Saturday, February 28, 2009

John Updike's "Shipbored"

(Image from CRS Archives)

This morning, I came across an article, "Requiem," written by Wes Davis in The New Republic about the death of John Updike, and it led me to read an Updike poem that I hadn't seen before:
That line is the horizon line. (1)
The blue above it is divine. (2)

The blue below it is marine. (3)
Sometimes the blue below is green. (4)

Sometimes the blue above is gray,
Betokening a cloudy day. (5)

Sometimes the blue below is white,
Foreshadowing a windy night. (6)

Sometimes a drifting coconut
Or albatross adds color, but (7)

The blue above is mostly blue.
The blue below and I are, too. (8)
I found this poem with the image and notes at the CRS Archives -- hosted by the CRS Center for Leadership and Management in the Design and Construction Industry . . . of all places to find an Updike poem!

The first four lines of this poem also appear in the central story of a short story triptych, "The Blessed Man of Boston, My Grandmother's Thimble, and Fanning Island," written in the spring of 1961, or so I have from pages 75-76 of William H. Pritchard's Updike biography, Updike: America's Man of Letters (2005). Wes Davis, however, informs us that the full poem was written in 1954.

I'm curious where CRS obtained it, for the CRS Archives provide the late date 1969, and seem to imply that the image comes from Updike's own hand.

Does anybody know where the image originates?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom VI

King Saul and David
(Image from Wikipedia)

An intriguing instance of a counterfactual seems implicit in 1 Samuel 23:9-13, where David is hiding in the city Keilah but hears that Saul is plotting to attack:
9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, "Bring the ephod." 10 David said, "O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant." And the Lord said, "He will." 12 Again David asked, "Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?" And the Lord said, "They will." 13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there. ("1 Samuel 23 - New International Version," Blue Letter Bible, 1996-2009)
As we see from this example, David uses the ephod (something like divine dice) to ask God to reveal what the future holds, and God tells him what the future holds: Saul will come down to Keilah, whose citizens will surrender David.

David therefore leaves Keilah, and the events foretold by God do not occur.

The counterfactual that I understand is this: God foretells what will happen -- on the assumption that David should choose to remain in Keilah. Left unstated is what will happen if David should choose to leave Keilah, but David chooses to leave and escapes unharmed.

I don't have a sophisticated argument here, but this passage seems to make more sense if one reads it in light of libertarian freedom than divine determinism. The passage seems to presuppose a true counterfactual in this world (rather than some other, possible world): if David remains, then Saul will capture him, but he leaves, so Saul does not capture him.

Assuming that David has libertarian free will, then David's choice could make either outcome true (though God, being omniscient, knows what David will choose).

By contrast, if David lacks libertarian free will, and God divinely determines every event, then God's statement of the foretold events would seem to me to be false, for God knows that he has determined David to choose to escape. If we assume divine determinism, God would seem to be making a false statement.

I don't pretend that I've made a rigorous argument that libertarian free will is implicit in 1 Samuel 23:9-13, but it seems intuitively more likely to me.

Other interesting passages to consider are Jeremiah 38:17-18, Matthew 17:27 and 26:24, and John 18:36.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom V

William Lane Craig
(Image from Reasonable Faith)

In a comment left on my first post in this series, Dominic Bnonn Tennant noted the following point about an omniscient being (in the context of interpreting Matthew 11:23):
Moreover, how does Jesus know what Sodom would have done? That is, what grounds his knowledge? The Calvinist says that counterfactuals are grounded in God's knowledge of what he would have caused to occur in some other possible world. Hence, Jesus can know certainly what Sodom would have done in the possible world where he performed such signs in it. But if you are making an argument for libertarian free will -- specifically an argument which presupposes as necessary the principle of alternative possibility [PAP] -- then what grounds exist for this knowledge? Was Jesus just guessing? If PAP obtains, then in principle Jesus could not possibly know (that is, he could have no certainty) that Sodom would have repented. There just doesn't seem to be any way for him to know this, given that it didn't actually happen. Furthermore, even if some account for the grounds of his knowledge can be given, the problem remains as to how God can have knowledge grounded in anything but himself. How can he be genuinely omniscient if some of his knowledge is contingent upon his own creation? This would seem to destroy both his simplicity, and his status as the ontological grounds of knowledge itself (see John's use of the term logos).
As Bnonn's comment shows, this is a complex issue. Even setting aside the problem of how Jesus would know things available only to an omniscient being (given Jesus's presumed kenosis), as Bnonn suggests, there remains the question as to how God could be "genuinely omniscient if some of his knowledge is contingent upon his own creation."

Perhaps I've misunderstood, but Bnonn seems to be distinguishing between two sorts of omniscience: authentic and inauthentic:
Authentic omniscience: God's omniscience is grounded solely in divine determinism.

Inauthentic omniscience: God's omniscience is grounded in more than divine determinism, e.g., also upon contingencies of creaturely freedom.
By "divine determinism" is meant that God causes to occur or could cause to occur. If I understand Bnonn's point, then God's omniscience would be inauthentic if it were partly dependent upon the free acts of created beings. Why? Well, perhaps Bnonn means because God would then not know what would have happened if a created being had acted differently.

If that is the case, then would God's omniscience exclude knowledge about possible worlds that entail creaturely freedom? Would this mean -- to 'misquote' Robert Browning -- that God's "reach must exceed his grasp"? God's omnipotence, which includes his power to actualize possible worlds in which creaturely freedom is actualized, exceeds his grasp to know what would result in such possible worlds?

If so, then "authentic omniscience" would seem to exclude knowledge of some possible worlds.

Perhaps William Lane Craig's explication of middle knowledge (scientia media) offers a way of understanding how God could have knowledge of all possible worlds. Here is a long passage from his article "No Other Name":
Largely the product of the creative genius of the Spanish Jesuit of the Counter-Reformation Luis Molina (1535-1600), the doctrine of middle knowledge proposes to furnish an analysis of divine knowledge in terms of three logical moments. Although whatever God knows, He has known from eternity, so that there is no temporal succession in God's knowledge, nonetheless there does exist a sort of logical succession in God's knowledge in that His knowledge of certain propositions is conditionally or explanatorily prior to His knowledge of certain other propositions. That is to say, God's knowledge of a particular set of propositions depends asymmetrically on His knowledge of a certain other set of propositions and is in this sense posterior to it. In the first, unconditioned moment God knows all possibilia, not only all individual essences, but also all possible worlds. Molina calls such knowledge "natural knowledge" because the content of such knowledge is essential to God and in no way depends on the free decisions of His will. By means of His natural knowledge, then, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs which could possibly obtain and of what the exemplification of the individual essence of any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs that should be actual.

