this way:

In this good fight, it is not enough to be enrolled, or to have tiptoed through it. Nor is it enough to save yourself by the skin of your teeth. Allow me to insist… yearn for excellence, yearn for it with joy and passion. Have a voracity for knowledge…. You are in a wonderful stage in which your main obligation is to train yourselves. You will never have so much time for it again. These years are your foundation for the future” (Vivan, pp. 29-31).

To further reinforce his opinion of the Humanities, despite the challenges, Aguirre (himself a member of the Cervantistas Association) teaches the reader the power of the Humanities, which are valuable not only valuable for men of letters, but constitute pearls of wisdom from the genius of universal literature. Thus, Aguirre deduces that “Cervantes and his most universal masterpiece have an enormous formative power, without the need to take it to nineteenth-century distortions or to mutate it into a lackey of May ’68” (Vivan, p. 49). Aguirre, with his deep curiosity, emphasizes a great honesty:

Aguirre: The Humanities are not only what you know, but also—or above all—what you do” (Vivan, p. 33);

and then he rightly recommends this course of action:

Cervantes- “TRAIN yourselves… CREATE yourselves… BUILD yourselves… WRITE yourselves… READ… LISTEN… In short, FIGHT… for what is yours, which belongs to everyone. And also, of course… LAUGH… LOVE… SING…” (Vivan, p. 38).

It is also important to state that it is a great honor and privilege for me to give you my sincere thanks for defending the Humanities through theater, and to congratulate the playwright Eduardo Aguirre Romero, sincere believer, effective observer of reality and versatile writer, for his magnificent theatrical work, a scenic landmark of the Humanities, which illustrates the fundamental values of sincere love and true sacrifice, won with love, pain and humor, oriented to all humanity. My congratulations I also extend to all the theatrical characters, and to the exemplary editorial achievement, in a work designed to be distributed free of charge among teachers and students, as it is already being done. My warmest congratulations to all!

It should be emphasized that the gag that closes the book, that the Quixote delivered by Aguirre to Cervantes for his signature is by mistakenly the apocryphal one (1614), so by Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, at least in the edition of the Royal Spanish Academy, and is a tribute to the meritorious professor Luis Gomez Canseco, of the University of Huelva. At the same time, I emphasize that it is only right to be grateful for the dedication that the author makes to me and for the letter he sends me at the end of the book.

Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, Eduardo Aguirre proclaims unconditional love and aesthetic, human, personal, social and universal values through his unwavering pen for the Humanities, which contribute decisively to the more humane formation of the global citizen, but which gradually tend to be conspicuous by their absence in university classrooms.

Aguirre, who loves humanity, reflects the current situation of the humanities around the world through his characters and themes. He relies on wise and healthy humor, because weise Wörter sind gesund—thus he captures the reader’s soul, and invites us to defend the Humanities and make us better human beings.

In conclusion, the masterpiece, Vivan las Humanidades, siempre vivas, illuminates the path of our heart; it beautifies us spiritually, and proves that it is beneficial and indispensable to serve by leading and loving the Humanities and all Humanity. Congratulations to all!


Krzysztof Sliwa is a professor, writer for Galatea, a journal of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain, and a specialist in the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the Spanish Golden Age Literature, all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in English, German, Spanish and Polish, and is the Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Cordoba and Toledo.


Featured: Cervantes writes the dedication of Don Quixote to the Count of Lemos, by Eugenio Oliva Rodrigo; painted in 1883.


Ukraine, or Hatred as Virtue

The conflict in the Ukraine has brought unexpected clarity to the meshwork of contradictions that bestrew the so-called “civilized.” The West breathlessly presents itself as “righteous” and “good,” while very little inside it can still be described as such: “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).

For example:

  • The law has been unhinged entirely from actions once deemed criminal. Children are avidly and maliciously taught sexual perversions in schools, even to the destruction of their own bodies, while actions once thought criminal are simply “reparations” and therefore never to be punished.
  • Transvestitism has become a great campaign to rewrite humanity itself.
  • Anti-white racism is now the “normal” Western habit of mind.
  • Mass immigration has destroyed indigenous Western populations, despite the West’s rhetoric of care for indigeneity.
  • Deindustrialization has transitioned into defarming so that food can cease being abundant.
  • The age-old anti-Catholic assumptions have expanded into a total war against the last vestiges of Christianity, the foundational moral-structure of the now atheistic West.
  • Economics, once designed to sustain and expand human welfare, is now a tool to destroy it.
  • Culture, which once housed the strength of Western values, is now a tool to destroy them.
  • “Human rights,” “freedom,” “democracy” are empty phrases, repeated piously, while nothing in present-day Western society suggests that these qualities actually exist.
  • The traditional understanding of technology as a helpmate of humanity has become a method for its control, and even its destruction.
  • Care for nature has veered into anti-natalism and the hatred of humanity itself.
  • Truth is no longer needed, since the lie serves far more important purposes and constructs.

The project of the West is no longer to expand the benefits of civilization, but to destroy civilization so that a new world may be born, in which there are only as many humans as needed. This is known as “progress” and is the very lifeblood of the West today.

A single thread unites all these progressive efforts—the lie, and the chief attribute of the lie is hatred. Those that deny the lie must be hated. One becomes virtuous in the West by proudly hating what is supposed to be hated. The government marks for the public what and who is to be hated and loved. And the people, with the help of the media-education-entertainment complex suitable adapt their emotions, and express outrage or approval as mandated. Such manipulation is no longer subtle; it is in-your-face, because the public has been lied to for so very long that they can no longer understand subtlety. They demand coarseness—the more vulgar, the better.

The conflict in Ukraine, among many other things, is one such Western construct, a glossography, where lies and hatred exquisitely intertwine. Russia is to be lied about and openly hated—because Russia is the government-approved “enemy,” and dutifully all the gourmands of hatred try to outvie each other to see who can spew the vilest of hate against the “enemy.” This competition has strongly united nations and populations. How do I hate thee, let me count the ways…

The examples of such pharisaical expressions are now dime-a-dozen and easily found, even in the most unexpected of places. Examples of Western Russophobia are endless, and there is little point in repeating them, from the never-ending rounds of sanctions against Russia (round 11 is now being packaged), to Zelensky of Ukraine prohibiting Russian books form being published or imported into his country, lest the purity of his nation be destroyed by contact with Russian, to some rich author canceling her own book because it was thoughtlessly, horror of horrors, set in Russia. Or, just ordinary folk letting off a bit of steam.

But the honor of uttering the foulest venom must go to Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland. Needless to say, the government of Poland specializes in fomenting rancor against Russia—it feels that this is its God-given role now in the world—to make the world realize just how beastly and evil Russians are. Such is the divine mission of Polish politicians, and they certainly revel in it.

On June 23, 2023, for example, in an interview given to a Ukrainian TV Channel (Espreso), Duda dropped these gems of wisdom:

“Russia cannot be allowed to win because it will continue to advance. This will support its imperialism. It is like a wild beast that will eat a human being. If a wild beast eats a human being, it is usually said that it should be hunted down and shot because it is used to eating human flesh. The same with Russia.”

Such sphinxian knowledge Polish politicians, like him, alone possess:

“Perhaps the West does not understand this, but we know it very well.” To clarify: “it” being Russia, the man-eating beast.

Just replace “it” with… say… “Israel” and see what happens, as you’re hauled off to jail, in any “free” and “democratic” Western country, for hate-speech. But Russia. No problem. Say what you like. All hatred is acceptable. Knock yourself out. Your government expects you to hate Russia. If you don’t—there’s something seriously wrong with you, and more than likely you’re a Putin agent. I won’t mention the Two Minutes Hate à la 1984. Duda is the Virgil of our age, in an anti-Divine-Comedy of his own contrivance, his pansophical finger pointing out the nine-levels of depravity of the Russian beast. Quite the calling!

You see, Russia is the new “infidel” that must be routed and annihilated. Only a Russia-less world can be truly “free” and “democratic.”

But before long, Duda remembered that he was the president of some country or other, and shoved in a tad of lawyer-gibberish, to give himself that air of authority:

“This is a necessary condition [killing the man-eating beast] for a successful and just end to this war. What should it be? At least in such a way as to restore the supremacy of international law. International law will be restored when Russia is pushed out of all occupied lands in Ukraine.”

Murdering an entire nation is justice, and the only way this war in Ukraine can end “justly” is when Russia is killed off, like a rabid beast. What’s mass murder among Western friends? It’s all to restore “the supremacy of international law,” after all. Nothing wrong with that at all, is there?

And then Duda catches himself, with an olive branch to any Ukrainian peacenik that might be listening to the Espreso interview (there must be such a creature, somewhere in Ukraine. Rara avis, no doubt and seldom sighted, but there must be one. A hint to birders). Duda suggests that the death-blow should not be quick and painless. Oh no. That would be anticlimactic and therefore disappointing. He has readied the scarpines for Putin. Yes, indeed:

“We must make sure that we, together with Ukraine, tire Russian society and torture Putin.”

But then Duda knows a thing or two about torture, given how you get treated in Polish prisons, so that the penal system needs a regular check-up.

On a side note, in order to hate Russia properly, you also have to show excessive love for Ukraine, and especially for Zelensky. Is this why every Western leader that meets him has to hug him, and look longingly into his eyes and just hug him again. There’s a lot of homoerotism going on with Zelensky; but then Zelensky is used to such affection.

This is why, Duda had to come out of the closet at last and let it all hang out:

“President Zelensky and I love each other, but we are involved in politics.”

And once politics is done, look out world!

This would explain the special hugs reserved for his great love.

One can only hope that one day the good people of Poland will wake up and refuse to be led by such crackpots. But that is an awakening that needs to happen throughout the West. We’re all sick and tired of our leaders. Maybe Duda was actually on to something about how to treat man-eating beasts…


C.B. Forde is a full-time farmer and part-time reader of books, even those suggested to him, at times, by his wife.


