Monday, October 30

The first floor kitchen door is still broken. Because of the bank. Holiday.

I hate Hemingway; he is so memorable. Too much of Paris and Venice are under stencilled with the face of Hemingway in my memory. Venice not as much, but Paris . . . perhaps I should not be as upset about this. After all, Paris and I are not entirely on good terms with each other. We could meet in social places with small talk but never got around to affection that runs beyond a week's necessity of crepes and Belgian waffles.

OH. Did I mention you can get sweet waffles at the organic market here in Dublin?

Also that the loovly jazz of Harry Connick, Jr. goes very well with stale scones and mugs of cold milk and the sound of people cheering on the marathon runners outside my window? And my plaid pyjama pants? But not Latin. Oh no it does not.

Saturday, October 28

Books and abstractions and obstructions.

I have finished the delightful story of Havelock the Dane, in which many things are smitten and there is a happy ending where everyone gets married. (The bad end unhappily.) It would be fun to retell, though.

The added books to my bookshelf are delightful; a Latin dictionary, a book of Latin verbs, and a copy of the Vulgate Bible. In Latin. I think I will try to make it my church Bible--the versification is different, I think, but that isn't too much of a change, and I think that somewhere in my mountains of photocopies I have a guide to tell me where the differences lie.

Meanwhile I have been busy not reading fiction or writing poetry but actually studying Latin and Old English and deciding whether to try and second-guess my professors in regards to what, exactly, we are going to read next.

I do enjoy the abstract classes we have. This week's was on the concepts of Body & Soul in Dante's Commedia. He is contradictory (I suspected as much) and awfully odd about the whole thing. I am not sure I even like the idea of a vegetable soul. Next week's will be on the Ideas of a Nation, I think, and another lecture on Love & Free Will in Paradiso.

These are very interesting classes, except that one of the professors has a very soothing voice and references Wordsworth, both of which make me sleepy. It is a great nuisance to have to talk in class in order to remain awake.

It is not a nuisance to sit in my window-seat with a comfy pillow and a cup of tea and a book and my feet against my hot water bottle, though.

The centre of my soul, still axis of my self,
the immortal spark within me carries much
that longs, that yearns within me to breathe free.
Love is bound by infinite restrictions
of, perhaps, societal or kindly obligation
but not as much as love's held captive by
my doubt.

Tuesday, October 24

A vulgar comfort.

Have finished Augustine's Confessions, am already nearly half finished with Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, which I like very much indeed. Have also read Dante's Monarchia. Am very glad to learn that the Commedia was the answer to Dante's fuzzy Aristotelian logic about knowledge versus love being the highest perfection of our souls. I was not thinking very kind things of him.

I'm still in the same place when it comes to my other books.

But I'm having a bit of a Trouble because I am lonely. Or something. I don't know that I necessarily want to be with people; I think I just want to be comforted.

Not that real comfort that gives you courage and leads you to noble thoughts (ergo noble actions) but a vulgar comfort that makes me feel loved at the present moment the way I want to be loved.

Which is why I am drinking hot chocolate in a cafe when I should be scanning in The Elements of Old English back at my dorm room.

Tuesday, October 17

The portrait of an Italian face against the rows of Irish teas and coffees was an odd one.

I heard him speaking Italian, muttering under his breath and then calling out coffee drinks with an unmistakable accent. He spoke to a customer at the mahogany bar who looked very much Italian, but the man explained in northern accents that he grew up in Germany and knew no Italian.

"What part of Italy are you from?" I asked, for surely this man looked southern and familiar.


He leaned on the counter and looked at me oddly, as if I might burst out into some radical action now that I was apprised of the proper information.

"I've just come from Naples." I smiled when I said it, and it sounded so strange to say! Even the word "Naples" sounded strange in my mouth; it should be Napoli, always.

"Ah, Naples. You like Capri? Amalfi?" He began to name some more specific touristy areas that I hadn't been to or hadn't liked.

"I don't know." I shrugged. (Honestly, I've never been to Capri though I lived in Italy for several years before I came to be in Ireland--but you don't just go about admitting that to people.) "But Naples . . . Naples is beautiful. I loved Naples."

He squinted at me. "You liked Naples?" I thought perhaps that he was questioning my command of the English language, but perhaps the question was merely the natural cross-examination of a traveller by a countryman.

