Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

E-mail me

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Conservative judicial activism?

Interesting questions about this are raised here, and to some extent explained here. The latter is a new blog dedicated to the jurisprudence of Justice Scalia. Welcome!

High Fidelio

I'm listening to the CD re-release of the old Westminster recording Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, about a woman who disguises herself as a boy and takes a job in a prison in order to free her husband, a political prisoner. "Fidelio" (which roughly means "faithful one") is the name she takes. (Early 19th century Spain, as Beethoven imagined it, may have had poltical prisons, but fortunately it did not require two forms of i.d. in order to procure law-enforcement employment.)

Under Hans Knappertsbusch, this recording is slow, but you know, I like being able to hear every note in "O namenlose Freude" -- too often it comes off like a football cheer. And the Third Leonora Overture (here positioned, as Mahler established the tradition, between the two scenes of Act II), takes on extra power when yanked back to Kna-speed.

Another part that benefits from the Kna-treatment is the opening of the final scene, when the arrival of a benevolent royal official signals the end of the evil Don Pizarro's reign over the prison.

At the Met in the '70s, they had a great staging of this moment. The foreground, representing the prison yard, is beginning to fill up with newly-released prisoners. Upstage is a huge lattice-wall, representing the prison gates. Outside it, but clearly visible, is a happy crowd of wives and children, pointing to their husbands and fathers as they recognize them, and rejoicing. Prison guards stride upstage and throw open the gates, and the women and children come streaming in....

One interesting feature of this recording is that it brings together bass Deszo Ernster as Rocco, the head jailer, who is as kind as his job lets him be (the photo in the link shows Mr. Ernster as the ferocious giant Fafner in Wagner's Das Rheingold: that's him on the far right edge of the picture), and bass-baritone Gustav Neidlinger as Don Pizarro, governor of the prison, who uses his job to persecute his enemies.

According to infallible opera critic Martin Bernheimer (the link is to a transcript of a Texaco Opera Quiz where Martin presided and where a relative of Cacciaguida was one of the panelists), Ernster was a concentration camp survivor. Gus Neidlinger, on the other hand, was at least on cozy terms with the Nazis (he sang at the Salzburg Festival during the war).

So how did these two get along at the recording sessions? Well, for one thing, their roles may have helped: Gus's character is thoroughly bad -- and in the end the good guys drag him off to a fate that is unspecified but that probably has at least something in common with the fate he's been dealing to his victims for years.

Another factor is that Gus was one of the most gentlemanly and charitable colleagues in the history of opera. It's often that way with people who play almost nothing but villains: they work out their aggressions in their roles, and are teddy-bears to deal with in person.

Gus's powerful voice positively dripped evil, so his stock roles were Wagner's Alberich and Klingsor, Beethoven's Pizarro, and such like. He tried to branch out, taking on white-hat parts such as Hans Sachs, Kurwenal, and even Amfortas (at La Scala in 1966, under Cluytens). But his discography tells a different story: a career "heavy." No wonder he was an angel in person!

Monday, August 19, 2002
Two ladies for life

Russo's Republic here and Eve Tushnet here have both been taking on a pro-abortion libertarian recently. Fill your brain with high-test and go take a look at this debate.

"What the Catholic Church Should Teach -- see page A24"

Karl at Summa Contra Mundum undertakes the thankless task (because it has to be repeated every single time, and there are so many times) of taking apart the latest why-women-should-be-priests screed in the secular press.

The only question that leaves Karl puzzled, as it must leave us all, is why Catholicism is the only religion in this country such that the secular media feel qualified to lecture it on a more or less regular basis on what its doctrines should be. Is this some sort of back-handed, unintended compliment to the Church? Is it because of the counter-cultural (as in, counter-elite-cultural) nature of some of our teachings?

(I suppose a law-abiding Musim American could complain that the media feel free to lecture his religion too. Yet it seems to me that, on the contrary, the media, like the politicians and the schools, have been bending backwards since 9/11 to emphasize the supposedly non-representative nature of Islamic terrorists.)

The Review of Politics

In the "Conservatism" section of my links, I've added The Review of Politics, a scholarly quarterly based at Notre Dame.

This is not a "movement conservative" quarterly in the Modern Age or Intercollegiate Review sense, but it has always been open to non-liberal and non-leftist thought; note that its website brags of having published (inter alia) Jacques Maritain, Leo Strauss, and Eric Voegelin. Harvey Mansfield is on its editorial board, as is Yale's Steven Smith. (I say "Yale's" because there at least two other more-or-less conservative Steven Smiths in academia, one at Notre Dame Law, one at UVa Law.)

Saturday, August 17, 2002
Grad student deconstructs take-out menu. (Thanks to The Onion.)

Friday, August 16, 2002
Anthony Burgess

Eve presents an interesting quote from Anthony Burgess to the effect that A Clockwork Orange is anti-Pelagian.

See also Burgess's The Wanting Seed, which came out at almost the same time as ACO and was overshadowed by it. TWS is about a future society that toggles between "Pel-phase" (Pelagian phase), in which population control is strictly enforced, and "Gus-phase" (Augustinian phase), which is aggressively pro-natalist. Most of the action on TWS concerns people fleeing the population police.

