The Hawk, by W.B. Yeats

“CALL down the hawk from the air;
Let him be hooded or caged
Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
For larder and spit are bare,
The old cook enraged,
The scullion gone wild.”

“I will not be clapped in a hood,
Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist,
Now I have learnt to be proud
Hovering over the wood
In the broken mist
Or tumbling cloud.”

“What tumbling cloud did you cleave,
Yellow-eyed hawk of the mind,
Last evening? that I, who had sat
Dumbfounded before a knave,
Should give to my friend
A pretence of wit.”

You have to notice that the quotation marks indicate a change of speakers in every stanza. In the first, there is an unspecified speaker expressing a wish: call down. Order, trap, domesticate the hawk. Why? Because game that would otherwise be available is being depleted.

What part of the description ‘old cook’ is more important? Usually the substantive is more important than the modifier. In this case, however, the substantive is bound by the circumstances of the poem, and the modifier seems to me to be more free. Because of that, it seems more indicative of the poet’s choice, what he wants to say. Why is the old cook enraged? He is accustomed to having game. Why old? Tradition? Custom? Or is it feebleness as opposed to the strength of the hawk? The hawk is messing with the kitchen, and it is becoming intolerable.

But then we get the hawk’s story. He will not go back, he says. He has learned to be proud. This is not talking about a wild hawk that has to be domesticated, but a domesticated hawk that has reverted. I think that helps us with the adjective ‘old’ above.

Notice how the hawk describes the circumstances of his freedom, again, the adjectives in the concluding lines of the stanza. What kind of mist? What sort of cloud? He rises in circumstances of ruin.

It seems to me that the speaker in the last stanza is the same as the first, but now he is more specified. It is someone who has made a mistake. What kind of a mistake is it? What kind of regret? Why a hawk? Why game?

By Grace Alone: Three Observations and a Hymn

The first observation is that I’m grateful for the intelligent use of the blue Trinity Hymnal that is made at Calvary OPC in Glenside. English hymnals have a lot of hymns compared with what is available in Spanish. I think, however, that the whole range is seldom used, and many of the worst get more than their fair use. It seems that at Calvary there is a special talent for using the best the hymnal affords, which is considerable.

The second is that whoever put that hymnal together really had a thing for Arthur Sullivan. Now I love opera and I really get a kick out of having it come up in worship. I do not think it belongs there, but I feel more amusement than indignation when it appears, for whatever reason. I associate Sullivan’s work with opera though I’m not familiar with the G & S repertory. There’s usually something not altogether right about a hymn-tune written by Arthur Sullivan, but Leonminster seems the exception. It retains dignity.

The third is that I will always be grateful for the stress on grace alone I have found in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In Baptist churches there is such a stress on conversion that we often inadvertently suggest that the Gospel is something we once needed and got, that it is something for the unconverted, and that it is therefore not something believers need on an ongoing basis. That is not the case in the OP churches I’ve attended, so much so that they can be puzzled at the concept of an evangelistic sermon. The Gospel is the constant message, the heart of every sermon, and the Christian life is a gospel life, one of daily turning from sin and daily turning toward Christ, in whom must repose the only hope of salvation. Horatius Bonar is not high on my list of religious poets, but what he states in this lyric makes it for me the most OPC hymn ever, and I love that it is clear, that it is swift to its point, and that it lingers on assurance.

Not what my hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, O Christ,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord to thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.

Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy pow’r alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save thine,
No other blood will do;
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.

I bless the Christ of God;
I rest on love divine;
And with unfalt’ring lip and heart
I call this Saviour mine.
This cross dispels each doubt;
I bury in his tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear,
Each ling’ring shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace;
I trust his truth and might;
He calls me his, I call him mine,
My God, my joy, my light.
’Tis he who saveth me,
And freely pardon gives;
I love because he loveth me,
I live because he lives.

