Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bloggs - and knowing the causes

A very recent posting on the ACS blogg contains a link to a French Chesterton blogue... which I found very interesting.

Alas, I cannot read French, except critical words like burgundy and champagne. But I did note their spelling of "blogue" happens to agree with the Chestertonian purview:
[GKC wrote in his Notebook:]
You are a very stupid person.
I don't believe you have the least idea how nice you are.
F.B. was Frances, daughter of a diamond merchant some time dead. The family was of French descent, the name de Blogue having been somewhat unfortunately anglicised into Blogg.
[Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 84-5]

Now, there was something else in that posting which I felt it worthwhile to mention. Specifically, GKC's quote of Virgil's famous line:
felix qui potuit cognoscere causas rerum
[Virgil, Georgics Book II line 490]
which comes up directly in this context:
Many must have quoted the stately tag from Virgil which says, "Happy were he who could know the causes of things," without remembering in what context it comes. Many have probably quoted it because the others have quoted it. Many, if left in ignorance to guess whence it comes, would probably guess wrong. Everybody knows that Virgil, like Homer, ventured to describe boldly enough the most secret councils of the gods. Everybody knows that Virgil, like Dante, took his hero into Tartarus and the labyrinth of the last and lowest foundations of the universe. Every one knows that he dealt with the fall of Troy and the rise of Rome, with the laws of an empire fitted to rule all the children of men, with the ideals that should stand like stars before men committed to that awful stewardship. Yet it is in none of these connections, in none of these passages, that he makes the curious remark about human happiness consisting in a knowledge of causes. He says it, I fancy, in a pleasantly didactic poem about the rules for keeping bees. Anyhow, it is part of a series of elegant essays on country pursuits, in one sense, indeed, trivial, but in another sense almost technical. It is in the midst of these quiet and yet busy things that the great poet suddenly breaks out into the great passage, about the happy man whom neither kings nor mobs can cow; who, having beheld the root and reason of all things, can even hear under his feet, unshaken, the roar of the river of hell.
[GKC The Outline of Sanity CW5:136]
GKC refers to it in several other places such as The Everlasting Man CW2:289, and in an ILN essay from April 6 1935 (also collected in As I Was Saying).

I have no time just now to meditate on all this, except to mention how Virgil starts much as Aquinas does - with in the real world, with the senses. He deals (like Sherlock Holmes) with bee-keeping, and with wine-making, with sheep and shepherds, agriculture and husbandry and the rus - the country things... from which he is led to greater things. The point will be missed unless one has read GKC's The Everlasting Man - or his Aquinas - so perhaps I must quote that too:
The Body was no longer what it was when Plato and Porphyry and the old mystics had left it for dead. It had hung upon a gibbet. It had risen from a tomb. It was no longer possible for the soul to despise the senses, which had been the organs of something that was more than man. Plato might despise the flesh; but God had not despised it. [Compare with the verse in the Te Deum: Non horruisti virginis uterum - "You (God) did not despise the Virgin's womb."] The senses had truly become sanctified; as they are blessed one by one at a Catholic baptism. "Seeing is believing" was no longer the platitude of a mere idiot, or common individual, as in Plato's world; it was mixed up with real conditions of real belief. Those revolving mirrors that send messages to the brain of man, that light that breaks upon the brain, these had truly revealed to God himself the path to Bethany or the light on the high rock of Jerusalem. These ears that resound with common noises had reported also to the secret knowledge of God the noise of the crowd that strewed palms and the crowd that cried for Crucifixion. After the Incarnation had become the idea that is central in our civilisation, it was inevitable that there should be a return to materialism, in the sense of the serious value of matter and the making of the body.
[GKC St. Thomas Aquinas CW2:493]
There is far more here, but I have no time to write more on it just now. Please try to think about it - and perhaps you will be led to the causes of things...


At 30 July, 2009 18:04, Anonymous Barbara said...

The French do spell blog the way we do.( www.chesterton.over-blog.com) This blog's spelling of blogue is un hommage to Frances and her French descent. GKC would be pleased, don't you think?

At 31 July, 2009 09:22, Blogger Dr. Thursday said...

I do think he would be pleased.

It is the same reason why I always call them "bloggs".


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