What do you get if you cross Sex and the City with Murder in the Cathedral?

Ordinarily I would let this pass with merely an appropriate quip (insert yours here -- no, wait, that is an appropriate quip!). But given the signs of the times, and given that this is St. Pat's, where another sacrilege took place about thirteen years ago, one has to wonder if some sort of sacrilegious escalation is under way. (Thanks to Kross&Sweord for the link.)

[Strictly speaking, is the correct expression "under way," or "under weigh," as in, "anchors aweigh"?]

No Top Ten for this one: I'm sure Letterman will do one.

Spanish Kentucky?

Catherine Drinker Bowen, in her book Miracle at Philadelphia: the Story of the Constitutional Convention (an excellent book, by the way, though biased towards the nationalizers and inclined to characterize the state's-rights folks as just silly-billies) mentions that there were fears in 1787 that Spain, which still controlled Florida and New Orleans, had designs on Kentucky.

This got me thinking about the top ten reasons why a Spanish Kentucky would have been a bad idea. So far I've got:

* The national anthem would have been "One More Round of Jose Cuervo,"


* My amigo who works at the Bible Literacy Project would have been called Don Cristobal Li Calduel Zaquer.

Feel free to send in more. If I get enough to make a good Top Ten, I'll post the final list.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Last year I was challenged by an Evangelical student on the Assumption, so here are the biblical texts (or "Scriptures") that I deployed to put an end, if not to the debate, at least that round.

The Gospel for the Mass during the day (the vigil uses Luke 11:27-28) is Luke 1:39-56, i.e., the Visitation. What makes this the perfect Gospel text for the Assumption are the parallels between this passage and II Samuel 6 (II Kings 6, if you're using the Vulgate or Douay), where the Ark of the Covenant is brought (not without perils) into Jerusalem.

II Samuel 6:3 -- the Ark is brought into a house that is "on the hill."
Luke 1:39 -- "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country"

II Samuel 6:9 -- David exclaims: "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?"
Luke 1:43 -- Elizabeth exclaims: "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

II Samuel 6:11 -- "And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months...."
Luke 1:56 -- "And Mary remained with her about three months...."

All right, so these links support the identification of Our Lady with the Ark of the Covenant. Does that have anything to do with the Assumption?

Yes, and the link is made by the this morning's first reading, Apocalypse 11:19 to 12:6. Verse 19 happens to be the last verse of chapter 11, so what the Church is doing here is inviting us to "read past" the chapter divisions, which are post-biblical anyway and not necessarily inspired. Read this passage as if it were all within one chapter, and you'll immediately see how clearly John links the vision of the Ark to the Woman Clothed With the Sun.

John announces that he saw the Temple in Heaven (not the one on earth: that's been destroyed) and within it, the long-lost Ark. What's that -- the Ark? The Ark? Can we hear more about this? Yes: "...a woman clothed with the sun..."!

Meanwhile, over at Fr. Jim Tucker's blog, there's too much good stuff today to retell here. Go there for:

* Gregorian Chant as a continuation of ancient Jewish psalmody
* The late Cardinal Danielou's beautiful statement of why he's a Catholic
* A defense of High Mass against Tridheads who seem to prefer a near-silent, response-less liturgy (I say this as a quasi-Tridhead myself, but with High Mass proclivities)
* A discussion of one of the key Arlington Diocese paradoxes: sound-and-orthodox clergy & ugly-modernist church architecture. Most churches there are bad variations on the church-in-the-round theme. (There's only one parish in the diocese -- St. Michael's in Annandale -- where this works, because it's done in such a way as to direct the eye toward the tabernacle in dead-center).

I think the best mot about northern Virginia's penchant for round churches was delivered by Fr. Daniel Gee, at the all-too-round All Saints Church in Manassas: "Our diocese grew up in the '70s, so all its churches have bell-bottoms."

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Roy Campbell, VII

No poem this time, just a link to Joseph Pearce's excellent essay on Campbell in a recent issue of Lay Witness, the magazine of Catholics United for the Faith.

A Warm Welcom to Blogistan...

...for Catholic-convert law student Matt Shaddrix, whose new blog Kross&Sweord (that's a Saxonism, not a typo) will cover
"Church History, Anglo-Saxon/Celtic Christian Experience, The Crusades, Mythology, Theological Controversy, Federalism, Natural Law, All Things Tolkien, War Between the States, and SEC Football" (hey, we all have our roots!).


Whoa -- a Dante-literate, Chesterton-and-Lewis-quoting, Israel-defending, Bat-Yeor-reading, Cacciaguida-linking fellow blogger! Here's here; I'm there!

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Roy Campbell, VI

A few weeks ago I promised more about the Alcazar ("al-KAH-thar") of Toledo. Well, it's time.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July of 1936, the Alcazar of Toledo was held by the Nationals, while the Red regime held the rest of Toledo and the surrounding area, including Madrid, a little to the north. Even with virtually no functioning communication between the commander of the Alcazar, Col. Jose Moscardo, and the Nationalist commanders, Moscardo and his men held out against a siege (including mines) to which the Reds subjected it.

