“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Thing Itself

"From his schooldays, Tolkien possessed a keen sense of his mission as a poet. He shared with other English Romantics the sense that something vital had been lost from our civilization in the new industrial and scientific age. That something was a poetic consciousness, a mode of knowing through feeling and intuition that connected us with nature and with the natural law, with the reading of God’s intentions expressed in nature and the divine wisdom manifest in creation."

It is notable that modern Christians of a certain stripe have been highly influenced by Tolkien and Lewis and other Inklings. In many ways their thinking redeemed the failures of the Romantics. 

"The tragedy of the Romantics, according to Barfield, is that beauty became disconnected from truth. Objective truth was claimed by the empirical sciences, whose great successes in the nineteenth century left most of the Romantics feeling powerless and resentful."

Caldecott now reiterates exactly how he has envisioned the Trivium

"The first lesson of our revised ‘Trivium’ is therefore the vital importance of crafts, drama and dance, poetry and storytelling, as a foundation for independent and critical thought. Through doing and making, through poesis, the house of the soul is built. The grammar of language, however, rests on a deeper foundation still. It rests on music. Music is the wordless language on which poetry—the purest and most concentrated form of speech—is built. Poetry is made of images, similes, metaphors, analogies; but what holds these elements together and makes them live is fundamentally musical in nature."

My own view is that poetry is the bridge between the trivium and the quadrivium but I like what Strat is saying here. 

 "In music we glimpse the grammar of creation itself, from the harmony of the planetary and subatomic spheres to the octaves of human experience and the cycles of growth in plants and animals."

 As Plato says  in the Laws, "When the right kind of song penetrates the soul, the result is an education in virtue."

And thus ends Chapter 2 and Stratford's very helpful recasting of Grammar as remembering. We end up with what we call poetic knowledge. Yes, understanding the mechanics of grammar helps us understand grammar but it isn't THE THING.


  1. Poetry as the bridge... I like that!

    This was my favorite part of the chapter. All that heady talk about music and poetry is definitely a language I understand.

  2. I'm behind you but reading your post is inspiring me to catch up. I'm still pondering the section on Tolkien and Rivendell and how memory is "is an organic assimilation and appropriation" and the foundation of attention, the integration of personality, and the road to contemplation. I am overwhelmed by the richness of these thoughts.

  3. I've read that last section on Music of Creation about five times now -- I can't get over it.

    The first time through, his phrase "the octaves of human existence" caught my imagination, so I blogged a bit about Octave Days on the Church calendar. I wonder if that's what he meant by that phrase.