Romulus and Remus, or the Sacred Importance of the Border

Although with some differences of nuance, Titus Livy and Plutarch tell the fratricidal story of Romulus and Remus. The former, in the founding act of Rome, is in charge of tracing with the plow the furrow of the new city, following the Etruscan rite. Suitably attired for the sacred event, Romulus prepares the plow with a bronze ploughshare and attaches it to the yoke, joining it to a bull on the outside and a cow on the inside, both completely white. Holding tightly the rudder of the inclined implement, so that the excavated earth faces inwards, he skillfully traces the sulcus primigenius in a counterclockwise direction. The urbs is built on the basis of the sacred border, which perimeters its space, distinguishing it from the other part of itself.

Remus, who had emerged defeated from the augural dispute, tries to hinder the operations by mocking his brother: “Finally,” Plutarch recounts, “he crossed the moat, but fell, struck down at that very point, according to some by Romulus himself, according to others by a companion of Romulus named Celere.” Titus Livy also directly relates the words uttered by Romulus at the height of his anger, after having committed fratricide: “From now on, anyone who dares to climb over my walls shall so die.”

The myth poses, in its own way, a possible solution ante litteram to Antigone’s dilemma formulated by Hegel. For Romulus there is no doubt—the law of the urbs takes precedence over the family ethical bond, especially when the latter violates the just measure, instead of respecting it. But, above all, the mythological narrative speaks of the sacredness of the frontier as a limit that defines an identity—in this case, the political and cultural identity of Rome—delimiting it and differentiating it from what it is not. Without a border there can be no identity, which is the very basis of the existence of difference, which always presupposes the plurality of non-coincident identities and, therefore, separated from one another. In turn, without identity there can be no relation either, which is, by its essence, a relation between identities with precise limits. The latter mark the end of the one and the beginning of the other, as well as the possibility of a relational nexus, different from that derived from the abuse of the one to the detriment of the other that occurs when it perpetrates its invasion.

The civilization of markets without borders gives rise to a permanent invasion that is certainly not intended to favor the relationship between those who are different, not even in the form of dialogue. This, as the Greek word (διάλογος) unequivocally suggests, always implies a distance and, therefore, a clear threshold separating the dialoguers, who are nothing but different identities placed in a friendly relationship mediated by language. On the contrary, the invasion of the market, which is the imperialism of the undifferentiated neutral, aspires to produce the suppression of differences and identities, so that everything falls into the abyss of sameness and the globally homologated. Strictly speaking, globalization itself could well be conceived as the neutralization of differences and identities, and as the transit of the whole planet towards the global neutral, without material or immaterial, national or identity borders. It is the post-mortem revenge of Remus and his drive for invasion, for the neutralization of the limits that make one identity different from another.

In this sense it is valid for the existing nexus between identities and differences, what we have explained on other occasions in relation to the connection between national states and internationalism. The friendly relationship of internationalism presupposes the existence of sovereign nation states, freed from their nationalist impulses in a regressive sense: the suppression of sovereign nation states does not lead to internationalism, but to the reified open space of market globalism, which is the unification of the world under the banner of the market economy, freed from the limits of sovereign politics.

Similarly, it is a pure non sequitur to think of being able to favor dialogue among the different by dissolving identities. Under this premise, only the monotony of the indistinct arises, which is given as a consumerist homologation of identities and, jointly, as a planetary triumph of the Unique Thought as the only admitted thought. The different that does not accept to disidentify and homogenize with the other of itself, is declared, sic et simpliciter, illegitimate and dangerous. And as such he is treated—he is neutralized and reeducated to the point of indifferentiation. Therefore, even in this case, this dialogue between the different ones, which always presupposes that the different ones are different and that they have their specific identity, does not prevail. On the other hand, the same thing triumphs on a global scale—the same language, the same thinking, the same way of being and producing, of living and relating to others.

On the level of identities, as in the case of nation-states, the identification of two abstractly opposed and concretely complementary poles is also valid. Regressive nationalism and market globalism are fulfilled in each other: regressive nationalism, which has within itself the drive to attack the other in the name of one’s own, is realized in globalism. The latter is the final stage of nationalism, since it coincides with the subjugation of the entire planet under the domination of the one triumphant nation, whose currency is the dollar and whose language is Wall Street English. Nationalism is fulfilled in globalism, which presupposes it.

The link which can be established between regressive identitarianism and anti-identitarian cosmopolitanism is no different. The former aspires to deny the identity of others, and therefore difference, through the universal imposition of what is their own. The second coincides with the evil universalization of an identity that in reality is not such because it does not admit difference and therefore, like Remus, does not respect the frontier that, separating from the other, defines what is its own. Regressive identitarianism is fulfilled in anti-identitarian cosmopolitanism, which presupposes it; and which has in common with the former the denial of the right to difference, suppressed in the name of the imperialism of particularity itself.

And this, as we know, is another name for ideology, which is the “abstract will of the universal” and the concrete triumph of the particular. But the universal, in its authentic sense, is never the part that imposes itself as universal—it is, instead, that which exists as a concrete universal, which does not annul the particularities but is realized in them and by them. This allows us to affirm, once again, that identity can only exist in the presence of difference and that, consequently, it is given by definition, declined in the plural, as a nexus between different identities.

The task of culture, which is undoubtedly also and not secondarily to educate in identity, can be said to be successfully accomplished only when it produces respect for differences and for the consequent connection that is generated between difference and identity. In short, nothing could be more sidereally distant from both the petty tribal identitarianism, which denies the other in the name of its own, and the “empty bottom line” of anti-identity cosmopolitanism, which sells the fantasy of favoring dialogue among the different while denying their identity and, therefore, the very premise of all dialogue. Culture is, in the proper sense, to educate in identity and, therefore, in self-consciousness—well understood that this is only possible if at the same time one educates in the recognition of difference.

The latter must be interpreted neither as an unwelcome survival of the foreign, which must be made identical and therefore neutralized, nor as a strange reality, with which any comparison is impossible a priori. Difference asks, au contraire, to be thought of Spinozianly, as one of the diverse attributes of the unique substance, differentiated in itself—an attribute which, therefore, must not be denied in the name of undifferentiated identity, but valued in its being as a different manifestation of the substance itself. From which must follow then the need for an education in polyphony and difference, which can only be recognized and appreciated if one possesses one’s own identity.

In antithesis to the perspectives of regressive identitarianism and anti-identitarian cosmopolitanism, humanity exists as a singular collective; if one wishes, also as an articulated Unity and as a differentiated Totality, as a plurality of identities and differences, in which the unity of the human race is expressed in multiple forms. To truly love humanity means, then, to love the differences and identities that compose it—above all from the love for one’s own cultural identity, for one’s own people, for one’s own language, for one’s own territory. It means respecting the border as a symbol of identity and of the right measure, and therefore as a barrier against invasion, against disidentification and against the unlimited.


Diego Fusaro is professor of History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns[This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia].


Featured: Romulus marking the Limits of Rome, fresco, Sala dei Horatii e Curatii, Rome; painted by Giuseppe Cesari, 1638-1639.


Pater

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Homo, de quo hic sermo est, ditissimus ac potentissimus fuit in sua parochia; nomen ejus Thord Överaas. Apparuit uno die in sacerdotii studio alta et studiosa.

“Filium habeo”, inquit, et ego illum volo ad baptismum exhibere.

Quod erit nomen eius?

“Finn-post patrem meum.”

“Ac sponsores?”

Quibus commemoratis et probati sunt optimi viri ac feminae relationes Thord in paroecia.

“Numquid est aliud?” Quaesivit sacerdotem et vidit; Cunctatus paulatim rusticus.

“Per se ipsum baptizari,” inquit, “vehementer velim.”

“Hoc est dicere in hebdomade die?”

“Sabbato sequenti, hora sexta sexta.”

“Numquid est aliud?” quaesivit sacerdos.

“Nihil aliud”, et rusticus pileum volutabat, quasi iturus esset.

Surrexerunt ergo sacerdos. “Est tamen hoc, tamen.” Et ambulans versus Thord, apprehensa manu, intuens graviter in oculos suos: “Deus faxit ut filius fiat tibi benedictio!”

Olim sedecim annis post Thord denuo in studio sacerdotii stetit.

“Vere, admirabiliter aetatem tuam geris, Thorde,” inquit sacerdos; nihil enim videbat in homine mutandum.

“Id est, quia molestias non habeo,” respondit Thord. Ad haec sacerdos nihil dixit, sed aliquantisper quaesivit: “Quid placet hoc vespere?”

“Veni vesperi de illo filio meo cras confirmandus.”

“Ille puer clarus est.”

“Nolebam reddere sacerdoti, donec audivi quem numerum haberet puer, cum cras in ecclesia substitueret.”

“Stabit unus numerus.”

“Sic audivi; et hic sunt decem denarii sacerdoti.”

“Nihil aliud possum facere vobis?” percontatus sacerdotem intuens Thord.

“Nihil aliud.”

Thord exivit.

Octo annis amplius volvebatur, ac deinde quadam die extra sacerdotii studium strepitus audiebatur, multi enim appropinquabant, et ad caput eorum Thord, qui primus intravit.

Sacerdos intuens eum agnovit.

“Hoc vespere bene venisti, Thord,” inquit.

“Hic peto ut banna edantur filio meo: uxorem ducet Karen Storliden Gudmundi filia, quae hic iuxta me stat.”

“Quare, id est opulentissima puella in parochia.”

“Sic rusticus,” inquiunt, “comam manu gestans reduxit.”

Sacerdos aliquandiu quasi in profunda cogitatione sedit, deinde nomina in libro suo ingressus, nulla commentatione faciens, subscripserant homines subscriptis. Thord tria dollaria in mensa posuit.