Gnosticism

I think the best thing about Fred Sanders’ review of the fake book on the Trinity is that his target exhibits what Gnosticism was. Gnosticism is still known to be bad, and so people like to use it to brand something by way of a warning. Robert George does that in the December issue of First Things. There is a popular understanding of Gnosticism as a heresy that viewed the body as evil, and this is true enough. But I think what Sanders exposes is closer to what the danger of Gnosticism represented in the Early Church: an attitude, one which was countered by robust theology. Gnosticism threatened Christianity with a howling incoherence of creative irresponsibility, and that’s what Sanders exposes.

I’m not sure it is how Gnosticism is generally understood, and it raises a few problems. For example, we use Gnosticism to react against asceticism. I do not say it because I’m an ascetic, but because there is no way you can read about those defending the Church against Gnosticism and come away thinking that these are people who were against rigor to the point of asceticism. Tertullian? Clement? Origen? Irenaeus? Extreme discipline, or discipline that to us would seem extreme characterized them, and I think they would be uncomfortable with what we sometimes do with Gnosticism. Gnosticism was not on the whole about an excess of discipline, it was resisted by discipline and if anything, that excess probably lay with the Church (John Chrysostom, in a later age after the Gnostic threat, ruined his digestive system by his self-denial). We are not living in an age in which the Church is characterized by an excess of rigor and discipline. Quite the contrary, I think. My sense is that R.R. Reno’s indictment of the therapeutic religion of non-judgementalism reaches deep into conservative churches.

Another thing is that we like to associate Gnosticism with Platonism, as if Gnosticism were the logical outcome of mixing Christianity with Greek philosophy. I react a bit more personally here as a Christian Platonist. But I think I have good grounds because I am a Christian Platonist. Origen and Irenaeus were Platonists, and these were the champions to which the Church in that age looked to debate and deal with Gnosticism. So was Clement for that matter, though he was also somewhat of a Stoic, of which Tertullian was more than somewhat. Nevertheless, they do not represent Gnosticism. Quite the contrary; it was thanks to the repudiation these men made that the threat was overcome. Gnosticism appropriated Platonism as it did Christianity, we might say. In both cases, it did that so badly it offended the real adherents of both. Plotinus, whose Platonist credentials are impeccable, repudiated Gnosticism in a scathing treatise, much as Christianity did. One of the things we Christians frequently get wrong is our real contempt of genuine philosophy. The price of turning against careful thinking, however, is to harbor careless thinking. Theology needs good philosophy, but if we turn against all philosophy we are unlikely to be able to evaluate or employ philosophy correctly at all, and our theology will exhibit what American theology at present does. For that you can consult James Dolezal and Stefan Linblad.

We are so flaccid in our day that much of what passes for Christianity is vulnerable to the teaching Sanders so easily dismisses. I say that in connection to the debate on the Trinity because we all know a review like Sanders’ could not be made of someone securely lodged within the Gospel Coalition, and the very suggestion would be outrageous. That is still a strength: is anybody of the TGC tribe going to decry Fred Sanders for his tone and the fact that he did not publish his review in an academic journal? I actually think his tone is exactly right, and I also think his tone is probably what saved his review from being doomed to obscurity in a theological journal. Congratulations to him and to them.

What else, however, is the attitude toward doctrinal formulation that Ware and Grudem exhibit, and what shall we say of their enablers? Is the difference more than a difference of degree? Distractions and prevarications to gloss over the chaos of private interpretation and maladaptive, innovative appropriations of Christian teaching strike me as the wrong approach and of the same substance as what Sanders exposes. So are we dealing with Christian leadership or Gnostic? At least this time Plato is not being desecrated, though as a Christian Platonist I can honestly say that I’d rather it were Plato than Christian Theology. Richard Weaver observed that “all metaphysical community depends on the ability of men to understand one another.” Overcoming Gnosticism of old preserved and strengthened a vulnerable metaphysical community by overcoming equivocation in theological discourse.

Fitting, Noble, and Necessary

In this way, therefore, I think the marriages of the elders are interpreted more fittingly; in this way the unions entered by the patriarchs in their now final and weakened age are understood more nobly; in this way I hold the necessary begetting of children should be reckoned.