In the second moment, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions, including counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. That is to say, He knows what contingent states of affairs would obtain if certain antecedent states of affairs were to obtain; whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second moment God knows what any free creature would do in any set of circumstances. This is not because the circumstances causally determine the creature's choice, but simply because this is how the creature would freely choose. God thus knows that were He to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would obtain. Molina calls this counterfactual knowledge "middle knowledge" because it stands in between the first and third moment in divine knowledge. Middle knowledge is like natural knowledge in that such knowledge does not depend on any decision of the divine will; God does not determine which counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true or false. Thus, if it is true that
If some agent S were placed in circumstances C, then he would freely perform action a,
then even God in His omnipotence cannot bring it about that S would refrain from a if he were placed in C. On the other hand, middle knowledge is unlike natural knowledge in that the content of His middle knowledge is not essential to God. True counterfactuals of freedom are contingently true; S could freely decide to refrain from a in C, so that different counterfactuals could be true and be known by God than those that are. Hence, although it is essential to God that He have middle knowledge, it is not essential to Him to have middle knowledge of those particular propositions which He does in fact know.

Intervening between the second and third moments of divine knowledge stands God's free decree to actualize a world known by Him to be realizable on the basis of His middle knowledge. By His natural knowledge, God knows what is the entire range of logically possible worlds; by His middle knowledge He knows, in effect, what is the proper subset of those worlds which it is feasible for Him to actualize. By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. According to Molina, this decision is the result of a complete and unlimited deliberation by means of which God considers and weighs every possible circumstance and its ramifications and decides to settle on the particular world He desires. Hence, logically prior, if not chronologically prior, to God's creation of the world is the divine deliberation concerning which world to actualize.

Given God's free decision to actualize a world, in the third and final moment God possesses knowledge of all remaining propositions that are in fact true in the actual world. Such knowledge is denominated "free knowledge" by Molina because it is logically posterior to the decision of the divine will to actualize a world. The content of such knowledge is clearly not essential to God, since He could have decreed to actualize a different world. Had He done so, the content of His free knowledge would be different.
The difficulty in this system of middle knowledge lies in understanding how God could know what free agents would freely do. Yet, an account of this would seem to be necessary if God's knowledge about the details of all possible worlds is not to be incomplete. Molina saw this problem and attempted to deal with it, perhaps unsuccessfully, but his suggestion led to further theological reflections:
Molina (Concordia, pp. 290, 303) transferred the medium of God's infallible knowledge to the supercomprehensio cordis (kardiognosia, the searching of hearts). In virtue of this supercomprehension, God knows the most secret inclinations and penetrates the most hidden recesses of man's heart, and is thus enabled to foresee with mathematical certainty the free resolves latent in man's will. This unsatisfactory explanation, however, met with the natural objection that the mathematically certain foreknowledge of an effect from its cause is nothing more or less than the knowledge of a necessary effect; consequently the will would no longer be free (cf. Kleutgen, "De Deo Uno", Rome, 1881, pp. 322 sqq.). Therefore, the opinion, gradually adopted since the time of Francisco Suárez (but repudiated in Molina's work), maintains that, by the scientia media, God sees the conditioned future acts in themselves, i.e. in their own (formal or objective) truth. For, since every free act must be absolutely determined in its being, even before it becomes actual or at least conditionally possible, it is from all eternity a definite truth (determinata veritas), and must consequently be knowable as such by the omniscient God with metaphysical certainty. (Joseph Pohle, "Molinism," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911))
I freely admit that I don't understand all of this, for I haven't read enough and perhaps also lack sufficient metaphysical insight, but this series of posts is, after all, merely an investigation.

But I am out of time for today.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Query: The North Tower Portico

The Twin Towers
March 2001
(Image from Wikipedia)

I spent this morning explaining to my NYC cyber-friend Malcolm Pollack a question that I had earlier posed to him, and since I'm out of time as a consequence of my explanation, I'll post that exchange here in lieu of some other blog entry that I might have worked up.

Here was my initial query:
Dear Malcolm,

This will sound odd, but do you know if the roof of the portico jutting out at ground level from the west side of the WTC's North Tower was made of glass?

I've read of the jumpers' bodies striking the glass above the portico, and I wondered if this west side is meant.

I infer that most jumpers were landing on the north side of the North Tower, for the plane struck on that side, and on the west side of the South Tower for a similar reason. I hope that I have the directions correct, but you can correct me.

However, I suspect that jumpers were leaping from all sides.



P.S. I'm currently listening to Dylan's "Forever Young," which I used to enjoy back in my now innocent youth of 1976 . . .
Malcolm replied:
Hi Jeffery,

Though I used to spend a lot of time down there, I don't really remember the portico. I think conditions were generally intolerable all throughout the floors above the impact sites, and that people were jumping all round, but I really don't know for sure.

I have to say that even seven years later the memory of that awful day haunts us here in New York. If I seem unduly obsessed, in my bloggery, with the threat that Islam poses to the west, that is one of the main reasons why. I think being here and watching those towers burn and fall (especially knowing that my daughter was in school two blocks away, and not being able to reach her until late that evening), and then living in a stunned and broken city, under an enormous pall of shock and grief (not to mention the literal, acrid pall that hung over us for months as the ghastly Pile smoldered and smoked) made the event very different for us than for the rest of the world.

Are you preparing a post of some sort?

All the best,

To this, I replied with a lengthy explanation:
Dear Malcolm,

I recall being shocked at the image of an airliner entering a skyscraper when I saw the news on television. All night, that image continued to play, rewind, play, rewind. I told my wife that I wondered if we had done the right thing in having children, bringing them into such a world where such evil could be planned and carried out.

But the full enormity hit me later, as I began to read accounts. I didn't watch much television, but in my office, I found details on the internet and learned more of what had happened.

I've never been to New York City, and to be embarrassingly frank, I didn't even know about the two towers until they were struck. I didn't think about the NYC skyline in its details -- it was just a bunch of tall buildings -- and I wasn't especially interested in the City. The northeast coast generally was a cipher to me, far from where I grew up and even farther from where I went with my life -- from the Arkansas Ozarks to Waco, Texas, to the SF Bay Area, to Germany, to Australia, to Israel, to South Korea.

When I initially understood that the news was real and not some war movie on television -- and that must have taken me five minutes -- I found myself asking, "World Trade Center? Where is that? Chicago? New York?" I actually didn't know.

But over the days and weeks that followed, I grew far better acquainted with New York City and the Twin Towers and grew to love the City and mourn the loss.

It was the reports of people jumping, and the stories told by survivors that really got to me and began to prick my conscience and ignite my anger. I realiized that something had to be done.

That was a very odd time, for only one Korean expressed sorrow to me over the 9/11 attacks. Everyone else whom I knew was silent . . . or took part in anti-American protests and blamed the US.

I already knew about the dangers of Islamism -- though I didn't call it that at the time. I probably called it Islamic radicalism . . . or Islamic fundamentalism. Koreans seemed to know nothing about this religious radicalism and tended to see American foreign policy as the motivating factor in what the terrorist did.

When I was asked to give a presentation at Hanshin University, where I worked, I decided to talk about 9/11 and explain some of the religious motivations.

Since I had been reading about Islam for twenty years already (though not steadily), I knew what to look for and could use the internet and some of my books for sources. In my presentation, I explained about jihad as the motive behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and noted that while such an attack probably couldn't legitimately be justified according to the rules of jihad, only the context of jihad theory could make sense of the attacks. I therefore spent some time detailing some of the Islamic justifications provided by the terrorists for the attacks in order to demonstrate that jihad motives were at work, namely, that while the terrorists didn't like American foreign policy, their more basic aim was subjugation of the infidels.