Dixit sacerdos: “Unum est totum habeo”, ait sacerdos.

“Optime scio; sed unicus meus est; id pulchre facere volo.”

Sacerdos pecuniam sumpsit.

“Hoc jam tertium est, Thorde, quod propter filium tuum huc venisti.”

“At nunc cum eo sum”, Thord dixit, et sinum plicans vale dixit et abierat.

Milites eum tardius secuti sunt.

Quindecim post dies, pater et filius per lacum remigabant, una tranquillitas, adhuc die, Storliden ad nuptias ordinandas.

“Haec sedes remigis tuta non est,” inquit filius, et stitit ut sedem in qua sedebat corrigat.

Eodem momento sub eo delapsa tabula stabat; arma eiecit, clamorem dedit et excidit.

“Apprehende remum!” Conclamat pater, tendens ad pedes, tenensque remum.

Sed cum filius duos conatus fecisset, invaluit.

“Expectate paulisper!” exclamat pater, remigio filio coepit.

Tum filius supinus revolutus, longo vultu patri dedit, demersit.

Thord vix credere potuit; Ille navem tenuit, et in eo loco, quo filius eius descenderat, intuens, quasi ad superficiem rursus veniret. Surrexerunt aliquae bullae, deinde aliae plures, et tandem una magna quae rumpitur; et lacus ibi tam levis et splendens sicut speculum iterum jacebat.

Per tres dies et tres noctes patrem remigium circum circaque cernebant, nullo cibo aut somno adsumptis; ipse lacus corpus filii traxit. Et ad mane diei tertiae invenit eam, et portavit eam in brachiis suis super colles in villam suam.

Fuerat autem annus ab illa die, cum sacerdos, in sero uno autumnali vespere, audivit aliquem in transitu extra ostium, diligenter quaerens invenire foramen. Sacerdos ianuam aperuit, et ambulabat in alta, macilentus, inclinato forma et pilis albis. Sacerdos diu intuens eum antequam agnovisset. Fuit Thord.

“Esne tam sero ambulans?” dixit sacerdos, et stetit coram eo.

“Ah, Etiam sero est”, Thord dixit, et cathedram assumpsit.

Sacerdos quoque quasi expectans discubuit. Longum et longum silentium est. Tandem Thord dixit:

“Habeo aliquid apud me quod velim eleemosynis dare; volo in filio nomine collocari legatum.”

Et resurrexit, et posuit pecuniam in mensa, et iterum resedit. Sacerdos reputavit.

“Magna pecunia est”, inquit.

“Dimidium pretium agri mei est. Ego eum hodie vendidi.”

Sacerdos diu silebat. Tandem rogat, sed leniter.

“Quid nunc facere vis, Thord?”

“Melius.”

Ibi aliquamdiu sederunt, Thordus demissis oculis, in Thord defixis oculis sacerdos. Mox sacerdos, lente ac molliter dixit.

“Puto tandem filium tuum veram benedictionem attulisse.”

“Ita reor ita me”, dixit Thord aspiciens, dum duae magnae lachrymae lento genas percurrebant.

Ex Björnstjerne Björnson (1838-1910).


Featured: The Old Fisherman, by Hans Heyerdahl; painted in 1891.


Richard Wagner: A Life

I.

It is curious to note how often art-controversy has become edged with a bitterness rivaling even the gall and venom of religious dispute. Scholars have not yet forgotten the fiery war of words which raged between Richard Bentley and his opponents concerning the authenticity of the “Epistles of Phalaris,” nor how literary Germany was divided into two hostile camps by Wolf’s attack on the personality of Homer. It is no less fresh in the minds of critics how that modern Jupiter, Lessing, waged a long and bitter battle with the Titans of the French classical drama, and finally crushed them with the thunderbolt of the “Dramaturgie;” nor what acrimony sharpened the discussion between the rival theorists in music, Gluck and Piccini, at Paris. All of the intensity of these art-campaigns, and many of the conditions of the last, enter into the contest between Richard Wagner and the Italianissimi of the present day.

The exact points at issue were for a long time so befogged by the smoke of the battle that many of the large class who are musically interested, but never had an opportunity to study the question, will find an advantage in a clear and comprehensive sketch of the facts and principles involved. Until recently, there were still many people who thought of Wagner as a youthful and eccentric enthusiast, all afire with misdirected genius, a mere carpet-knight on the sublime battle-field of art, a beginner just sowing his wild-oats in works like “Lohengrin,” “Tristan and Iseult,” or the “Rheingold.” It is a revelation full of suggestive value for these to realize that he is a musical thinker, ripe with sixty years of labor and experience; that he represents the rarest and choicest fruits of modern culture, not only as musician, but as poet and philosopher; that he is one of the few examples in the history of the art where massive scholarship and the power of subtile analysis have been united, in a preeminent degree, with great creative genius. Preliminary to a study of what Wagner and his disciples entitle the “Artwork of the Future,” let us take a swift survey of music as a medium of expression for the beautiful, and some of the forms which it has assumed.

This Ariel of the fine arts sends its messages to the human soul by virtue of a fourfold capacity: Firstly, the imitation of the voices of Nature, such as the winds, the waves, and the cries of animals; secondly, its potential delight as melody, modulation, rhythm, harmony—in other words, its simple worth as a “thing of beauty,” without regard to cause or consequence; thirdly, its force of boundless suggestion; fourthly, that affinity for union with the more definite and exact forms of the imagination (poetry), by which the intellectual context of the latter is raised to a far higher power of grace, beauty, passion, sweetness, without losing individuality of outline—like, indeed, the hazy aureole which painters set on the brow of the man Jesus, to fix the seal of the ultimate Divinity. Though several or all of these may be united in the same composition, each musical work may be characterized in the main as descriptive, sensuous, suggestive, or dramatic, according as either element contributes most largely to its purpose. Simple melody or harmony appeals mostly to the sensuous love of sweet sounds. The symphony does this in an enlarged and complicated sense, but is still more marked by the marvelous suggestive energy with which it unlocks all the secret raptures of fancy, floods the border-lands of thought with a glory not to be found on sea or land, and paints ravishing pictures, that come and go like dreams, with colors drawn from the “twelve-tinted tone-spectrum.”

Shelley describes this peculiar influence of music in his “Prometheus Unbound,” with exquisite beauty and truth:

 "My soul is an enchanted boat,
 Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
 Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
 And thine doth like an angel sit
 Beside the helm conducting it,
 While all the waves with melody are ringing.
 It seems to float ever, forever,
 Upon that many-winding river,
 Between mountains, woods, abysses,
 A paradise of wildernesses."

As the symphony best expresses the suggestive potency in music, the operatic form incarnates its capacity of definite thought, and the expression of that thought. The term “lyric,” as applied to the genuine operatic conception, is a misnomer. Under the accepted operatic form, however, it has relative truth, as the main musical purpose of opera seems, hitherto, to have been less to furnish expression for exalted emotions and thoughts, or exquisite sentiments, than to grant the vocal virtuoso opportunity to display phenomenal qualities of voice and execution. But all opera, however it may stray from the fundamental idea, suggests this dramatic element in music, just as mere lyricism in the poetic art is the blossom from which is unfolded the full-blown perfection of the word-drama, the highest form of all poetry.

II.

That music, by and of itself, cannot express the intellectual element in the beautiful dream-images of art with precision, is a palpable truth. Yet, by its imperial dominion over the sphere of emotion and sentiment, the connection of the latter with complicated mental phenomena is made to bring into the domain of tone vague and shifting fancies and pictures. How much further music can be made to assimilate to the other arts in directness of mental suggestion, by wedding to it the noblest forms of poetry, and making each the complement of the other, is the knotty problem which underlies the great art-controversy about which this article concerns itself. On the one side we have the claim that music is the all-sufficient law unto itself; that its appeal to sympathy is through the intrinsic sweetness of harmony and tune, and the intellect must be satisfied with what it may accidentally glean in this harvest-field; that, in the rapture experienced in the sensuous apperception of its beauty, lies the highest phase of art-sensibility. Therefore, concludes the syllogism, it matters nothing as to the character of the libretto or poem to whose words the music is arranged, so long as the dramatic framework suffices as a support for the flowery festoons of song, which drape its ugliness and beguile attention by the fascinations of bloom and grace. On the other hand, the apostles of the new musical philosophy insist that art is something more than a vehicle for the mere sense of the beautiful, an exquisite provocation wherewith to startle the sense of a selfish, epicurean pleasure; that its highest function—to follow the idea of the Greek Plato, and the greatest of his modern disciples, Schopenhauer—is to serve as the incarnation of the true and the good; and, even as Goethe makes the Earth-Spirit sing in “Faust”—

 "'Tis thus over at the loom of Time I ply,
 And weave for God the garment thou seest him by"—

so the highest art is that which best embodies the immortal thought of the universe as reflected in the mirror of man’s consciousness; that music, as speaking the most spiritual language of any of the art-family, is burdened with the most pressing responsibility as the interpreter between the finite and the infinite; that all its forms must be measured by the earnestness and success with which they teach and suggest what is best in aspiration and truest in thought; that music, when wedded to the highest form of poetry (the drama), produces the consummate art-result, and sacrifices to some extent its power of suggestion, only to acquire a greater glory and influence, that of investing definite intellectual images with spiritual raiment, through which they shine on the supreme altitudes of ideal thought; that to make this marriage perfect as an art-form and fruitful in result, the two partners must come as equals, neither one the drudge of the other; that in this organic fusion music and poetry contribute, each its best, to emancipate art from its thralldom to that which is merely trivial, commonplace, and accidental, and make it a revelation of all that is most exalted in thought, sentiment, and purpose. Such is the aesthetic theory of Richard Wagner’s art-work.

III.

