Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Ash Wednesday - T. S. Eliot 
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely fans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver
And that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang,
scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, 
we did  little good to each other, 
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth
drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the fig's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair, 
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only. 

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains
and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time
between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jeweled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed
but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk
among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.


Saint Eulalia by John William Waterhouse  (1885)

Eulalia was a thirteen-year-old Roman Christian virgin who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians in the reign of emperor Diocletian for refusing to recant her Christianity.  It is said that a dove flew from her neck after decapitation, or in a similar story, that the dove flew from her mouth at the moment of her death.

Things happen.  Things have happened.  Things are happening.  Things will continue to happen.  Things happen for a reason that can sometimes seem like no reason at all.  If we define happenstance as something that happens by chance, it makes the world seem chaotic and causes fear and insecurity.  Defining happenstance as something that happens because of circumstances surrounding or existing at the time of the  happening,  makes the chaos seem a little less chaotic and reduces the fear and anxiety by a few smidgens.  

As any historian, story teller or poet will tell you (see Aristotle), the improper measurement of literary ingredients is one of the quickest ways to ruin an accurate historical account, a compelling work of fiction, or a poem that packs a punch to the solar plexus. A pinch is not a dash is not a smidgen.  Only a smidgen is a smidgen.  Below you will find the literary equivalents for the terms pinch, dash, and smidgen.  Anyone who's spent much time at a writing desk has likely suffered confusion over these vague terms while putting thought down on paper.  A pinch, a dash and a smidgen, have all historically been a small, indefinite amount.  It's time to clear up all doubt. 
SMIDGEN - A smidgen holds 1/2 pinch or 1/32 teaspoon. 2 smidgens = 1 pinch      

PINCH - A pinch holds 1/2 dash or 1/16 teaspoon. 2 pinches = 1 dash.  Heretofore, a pinch has been defined as "an amount that can be taken between the thumb and forefinger" but without any definite equivalent in other units of measurement.  

DASH - A dash holds 1/8 teaspoon. 8 dashes = 1 teaspoon.  A dash was originally considered a liquid measure, a small but indefinite amount. More recently the term has been used as both a liquid and dry measurement.

Now that we've got that settled, lets move on to the business at hand, the tragedy, the happening that this blog is about. The persecution of Christians, in particular, Saint Eulalia of Barcelona, APKA (also perhaps known as) Saint Eulalia of Merida. Yes, that's correct, but that and oh so much more. However, let me try to focus on the precise subject and not wander off into it's derivatives and other Divine avenues.

St. Eulalia of Mérida was tortured and burned to death on December 10, 304, during the persecution of Diocletian, and her story was told later in the same century by Prudentius in his Peristephanon.

St. Eulalia of Barcelona, the patron saint of that city, was martyred on February 12 of the same year. In the seventh century Bishop Quiricus of Barcelona published a poem on the Barcelonan Eulalia that was identical with Prudentius' work. It is quite possible that the two saints are actually one and the same.

Prudentius' story is incredibly gruesome, but at the same time most credible.  Modern readers might find it hard to believe, toss it into the category of folklore or myth, and the cynics among them, along with others of the same variety (which will go unnamed), would likely get out their rubber stamps and mark it off as "just one more piece of rubbish disseminated by those damned Catholics."    But many of Prudentius' readers would have been alive at the time of the great persecution, and it would have been in his best interest to tell a story of, in Aristotle's phrase, "the kind of thing that can happen." 

Waterhouse's depiction of St. Eulalia lying dead and prone, her virginal innocence and vulnerability symbolized artistically in the form of her beautiful, young body exposed to the harsh elements and the view of onlookers, lifts the "thing", the "happening" from the concrete reality of matter and history into the transcendental  realm of spirit and poetry.  Her pallor and her helplessness is magnified, made magnificent, by the gentleness of the lightly falling snow and by the doves, who surround her body conveying what we all must learn sooner or later, that in spite of death, life goes on all around us.  In Prudentius however,  there is just one dove, white as snow and explicitly interpreted as her soul, which emerges triumphantly from her mouth at the moment of her death and rises with swift assurance to Heaven. Prudentius shows us the thickly fallen snow before we learn that her body lies beneath it - taking the place, he tells us, of a linen cloak.

The classical verse of Prudentius functions like the snow, becoming a mantle for the saint, protecting her from prurient eyes. The luminosity of his verse bears witness that she is not an object to be pitied.  On the contrary, St. Eulalia amazes us with her majestic strength and daring. As the flames roar around her, consuming her long hair, she drinks them in with the very mouth  which the dove breaks through in triumph.

Medieval hagiography was influenced by the ninth-century Cantilène de Sainte Eulalie, in which the fire is incapable of burning the saint and she is consequently put to death by the sword.  The iconography retains a few features from Prudentius' story, such as the dove and the long hair, but in the high and late middle ages St. Eulalia is seen with a cross saltire. The palm of martyrdom is of course customary. She is also seen at times with a crown, which would be consistent with Prudentius' insistence on her noble birth, or with a book.

Feast day: December 10 (Eulalia of Mérida
) and February 12 (Eulalia of Barcelona)

The Hymn of St. Eulalie (La Cantilène de sainte Eulalie)

Eulalia was a perfect girl.
She had a beautiful body, a soul still more beautiful.

God’s enemies wanted to vanquish her.
They wanted to make her serve the devil.

But she did not listen to bad counselors
Who advised her to deny God, who lives in Heaven.

Not gold, nor silver, nor finery
Nor the king’s threats and entreaties

Could ever make the girl
Stop loving the service of God.

And so she was brought before Maximian,
Who was king of the pagans in those days.

He exhorts her, though without success,
To give up the name of Christian.

She endures the torment of the fire.
She would rather endure the torture

Than lose her virginity.
Thus she died in glory.

They threw her in the fire so she would burn quickly.
She had done nothing wrong, so the fire did not consume her.

The pagan king would not give in.
He ordered that she be beheaded with a sword.

The demoiselle did not refuse.
She wanted to leave this earth, prayed Christ that she could.

In the form of a dove she flew to Heaven.
Let us all pray that she will deign to pray for us

And that Christ will have mercy on us
After our death, and let us come to him
In his mercy.