A lot of Koreans simply failed to grasp this and refused to believe my report.

I wrote the presentation down and published in a Hanshin journal. It didn't get much attention, but I have it on my blog roll among my online articles, and it occasionally gets clicked on . . . and possibly even read.

As for my question about the portico roof, that's not for a blog entry (though is anything truly not for a blog entry?). I have a different project in mind for that, and I'm trying to understand more about the Towers. I need to understand concretely what the Towers were like and what took place.

Partly, this has to do with my dismay at the conspiracy theories floating about the internet -- the US government setting explosives to bring down the two Towers in order to justify a conservative crackdown on American society. For that reason, I need to know more, but I have other reasons.

Anyway, that's sort of why I asked about that portico . . . and I asked you because you often know obscure things, such as that Milton quote about "a good Booke" that stands above the portal to a large reading room in the New York Public Library.

Thanks for the reply. I know that September 11th, 2001 must have been a profoundly harrowing day for you and your family.



P.S. I love New York.
That was my morning this morning . . . and I guess that Malcolm was right about me "preparing a post of some sort."

By the way, does anyone know about the North Tower's portico that jutted out toward West Street? Was the roof made of glass?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"like Elizabethan miniatures"

Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619)
Possibly Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex (1566-1601)
Miniature Painting
Museum No. P.163-1910

I don't get much scholarly attention, perhaps deservedly, but occasionally somebody says something nice. Recently, a fellow Milton scholar privately informed me that my published articles (or, at least, some of them):
"are like Elizabethan miniatures: short, very finely crafted, exhibiting superb taste."
Of course, that was in the context of explaining that such a style is about 400 years out of date. But he added some words of comforting advice:
"And I would also think hard about the present academic environment, in which state systems are being cut at a rate that exceeds the speed with which our retirement funds have shrunk. While at the same time, you have the rise of "assessment" and other noxious, related discourses. It occurs to me that the present situation is enough to make one yearn for the days of the culture wars. At least then, what we taught seemed to matter."
Actually, now that I think about it . . . that's not especially comforting (other than as a misplaced shadenfreude on my part). But it does help by describing the context to my stalled career.

Did I say 'stalled'? I meant retrograde. I'm actually moving backward, like one of those 'erring' planets on a Ptolemaic epicycle. For that matter, I'm also a bit eccentric.

One should ever strive for accuracy of expression.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom IV

(Image from Wikipedia)

I have the image above from Wikipedia, which confidently informs me that "Augustine of Hippo wrote that original sin is transmitted by concupiscence and enfeebles freedom of the will without destroying it." The anonymous contributer then cites an article on "Free Will" in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, 1997), edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. The statement that Augustine 'affirmed' free will surprises me, for I thought that he had denied it. Unfortunately, I cannot check the article to see what the anonymous Wikipedia individual was referring to, for I do not have the book that contains it.

Well, that's my opening gambit, and it ain't much of one, but I liked the image of Augustine -- his eyes lifted up -- deeply engaged in moral and theological reasoning, for it's indicative of the deep waters into which I've gotten myself (my eyes also lifted up as I sink beneath the waves).

For instance, in an earlier post defending free will, I had innocently noted that "a 'should' entails a 'could.'" To this, Dominic Bnonn Tennant posted a response, asking:
[O]n what basis do you say that a "should" entails a "could"? All men should be perfect. Are you arguing that all men could be perfect? An imperative in no way leads one to infer an indicative.
I've been hesitating to reply to this because I felt that I needed better grounding in the philosophical thinking on this issue. I don't want to go about reinventing the wheel. The wheel has already been invented, improved, possibly even 'perfected', so my own wheel is likely to be a crude one, vastly inferior. But I'll make some suggestions and ask some questions.

First, the suggestions.

Bnonn's statement that "All men should be perfect" is a Christian one, probably based on Matthew 5:48:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (King James Version)

ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι, ὥσπερ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς τέλειός ἐστιν (Textus Receptus)
I borrow this verse, both in English and Greek, from the Blue Letter Bible, as one might have expected. I admit that I've always been somewhat puzzled by this imperative, for it seems to be exhorting people to be something beyond their power. Possibly, one should understand the imperative to mean, "Try to be perfect, and you will learn that this is impossible, for the law is intended to teach you that you will fail" -- if one were to apply a Pauline hermeneutic here (cf. Romans 5:13-17 and Galatians 3:19-25, among other places). But maybe the point goes a bit further, namely, that perfection is possible, ultimately, if one accepts the grace offered and the glorification promised (again applying a Pauline hermeneutic, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:42-54). Perhaps one needs help to be perfect, but if one should be perfect, then one ought to accept that help.

I'll get to my questions in a moment, but I should note an example that Bnonn provided to illustrate that an "ought" does not always imply a "could":
Say a man embezzles a million dollars, and is subsequently caught. At trial, because of mitigating circumstances, the judge agrees to defer jailtime if the man simply pays back the money. Unfortunately, most of it has already been squandered. Surely we'd agree that the man ought to pay back the money (in fact, even if he were not so ordered, he still ought to pay it back) -- yet certainly he cannot pay it back. The imperative does not imply an indicative.
I think that the issue would be more complex than this. Of course, the man should not have embezzled the money in the first place, and presumably, he had a choice about that. Since he is guilty of a crime, he must make some sort of restitution or be punished (or both). One way would be for him to repay the money, and he should do this if he can. If he lacks the funds now, he could be required to pay back in installments. There is some possibility of repaying, even if the man currently lacks the money. By contrast, we would never say of a murderer that he should bring the dead man back to life, for that is not only currently impossible but also utterly beyond all human possibility. Returning to the embezzlement case, if for some reason -- let us assume -- we know that the man would not, ever, be able to repay, then the legal system could provide for punishment instead. The reasoning would be: "Since the man is guilty, then he should repay the funds if he can, but since he cannot repay the funds, then he should be punished with prison time." A legal system would be foolish to insist that the man should repay if he cannot. It would, rather, insist that the man serve time in prison.

Now for my questions.

How would an imperative make sense if the act demanded were impossible? I can understand that an imperative might be given to teach a lesson, e.g., "Okay, be perfect by your own efforts if you think that you can be (but you'll find that you cannot)." But would that be a genuine imperative? Or rather a means of teaching a lesson? In the embezzlement example above, however, the moral assumption is that the man had a choice between embezzling or not embezzling. If he were forced at gunpoint to embezzle, we would likely not hold him responsible. Or, to put things another way, we would not hold the man's computer responsible for the embezzlement, for the computer had no choice, being merely an instrument of the man's will. Would we say that the computer should not have carried out the man's will? Wouldn't that be demanding of a computer that it ought to act in a way that it cannot act? Would such a demand make any sense?

