Author Topic: Paula Haighs THE REAL MIDDLE EARTH  (Read 827 times)

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Paula Haighs THE REAL MIDDLE EARTH
« on: May 27, 2016, 04:59:39 AM »
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  • Lest this chapter be lost in her death I here share it with those of you who love poetry and literature for Catholics.
                                                                                                                                               

                                                 Chapter Sixteen
    The Real
    Middle Earth
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    ‘For us . . . this was no mere earthly invention . . . nor is it a mere human opinion, . . . but truly God Himself, Who is Almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible, has sent from Heaven, and placed among men, Him Who is the Truth, and the holy and incomprehensible Word, and has firmly established Him in their hearts. He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things – by Whom He made the Heavens – by Whom He enclosed the sea with its proper bounds – whose ordinances all the elements faithfully observe – from Whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed – Whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and Whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by Whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to Whom all are subject – the Heavens and the things that are therein, the Earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein – fire, air, and the abyss – the  things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between.’ --- The Epistle to Diognetus   (A.D. ca 130)

    This passage from the early second century “Epistle to Diognetus” is remarkable for revealing the traditional sources of the hierarchical vision of Old English poetry. The pagan sagas are “baptised” by the Christian bards who went on to produce their own Catholic poems, from Caedmon to Cynewulf and from “The Dream of the Rood” to “Piers Plowman.”

    Most notable is the fact that these early Christian poets took over pagan notions such as the relationship between the King-Lord and his vassals or thanes with the concept of heroism and converted all into a world transformed by Grace. Pagan customs and ideas were thus saved by the Grace of the Incarnation and the Redemption. They were lifted up into the Real world of Faith.
         I hope to demonstrate this by examining one notion in particular in its context – that of “Middle Earth” – and thereby reveal the radical difference between a true Middle Earth and the false one of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, along with many others who followed them, immerse the key events and ideas of Catholic Christianity into the world of a revived paganism and humanistic mythology. In this present study, I hope to emphasize the more positive aspect of the subject and thereby show how the mind of the Catholic poet remains thoroughly Catholic when he builds various poetic “worlds”.

    Some brief comments on the sound patterns of Old English poetry are in order. Perhaps the first characteristic we notice is the lack of rhyme. It is worth noting, before proceeding, that rhyme, in the opinion of most historians, originated with the ceremonials of the Church where it was used mainly as an aid to memory but came later on to be esteemed as the aesthetic quality it is – very pleasing to the ear and the mind. The Dies Iræ (12th century) is an example of one of the earliest uses of rhyme. Who does not thrill with pleasure at the sound of:

    ‘Dies irae dies illa,
    Solvet saeclum in favilla
    Teste david cum Sibylla’

    This hymn uses both alliteration and rhyme. Old English did not employ rhyme but used instead a rhythmic pattern of accents or stresses combined with alliterative syllables that drew together the two halves of a long line. Thus, even in translation from the original, we can hear these patterns, as in the following from an anonymous poem:
                                                                 
    … The light beam
    Cándle of héaven búrned round the hóly hoùse
    From evening gloom   until from the east
    Over the deep-way the dawn-rush came.
       
    But perhaps even more forcefully characteristic – a quality we can also appreciate in the translations – is the Old English habit of repeating or elaborating upon a general idea or substantive, like the sun, in a congeries of kennings or metaphorical word-phrases. This is seen very beautifully in “The Phoenix” which is a primary example of the Christian poet assimilating and transforming pagan symbols into the world of supernatural truth. For the Phoenix becomes a fitting symbol of Christ our Lord and the sun is restored to its true identity as a creature of the Almighty Maker and Wielder of all things. The Editor-translator tells us that the legend of the Phoenix originated in the Egyptian worship of Ra, the Sun-god whose cult was kept at Heliopolis. Here is a particularly striking passage from this poem:

    Ever keeping ward over the wood
    is a bird feather strong; its name is Phoenix.
    There the lone-goer beholds the earth,
    bravely he dwells; death shall not touch him
    on the plain of pleasure while the world stands.
    There must he behold the sun’s pathway,
    coming up before him, God’s candle,
    the gladdening gem, watching eagerly
    when it comes up, noblest of stars,
    over the sea-waves from the east shining
    wondrously radiant, the first work of the Father,
    God’s bright token.

    The sun here becomes “God’s candle . . . the gladdening gem . . . noblest of stars . . . wondrously radiant / from the east shining, / God’s bright token” and “the first work of the Father.” What in a scientific treatise on the Phoenix or on the sun would be intolerable redundancy becomes here in the poem a highly aesthetic pattern of sound and meaning. For not only is the idea of the sun elaborated upon by the metaphors and other phrases that describe its movement, but there is also an intricacy of internal relations that cause the poem to be shaped or structured much in the manner of a fabric woven of many delicate colours: “over the wood” is echoed but with contrast by “over the sea-waves”; “beholds the earth” and “There must he behold the sun’s pathway” relate by means of the verb behold, again with the contrast of “earth” and sky; “Keeping ward” and “watching eagerly” repeat in different shades of meaning the same general idea. Such echoes, contrasts, repetitions and patterns of sound delight the mind. This is poetry at its finest –and this, too, is Catholic poetry.
         The reference in the poem to the sun as “the first work of the Father” requires some explanation and leads us to the next section of this study wherein it will be necessary to delve, at least briefly, into the cosmogony and cosmology of the Old English mind vis a vis reality.

    Cosmogony and Cosmology

    The Old English dialogue poem of “Salamon and Saturn” is the “earliest extant version of a legend found in the literature of many European countries.” It belongs to the time before the great Greek Schism of 1054, to a time when the Church of East and West was one. Margaret Williams says, “It seems strangely out of harmony with the rest of Old English poetry, … Its exotic character is in keeping with its Eastern origin, … The germ of the tale is found in Jewish sources … The Queen of Sheba had come to Solomon to “try him with questions.” How Saturn comes into the Old English version is a puzzle to historians, but Williams speculates it may have come in through “some obscure channel of Nordic mythology, which had early become confused by an interchange of names with Roman deities. In any case, the Anglo-Saxon poet makes him, Saturn, the spokesman of heathenism, while Salamon, with sublime indifference to chronology, becomes the champion of Christ and his Pater Noster …” (pp.158-9)

    There are two references in this long poem to middle earth. The first occurs in one of the several prose passages with which the poetic dialogue is interspersed:

    Salamon:
    Pater Noster has a golden head and silver hair, and though all the waters of earth should be mingled with the waters of heaven above into one channel, and it should begin to rain together upon the earth with all its creatures, yet might it stand dry under one single lock of Pater Noster’s hair. And his eyes are twenty-one thousand times brighter than all this middle-earth though it should be overbraided with the brightest lilly blossoms and the leaf of each blossom had twelve suns, and each blossom twelve moons, and each moon were twelve thousand times brighter than it was ere Abel’s murder.

