Temperance

On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Two
The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

2 Peter 1:5-6


Chapter Two of On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior is a study of Temperance drawn from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The topic is older than that novel of course and much has been written about its attributes. One of the leading ancient voices was that of Aristotle. Continue reading “Temperance”

Temperance

On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Two
The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

2 Peter 1:5-6


Today we begin Chapter Two of On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior. This week’s study of Temperance is drawn from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Temperance is a word rarely used today and its practice even rarer in our world of extravagance and excess. Continue reading “Temperance”

Prudence

On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter One
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling
By Henry Fielding

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.

Proverbs 8:12


In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote:

We are not to reflect on the wickedness of men but to look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, an image which, by its beauty and dignity, should allure us to love and embrace them.

So are people good or evil?  Is it possible to be totally depraved, yet a bearer of God’s image?  In her book On Reading Well, Karen Swallow Prior explores this quandary in Chapter One.

Continue reading “Prudence”

Prudence

On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter One
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling
By Henry Fielding

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.

Proverbs 8:12


An essential aspect of parenting is the responsibility to instill good judgment into the minds of children.  This hard-fought battle requires a measure of pain because, alas, most people have to learn things the hard way. Life’s lessons become the foundation of prudence.  In Chapter One of On Reading Well, Karen Swallow Prior calls on Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling to portray this virtue. Continue reading “Prudence”

Feeding The Lake

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 12

To serve a work of art is almost identical with adoring the Master of the Universe in contemplative prayer. In contemplative prayer the saint (who knows himself to be a sinner, for none of us is whole, healed, and holy twenty-four hours a day) turns inwards in what is called “the prayer of the heart,” not to find self, but to lose self in order to be found.

~Madeline L’Engle

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The Other Side Of Silence

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 11

When I am writing, on the other side of silence, as it were, and I am interrupted, there is an incredible shock as I am shoved through the sound barrier, the light barrier, out of the real world and into what seems, at least for the first few moments, a less real world. The same thing is true in prayer, in meditation. For the disciplines of the creative process and Christian contemplation are almost identical.

~Madeline L’Engle

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The Journey Homeward

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 10

Artists have always been drawn to the wild, wide elements they cannot control or understand—the sea, mountains, fire. To be an artist means to approach the light, and that means to let go our control, to allow our whole selves to be placed with absolute faith in that which is greater than we are. The novel we sit down to write and the one we end up writing may be very different, just as the Jesus we grasp and the Jesus who grasps us may also differ.

~Madeline L’Engle

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Greetings from Karen Swallow Prior

I’m so excited to be able to walk with the readers of Literary Life through On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books! I have always loved books (as you know if you participated here in our earlier discussion about my first book, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me).

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Do we Want The Children To See It?

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 9

A pianist does not have to be a practicing Christian to play Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata or the rippling second movement of Ginastera’s piano concerto. As my friend Tallis once remarked, “When your car breaks down, you don’t ask if the mechanic is an Episcopalian. You want to know how much he knows about cars.”

~Madeline L’Engle

Continue reading “Do we Want The Children To See It?”

The Bottom Of The Iceberg

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 8

I’m grateful that Bach’s Christianity was realized in both his conscious and subconscious mind. But being a practicing Christian is not part of the job description, and sometimes God chooses most peculiar people to be vessels of genius. My mother used to sigh because her beloved Wagner was such a nasty man. And I was horrified to have some students tell me that a lot of people actively disliked Robert Frost. How does one separate the art from the artist? I don’t think one does, and this poses a problem. How do we reconcile atheism, drunkenness, sexual immorality, with strong, beautiful poetry, angelic music, transfigured painting?

