sententiarum collectio

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The Necessity of Chivalry

It may or may not be possible to produce by the thousand men who combine the two sides of Launcelot’s character. But if it is not possible, then all talk of lasting happiness or dignity in human society is pure moonshine.

If we cannot produce Launcelots, humanity falls into two sections—those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be “meek in hall,” and those who are “meek in hall” but useless in battle—for the third class, who are both brutal in peace and cowardly in war, need not here be discussed. When this dissociation of the two halves of Launcelot occurs, history becomes a horribly simple affair. The ancient history of the Near East is like that. Hardy barbarians swarm down from their highlands and obliterate civilization. They then become civilized themselves and go soft. Then a new wave of barbarians comes down and obliterates them. Then the cycle begins over again. Modern machinery will not change this cycle; it will only enable the same thing to happen on a larger scale. Indeed, nothing much else can ever happen if the “stern” and the “meek” fall into two mutually exclusive classes. And never forget that this is the /natural/ condition. The man who combines both characters—the knight—is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings instead of canvas or marble, for its medium.

C. S. Lewis,

“It may or may not be possible to produce by the thousand men who combine the two sides of Launcelot’s character. But if it is not possible, then all talk of lasting happiness or dignity in human society is pure moonshine.

“If we cannot produce Launcelots, humanity falls into two sections—those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be “meek in hall,” and those who are “meek in hall” but useless in battle—for the third class, who are both brutal in peace and cowardly in war, need not here be discussed. When this dissociation of the two halves of Launcelot occurs, history becomes a horribly simple affair. The ancient history of the Near East is like that. Hardy barbarians swarm down from their highlands and obliterate civilization. They then become civilized themselves and go soft. Then a new wave of barbarians comes down and obliterates them. Then the cycle begins over again. Modern machinery will not change this cycle; it will only enable the same thing to happen on a larger scale. Indeed, nothing much else can ever happen if the “stern” and the “meek” fall into two mutually exclusive classes. And never forget that this is the /natural/ condition. The man who combines both characters—the knight—is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings instead of canvas or marble, for its medium.”

C. S. Lewis, The Necessity of Chivalry

The Bombadil Option

“Confession time: most of the time I’m either on a quest, or I’m Old Man Willow, cursing the passing of things once loved. But there are days when I hear an older tune and I feel like dancing. Those days I’m jolly Tom and I put on my bright blue jacket and my yellow boots and I go out to gather water lilies for my lady because I truly have no place to go, and I have nothing better to do.”

We Are Not Tools

“If people sometimes seem useless, it is because they are made for a higher use than any actuarial table can comprehend. There is a realm where old and young and shiftless all have their place. They should have their place on this earth, too. Giving it to them will require us to challenge a utilitarian age with a fundamental truth. We are not pots, we are not tools, but men and women made in the image of God.”

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/11/we-are-not-tools

Their Husbandmen Led Far Away

Here where the wrong is right, the right is wrong,
Where wars abound so many, and myriad-faced
Is crime; where no meet honour hath the plough;
The fields, their husbandmen led far away,
Rot in neglect, and curved pruning-hooks
Into the sword’s stiff blade are fused and forged.
Euphrates here, here Germany new strife
Is stirring; neighbouring cities are in arms,
The laws that bound them snapped; and godless war
Rages through all the universe; as when
The four-horse chariots from the barriers poured
Still quicken o’er the course, and, idly now
Grasping the reins, the driver by his team
Is onward borne, nor heeds the car his curb.
– Virgils’ Georgic I (trans. Greenough)

Betwixt the Devil and the deep sea

Incontinent from our Batteries, our cannon did play again within the leaguer, which continued the whole day, doing great hurt on both sides, where the whole time, I with my party, did lie on our post, as betwixt the Devil and the deep sea, for sometimes our own cannon would light short, and graze over us, and so did the enemies’ also, where we had three shot with the cannon, till I directed an officer our own batteries, acquainting them with our hurt, and desiring they should stell or plane the cannon higher.

Robert Monro, His Expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment Called Mac-Keyes, 1637.

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