It is suggestive to note that the earliest recognized function of music, before it had learned to enslave itself to mere sensuous enjoyment, was similar in spirit to that which its latest reformer demands for it in the art of the future. The glory of its birth then shone on its brow. It was the handmaid and minister of the religious instinct. The imagination became afire with the mystery of life and Nature, and burst into the flames and frenzies of rhythm. Poetry was born, but instantly sought the wings of music for a higher flight than the mere word would permit. Even the great epics of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” were originally sung or chanted by the Ilomerido, and the same essential union seems to have been in some measure demanded afterward in the Greek drama, which, at its best, was always inspired with the religious sentiment. There is every reason to believe that the chorus of the drama ofÆschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides uttered their comments on the action of the play with such a prolongation and variety of pitch in the rhythmic intervals as to constitute a sustained and melodic recitative. Music at this time was an essential part of the drama. When the creative genius of Greece had set toward its ebb, they were divorced, and music was only set to lyric forms. Such remained the status of the art till, in the Italian Renaissance, modern opera was born in the reunion of music and the drama. Like the other arts, it assumed at the outset to be a mere revival of antique traditions. The great poets of Italy had then passed way, and it was left for music to fill the void.

The muse, Polyhymnia, soon emerged from the stage of childish stammering. Guittone di Arezzo taught her to fix her thoughts in indelible signs, and two centuries of training culminated in the inspired composers, Orlando di Lasso and Pales-trina. Of the gradual degradation of the operatic art as its forms became more elaborate and fixed; of the arbitrary transfer of absolute musical forms like the aria, duet, finale, etc., into the action of the opera without regard to poetic propriety; of the growing tendency to treat the human voice like any other instrument, merely to show its resources as an organ; of the final utter bondage of the poet to the musician, till opera became little more than a congeries of musico-gymnastic forms, wherein the vocal soloists could display their art, it needs not to speak at length, for some of these vices have not yet disappeared. In the language of Dante’s guide through the Inferno, at one stage of their wanderings, when the sights were peculiarly mournful and desolate—

 "Non raggioniam da lor, ma guarda e passa."

The loss of all poetic verity and earnestness in opera furnished the great composer Gluck with the motive of the bitter and protracted contest which he waged with varying success throughout Europe, though principally in Paris. Gluck boldly affirmed, and carried out the principle in his compositions, that the task of dramatic music was to accompany the different phases of emotion in the text, and give them their highest effect of spiritual intensity. The singer must be the mouthpiece of the poet, and must take extreme care in giving the full poetical burden of the song. Thus, the declamatory music became of great importance, and Gluck’s recitative reached an unequaled degree of perfection.

The critics of Gluck’s time hurled at him the same charges which are familiar to us now as coming from the mouths and pens of the enemies of Wagner’s music. Yet Gluck, however conscious of the ideal unity between music and poetry, never thought of bringing this about by a sacrifice of any of the forms of his own peculiar art. His influence, however, was very great, and the traditions of the great maestro’s art have been kept alive in the works of his no less great disciples, Méhul, Cherubini, Spontini, and Meyerbeer.

Two other attempts to ingraft new and vital power on the rigid and trivial sentimentality of the Italian forms of opera were those of Rossini and Weber. The former was gifted with the greatest affluence of pure melodiousness ever given to a composer. But even his sparkling originality and freshness did little more than reproduce the old forms under a more attractive guise. Weber, on the other hand, stood in the van of a movement which had its fountain-head in the strong romantic and national feeling, pervading the whole of society and literature. There was a general revival of mediaeval and popular poetry, with its balmy odor of the woods, and fields, and streams. Weber’s melody was the direct offspring of the tunefulness of the German Volkslied, and so it expressed, with wonderful freshness and beauty, all the range of passion and sentiment within the limits of this pure and simple language. But the boundaries were far too narrow to build upon them the ultimate union of music and poetry, which should express the perfect harmony of the two arts. While it is true that all of the great German composers protested, by their works, against the spirit and character of the Italian school of music, Wagner claims that the first abrupt and strongly-defined departure toward a radical reform in art is found in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with chorus. Speaking of this remarkable leap from instrumental to vocal music in a professedly symphonic composition, Wagner, in his “Essay on Beethoven,” says: “We declare that the work of art, which was formed and quickened entirely by that deed, must present the most perfect artistic form, i.e., that form in which, as for the drama, so also and especially for music, every conventionality would be abolished.” Beethoven is asserted to have founded the new musical school, when he admitted, by his recourse to the vocal cantata in the greatest of his symphonic works, that he no longer recognized absolute music as sufficient unto itself.

In Bach and Handel, the great masters of fugue and counterpoint; in Rossini, Mozart, and Weber, the consummate creators of melody—then, according to this view, we only recognize thinkers in the realm of pure music. In Beethoven, the greatest of them all, was laid the basis of the new epoch of tone-poetry. In the immortal songs of Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Franz, and the symphonies of the first four, the vitality of the reformatory idea is richly illustrated. In the music-drama of Wagner, it is claimed by his disciples, is found the full flower and development of the art-work.

William Richard Wagner, the formal projector of the great changes whose details are yet to be sketched, was born at Leipsic in 1813. As a child he displayed no very marked artistic tastes, though his ear and memory for music were quite remarkable. When admitted to the Kreuzschule of Dresden, the young student, however, distinguished himself by his very great talent for literary composition and the classical languages. To this early culture, perhaps, we are indebted for the great poetic power which has enabled him to compose the remarkable libretti which have furnished the basis of his music. His first creative attempt was a blood-thirsty drama, where forty-two characters are killed, and the few survivors are haunted by the ghosts. Young Wagner soon devoted himself to the study of music, and, in 1833, became a pupil of Theodor Weinlig, a distinguished teacher of harmony and counterpoint. His four years of study at this time were also years of activity in creative experiment, as he composed four operas.

His first opera of note was “Rienzi,” with which he went to Paris in 1837. In spite of Meyerbeer’s efforts in its favor, this work was rejected, and laid aside for some years. Wagner supported himself by musical criticism and other literary work, and soon was in a position to offer another opera, “Der fliegende Hollander,” to the authorities of the Grand Opera-House. Again the directors refused the work, but were so charmed with the beauty of the libretto that they bought it to be reset to music. Until the year 1842, life was a trying struggle for the indomitable young musician. “Rienzi” was then produced at Dresden, so much to the delight of the King of Saxony that the composer was made royal Kapellmeister and leader of the orchestra. The production of “Der fliegende Hollander” quickly followed; next came “Tanhäuser” and “Lohengrin,” to be swiftly succeeded by the “Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” This period of our maestro’s musical activity also commenced to witness the development of his theories on the philosophy of his art, and some of his most remarkable critical writings were then given to the world.

Political troubles obliged Wagner to spend seven years of exile in Zurich; thence he went to London, where he remained till 1861 as conductor of the London Philharmonic Society. In 1861 the exile returned to his native country, and spent several years in Germany and Russia—there having arisen quite a furore for his music in the latter country. The enthusiasm awakened in the breast of King Louis of Bavaria by “Der fliegende Holländer” resulted in a summons to Wagner to settle at Munich, and with the glories of the Royal Opera-House in that city his name has since been principally connected. The culminating art-splendor of his life, however, was the production of his stupendous tetralogy, the “Ring der Nibelungen,” at the great opera-house at Baireuth, in the summer of the year 1876.

IV.

The first element to be noted in Wagner’s operatic forms is the energetic protest against the artificial and conventional in music. The utter want of dramatic symmetry and fitness in the operas we have been accustomed to hear could only be overlooked by the force of habit, and the tendency to submerge all else in the mere enjoyment of the music. The utter variance of music and poetry was to Wagner the stumbling-block which, first of all, must be removed. So he crushed at one stroke all the hard, arid forms which existed in the lyrical drama as it had been known. His opera, then, is no longer a congeries of separate musical numbers, like duets, arias, chorals, and finales, set in a flimsy web of formless recitative, without reference to dramatic economy. His great purpose is lofty dramatic truth, and to this end he sacrifices the whole framework of accepted musical forms, with the exception of the chorus, and this he remodels. The musical energy is concentrated in the dialogue as the main factor of the dramatic problem, and fashioned entirely according to the requirements of the action. The continuous flow of beautiful melody takes the place alike of the dry recitative and the set musical forms which characterize the accepted school of opera. As the dramatic motif demands, this “continuous melody” rises into the highest ecstasies of the lyrical fervor, or ebbs into a chant-like swell of subdued feeling, like the ocean after the rush of the storm. If Wagner has destroyed musical forms, he has also added a positive element. In place of the aria we have the logos. This is the musical expression of the principal passion underlying the action of the drama. Whenever, in the course of the development of the story, this passion comes into ascendency, the rich strains of the logos are heard anew, stilling all other sounds. Gounod has, in part, applied this principle in “Faust.” All opera-goers will remember the intense dramatic effect arising from the recurrence of the same exquisite lyric outburst from the lips of Marguerite.

The peculiar character of Wagner’s word-drama next arouses critical interest and attention. The composer is his own poet, and his creative genius shines no less here than in the world of tone. The musical energy flows entirely from the dramatic conditions, like the electrical current from the cups of the battery; and the rhythmical structure of the melos (tune) is simply the transfiguration of the poetical basis. The poetry, then, is all-important in the music-drama. Wagner has rejected the forms of blank verse and rhyme as utterly unsuited to the lofty purposes of music, and has gone to the metrical principle of all the Teutonic and Slavonic poetry. This rhythmic element of alliteration, or staffrhyme, we find magnificently illustrated in the Scandinavian Eddas, and even in our own Anglo-Saxon fragments of the days of Cædmon and Alcuin. By the use of this new form, verse and melody glide together in one exquisite rhythm, in which it seems impossible to separate the one from the other. The strong accents of the alliterating syllables supply the music with firmness, while the low-toned syllables give opportunity for the most varied nuances of declamation.