    Disregarding the numerical excesses that are typical of the oriental tales, there are at least two major topics that are noteworthy in this passage. First of all, it is clear that “all this middle-earth” is a repetitive phrase for “the earth with all its creatures.” Then I cannot forbear calling attention to the fact that “all the waters of earth” mingling with the “waters of heaven above” and coming down as rain upon the earth is a rather precise description of what happened at the time of Noah’s Flood. This reference to “heaven above” and the rain coming down upon the earth reveals the poet’s acute awareness of the up and down cosmology of Traditions. In other words, the earth here is situated mid-way between the heavens above and the abysses beneath, so envisioned even when not all the places are mentioned.
         
    Then there is the reference to the moon’s light “ere Abel’s murder.” The Editor-translator tells us in a footnote “There was an old belief current that when Cain murdered Abel the lights of the universe were dimmed.” Some say this dimming of the lights of the universe happened at the Fall of Adam. But this is a minor difference. The great reality alluded to here is Sin, the Sin at the very origin of history. In the later poem “The Dream of the Rood” the poet says, “All Creation wept, bewailed the King’s death, Christ on the rood.” This is the Death or “Fall” of the Second Adam, undoing the Fall into Sin of the First Adam. And the Second Eve, the Ever-Virgin Mary, is at His side. We know from the Gospel, too, that all Creation did, indeed, react, in the darkness and in the great earthquake, felt worldwide, at the death of Christ our Lord on the Cross.
         
    The Old English poets were well aware of man’s place in the universe and the equally important fact that whatever man does on earth has repercussions throughout the entire cosmic order.
         Later in this same dialogue poem, there is a passage that raises all kinds of questions as to the cosmogony and cosmology the poet envisioned, though the concept may be due to unassimilated pagan influences of the East. The reference to the sun as coming, along with all creation, from some primordial fire and an implicit relation of “Light” that “has the hue and kind of the Holy Ghost” to this original fire  – all this, even with the mystical identity of “Light” with the Holy Ghost, sends forth echoes of the most ancient Greek philosophers, such as Anaximenes and Heraclitus who spoke of the four elements as the most basic constituents of the natural world. Recall, too, the reference in the Phoenix poem to the sun as “the first work of the Father.” Here is the passage from “Salamon and Saturn”:

    Salamon.
    Light has the hue and kind of the Holy Ghost.                          
    It makes known the nature of Christ.

    Hold it without bond it goes through the roof
    Breaks and burns the house timbers
    Steep and high it lours it towers aloft,
    Climbs by its own kind. Fire where it can
    Strives towards its first source in the Father’s dwelling,
    Back to the old home whence it came of old.

    It is all things, a sight for men
    Those who can share in the Lord’s lamp.
    For there is no creature of those quick living
    No fowl nor fish nor stone of the field,
    Nor water’s wave nor wood-bough,
    Nor mount nor moor nor the middle-earth
    That come not forth from fire’s kind

    Now here the denotation of “middle-earth” could well be a certain place in the midst of the earth as a whole; but in view of the enumeration of all the specific places mentioned – fowl, fish stones, water and woods, mountains and moors – it could also be a culminating reference, a summation of all the other places.

    However, such an idea that all creatures with “middle-earth” came forth originally from “fire” was hinted at by some of the ancient Greeks but did not appear explicitly and in a developed form until the influence of the Copernican revolution, in such philosopher-scientists as Rene Descartes, Leibnitz, Buffon, Kant, Laplace, and the modern Catholic scholar, Fernand Crombette.  Crombette took his ideas from the ancient Coptic, so perhaps there could be some unknown influence from the Eastern Egyptian to the Old English poets and scholars. But I believe it would have to have been filtered through the early Fathers of both East and West.
         
    Anaximenes had said that all was air and that air, when rarefied, becomes fire. Further, when air is condensed it becomes wind, then cloud, and with increased condensation, it becomes successively and cyclically, water, earth and all else. And this is not unlike what Heraclitus had said: “Fire lives in the death of earth, air in the death of fire, water in the death of air, and earth in the death of water.” Further, Heraclitus seems to have equated the Logos with the primordial fire from whence everything else came, according to Anaximenes. The early Fathers of the Church took these ideas, especially those of the four elements, and explained them in terms of the Six Days of Creation as revealed in Genesis.
       
    Saint Basil, for example, whose Hexaemeron was the most influential of all such works , spoke of the light of the First Day as being not the light of the sun but the very nature of light (the word kind in the Old English poem above means nature) whereas God made the sun, moon and stars on the Fourth Day. The implicit connections between light and fire and the Holy Ghost in these poems might well be a kind of poetic fusion or con-fusion of these Traditional ideas. We can never hold the poet to the kind of precision of discourse that we can hold and must hold the scientist and even, to a large extent, the rhetorician. Poetry, Rhetoric and Scientific discourse are three modes of speech with different ends or purposes, and these purposes greatly affect the form of the speech produced. Poetic speech is speech unlike all others; it is made for itself alone and simply for the contemplation of those who regard it. Scientific discourse and to a certain extent also, rhetorical discourse, invite and even compel us to look at the objects being described. The poet, on the other hand, induces  – or seduces us to look at the beauties of his language, the images and their intricate patterns of sound and meaning.
         
    A runic poem attests to this same kind of celebration of Light and Day without any specific or direct reference to the sun:

    Day
    Day is the Lord’s herald dear to man,
    The Maker’s mighty light; mirth and hope
    To the happy and wretched useful to all.

    St. Bede the Venerable (d. 735) wrote in his De Natura Rerum about the creation and showed the influence of St. Augustine. Margaret Williams, who gives us a passage from this book, prefaces her translation with these words: “… how deep-reaching was the influence of Saint Augustine, and how far back in time stretched the foreshadow of Saint Thomas, in the long philosophic tradition of the Church.” St. Bede wrote:

    ‘The divine operation which created and governs the universe may be considered under four aspects. First, there are those things which are not made but which are eternal in the dispensation of the word of God, who predestined us, as the Apostle says, before the world, unto His kingdom; second, all the elements of the world were made together equally in formless matter when He Who lives forever created all things at once; third, that same matter is formed into creation, that is, heaven and earth, not now all at once but in six days, by causes which were formerly created all at once; fourth, from the seeds and primordial cause of this creation the progression of the universe develops its natural course, as the Father works even until now, and the Son, who feeds the ravens and clothes the lillies.’

