Harvard Joke about Jesus

“A fine teacher, but didn’t publish.” –Quoted by George Steiner, in Lessons of the Masters, p. 33. Steiner observes, “A cardinal definition of genius points, I believe, to the capacity to originate myths, to devise…

Present Minute, Only Minute

My grandmother in her old age Sold barley and groats at a stall In the market place. She did not measure her cereal More carefully Than I must minutes. — The Poems Of Charles Reznikoff:…

The Outgoingness of the Heart

In no Chinese poet’s works does compassion for human suffering play so large a part. The works of his maturity — the ballads, satires and petitions- — are largely grounded on pity, and even at…

Intellectual Superiority Complex

Ivan Karamazov has lost his faith precisely because he has elevated himself above the people. In this case, “the people” are not necessarily peasants, but are what Ivan, a modern intellectual, is not: human beings…

One Kind Gesture

I am grateful to Gary Saul Morson, for his book that has engaged me over the last year, Wisdom Confronts Certainty, as well as many of his articles and essays. Thanks to Morson’s insights here…

Why Read, Why Write

Books without the knowledge of life are useless…for what should books teach but the art of living? —Dr. Samuel Johnson, A Johnson Sampler, edited by Henry Darcy Curwen, p. 44. The only end of writing…

Accept Loss Forever

Bo Juyi, On Hearing Someone Sing a Poem by Yuan Zhen No new poems his brush will trace;Even his fame is dead.His old poems are deep in dustAt the bottom of boxes and cupboards.Once lately,…

Tsores, and Then Some

But even from such calamities life is by no means free; a thousand ills incurable, a thousand losses irreparable, a thousand difficulties insurmountable are known, or will be known, by all the sons of men….

Blessings of a Long Life

The world has allowed me to hand down a thousand of my poems; Heaven has let my years draw out to more than three score. I count over the happy chances that have helped me all my…