The single most famous incident connected with the siege of the Alcazar is the seizure by the Reds of Col. Moscardo's son. They put him on the phone to his father, and the young man confirmed that his captors intended to kill him if the Alcazar did not yield. "Then, my son," said the Colonel, "shout Viva el Cristo Rey and die like a Spaniard." The young man was executed.

Generals Mola and Franco decided that the Alcazar had to be relieved, even though this inevitably meant postponing the liberation of Madrid. Meanwhile, conditions inside the Alcazar -- short on food, water, medicine, and anesthetics -- can well be imagined. The tour of the place that Cacciaguida took in 1977 makes a very deep impression. I don't know if the same plaques and memorials are still there today.


This Rock of Faith, the thunder-blasted --
Eternity will hear it rise
With those who (Hell itself outlasted)
Will lift it with them to the skies!
Till whispered through the depths of Hell
The censored Miracle be known,
And flabbergasted Fiends re-tell
How fiercer tortures than their own
By living faith were overthrown;
How mortals, thinned to ghastly pallor,
Gangrened and rotting to the bone,
With winged souls of Christian valour
Beyond Olympus or Valhalla
Can heave ten thousand tons of stone!

Dappled Things

I've added Father Jim Tucker's blog, Dappled Things (named for a famous line from the great convert poet Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ), to my left margin and to my daily visit list.


Today is the feast of St. Pontian, Pope and martyr, and St. Hippolytus, priest and martyr, whose death can only be pinpointed as far as "3rd century."

That tells us most of what we need to know. A pre-304 martyrdom, labeled in the calendar as "St. A and companions" or St. B, Pope, and St. C, priest," usually means that two or more were nailed while saying Mass.

I sometimes think the scariest thing about martyrdom is the thought that "no one" would ever know. Of course, God knows -- "not a bad public, that," as St. Thomas More would say -- but I sometimes wonder how far that thought would really get me if it came to the point.

So, Saints Pontian and Hippolytus, don't worry -- it was not for nought, we do remember, and you are being blogged!

By the way, the missal says these martyrdoms took place in "under Emperor Maximinus Thrax." Not even in Star Wars would you find a name like that! Did he marry Ann, I wonder?

Monday, August 12, 2002
The Saudis, II

I don't plan to make this a regular feature, but, as Viscount Mulcaster says, "Time of national emergency -- anything could happen."

Drop whatever you're doing, get a copy of today's Wall Street Journal, and read the lead op-ed: "The Saudi Way" by Simon Henderson, adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and proprietor of Or register at and read it there.

Saturday, August 10, 2002
R&J notes, IV

Bet you'd thought I'd forgotten about this feature, didn't you? Not for a couple of weeks yet.

Anyway, today's observation is that Capulet has a household servant named Potpan. Isn't that great? Potpan!

Potpan, Potpan, Potpan, Potpan, POTPAN!

Yep, the Capulet kitchen staff consists of Susan Grindstone, Nell, Anthony, an unnamed chief serving-man, and POTPAN!

In I.iii, a servant announces to Mrs. Capulet (the text never calls her "Lady" -- check it out) that the feast is ready: "Madam, the guests are come, supper served up, you called, my young lady asked for, the Nurse cursed in the pantry, and everything in extremity." (I.iii.100-103, Arden.) Apparently it's just not a Capulet feast until the Nurse has been cursed in the pantry.

The crucial feast scene is then introduced by the chief serving-man asking, "Where's Potpan that he helps not to take away?" He's probably in the pantry, cursing the Nurse.

Cite for Potpan: If you're using the Oxford Shakespeare edition (Jill Levenson, ed.), it's I.iv.113-128. If you're a normal person and recognize a scene-break as we enter Capulet's home, after Benvolio's "Strike, drum," as has every editor except Levenson since the late 18th century, it's I.v.1-15.

Actually, the Oxford editions have some virtues: their notes are thorough and interesting, their typeface is eye-friendly, they use full-name speech-prefixes (as Arden is just beginning to do, and as Folger now does, perhaps because they were losing market-share to Signet), they put space between speeches (which Arden does not), and their pages have plenty of room for one's own brilliant marginalia. But Harold Bloom has noted that the Oxford series has a penchant toward the ugliest editorial options, and some of their editorial decisions are minoritarian to the point of crankiness. In R&J, Levenson sticks to Q2 even when recourse to F1 or the "bad" Q1 is hallowed by tradition, and, as noted, she declines to recognize certain long-accepted scene changes, e.g. at the beginning of the Capulet ball and at the beginning of the Balcony Scene. That means that if you're relying on Levenson, your cites will be wildly off from everyone else's for two of the most important scenes in the play. In the Oxford Hamlet, the editor believes that the Q2 passages missing from F1 were deliberately deleted by Shakespeare, so out they go (into Appendix A). This includes, inter alia, Hamlet's "How all occasions do inform against me" speech.

Arden still rules.

Friday, August 09, 2002
Mayor Bloomberg

...Oi, don't get me started. Just visit Shamed's blog here for the latest.

For me, Bloomie's mandatory abortion training policy is a much graver offense against justice than his ban on restaurant smoking. Yet both show his dictatorial mindset, and the latter gives the lie to his supposed neutral commitment to "choice" in the former.