The first radical development of Wagner’s theories we see in “The Flying Dutchman.” In “Tanhhäser” and “Lohengrin” they find full sway. The utter revolt of his mind from the trivial and commonplace sentimentalities of Italian opera led him to believe that the most heroic and lofty motives alone should furnish the dramatic foundation of opera. For a while he oscillated between history and legend, as best adapted to furnish his material. In his selection of the dream-land of myth and legend, we may detect another example of the profound and exigeant art-instincts which have ruled the whole of Wagner’s life. There could be no question as to the utter incongruity of any dramatic picture of ordinary events, or ordinary personages, finding expression in musical utterance. Genuine and profound art must always be consistent with itself, and what we recognize as general truth. Even characters set in the comparatively near hack-ground of history are too closely related to our own familiar surroundings of thought and mood to be regarded as artistically natural in the use of music as the organ of the every-day life of emotion and sentiment. But with the dim and heroic shapes that haunt the border-land of the supernatural, which we call legend, the case is far different. This is the drama of the demigods, living in a different atmosphere from our own, however akin to ours may be their passions and purposes. For these we are no longer compelled to regard the medium of music as a forced and untruthful expression, for do they not dwell in the magic lands of the imagination? All sense of dramatic inconsistency instantly vanishes, and the conditions of artistic illusion are perfect.

 "'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
 And clothes the mountains with their azure hue."

Thus all of Wagner’s works, from “Der fliegende Hollander” to the “Ring der Nibelungen,” have been located in the world of myth, in obedience to a profound art-principle. The opera of “Tristan and Iseult,” first performed in 1865, announced Wagner’s absolute emancipation, both in the construction of music and poetry, from the time-honored and time-corrupted canons, and, aside from the last great work, it may be received as the most perfect representation of his school.

The third main feature in the Wagner music is the wonderful use of the orchestra as a factor in the solution of the art-problem. This is no longer a mere accompaniment to the singer, but translates the passion of the play into a grand symphony, running parallel and commingling with the vocal music. Wagner, as a great master of orchestration, has had few equals since Beethoven; and he uses his power with marked effect to heighten the dramatic intensity of the action, and at the same time to convey certain meanings which can only find vent in the vague and indistinct forms of pure music. The romantic conception of the mediæval love, the shudderings and raptures of Christian revelation, have certain phases that absolute music alone can express. The orchestra, then, becomes as much an integral part of the music-drama, in its actual current movement, as the chorus or the leading performers. Placed on the stage, yet out of sight, its strains might almost be fancied the sound of the sympathetic communion of good and evil spirits, with whose presence mystics formerly claimed man was constantly surrounded. Wagner’s use of the orchestra may be illustrated from the opera of “Lohengrin.”

The ideal background, from which the emotions of the human actors in the drama are reflected with supernatural light, is the conception of the “Holy Graal,” the mystic symbol of the Christian faith, and its descent from the skies, guarded by hosts of seraphim. This is the subject of the orchestral prelude, and never have the sweetnesses and terrors of the Christian ecstasy been more potently expressed. The prelude opens with long-drawn chords of the violins, in the highest octaves, in the most exquisite pianissimo. The inner eye of the spirit discerns in this the suggestion of shapeless white clouds, hardly discernible from the aerial blue of the sky. Suddenly the strings seem to sound from the farthest distance, in continued pianissimo, and the melody, the Graal-motive, takes shape. Gradually, to the fancy, a group of angels seem to reveal themselves, slowly descending from the heavenly heights, and bearing in their midst the Sangréal. The modulations throb through the air, augmenting in richness and sweetness, till the fortissimo of the full orchestra reveals the sacred mystery. With this climax of spiritual ecstasy the harmonious waves gradually recede and ebb away in dying sweetness, as the angels return to their heavenly abode. This orchestral movement recurs in the opera, according to the laws of dramatic fitness, and its melody is heard also in the logos of Lohengrin, the knight of the Graal, to express certain phases of his action. The immense power which music is thus made to have in dramatic effect can easily be fancied.

A fourth prominent characteristic of the Wagner music-drama is that, to develop its full splendor, there must be a cooperation of all the arts, painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as poetry and music. Therefore, in realizing its effects, much importance rests in the visible beauties of action, as they may be expressed by the painting of scenery and the grouping of human figures. Well may such a grand conception be called the “Art-work of the Future.”

Wagner for a long time despaired of the visible execution of his ideas. At last the celebrated pianist Tausig suggested an appeal to the admirers of the new music throughout the world for means to carry out the composer’s great idea, viz., to perform the “Nibelungen” at a theatre to be erected for the purpose, and by a select company, in the manner of a national festival, and before an audience entirely removed from the atmosphere of vulgar theatrical shows. After many delays Wagner’s hopes were attained, and in the summer of 1876 a gathering of the principal celebrities of Europe was present to criticise the fully perfected fruit of the composer’s theories and genius. This festival was so recent, and its events have been the subject of such elaborate comment, that further description will be out of place here.

As a great musical poet, rather epic than dramatic in his powers, there can be no question as to Wagner’s rank. The performance of the “Nibelungenring,” covering “Rheingold,” “Die Walküren,” “Siegfried,” and “Götterdämmerung,” was one of the epochs of musical Germany. However deficient Wagner’s skill in writing for the human voice, the power and symmetry of his conceptions, and his genius in embodying them in massive operatic forms, are such as to storm even the prejudices of his opponents. The poet-musician rightfully claims that in his music-drama is found that wedding of two of the noblest of the arts, pregnantly suggested by Shakespeare:

 "If Music and sweet Poetry both agree,
 As they must needs, the sister and the brother;
 One God is God of both, as poets feign."

From Great German Composers, by George T. Ferris (1840-1932), published in 1891.


Featured: Portrait of Richard Wagner, by Franz von Lenbach; painted ca. 1882-1883.


The State of the West Today

An interesting online conference recently discussed a range of pressing topics, including fascism, LGBT rights, rigged elections, and anti-Russian propaganda. The conference was attended by:

  • Oleg Ivanov the leader of the Estonia political movement “Koos;”
  • Andres Raid, a journalist and public figure from Estonia;
  • Leena Hietanen, a journalist and public figure from Finland;
  • Baptiste Quetier, a blogger and French teacher from France.

The host of the conference was Marcus Godwyn of the Our Days News channel.

In the conference, Oleg Ivanov, spoke about the world’s tolerance for fascism and compared fascism in Germany with the fascist oppression of Russians in the Baltics. He noted that if this attitude continues, it will be legalized.

Marcus Godwyn, expressed similar sentiments and saw no objective reason for the Baltic states to blame Russia. He also criticized Europe’s policy, which he believes is leading to a third world war with Russia.

Andres Raid spoke about the low tolerance for people who do not support LGBT rights in Europe and how this is becoming a police matter in some countries. He also expressed concerns about rigged elections and media bias, stating that he did not believe in the results of Estonia’s electronic voting system.

Leena Hietanen, argued that the attitude towards Russians in the Baltics is similar to what is happening in Ukraine and criticized the West’s anti-Russian campaign, which she believes is very costly for ordinary people. She also expressed her opposition to war with Russia, noting that Finns should know that they would always lose.

Finally, Baptiste Quetier, a blogger and French teacher from France, discussed the build-up of discontent within French society and the acceptance of pedophilia as normal behavior, and the anti-Russian propaganda of official political France. He also noted that more and more people no longer believe mass media and feel that something is wrong with the system.

The goal of Our Days News channel is to arrange conferences featuring participants from all corners of Europe. These gatherings aim to examine European matters from diverse regional viewpoints and to provide a comprehensive and impartial outlook of the continent.


Slavisha Batko Milacic is an historian and analyst from Montenegro.


Codicillus Canonis Alberici

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S. Bertrandi de Commingis est oppidum corruptum in stimulis Pyrenaei, non longe a Tolosano, et propius vero Bagnères-de-Luchon. Erat sedes episcopatus usque ad Revolutionem, et habet cathedralem quae a nonnullis peregrinatoribus visitatur. Fons anno MDCCCLXXXIII Anglus ad hunc antiquum locum pervenit—vix possum insignire civitatis nomine, nam non sunt mille incolae. Is erat vir Cantabrigiensis, qui specialiter a Tolosa ad ecclesiam Sancti Bertrandi venerabatur, et duos amicos, qui archaeologos minus acerrimos erant quam ipse, reliquerat, in deversorio suo Tolosae se postero mane se venturum pollicebatur. Dimidia hora in ecclesia satisfaceret eis, et omnes tres tunc possent iter suum prosequi versus Auch. Sed Anglus noster primo die de quo agitur venerat, et sibi proposuit chirographum implere, et aliquot justos bracteas uti in describendo et photographando angulo mirae ecclesiae, quae monticulum Comminges dominatur. Ad hoc consilium satis exsequendum, oportuit vergere in diem ecclesiae monopolire. Itaque verger seu sacrista (malim hoc nomen, ut forte, inaccuratum) arcessitur a muliercula brusque, quae hospicium de Chapeau Rouge custodit; quo cum pervenisset, Anglus ex inopinato studiorum rerum studium invenit. Non erat in specie propria modici, sicci, venefici senis, usuras jacebat, erat enim justo justo aliorum custodum ecclesiasticorum in Gallia, sed in furtivis curiosis, seu potius exagitandis et oppressis, aere; habnit. Dimidiatus post se sempiternus fuit; dorsi atque umeri musculi continua nervorum contractione subruti videbantur, ut se in hostium lassa momenta exspectarent. Anglus vix noverat, utrum certam erroris infestam, an conscientiae noxam oppressam, virum intolerabili concitum virum deponeret. Probabilia, si recensentur, ultimam certe notionem demonstrant; sed tamen gravioris persecutoris etiam quam mulierculae impressum est.