~Madeline L’Engle

Continue reading “The Bottom Of The Iceberg”

Names And Labels

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 7

The world wants to shove us into what it considers the appropriate pigeonhole. I do not like to be labelled as a “Christian children’s writer” because I fear that this will shove me even further into the pigeonhole which began to be prepared for me when A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery medal. If I am so labelled, then the implication is that I am to be read only by children, and Christian children at that. Though the chief reason that Wrinkle was rejected for over two years and by thirty-odd publishers was because it is a difficult book for many adults, the decision was made to market it as a children’s book; it won a medal for children’s books. Therefore, I am a children’s writer, and that is all I’m allowed to be.

~Madeline L’Engle

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Keeping The Clock Wound

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 6

Chronos: our wristwatch and alarm-clock time. Kairos: God’s time, real time. Jesus took John and James and Peter up the mountain in ordinary, daily chronos; during the glory of the Transfiguration they were dwelling in kairos.

~Madeline L’Engle

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Probable Impossibles

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 5

Let me return to Aristotle’s “that which is probable and impossible is better than that which is possible and improbable.” I’ve been chewing on that one since college, and it’s all tied in with Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief.” If the artist can make it probable, we can accept the impossible—impossible in man’s terms, that is. Aristotle, not knowing the New Testament, could not add, “With man it is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” — The artist at work is less bound by time and space than in ordinary life. But we should be less restricted in ordinary life than we are. We are not supposed to be limited and trapped. As a child it did not seem strange to me that Jesus was able to talk face to face with Moses and Elijah, the centuries between them making no difference.

~Madeline L’Engle

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A Coal In The Hand

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 4

I am grateful that I started writing at a very early age, before I realized what a daring thing it is to do, to set down words on paper, to attempt to tell a story, create characters. We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through plastic sham to living, breathing reality, and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give love.

With God, even a rich man can enter the narrow gate to heaven. Earthbound as we are, even we can walk on water.

~Madeline L’Engle

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Healed, Whole And Holy

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 3

All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older. But they start off without self-consciousness as they paint their purple flowers, their anatomically impossible people, their thunderous, sulphurous skies. They don’t worry that they may not be as good as Di Chirico or Bracque; they know intuitively that it is folly to make comparisons, and they go ahead and say what they want to say. What looks like a hat to a grownup may, to the child artist, be an elephant inside a boa constrictor.

So what happens? Why do we lose our wonderful, rackety creativity? What corrupts us?

~Madeline L’Engle

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Cosmos From Chaos

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 1

Plato spoke of the necessity for divine madness in the poet. It is a frightening thing to open oneself to this strange and dark side of the divine; it means letting go of our sane self-control, that control which gives us the illusion of safety. But safety is only an illusion, and letting it go is part of listening to the silence, and to the Spirit.

~L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

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Epilogue

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Malcolm Guite

Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God!”
You made your epitaph imperative,
And stopped this wedding guest!
But I am glad To stop with you and start again, to live
From that pure source, the all-renewing stream,
Whose living power is imagination,
And know myself a child of the I AM,
Open and loving to his whole creation.
Your glittering eye taught mine to pierce the veil,
To let his light transfigure all my seeing,
To serve the shaping Spirit whom I feel,
And make with him the poem of my being.
I follow where you sail towards our haven,
Your wide wake lit with glimmerings of heaven.

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Two Hinges

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 610-17

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

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Sadder And Wiser

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 618 to the end

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar
Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guesti
Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

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The Penance Of Life

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 574-81

“O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!”
The Hermit cross’d his brow.
“Say quick,” quoth he, “I bid thee say—
What manner of man art thou?”

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench’d
With a woeful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
And then it left me free.

Continue reading “The Penance Of Life”

The Sinking Ship

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 542-5

The boat came closer to the ship,
But I nor spake nor stirred;
The boat came close beneath the ship,
And straight a sound was heard.

Under the water it rumbled on,
Still louder and more dread:
It reach’d the ship, it split the bay;
The ship went down like lead.

Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,
Which sky and ocean smote,
Like one that hath been seven days drown’d
My body lay afloat;
But swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot’s boat

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He Prayeth Best Who Loveth Best

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 514-22

This Hermit good lives in that wood
Which slopes down to the sea.
How loudly his sweet voice he rears!
He loves to talk with marineres
That come from a far countree.