Giuliani had a dictatorial mindset too, and he had the wrong views on key issues, and his personal life was a mess, but there's no doubt the City became once again a great place to live and visit during his time in office. On my more recent visits, since Rudy left, I can already see it going to seed again. Why on earth did the City decide to impose term limits on its mayors just when Giuliani took office? It's the only job in which he'll ever do net good.

Thursday, August 08, 2002
A little more on Wagner and Wagnerian tenors

My earlier correspondent (who, I assure you, knows more than I do about singing and singers) writes again:

Wagner has always been conductor's music. That's a stubborn fact. But every
once in a while, a truly gifted singer comes along -- Melchior, for instance,
who seems to have been born to the literature, or Lotte Lehmann, Flagstad,
Traubel, or even Max Lorenz (in his earlier days) -- who can really make the
words come alive. A musicologist friend of mine in Germany said that Melchior
was the first singer to make the Wagner heroes more than statues.

I can believe it.

There aren't many things I'm too young for any more, but one of them is to have heard Melchior in person. For opera newbies, we're talking about Lauritz Melchior, a Danish singer who started as a baritone, then became (many believe) the greatest Wagnerian tenor of all time. His prime was from the 1920s into the '40s. Unlike many great Wagner singers, he avoided the Nazi taint altogether: during those years he sang mostly in the U.S. and England.

My father and grandfather heard him often at the Met, and I take it on their say-so that once that voice boomed out, you forgot that his appearance (somewhat that of a jovial, prosperous banker) made him look a bit silly in Siegfried's pelts and leather tunics. I assume the recordings don't do him justice. But they do illustrate one point that's at issue in the Heldentenor debates: Melchior had a baritonal sound that seems to have fallen out of favor after the War; the post-War Heldentenors, including Wolfgang Windgassen, had a lighter timbre that pleases some listeners but leaves others (like my correspondent!) perpetually doubting that the tenor in question will make it through the role. Earlier I called Windgassen a "reliable leather-lungs," but this is just what my correspondent used to doubt when hearing him.

Come to think of it, I never heard Windgassen live myself, though I was an active opera-goer while his career was still going full tilt. He never sang at the Met, though he would have been an improvement on Hans Hopf, who did. My in-the-house Heldentenor experience is limited to Jon Vickers (a great Siegmund in three different productions on two different coasts), Jess Thomas (had many of Windgassen's virtues and vices, but an even less pleasing voice), James McCracken (a great Tannhaeuser), Peter Hoffmann (spent himself on pop music, just like Kollo), Richard Cassilly (underrated: a good Tannhaeuser, and I even heard a passable Tristan from him once), and Toni Kraemer (did a great Siegfried at the Met in 1986, but what happened to him? Phhhht -- gone!). Somewhere in there I probably also heard Siegfried Jerusalem -- another one who leads more with the mind than with the lungs. I will defend his Loge and Siegfried on the Levine video set against all comers.

Speaking of imperfect human beings, I'm surprised there was so much objection
about Levine's lefty views. I've been in and around music so long, I expect
*everyone* to be a lefty and am pleasantly surprised when someone turns out not
to be a moron. And Wagner was far from perfect -- the prevailing view (from
Tolkien, for instance) was that Wagner's Ring was essentially told from a
socialist mindset.

I've never bought the Shaw interpretation of the RING myself -- the RING as allegory of the fall of capitalist society -- mainly because the RING is too big to be an allegory of anything supposedly bigger. Basically, it's about what it's about: the fall of the Norse gods through their own vices and despite their erstwhile nobility. Beyond that, one can see any number of significances in it, but those are all personal, subjective, secondary to the great story-line.

I don't let that stop me enjoying the music, anyway, and I
can get the conservative Ring by reading Tolkien. So there you go.


Roy Campbell, V


One silver-white and one of scarlet hue,
Storm-hornets humming in the wind of death,
Two aeroplanes were fighting in the blue
Above our town; and if I held my breath,
It was because my youth was in the Red
While in the White an unknown pilot flew --
And that the White had risen overhead.

From time to time the crackle of a gun
Far into flawless ether faintly rattled,
And now, mosquito-thin, into the Sun,
And now like mating dragonflies they sailed:
And, when like eagles near the earth they drove,
The Red, still losing what the White had won,
The harder for each lost advantage strove.

So lovely lay the land -- the towers and trees
Taking the seaward counsel of the stream:
The city seemed, above the far-off seas,
The crest and turret of a Jacob's dream,
And those two gun-birds in their frantic spire
At death-grips for its ultimate regime --
Less to be whirled by anger than desire.

Till (Glory!) from his chrysalis of steel
The Red flung wide the fatal fans of fire:
I saw the long flames, ribboning, unreel,
And slow bitumen trawling from his pyre.
I knew the ecstasy, the fearful throes,
And the white phoenix from his scarlet sire,
As silver in the Solitude he rose.

The towers and the trees were lifted hymns of praise,
The city was a prayer, the land a nun:
The noonday azure strumming all its rays
Sang that a famous battle had been won,
As signing his white Cross, the very Sun,
The Solar Christ and captain of my days
Zoomed to the zenith; and his will was done.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002
On Levine, Wagner tenors, etc.

