Hector and Achilles in Orlando Furioso

Italians have been deconstructing and reconstructing Homer and Vergil for a Long Time.  If you come upon a heroic epic that doesn’t feature those two, you aren’t reading something Italian.  And one of the all-time great contrasts in the Homeric cycle is between Hector and Achilles.

Achilles is mad, bru.  It’s the first word of the poem!  He’s mad fast, and mad strong, and in the post-Homeric tradition he’s mad invincible.  What’s he mad about?  Well, his king took his girl from him and his best friend gets murdered in a scene involving his gear.

Achilles Pitt
Yeah, he’s mad, bro

If I told you that Ariosto was Italian, would it surprise you to learn that his titular hero is also raging mad?  He’s invincible (by God’s grace, not the river Styx).  His king took his girl from him and his best friend gets murdered in a scene involving his gear… Continue reading Hector and Achilles in Orlando Furioso

Distributing Adverbs in Aquinas: Praxis and Theoria

One of the perpetually educating things about educating boys is what they struggle to learn.  Abbey boys are generally selected for their ability to think abstractly, but that’s a road that everyone walks in their own time and in their own way.  Not to get too Boethian on you, but the road from praxis to theoria is individualized.

When I teach Form V (11th grade) students the nature of voluntariness in Aquinas, we hit a simple test case early on.  Since I’m about to wrap the Aquinas material in the next two weeks, I figured I’d comment on it a little. Continue reading Distributing Adverbs in Aquinas: Praxis and Theoria


I’m thankful for my family, especially my sister, even though she still doesn’t know how to keep score in bridge and it cost us the rubber today.

I’m thankful for my children, especially now that they are asleep, but even earlier, when they were watching the movie, or trying to kill each other downstairs with the cousins.

I’m thankful we survived the valley of tears that is 495 and 270.

I’m thankful for Cthulhu Saves the World, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft.  And the internet that makes it possible for me to have these treasures for basically zero cost.  At least until the solar flares wipe out the digital age.

I’m thankful for my job, in which I get to teach my favorite subjects to generally exceptional young men.  I missed it a little bit today, and I’m sad that I won’t have ERC tomorrow.

I’m thankful for Epic Recitation Club and the goofy nerds in it.  Mem0: get a picture taken for the blog.

I’m thankful for my wife for an uncountable number of reasons.  Pretty high up there is the apple pie she baked.  Even higher: that she noticed I was too full to eat pie tonight so she saved me a piece before my locust family could devour it all.

It feels wrong to put God, my creation, sacraments, the Church, and redemption on par with these things.  Origen would have called God “Thanks-Itself” I think.  But here He comes to give me words for it:

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good;
His steadfast love endures forever.

Thou art my God and I will give thanks to thee;
thou art my God, I will extol thee
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good;
His steadfast love endures forever.

And I’m thankful for that too.

On the Merits of the Rose Translation

A few years ago our scholarship gala auctioned off a “Teacher’s Library,” in which each faculty member selected a work for the collection.  I was torn between choices–Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Orlando Furioso.  Knowing how hard it would be to get a hold of a hard copy of a Rose Furioso, I (foolishly) hedged.  In my selection email I suggested getting Orlando Furioso if by a miracle the Rose were available, but otherwise go with Orthodoxy.

Old books on shelf
Rose’s Natural Habitat. Jackpot!

Much to my chagrin, at the gala the collection included both the Chesterton and the lamentably Rose-less Furioso in prose translation.  To add insult to injury, my inscription to the Ariosto tome referred to it as a pillar of masterful English prose or something like that.  Hopefully whoever won that auction doesn’t hold my gaffe against me. Continue reading On the Merits of the Rose Translation

Poe Was a Grinder

The glories of the digital age are best shown in this, that I can acquire for less than a dollar the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe and hold them in the palm of my hand.  Thanks, Nook!

Must. Make. Deadline.

I’ve just recently finished plowing through all of Poe’s short stories.  It was more work than expected.  Poe was a grinder.  He wrote a lot, in many more genres than I knew.  When he was on, he put lightning on the page and made himself immortal.  But Poe was not always Poe.  Writing for a living will do that to you.

