Frost

Robert Frost as a young man circa 1900

In honor of  American Poet, Robert Frost’s birthday (March 26, 1874)  I have elected to print out his poem, A Lesson For Today on this site. The poem was originally read in 1941 by Frost to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard. It is one of Robert Frost’s  lesser known works but includes the last line, now famous, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”, which is carved onto his gravestone.

A Lesson For Today  can not easily be found anywhere except in  out of print books.  The line, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” appears in one of my blogs, and is constantly searched for so I thought it would be nice to actually print it out for those searching for it.

Gravestone in Bennington, Vermont

If this uncertain age in which we dwell

Were really as dark as I hear sages tell,

And I convinced that they were really sages,

I should not curse myself with it to hell,

But leaving not the chair I long have sat in,

I should betake me back ten thousand pages

To the world’s undebatably dark ages,

And getting up my medieval Latin.

Seek converse common cause and brotherhood

(By all that’s liberal–I should, I should)

With the poets who could calmly take the fate

Of being born at once too early and late,

And for those reasons kept from being great,

Yet singing but Dione in the wood

And ver aspergit terram floribus

They slowly led old Latin verse to rhyme

And to forget the ancient lengths of time,

And so began the modern world for us.

 

I’d say, O Master of the Palace School,

You were not Charles’ nor anybody’s fool:

Tell me as pedagogue to pedagogue,

You did not know that since King Charles did rule

You had no chance but to be minor, did you?

Your light was spent perhaps as in a fog

That at once kept you burning low and hid you.

The age may very well have been to blame

For your not having won to Virgil’s fame.

But no one ever heard you make the claim.

You would not think you knew enough to judge

The age when full upon you. That’s my point.

We have today and I could call their name

Who know exactly what is out of joint

To make their verse and their excuses lame.

They’ve tried to grasp with too much social fact

Too large a situation. You and I

Would be afraid if we should comprehend

And get outside of too much bad statistics

Our muscles never could again contract:

We never could recover human shape,

But must live lives out mentally agape,

Or die of philosophical distention.

That’s how we feel–and we’re no special mystics.

 

We can’t appraise the time in which we act

But for the folly of it, let’s pretend

We know enough to know it for adverse.

One more millennium’s about to end.

Let’s celebrate the event, my distant friend,

In publicly disputing which is worse,

The present age or your age. You and I

As schoolmen of repute should qualify

To wage a fine scholastical contention

As to whose age deserves the lower mark,

Or should I say the higher one, for dark.

I can just hear the way you make it go:

There’s always something to be sorry for,

A sordid peace or an outrageous war.

Yes, yes, of course. We have the same convention.

The groundwork of all faith is human woe.

It was well worth preliminary mention.

There’s nothing but injustice to be had,

No choice is left a poet, you might add,

But how to take the curse, tragic or comic.

It was well worth preliminary mention.

But let’s go on to where our cases part,

If part they do. Let me propose a start.

(We’re rivals in the badness of our case,

Remember, and must keep a solemn face.)

Space ails us moderns: we are sick with space.

Its contemplations makes us out as small

As a brief epidemic of microbes

That in a good glass may be seen to crawl

The patina of this the least of globes.

But have we there the advantage after all?

You were belittled into vilest worms

God hardly tolerated with his feet;

Which comes to the same thing in different terms.

We both are the belittled human race,

One as compared with God and one with space.

I had thought ours the more profound disgrace;

But doubtless this was only my conceit.

The cloister and the observatory saint

Take comfort in about the same complaint.

So science and religion really meet.

 

I can just about hear you call your Palace class:

Come learn the Latin Eheu for alas.

You may not want to use it and you may.

O paladins, the lesson for today

Is how to be unhappy yet polite.

And at the summons Roland, Olivier,

And every sheepish paladin and peer,

Being already more than proved in fight,

Sits down in school to try if he can write

Like Horace in the true Horatian vein,

Yet like a Christian disciplined to bend

His mind to thinking always of the end.

