Daily Archives: September 22, 2003


Cabell Complains of a Lack of Technology Filk

Ballad of Plagiary
by James Branch Cabell, from The Certain Hour

“Freres et matres, vous qui cultivez”
— Paul Verville.

Hey, my masters, lords and brothers, ye that till the fields of rhyme,
Are ye deaf ye will not hearken to the clamor of your time?

Still ye blot and change and polish — vary, heighten and transpose —
Old sonorous metres marching grandly to their tranquil close.

Ye have toiled and ye have fretted; ye attain perfected speech:
Ye have nothing new to utter and but platitudes to preach.

And your rhymes are all of loving, as within the old days when
Love was lord of the ascendant in the horoscopes of men.

Still ye make of love the utmost end and scope of all your art;
And, more blind than he you write of, note not what a modest part

Loving now may claim in living, when we have scant time to spare,
Who are plundering the sea-depths, taking tribute of the air, —

Whilst the sun makes pictures for us; since to-day, for good or ill,
Earth and sky and sea are harnessed, and the lightnings work our will.

Hey, my masters, all these love-songs by dust-hidden mouths were sung
That ye mimic and re-echo with an artful-artless tongue, —

Sung by poets close to nature, free to touch her garments’ hem
Whom to-day ye know not truly; for ye only copy them.

Them ye copy — copy always, with your backs turned to the sun,
Caring not what man is doing, noting that which man has done.

We are talking over telephones, as Shakespeare could not talk;
We are riding out in motor-cars where Homer had to walk;

And pictures Dante labored on of mediaeval Hell
The nearest cinematograph paints quicker, and as well.

But ye copy, copy always; — and ye marvel when ye find
This new beauty, that new meaning, — while a model stands behind,

Waiting, young and fair as ever, till some singer turn and trace
Something of the deathless wonder of life lived in any place.

Hey, my masters, turn from piddling to the turmoil and the strife!
Cease from sonneting, my brothers; let us fashion songs from life.

Thus I wrote ere Percie passed me. . . . Then did I epitomize
All life’s beauty in one poem, and make haste to eulogize
Quite the fairest thing life boasts of, for I wrote of Percie’s eyes.


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Cabell Does Kipling!

James Branch Cabell is probably one of the more cynical authors ever to spring from American soil, and as a woman I find that “all women are one woman” thing realllllly annoying. (Just as annoying as “all men are like that”, actually.) But he was also funny and smart, and did write some really good stuff. (And he’s one of the great fantasy writers, too.) Here’s a piece I found today, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. He has quite a few works available online, so check ’em out.

Ballad of the Double-Soul

by James Branch Cabell, from The Certain Hour

“Les Dieux, qui trop aiment ses faceties cruelles”
— Paul Verville.

In the beginning the Gods made man,
and fashioned the sky and the sea,
And the earth’s fair face for man’s dwelling-place,
and this was the Gods’ decree:–

“Lo, We have given to man five wits:
he discerneth folly and sin;
He is swift to deride all the world outside,
and blind to the world within:

“So that man may make sport and amuse Us,
in battling for phrases or pelf,
Now that each may know what forebodeth woe
to his neighbor, and not to himself.”

Yet some have the Gods forgotten,
–or is it that subtler mirth
The Gods extort of a certain sort
of folk that cumber the earth?

For this is the song of the double-soul,
distortedly two in one,–
Of the wearied eyes that still behold
the fruit ere the seed be sown,
And derive affright for the nearing night
from the light of the noontide sun.

For one that with hope in the morning
set forth, and knew never a fear,
They have linked with another whom omens bother;
and he whispers in one’s ear.

And one is fain to be climbing
where only angels have trod,
But is fettered and tied to another’s side
who fears that it might look odd.

And one would worship a woman
whom all perfections dower,
But the other smiles at transparent wiles;
and he quotes from Schopenhauer.

Thus two by two we wrangle
and blunder about the earth,
And that body we share we may not spare;
but the Gods have need of mirth.

So this is the song of the double-soul,
distortedly two in one.–
Of the wearied eyes that still behold
the fruit ere the seed be sown,
And derive affright for the nearing night
from the light of the noontide sun.

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Did You Really Want to Go There?

Liberals are chortling about this satirical sf piece by Charles Hoffacker about the Anglican schism. Um…gee, guys…you do realize that no conservative would ever compare a gay person to an animal. It took friendly fire to introduce this little rhetorical flourish. Sheesh. With friends like these….

Beyond that, there’s a substantial misunderstanding of the scriptural issues involved. Dogs are loved in our culture because they no longer operate solely under the fallen laws of the fallen animal kingdom, but rather have allowed their own desires to be ruled by human law (which is also fallen, but is still a step up). They have become something different, something new, something more like what they were in Eden before the Fall. Something which speaks of Creation, which fell with humans, being redeemed and repaired by humans — because and somewhat as we are redeemed and repaired by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So…basically this article’s rhetoric is really advocating that all gays abandon having sex with other gay people, deal with their attraction to those of the same sex like any other temptation, and take up their calling to a life of patient chastity. So they should go join Courage and tell ’em Mr. Hoffacker sent ’em.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

The moral of the story is…quoting the Bible in any argument opens up ye bigge canne of wormes. Don’t open it unless you really like a big helping of wormy goodness.

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