Sed mox nimis profundus erat in chirographo Anglicus (ut eum Dennistoun dicamus) et in camera sua occupatus plusquam occasionaliter ad sacristam daret. Quem cum aspexisset, haud procul reperit, revoluta se parietibus, aut in una splendidis praesepia accubans. Dennistoun post tempus magis morosus factus est Mixta suspiciones, quod senem a déjeunero suo teneret, quod cum baculo eburneo S. Bertrandi, vel crocodilo pulvere referto, quod fonti imminet, abolere videretur, eum torquere coepit.

“Nonne domum?” dixit tandem; “Meas notas solus conficere satis valeo; Si vis me cohibere potes. Plus saltem duabus horis hic petam, et tibi frigidum est, annon?”

“Boni!” homunculus, quem inenarrabili terrore iniecere suggestio videbatur, hoc momento cogitari non potest.

Recte, mi homuncule, inquit Dennistoun apud se: “Admonitus es, et consequentia debes accipere.”

Ante duas horas peractos, stabula, organum immane dilapidatum, velamentum Johannis Episcopi de Mauléon, reliquiae vitreae et plagulae, ac res in gazophylacio, bene ac vere examinata erant; aedituus adhuc in calcaneis Dennistoun detinebat, ac subinde quasi stimulus verberabatur, cum unus vel alter ex miris strepitus, qui magnum aedificium inane vexabant, in aurem eius incidit. Curiales strepitus interdum erant.

“Semel,” Dennistoun dixit ad me, “jurare potui” audivi vocem metallicam tenuem in turri alte ridentem. Ego ad aedituum meum percontando ieci. Ad labra erat candidus. ‘Ille est’, id est, nemo est; ostium clausum est, omnia dixit, et invicem perparum minutatim spectavimus.

Alius libellus incident multum perplexus Dennistoun. Inspiciebat magnam imaginem obscuram, quae post altare dependet, unam ex serie miraculorum sancti Bertrandi illustrantia. Compositio picturae prope inexplicabilis est, sed subest legenda Latina, quae sic se habet:

Qualiter S. Bertrandus liberavit hominem quem diabolus diu volebat strangulare.

Dennistoun ad sacristam subridens et ioculari quodam sermone in labra convertebat, sed confusus senem super genibus videre, imaginem supplicis oculis in agonia intuens, manibus arcte amplexus est et pluit lachrymis in genis. Dennistoun nihil se sensisse fingebat, sed quaestio ab eo non discederet, “Quare incrustatio talis aliquem tam vehementer afficit?” Is sibi visus est aliquam speciem acuendi rationem insoliti aspectus, qui eum toto die haesitabat: homo monomaniacus esse debet; sed quae fuit eius monomania?

Hora fere quinta erat; brevis dies appetebat, et ecclesia replere umbras coepit, dum curiosis strepitus, obvolutis gressibus et longinquis loquelae vocibus perceptibiles per totum diem, haud dubie propter evanescentem lucem ac per hoc vivificatus sensus videbatur. Auditus, incipere fortis et frequens.

Sacrista primum coepit festinationis et impatientiae signa ostendere. Susspiravit suspirium subsidii cum camera et libelli notarii tandem conferti et evulsi, et propere annuit Dennistoun ad occidentalem portam ecclesiae sub turri. Tempus erat pulsandi Angelo. Inviti funem pauca trahunt, et ingens Bertranda, alta in arce, loqui coepit, torsitque vocem Inter pinus et valles, magna cum montibus amnes, solos incolas colles. Ut reminisceretur et repeteret salutationem Angeli ad eam, quam vocavit “Benedictam in mulieribus.” Cum magna tranquillitas visa est primum illa die in oppidulum cadere, et Dennistoun et sacrista exivit de ecclesia.

Limen in sermonem inciderunt.

“Monsieur videbatur sibi interesse in veteribus libris choralibus in sacristia.”

“Utique. Rogaturus eram te si bibliotheca in oppido esset.”

Non, monsieur; fortasse unus erat de Capitulo, sed nunc tam exiguus locus. Huc accessit mira dubitationis mora, ut videbatur; deinde cum quodam immergito sic secutus est: Si vero monsieur est amateur des vieux livres, domi habeo aliquid quod interest. Centum ulnas non est.”

Statim omnes Dennistoun somnia in pretiosos codices inveniendi in intritis Galliae plagis emicuit, sequenti momento iterum mori. Probabiliter stupidum missale imprimendi Plantin anno circiter 1580. Ubi verisimilitudo fuit quod locus tam prope Toulousam a collectoribus olim non extortus fuisset? Sed ite ne stultum esset; in perpetuum se accusaturum, si negaret. Sic profecti sunt. In via curiosa irresolutio et subita determinatio aedituorum ad Dennistoun rediit, et miratus est turpiter an in aliquem furculum inauguraretur tanquam dives Anglicus. Incipere itaque cum duce suo nectere, et incondite, quod duos amicos exspectaret, altero mane sibi coniungendos esse. Miranti nuntiatio visum est, ut aedituus aliquarum sollicitudinum premeret.

“Bene,” inquit luculenter — id est optime. Monsieur una cum amicis ambulabit; semper prope eum erunt. Bonum est sic in societate aliquando iter agere.

Ultimum verbum pro retractu addendum videbatur, et secum reducendum in maerorem pauperculo.

Mox in domo, quae maior erat quam finitimis, lapidea fabricata, scuto supra januam insculpto, scutum Alberici de Mauléon, pronepotis collateralis, ut narrat Dennistoun, Johannis episcopi de Mauléon. Hic Albericus Canonicus Comminges ab anno 1680 ad 1701. Superiores mansionis fenestras conscendit, et totus locus, ut reliqui Convenarum, rationem deficiendi aetatis portabat.

Ad cuius limen accessit, aedituus momento constitit.

“Forte,” inquit, “forsitan tamen monsieur tempus non habet?”

“Minime temporis nihil ad crastinum faciendum est. Videamus quid habeas.

Apertum est hoc loco ianuam, et prospiciens facies longe minoris quam aedituorum facies, sed ferens aliquid ex eodem maerore vultu: hic tantum notum esse videbatur, non tam timoris quam salutis privatae. Acuta anxietas pro alio. Plane dominus faciei erat filia sacristae; et, sed quod dixi, satis formosa puella fuit. Illum multum inluminavit, cum patrem suum conspicuum cum valido agmine extraneo. Pauca inter patrem et filiam ducta sunt, e quibus Dennistoun haec tantum verba deprehensa, a sacrista dixit, “Ridemus in ecclesia,” verba quae sola aspectu formido puellae respondebant.

Sed in alio minuto erant in exedra domus parvae, altae cubiculi cum pavimento lapideo, plenae mobilibus umbris ab igne lignoso, qui magnum focum vibrabat. Aliquid de ratione oratorii ei collata fuit per altam crucifixum, quae fere ad laquearia hinc inde pervenit; figura naturalium colorum depicta erat, crux erat nigra. Sub hoc stabat cista alicuius aetatis et soliditatis, et, cum lucerna adlata esset, et sellis poneretur, sacrista ad hanc cistam ibat, et produxit inde, crescente tumultu et trepidatione, sicut Dennistoun opinabatur, libro magno involuto. Pannus albus, in quo pannus crux erat rudi filo intexta. Etiam antequam involutio sublata esset, Dennistoun magnitudinem et figuram voluminis considerare coepit. “Nimis ad missalem” cogitabat, non figuram antiphonis; fortasse aliquid boni post omnia potest esse.” Proximo momento liber apertus est, et Dennistoun sensit se tandem aliquid meliore quam bono accensum esse. Ante eum in magno folio, fortasse saeculo decimo septimo nuper adstrictum, cum armis Canonici Alberici de Mauléon aureis lateribus impressis. Fuerunt fortasse centum et quinquaginta folia chartacea in codice, et fere singula folium ex manuscripto illuminato affixa sunt. Talis collectionis Dennistoun vix in asperrimis momentis somniaverat. Hic folia decem erant ex exemplari Geneseos picturis illustrata, quae serius esse non potuit quam A.D. 700. In Psalterio, Anglica exactione, e pulcherrimo genere quae saeculo XII. Fortasse omnium optima, viginti folia unciae latine scripta erant, quae, ut pauca hic illic narravi, ad nonnullos vetustissimos patristicorum tractatos pertinere debet. Poteratne esse fragmentum exemplaris Papiae “de verbis Domini,” quod notum est exstitisse tam sero quam saeculo XII Nemausi? Ceterum animus eius confectus est; ille liber cum eo redibit Cantebrigiam, etiam si traheret totam libram suam de patrimonio suo, et manere apud Sanctum Bertrandum, donec veniret pecunia. Intuitus est sacrista, ut videret si quid emitteret ejus facies, librum venalem esse. Pallebat sacrista, et operabantur labia ejus.

“Si monsieur in finem vertetur,” inquit.

Monsieur igitur se convertit, thesauros novos occurrens in omni ortu folii; et in fine libri supervenit in duabus chartis, multo recentioris, quam quicquam adhuc viderat, quod eum aliquantum haesitabat. Eos esse coaetaneos statuit Albericus scelestus Canonicus, qui nimirum bibliothecam Capituli S. Bertrandi depraedavit, ut hunc inaestimabilem librum exiguo formaret. Kalendarum chartarum consilium fuit, diligenter extractum et statim cognitum ab eo qui terram noverat, porticus australis et claustra Sancti Bertrandi. Signa curiosa erant sicut symbola planetarum, et pauca verba hebraicorum in angulis; et in angulo aquilonis ad occidentem claustri erat crux aurea depicta. Infra consilium erant nonnullae lineae scribendi latine, quae ita se habent;

Responsa 12mi Dec. 1694. Interrogatum est: Inveniamne? Responsum est: Invenies. Fiamne dives? Fies. Vivamne invidendus? VIVIT. Moriarne in lecto meo? Ita.