Memento mori and obey the Lord.

Art and religion love the somber chord.

Earth’s a hard place in which to save the soul,

And could it be brought under state control,

So automatically we all were saved,

Its separateness from Heaven could be waived;

It might as well at once be kingdom-come.

(Perhaps it will be next millennium.)

 

But these are universals, not confined

To any one time, place, or human kind.

We’re either nothing or a God’s regret.

As ever when philosophers are met,

No matter where they stoutly mean to get,

Nor what particulars they reason from,

They are philosophers, and from old habit

They end up in the universal Whole

As unoriginal as any rabbit.

 

One age is like another for the soul.

I’m telling you. You haven’t said a thing,

Unless I put it in your mouth to say.

I’m having the whole argument my way–

But in your favor–please to tell your King–

In having granted you all ages shine

With equal darkness, yours as dark as mine,

I’m liberal. You, you aristocrat,

Won’t know exactly what I mean by that.

I mean so altruistically moral

I never take my own side in a quarrel.

I’d lay my hand on his hand on his staff

Lean back and have my confidential laugh,

And tell him I had read his Epitaph.

 

It sent me to the graves the other day.

The only other there was far away

Across the landscape with a watering pot

At his devotions in a special plot.

And he was there resuscitating flowers

(Make no mistake about its being bones);

But I was only there to read the stones

To see what on the whole they had to say

About how long a man may think to live,

Which is becoming my concern of late.

And very wide the choice they seemed to give;

Thee ages ranging all the way from hours

To months and years and many many years.

One man had lived one hundred years and eight.

But though we all may be inclined to wait

And follow some development of state,

Or see what comes of science and invention,

There is a limit to our time extension.

We all are doomed to broken-off careers,

And so’s the nation, so’s the total race.

The earth itself is liable to the fate

Of meaninglessly being broken off.

(And hence so many literary tears

At which my inclination is to scoff.)

I may have wept that any should have died

Or missed their chance, or not have been their best,

Or been their riches, fame, or love denied;

On me as much as any is the jest.

I take my incompleteness with the rest.

God bless himself can no one else be blessed.

 

I hold your doctrine of Memento Mori.

And were an epitaph to be my story

I’d have a short one ready for my own.

I would have written of me on my stone:

I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

Somerset, England is the possible birthplace of Saint Patrick

Somerset, England is the possible birthplace of Saint Patrick

St Patrick was born Maewyn Succat in or around 380 A D.  As the green beer flows once again for St. Patrick’s Day,  I thought it  be worth a  quick visit through his  own written accounts of who he was and the time he lived.

Interestingly, the  works of Maewyn Succat, the Confessio and the Letter to  the soldiers of Coroticus provide two of  the less than half a dozen eye-witness written accounts of what we now call the “Dark Ages” in Britain (incl. Wales and Scotland)  and Ireland.  For the full  translated texts  in English (as they were written originally in Latin) simply click the title hyperlinks above.

Historians refer to these specific Dark Ages  as the Sub Roman Period  (400 A D – 600 A D ) when there was tremendous unrest and battling  from inside  and outside  forces including Saxons, and Barbarians. Indeed if King Arthur and Merlin lived at all, they would have been  historical contemporaries of Maewyn Succat.

Maewyn  Succat was born near  Bannavem which may have been  Somerset County, Britain as the son of a “Deacon” who had been trained in Rome. Catholicism officially  entered the United Kingdom in  597 A D, 200 years after the birth of Maewyn,when the Gregorian  Mission  arrived with Augustine and forty monks under the direction of the Holy See in Rome.

In England, Maewyn was educated in the Roman tradition which would suggest   high social status for his family; however he was not of the Christian faith. At the age, of sixteen,  Maewyn was captured in Britain  by Irish marauders  who sold  him into slavery in Ireland. As a slave to an Irish chieftain, he toiled as a shepherd on the “Emerald Isle” for six years.