    This is indeed a most conciliatory reconciliation of St. Augustine and Saint Thomas (though St. Thomas often insisted that matter is never form-less). M. Williams paraphrases what follows. Would that she had let St. Bede continue, but she did not and I am not fortunate enough to have or to have access to a copy of the De Natura Rerum. Williams says:

    ‘There follows a clear discussion of the universe, beginning with its elements of earth, air, fire and water, and their structure into the ordered system of concentric spheres moving about the earth, that Ptolemaic system which underlay the scientific, philosophic and poetic thought of educated men from the ancient days till those of Milton, and through the steep circles of which Dante carrying the medieval world on his shoulders, climbed to Beatitude. . . .’

    I doubt that St. Bede referred to Ptolemy, for his geocentric universe was based on Holy Scripture rather than on the Greek science.
         
    The monk and Abbot Aelfric (955-1010) made a paraphrase of St. Basil’s Hexaemeron which may serve us as the model for all Old English cosmogony and cosmology, especially in its lack of specificity. M. Williams says that he “freely interprets his own sources. Saint Basil had told the story of Genesis in a picturesque, even popular way.”  Aelfric, in his turn, retold the story of creation for his own people:

    ‘On the first day Our Lord shaped a seven-fold work; They were, all the angels, and the beginning of light, and that material out of which He afterwards shaped the universe, the heavens above and the earth beneath, all water-bodies and the wide-veiling sea, and the sky over it, all in one day. The angels He wrought in wondrous fairness and in great strength, many thousands, all without bodies, living in spirit, whom we spoke more clearly before in writing. It was not without light that God shaped light. He is Himself the light that enlightens all things, but He shaped the light of day, and afterwards increased it with the shining stars, as it is said hereafter. Day’s light He shaped, and drove back the shadows, so that the world was shown through the day’s lightning in lenten tide: for it was in lenten tide, as teachers tell us, that He shaped the first day of this world, that is, in number-craft, the fifteenth kalends of April, and after that the universe, as we say here. The heavens above, that the angels dwell in, He shaped on the same day, of which we sing in a psalm thus: “The heavens are the work of Thy hands, Lord.” Afterwards in another psalm, the same writer says: He Himself said it, and they were wrought: He Himself bade it and they were shaped.” The water and the earth were mingled until the third day, and then God divided them. The sky He shaped for our life’s strengthening; through that we breathe, and also the beasts; and our breath fails if we cannot draw, without mouth, that air into us, and afterwards blow it out, the while that we be alive. The air is as high as the heavenly sky, and also as broad as the earth’s broadness. In it fly birds, and their feathers can no-whither bear them if the air bear them not.’

    In such wise did the early Fathers pass imperceptibly from the literal to the spiritual-mystical and practical senses of Holy Scripture. Would that we had more. But this is the end of Williams’ translation of this invaluable work. For in it we have the Old English version of the Creation Week and the work of each day. Most importantly of all, at this point, we see that the Light of the First Day is conceived exactly as Scripture says – light. It is not the sun or the light of the sun, for the sun, moon and stars were created on the Fourth Day. Williams gives us also a passage from Byrhtferth’s Handbook of Science that makes this even clearer:

    ‘When the greatness of Almighty God had wonderfully shaped all these things, He set all things in measure and in number and in weight. He wrought two great light-vessels, as Genesis saith, that is the first Book of the Bible. He shaped the sun and the moon and the planets and the stars. He set two sun-places (solstices), one in the 12th Kalends of January and one on the 12th Kalends of July, and He wrought and set in order the twelve months in two eventimes (equinoxes) which are set in the 12th Kalends of April and the 12th Kalends of October.’

    And so, we may conclude, that the cosmogony and general cosmology of the Old English theology as it is manifested in the poetry and prose of the age, adhered to the first chapter of Genesis with a strong inclination towards the interpretation of St. Augustine on the one hand and St. Basil on the other.  
         
    But what of the precise denotation of “Middle Earth”? To determine this more definitely we will examine other contexts in which this word-phrase appears.

    Where Is Middle Earth?

    Before looking closely at the poems, it would be well to indicate three possible denotations of the phrase middle-earth.

    1) The midst of the Earth. Fernand Crombette was arrested by Psalm 73, verse 12 which says: “But God is our King before all ages: He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth.” Crombette knew from his studies that it was generally believed in the Middle Ages that Jerusalem was located “in the midst of the earth” and he went on to demonstrate, in his book on “The Divine Geography” that this is, indeed, literally true. And so, middle earth may refer to the literal middle place or midst of the earth’s total surface.

    2) The Earth as situated in the cosmic order mid-way between the “roof” of heaven or the heavens and the abyss of Hell, deep under Earth’s surface. In this regard it is instructive to recall that in the Revelations of Our Lady of Good Success at Quito in 1634, demons are described as being “flung into the earth” and as hurling themselves “into the center of the earth” after being exorcised. Likewise at Fatima, the rays of light from Our Lady’s Hands “seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire…” Afterwards, Our Lady told the children that they had seen Hell. Compare these revelations with that of the Apocalypse, chapter 12 verse 9 wherein it is said that after the Great War in Heaven between Michael and his angels and Lucifer and his rebels, “Satan … was cast unto the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.”
         In the most literal interpretation of these revelations, Earth is not necessarily midway in space between the stars, which circle us, and Hell that is beneath the Earth’s surface. It is only mid-way between the Heavens as above and Hell as below. And this seems to be the safest way to understand the precise meaning of “Middle Earth” in the light of Earth’s sphericity (which is Biblical as well as scientific) and the fact that it literally “hangs upon nothing” as Holy Job revealed (Job 26:7) and modern space photography shows.

    3) A third denotation and probably the most common is simply the entire world or the Earth as a whole and as known to man.
         Each of these significations will be considered in its context and defined as clearly as possible in each instance.

    Old English “Wanderer” and “Seafarer”

    Since the Old English poems of “The Wanderer” and “The Seafarer” as well as the great epic Beowulf really pre-date in their composition the origin of Christianity in England, even though the forms in which we have these works have been altered by Christian bards, I will take them before Caedmon who is named as the first English poet. Caedmon flourished in the middle of the 7th century, so that puts the earlier poems quite far back in antiquity.
         Both “The Wanderer” and “The Seafarer” are described by historians of English literature as elegiac because of their very somber, almost fatalistic tone. There is frequent mention of Wyrd, the Nordic god of Fate. But the Christian poet who re-worked these poems did not allow Wyrd to dominate. There is only one reference I can find in “The Wanderer” to middle earth, but there occurs another reference to earth that begs to be compared with the first. The poet is obviously of a melancholy cast of mind as he ponders the weary course of this life:

    Care comes again to him who shall send
    His weary spirit over the waste of waters
    I cannot think of the wide world
    But that my heart-thought gather gloom
    Pondering thus the life of all,
    How they suddenly ceased to tread the floor
    The proud thanes.
    So does the middle earth
    Day by day perish and fail.
    No man is wise until he live
    Years in the world.