A reader writes in:

I can't confirm this independently, but I hear from a trusted friend
and colleague who sang for a couple of years in NY that Levine is an avid
ephebophile. Word is that he was nearly lynched in Atlanta around 1983 because
one of his conquests squealed.

Since I heard this, I haven't bought a single one of his recordings or watched
him on television.

Anyway, if you go to JPC, you can get all sorts of amazing Wagner recordings by
*REAL* singers -- not the noodle-armed, hairless-chested Windgassen or the
pop-diva Kollo, but MELCHIOR, the granddaddy of us all. My teacher was a
Heldentenor in Germany through most of the '60s and 70s, and he turned me on to
Melchior back in the 80s. It was years before I truly appreciated the man's
gifts, but the live recordings you can get there will blow you away.

There's a recording of *Lohengrin* from 1935 with Lotte Lehmann as Elsa, for
instance. In the Third Act, LM sounds as fresh as if he had just warmed up, and
that's the toughest singing in the show. This performance is so old, by the
way, that the announcer describes the stage action during orchestral

Yes, the rumors swirl around Levine -- that he's a "-phile" of anything not nailed down -- and after a while they get hard to dismiss. But I judge people differently when they are not holding themselves out as moral leaders, as all clergymen implicitly are, and as some opera personalities (e.g. Jessye Norman) try to do.

I once wrote a pro-Levine article in a conservative magazine, and some of the neo-con arts commissars threw a hissy-fit. Their view was, Levine is on the left, so we aren't to like him. It's funny how those Stalinist mental habits linger on even when Stalinists become neo-cons.

For me, if Bishop Sullivan were to give up bishopping and become, say, an Irish tenor, or a baseball coach, or a professional chipmunk-impersonator, I would judge him in those capacities in accordance with the standards proper to each of those fields. I judge Levine as a conductor and an impresario, and I think he's great at both.

We may have a jolly old disagreement about heldentenors. Of course, Windgassen had nowhere near the voice of Melchior -- no one but Melchior ever has. But WW was a reliable leather-lungs for almost twenty years, and he was an intelligent performer. There was dramatic understanding behind his performances (especially his Tannhaeuser), even if not the vocal glory of Melchior, or, for that matter, Svanholm. In short, I think John Culshaw's appreciation of WW when he finally stepped in to relieve "our Siegfried" is about right.

(And who was "our Siegfried"? People seem to think it was Ernst Kozub, Solti's Melot, but I think it was Fritz Uhl, Solti's Tristan. Uhl has all the requirements: great voice and great stupidity. Catch him in the '58 Knappertsbusch Rheingold, where he sings gloriously, but gets hopelessly lost in his very last bit of singing -- Ihr da im Wasser -- and just stops!)

As for Kollo, he was OK while he lasted. Have you heard his Tannhaeuser (the Solti recording)? It's as if he's consciously doing an impression of Windgassen!

Anyway, thanks for writing, and thanks for the Wagner links!

Who "found" the Troubadors?

Eve and I have both gotten an interesting letter from H.D. Miller. Catch it here on Eve's blog. I'll just respond to this part:

In many respects, de Rougemont's book is outdated. First up, most people, including the OED, accept that the Troubadors were most profoundly influenced by Muslim singers and poets, including slave girls trained as singers and poets who were brought into France as booty (ha!) from various campaigns in al-Andalus. (I mention the OED because they recently settled on the Arabic word "taraba" "to sing" as the root of the French word which became the English word troubadour. This settled a long standing controversy over the origins.)

Hmmmm. In the Medieval Studies Department at Yale, we were pretty satisfied with the theory that linked troubador and its various cognates with the word that means "to find" in the Romance languages (trouver in modern French, trovare in modern Italian, etc.). The idea was that the troubadors claimed to have "found" their songs, not created them. The Middle Ages did not value originality of authorship; on the contrary, it was the mark of a bounder (which many troubadors were, but that's another story). Every work had to have what Chaucer would call an "auctoritee." So it was like, "Noble ladies, listen to what I found...."

Someday I'll turn again to the question of the origins of the Troubadors, and I'll follow truth where it leads. But from the rest of this blog, you may get some sense of the sort of reception the "We owe it all to the Arabs" theory tends to get hereabouts.

Meanwhile, catch Mr. Miller at his blog here.

Absolutely null and utterly void...

...and completely out of their gourd. Thanks to Eve for the link.

And in response to your many questions, here is the link to Pope Leo XIII's Apostolicae Curae, On the Nullity of Anglican Orders.

The Saudis

Finally, the foreign policy mainstream (in this case, the Rand Corporation) seems to have considered the possibility that a government that finances a global network of hate and terrorism against the West in general and the U.S. in particular might not after all be a reliable ally.

Among the Rand analyst's conclusions:

The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.

Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies.

Predictable reactions from Henry the K (Saudis are "manageable" -- just like the Soviets, right?) and Saudi Ambassador (for life, it seems) Prince Bandar. The Prince says, "Repeating lies will never make them facts," and you know, Cacciaguida doesn't really disagree.

Zorak Explains It All For You

...where "you" = a husband.

Actually, the post comes from Kairos; but Zorak -- ever the Princess Bride -- gives us the "good parts version."