I'm not sure if I've adequately responded to this part of Bnonn's objections to my view that an "ought" implies a "could." Probably, I've merely chiseled a rough-hewn wheel from philosophical stone.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Philo on Free Will II

New Testament Scholar

Yesterday, I posted a passage from Philo on "free will" but had only a couple of English translations to look at. The crucial sentence was this one:
But man, who has had bestowed on him a voluntary and self-impelling intellect, and who for the most part puts forth his energies in accordance with deliberate purpose, very properly receives blame for the offences which he designedly commits, and praise for the good actions which he intentionally performs.
I noted that this comes from On the Unchangableness of God, in The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus (London, H. G. Bohn, 1854-1890) and was translated from the Greek by Charles Duke Yonge. The other translation, I found in Giovanni Reale's Schools of the Imperial Age (edited and translated by John R. Catan):
But man, possessed of a spontaneous and self-determined will, whose activities for the most part rest on deliberate choice, is with reason blamed for what he does wrong with intent, praised when he acts rightly of his own will. (Reale, Schools of the Imperial Age, page 201)
Giovanni Reale provides an interesting discussion on the passage in which this occurs, so interested readers might take a look at what he says. I don't know if John R. Catan personally translated the passages into English or if he borrowed an existing translation. An endnote (page 485, n. 1) refers to important translations in various languages and offers as an English version the one in the "Loeb Classical Library" by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker (and some kind reader could check).

Frank McCoy noted that I lacked the Greek and therefore offered his own transliteration:
Ho de anthrwpos ethelourgou kai autokeleustou gnwmes lachwn kai prosairetikais chrwmenos ta polla tais energeiais eikotws phogon men eschen eph hois ek pronoias adikei epainon de eph hois hekwn katorthoi.
Jan Krans -- whose image appears above -- noted that I might like to have the Greek itself and thus offered the original:
ὁ δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου γνώμης λαχὼν καὶ προαιρετικαῖς χρώμενος τὰ πολλὰ ταῖς ἐνεργείαις εἰκότως ψόγον μὲν ἔσχεν ἐφ᾽ οἷς ἐκ προνοίας ἀδικεῖ, ἔπαινον δὲ ἐφ᾽ οἷς ἑκὼν κατορθοῖ. (Note ψόγον.) (Source: "The Philo Concordance Database" module in BibleWorks 7)
With the benefit of this Greek original, I was able to locate two websites with the entire Greek passage online, in case anyone should be interested in taking a look (Quod deus sit immutabilis X, 47: here and here).

Readers will recall that I was interested in what Yonge translated as "a voluntary and self-impelling intellect" and what Catan provided as "a spontaneous and self-determined will," for both translations make Philo sound as though he is talking about what contemporary philosophers call "libertarian free will."

The Greek that I was interested in is "ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου γνώμης" ("ethelourgou kai autokeleustou gnwmes"). For γνώμης (gnwmes), the Liddle-Scott dictionary gives "organ by which one perceives or knows, intelligence," which is closer to Yonge's "intellect," and "will, disposition, inclination," which is the same as offered by Catan. In either case, it would seem that Philo is speaking of the so-called "rational will." The important thing for Philo is that this "intellect" or "will" is free of the bonds of necessity, which is what he means by "ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου" ("ethelourgou kai autokeleustou"). For ἐθελουργοῦ (ethelourgou), Liddle-Scott gives "willing to work, indefatigable," which fits better Yonge's "voluntary" than Catan's "spontaneous." For αὐτοκελεύστου (autokeleustou), Liddle-Scott gives "self-bidden, i. e. unbidden," which fits both Yonge's "self-impelling" and Catan's "self-determined."

Thus, one might also offer for "ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου γνώμης" ("ethelourgou kai autokeleustou gnwmes") the translation "a voluntary and self-impelling will," the implication being that this will is not rigidly bound by causality but is freely informed by reason.

And I am now out of time for today.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Philo on Free Will

Philo of Alexandria
(20 BC - 50 AD)
(Image from Wikipedia)

I have not forgotten that I owe several people a follow-up post on divine sovereignty and human freedom, and I have been thinking about a response to the critiques.

In the meantime, I've been alerted by Frank McCoy (of St. Paul, Minnesota) to a passage in Philo of Alexandria's text On the Unchangableness of God:
X. Man, then, has received this one extraordinary gift, intellect, which is accustomed to comprehend the nature of all bodies and of all things at the same time; for, as in the body, the sight is the most important faculty, and since in the universe the nature of light is the most pre-eminent thing, in the same manner that part of us which is entitled to the highest rank is the mind. (46) For the mind is the sight of the soul, shining transcendently with its own rays, by which the great and dense darkness which ignorance of things sheds around is dissipated. This species of soul is not composed of the same elements as those of which the other kinds were made, but it has received a purer and more excellent essence of which the divine natures were formed; on which account the intellect naturally appears to be the only thing in us which is imperishable, (47) for that is the only quality in us which the Father, who created us, thought deserving of freedom; and, unloosing the bonds of necessity, he let it go unrestrained, bestowing on it that most admirable gift and most connected with himself, the power, namely, of spontaneous will, as far as he was able to receive it; for the irrational animals, in whose soul there is not that especial gift tending to freedom, namely, mind, are put under the yoke and have bridles put in their mouths, and so are given unto men to be their slaves, as servants are given to their masters. But man, who has had bestowed on him a voluntary and self-impelling intellect, and who for the most part puts forth his energies in accordance with deliberate purpose, very properly receives blame for the offences which he designedly commits, and praise for the good actions which he intentionally performs. (48) For, in the case of other plants and other animals, we cannot call either the good that is caused by them deserving of praise, nor the evil that they do deserving of blame; for all their motions in either direction, and, all their changes, have no design about them, but are involuntary. But the soul of man, being the only one which has received from God the power of voluntary motion, and which in this respect has been made to resemble God, and being as far as possible emancipated from the authority of that grievous and severe mistress, necessity, may rightly be visited with reproach if she does not pay due honour to the being who has emancipated her. And therefore, in such a case, she will most deservedly suffer the implacable punishment denounced against slavish and ungrateful minds. (49) So that God "considered" and though within himself, not now for the first time, but long ago, and with great steadiness and resolution, "that he had made man;" that is to say, he considered within himself what kind of being he had made him. For he had made him free from all bondage or restraint, able to exert his energies in accordance with his own will and deliberate purpose, on this account: that so knowing what things were good and what, on the contrary, were evil, and having arrived at a proper comprehension of what is honourable and what is disgraceful, and apprehending what things are just and what unjust, and, in short, what things flow from virtue and what from wickedness, he might exercise a choice of the better objects and an avoidance of their opposites; (50) and this is the meaning of the oracle recorded in Deuteronomy, "Behold, I have put before thy face life and death; good and evil. Do thou choose life."12 Therefore he teaches us by this sentence both that men have a knowledge of good and of the contrary, evil, and that it is their duty to choose the better in preference to the worse, preserving reason within themselves as an incorruptible judge, to be guided by the arguments which sound sense suggests, and to reject those which are brought forward by the contrary power.
This passage is found in the work On the Unchangableness of God, from The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus (London, H. G. Bohn, 1854-1890) and was translated from the Greek by Charles Duke Yonge. I searched for an online copy of the original Greek text but found only a defective one Google Books here, which begins on page 75 but is missing pages 76 and 77, so the copy is not very helpful.