-Origen, Homilies on Genesis 11.2

What Origen is talking about is the fact that when the patriarchs practice polygamy, many, and even careless interpreters in our day, think it is amounts to the endorsement of a vice. But, says Origen, when a person practices a virtue, when someone for example is habituated to hospitality, he can be said to take it to wife. Is it any wonder, then, that we’re told, specially when they were older, that the patriarchs had many?

Do you see what he’s done? Origen has taken what might be taken as the presence of a vice and said, “No, it is in fact the opposite. In this way, therefore, I think the marriages of the elders are interpreted more fittingly; in this way the unions entered by the patriarchs in their now final and weakened age are understood more nobly; in this way I hold the necessary begetting of children should be reckoned.”

Here is the question, though: how is this plausible? When I was being trained by dispensationalists I was taught that a proper method was to interpret the obscure in light of the obscure. And, I was told, you’ll have to end up a premillennialist. When I started attending a Reformed church, a Sunday school was done dealing with the various millennial views, the conclusions being amillennialist. What was the method stressed? The obscure have to be interpreted in light of the clear. In fact, the same method, as to that point. And both parties gave me to understand that the correct method was the key.

But the correct method is not the key, as Augustine, who gave it second priority, knew. What is key is determining what is obscure and what is clear, or rather, just determining what is clear. Augustine has a solution for this. It is the telos, the purpose of Scripture, and I think he is right. This is more important than method, so much so for Augustine that you can use the wrong method to get to the right conclusion.

In Origen’s case—for the purposes of understanding him—it is, I think, something Aristotle can shed light on. In chapter 9 of the Poetics, Aristotle famously writes that poetry “is more philosophical and more serious than history: in fact poetry speaks more of universals, whereas history of particulars.” The detail of history, the narrative surface of the text, was not where clarity should be located for Origen. Rather, clarity is located in the purposes of God: Christ and the church, Christ and the believer, invisible things that are held by faith. The allegorical meaning, the spiritual realities which we clearly apprehend thanks to the Rule of Faith and universal Christian practice point us toward the purposes.

Of course, Origen will adduce texts to substantiate his views: in his mind clear texts. It is interesting how much the clarity of these is apparent in his situation though, how much his method is determined by three groups interpreting Scripture he had to deal with. Naïve believers were one of these groups, and he is constantly exhorting them to look deeper, to advance in piety (the journey toward God) so they can have more clarity of the real heart of Scripture. The second group was the Gnostics, which trafficked in incoherence. Platonism was only a source for Gnosticism in the way Scripture was: the Gnostics wrested both. Platonism in fact, in Plotinus, in fact, rejected Gnosticism decisively. So did Origen, promoting the spiritual coherence of Scripture, rather than its fragmentation and incoherence. For him the wonder of Scripture was not appetitive, but a matter of rightly ordered affections. The third group was the most influential on Origen: the Jews. The literal and anti-Christological reading they gave the Old Testament seems to be what most drove Origen. He kept up a steady polemic against Jewish interpretation as definitely incompatible with the purposes of God. The letter killeth, he would often repeat, but the Spirit maketh alive; and Aristotle helps us locate these things in the cosmos of his thinking.

Of Reading

Do you remember the first time you read The Two Towers? Did you throw the book away near the end, bitter, betrayed when that demon Tolkien seems to have killed Frodo? I remember I was outraged. Having read all that way for him to do this? It was a treasonous way to write. He had led me to believe the thing would end otherwise, and if the ending did not involve Frodo, I didn’t want it.*

But then I read on, and checked ahead, and saw he hadn’t died, and so resumed.

I knew it couldn’t end that way. It had to end better or it would have been a terrible book. Which is curious, if you think about it. After all, how do we know?

I think we know because there are certain expectations an author raises: expectations he must satisfy. You enjoy the end because he has created and nurtured a desire for it. When we assume what we do about Frodo at the end of The Two Towers, we get upset because we think we are not getting whatever it is we felt he was working toward.

