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The End of Many Books

The Aeneid

by Virgil

This is the third time I’ve read Virgil’s epic. I had to look up my previous reviews to see what I said, probably about how much I didn’t like it. This reading was different, not because I found a different translation, but because I had a different motivation. I’m giving a talk about it in a couple days, and preparing for the talk pushed me to pay attention to it more closely.

I don’t think I enjoyed it more, or liked it more, but I definitely do appreciate it more. In God’s prophecies and purposes (and I do mean the true God, not the so-called gods Virgil references), the river of Western civilization flowed to and through and from Rome, and the Aeneid provides the city’s origin story, which did seem to bring about a sort of peace within the Empire among those for whom Virgil’s poem provided good patriotic feels.

You definitely should read this at some point. It would be even better if you could read some of it in Latin, which, as it turns out, is actually much more colorful. You could also check out this (new to me) translation by C. S. Lewis, though he only finished a little more than two of the twelve total books in the story. And last, you could check back in a few days when I post the notes from my talk.


2018, March 28 – Read the whole epic thing this time around for our Tenebras class. The gods do not agree, Turnus is mad, and watch out for Camilla.

2013 – Read much of this poem, but not all, this time through with the Omnibus class. Shows the power of story, and the power of art to tell a story, for providing purpose to a people’s culture.

3 of 5 stars

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Every Thumb's Width

The River of Knowledge

I came across this pic in an article about keeping a digital commonplace book and wanted to save/share it here. At our school we talk about how We stand downstream in the river of Western civilization, and the Omnibus curriculum is one attempt to swim in waters.

The river of knowledge is as broad and fertile as the Nile, which is to say, full of nuggets of excrement, viral diseases, and the occasional crocodile. We don’t want most of this stuff to stick….

But the valuable concepts, ideas, and stories that drift our way are worth retaining. If we want to get compound interest on our knowledge, we have to stop all these precious ideas from draining straight back out the holes in our colander-brains.

How to Get Compound Interest on Your Ideas, Richard Meadows

There’s junk and treasure in the river. I thought the image above was worth collecting.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Paradise

by Dante Alighieri

2019: While I don’t know where exactly Dante got all his ideas on the celestial spheres, I do know that reading one man’s imaginative effort about it increases my desire to find out the truth of it in person. I need none of Dante’s exaltation of Mary (theologically or positionally in heaven) or merit, and I want much more face to face fellowship with God Himself (see 1 Corinthians 13:12-13; 1 John 3:2). But there is great glory, light, and munificence to celebrate in this final piece of the Comedy.

2017: I don’t know what I was expecting, but I should not have been surprised by the movement through heavenly planets having read Lewis’ The Discarded Image. That was great. Not great was the preeminence given to Mary. And as long as I could think of Beatrice as a representation of divine happiness things were fine, but reading Dante’s lines toward Beatrice as herself was…weird. I’m glad that in the final lines Dante enjoyed perfect affections, but then what? Still an enjoyable read.

4 of 5 stars to Paradise

Categories
The End of Many Books

Purgatory

by Dante Alighieri

2019: I am still impressed by a couple things after my second trip through the poetic Purgatory. Penance is no fun, while also not being biblical, so, whew. That Dante mixes literature, history, and imagination into such an extended poetic form really does make one give thanks to God for His common grace in sub-creators.

2016: I’m sure I would have enjoyed this even more if I knew Italian history, and if I believed in Purgatory. As it is, I’m glad to be through it and heading into Paradise.

3 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Inferno

I enjoyed this imaginary epic trip through hell again following Dante following Virgil. I still don’t know much Italian history, making me thankful as in previous reads for the footnotes. While I wouldn’t call Inferno helpful for Christian doctrine, I definitely think it works for deepening Christian devotion.

Read again in December 2016 as part of reading the entire Divine Comedy in Omnibus V.

2014: Entertaining and frustrating. Entertaining, not in the sense of amusement, but in the sense of focusing attention on the many deserved punishments of sin, even if only imagined by the poet. Frustrating because I know so little history in order to fully appreciate all the allusions. Thankful for the many notes by Musa.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Counting Waves

In our Omnibus class for adults we discussed On the Incarnation by Athanasius last Thursday night. It is a 1600 year-old book about God taking on flesh in Christ, and it is both accessible and encouraging. Near the end Athanasius wrote this:

“For as one cannot take in all the waves with one’s eyes, since those coming on elude the perception of one who tries, so also one who would comprehend all the achievements of Christ in the body is unable to take in the whole, even by reckoning them up, for those that elude his thought are more than he thinks he has grasped.” (107)

This is not a discouragement to stand on the beach and watch a wave, nor a discouragement to read the Bible and look for the Logos. It is a reminder that however great what we see is to us, the reality is even greater. We could sooner count all the oxygen molecules in the sea than we could count all the glories of the Son.

As just one example, from Jesus’ self-identification to the church in Smyrna, He is “the first and the last, who died and came to life.” Where would our meditation on the waves of implications end?

At the Lord’s Table we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” I still get struck meditating on why Paul chose “death” as the element proclaimed. When we know who Jesus is, His death is the element that is the most surprising, even scandalous. How could “the first and the last” die? In some ways His resurrection is more obvious, what sticks out is that He died.

His death is His glory, and our redemption. Even though we cannot count the flood of blessings that come to us in Christ, we should swim in thanks.

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The End of Many Books

Julius Caesar

by William Shakespeare

2019: Adding a star. There are some great gems in here, even though I’m still not convinced that assassination is the right way to solve national problems. 🙂

2013: Note, according to Goodreads, three stars doesn’t mean it was only half-good, it means “I liked it.” Okay, sure. I did.

This edition includes abundant and helpful notes for old English terms and idioms.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Worldview Guide for the Aeneid

by Louis Markos

Great introduction to The Aeneid especially if you know nothing about it, written from (and how the epic fits into) a Christian worldview.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Bacchae and Other Plays

by Euripides

2015: We only read The Bacchae (not the “and Other Plays”) but I quite enjoyed it. My pleasure wasn’t in the idolatry, or the madness, or the savagery, but rather the opportunity to celebrate how the Triune God of the Bible is so much more glorious than Dionysius and how He provides true, everlasting joy. Our Lord gives rather than takes, He shares His glory rather than hoards it, He gives wine to gladden hearts rather than deaden hearts, and He forgives the repentant rather than punish all without mercy. This play also makes Lewis’ inclusion of Bacchus as a servant of Aslan in Prince Caspian no small coup.


2019: Read again for Omnibus Tenebras.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Last Days of Socrates

by Plato

I didn’t get to finish reading this in Omnibus I, but I was leading the discussion for Omnibus Tenebras a few weeks ago so I figured I should, you know, make it all the way through. I was…unimpressed, and increasingly annoyed by Socrates.

2 of 5 stars