    The poet has always in mind the gathering of the King and his heroes, his thanes, in the Great Hall of meeting and feasting. And here he is comparing the activities of the Great Hall and their sudden ceasing due to defeat in war or some other catastrophe, with “this middle earth” which also must perish and fail, day by day. And following the Old English habit of repetition, it seems clear that in this context middle earth is the same entity as “the wide world” wherein “the life of all” and especially that of “the proud thanes” must perish and fail, day by day.
         Later in the poem, again by way of repetition and elaboration with increasing intensity of feeling, the poet laments:

    … Wyrd is mighty
    and storms beat on the stony slopes,
    the falling tempest binds the earth,
    with the noise of winter  when the wan light comes
    night shades grow dark  from the north the storm
    with fearful hail  sends terror to men.
    All is hardship in the kingdom of earth
    Decrees of Wyrd change the world under heaven.
    Here man is passing here maid is passing,
    Here life is passing, here the lower is passing.
    All the face of the earth stands empty.
    So said the wise man in his heart          
    he sat apart in his thought.

    Recalling his Christian soul, the bard adds these wise and consoling words:

    Well for him who stands true; no man should too quickly
    Speak the woe of his heart till he knows the cure
    To strongly bring help. Well for him who seeks mercy,
    Comfort from the Father in heaven, in whom all fastness stands.

    And so, in the end, the Father in heaven conquers Wyrd, for He alone is unchanging, “in Whom all fastness stands.”
         Here again clearly the earth is all of that place “under heaven” subject to the many passings of mortal life. It would seem fair and correct to conclude that this same “earth” is also “middle earth”.
         “The Seafarer” is in much the same mood but there is more evidence of a basic Christianity in this poem with its references to “daring deeds against devils” and glory “with the high angels for ever and ever, joys of life unending, happiness with strong ones.” But the tone of lament is strong:

    Days are passing
    and all the pomp of earth’s kingdoms.
    There are now no kings, now no Caesars
    nor gold-givers, as in olden days,
    when with his lord each man reveled in treasures
    and in royal-wise lived out his days.

    The host has fallen, joys have passed away,
    weaker ones endure and hold the world,
    enjoy its business.

    Glory is bowed down,
    the honor of the earth grows old and sere
    as does every man throughout this middle world.
    Old age comes on him, his face grows pale,  
    the grey-haired man mourns that his lost friends,
    the sons of aethelings, have been laid in the earth.
    Nor may this flesh-house, when the spirit leaves it,
    taste the sweet nor feel the sore,
    touch with its hand nor think with its mind.
                   
    Gold will not help the soul then
    that is filled with sin, treasures that he hoarded
    in the face of God’s wrath while he lived here.

    Great is the fear of the Maker, or the world turns on it,
    He established the strong ground  . . .  
    The earth’s surface and the sky above.

     We see here the same general concept of earth situated under the sky above, concretized further as “the strong ground” and “the earth’s surface.” The “world” is related as the place of man’s “business,” his constant activity of coming and going, of passing that constitutes the world’s turning, and all this business turns on “the fear of the Maker”!
         
    Some may wish to see “for the world turns on it” as an allusion to the earth’s rotation on its axis – an opinion or belief that only arose during the Renaissance. This turning of the world in the poem is clearly related to “the fear of the Maker” and has to do with the activities of mankind that are cyclic in their comings and goings. It is more likely that there could be an echo here of the ancient Greek ideas of coming-to-be and passing away in their cycles than of any anticipation of modern scientific heresies. For the Anglo-Saxons were much influenced by the paganism of the Greeks and Romans, as even the reference to the Sibylla in the Dies Iræ demonstrates.
         
    But the Christian poet is at pains to transform these pagan allusions, and this poem too, ends on a note of joy filled with exhortation:

    Foolish is he who dreds not his Lord;
    death comes upon him unthought,
    happy is he who lives humbly,    
    the mercy of heaven comes on him
    The Maker will hold strong his heart    
    for he believes in His might.
    A man should steer with strong mood,   
    hold fast his course.

    Wyrd is stronger,
    The Maker is mightier than any man’s thought.
    Let us ponder where we are going home,
    and then think how we came hither,
    then shall we strive to reach at last
    the deep joy that will be unending,
    home in the heavens. Thanks to the Holy One
    that He has made us worthy; King of Glory,
    Eternal Lord in all times.    Amen

    And in this way did the Christian bard, the Old English poet, correct, as it were, and transform the paganism that he had inherited with his ancestral treasures.
         
    In these poems it seems clear that middle-earth is the place whereon we are invited to ponder on all these things: “where we are going home … how we came hither” and how we must strive “to reach at last” the unending joy in the heavens. It is also the place where all is passing, even “suddenly ceasing” as death and misfortune mark the passing of time. It is the same place as “the kingdom of earth”, “the world under heaven” and “the face of the earth.” It is called at some times middle earth because – the implication seems certain – we are all caught mid-way between our chosen destiny – Heaven or Hell.
         
    The concept, too, is both horizontal and vertical, both dynamic that is, temporally linear or cyclic, and at the same time, spiritually-mystically static in its constancy, though it increases qualitatively in intensity. Middle-earth is both spatial and temporal; it stays the same but it moves in time. The Old English poet emphasizes both aspects, moving from one to the other, as in the two poems just studied. Our striving is horizontal and temporal; our destiny, always in mind and heart, is vertical – above or, God forbid, below.


    Beowulf

    There is only one allusion to middle-earth in my translation of Beowulf, and since this translation is incomplete, I cannot say that there may not be other allusions even more significant. But along with this one, there is another passage in the poem that is worth quoting for the reason that it shows how the Christian bard “baptized” his material into the real world that God created.

    First, there is the reference to middle-earth in the description of Hrothgar, the Danish Chieftain, as he contemplates the building of his Great Hall named Heorot after the horns of the hart that formed the gables of the Hall’s roof:
                             
    … and it burned in his heart
    that he would build a great house,
    a mighty mead-hall, his men would make it,
    and oft therein he would deal gifts to all,
    to young and old, as God had to him,
    all but folk-treasure and the lives of the people.

    Then heard I how afar the work was laid
    on many a tribe throughout the middle-earth,
    to adorn the folk-stead.
    It soon came to pass
    among the children of men  that all was ready,
    the great hall-house, and he named it Heorot.

    The internal relations between the sentence in which “middle-earth” occurs here and the following one, “among the children of men” attests to the fact that this “middle-earth” is, indeed, the entire earth then known to be populated by mankind.
         Later in the poem, when the monster Grendel begins to molest the Great Hall, there is this prologue to the event:

    There was sound of the harp,
    the scop’s clear song. Then he who could tell
    of far-off things, the first shaping of men,
    said how the Almighty made the earth;
    the bright-faced plain, water bending round it.