“Bonum specimen recordi thesauri venatoris—unum satis commemorat apud D. Minor-Canon Quatremain in Veteri Sancti Pauli” commentarium erat Dennistoun et folium vertit.

Quae postea impressa vidit, ut saepius mihi dixit, quam ullam habentem seu picturam in se imprimi posse conciperet. Et, licet extractionem vidit iam exsistentiam non habet, photographica est eius (quod ego possideo) quod plene enuntiat. In pictura, de qua agitur, sepiae exeunte saeculo decimo septimo fuit delineatio, quae prima facie scaenam biblicam repraesentans diceret; Architectura enim (imago interiorem repraesentabat) et figurae illum semi-classicum saporem habebant circa eas, quas artifices ante ducenti annos exemplis Bibliorum aptam putaverunt. Ad dexteram erat rex in solio, thronus duodecim gradibus elevatus, conopeum supra caput, milites hinc inde, scilicet rex Salomon. Porrectis sceptris prone in imperio; exhorruit voltus et taedio, sed erat in eo quoque imperiosus et ferox. Sinistra pars picturae erat mirabile, tamen. Rem plane sitas esse. In pavimento ante thronum globi quatuor milites circumcirca curvum figurae momento describendae sunt. Quintus miles iacebat super pavimento, collo distorto, oculi globuli a capite; Quattuor custodes circumstantes regem aspiciebant. In vultu augebatur horror animi; immo vero per implicationem domini sui a fuga temperari videbantur. Totum hunc terrorem inter medios accubuisse. Omnino despero imperare quibusvis verbis hanc figuram in aliquem intuenti. Reminiscor semel monstrans imaginem photographicam extractionis ad lectorem de morphologia, hominem, dicturus sum, enormis sanae et unimaginativae mentis habitus. Solus reliqui vesperi illius esse omnino recusavit, et mihi postea narravit non ausum fuisse lucem ante somnum exstinguere per multas noctes. Praecipua autem figurae notae saltem indicare possum. Vides primo modo molem crassam, squalentem nigros; mox visum, quod hoc corpus formidolosae tenuitatis paene sceleti obtegeret, sed musculis instar filis exstantibus. Manus erant palloris ferruginei, obductis ad instar corporis, pilis longis, crassis, et tecte aduncis. Oculi fulvo tactus ardente, pupillas impense nigras habebant, et in solio regis vultu ferina odii defixa. Finge unum ex horrendis aucupiis aranearum aucupium in formam humanam in America Meridionali translata, et ingenio minus quam humano praeditam, et habebis conceptum aliquem languidum terroris horroris effigies. Unum illud universaliter fit ab illis, quibus imaginem demonstravi: “Ex vita ducta est.”

Ut primum impetum terroris intolerandi resederat, Dennistoun turmas suas rapuit aspectum. Manus sacristae oculis premebantur; Filia eius, suspiciens crucem in pariete, dicens ei precula febricitare.

Tandem quaesitum est, “Numquid hic liber est venalis?”

Eadem cunctatio, idem animus quem ante viderat, deinde gratissimum responsum, “Si placet monsieur.”

“Quantum rogas illum?”

“Ducentos et quinquaginta francos accipiam.”

Hoc erat confundens. Etiam conscientia collectoris interdum commovetur, et conscientia Dennistoun mollior quam collectoris fuit.

“Meum bonum virum!” Iterum atque iterum dixit, “Librum tuum longe pluris quam ducentos et quinquaginta francos valet, mehercules longe amplius.”

Sed responsum non variavit: “Ducentos et quinquaginta francos accipiam, non plus.”

Nulla erat facultas recusandi talem casum. Pecunia persoluta, receptaculum signatum, vitreum vini inebriatum super negotio, et tunc sacrista homo novus factus videbatur. Substitit, destitit, suspectos post se jactare voltus, Risisse vel ridere conatus. Dennistoun surrexerunt ad eundum.

“Honorem comitatus ad deversorium suum habebo?” dictus sacrista.

“O gratias! Centum ulnae non est. Viam perfecte novi, et est luna.

Oblatio ter quaterve premebatur, et toties recusabatur.

Tum me, si invenerit occasio; Mediam viam servabit, adeo aspera sunt.

“Certe,” inquit Dennistoun, qui praemium suum a se explorare impatiens erat; et egressus est in locum cum libro suo sub brachio suo.

Hic occurrit filia; illa, ut videbatur, parva negotia pro se facere cupiebat; fortasse aliquid accipere ab peregrino, cui pater pepercerat, ut Giezi.

“Crucifixus argenteus et cathena pro collo; Monsieur fortasse satis esse accipio?”

“Bene, re vera, Dennistoun his rebus non multum usus fuerat. Quid pro eo mademoiselle vis?”

“Nihil—nihil est in mundo. Monsieur plus est quam acceptum est”.

Tonus, quo hoc et multo plura dictum est, haud dubie genuinus fuit, ut Dennistounus ad gratias profusas redactus sit, et catenam e collo evolutam submitteret. Videbatur tamen, si patri et filia aliquod officium reddidisset, quod reddere vix scirent. Cum proficisceretur cum libro suo, steterunt ad januam spectantes eum, et adhuc quaerebant quando ultimam bonam noctem agitabat a passibus Chapeau Rouge.

Prandio suscepto, Dennistoun in cubiculo suo solus inclusit cum acquisitione. Familiaris eius peculiare studium declaraverat, cum ei indicasset se uisitare ad sacristam et librum antiquum ab eo emisse. Existimavit etiam, quod audivisset colloquium inter ipsam et dictum sacristam in dicto loco extra salle a presepio; nonnulla verba ad effectum ut “Petrus et Bertrandus in domo dormientes” sermonem clauserant.

Toto hoc tempore ingravescentem animi molestiam super eum obrepit—nervus motus, fortasse post eius inventionis delectationem. Quidquid erat, fiebat in persuasione aliquem post se esse, et multo commodius a tergo ad parietem esse. Haec omnia, scilicet, perpendebantur in trutina tamquam contra notum valorem collectionis acquisitae. Et nunc, ut dixi, solus erat in cubiculo suo, de thesauris Canonicis Alberici, in quo omne momentum revelavit aliquid suavius.

“Benedictus Canonicus Albericus.” dixit Dennistoun, qui inveteratam loquendi consuetudinem secum habuit. “Miror ubi nunc est? Cara mihi! Utinam domina disceret laetiore modo ridere; hoc sentit sicut aliquis mortuus in domo; Dimidium tibia plus, ais? Puto fortasse recte. Miror quid illa crucifixi est virgo institit dare mihi? Superiore saeculo, credo. Ita verisimiliter. Magis molestum est rem habere circa collum – nimis grave est. Verisimile est pater eius annos induta est. Puto me mundum dare priusquam abstulero.

Crucifixo abstulerat, et super mensam posuit, quando intentus fuit ab obiecto iacente super sinum rubeum a sinistro cubito. Duae vel tres notiones quidnam possit per cerebrum suum inaestimabili velocitate volitare.

” Calamus lautus? Non, nihil tale in domo. Mus? Nemo etiam niger est. Magna aranea? Non—nulli bonitati confido. Deus bone! Manus quasi manus in illa pictura!”

Alio mico infinito ceperat. Pellis pallida, fusca, nihil tegens nisi ossa et tendines horrendi roboris; pilis crassioribus nigris, in manibus humanis longioribus quam umquam creverunt; ungues ab extremitatibus digitorum ascendentes et incurvi acrius deorsum et antrorsum, cinerei, cornei et rugosi.

Volavit e sella funereo, corde prensa incomprehensibili terrore. Figura, cuius sinistra in mensa requievit, in stantem post solium stabat, dextera supra verticem incurvata. nigrum erat et lacerum perlucidum; crinis crassus texit eam sicut in Cn. Maxilla inferior tenuis erat—quid dicam?—vadis, bestiae similis; dentibus atra labra ostendebant; nasus non erat; oculi, ignei flavi, contra quos pupillae atros et intensos ostendebant, et exultans odio et siti ad destruendam vitam, quae ibi fulgebat, in tota visione horrentissima erant. Erat in eis intelligentia quaedam, ultra intelligentiam bestiae, infra hominis.

Affectus quos hic horror in Dennistoun excitaverat, vehemens erat timor corporis et altissima mentis fastidium. Quid fecit? Quid faceret? Numquam satis constat quid dixerit, sed scit quod loquutus sit, quod caeca prehenderit ad crucifixum argenteum, quod sibi conscius sit motus ex parte daemonis, et quod voce vociferatus sit. animalis in deforme dolorem.

Petrus et Bertrandus, duo servitores robusti, qui irruerunt, nihil viderunt, sed se retrusi per aliquid quod inter illos transivit, et in deliquium invenerunt Dennistoun. Sederunt cum eo nocte illa, et duo amici ejus erant apud Sanctum Bertrandum per horam tertiam in crastino. Ipse vero, licet adhuc perculsus et timidus, prope se ab illo tempore fuit, et fidem suam apud eos invenit, sed non prius, quam viderat extractionem, et loquebatur cum sacrista.

Fere prima luce homunculus ad diversorium per simulationem venerat, et audiverat cum summa cura fabulam a familia distraxit. Nec mirum.

Ille est, ille est. Ipsum ipsum vidi, unicum eius commentum fuit; et ad omnes interrogationes unum responsum est: Deux fois je l’ai vu; mille fois je l’ai senti.” Nihil de provenientia libri, nec de singulis experimentis indicabat. “Mox dormiam, et requies mea suavis erit. Quid me vexas?” dixit.