He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve—
He hath a cushion plump:
It is the moss that wholly hides
The rotted old oak-stump.

Continue reading “He Prayeth Best Who Loveth Best”

Wind, Breath and Spirit

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 452-63

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.
It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew

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PTSD And The Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 434-41

All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the Moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.

Continue reading “PTSD And The Ancient Mariner”

The Two Voices

WHAT COLERIDGE THOUGHT
OWEN BARFIELD

Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?

Continue reading “The Two Voices”

No Christ, No God

Notebook
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

12 February 1805

…it burst upon me at once as an awful Truth what 7 or 8 years ago I thought of proving with a hollow Faith and for an ambiguous purpose, my mind then wavering in its necessary passage from Unitarianism (which I have often said is the religion of a man whose Understanding Reason could make him an Atheist but whose Heart and Common sense will not permit him to be so) thro’ Spinosism into Plato and St. John / No Christ, No God!—This I now feel with all its needful evidence of the Understanding, would to God my spirit were made to conform thereto—that No Trinity, No God . . . O that this Conviction may work upon me and in me / and that my mind may be made up as to the character of Jesus and of historical Christianity as clearly as it is of Christ the Logos and intellectual or spiritual Christianity, that I may be made to know either their special and peculiar Union, or their absolute dis- union in any peculiar sense.

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SUB SPECIE AETERNITATIS

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 393-409

How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.

“Is it he?” quoth one, “Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

“The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.”

The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, “The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.”

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John Newton and the Mariner

AUTHENTIC NARRATIVE
Bernard Martin

I SUGGEST that when Coleridge was writing The Ancient
Mariner he had in mind, consciously or sub-consciously
(and only a rash man would attempt to diflferentiate, where
Coleridge is concerned), the story of John Newton.
Moreover, I believe that Coleridge had read Newton’s
Authentic Narrative, and, probably, read it about the time
he wrote The Ancient Mariner. As the poem “grew and
grew and became important” the character of John
Newton and, especially, the record of how that character
changed during a sea experience overshadowed the
jumble of images in the poet’s mind—^the albatross of
Shelvocke, the dream of Cruickshank, the dice-players
of Falkenberg, the Wandering Jew and Cain—and provided
the moral which was hidden from “the cursed
Barbauld crew”,** and from the critic who talked lightly
of a new love of animals in English poetry.

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Transition & Transposition

Romans 8:16-39

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Logos

Notebook
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

April 1804

In looking at objects of Nature, while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim- glimmering thro’ the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking, a symbolic language for something within me that already and forever exists, than observing anything new. Even when the latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling as if that new phænomenon were the dim awakening of a forgotten or hidden Truth of my inner Nature! It is still interesting as a Word, a Symbol! It is Logos, the Creator! [and the Evolver!]

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Sheer Grace At the Zero Point

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 282-91

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea

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Data And Wisdom

What Coleridge Thought
Owen Barfield

“Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”

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The Moving Moon

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 224-31

I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.”—
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropt not down.

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Seeing Through The Dungeon-Grate

Dejection: An Ode
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From Poetical Works, Part II, Poem 293 Part VI

But oh! each visitation
Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,
My shaping spirit of Imagination.
For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can;
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man—
This was my sole resource, my only plan:
Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.

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At The Rising Of The Moon

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 203-11

We listen’d and look’d sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steerman’s face by his lamp gleam’d white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

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Bolting

Letter to Robert Southey
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

30 April 1799

Our little Hovel is almost afloat—poor Sara tired off her legs with servanting— the young one fretful & noisy from confinement exerts his activities on all for- bidden Things—the house stinks of Sulphur—I however, sunk in Spinoza, remain as undisturbed as a Toad in a Rock / that is to say, when my rheumatic pains are asleep.

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