"Yes. Good coffee in Naples, much better than here. I don't know how you stand it." Always, Italian coffee will be better than the coffee from anywhere else. "Is there anywhere else around here that makes good coffee--Italian coffee?" He handed me my coffee (oddly called a "latte") over the counter.

"There is . . . hmm, I used to work at a place--you know the quay? Bar Italia on the quay?" He pointed in the direction of the river and pronounced "quay" with an accent. People came in and out of the leaded glass doors of Bewley's with their handbags and pale faces and low-heeled shoes, and I felt oddly out of step with my normal self-consciousness.

"I know of it. Good coffee, though?" But of course I had noticed the pseudo-Italian restaurants on my meandering walks through Dublin.

He shrugged. "It is like coffee from Rome." His face was carefully blank. I wrinkled my nose and made a face, and he nodded emphatically. "Neapolitan coffee is better." Suddenly I felt as if I'd spent the last few hours reading Hemingway.

"This is good coffee." He said grudgingly, gesturing to the machine next to him.

"Ok." I smiled and my phone protested. "Grazie!" I said, and carried my coffee over to the coffee-doctoring table where I would put a few too many sugars in my pocket so as to have a better cup of tea this evening.

"Arrivederci." He said it with mannered nonchalance like I've heard it many times before, and it sounded so familiar that I couldn't help but feel more at home. Only not.

Saturday, October 14

Saturday update on books.

On the penultimate book in Augustine' Confessions. Further than I thought into T.H. White's lovely novel.

Also reading Dante's Convivio for a class, though I can't seem to find de Monarchia even though I can pronounce it (that is exciting).

Thinking of reading Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy after this; Dante seems to pair it with Augustine a lot and the introduction to the book left me intrigued.

Something also very nice--one of my classmates burned me a copy of Seamus Heaney's reading his own translation of Beowulf! Nice people abound here, but to find nice and nerdy-like-me people is even rarer! YAY US!

Dante and the Doctrinal Fart

Aristotle is one of our Great Thinkers. Dante is one of our Great Writers. Dare I step up and contradict either of them on a moral basis?

Of course, my family will say 'yes!' because they are willing to hear all and sundry by the bar of experience and the truth we hold in common. My friends will only mumble 'well, you are going to anyway; you may as well do it out loud' and I sympathise with them even though I am not going to have mercy. This is my blog, after all.

Ok, down to business: Aristotle says that knowledge is 'l'ultima perfezione de la nostra anima'--the ultimate perfection of our soul. Dante, in his Convivio, says that he agrees with Aristotle (it's somewhere in the first paragraph). Yet, we know that Dante held beliefs of such a morality that allows only for love (not knowledge) to be the highest perfection of our souls.

If it isn't a doctrinal fart, we must assume that Dante was too easily tempted to opt out of a life of selfless dishwashing and rolling bandages. He lived a life of scholarly devotion which he defends throughout the Convivio as a part merely of his nature--therefore also avoiding responsibility for this decision to refrain from making himself vulnerable.

I have a tiny inkling of what it is like to struggle between a life of academics and a life of manual selflessness (if you really want a good essay on this try Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night). It isn't easy for those of us who are not naturally gifted conversationalists, who have not developed our abilities of graciousness and gracefulness (see Austen's Pride and Prejudice or get one of your girlfriends to recite the piano scene for you), who often find more of a spiritual connection to people through books than through the nitty-gritty of daily living. It is not easy, this struggle. There is some nobility in study, and to love studying is not wrong . . .

Read it on a wide demographic of blogs, whisper it to yourself when you are in pain, smell it in the steam off of home-made chicken soup: LOVE IS ALL WE HAVE!

Sunday, October 8

Very much missing my scarves. And my velvet scarf.

Done with half of Augustine's Confessions. Appalled by the beginning of the second book of T.H. White's The Once and Future King.

Have a strong urge to read more of the older type of literature. Gawain, and so forth. I feel less overwhelmed and more over-extended. I think I may need a nap.

Friday, October 6

Literary Inclinations.

Have finished the first book of The Once and Future King. I do love that book. What a marvelous writer.

Completed study of Passus X of The Vision of Piers Plowman. Intend to start on Augustine's Confessions shortly, and eventually pick up Vergil's Aenid (or however it is spelled).

Have finished another journal, am onto the next . . .