    Here, as well as in other poems, there is allusion to the belief of all antiquity in “a flowing ocean surrounding the circle of the earth.”  This was literally true before the Flood of Noah when there was only one great continent on Earth, the rest being water. The poet continues:

    Glorious in victory, he set the gleams
    of the sun and the moon,  a light for the land-dwellers,
    and He made fair the face of the earth
    with leaves and branches. He shaped life also
    for every creature quickened and moving.
    So the band of noble ones abode in their joy
    in bright happiness, till one began
    to frame mischief, the hell-fiend,
    the grim ghost who was called Grendel,
    mighty march-haunter  who held the moors,
    the fen and fastness.
                                                     
    The joyless foe
    dwelt for long  in the land of monsters,
    when his Creator had cast him out.
    The eternal Lord avenged the murder
    on the race of Cain, the killing of Abel.
    He gained not in that feud, but God for his crime
    drove him afar from all mankind.

    From him arose all wicked races
    monsters and elves all evil spirits,
    and grim giants who warred against God
    for a long time;  He paid them for that.

    Grendel drew near when night had come
    to the high-house, to see now the Ring-Danes
    after their beer-drinking had gone to bed.

    What the poet does here in his re-telling of the ancient saga, is to instruct his listeners in the truths concerning the real origin and genealogy, not only of the earth and mankind, but also of Grendel and all demonic creatures: giants and other monsters, such as elves, dwarves, fairies and the entire crew of “evil spirits” that were created good but fell with Lucifer after the Great War in Heaven, Lucifer, “the hell-fiend,” “the grim ghost” here incarnated as Grendel. The true cosmology is clear. In the beginning God made the earth, the sun, moon and stars, and every-form of life “till one began to frame mischief”, He was “cast out” and came back from the depths of Hell to molest mankind on middle-earth. He is named “the hell-fiend,” “the unhallowed being,” a “cursed spirit,” “hell-wizard,” “lord of evils,” “God’s enemy” and  “hell’s captive.”
         Speaking of his pagan ancestors, the poet tells that they would pray “that the soul-slaying devil / would send them help / against the nation’s woe.” For,

    …Such was their way,
    the hope of heathens; they were mindful of hell
    in their pondering mood; they knew not the Maker
    Judge of all deeds, thought not of the Lord God, nor did they praise the Helm of the Heavens,
    Wielder of glory.  Woe is to them
    who through evil hate hurl down their souls
    into the heart of fire; they hope for no comfort,
    they turn away.
       
    Well is it with them
    who after death’s day seek the Lord,   
    their Father’s Heart, and find Him in peace.

    Here in the very midst of the pagan saga the poet acknowledges that his own pagan ancestors knowingly prayed to the devil himself for help against the nation’s plague. The Christian poet blames them and generalizes from them to all who “think not of the Lord God” nor praise him. On the other hand, “Well is it with them who seek the Lord, their Father’s Heart, and find Him in peace.” And the cosmology is clear, extending from “the Helm of the Heavens” down to “the heart of fire” that is Hell, while the Christian struggles on this middle-earth, over-spread with the children of men and the sainted heroes of old.

    Caedmon

    Caedmon was a lay brother in the double monastery of which Saint Hilda was the Abbess. His gift of “songcraft” was miraculously bestowed and his first utterances were of the world’s beginning. I have here three translations of this passage plus the Old English original. Here are the key lines in the original Old English Language:

    Heben til hrofe haleg scopen;
    The middungeard moneynnes uard,
    Eci Dryetin; aefter tiadae
    Firum foldu fres allmneetig.

    The translation from the Heath Readings in the Literature of England reads:

    Now are we to praise the Guardian of heaven,
    The Creator’s might and his mind’s most thought,
    The glorious Father’s work; how he each of wonders,
    Lord everlasting, the beginning established.
    He at first shaped for the offspring of men,
    Heaven for a roof, Holy Creator;
    The middle-yard then mankind’s Warder,
    Eternal God; and after arranged
    Lands for men the Lord Almighty.

    The Norton Anthology of English Literature has this, not attempting a versification but only a more literal prose version:

    ‘Now we must praise Heaven-Kingdom’s Guardian, the Creator’s might and his mind’s plan, the work of the Glory-Father, when he of every wonder, Eternal Lord, the beginning ordered. He first created for men’s sons heaven as a roof, Holy Creator; then middle-earth Mankind’s Guardian, Eternal Lord, afterwards made  –  for men the earth, the Master Almighty.’

    And finally, the translation of Margaret Williams in Word-Hoard:

    Now must we praise heaven’s Keeper,
    the might of the Ruler and His Heart’s thought,
    the work of the glory-Father.
    Of every wonder
    He made the beginning, everlasting Lord.    
    He first shaped for the children of men
    the skies for a roof, holy Maker.
    Then afterwards mankind’s Keeper
    made the earth, the soil for man,
    Almighty Ruler the endless Lord.

    Williams’ translation seems to me the clearest, and since she was a scholar of the Old English language, I tend to trust her rendering more than that of the other two.

    The other translations seem to indicate two separate places  – a “middle-earth” created first and then afterwards the earth or lands for men. But the significance of God as ‘mankind’s Keeper or Warder, the same God Who afterwards arranged or made the earth or the soil for man, renders this separation dubious at best. In Williams’ translation, the “afterwards” belongs both to the earth and the soil, to the “middle-yard” and the “lands for men.” But the Old English itself places “aefter tiadae” – literally in an after time or day – and this could possibly be referring to the lines of Genesis where God, in the beginning, created the “heavens and the earth” and then afterwards, on the succeeding days of Creation week, made the soil to yield the plants, and so on. All in view of man’s creation on the Sixth Day.
            Caveat lector  – and beware of translations!

    Genesis B

    The poem known only as “Genesis B” belongs to the time of Caedmon (6th or 7th century) and is often cited as one of the main sources for the character of Satan and the description of his Fall in Milton’s Paradise Lost. The Old English is far more graphic and concise. Furthermore, there is not a hint of the classical pagan influence in the Old English poem. I give here the portion that most clearly reveals the Biblical cosmology and the position of middle-earth:

    Then the All-powerful heard all that,
    how His angel began in his great pride
    to rise against Him, to speak haughty words
    foolishly against his Lord, for he must pay the price. . .

    Then was the good One wroth in His Heart.
    He must send to the depths of hard hell-torment, one who fought against Heaven’s King.

    God cast him hence and threw him to hell
    in the deep dales, where he changed to a devil,
    the fiend with all his companions.

    They fell from heaven
    through a long space, three days and nights,
    those angels, to hell, and were all changed
    by the Lord to devils, because in deed and word
    they would not serve.

    For this in a worse place
    deep under earth  Almighty God
    set them, defeated,  in swart hell.
    There in the evening time without end
    to each of the fiends comes endless fire,
    then in the dawn drives the eastern wind,
    frost fiercely cold, ever fire or frost
    Then great anguish each one must have;
    they were tormented, their world was turned.
    Then for the first time was hell filled
    with God’s adversaries.

