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A Philosopher

"A Philosopher"
Oil on Canvas - c. 1640-1655
Salomon Koninck  

      Beware of shifty-eyed people. It is not only nervousness, it is also a kind of wickedness. Such people come to no good. I have three of them now in my mind as I write.

      One is a Professor. And, by the way, would you like to know why universities suffer from this curse of nervous disease? Why the great personages have St Vitus' dance, or jabber at the lips, or hop in their walk, or have their heads screwed round, or tremble in the fingers, or go through life with great goggles like a motor car? Eh? I will tell you. It is the punishment of their intellectual pride, than which no sin is more offensive to the angels.

       What! here are we with the jolly world of God all round us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having for our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, purblind, rough-skinned, underfed, and perpetually irritated and grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function? Away with such foolery.

--Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome



Oil on Canvas - 1878
William Powell Frith 

The humble soul composed of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree.
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
'I am a scandal to the Church,' and not
'The Church is so to me.'

--George Herbert


Still Life with a Jug, Cheese, Onions, Fish and a Knife

"Still Life with a Jug, Cheese, Onions, Fish and a Knife"
Oil on Canvas - 1854
 François Bonvin

My forthcoming work in five volumes, "The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature" is a work of such unprecedented and laborious detail that it is doubtful if I shall live to finish it. Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to springle these pages. I cannot yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese. The only other poet I can think of just now who seems to have had some sensibility on the point was the nameless author of the nursery rhyme which says: "If all the trees were bread and cheese"—which is, indeed a rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation in any part of England where I was living. Wild and wide woodlands would reel and fade before me as rapidly as they ran after Orpheus.

--G.K. Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions, "Cheese"


Swallow or Swift

"Swallow or Swift"

Oil on Slate - Date Unknown

Alfred Worthington (1834-1927)

Now since watching my swallow by the riverside yesterday I have been trying to analyse these poignant emotions that are aroused in autumn and in spring-time by the going and the coming of the swallows. I am convinced that, when I see the swallows leaving the russet autumn, and preparing for their northward flight, there is something deeper in my sadness than a mere shrinking from a winter that is too mild to have any terrors. And I am equally certain that the keen delight that is mine when my heart leaps up to greet the first swallow in August is far greater than a smug relief at the passing of the cold. Now it happens that a second pleasurable experience yesterday followed fast upon the heels of the first. For in the evening I was invited to attend a cinematograph entertainment, and I went. I could not help comparing and contrasting the riverside experience of the afternoon and the pleasure of the pictures at night. The swallow completely satisfied me; the pictures, although excellent in themselves, quite failed to do so. Now why this thusness? What was the difference between the pleasure that I found in seeing the swallow skim, with camel-hair touch, over the green, green grass, and the pleasure that I found in the pictures in the darkened hall? There is an essential difference. The real intensity of my happiness depends, as Sir Launfal discovered, upon the extent to which it is shared. The pleasure that I feel as I watch the first swallow is a pleasure that I share with almost everybody; the pleasure that I feel as I watch the flickering films is a pleasure that I share with almost nobody. It is true that on the river-bank I was alone, and that the hall at night was crowded; but, over against that, I remember that when I passed into the darkened hall to see the pictures I said good-bye to all the ages. Plato never saw a picture show; Paul never saw a picture show; Oliver Cromwell never saw a picture show; Mr. Gladstone never saw a picture show. As I glanced around these shelves of mine before going to the entertainment , I realized that I was cutting the painter that united me with these heroic spirits here. Tennyson and Carlyle, Dickens and Thackeray, Macaulay and Gibbon never went to picture shows! By laughing and crying over these realistic representations I am cutting myself clean off from all antiquity, from all history, and even from my own ancestry. My grandfather and grandmother never went to a picture show! And for aught I know, I am exposing myself to the contempt and ridicule of posterity as well. My grandchildren may laugh at me if they hear that I went to see a contrivance that may seem to them so old-fashioned and clumsy. The picture show separates me from everybody; but the swallow links me up with everybody.

--Frank Boreham, from "The First Swallow" in The Golden Milestone


The Temptation of St. Anthony

The Temptation of St. Anthony
Oil on Wood Panel, c. 1522-1525
Jan Wellens de Cock, Flemish, 1506-1527

Look at the painting again.


Proverbs 5:1-6
My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
 that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.