Friday, October 23, 2009



Duck House

[Via Sully]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daniel Defoe: The True-Born Englishman

In light of the huge row going on today about the appearance of the BNP on the BBC's Question Time this 1703 poem from Daniel Defoe, "The True Born Englishman" was very enjoyable [Via Sully]

Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That het’rogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.
Whose gend’ring off-spring quickly learn’d to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough:
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name, nor nation, speech nor fame.
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infus’d betwixt a Saxon and a Dane.
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Receiv’d all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.
Which medly canton’d in a heptarchy,
A rhapsody of nations to supply,
Among themselves maintain’d eternal wars,
And still the ladies lov’d the conquerors.

The western Angles all the rest subdu’d;
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude:
Who by the tenure of the sword possest
One part of Britain, and subdu’d the rest
And as great things denominate the small,
The conqu’ring part gave title to the whole.
The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite:
And these the mixture have so close pursu’d,
The very name and memory’s subdu’d:
No Roman now, no Britain does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain:
The silent nations undistinguish’d fall,
And Englishman’s the common name for all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
What e’er they were they’re true-born English now.

The wonder which remains is at our pride,
To value that which all wise men deride.
For Englishmen to boast of generation,
Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
A banter made to be a test of fools,
Which those that use it justly ridicules.
A metaphor invented to express
A man a-kin to all the universe.

For as the Scots, as learned men ha’ said,
Throughout the world their wand’ring seed ha’ spread;
So open-handed England, ’tis believ’d,
Has all the gleanings of the world receiv’d.

Some think of England ’twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.

’Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
Since scarce one family is left alive,
Which does not from some foreigner derive.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Pope and Rowan Williams

In my country I see absolute spiritual apathy everywhere.

I think Rowan Williams does as well as he can faced with this. It's like a wasted generation of people without any grasp that life may be more than WHAT IS. I feel more in common with Richard Dawkins than I do with most of my countrymen. He is wrong, but at least he is looking.

Rowan Williams is a truly decent human being (one of my best friends was a close friend of his at Oxford), and did not need to be humiliated like he has been by the pope. Neither Basil Hume nor Cormac Murphy-O'Connor would have allowed it. Abhp Nichols looked liked he wanted to choke.

One the whole this has nothing to do with England. Most "conservatives" in the CoE are Evangelicals. They would never accept Rome. Anglo-Catholicism here is almost uniformally liberal (like Rome) re. biblical interpretation. It's also very gay.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria will not change (nor most in Africa, because they are Evangelical), so this is a sop to a small straight number of churches.

And Rowan was ritually humiliated for this?

It's an outrage.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Karen Armstrong: The Case for God

I finished Karen Armstrong The Case for God last night.

Sure, she gets some things wrong, but she really has read very widely in history, religion, and science and understood what she has read. Her last two chapters kept me up until 1:30am and were enthralling.

While dismissing fundamentalism of all kinds, she totally PWNs Dawkins and co. A quite marvellous book.


I would not usually recommend a book like this to other medievalists, since she is not exactly a historian, but more than half the book is spent discussing medieval apophatic theology, eastern and western Christian, Lurianic, and Sufi, in a way I think would benefit specialists. I have read the authors she cites (and studied under John Meyendorff, the great historian of Byzantine apophaticism), and I still came away with something new.

Update: An Interesting Talk Armstrong gave at TED.