    But angels held the height of heaven,  
    where they do God homage.

    There is yet more description of hell, but the place of hell is clear: it is “in the deep dales” that are “deep under earth.” Equally clear is the direct opposite, “the height of heaven.” The Old English poet had a very clear and strong sense of the directions that are necessary to know for eternal salvation.
         And where else could we be situated but here on middle-earth, journeying inevitably towards one or the other place.

    The Dream of the Rood

    The theme of “The Jeweled Cross” was a constant one from the time of Cynewulf in the 9th century on into the Middle Ages. The version preserved in the Vercelli Book dates to the 10th century. Williams says of this poem, “In a dream, the Rood itself had spoken, in perhaps the greatest utterance of our Old English tongue.”

    In the lines that just precede the reference to middle-earth, there is a notable allusion to Mary, the Mother of God. The Cross speaks:
    Once was I the greatest of torments,
    most hateful to men, until I made wide
    the way of life to speech-bearers.

    Lo, He has honored me, the Prince of Glory,
    over all the trees of the wood, He,
    the Keeper of Heaven,
    even as Almighty God, for mankind’s sake
    honored His Mother, Mary Herself,
    the most worthy of all women.

    Now I bid thee, my beloved one,
    tell of this sight to other men;
    unveil in words that this wood is glorious
    since God Almighty suffered on it
    for the many sins of all mankind
    and for Adam’s deed done long ago.

    There He tasted death, yet the Lord arose
    With great might, so to help men.

    Then He mounted to Heaven; thither shall He come
    into this middle-earth to seek mankind
    on Doomsday, the Lord Himself,
    Almighty God, and His angels with Him.
    Then will He give, He Who wields doom forever,
    judgment to each one, as he earned it before
    in the swift-passing days of life.

    In these few lines all of time is gathered up and centered on “this middle-earth”, the unique place of the Creation, Fall, Incarnation, Redemption and Last Judgment.

    Cynewulf: The Christ


    This late 8th or early 9th century poem in three magnificent parts celebrates the Incarnation, the Ascension and the Day of Judgment. Again, earth is the central place in the universe. The poem contains many notable references of which I will quote the most relevant to our theme of middle-earth. The first part of the poem, “Advent”, begins with a direct address to the “Lord of Glory” as the Head of “a mighty Hall” that “throughout earth’s dwelling / all that have eyes / may wonder evermore,” … until at last the work of creation has need “that its Craftsman come, the King Himself, / and make better / what now lies broken, / the house "neath its roof” … Earth is here pictured as a house, a broken house, situated beneath the “roof” of Heaven. And so, the King Himself, the mighty Craftsman Himself, must come to “make better” the broken world. And here is how He comes:

    Young was the woman,
    a stainless maiden, whom He chose for Mother,
    and without man was the wonder wrought,
    that the young bride brought forth her Bairn.
    Never was it so before or since
    in the wide world, such Child-bearing;
    secret was it kept, God’s mystery.
    All ghostly grace goes throughout earth’s realm,
    there are many things became enlightened
    through Life’s Beginner lore of long ago
    which had lain dim in dark shadows,
    far-seeing prophets’ songs, ere the Powerful One came…

    It is clear that “earth’s realm”, “wide world” and all such phrases could be interchanged with “middle earth”. After a prayer of praise to “our blissful Lady”, the poet has Mary Herself speak:

    Lo, the Day-Spring, brightest Angel
    sent to men over this middle-earth,
    soothfast beam of the very Sun
    more bright than stars – Thou Thyself
    givest  light forever to time going by.

    Here again is the emphasis upon God as Light and the analogy that the poet finds between God and the Sun that enlightens all even as does “Life’s Beginner” Himself. In the following passage, we see not only the allusions to earth but the transformation of the old pagan notion of heroes and their relationship to their lord. In the poem it becomes entirely Christian, as the poet addresses Our Lady:

    Lo, thou the glory of the great earth
    purest of women over all the world
    of all who have been since time began,
    how right it is that all voices,
    all heroes on earth hail thee, and say
    with blithe mood that thou art the bride
    of the Noblest One, the sky’s King.

    So too the highest in the heavens,
    Christ’s thanes, cry out and sing
    that thou art Lady by thy holy might
    of the glorious armies of the race of men
    living under the heavens and of all hell-dwellers.

    For thou alone of all mankind
    thought gloriously in thy strong mind
    that thou would bring to thy Maker thy maidenhood,
    give it, sinless. Not again
    will such another come of men
    a maiden ring-adorned who will thus send
    heaven-homeward with ever pure heart
    her bright treasure.   

    That Our Lady and her Immaculate nature are absolutely necessary for the Incarnation is obvious to this most Catholic poet. People today, especially parents, should notice that there is no such sense of divine Faith in either Tolkien’s Middle Earth or in Lewis’ Narnia. Such fantasy worlds are, then, most emphatically from the Father of Lies, Lucifer himself.
         
    The poem ends with the poet’s vision of Heaven – a strong interlacing of the natural and the supernatural, so typical of the very literal Old English mind’s way of seeing Reality. There is nothing like the Catholic world view of this poem in modern literature. Certainly there is nothing like it in Lewis’ Narnia or Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

    Andreas

    Margaret Williams tells us that “Legend had long been busy with the tale of the dispersal of the Apostles “to teach all nations,” and the kernel of the stories was that of the Sortes Apostolorum, the drawing of lots which sent the twelve “thanes of the Lord” to the four parts of the earth. A great literature grew up around these stories of the Apostles and their adventures, especially their sufferings and deaths. Williams says that the Old English poet in this story of St. Andrew along with St. Matthew “in the City of the Cannibals” knew his Beowulf and modeled his St. Andrew on the Old English hero. So he calls the Apostles “twelve glorious heroes” and “a Prince’s thanes.” But his thinking is sound and he is quick to identify the “evil Druid-craft” that “twisted their wit / the inner vision of men” and “the hearts in their breasts,” leading to such atrocities as those of the cannibals. Towards the end of the poem, St. Andrew, worn out with toil and suffering, hears the Voice of Our Lord saying to him:

    “Lament not thy path of woe, O loved man  –
    it is not unbearable.  I hold thee dear,
    and will set my guard in power about thee.
    My might is above all on this mid-earth.

    St. Andrew is healed and lives to undertake many further journeys and sufferings for the Faith. A good example of his exploits is the story of a great flood that leaves many dead bodies strewn about. Andreas prayed that the dead bodies on the plains might return to life, and they rose to their feet, begging to receive the true faith and the bath of Baptism:

    Then was Baptism given to the people,
    nobly to the earls, and God’s law
    rightly preached, round in the land
    to all city-dwellers, and a church hallowed.