This is unfortunate, for I'd like to know the Greek for what Yonge has translated as "a voluntary and self-impelling intellect," for this sounds rather like what contemporary philosophers call "libertarian free will" in its emphasis upon the "self-impelling" of our intellect. Another translation -- appearing in Giovanni Reale's Schools of the Imperial Age (edited and translated by John R. Catan) -- offers "a spontaneous and self-determined will," which is similar in meaning but differing in terms.

Philo, of course, is drawing on Stoic and Platonic thought, but he attempts to ground his theology in scripture, specifically Deuteronomy 30:15, which states: "Behold, I have put before thy face life and death; good and evil. Do thou choose life."

I did manage to find the Greek for this quote:
Quod Deus immutab. § 10, i. 280 = [10].50, quoting Deut. 30.15: παρὸ καὶ λόγιόν ἐστι τοιοῦτον ἀναγεγραμμένον ἐν Δευτερονομίῳ· „ἰδοὺ δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου σου τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ τὸ κακόν, ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν‟ (Deut. 30.15,19). And this is the meaning of the oracle recorded in Deuteronomy, "Behold, I have put before thy face life and death; good and evil. Do thou choose life" (Yonge).
This comes from a website presenting the notes that Herbert Edward Ryle wrote for an edition of Philo (1895).

Enough for now, for the day calls me to my works of days and ways.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

More Bone-Rattling on Neil Gaiman's Sources

"Rattle His Bones"
(Image from The Graveyard Book)

I had thought that I was finished with my investigations into bone-rattling, but here I go again. I could blame one of my commenters, Cynthia, but I was already digging deeper before her two comments posted.

Let's again recall the lines quoted by Neil Gaiman in the epigraph to The Graveyard Book:
Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns
Readers will remember that I remarked yesterday that I couldn't find the book mentioned by Neil Gaiman in his email to me explaining where he had found his version of these lines:
The first reference I found to it was in a book on Death Customs in England, which referred to it as a trad nursery rhyme and had it in the form I listed in the book.
I still haven't found a book with this title, but I did notice one titled The English Way of Death: The Common Funeral Since 1450, by Julian Litten (2007 [1991]), and I'm nearly persuaded that it's the one meant by Gaiman, for it apparently has a version very close to Gaiman's epigraph. I say "very close" because I've only seen a reference to Litten's book on a website titled Newcastle Workhouse, a local history site that quotes a similar version to the lines in question:
A pauper funeral was something to be avoided, not only because of its extreme simplicity but also for its significance in exhibiting one's failure to maintain a position, however lowly, in society. The covered hand-cart pushed along by a hunched-up attendant with the undertaker striding out in front and the mourners hurrying along behind, made a pathetic accompaniment to the children's rhyme, "Rattle his bones over the stones; he's only a pauper who nobody owns" (from J. Litten, The English Way of Death).
Litten's version is similar to Gaiman's in using "who" rather than "whom" but differs in using "he's" rather than "it's" . . . so I can't be sure that Gaiman meant The English Way of Death when he referred to Death Customs in England, though I'm sorely tempted to think so.

Gaiman also mentioned some uncertainty about which relative pronoun to use in the rhyme:
When we were copyediting, we wondered about the grammer on who and whom and that.
I hadn't recalled finding a version with "that," but upon Googling, I did find one also, in Experiments in Rethinking History (Routledge, 2004), edited by Alun Munslow and Robert A. Rosenstone, specifically, in an article by Chris Ward, "Impressions of the Somme: An Experiment":
Nineteenth-century English children's ryhme: 'Rattle his bones / Over the stones / He's only a pauper / That nobody owns' (page 120, note 40)
Note that Mr. Ward refers to these lines as a "Nineteenth-century English children's ryhme," which gets us rather close to Gaiman's attribution of the lines as a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme."

I had also previously wondered about a remark made by Trevor May on page 11 of his book The Victorian Undertaker (1996). He quotes a version of the lines in question:
Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns
Mr. May then identifies this as "the refrain of a widely sung song, 'The Pauper's Drive', set to music 1839." I noted that this was odd, for the poem was published in 1841 by Thomas Noel in his book of poetry Rymes and Roundelayes. However, I found a second reference to an 1839 date. The appropriately named Julie-Marie Strange -- appropriate for my strange inquiry -- gives this date of 1839 for Noel's poem on page 1 of her book Death, Grief and Poverty in Britain, 1870-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2005). She seems a little uncertain, however, for she notes "c. 1839" (i.e., "circa"), but she cites page 56 of Burial Reform and Funeral Costs (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), by A. Wilson and H. Levy as her source.

After I had located these references, I found that a regular commenter, Cynthia, had also done some lugubrious grave digging (but note that the Galveston Daily News misattributes the lines to Thomas Hood, a common error, it seems):
I found the following reference in a newspaper article regarding the death of someone:
To-day, he will be buried, and, in the language of the immortal Hood:

"Rattle his bones
Over the stones --
Only a pauper
Whom nobody owns."

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), June 22, 1883
Another reference, but not attributed:
An inquest was held to-day upon the body of the one killed, supposed to be a tramp, but the evidence failed to disclose who the man was, and so it's the old story over again,

"Rattle his bones
Over the stones,
It's only a pauper
Whom nobody owns."

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada), July 20, 1891
I also found the earlier version of "The Pauper's Drive," and the newspaper printed the refrain in italics, rather than using quotation marks. This was printed in Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois), June 29, 1876

This poem was printed in several papers, and only one used italics. The others did not use quotation marks or italics.

I also found a few political references/usages; this one being kind of amusing:
Next November.
Rattle his bones
Over the stones,
It's candidate Harrison,
Whom nobody owns.

--Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Hornellsville Weekly Tribune (Hornellsville, New York), July 13, 1888

"Potter's Field of Kings County--A Flagrant Outrage"

The motto of the Board is evidently happily timed to the familiar couplet,

Rattle his bones over the stones,
For he is a pauper that nobody owns....

New York Herald (New York, New York), May 31, 1869
In reference to a concert:
He sang Homer's "Rattle His Bones Over the Stones,"...

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), November 6, 1909
I also found a Buz Sawyer comic in the newspapers from 1953, that uses "Rattle his bones over the stones."

No references to nursery rhymes.
After a bit, Cynthia dug some more:
I found the following this morning, printed above the poem:
Thomas Noel was born at Kirkby-Mallory on May 11, 1799. He graduated from Merton College, Oxford, in 1824, and issued in 1833 a series of stanzas upon proverbs and scriptural texts, entitled "The Cottage Muse," [I think it is Muse] and in 1841, "Village Verse" and "Rhymes and Roundelays." The latter volume included a version of the "Rat-Tower Legend," and "Poor Voter's Song" and "The Pauper's Drive," often wrongly attributed to Thomas Hood. This poem is justly praised by Miss Mitford in her "Recollections of a Literary Life," and was set to music in 1839 by Henry Russell [but see below in my comments - HJH]. Noel also wrote the words of the familiar song, "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep."

Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), October 15, 1902
Mary Russell Mitford published that book in 1852. You might already know that, but I didn't know who she was,and am not familiar with the book.

The Henry Russell song seems to be dated 1846 by another source online.

Here is a link to another explanation about the song/poem, in case you didn't see it.
Cynthia's digging turned up that discrepancy again between an 1841 publication of "The Pauper's Drive" and an 1839 date for when it was set to music. She also found that the poem was "often wrongly attributed to Thomas Hood," as I noted above and have frequently seen. This misattribution goes back at least as far as 1860 (one year before Thomas Noel's own death), for I found an erring reference in an article, "South Australian Institutions. The Adelaide Cemetery," printed in The South Australian Advertiser (Monday, February 20, 1860), which says of a poor man's funeral:
It was the ideal of a pauper's funeral, and the lines of Thomas Hood might have been appropriately quoted on the occasion

"Rattle his bones over the stones,
He is but a pauper whom nobody owns"
But the misattribution might even go back to 1846, as Cynthia has implied, for the link provided above by Cynthia states that "Henry Russell popularized the words by setting them to music, attributing them to Hood, and singing the piece when on tour," which "no doubt gave rise to the mis-apprehension as to the name of the author." Added to this is the information at this website on "The Music of Henry Russell (1812-1900)" that Russell set the words to music in 1846 (and surely not 1839, despite other sources), thus pushing the date of misattribution back almost to the time of the poem's publication in 1841! Perhaps the similarity of themes and names of the two poets Thomas Hood and Thomas Noel resulted in this confusion.

Thomas Noel (1799-1861) was well known in his day, but he should not be confused with his father Thomas Noel (1774-1853), the Leicestershire clergyman . . . though I think that I previously did confuse the two. I found a reference to Noel's father, the clergyman, on page 250 of Peter Quennell's Byron: The Years of Fame: The Years of Fame (2006) informing me that Reverend Noel presided as clergyman at the ceremony in which Lord Byron wed Annabella Milbanke -- and also that Mr. Noel was an illegitimate son of the aptly titled Lord Wentworth, whose name (i.e., "Thomas Noel") he was given.

Incidentally, the poet Thomas Noel -- who would be the grandson of Lord Wentworth -- was a friend to Lord Byrons' wife, Annabella Milbanke (Anne Isabella Byron), or at least Wikipedia says so.

And perhaps, finally, I have taken this far enough.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Neil Gaiman Replies

Horse-Drawn Hearse
(Image Borrowed from the Past)

I am still wondering about the origin of that epigraph used by Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book. Just to refresh our memories, here is that brief rhyme:
Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns
Gaiman cites it as a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme," but I've found nothing yet to substantiate that.

Because I'm obsessive, I decided to go to the source and therefore sent a query to Mr. Gaiman himself:
Dear Mr. Neil Gaiman

Sorry to bother you with an inane question, but about this:
Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns
Is this really a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme"? I ask because . . . I'm a bit obsessive. I have already done some digging around:
Gaiman's Borrowed Rhyme

James Joyce et al.: "Rattle his bones"
I found no nursery rhyme, however. Don't bother to reply unless this strikes your fancy. I understand that people are pressed for time.

Anyway, I'm enjoying your stories, which I've only recently learned about -- and through a review of the movie Coraline in Christianity Today, of all places. Now, I'm reading everything that you've written. Well . . . everything published that I can find.

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges
To my surprise, Mr. Gaiman replied within a couple of hours to my query about this rhyme:
The first reference I found to it was in a book on Death Customs in England, which referred to it as a trad nursery rhyme and had it in the form I listed in the book.

When we were copyediting, we wondered about the grammer on who and whom and that, and then I found myself spending a week on the internet doing exactly the journey you did, and coming to similar conclusions. But liking the version I'd read first the best, and liking the idea that it was a nursery rhyme the best -- and really not knowing if the poem was echoing something older or not. So I left it...
Thank you, Mr. Gaiman, for taking the time to provide this helpful explanation.

Of course, I now have a new obsession. I cannot find a reference online to Death Customs in England. I did find The Victorian Undertaker (1996), by Trevor May, which has a version of the rhyme on page 11 (and a lugubrious photo of a pauper's hearse on the following page):
Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns
Mr. May identifies this as "the refrain of a widely sung song, 'The Pauper's Drive', set to music 1839" (oddly enough, for the poem was published in 1841 by Thomas Noel in his book of poetry Rymes and Roundelayes).

I also found a similar book, Death, Dissection, and the Destitute (2001), by Ruth Richardson, and it has a version of the rhyme on page 375 that is closer to the one used by Gaiman:
Rattle his bones over the stones,
It's only a pauper whom nobody owns
Ms. Richardson cites Thomas Noel's poem and notes that it "has the well-known refrain" that I've just quoted, helpfully adding that "'owns' is another word for 'claims' in this context."

Interestingly, in's entry on "funeral" (and seemingly only there), I found a note on the "pauper's funeral," in which "a cheap coffin [was] pushed on a hand-cart, as remembered in the children's rhyme":
Rattle his bones over the stones,
He's only a pauper whom nobody owns.
This couplet is attributed by to Thomas Noel, citing "The Pauper's Drive," but note that the writer has also referred to the lines as a "children's rhyme," which returns us to a point close to Gaiman's original identification of the lines as a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme."

Perhaps this is as far as we can go, but since we now have Mr. Neil Gaiman's own words on the subject, we need not go further anyway.

PS: Since the time this post was written, I've published my own dark fantasy story, partly inspired by Gaiman . . .

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Muzzammil Hassan: Failed Mission?

Muzzammil Hassan and Wife Aasiya
In Happier Times
(Bridges TV/Handout/Reuters)
(Image from Yahoo)

The February 17th issue of the International Herald Tribune presents a most-ironic report, if it should turn out to be true:
Muzzammil Hassan, founder and CEO of Buffalo, N.Y.-based Bridges TV which [was] launched in 2004 with a mission to show Muslims in a more positive light, was charged after reporting the death of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, 37, on Thursday night.
Since the decapitated body of his wife was found at the Bridges TV offices, allegedly beheaded by Mr. Hassan, then if the allegations should prove true (and various reports say that he has confessed), I believe that we can probably conclude that Mr. Hassan has been unsuccessful in his mission.

The article further reports:
Authorities said Aasiya Hassan, with whom Hassan had two children, had recently filed for divorce and had an order of protection mandating that he leave their home as of February 6.
Given that Ms. Hassan had recently filed for divorce, I suggest that this was a so-called 'honor' killing of the sort that is currently becoming far too common in Western Europe and even in the United States. From what little that I know of Sharia (Muslim law), this sort of thing is not expressly condoned (and, indeed, is probably condemned). However, the specifically Islamic variant of shame-and-honor culture seems to have a higher incidence of honor killings with excessive violence:
Not all honor killings are perpetrated by Muslims, but the overwhelming majority are. Ninety percent of the honor killers shown [in a study] . . . were Muslim. In every case, perpetrators view their victims as violating rules of religious conduct and act without remorse. (Phyllis Chesler, "Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?" Middle East Quarterly 16.2, Spring 2009, pp. 61-69)
The evidence presented by Chesler thus suggests that Muslim communities have an enormous problem here that goes beyond 'ordinary' domestic violence -- in my opinion, due to the very strict and rigid shame-and-honor control exerted by many Muslim men upon Muslim women. Perhaps if Mr. Hassan had spent more time analyzing this cultural problem rather than simply pursuing his "mission to show Muslims in a more positive light" -- however worthy that may be -- he might have learned to face his own tendencies toward violence and thereby better have succeeded in his 'mission'.