I think that is how literature works: it nurtures a desire, awakens and stirs and nourishes desire. Then if it is a good book (in terms of artistry) it satisfies the desire. It creates an expectation that it meets.

And I think that is how we must judge these things: being aware of the desires encouraged in us. But there are then two things to be aware of: not only how well it satisfies the desire it has stirred up, but also what desires it stirs up. There are desires Christians have to put to death and not encourage.

But I do think this is the main question for evaluating imaginative writing. How does it operate on your heart? What desires does it nurture, strengthen, draw from you and then by satisfying, endorse?

___________
*I do think it goes to show how shallow is the modern silliness about spoilers. It isn’t what, but how that matters in a story. We don’t read The Lord of the Rings in order to find out if Sauron will or will not win. We will hate the book if he does. We don’t read Harry Potter wondering if Voldemort will come out triumphant. He can’t, or it won’t be a good book. We read mainly to find out how. That explains also the pleasure of re-reading: we see better the how things come about, knowing perfectly well what will. The satisfaction lies not in what, but how. And that’s in other words the point of the remaining paragraphs above.

Good Sport in Book X

And so Sir Launcelot smote down Sir Dinadan, and made his men to unarm him, and so brought him to the queen and the haut prince, and they laughed at Dinadan so sore that they might not stand. Well, said Sir Dinadan, yet have I no shame, for the old shrew, Sir Launcelot, smote me down.

-Chapter XLVII

Well, said Launcelot, make good watch ever: God forbid that ever we meet but if it be at a dish of meat. Then laughed the queen and the haut prince, that they might not sit at their table; thus they made great joy till on the morn, and then they heard mass, and blew to field.

-Chapter XLVIII

CHAPTER XLIX Of the seventh battle, and how Sir Launcelot, being disguised like a maid, smote down Sir Dinadan.

Wherein is found:

And always Sir Dinadan looked up thereas Sir Launcelot was, and then he saw one sit in the stead of Sir Launcelot, armed. But when Dinadan saw a manner of a damosel he dread perils that it was Sir Launcelot disguised, but Sir Launcelot came on him so fast that he smote him over his horse’s croup; and then with great scorns they gat Sir Dinadan into the forest there beside, and there they dispoiled him unto his shirt, and put upon him a woman’s garment, and so brought him into the field: and so they blew unto lodging. And every knight went and unarmed them. Then was Sir Dinadan brought in among them all. And when Queen Guenever saw Sir Dinadan brought so among them all, then she laughed that she fell down, and so did all that there were.

–Sir T. Malory

Everyday Bogota

“Yesterday rain and today the sun,” he observed.

“Yesterday torrents and darkness, and today glad trees in the wind,” she replied.

“Tropical light on tropical trees, and the breeze all cool.”

“I went a long way walking,
past dogs and owners,
past children and parents,
past drinkers and beggars,
past hedges all climbed over by the grass and puddled ruts in the road,
past loafing workmen and working tramps,
brick walls like castles and slopes all shaggy with long grass.”

“Large clouds in a blue sky and on earth the feckless vegetation the hail will hammer again this afternoon, do not doubt it.”

And in this way they realized the rainy season.

Lines at the End of the Day

Bosch covered Borges in the darkness in the bus
Rain on a courtyard where rulers of countries have smoked at indifferent skies
Hail on the plexiglass, gushing waterspouts, a wave in the library and all those stairs
The damp smell on the bus of Bogota when it’s torrential

All afternoon I laminated
The fireplace which should have been lit was lined with newspapers
The blocked spout for the hot milk
Hot milk mingling with the coffee in a cup
Double-cream cheese through the darkness, the renewing rain

A greek morning with coffee
Lunch and green tea, dozing to C.S. Lewis
And with the afternoon’s empanada the odd accents of Americans
after all these English, Scottish, Irish and Australian voices
The oldest thousand peso bill in existence—like a piece of cloth
Lights and human, colonial dimensions. Dim lights mostly
The sounds of water

The Image of the City

Realism of language is perhaps the theme of Charles Williams. I am no scholar of Williams, but I’ve been reading around a bit, and while I’d hesitate to make a definite statement, I would venture a hypothesis; that is that whatever else he wrote about, what seems foremost in Williams is the fullness of the cosmos as perceived in the scope and riches of his language.