    The reference to “mid-earth” here is most obviously a denotation of the entire world because God’s might cannot be limited and it is said here, clearly, to be “above all / on this mid-earth.” Also, we can note that there was no such concept in the mind of the poet  – or of St. Andrew  – as that of Baptism of desire. If a miracle was required for the salvation of men of good will, a miracle was supplied.

    The Panther:
    With a Digression on Some Literary Techniques

    This poem contains two references to middle-earth but it also supplies an excellent example of the difference between analogy, symbol and allegory, as literary techniques or devices.

    It is my opinion that most people fail to see that C. S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia attempts an allegory but fails and ends with a poor analogy or a blurred symbol in his Lion, Aslan. Tolkien, on the other hand, was quite outspoken about his dislike of allegory and indeed, his work employs neither allegory nor analogy (the rings of power are actual magical entities, as are the rings in the first book of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew). Rather, Tolkien has invented and brought to magnificent literary fruition an entire mythology, something quite different from either allegory, symbol or analogy. This is so because a mythology is an unabashed reality of its own in the mind of its inventor even if others may characterize it as fantasy or fiction. In the case of Tolkien, the readership (and in the case of the films, the viewers) have agreed to call his work fantasy-adventure because the world of the Hobbits and of Middle Earth is another world from this one, or, as Tolkien himself described it, a “sub-creation.” He was quite accurate in his invention of this term for his “sub-creation” does, indeed, come from below as do all goblins, elves, dwarves and other fairy-tale creatures.

    Any reader of The Magician’s Nephew  will notice that the Panther of the Old English poem is remarkably like Narnia’s Aslan, so much so that the inference seems inescapable that Lewis took his inspiration for Aslan from this very poem. One can see, however, that the Panther is an analogy in the Old English poem whereas Aslan is something else – a frayed symbol, an unsuccessful allegory.

    In the poem, the analogy is established by means of three similes and three direct references to the old Dragon. The analogy is based on the Scripture, (Osee 5-14): “I am become like a lioness to Ephraim, and like a lion’s whelp to the house of Juda.” In the Greek version of the Physiologus (from whence came the English Bestiaries), the lioness is termed a panther. The whole point of the ancient genre of animal tales was simply to draw out analogies between men and beasts for the purpose of making a moral point. Aesop did this with his Fables and in modern America, Joel Chandler Harris did it with his Uncle Remus Tales. Here is the Old English poem of The Panther:

    There are many throughout this middle earth
    beings unnumbered whose nature no man
    may reckon rightly or count their kinds
    And thus widely around the world
    are the multitudes of beasts and birds
    who live in the fields, even as water circles
    the bright-earth-bosom, brimful, roaring,
    the swing of salt waves.
    We have heard someone
    telling the nature of a marvellous wild beast,
    famous among men in a far land,
    how it dwells in its home, seeks a domain
    in the dune-caverns.
    That beast is called
    by the name of Panther.   
    Thus the children of men their wisdom
    speak in writings of that lone-goer.   
    He is friendly to all,
    kindly disposed, save to the dragon only,
    with him at all times he lives at enmity,
    doing every evil to him that he may.

    Such is the marvellous beast shining wonderfully
    with every colour. A hero has said,
    a man holy in soul, that Joseph’s tunic
    was fair, and stained with every dye,
    with braided colours each of the very brightest,
    each peerless, shining to every one.
    So was the beast’s hue.    (simile 1)

    It was brilliant; brighter and more radiant,
    each colour shimmered, fairer than the other,
    ever beautiful.
    He has a nature lovesome and gracious;
    he is kind, mild and even-tempered, doing no evil
    to any creature, save the poisonous foe
    his old enemy, as I said before.

    Often, glad of the feasting when he has found food,
    after his meal he seeks his rest
    in a hidden corner of the hill caves.

    There the noble one, for the space of three nights
    is lost in slumber, overcome with sleeping;
    on the third day a song comes,
    most winsome of melodies from the wild one’s mouth.
    After the voice a fragrance fills
    the meadow-place, a fair breath,
    sweeter and stronger than other odours
    than blossoming plants and wood blooms,
    than any other of earth’s adornments.

    Then from the camps and the king’s palaces
    and the city dwellings, a mighty throng
    fares through the fields, folk in crowds
    and great companies, going in hosts
    men with spears hurry like animals
    after the voice and the fair fragrance.

    So is the Lord God, giver of joys,           (simile 2)
    kind in heart to all creatures
    with every blessing, save to the Dragon,
    dealer of poison; he is the old foe
    whom He shut up in a land of torments,
    and fettered there with fiery chains,
    bound with dire need.
    And on the third day
    He rose from the grave. Thus death for us
    He suffered for three days, Prince of Angels,
    Victory-giver.
       
    It was a sweet odour
    fair and winsome round the whole world.
    So to that fragrance truth-fast men               (simile 3)
    from every land come in throngs
    from every corner  of the earth’s surface.

    Said the wise man, holy Paul:
    “they are manifold throughout the middle-earth,
    good things unstinted that He gives us in grace
    for our soul’s need.
    Father Almighty
    and the only hope of all creation above and beneath.
    That is a fair fragrance.”  (Ephesians 2:17)

    There is no confusion of meanings here. The analogy is crystal clear, made so especially by the similes and by the reference to the “dragon foe”. The panther is true to his own animal nature and true to the nature of Christ only at certain points, not at all points. This is what is meant by the saying that an analogy always “limps”. A symbol, like an analogy, focuses on one or more central points of resemblance and makes them concrete. Thus the Phoenix symbolizes the Resurrection of Christ and the Panther symbolizes Our Lord’s Humanity.
         But Aslan is a confusing symbol and a poor analogy. The points of the attempted analogy-symbol-allegory are falsified. For example, Our Lord was sacrificed on a wooden Cross, not stabbed on a stone table as Aslan was. The point of this discrepancy is enough to falsify the symbol.

    A good allegory is always transparent. It is an abstraction made concrete. The Seven Capital Sins in Piers Plowman and the Slough of Despond in Pilgrim’s Progress cannot be missed or mistaken.

    But an analogy does not involve an abstraction. The Panther is not an abstraction but a concrete symbol. And he is compared to God only as Redeemer: His sleep of death and Resurrection by which He conquers the Dragon-Satan. Then men hunt the Panther to kill him as they did Our Lord, but end by thronging after the sweetness of His Voice and the fair fragrance of His Holiness. This is a mystical blending of meanings.

