“This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin”

Easter by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

MOST glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,

Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;

And, having harrowed hell, didst bring away

Captivity thence captive, us to win:

This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;

And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,

Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,

May live for ever in felicity!

And that Thy love we weighing worthily,

May likewise love Thee for the same againe;

And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,

With love may one another entertayne!

So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,

–Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

via Easter – Poem by Edmund Spenser.

“Here, as broken, is presented”

The Banquet

by George Herbert (1633)

Welcome sweet and sacred cheer,

Welcome deare;

With me, in me, live and dwell:

For thy neatnesse passeth sight,

Thy delight

Passeth tongue to taste or tell.

O what sweetnesse from the bowl

Fills my soul,

Such as is, and makes divine!

Is some starre (fled from the sphere)

Melted there,

As we sugar melt in wine ?

Or hath sweetnesse in the bread

Made a head

To subdue the smell of sinne;

Flowers, and gummes, and powders giving

All their living,

Lest the Enemy should winne ?

Doubtlese, neither starre nor flower

Hath the power

Such a sweetnesse to impart:

Onely God, who gives perfumes,

Flesh assumes,

And with it perfumes my heart.

But as Pomanders and wood

Still are good,

Yet being bruis’d are better scented:

God, to show how farre his love

Could improve,

Here, as broken, is presented.

When I had forgot my birth,

And on earth

In delights of earth was drown’d;

God took bloud, and needs would be

Spilt with me,

And so found me on the ground.

Having rais’d me to look up,

In a cup

Sweetly he doth meet my taste.

But I still being low and short,

Farre from court,

Wine becomes a wing at last.

For with it alone I flie

To the skie:

Where I wipe mine eyes, and see

What I seek, for what I sue;

Him I view,

Who hath done so much for me

Let the wonder of his pitie

Be my dittie,

And take up my lines and life:

Hearken under pain of death,

Hands and breath;

Strive in this, and love the strife.

via George Herbert: The Banquet (1633).

When the movie is better than the book

This grew out of a conversation I had yesterday with a student over lunch. He was talking about why the books are nearly always better than the movies that are made based on them. I said that this is true, but there are some cases in which the movie is actually better than the book.

The example I gave was “Peter Pan.” The book, by J. M. Barrie, has all of the Victorian vices of sentimentalism and child-worshipping, and I find it unreadable. (As Chesterton said, Barrie’s central conceit of a boy who doesn’t want to grow up is the fantasy of an adult, not a child. Actual children can’t wait to grow up!)

Another: “The Wizard of Oz.”

I have another one in mind, but I’ll see if you can come up with it. What are some other movies that are better than the book?

A new Shakespeare play discovered?

Well, not exactly, even if the claims are verified. From ‘Shakespeare’s lost play’ no hoax, says expert | Culture | guardian.co.uk:

It has thrills, spills, sword fights, violent sexual assault and – to modern ears – a terrible ending, but the little-known 18th century play Double Falsehood was propelled into the literary limelight today when it was claimed as a lost Shakespeare.

Professor Brean Hammond of Nottingham University will publish compelling new evidence next week that the play, a romantic tragi-comedy by Lewis Theobald is – as the author always maintained it was – substantially based on a real Shakespeare play called Cardenio.

Hammond has been backed in his assertion by the Shakespeare publisher Arden and there are unconfirmed rumours that the play will open at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford when the venue reopens after its three-year closure.

The claim represents 10 years of literary detective work by Hammond. “I don’t think you can ever be absolutely 100% but, yes, I am convinced that it is Shakespeare,” he said. “It’s fair to say it’s been something of an obsession. You need to ask my wife but a fair few of my waking hours have been devoted to this subject.”

Theobald’s Double Falsehood, or The Distrest Lovers was first performed in 1727 at the Drury Lane theatre in London, along with the remarkable claim that it was based on Shakespeare’s “lost play” Cardenio, which was first performed in 1613. Theobald claimed to have three original texts of Cardenio.

Double Falsehood went down well with audiences, but it was badly received by expert observers who dismissed Theobald as a hoaxer. Alexander Pope, in particular, was scornful but the two were committed enemies. “Theobald was the author of a volume in 1726 called Shakespeare Restored which was a hatchet job on Pope’s editing of Hamlet,” said Hammond. “In that volume Theobald made it pretty clear that he considered himself superior to Pope.”