His static, pastoral descriptions: bleh.  His few dialogues: bleh.  His sci-fi is a little better, usually focused on hot air balloons.  Often bleh, but you get glimpses of the “real Poe.”  He is often occupied with mesmerism, an application of the cutting edge science of electromagnetism. Continue reading Poe Was a Grinder

Logistics Liturgique

Dear fellow communicants at the Mass of the Ages—stalwart faithful, late-rising last-chancers, intrepid first-timers, few of whom get this right all the time—permit me to offer some fraternal advice on the dance liturgical.  No, not the felt banners kind.  The lovely, awkward dance of receiving communion at an altar rail.

One of the great liberations of the ancient mass is the process of going to communion. Since this is a logistics post, I won’t wax eloquent on its virtues. But the practical side of it is this: a lot of the people sitting in front of you are probably not going up to communion.  Don’t wait for them.  It’s ok to end up in front of them “in line” (more on that below).  Just don’t bulldoze passed people who are getting up and moving a tad bit slower than you are.  A little situational awareness goes a long way here—be mindful of the people around you, don’t rush, don’t wait.  It’s a dance.  Some day we’ll be rid of wretched pews and stand in a throng on a glorious marble floor.  Until then, we dance a bit.

Continue reading Logistics Liturgique

Raven-fish, physeter, salpouth?

Here’s a lovely pastoral description of Alcina’s realm from 6.36:

Thither swift dolphins gambol, inly stirred,
And open-mouthed the cumbrous tunnies leap;
Thither the seal or porpus’ wallowing herd
Troop at her bidding, roused from lazy sleep;
Raven-fish, salmon, salpouth, at her word,
And mullet hurry through the briny deep,
With monstrous backs above the water, sail
Ork, physeter, sea-serpent, shark, and whale.

School of Fish

Reading this with one of my ERC nerds, I was asked, “What’s a physeter?”  I laughed because I’d never bothered to check in my previous read-throughs.  “Context!” I thundered.  “Obviously he’s just listing a bunch of sea creatures.  It might even be mythical.”  Undaunted he, “Yes but what kind?” Continue reading Raven-fish, physeter, salpouth?

Ecumenical Ariosto

One of the things I find most interesting about Orlando Furioso is how Agramant’s knights are portrayed.  Agramant commands a transhistorical army of Moors, Saracens, and Arabs.  The words are often used interchangeably even in the same stanza.  A great example of the mashup is 9.5, when Orlando is first setting out to find Helangelica:

And when the day its shining light displayed,
He wholly searched the Moorish army through.
In that the gentle warrior was arrayed
In Arab weeds, he this might safely do;
And of his purpose came alike in aid
That other tongues beside the French he knew;
And in the African so well was read,
He seemed in Tripoly one born and bred:

The more you read and the more kingdoms are named, you realize Africa embraces everything from Gibraltar to Ethiopia.  And of course, this monster alliance is a stand-in for the Ottoman Empire (the poem is written in 1516 and published in final form in 1532).  It’s a propaganda piece in many ways, much like the Aeneid that inspires it. Continue reading Ecumenical Ariosto

Anaphora and Repetitio

I came across some advice about “vain repetition” in writing over at Derek Haines’s website (I follow him on Twitter so I get a constant stream of rookie advice while I write).  The short of it was that repetition lulls a reader to sleep and writers need a large repertoire of variation to avoid this.  This is undeniably true, although I can recall a misspent youth in which I contorted my prose beyond all reason to avoid even trivial repetition.  There’s an obsessive component to writing (and, apparently, to me). Continue reading Anaphora and Repetitio

Shanty Towns are Dangerous

My friends the Darwins have a post up, like just about everyone else in the blog-o-sphere, on refugees.  It’s got a provocative title and is filled with some nice historical context and common sense–boilerplate Darwins.  Go read the whole thing, and pay particular attention to the last two paragraphs (buried the lede a bit there, Darwin). Continue reading Shanty Towns are Dangerous