There is a flat and barely referential use of language in the mouth of living speakers and in literature which can be called a sort of being dead: a death of language. It is like a picture taken by an amateur photographer, like the sound of popular music, like a bag of ordinary chips. This death is when something is not alive with suggestions of what lies beyond, of greater possibilities. Language is dead when rather than suggesting, it seems to be withering, meaning less, comprehending less, touching less of the real world.

No painting is great that does not somehow spiritually transcend its necessary frame, no music is great that doesn’t have something of the march of meaning, no cooking is great that comes without some kind of hint beyond nourishment of the affirmation of the life it nourishes. And in the same way, in his use of language Williams was alive with suggestions and greater possibilities.

The Image of the City is a collection of essays (this is a good time to go looking for Williams’ non-fiction). These essays are valuable because Williams was a difficult, an intelligent, a skilled and a Christian thinker. He is worth understanding simply because of the kind of person he was. He was a rarity in an age that increasingly looks golden compared to ours. To great minds he was a stimulus: to Sayers to translate and study Dante, to Lewis in his thinking on Milton, and even to Eliot in his observation of Integrity.

And as he was a stimulus to better minds than ours, he can be a stimulus to us. He was an apologist for Milton in an age of much confusion about Milton—and his friends in the university got him a position lecturing on English letters. He had a way with lines of poetry, with poetic concerns, and not only suggests interesting things, but provides for us a necessary and welcome point of view. He has a way of opening up the poets to you, of appreciating. We need the criticism of appreciation. He was, when it comes to literature, not shackled by conventions void of insight and the spirit of the age, but liberated by an ardent love, and has the power of helping you to see through his gaze, and of making you want.

He knew how to communicate matters of the heart, and this is in large part due to his command of English prose—the fact that language was for him something alive. He was a poet admired by poets and the lovers of poetry (Auden read his poetry, and read his prose as well; Lewis admired and studied his poetry—I wish the volume of his commentaries on Williams were still in print). But he was most successful and admired as a novelist. He also wrote complicated plays, and he wrote books and essays. His use of English, his power with it—to show and to suggest—alone make his essays valuable.

If you read him with attention, Williams will expand your mind, will set it on things wondrous and permanent, will make the world you live in deepen because of the new-perceived order. The order will provide lines, along which lines true possibilities are opened. This is the essence of insight, and the real function of language.

History in English Words, by Owen Barfield

The book is fascinating, and useful for understanding where many of our words have come from. Moreover, it makes these easier to remember by giving them in associated waves. Giving the words in waves provides Barfield an occasion to comment on the temperament of the times and the interest of the people then. In other words, he can comment on the inner considerations that go along with the outer events that also affect people. So the book provides a history of ideas and of the tendencies of civilizations. What Barfield also does, and what he really wants to do, is to show us how human awareness of ideas has changed and grown over the years. He makes fascinating and interesting points about the evolution of consciousness just by looking at English words, their sources, changes and derivations.

Usually Barfield is difficult, but this book is not so, and is as interesting as all the rest.

Less Than Words Can Say, Again

I thought of this again this week, what with the thread on Remonstrans.

