Monday, September 30, 2019

To the Unknown God

Jacopo Bassano workshop, Discourse of St. Paul in the Areopagus of Athens,16th century

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
       “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
         as even some of your own poets have said,
         “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

  Acts 17:16-34 English Standard Version

Friday, September 27, 2019

Formal Grace, Droll Caricature

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956), Lady in Mauve, 1922. Oil on canvas

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

An Elemental Summary of Paradise Lost

A few months ago I dashed off a brief note (HERE) on William Poole's Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost.

As I said then, it is a good book.  I'll have more to say about it in future. In the meantime, here is Dr. Poole's elemental summary of the plot:

Paradise Lost (twelve books; 7-8 and 11-12 were the original Books 7 and 10).

 1.      Hell: Satan and his troops in defeat.
 2.      Hell: the devil’s assembly and Satan’s journey.
 3.      Heaven: Divine theology; the approach of Satan to Eden.
 4.      Eden: Adam and Eve; Eve recounts her creation; Gabriel challenges Satan.
 5.      Eden: Eve’s dream; the arrival of Raphael; Raphael’s narration of the revolt.
 6.      Eden: Raphael continues: the War in Heaven.
 7.      Eden: Raphael continues; the Creation.
 8.      Eden: Raphael and Adam discuss astronomy; Adam recounts his creation.
 9.      Eden: Temptation and Fall.
 10.  Heaven: God sends his Son to Eden; Hell: Satan’s return; Eden: recriminations, followed by repentance.
 11.  Heaven: God’s judgments; Eden: the arrival of Michael; the vision of history (up to Flood).
 12.  Eden: The vision of history (Flood to Second Coming); Expulsion.
Source: William Poole, Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost, Harvard UP, 2017, p.115.

Monday, September 23, 2019


Standish Backus, Garden at Hiroshima, Autumn, Watercolor on Paper (1946)


Thursday, September 5, 2019

John Milton’s Place in the History of the Dutch Republic

John Milton gets a mention in Russell Shorto’s book on the founding of New Amsterdam and New York City, The Island at the Center of the World. After the initial 1652 naval battle off Dover, in what would become the Anglo-Dutch War: 
[Adriaen] Pauw left for London to take part in emergency talks with Cromwell’s Council of State (where, incidentally, the man he would have dealt with as Cromwell’s translator and foreign speech writer [Secretary of Foreign Tongues/Latin secretary] was no less a figure than the poet John Milton). (248-249)
The talks are described by Leo Miller in John Milton’s Writings in the Anglo-Dutch Negotiations, 1651-1654—a book I have yet to read. What I will be looking for, specifically, are descriptions reflecting Milton’s “persona” as a bureaucrat and negotiator.  Milton’s prose writings are characteristically elegant, forceful, thorough, and “authoritative.” Did his manner in committee meetings reflect his prose style?  And as for Milton’s “deeper” mode: when in meetings or during negotiations, was he susceptible to dropping an ironic word? One might think so, but I doubt it.  I rather suspect his manner was pleasant, but closely measured.  On his mission from the Dutch Republic, Adriaen Pauw might have gained some insights into the character of the English adversary, as he balanced his impressions of Cromwell’s avid and aggressive nature against Milton’s fluency and charm. But this is speculation.

Meanwhile, here is Gerard ter Borch’s painting of Adriaen Pauw with his wife and granddaughter approaching Münster for the peace negotiations of 1648, which would lead to the end of the Thirty-Years War, with the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Westphalia. Happier times.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Baths of Eudemonia

The Fountain of Youth (1546),  Lucas Cranach the Elder