Martin Ford, a splendid young Catholic gentleman from the Bay Area, has reservations about Catholic kids who prefer "Socratic" Catholic colleges to (shh) Steubenville.

One of Martin's cautionary tales about such students: I know a kid who graduated early and went to one of these schools and he now smokes a pipe and drinks Port with Jesuits!

Outrageous! He should be smoking a pipe and drinking port with Dominicans! Or Carmelites, maybe, if they do pipes and port.

Monday, August 05, 2002
CBS rehabilitating Hitler?

Cacciaguida usually thinks he has a finger on the ideological pulse, but sometimes even he is surprised. We live in an age of deconstruction of certainties, and you never know which one will be next: "Killing defenseless human beings is wrong," "There are two sexes," and now, apparently, "Hitler was bad."

Click here for a news item about the "controversy" over a miniseries on the Fuehrer that CBS is planning for next February. It might sound like no big deal. But Cacciaguida has inside sources in the television industry, and one of them has obtained -- after what he calls "stonewalling by the production company" -- a copy of the script.

He writes: "It is roughly based on Ian Kershaw's book, but, as drama, INVENTS dialogue, interior Hitlerian thoughts, etc, plays it against Wagnerian music, and turns him into a Savior of The People -- ALL the people. It is horrendous, especially at a time of a collapsing economy, weakening faith, lowering trust in American corporate institutions. And it will play next February, when the economy may be even worse, a time ripe for a new demagogue. It is a veritable Nazi hagiography: no context, no Wansee, no Auschwitz, not even World War II, except in a non-connected brief prologue in the ruined bunker."

What's up with this? (Yes, this is a "one-source" story: I don't blog for a living, I'm not at present a professional reporter, and nothing could interest me less than calling up CBS's flacks to get their "side." If anyone has any information that would clarify matters, please e-mail it to me at Otherwise, just remember that this is Blogistan, not The Daily Bugle.)

As you know by now, I'm a great one for finding contexts that turn otherwise ho-hum events into disturbing trends. Here's the context in which I see this CBS-Hitler thing: Americans and Europeans seem alike to have forgotten the history of 1933-45 except as a source of rhetorical bombshells to throw at specific targets: for the Europeans, that would be Israel; for Americans (mainly professional Catholic dissenters), that would be Pope Pius XII. An alert Martian reading our media today would get the impression that both Israel and Pius are/were "Nazis" but the people who called themselves Nazis weren't!

Prediction: 20 years from now, Pius XII will be condemned for his insensitivity toward the "legitimate aspirations of the German people" and for interfering (e.g. by sheltering Jews in monasteries, etc.) with the German peoples' efforts to combat "Zionist imperialism." This condemnation will be proposed at the UN by the United Islamic Republic of Europe.

Over at Mets Blog, the generous Greg has some guarded good words for an erstwhile target of his criticism.

Good Weigel column here: "Meeting Archbishop Dolan: a parody." Thanks to Mark Shea for the link.

And while you're visiting Mark, don't miss his take on the latest from "Bishop"* Spong.

* "absolutely null and utterly void" -- Leo XIII, writing ex cathedra on the validity of Anglican orders (Apostolicae Curae)

I'm not really following the "VOTF" issue closely, but if you'd like to, start here with Karl Schudt's many insights and links.

Friday, August 02, 2002
Sullivan -- "Wally," not Andrew -- on homoerotic hijinks

The long-time and for-the-time-being Bishop of Richmond, Va. (resignation watch: ten months, eleven days), just made this statement defending his reinstatement of a priest accused of ephebophilia, on grounds that "treatment" has been successfully completed. (The local paper's related story is here. Note the resignations from the bishop's "panel.")

Besides the impenetrable bureaucratese, which replaced Latin in many chanceries about a generation ago, note this observation from the above-referenced statement:

I've said that there was behavior that blurred boundaries and which I consider imprudent for a seminary faculty member. That appraisal doesn't ignore the setting of an all-boys boarding school. There are the daily routines, the sports related pranks and the typical camaraderie that could take on ugly nuances if cast into another setting.

Show of hands -- how many of you parents would send your boys to a school where there's no sexual abuse, just a few "blurred boundaries"? And "the setting of an all-boys boarding school" -- that's relevant, how? To aggravate the offense? To exculpate it?

The Bishop's benevolence toward "sports related pranks and the typical camaraderie" might be mere common sense, were there not a sinister context. Richmond was the first diocese in the country to have active "outreach" to "sexual minorities." It did so -- using that terminology -- in the mid-1970s, long before it was cool, but a matter of months after the present Bishop had taken office.

In a Q-&-A session with some Evangelical students back in 1994, the Bishop -- while stoutly upholding the Church's teaching that homosexual "genital sex" is "wrong" (his words) -- spoke much more harshly about "stereotyping of homosexuals" and being "judgmental." His statement of yesterday brought back to this writer's mind the following exchange from that 1994 event, of which I have an edited transcript in front of me, as published in The Virginian Pilot (Sunday, October 16, 1994; story begins at page J1):

Q: I think it's a matter of semantics. We're saying that being homosexual means that that person will desire someone of the same sex.