The shame of speaking unskilfully were small if the tongue onely thereby were disgrac’d: But as the Image of a King in his Seale ill-represented is not so much a blemish to the waxe, or the Signet that seal’d it, as to the Prince it representeth, so disordered speech is not so much injury to the lips that give it forth, as to the disproportion and incoherence of things in themselves, so negligently expressed. Neither can his Mind be thought to be in Tune, whose words do jarre; nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous; nor his Elocution clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties. Negligent speech doth not onely discredit the person of the Speaker, but it discrediteth the opinion of his reason and judgement; it discrediteth the force and uniformity of the matter and substance. If it be so then in words, which fly and ‘scape censure, and where one good Phrase asks pardon for many incongruities and faults, how then shall he be thought wise whose penning is thin and shallow? How shall you look for wit from him whose leasure and head, assisted with the examination of his eyes, yeeld you no life or sharpnesse in his writing?

Ben Jonson, found in Vol 5:7 of the Underground Grammarian and elsewhere.

The Use of Opinion

“Do not inject opinion.”

So advise Strunk & White. It is an important thing, and one that I am thinking about nowadays as I am striving for better order in my thinking and writing. One finds oneself excluding things on the ground that they are extraneous because they are simply opinion. Strunk & White are to be consulted and used, but I couldn’t help thinking of them when I read this endorsement.

“Each succeeding volume of Mr. Powell’s Music of Time series enhances its importance. The work is dry, cool, humorous, elaborately and accurately constructed and quintessentially English. It is more realistic than A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, to which it is often compared, and much funnier.”

Few could and few can write like Evelyn Waugh. In the quotation above the first two sentences convey all the necessary information, but it is not till the third, when you get the unmistakable sense of prejudice and opinion which Waugh so adroitly handles, and here displays, that the endorsement comes alive. The endorsement would not turn one toward Powell’s book did it not contain a thinly veiled slam on Proust, French letters, France and in general—one feels—everything French ever. That flash imparts color to the whole thing. It is a bit of the malice of Waugh that comes disguised as a stroke of judgment. What it does not do is harm in any way the intelligent reader’s ideas of Proust—as if “more realistic” really meant anything and as if funnier mattered that much to the enjoyment of Proust, were not actually frivolous; though it may irritate the tedious—but it does, and at Waugh’s expense, make Powell’s Music of Time series very alluring. Why? because one Evelyn Waugh went to the trouble of saying something clever about it, implying it is no work for tedious people and that such people could go hang (or continue their researches into French literature).

It is the juxtaposition of “quintessentially English” along with the gratuitous disparaging of that magnificence of French letters that is so effective. Waugh need not have put things that way. But the injection of opinion gives the whole endorsement life. He could not have accomplished the same by simply writing: Here is an enormous and growing work which is assuredly of interest.

Not that Strunk & White can be said to object to this. Their bets, in this case, were hedged. In the case of Evelyn Waugh, his opinions did enjoy something of a brisk demand. But the question is, why? Because he knew how to use them adroitly.

Literature and Language: Connoisseur and Craftsman

One may know enough to judge a thing without being able to make the thing one judges. Such a person is the connoisseur, either lacking in the skill or the interest to master the craft, but with a great and informed interest in the finished product. A connoisseur may understand the process and not be uninformed about the craft, but he has never mastered the crafting himself. It seems to me there is something to be said for the connoisseur; although he lacks something the craftsman has; I am not sure that I would say the craftsman has everything the connoisseur does, and my sympathies are probably with the connoisseur, mostly.

Something had been nagging me as I read The Road to Middle Earth. It had been nagging me for a long while, and I was unable to discern what exactly it was that nagged: the thing was counterintuitive on the surface. One of the tensions running through Tolkien’s career was the oppugnancy of the literary approach to English studies and the language approach, which was his. Tom Shippey, who is almost if not certainly uniquely qualified to comment on Tolkien’s achievement because of the immense learning (knowledge of Gothic, among other things, being important) requisite to appreciate Tolkien’s work (in the sense of critical appraisal, not in the sense of sheer enjoyment), explains the tension. In a way (see the nearly elegiac Afterword), Shippey is concerned with this very tension in his work. The literature approach generally scorns philology and tends to focus on the contemporary state of affairs. The language approach generally ignores the contemporary situation and is fascinated with philology, the history of words, the way languages change and influence each other, the scraps of past literature in which dead languages still speak. Tolkien was a philologist; so is Shippey. And what Shippey is mainly concerned with is showing how Tolkien’s work must be appreciated from a craftsman’s perspective, rather than a connoisseur. The connoisseurs, many of them, were not and still are not giving Tolkien what Shippey feels is his due. What nagged me was that Shippey is not a crafter of stories and poems himself—that I can see. Was he on the connoisseur end of things? He was working from the Lang. end of things, but was it to move Tolkien further into the Lit.? No, he is in the workshop as well, for all that he is writing a work of criticism, and showing us how things are there, giving us a tour so we become better connoisseurs of the craft.