At the age of twenty-two, Maewyn escaped slavery and returned to his native England. Soon after, he experienced a series of dreams and revelations.  Once when struggling with evil, Maewyn reports in the Confessio that he saw Jesus as  the sun in the sky. He called out “Helias!”,  “Helias!” to this Sun-Jesus.  Interestingly, Helios is Latin for the sun, but there is no technical “Helias” in the Latin but could be a diminutive of the sun, aka “son of the sun”.

As a result of these revelations, Maewyn became a Christian and was compelled to return to Ireland to liberate the Irish people from the oppression of evil. Before he did, he studied in France and became a Catholic Deacon. He later asked   to return to Ireland.  Pope Celestine granted  Maewyn his request   and  named him  Patritius (Patrick), “father of his people”.

Maewyn became known as “The Liberator”, liberating  Ireland from its bondage of darkness. From his writings, little is known of the hardships  endured in Ireland. He did not seem to want to elevate himself as a hero. The details are left vague  but  there were times when he was abused and bound in chains.  He wrote that he endured these hardships for the good of others

The green of St Patrick’s is often associated with possible folklore in which Maewyn used the three-leafed clover, or Shamrock, as a tool to demonstrate the Trinity. However, there is no written record of this from Maewyn.  The wearing of green could easily have stemmed from the ancient Celtic practice of green  garments during the Spring  Equinox to celebrate the rebirth of the Earth.

Still, the  sidebar of  St Patrick calling out to Jesus as “son of the sun” holds import. This incident is from his Confessio, written shortly before his death. The Confessio has been studied and debated endlessly by historians and scholars.

Most ancient cultures worshipped the sun as god. Without the sun, life could be not be sustained. The Celtic world, hunters and farmers,  were no different – their  sun-god was Bel.  It’s fascinating to conjecture that instead of the  shamrock, St Patrick, might have used the sun as a tool  to bring Jesus,  the “Helias”, the son of the sun, into the world of Celtic culture.

It is a popular myth that the Celtic Christian cross was introduced by St  Patrick during his time. While no written record,  it is believed that St Patrick combined the symbol of Christianity with the sun cross, to give pagan followers an idea of the importance of the cross by linking it with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun.

Maewyn Succat/ St Patrick is believed to have died on March 17, 461 AD. The legend claims that in just forty years, the Liberator converted all of Ireland to Catholicism. Many villages and towns, including Somerset, England claim to be the resting place of his body.

Magic_HatWith statements like the above, I am reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s prescient comment from Profiles of the Future (1961). “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Most of us see the magic all around: wearables are gaining traction, homes are becoming smarter. This is the metaverse  - that thin layer of unseen tech, like the hands of as Jinn, aiding our lives seamlessly through the Internet.  We only have to look across the road to see the future’s horizon. There is  the driverless car headed down the highway - its trunk filled with new magic.

Certainly, Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, caused a couple of heads to explode at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland  last week ( 1.22.2015) when he was asked about the future of the web.

“I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear,” Schmidt said.

According to CNET, the Google executive later clarified. “It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”

In very short order, we have seen  the magic:  the  world-wide web collapsing time and space. We can be connected with anyone in the world, no matter the distance or time of day. We have seen incredible positive transformation, especially in the way we can collaborate across the globe, 24/7.

Yet, every time we send a text, we are rewarded by a drop of dopamine, “the pleasure drug”. We are becoming more and more addicted to our tech habits — whether child, teen, or adult.

The Director of MIT’s Center for Self and technology, Sherry Turkle,  has completed  big-idea research, illustrating that we actually prefer a screen  filter to actual   one-on-one, face-to-face  human interaction. “We are losing the raw human part of being with each other,” she said.

It’s going to be harder and harder to “unplug”, to take the “day off from tech” when our wearables are wired and our cars know the way better than we do.

I simply hope that the future contains the balance between humanity and tech – the middle ground, or as the Greeks used to say, the “Golden Mean”.   I hope that the greatest trick of all does not  become  our awkward, silly, brilliant, messy, humanity vanishing  into the magic hat of tomorrow’s technology.