Or at least not have failed so spectacularly.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

James Joyce et al.: "Rattle his bones"

Initial Publication of Ulysses
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I inquired about Neil Gaiman's borrowing of what he calls a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme":
Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns
Specifically, I wondered if it were truly a nursery rhyme, for it seems to 'ultimately' come from the refrain of Thomas Noel's 1841 poem, "The Pauper's Drive," published in Rymes and Roundelayes (pages 200-201):
Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns!
My cyber friend and fellow Milton enthusiast Eshuneutics commented:
An intriguing question . . . I have never heard of it as a nursery rhyme. It is a Northern Chartist song, known in my city of Leeds. (I guess its northern/Manchester connection encouraged The Smiths to plagiarise the refrain) It must have been a popular ditty since Joyce uses it in "Ulysses". And that suggests its origin is in music hall rather than nursery rhyme. If it was ever a nursery-rhyme, it would be in Peter Opie's collection, but I do not recall it from that. A puzzle.
Eshuneutics certainly knows a good deal about things literary and popular, and he sends me off in several directions. I had in fact noticed the Joyce connection yesterday but didn't have time to look into that. Gaiman has surely read Joyce's Ulysses and might have been thinking of that, but Joyce's use of the lines differs in being abbreviated:
The carriage climbed more slowly the hill of Rutland square. Rattle his bones. Over the stones. Only a pauper. Nobody owns.
This appears in Ulysses, Part II, "The Odyssey," Episode 6, "Hades," which describes the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, in a funeral carriage on his way to the funeral of Paddy Dignam, who died an undignified death in a drunken stupor, somewhat like Elpenor, a friend of the original Ulysses, Odysseus.

Here's a larger passage, which contains several allusions to the lines (which I've emboldened):
The carriage climbed more slowly the hill of Rutland square. Rattle his bones. Over the stones. Only a pauper. Nobody owns.

--In the midst of life, Martin Cunningham said.

--But the worst of all, Mr Power said, is the man who takes his own life.

Martin Cunningham drew out his watch briskly, coughed and put it back.

--The greatest disgrace to have in the family, Mr Power added.

--Temporary insanity, of course, Martin Cunningham said decisively. We must take a charitable view of it.

--They say a man who does it is a coward, Mr Dedalus said.

--It is not for us to judge, Martin Cunningham said.

Mr Bloom, about to speak, closed his lips again. Martin Cunningham's large eyes. Looking away now. Sympathetic human man he is. Intelligent. Like Shakespeare's face. Always a good word to say. They have no mercy on that here or infanticide. Refuse christian burial. They used to drive a stake of wood through his heart in the grave. As if it wasn't broken already. Yet sometimes they repent too late. Found in the riverbed clutching rushes. He looked at me. And that awful drunkard of a wife of his. Setting up house for her time after time and then pawning the furniture on him every Saturday almost. Leading him the life of the damned. Wear the heart out of a stone, that. Monday morning. Start afresh. Shoulder to the wheel. Lord, she must have looked a sight that night Dedalus told me he was in there. Drunk about the place and capering with Martin's umbrella.


He looked away from me. He knows. Rattle his bones.

That afternoon of the inquest. The redlabelled bottle on the table. The room in the hotel with hunting pictures. Stuffy it was. Sunlight through the slats of the Venetian blind. The coroner's sunlit ears, big and hairy. Boots giving evidence. Thought he was asleep first. Then saw like yellow streaks on his face. Had slipped down to the foot of the bed. Verdict: overdose. Death by misadventure. The letter. For my son Leopold.

No more pain. Wake no more. Nobody owns.

The carriage rattled swiftly along Blessington street. Over the stones.
Zack Bowen discusses these allusions in Musical Allusions in the Works of James Joyce: Early Poetry through Ulysses (1974) but doesn't mention Thomas Noel's poem of 1841. I've not read Bowen's book, and Google Books doesn't provide all of the pages, so I don't know if Bowen explains what song is meant, whether the Chartist mentioned by Eshuneutics or some other. But Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman, in Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's Ulysses (1988), refer readers to Noel's poem, calling it a song but saying nothing of a Chartist song using the lines in question. Earlier even than Bowen, Weldon Thornton wrote in Allusions in Ulysses: An Annotated List (1968) of Noel's poem but also cites this as a song noted by Helen K. Johnson, in Our Familiar Songs (pp. 630-32), who cites Noel for the words but J.J. Hutchinson for the music, but again no reference to a Chartist song.

No one seems to be mentioning any nursery rhyme at all.

Perhaps Gaiman is merely toying with us and misleading the scholars. He probably didn't get these lines from Shelagh Delaney's 1960 play, The Lion in Love, which has:
So rattle her bones all over the stones, she's only a beggar-man whom nobody owns.
Nor from The Smiths' 1984 album (i.e., The Smiths), which has seemingly borrowed from Delaney, for the playwright's lines are echoed in the song "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle":
So rattle my bones all over the stones / I’m only a beggar-man whom nobody owns.
I have the information on Shelagh Delaney and on The Smiths from "Culture isn't linear," which has some interesting things to say about literary 'borrowings'.

Still, Gaiman's own borrowing differs from all of these, including the 'original' poem by Thomas Noel, who used the personal pronoun "He":
Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns!
Gaiman uses the less personal "It":
Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns
In doing so, he comes closer to a version cited by the psychiatrist Shobal Vail Clevenger on page 255 of Fun in a Doctor's Life: Being the Adventures of an American Don Quixote in Helping to Make the World Better (1909):
Rattle his bones over the stones,
It's only a pauper whom nobody owns.
The sole difference here is Gaiman's use of "who" rather than the more grammatical "whom." Clevenger is quoting something, or thinks that he is. Possibly, Clevenger gets it from the Reverend William Cochrane's Future Punishment; or Does Death End Probation? (1886), which differs from Clevenger's version only in punctuation:
Rattle his bones, over the stones,
It's only a pauper, whom nobody owns.
But this is about as far as I can take things . . . for now.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Gaiman's Borrowed Rhyme

Neil Gaiman
(Image from The Graveyard Book)

I've just finished Neil Gaiman's recent novel, The Graveyard Book, which tells the tale of an orphaned child raised by the inhabitants of a graveyard, who give him the name "Nobody Owens." I won't reveal the plot since this book has been published only this year. Instead, I'll merely draw attention to a little ditty that serves as the book's epigraph:
Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns
Gaiman identifies this as a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme," but it's one that I'd never heard. Being curious, I did some digging around online and found a similar refrain in a poem attributed to Thomas Noel:
The Pauper's Drive
There's a grim one-horse hearse in a jolly round trot --
To the church yard a pauper is going, I wot;
The road it is rough, and the hearse has no springs;
And, hark to the dirge which the mad driver sings;
Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns!

