It occurred to me the day after finishing my last entry that I had made--and have been making throughout the history of this blog-- a giant blunder when I indicated that my idea of the purpose of a thorough and organized understanding of various areas of learning would be so that life would be more fun. While certainly a degree of fun is allowable from time to time if one's mind is developed interestingly enough to have earned the right--the Greeks themselves had the festival of Dionysius, after all--on the whole any highly serious person, whether he be a philosopher, a Christian, a scientist, a great artist, etc, is not greatly concerned with having "fun" as the term is ordinarily understood--ease, pleasure, sensualism, projecting a desirable appearance--so much as in realizing his human potential to the fullest possible extent, which usually requires hard work, discipline, and confronting the sort of hard and unpleasant truths that, we are told, people who prefer comfort don't even dare to look in the face. I have known this for a long time, too, but have always been unable to keep it consistently before me. At the time that this idea recurred to me I rapidly made a list of deadly serious people--Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Adorno, Dante Aligheri, Ezra Pound, Mohammed, and such like--and rhetorically asked an imaginary banquet table of fellow idlers on holiday--we were in Venice--"Did they have fun? Was that the object of their exertions?" I then imagined the responses: "But those people were all insane fascists!--What do I care about some dick who lived a hundred years ago?--I get more action than all of those guys put together, except Mohammed--Stop worshipping the idea of famous people. Are they friends of yours? Then they don't matter. Decide what it is you want, and either do it or shut the fuck up--Everybody's life is irrelevant. Especially Nietzsche's. Get over it--Kick back and have another glass of wine--Hey, that girl over there has a tattoo in Hebrew on the small of her back. Somebody tell me what it says--" In short, since they could afford them, they were comparatively well-satisfied that their wisdom and abilities and accomplishments were good enough, and justified their indulging in and enjoyment of pleasures. This is a state to which I have not fully attained, though of course I do not forgo any opportunity to wallow in sensualism that presents itself, however unearned and gross of a spectacle I must present in so doing.
I had thought about stopping all of the book referencing, but as 1) I view the blog as in some sense an organ for seeking wisdom as well as a record of what I was doing on such and such a day, and the consideration of literature ought to stimulate some activity of that nature, and 2) I have read in several places that it is a common, and generally considered a good, practice, for writers to copy out passages that they admire or that strike their fancy, I think I will keep at it a little longer, though I will try to mix in other observations more frequently so it does not become a codex of ancient quotations.
So, onto V. vii. 29 (5-9) Ladies fighting, at least in the guise of allegories. Also pervasive in Cuchulain stories; not however in Ossian, the Morte d'Arthur, Beowulf, Sir Gawain, etc.
"...ne spared not
Their dainty parts, which nature had created
So faire and tender, without staine or spot,
For other uses, then they them translated;
Which now they hackt and hewed, as if such use they hated."
V. vii. 31 (5-9) Good image, especially ll. 8-9:
"So long they fought, that all the grassie flore
Was fild with bloud, which from their sides did flow,
And gushed through their armes, that all in gore
They trode, and on the ground their lives did strow,
Like fruitles seed, of which untimely death should grow."
V. viii. 28 (6-9) The horses of the Souldan (he's a bad guy, blatant infidel, etc):
"And drawne of cruell steedes, which he had fed
With flesh of men, whom through fell tyranny
He slaughtred had, and ere they were halfe ded,
Their bodies to his beasts for provender did spred."
The possibility of a fate like this no doubt was an especial encouragement to men to take both care to and hope in the state of their souls.
V. viii. 31 (1-4) You probably saw this coming, but the strategy employed above does not always pay off:
"Like to the Thracian tyrant, who they say
Unto his horses gave his guests for meat,
Till he himselfe was made their greedie pray,
And torn in peeces by Alcides great..."
V. ix. 6 (2-5) Another great rhyme:
"And eke the rock, in which he wonts to dwell,
Is wondrous strong, and hewen farre under ground
A dreadfull depth, how deepe no man can tell;
But some doe say, it goeth downe to hell." V. x. 23 (2-5) And another:
"Are not all places full of forraine powres?
My pallaces possessed of my foe,
My cities sackt, and their sky-threating towres
Raced, and made smooth fields now full of flowres?"
One can see the fields, too, in all their beauty. Somehow this same effect does not occur when blocks of ruins in American cities such as Philadelphia or Detroit or Newark revert back to a more natural state.
V. x. 36 (6-9) An infidel is slain from behind after trying to flee. I always find this manner of death, which is endemic is books where sword-battles are the dominant mode of warfare, to be particularly unsettling:
"The hindmost in the gate he overhent,
And as he pressed in, him there did slay:
His carkasse tumbling on the threshold, sent
His groning soule unto her place of punishment."
VI. Intro. 5 (8-9) The theme of the sixth Booke is Courtesie. This is some Rhyme Time and philosophy rolled into one:
"But vertues seat is deep within the mynd,
And not in outward shows, but inward thoughts defyned."
By Booke VI, the fights with monsters begin to take on a repetitive pattern. The seemingly overmatched hero dodges a blow, usually involving the sacrifice or debilitation of his shield in some manner, yet he is always able to hold out/wait long enough to find himself for a split second in the only positional advantage available to him, at which point he seizes the opportunity and destroys the monster.
VI. i. 26 (9) More philosophy:
"No greater shame to man than inhumanitie."