The denunciation became accepted as fact: Theobald was little more than a hoaxer, albeit an audacious one. The play then went largely to ground apart from a performance in 1846 when – after the audience shouted “author? author?” – a plaster bust of Shakespeare was brought out. It was laughed off stage.

The play reads like Shakespeare, but reworked Shakespeare. Hammond called Double Falsehood a “flawed play”, adding: “This version of the Shakespeare play has been doctored. Theobald cut out material that he didn’t think appropriate, but this was quite common. Shakespeare was very frequently rewritten in the 17th and 18th centuries.”

The play is much shorter and more bitty than a normal Shakespeare play and there are no long speeches. But there is plenty of action that centres on two men and two women, including an aristocratic villain called Henriquez who ravishes the virtuous young girl Violante. By the end he has repented and is strikingly forgiven by all.

At most, this is saying that a lost Shakespeare play, “Cardenio,” may be behind Lewis Theobald’s 18th century play “Double Falsehood.” Theobald said that it was and that he actually had copies of the missing play. To say this is not a hoax means that Theobald was not a hoaxer, not that this is an actual play from Shakespeare.

I am highly skeptical. For one thing, Shakespeare never wrote any tragi-comedies! This was a genre quite popular at the time, in which characters could be of noble birth and get killed, while arriving at a happy ending. This hybrid genre was pioneered by the writing team of Beaumont & Fletcher. These tended to have little literary merit–we would call the genre “melodrama”–although, ironically, this would be the genre that would win out, to the point that most of our “dramas” today are neither comedies nor tragedies but tragi-comedies.

Shakespeare stuck to comedies and tragedies, and though he bent those genres considerably (especially comedy), he stayed away from the melodramatic tragi-comedies. In fact, he makes fun of them, as well as other mixed-genre hybrids, in Hamlet, in which Polonius comes up with “The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited” (Act II. scene ii. line 243). If “Cardenio” was a tragicomedy, of course, then Shakespeare did write one, but I find it, while possible, quite unlikely. But I’ll be interested to see Professor Hammond’s evidence.

HT: Joe Carter

I’m on Issues, Etc.

I’m doing a series of interviews with Todd Wilkens on Issues, Etc. based on my book Spirituality of the Cross Revised Edition.

Go here and then to “listen” to find the interview archived.

The Falerian Schoolmaster

My daughter Joanna, a Latin teacher, told me a great story from Livy.  It can give us a new word for a teacher who harms students or uses them for his own ends.

This account is from Plutarch’s version.  Camillus is the noble general of the Roman Republic who is besieging the Falerii:

Now, it so happened that in Falerii there was a school-master who had under his charge a large number of boys, and after their lessons were finished he would take them daily to the outskirts of the town for play and exercise. He constantly assured them that they had nothing to fear from the enemy at their walls, and they followed their master with perfect confidence wherever he chose to lead them. One day he approached the Roman advance-guard, surrounded by all the boys, whom he delivered up to be carried to Camillus. When questioned by the commander, he told who he was, and said “that he preferred the favor of Camillus to the obligations of duty, and that he had come to hand over to him the Falerian children, and through them the whole city.”

The commander was shocked at such base treachery. “War is at best a savage thing,” he said, “but it has its laws from which men of honor will never depart; though desirous of victory, they do not avail themselves of acts of villany.” So saying, he ordered the lictors to tear off the wretch's clothes and tie his hands behind him, then to furnish each boy with a rod and a scourge, with which to whip the traitor back to the city.

Meanwhile, the Falerians had heard of the fate of their boys, [146] and men and women crowded to the gates in a state of distraction, filling the air with their lamentations. Suddenly they beheld the school-master running towards them pursued by his pupils, who did not spare their blows, but shouted and yelled with delight, while they proclaimed the Roman commander “their God, their Deliverer, their Father.” The citizens were so struck by the generosity of Camillus that it was decided in council to send deputies to the noble commander to surrender the city to him. Camillus took time to consult the senate of Rome, who advised him to demand a sum of money of the Falerians, but on no account to accept anything more. Peace was then restored, and the Roman army returned home.

via The Baldwin Project: Our Young Folks’ Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman.

Can you think of some Falerian Schoolmasters today?