28 December 2006

A Poem for Christmastime

This little Babe, so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan's fold.
All Hell doth at His presence quake,
Though He Himself for cold do shake.
For in this weak, unarmed wise,
The gates of Hell He will surprise.

With tears He fights and wins the field;
His naked breast stands for a shield.
His batt'ring shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need,
And feeble flesh His warrior steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
A crib His trench, haystalks His stakes;
Of shepherds He His muster makes.
And thus-- as sure His foe to wound--
The angels' trumps alarum sound!

My soul, with Christ join thou in fight,
Stick to the tents that He hath pight.
Within His crib is surest ward;
This little Babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly Boy!

-Robert Southwell

12 December 2006

Giving thanks for art

I came across another great G.K. Chesterton quote lately:

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and the pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Cited in Frederick Buechner's Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought To Say), which in turn was cited by Ron Reed in his blog Oblations.

11 December 2006

How to read the Narnia Chronicles

Several of my students (and their parents) have recently been asking me "What's the right order in which to read the Narnia Chronicles?" Actually, they probably said "What's the right order to read Narnia in" since they're in my Inklings class and not my grammar-crazy writing class, but that's OK. The purpose of language is the communication of ideas, and I understood them. Well, there are lots of other purposes of language, too, including patterns & the sheer beauty of the sounds & traditions & wrestling with the ineffable, etc. So.

But back to Narnia. Well, I told them that I didn't think it mattered in which order they read the Narnia Chronicles. I added that I had a slight preference for the "Published" order, but that's only because that's how I was raised, and I'll never forget the moments of wonder & revelation when I read The Magician's Nephew for the first time. Wow. But I didn't know which order Jack himself preferred.

So first of all, which order do you prefer? And why?

And then here's a really good posting on that over at another web site called What Order Should I Read the Narnia Books in (And Does It Matter?). I couldn't discover the author. Please do read it, and please read all of it, if you can. There are some very interesting points, especially the quote from Lewis. And I wonder what you think of the ending of this article?

By the way, I was really glad that the new movies are being made in the "original" order (even though that idea is now skewed a bit by that article), but I think we should all write to Douglas Gresham & beg him on bended knees to make sure the screenplay of Prince Caspian is much, MUCH more accurate than LWW! Sure, Disney probably thinks that modern viewers are too dumb for that kind of slightly elevated British 1950s English. But, as CSL himself said in the preface to Mere Christianity, "I don't think the average reader [viewer] is such a fool." Hear, hear.

06 December 2006

The Myth of Talent?

Paul Butzi has a couple of good posts on the myth of talent over at his blog, Musings on Photography: the first is here with follow-ups here and here. I've commented on the first of those on his blog. His thesis is essentially that innate talent is an overrated notion. There is no way of gauging a person's early talent that will predict whether he will end up successful as an artist. It is only in hindsight that you can recognize talent. Furthermore, this mysterious thing called talent is no substitute for hard work. Given enough determination and practice, even someone who did not think she was talented can develop the skill to make good art. Deciding after a couple of false starts that you have no talent and just giving up on art would be a tragedy, whether you're destined to become another Rembrandt or not. Here's my friend Jayne's great story of how she never thought she'd become a good knitter but then persistence paid off. Her present passion for knitting (addiction, one might call it) means she gets tons of practice and gets better and better. You should see some of the amazing stuff she does (all photographed and shown off on her blog, See Jayne Knit).

Of course as a Christian I believe that there are gifts bestowed by God, including artistic gifts. Some people have them and others don't, or rather some people have certain gifts and other people have other gifts. But I agree with Paul's observations that thinking one has no artistic gifting (or "talent") is no excuse for not working hard to develop it (and even, I might add, to discover it in the first place). Even the most gifted artists have to work at their art. A lot of times an artistic talent can be buried by hurtful (and untrue) comments made to one during childhood by insensitive adults. While it is not always the case, usually you will find in the background of great artists a supportive parent or patron. Mozart, for example, doubtless had a larger measure of gifting/potential in the area of music than most of us do, but he was also fortunate enough to have had a supportive father who took him all over the place to play for and get training from famous musicians. Some artists who have suffered early discouraging remarks have been able to break through that later in life and rediscover and develop their creative gifts. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron helps people do that.

01 December 2006

December Poem of the Month

It certainly is not feeling like Christmas around here; 70 degrees today.... But here's a Christmas poem to help usher in Advent. It's a few years old now, and stylistically outdated, but perhaps you'll find something to enjoy notwithstanding.


Immense and joyful was His infinite
existence, massive both in size and bliss,
in cosmic comfort, starry celebration,
and sustained aseity of happiness.
He folded up that hugeness slowly. In
an instant crammed into the virgin’s seed,
gently holding back so not to burst
by size and speed: and thus contained knew grief.
When born, He suddenly was jarred by pain,
embraced by arms that, too, knew pain, and lost
the warm protection of that prenatal place.
Stabbed with sudden hurts, He later stood
on weak legs, scarce contained by skin, and lost
the cool perfection of an infinite space.

~ Sørina

© 2002, Sørina Higgins. Do not use this work in any way without permission from the author.