Quid ipse vel Canonicus Albericus de Mauléon passus fuerit, numquam sciemus. In tergo fatalis illius tractus nonnullae lineae scriptionis erant, quae locum illustrare existimari possunt;

Contradictio Salomonis cum demonio nocturno.
Albericus de Mauléone delineavit.
V. Deus in adiutorium. Ps. Qui habitat.
Sancte Bertrande, demoniorum effugator, intercede pro me miserrimo.
Primum uidi nocte 12(mi) Dec. 1694: uidebo mox ultimum. Peccaui et passus sum, plura adhuc passurus. die 29 dec.
“Gallia Christiana” diem mortis Canonis dat die 31 decembris 1701, “in lecto repentinae captionis.” Singularia huiusmodi non sunt communia magno opere Sammarthani.

Numquam satis intellexi quid de his rebus quas narravi inspiceret Dennistoun. Retulit ad me semel textum Ecclesiastici: Quidam sunt qui in vindictam creati sunt, et in furore suo impingunt plagas. Alio tempore dixit: “Isaias vir sapientissimus fuit; annon dicit aliquid de monstris nocturnis in ruinis Babyloniae habitantium? Haec magis extra nos in praesentia sunt.

Alia fiducia ejus me magis impressit, et compatiebatur. Fuimus superiore anno, Comminges, ut videremus sepulcrum canonis Alberici. Est magna marmorea erectio cum effigie Canonis in amplo celatus et soutano, ac elaborata ejus eruditionis laude infra. Vidi Dennistoun cum Vicario S. Bertrandi aliquandiu loquentem, et abeundo dixit mihi: “Spero non errat: scis Presbyterum me esse, sed credo futurum esse dicens. de missa et cantu naeniae’ pro requie Alberici de Mauléon. Deinde addidit, Septentrionalem Britannici sono tactum, “Nihil tam chari noti”.

Liber est in Wentworth Collection procul Cambridge. Detractio photographatae et ab Dennistoun eo die incensa est, qua occasione visitationis primae Commings discessit.

(1894-1895)


Featured: Dennistoun sketches the cathedral, illustration by James McBryde, 1904.


Paul Valéry, A Magnificent Jack-of-all-Trades

Paul Valéry (1871-1945) was a writer, poet and philosopher, elected to the Académie française in 1925. An eminent figure in the world of letters, he left a rich and varied body of work that is always worthy of interest. Here’s a brief overview.

Paul Valéry is unclassifiable. He eludes us all the time: neither quite novelist, nor philosopher, and really at ease in verse, given to ideas, epitomizing that last race of masters we call “men of letters.” When people try to give him credit for the arts or literature, Valéry shirks, dodges and sabotages. He hates history, loathes philosophy, reviles literature and reviles the novel. He excelled everywhere; prodigious, he cavorted with and surpassed everyone else by way of a single idea. Antiquarian, he mingled with the modern, foresaw, gifted with a talent for anticipation, like a soothsayer.

This illustrious writer, sometimes a Faustian scholar, sometimes a dandy, bow tie tied and ringed little finger, nicknamed the “civil servant of literature” by Paul Nizan, for his acts of resistance and his glory as a writer, was entitled to national homage in 1945. He was first and foremost a remarkable orator, whose speech in honor of Goethe, model “among all the Fathers of Thought and Doctors of Poetry, Pater aestheticus in aeternum,” is a perfect illustration of his talent. His eulogy for the “Jewish Bergson” is a measure of his courage under the Occupation, in 1941. This modern Bossuet, under the wings of the eagle of Meaux, paid tribute to his ancestor in Variété II (1930), praising his grandiose prose, the strength of his style, his talent for saying everything, his brilliant orations, monuments of what remains, in language, when the ideas of a time are outdated and men, distant from their tributes, end up unknown.

Valéry had no theorized philosophical system, unlike the dominant German thought. We find him somewhere between Descartes, rigorous in method, and Leonardo da Vinci, edified by the architecture of intelligence. Still inhabited by the Greeks, he used the form of dialogue, Eupalinos (1923) and L’idée fixe (1932), like Plato, and returned to the simple idea that philosophy is a quest: a quest for the absolute, for truth and purity. In his Cahiers (published, 1973-1974—Ed.), he writes: “I read philosophers badly and with boredom, as they are too long and their language is unsympathetic to me.” Sensitive to the sentence, the maxim, that make up the French charm of thought, he went everywhere, said what he wanted, constrained his free thought, meandered through ideas under the strict arches of art, in fragments and leaflets.

First there was that famous night in Genoa. On a night that resembled a crisis, he was converted. Thereafter, he devoted himself to intelligence, to the realm of the spirit, to the quest for precision. In 1896, at the age of twenty-five, this mystic of the Idea wrote La soirée avec Monsieur Teste, a strange novel-essay in which, through the intermediary of his double, Monsieur Teste himself, high priest of the Intellect, Valéry begins to think about the detachment of the soul and sensibility, in the wake of Méditations métaphysiques. And nothing but that.

Austere and Solemn?

Among the innumerable papers, texts and published thoughts, Valéry is, in Tel quel (1943) or in his Cahiers, haunted by the idea of a hidden God: “The search for God would be man’s most beautiful occupation.” The importance and quality of these notes show that a project to write a “Dialogue des choses divines” (“Dialogue of things divine”) preoccupied Valéry all his life. “Everyone keeps his own mysticism, which he jealously guards,” he insisted. Man finds himself only insofar as he finds his God.

All too quickly, Valéry’s austere, solemn character is attributed to his poetry, which is frozen and mumbling. What is taken for gelid is icy other than a classical demand taken to the heights. “Most men have such a vague idea of poetry that the very vagueness of their idea is for them the definition of poetry,” Valéry, obsessed with perfection, wanted this “holy language.” This quest, resolutely, detached him from the world of letters, novelists and journalism: “The writer-whore exists only to surrender himself. To this class belong those who claim to say what they are, think and feel;” and he adds in Tel quel: “There is always something fishy about literature—the consideration of an audience. So, there’s always a reserve of thought in which lies all the charlatanism of which every literary product is an impure product.” Then to finish off literature as if in the arena: “A novel is the height of crudeness. We’ll see one day. Those who look from the deep, rigorous side already see it.” So much for that.

Behind his reputation as a pure wit, Valéry was a great sensualist. His poetry is a perfect demonstration of this. The charm of bodies, the trance of music, long, delicate movements, the sign of the hand, the form of the dance, the praise of water—this is the Valéry universe. In Album des vers anciens (1920), inspired by Mallarmé, we find, under the appearance of a solid poetic arch, lascivious and moving, volatile and light figures and forms taking shape, as in “Baignée” (“Bathing”) which, through a play of periphrases, makes us guess a young woman in the water:

A fruit of flesh bathes in some youthful pool,
(Azure in trembling gardens) but out of water,
Singling curls with strength of the casque,
Gleams the golden head which a tomb slices at the nape.

Above the Fray

Later, Valéry wrote La Jeune Parque (1917). In this song of love and death, where life mingles with mythology, we can admire these lines: “island… summit that a fire fecundates barely intimidated, woods that will hum with beasts and ideas, with hymns of men filled by the just gift of ether.” These rhymes sound like onomatopoeia, making us believe for a moment that Valéry, a musician, is moving from the Académie to a jazz club.

At twilight, in Corona & Coronilla (published in 2008—Ed.), the old man writes a few poems to his young lover, Jeanne Voilier, whom he knows to be far from his arms:

You know it now, if you ever doubted
That I could die by the one I loved,
For you made my soul a leaf that trembles
Like that of the willow, alas, that yesterday together
We watched float before our eyes of love,
In the golden tenderness of the fall of the day.

This poem, written on May 22, 1945, two months before the poet’s death at the age of seventy-four, denotes a tenderness, a touching intimacy, not devoid of flowery lyricism. It’s a far, far cry from the night of Genoa.

Bruised by the horrors of war, Valéry descended from the clouds, returning inter homines, deluded by certain illusions. He no longer believed in history, as he wrote in Regards sur le monde actuel: “History justifies whatever one wants. It teaches rigorously nothing, because it contains everything, and gives examples of everything… The danger of letting ourselves be seduced by History is greater than ever.”

With History out of the way, Valéry seemed to turn to mathematics, as he murmured in his drafts: “Simple solutions, expedients, that’s all-human conduct, in politics, in love, in business, in poetry—expedients, and the rest is mathematics.” He confessed in 1944 in Le Figaro: “Politics is the maneuvering of the more by the less, of the immense number by the small number, of the real by images and words; in other words, it’s a mechanics of relays.”

Paul Valéry was above the fray. Neither stupidly left-wing, nor fatally right-wing. He was a circumspect observer of nations. He was an eminent member of intellectual Europe, like Rilke in Trieste, Zweig in Vienna or Verhaeren in Brussels. Like the others, Valéry saw the great Europe of letters and sovereign nations, shattered by the appalling world war. Did he already see the post-war era? “Europe will be punished for its policies; it aspires to be governed by an American commission”—that’s for sure.

Europe, according to Valéry, is inhabited by tradition. This Europe, saved from technocracy and finance, is a civilization, “Romanized and Christianized, subject to the disciplinary spirit of the Greeks,” starting from Jerusalem, Athens and Rome. The grandiose axis. Yet this remarkable Europe, shaped by a superior spirit, remains no less fragile. This is Valéry’s despairing assessment of a Europe whose ancient parapets have been overcome by technology, the mass of a fin de siècle: “We civilizations now know that we are mortal.”

This tension between the order of civilization went hand-in-hand with a defiant and suspicious view of governments. We owe him this simple, trenchant phrase, mingled with cynicism and raw lucidity: “War, a massacre of people who don’t know each other, for the benefit of people who know each other but don’t massacre each other.” Sounds like Bardamu at the start of Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night)! Who’d have thought Valéry an anarchist?


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité and teaches Latin. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.


Featured: Portrait of Paul Valéry, by Georges d’Espagnat; painted in 1910.