Think of the literature on the Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. What other recent works of fiction have been followed up by 13 volumes of edited variants and fragments with careful commentary showing the development of the main published works? Not many, I ween. And Shippey goes beyond all these volumes into the literature that Tolkien taught and handled and loved; he goes there to explore things. And Shippey goes beyond that to explain the philological origins not only of names and places, but also of ideas, solutions to problems, outcomes in the stories. And Shippey’s thesis is to insist that the love for these things—old words, old languages, old tales, old things suggesting further, dimmer old things—is the key to a properly informed appreciation of what Tolkien wanted to achieve with his writing. Tolkien’s approach was not only that of a craftsman, it was, in a way other crafted works are not, a poem to craftsmanship itself, a song of the workshop of language. Tolkien was fascinated by the words, not simply the paragraphs and sentences that are all the connoisseurs concern. “Words, ancient words,” Shippey says in conclusion,

do not have to be hooked together to make something. They have their own energy and struggle towards their own connections. Observing this impulse and co-operating with it is as good a guide for the artist as turning within oneself to the inarticulate.

Not that Shippey is conceding anything to misguided connoisseurs, or that he opposes those who are less ignorant in their legitimate labors. No, but he does realize how much philology has vanished out of the world, and how brief its time was, and how dear it was to the man he considers the author of the century, and how fundamental to the love of his works.

Today’s Blog Brought to You By the Word Wingeing in Use and Example

There is one thing I dislike about the cold, now that it is all about us and I am reminded. I dislike all the wingeing about how terrible it is. If it is terrible it is probably because you are improvident.

Now I understand that bad things happen on account on the cold. Your car might blow up, and here you are hurtling down the freeway trailing clouds of glory. I haven’t seen a lot of that this year, but every year you see somebody in the really cold weather trailing clouds of glory. It is too bad and I am actually sorry for you–and that does not happen a whole lot.

But other than that it is all your own fault.

Warm up your car and quit wingeing about it. Don’t sit out in a cold car like a moron.

Don’t complain about how cold you are, wear enough clothes. One would think people these days were incapable of thinking for themselves. This is a good time of the year to make sure you are wearing enough clothes. If you aren’t wearing enough clothes you can tell because you’re feeling cold.

Get a space heater and quit wingeing about the heat at work. Plugging in a space heater is on their account, and you can probably expense the heater too.

Stop drinking cold drinks. Are you demented!? That is why tea in all its varieties, coffee, hot cider, hot chocolate and all the proper drinks were invented. What kind of a reptile goes around holding a cold pop can and wingeing about how cold it is while not wearing enough clothes?

And why don’t you wear the storm trooper boots you tromp around in all summer instead of those soleless shoes. Get those Indian boots. Get long socks while your at it, and if it is the 30th of January in Minnesota and you don’t have a spare pair of gloves you are one very pathetic person. You especially, considering you would misplace your gloves exactly when they became indispensable.

Eat chili, eat hearty foods and nuke them hot; make them spicy and quit wingeing about the cold. All you’re saying is that you’re improvident or do not have the minimum intelligence required to be a human in these situations.

My favorite retort, however, is a gesture I make when they talk about typing and cold fingers. I just hold up my hands which are sheathed in gloves with the tips cut off. Then I give them the frowning-quizzical look one gives to people when one tries to imply that perhaps they were not bothering to think.