O, where are the mourners? Alas! there are none,
He has left not a gap in the world, now he's gone, --
Not a tear in the eye of child, woman, or man;
To the grave with his carcass as fast as you can:
Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns!

What a jolting and creaking and splashing and din!
The whip how it cracks! and the wheels how they spin!
How the dirt, right and left, o'er the hedges is hurled!
The pauper at length makes a noise in the world!
Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns!

Poor pauper defunct! he has made some approach
To gentility, now that he's stretched in a coach!
He's taking a drive in his carriage at last!
But it will not be long, if he goes on so fast:
Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns!

You bumpkins! who stare at your brother con­veyed --
Behold what respect to a cloddy is paid!
And be joyful to think, when by death you're laid low,
You've a chance to the grave like a gemman to go!
Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns!

But a truce to this strain; for my soul it is sad,
To think that a heart in humanity clad
Should make, like the brute, such a desolate end,
And depart from the light without leaving a friend.
Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper, whom nobody owns!
This poem can be found on page 121 of The World's Best Poetry, Volume 3, Sorrow and Consolation, edited by Bliss Carman and commented upon by Lyman Abbot (J.D. Morris and Company, 1904).

According to Wikipedia, the British poet Thomas Noel was born on May 11, 1799 and died on May 22, 1861 and is credited with three volumes of poetry: The Cottage Muse (1833), Village Verse (1841), and Rymes and Roundelayes (1841).

Searching further, I found that the poem above appears on pages 200-201 of Rymes and Roundelayes (London: William Smith, 1841), for I located the text through Google Books, but the original differs somewhat from the version above:
The Pauper's Drive
There's a grim one-horse hearse in a jolly round trot;
To the churchyard a pauper is going, I wot;
The road it is rough, and the hearse has no springs,
And hark to the dirge that the sad driver sings: --
"Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns!"

Oh, where are the mourners? alas! there are none; --
He has left not a gap in the world now he's gone;
Not a tear in the eye of child, woman, or man; --
To the grave with his carcase as fast as you can;
"Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns!"

What a jolting and creaking, and splashing and din!
The whip, how it cracks! and the wheels how they spin!
How the dirt, right and left, o'er the hedges is hurl'd!
The Pauper at length makes a noise in the world!
"Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns!"

Poor Pauper defunct! he has made some approach
To gentility, now that he's stretch'd in a coach;
He's taking a drive in his carriage at last;
But it will not be long, if he goes on so fast!
"Rattle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns!"

You bumpkin! who stare at your brother convey'd,
Behold what respect to a cloddy is paid,
And be joyful to think, when by death you're laid low,
You've a chance to the grave like a gemman to go.
"Battle his bones over the stones;
He's only a Pauper, whom nobody owns! "

But a truce to this strain, -- for my soul, it is sad,
To think that a heart in humanity clad,
Should make, like the brutes, such a desolate end,
And depart from the light without leaving a friend!
Bear softly his bones over the stones;
Though a Pauper, he's one whom his Maker yet owns!
My question -- you knew that one was coming -- is: Did Thomas Noel borrow the refrain from a "Traditional Nursery Rhyme"? Note that he puts that part of his poem in quotation marks . . . though this could easily be explained as being due to the fact that the "sad driver" is singing this "dirge."

Be that as it may, does anyone have any information about this "Traditional Nursery Rhyme"?

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Investigation: Etymology of "Expiation" and "Propitiation"

Yom Kippur in the Synagogue (1878)
(Image from Wikipedia)

Etymology doesn't usually get us very far in understanding theological concepts since words pick up a lot of baggage through the centuries along their way to us, but I promised my Bible study class that I'd look up "expiation" and "propitiation" to check their roots.

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary:
expiation: 1482, from L. expiatus, pp. of expiare "make amends," from ex- "completely" + piare "propitiate, appease," from pius "faithful, loyal, devout."
Interesting. The root piare is defined as "propitiate." Anyway, let's check this dictionary for "propitiation":
propitiation: 1388, from L.L. propitiationem (nom. propitiatio) "an atonement," from L. propitiare "render favorable," from propitius "favorable, gracious, kind," from pro- "forward" + petere "go to" (see petition). Earliest recorded form of the word is propitiatorium, "the mercy seat, place of atonement" (c.1200), transl. Gk. hilasterion. The verb propitiate is attested from 1645, from L. propitiatus, pp. of propitiare. Propitious "favorable" is from 1447.
Both "expiation" and "propitiation" have been used to translate the Greek term hilasterion, which translates the Hebrew kapporeth, as can be seen in Exodus 25:18, courtesy of the Blue Letter Bible:
καὶ ποιήσεις δύο χερουβιμ χρυσᾶ τορευτὰ καὶ ἐπιθήσεις αὐτὰ ἐξ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν κλιτῶν τοῦ ἱλαστηρίου

וְעָשִׂיתָ שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים זָהָב מִקְשָׁה תַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם מִשְּׁנֵי קְצֹות הַכַּפֹּֽרֶת׃
As we see, the terms hilasteriou (ἱλαστηρίου, the genitive of hilasterion) and kapporeth (כַּפֹּֽרֶת) occur in the Greek translation and the Hebrew original of Exodus 25:18. In this verse, however, the Greek and Hebrew terms refer not to an abstraction rendered by either "expiation" or "propitiation," but to a part of the Ark of the Covenant. My sentimental choice, the King James Bible, translates this verse from the Hebrew as:
And thou shalt make two cherubims [of] gold, [of] beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. (KJV)
But the New International Version has this:
And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. (NIV)
The Hebrew term kapporeth is identified in the Blue Letter Bible's "Lexicon Results" as "the slab of gold on top of the ark of the covenant which measured 2.5 by 1.5 cubits; on it and part of it were the two golden cherubim facing each other whose outstretched wings came together above and constituted the throne of God." In its function, this is "the golden plate of propitiation on which the High Priest sprinkled the seat 7 times on the Day of Atonement symbolically reconciling Jehovah and His chosen people."

The root of kapporeth is kaphar, which is defined in the Blue Letter Bible's "Lexicon Results" as:
to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch

a) (Qal) to coat or cover with pitch

b) (Piel)

1) to cover over, pacify, propitiate

2) to cover over, atone for sin, make atonement for

3) to cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites

c) (Pual)

1) to be covered over

2) to make atonement for

d) (Hithpael) to be covered
There is, however, a lot of disagreement over the definition of this root kaphar and whether it really means "to cover" or "to wipe away" (cf. pdf), but I won't go into that since I know too little and lack the time to investigate properly. I would look briefly at hilasterion in Exodus 25:18, but the Blue Letter Bible hasn't yet finished developing its pages on the Septuagint, i.e., the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures.

This exercise in etymological investigation hasn't gotten me very far, but I didn't expect it to do so.

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