A (Bp. Sullivan): What about heterosexuals and lustful desires?....[Ellipsis in transcript as published] It all depends on what we mean about lusting for women in your heart. There is such a thing as male-female attraction. We are sexual beings. Don't deny sexuality. You are taking all the fun out of life. It is most important that we are sexual beings

Those of you with database access can pull the story and verify that I am not doctoring the quotes. You see the thought-pattern: to defend chastity in thought as well as deed, as Our Lord taught it (Mt. 5:27-30), is to "deny sexuality" and to "tak[e] all the fun out of life."

I thought at first the Bishop was going to make the sound and important point that straights too can commit "adultery in the heart," but no: apparently there's something (what, exactly? ogling? flirtation? something more tactile?) the avoidance of which "takes the fun out of life." A summary (my words) might be: "Sure, look around, cop a feel, have fun -- just don't go, you know, too far, wink wink, nudge nudge." I try to put that into the Sermon on the Mount, and it doesn't quite fit.

Those 1994 remarks, and the recent history of the Diocese of Richmond on this issue, give a certain creepy context to the Bishop's remarks about "blurred boundaries," "sports related pranks," and "typical camaraderie" -- all in "the setting of an all-boys boarding school."

Thursday, August 01, 2002
A fan of Wagner fans

The distinguished monthy Opera (published in England, and known outside the Scepter'd Isle as "English Opera," though its coverage is global) has a back-of-the-book feature called "I Can't Live Without...." where a different writer each month tells what subset of the operatic world he "can't live without," and why. The February 2002 issue (hey, it's expensive, and I rely on my parents passing their back issues on to me; besides, with normal delivery, the February issue would just about be reaching me anyway) has a "Can't Live Without" by one Shirley Apthorp, and what she can't live without is Wagnerians -- not Wagner, mind you, but his devotees. She has never quite gotten it about the music, but she simply adores those who are daft about it. Like me.

As Ms. Apthorp got to know opera in general, she got to know Wagnerians. "When the subject came up, a glazed look would creep into their eyes, and they'd murmur in mysterious tones about high planes of ecstasy." Yup, we do that thing. (Some of us have also been caught doing it about a college debating society, but enough about that.) About a fellow-student who was One Of Them, she writes: [I]t was edifying watching him prepare for an evening of opera with almost religious devotion." She should have seen me in my teens! In my own case, in due time the Son of God knocked the Master of Bayreuth a few notches down on the veneration pole -- but not off it altogether.

Still not a Wagnerian herself, Ms. Althorp remarks that her Wagnerian friends are "prepared to tolerate my agnosticism, and I can't live without their enthusiasm. Of course it's better if it doesn't reach the twitching, note-taking, psychotic form of Wagnerianism -- there are cases where medication is clearly called for -- but as a general rule of thumb [Yo, editor: either "general rule" or "rule of thumb." Duh. -- Ed.] I watch with admiration and envy."

Thanks for the support, Shirley, and by the way -- come on in, the Rhine is fine! (And pass the medication, would you? There's a good girl.)


I see I had about four hundred visitors while I was away and not blogging. Thank you, and I hope to reward your loyalty and/or interest.

Haitink, therefore I am

Right now, I'm listening to the Rheingold from Bernard Haitink's complete recording of Wagner's Ring. I also own the Gotterdaemmerung from this set, but the usual sources have failed me in my quest for this set's Walkuere and Siegfried. If anyone knows where I can get these, please let me know. If the source is yourself, feel free to propose terms, but forget what you've heard about lavish law professor salaries.

(For Ring beginners, stick with the Solti set on Decca/London, or the Levine set on DG; or, if it makes a big difference to hear it sung in an excellent English translation, the Goodall set on Chandos.)

Friday, July 26, 2002
Roy Campbell, IV


Our rifles were too hot to hold,
The night was made of tearing steel,
And down the street the volleys rolled
Where as in prayer the snipers kneel.
From every cranny, rift, or creek,
I heard the fatal furies scream,
And the moon held the river's gleam
Life a long rifle to its cheek.
Of all that fearful fusillade
I reckoned not the gain or loss
To see (her every forfeit paid)
And grander, though her riches fade,
Toledo, hammered on the Cross,
And in her Master's wounds arrayed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Check this out. About bloody time! (And it seems to be a popular idea too -- check out the poll.)

R& J notes, III

Eve writes: DON'T BELIEVE IN MODERN LOVE: Finished Love in the Western World last night. Awesome, awesome book. Discerns the root of the Western cult of passionate love (suffering for its own sake; "in love with love"; love against marriage) in the troubadours and heretics of the 11th-12th centuries.

And that's the template of the Rosaline/Juliet chasm, isn't it? In I.1-4 Romeo is in love with love, relishing what he takes to be his suffering ("sad hours seem long"), and on the whole probably not thinking along marital lines ("...she'll not be hit/With Cupid's arrow -- she hath Dian's wit/And in strong proof of chastity well arm'd" etc. etc.) He never even names Rosaline (except in reading her name on Capulet's guest list) until doing the post-game wrap-up about her with Friar Laurence in II.3.

