Archive for May, 2010


“And as the nail sunk in the cloud…”

From the hilltop, I beheld the valley deep,
Where brave King Lothar crushed his foes
As they took flight across the little stream.

On Charles’ side, on Louis’ side as well,
The ground grows white with shrouds to cloak the dead,
As when autumn fields grow white with birds.

– Angelbert, survivor of the battle of Fontenoy, A.D. 841

“…in our defense, silence.”

“Can you see them?” wrote Theodulf of Orleans to Louis the Pious after being charged with treason and exiled to the monastery of Angers. Livid, and bereft of his usual wit, the old Goth demanded a chance to face his accusers. “See right through them!” he implored his unsympathetic sovereign. “They have no shield—no secrets to reveal.”

Fortunately, we live in a world that’s far more receptive to such pleas—and to a Monday assortment of spiffy links.

Blogger Geoffrey Chaucer breaks his silence, first with a Mother’s Day ode, and then with some shameless self-promotion, all before being unmasked at Kalamazoo.

At The Cimmerian, they’re scrutinizing early photos from the set of the new “Conan” film, and they don’t like what they see.

Steven Hart pens a tribute to Frank Frazetta, while James Gurney remembers working with him.

Christian Lindke notes the passing of J. Eric Holmes, the forgotten contributor to Dungeons & Dragons.

Remember heavy-metal medievalist Ronnie James Dio, who died this weekend at 67, with his truly heroic video for “Holy Diver.” (And check out this March 2010 appreciation of Dio at The Cimmerian.)

Predictions of Fire, the documentary about Laibach and the Neue Slowenische Kunst, hasn’t been released in the U.S., but you can watch it in eight parts on YouTube; part one is here.

Want to make any Web site look like it was made by a 13-year-old in 1996? Then enjoy the Geocities-izer.

Fly, my wingéd minion! Falconry thrives in the modern world. (Link via World of Royalty.)

Ephemeral New York spots “subway mosaics that supply a little history” and answers the question, “Who named the gates of Central Park?”

“I’ll build you a kingdom in that house on the hill…”

Around the cathedral, few creatures say what they actually mean. When the lovelorn cicada on the south nave needed advice on impressing the silent insect with whom he shares a buttress, I shrugged and loaned him a book on ghazals. Cicadas are well suited to the form: They respect tradition, they’re enigmatic by nature, and they know how to flutter indecisively around a perfectly bright idea.

GHAZAL

The scullions ma’am’d and sir’d to the Abbasids;
The lusts of locusts whirred through the Abbasids.

Salaam, she sighed. A serpent shed a city,
And in, a starving bird, flew the Abbasids.

In wine, in witless words, in bloodshot mornings,
The gift of gardens blurred to the Abbasids.

A general’s eye surveyed the rheumy rooftops,
And frozen by a word grew the Abbasids.

You sang, “the bow his brow, his lashes lances…”
Our dawn campaign referred to the Abbasids.

“It’s cool,” the in-crowd says, “to dig this chanting.
A ban would be absurd to the Abbasids.”

Her angel raises ribbons, blue and scarlet,
But wasting in the third queue? The Abbasids.

I studied senseless serifs on your postcard,
A lore I long preferred to the Abbasids.

Spines align. He scans her posture sidewise:
El Cid, Beginner’s Urdu, The Abbasids…

The old cicada sang, his soul emerging,
And yet you never heard. Do the Abbasids?


(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab.)

“Feathered, look, they’re covered in a bright elation…”

Too few Washingtonians have hobbies; for many people here, cultivating a career is apparently amusement enough. Fortunately, I sometimes encounter locals—like this fellow on the west front of the cathedral—who enjoy a pastime I’d never really thought much about, and I like when they explain its appeal in terms I can understand.

A SIMPLE DESULTORY PROSOPOPOEIA
(or, HOW I WAS RICHARD WAGNER’D INTO TRADITION)

“I do not think that they will sing to me”:
Impulsive mermaids drown in shallow words.
Await no witless warbling by the sea;
Rather, seek the songs of simple birds.
From perch and peak they twitter truths profound:
A woodbird stirs the Volsung in his blood;
A parliament of eagles circles ’round;
A curlew chills the farer on the flood.
The cuckoo croaks that sumer is icumen;
“Keep well thy tongue!” confesses Chaucer’s crow;
The nightingale her owl will merr’ly summon;
Despite their flyte, one insight they bestow:
Be still, but heed the rustle of a wing;
A legendary pigeon waits to sing.


(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tag.)