O intrepid driver

February 27, 2010

Earlier this month, when I was caught in one of the blizzards that have recently hit Washington, D.C., my friend Jim Preston showed his great and wonted resourcefulness by helping me get my Volkswagen into a public garage before the roads became completely impassible. The following poem is dedicated to him, in gratitude. (As should be clear, his car has four-wheel drive.)

O intrepid driver through the snow
That falls profuse and heavy on the land:
The memory of thy days in Buffalo
Shall guide thee still to destinations grand.
For wisely thou hast furnished all thy wheels
With motive shafts, to give them added force.
Thy Subaru the tempest hardly feels,
But makes its way undaunted like a horse.
So, whether thy friend Paddy thou wouldst see,
Or wouldst take faithful Bruno to the vet,
The nets that sullen Time propels at thee
Shall not ensnare thy feet, or make thee fret.
For, as thou takest Virtue as thy crown,
Thou hast no need to fear the season’s frown.

George Washington’s birthday

February 23, 2010

George Washington’s birthday occurred yesterday. Sadly, it is no longer celebrated as a public holiday, having been replaced by the movable and insipid “Presidents’ Day” which was celebrated last week. If General Washington were alive today, he would be 278 years old. One wonders what he would think of the America he would find, and what Americans would think of him. Although his portrait appears on the dollar bill and on the quarter, and his name has been given to the nation’s capital and to a state in the Pacific Northwest, and his visage is carved prominently upon Mount Rushmore, I would venture to say that most Americans, at present, have more pressing matters weighing on their minds than the burden of gratitude they owe to their nation’s chief founder. Perhaps old General Washington suffers guilt by association; the name “Washington” is now commonly associated in our thoughts with filibustering, demagoguery, inaction, deceit, and corruption; and surely the Father of our Country would be unhappy to see what has become of the city that is named after him; as used to be said of Rome, it has become a sewer through which all the world’s filth passes.

A biography of Washington, written in Latin by a certain Frederick Glass of Ohio in the early nineteenth century, may be found at the Perseus Project website; it testifies to the esteem in which Washington was held in the early days of the Republic, and to the better educational principles that were then in force. I have no doubt that anyone who would spend his or her time reading this book would find it a richly rewarding exercise. Here is the Prooemium:

PATRIS Patriæ vitam, opus, sive ad viri virtutes, sive ad præclaras res ab illo et inceptas et perfectas spectemus, omni curâ omnique diligentiâ dignissimum, sermone Latino, procul quidem Roma et Romuleo flumine, ignotus exarare aggredior. Nullus autem dubito quin permultos invenerim, qui genus hoc scribendi naturâ suâ nimis inusitatum, meque, quod ad veteris Latii normam attineat, plane hospitem esse judicarint. Utcunque erit, juvabit tamen famam viri, omnium sæculorum facile principis, pro virili parte me ipsum consecrasse, factaque ejus pulcherrima memoriæ tradidisse Latinâ immortalitate donata. Apud quoscunque autem labores nostri benevolentiam atque favorem sibimetipsis concilient, meminerint illi quam sit inter difficillima res novas ornatu antiquo vestire, et, si in aliquâ parte titubantes inveniamur, æquo illi acceperint animo atque errori veniam concesserint.

Scripsi Tertio Idus Martii, Anno Salutis a Christo recuperatæ Millesimo Octingentesimo vicesimo quarto, in Republicâ Ohioënsi.

Ware lecture postponed

February 12, 2010

I drove down to Maryland on Monday, meaning to attend a lecture that was to be given on Tuesday, February 9th at the Catholic University of America by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware titled “An Insider’s View: Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Today.” As it turned out, because of the blizzard which hit the Northeast this week, the lecture did not take place; it has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 16th, at 6:30 p.m. in Caldwell Auditorium, after a prayer service and a reception in the same building (4:30 and 5:30 respectively). Since snow is again forecast for Washington, D.C. next Monday, I would advise anyone who plans to attend the event to call Eastern Christian Publications beforehand to make sure that the lecture is still going to be held (703-691-8862). As to whether I shall drive down a second time to attend it, I remain undecided.

The road to Elbasan

February 3, 2010

(Some lines written in 1996, which I found today while rummaging through old papers.)

The road to Elbasan
winds up and over the mountains
looking over the edge of the world
and on the rugged hillside
a shepherdess sits watching
black and white sheep that graze
a difficult land

Here in the middle of paradise
we have to take precaution
When driving round a sharp curve
we listen to Pavarotti
as we drive back to Tirana
on the Rruga Elbasanit

I feel that heaven has been somewhat closer
after having been on this journey
although I still don’t know quite where I’m going

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