    Lewis attempts to make Aslan Creator-Redeemer-Sanctifier all at once, but his being on hand to save the children from every trap into which they fall makes him resemble more the Super-heroes of the comics than God. The Panther conveys both Humanity and Transcendence. Aslan conveys neither. He never rises above the heroic-animal-human and really sinks quite low in his relations with the two girls where he resembles a house-pet much more than God. The Panther, on the other hand, ascends to supernatural truth in his likeness, by analogy, with Christ.
         For all his learning and knowledge of literature, Lewis failed in his attempt to make a convincing symbol or allegory of Christ in Aslan. I think, however, that this failure of his was not due to any lack of literary skill or knowledge on his part, for he was one of the great talents of English literature in the 20th century. His failure was due, rather, to his lack of a Catholic sense of the Truths of Faith, especially those of the supernatural order. He had no sense of Who Christ our Lord really is. Like the Arian Milton, he probably knew more about the Devil than about God, as evidenced by The Screwtape Letters.

    The Phoenix, Piers Plowman and Dante

    The poem of “The Phoenix” already looked at with reference to cosmogony, is also an analogy-poem with a central symbol, the phoenix-bird. Williams says:

    ‘The Phoenix easily passed into Christian art as the symbol of the Resurrection of Christ and of the final resurrection of man at the last day, for the gleaming imagery of the East served well as a sign of the mystery of light triumphant. The latter part of the poem is original to the Old English poet and makes an elaborate, but none the less poetic application of the tale of the sun-bird to Christian doctrine.’

    Here is the ending of the Phoenix-poem with the explanation of the poet’s purpose replete with similes:

    And let not any man think that I weave
    my poem together or write my song
    with lying words: let him hear the wisdom
    of Job’s saying.
    Through the Spirit’s glory
    stirring in his breast the man spoke thus,
    made glorious he uttered these words:
    “I doubt not in the thoughts of my heart
    that in my nest the death-bed chosen for me,
    weary of body I shall go then
    on a long journey clothed with clay,
    gloomy for old deed sin the depths of the dust.

    And then after death, through the Lord’s grace,
    as the Phoenix-bird, new in spirit   
    after my arising I shall forever
    joy with the Lord,  . . .
    So the Phoenix beacons
    the might of God’s Bairn, young in the land
    when he wakens again from out his ashes
    in the life of life, strong-limbed.

    So has the Healer given help to us
    through His body’s sundering, life without end,
    even as the Phoenix has laden his feather-wings
    with sweet spices and winsome blooms,
    the fairest flowers that spring on the earth.

    Just as the poet of the Panther poem, the poet here, too, makes clear his analogies with similes. Earlier in this same poem there is this reference to middle-earth:

    He flies, joy of birds,
    From the green earth, the blossoming ground,
    And thus seeks the wide stretches
    Of the middle earth.

    Middle Earth in Old English poetry is clearly the entire surface of the earth where mankind dwells and where the great events of the Incarnation and Redemption took place. The passage just quoted recalls the Old English habit of repetition. Thus, “the green earth”, “the blossoming ground” and “the wide stretches / of the middle earth” are all poetic synonyms.

    Rounding out the entire cosmology of the universe as pictured in Old English poetry is the opening passage of Piers Plowman, the great Dream-Vision allegory, an ascetical-mystical-theological alliterative poem whose versification was newly revived in the 14th century after the French influence of the Conquest (1066) had so changed the sound of English poetry, a change typified by Chaucer.

    William Langland constructed his long poem on the same cosmological basis as the great Mystery plays of his time. There is Heaven high up in the roof, there is Hell beneath, and there “between” is “the field full of folk” who journey over middle earth:

    Then began I to dream a marvellous dreaming
    that I was in a wilderness, wist I never where.
    As I beheld to the east high to the sun
    I saw a tower on a toft well made and trimmed,
    a deep dale beneath and a dungeon therein,
    with deep ditches and dark, and dreadful of sight.
    A fair field full of folk found I there between,
    of all manner of men,  . . .

    Finally, there is Dante’s Divine Comedy built upon the same divinely revealed cosmology. The poet enters Hell from the Dark Wood of Error in the middle of his life  – and of Earth  – from whence he descends to the uttermost depths of Hell and then ascends through Purgatory to the highest heavens of the Beatific Vision.

    Dante is rightly called the Herald and Morning Star of the Renaissance because in his Comedia, heroes and figures of paganism are brought into the poet’s Christian world with all their paganism not only intact but also quite virulent. But all that is matter for another study.

    Truly, it was not a matter of indifference that the Holy Ghost inspired St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century in the very thick of the Renaissance-Revolt to write his work on “The Discernment of Spirits.”

    How we need this Gift of Discernment today, especially if we are parents or teachers responsible for the nourishment that is provided for the minds and hearts of children.
     
    Bibliography

    Crombette, Fernand. If the World Only Knew: Fernand Crombette, His Life and Works. By Noel Derose. Translation from French. CESHE, France, 1996.

    Heath Readings in the Literature of England. Selected and Edited by Tom Peete Cross and Clement Tyson Goode.  D.C. Heath and Co., 1927.

    Horvat, Marian Therese, Ph.D. Our Lady of Good Success: Prophecies for our Times. 1999. Stories and Miracles of Our Lady of Good Success. 2002.  P. O. Box 23l35, Los Angeles, CA 90023.       www. TraditionInAction.org

    Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. I. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1962.

    Williams, Margaret. Word-Hoard: Passages from Old English Literature from the Sixth to the Eleventh Centuries. Translated and Arranged by Margaret Williams. New York: Sheed and Ward, l940.  Glee-Wood: Passages from Middle English Literature from the Eleventh to the Fifteenth Centuries.  Sheed and Ward, 1949.

    Epilogue

    With real Middle Earth gone from the vision of men, many false worlds, false prophets and false Christs have arisen.
         Such are Narnia, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Aslan, Gandalf and Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Digory and Polly, Frodo and Sam, not to mention Superman, etc.
         It was the Copernican Revolution and its Poster-Boy Galileo that shattered with the force of an atomic bomb from Hell, the divinely revealed cosmology that truthfully and effectively taught men from whence they came, where they were situated for the journey and where lay their ultimate destiny. Places and directions are supremely important.
         Today, however, we live in an artificially constructed universe where men go “where no man has ever gone before” nor should go, both within the body and beyond the Earth. Only God is able to restore sanity to Church and World.  Before Supernatural sanctity can blossom again, there must be restored the foundation of a sane and true natural order.
         It will happen. It will come. Our Lady has promised it!

          Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses
                sola intereremisti in universo mundo.
    “Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!
    Alone Thou hast destroyed all heresies throughout the world!”
    The Little Office of the BVM
    Based on Genesis 3:15


    April 27, 2002
    Feast of St. Peter Canisius,
    Doctor of the Catechism.
    And Saturday of Our Lady.

    Offline magdalena

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    Paula Haighs THE REAL MIDDLE EARTH
    « Reply #1 on: May 27, 2016, 05:34:34 AM »
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    But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.
    Luke 10:42


     

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