Juliet, by contrast, is for Romeo a person -- a "subjectivity," as JPII might say -- as soon as he sees her. The very first thing he says about her is to ask a servant who she is; with Rosaline, one wonders if he even cared, as long as he had an excuse for "adding to the clouds more clouds with his deep sighs."


I know, it's not one of the themes I originally announced for this blog, and it may seem odd to introduce it now, when the major leagues -- not, I insist, the game itself: just the bloated, spoiled-rotten major-leaguers -- may be about to scratch themselves permanently off the nation's care-about list, by means of another strike: not the kind pitchers are supposed to throw, but a labor action, if you please, as if these were oppressed proletarians or something.

But the game could survive without the majors: it's the minor leagues today that preserve the spirit of the old-time majors. Baseball is not the only game in America, but it is America's game.

What is Cacciaguida's perspective, as a 12th century Crusader? Well, American football, a.k.a. Lots Of Big Guys Knocking Each Other Down, closely resembles the battles of my day, though with less blood (for that you need ice hockey). So it would appear football is the medieval sport.

Sed contra: It was also the achievement of the Middle Ages to systematize things, to impose elegant order on chaos. This is the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, and of that chip-off-the-ol'-block Dante. And it is also the genius of baseball.

So, while it won't become a frequent theme for this blog, I would like to call your attention to my new set of baseball links at the bottom of the left margin; especially Mets Blog, were we read this:

Piazza, Mo, Payton, Roberto, Rey-O and some others are really picking it up these past few weeks, I'm happy to say. The one person who isn't hitting is Jeromy Burnitz. He'll never work! Chris Chambliss is the best!! Everyone has been hitting well since Chambliss came (except for that thing that hangs around right field that spells his name wrong, ignores fans and can't hit beach balls pitched underhand, Jeromy Burnitz).

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Roy Campbell, III

The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War found Roy and Mary Campbell in Toledo, squarely in the Red zone, but with a fortress (alcazar in Castilian; accent on the second syllable) held by a brave band of Nationalists. More about the Alcazar of Toledo later.

Despite the dangers, the Campbells attended Mass as often as possible (the Red regime had a policy of looking the other way while militias affiliated with its more radical parties burned churches and massacred priests, monks, and nuns). Mary would wear the biggest friggin' mantilla she could find; Roy would hit the bars aftewards to argue with the Red thugs and probably punch a few of them out. (Where are the people like that when nominations are being taken for the parish council?!)


Toledo, when I saw you die
And heard the roof of Carmel crash,
A spread-winged phoenix from its ash
The Cross remained against the sky!
With horns of flame and haggard eye
The mountain vomited with blood,
A thousand corpses down the flood
Were rolled gesticulating by,
And high above the roaring shells
I heard the silence of your bells
Who've left these broken stones behind
Above the years to make your home,
And burn, with Athens and with Rome,
A sacred city of the mind.

Sunday, July 21, 2002
R&J notes, II

Eve Tushnet makes an important point here about the medieval cult (or movement or fad) of Courtly Love: namely, that it had, at best, nothing to do with marriage, and that, at worst, the beloved's husband was just one more obstacle that the devoted lover would not allow to stand in his way.

The opposite impression -- that Courtly Love had something to do with loving "pure and chaste from afar" -- can only come from over-exposure to Man of La Mancha or to Wagner's Tannhauser (both fine works in their way).

For the dark side of Courtly Love, see the text Eve recommends -- Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World -- and also C.S. Lewis's The Allegory of Love, especially the first chapter.

However, the courtly tradition did not remain stuck in that morass (I was going to say "rut"). Dante made a huge breakthrough in his Vita Nuova, where his semi-divine Beatrice was the object of an intense yet utterly chaste devotion. This is carried forward in the Divine Comedy (here, here, and here, for the superbly annoted Dorothy Sayers version, or see my left margin for a link to the Musa translation), which he brashly promised at the end of the Vita Nuova:
"So that, if it pleases Him for whom all things live that my life may last for some years, I hope to say of her what was never said of any other woman." This is an impossible passage to translate (I have used the superb version by Cervigni and Vasta), as the verb dicer, translated as "to say," implies saying in verse -- i.e., writing a poem.

After Dante, the next step was to romanticize (Allan Bloom might say, eroticize) marital love itself. Some credit may be owed here to Spenser for Book III of The Faerie Queene; I'll leave that to others. My view, unsurprisingly, is that the breakthrough is Romeo and Juliet.

By the way, I can't agree with de Rougemont's attempt (p. 190) to locate Romeo in a neo-Cathar, death-worshiping tradition that culminates in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. The many uses of "death" and "die" in R&J are of course significant, but in quite a different way.

Kelly Case, III

Amy Welborn repeats here, uncritically, a Washington Post report obviously designed to put the Kelly family in the worst possible light. (Click here for my first editorial on this case.) For the Post, and evidently for the criminal justice authorities in Prince William County, VA, expecting older children in a large family to help out routinely with childrearing tasks is simply dysfunctional. In fact, it is a common, healthy, educational, and character-forming aspect of large families, and one of the reasons large families are to be admired. I express no opinion here on whether the Kellys overdid it in this regard, but I express strong and negative ones about the agenda of those of who think such intrafamilial arrangements are per se evidence of a troubled family.