Songs on a Summer Morning

I've been listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie, (yet another thing I have Radio 2's Terry Wogan playlist to thank for) who makes me think of lots of things.

Folly, mostly. For example, her songs were sufficiently haunting and threatening that Lyndon Johnson took time from his breakdown to write--on white house stationery--thank you notes to radio stations that wouldn't play her, apparently. By contrast, Lincoln, whom most warmongers like to compare themselves to, exposed himself to poetry and agonised over the civil war. Have a listen to The Big Ones Get Away, below, and tell me it doesn't make you think of Ella Wheeler Wilcox' It Might Have Been, or at least the sentiments therein.

We will be what we could be. Do not say,
"It might have been, had not this, or that, or this."
No fate can keep us from the chosen way;
He only might who is.

We will do what we could do. Do not dream
Chance leaves a hero, all uncrowned to grieve.
I hold, all men are greatly what they seem;
He does, who could achieve.

We will climb where we could climb. Tell me not
Of adverse storms that kept thee from the height.
What eagle ever missed the peak he sought?
He always climbs who might.

I do not like the phrase "It might have been!"
It lacks force, and life's best truths perverts:
For I believe we have, and reach, and win,
Whatever our deserts

That song also makes me deeply glad that I spend most of my time teaching, and hopefully giving people a little bit of the access to the resources behind their eyes which will keep them going, and save them from really believing a lot of the lies that the world asks of people.

Dr Sainte-Marie's name also makes me think of Ticonderoga, Robert Louis Stevenson's great narrative poem. The final lines, when the Cameron finds out what his doom is from an old Canadian native seem apt;

"Since the Frenchmen have been here
They have called it Sault-Marie;
But that is a name for priests,
And not for you and me.
It went by another word,"
Quoth he of the shaven head:
"It was called Ticonderoga
In the days of the great dead."

I used to love narrative poetry, and committed vast swathes of it to heart when young, from Tomlinson through Lepanto to The Eve of St Agnes, along with a good part of Palgrave's Golden Treasury and a little Oxford Book of Narrative verse I picked up in a store many moons past and gave away to a woman almost as long ago. It's funny that; given my past, there are women wandering around all over the world with books, or gifts of mine. The St Christopher's medal I had on leaving Corby for Oxford currently rests with a truly brilliant woman of the Veneto, of whom I think often. I hope that she is well, today, wherever she is. It seems odd that the last time I saw her was in Bologna, in the cold.

The Ticonderoga quote above seems to run neatly into this, agonised and imagined memory of the Native Americans and the end of their fifteen thousand year world, though it is in the end quite hopeful too.


berenike said…
Another papist lawyer:

Religion Law Blog
Martin Meenagh said…
I love my Pope
berenike said…
Me too.

This girl I met over the internet is telling me that when the Pope said the stuff found in what is commonly held to be the tomb of St Paul, and the dating of the bones therein, "confirms" the tradition, he is saying that it has been "proved" and he is just so wrong and doesn't know any logic.

I point out - "confirm" is a translation, etymologically it does mean "make stronger", the primary meaning of the Italian "confermare" is "to make stronger, reinforce", that in history one is not dealing with analytic/deductive/clear and immediate perception - propositions/judgements/truths, but with probable ones, that to have a dating exercise that could have gone against your probable proposition go with it does strengthen the case for your proposition, ...

Nah, she says, he's just made a failure of logic.

I say "is it more likely, going by intellectual history and so on, that you are wrong, or that the Pope (qua not stupid learned type) has made an elementary mistake in logic.

The latter, apparently.

I have no intention of attempting to master inductive logic in the near future, but her "I wonder if this is a difference between religious and non-religious thinking?" think-aloud question is a) forcing me to restrain myself from bashing my head off the table and b) making mastering inductive logic seem hugely useful.
Martin Meenagh said…
Well, it's not just religious, is it? The professional classes like to dress up their consensus-seeking and validation as immutably positivist and logical, as do Liberals in general, but, well, really, for something as confused and complicated and ineffable as history, or humanity, common sense and objectivity are worth a little more than some constraining set of apparently logical rules.

I say apparently, because surely its difficult ever to be logically certain of everything; there must at some point be some foundational assumption, and an ever present note of caution.

In that regard, the Pope's use of 'confirm' rather than 'prove' is well chosen. However, I admire Josef Ratzinger's mind so much that I'd bet on him in practically any argument, though I'm sure that he'd be the first to admit that he's not an historian as much as a theologian.

Why do so many people get so deep into denial and conspiracism and the assumption of bad faith the minute St Paul is mentioned, by the way? The whole psuedo-industry of Essenic studies and masonry and 'Christianity is really Paulinity' and all the rest of it would collapse if you took him and the pyramids out of sentences.

I once sat next to a very able naval historian who insisted to me, on a different note, that if the vatican were not buried above St Peter (not Paul's) bones, 'Roman Catholicism would collapse'. I mean, good grief. Those not of the faith seem disposed to believe any rubbish about it, including that a 'necropolis' discovered and publicised in the twentieth century explains the preceding nineteen. You have to laugh.

Sorry for the long comment. Hope all is well!
berenike said…
Basically "what you said".

I am off into the interweb to hunt down the Ratzinger-Habermas discussion, and wonder how to buy it given I've not seen my visa debit card since I put it in a safe place during Christmas cleaning ...
Martin Meenagh said…
If you google 'skidelsky habermas ratzinger' you get a report.

Have a good day!
berenike said…
It's been published by Ignatius, "The Dialectics of Secularisation" (or some such) - cheap copies available on abebooks ... where oh where is my British bank card...

Popular Posts