Thursday, August 31, 2006

Soldier Ask Not and the Aeneid

I haven't read the Aeneid but today I was listening to a lecture about it. 

The lecturers premise was the Aeneid was Virgil's answer to the Iliad and the Odyssey and was his attempt to put Rome and Roman culture into perspective against Greek culture. 

As it was related in the lecture while Greece was an older and more sophisticated culture, it was also one which placed the individual above the group, whereas Roman culture was a series of duties which placed the group first.

That made me think of this song from Soldier Ask Not, a novel in Gordon Dickson's Childe Cycle.

Soldier, ask not - now, or ever,
Where to war your banners go.
Anarch's legions all surround us.
Strike - and do not count the blow!

Glory, honor, praise and profit,
Are but toys of tinsel worth.
Render up your work, unasking,
Leave the human clay to earth.

Blood and sorrow, pain unending,
Are the portion of us all.
Grasp the naked sword, opposing,
Gladly in the battle fall.

So shall we, anointed soldiers,
Stand at last before the Throne,
Baptized in our wounds, red-flowing,
Sealed unto our Lord - alone!

Don't know why it just seemed appropriate.  Actually it is surprising I still remember that poem, the last time I read it I think I was about 13.  Another one that I remember is from Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion Series.

"We've left blood in the dirt of twenty-five worlds,
We've built roads on a dozen more,
And all that we have at the end of our hitch
Buys a night with a second-class whore.
The Senate decrees, the Grand Admiral calls,
The orders come down from on high.
It's 'On Full Kits' and 'Sound Board Ships,'
We're sending you where you can die."

"The lands that we take, the Senate gives back,
Rather more often than not,
But the more that are killed, the less share the loot,
And we won't be back to this spot.
We'll break the hearts of your women and girls,
We may break your arse, as well,
Then the Line Marines with their banners unfurled
Will follow those banners to hell.
We know the devil, his pomps, and his works,
Ah, yes! We know them well!
When you've served out your hitch in the Line Marines,
You can bugger the Senate of Hell!"

"Then we'll drink with our comrades and throw down our packs,
We'll rest ten years on the flat of our backs,
Then it's 'On Full Kits' and out of your racks,
You must build a new road through Hell!
The Fleet is our country, we sleep with a rifle,
No man ever begot a son on his rifle,
They pay us in gin and curse when we sin,
There's not one that can stand us unless we're downwind,
We're shot when we lose and turned out when we win,
But we bury our comrades wherever they fall,
And there's none that can face us, though we've nothing at all."

I actually performed that one as my dramatic reading for my 10th grade speech class.  The instructor wasn't thrilled, especially since he was a flaming commie and I was offering it as a commentary on American Foreign Policy and the Soldier.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Stranger by Albert Camus (a break from the list)

I am finding "The History of the Peloponnesian War" tough going so I took a break with "The Stranger"

I dont quite know what to make of this book. 

In one sense it seems like a political tale.  Meursault has killed an Arab and therefore he must be punished.  That really isn't the thrust of the novel though.  The killing and even the trial are really trivial to the main point.  Stage dressing so to speak.

The main point of "The Stranger" in my mind is the folly of letting society dictate morality.  Meursault isn't tried and sentenced to death because he killed an Arab.  He is tried because he does not conform to societies moral norms.  Specifically it appears he is indifferent to his mothers death.  This and his refusal to acknowledge God convince the court and the jury that he is a monster who was only capable of premeditated murder. 

Camus appears to argue this is wrong.  The reader is aware of the circumstances and should be (at least I was) frustrated at the inability of his lawyer to make a better case and of the overreaching of the Prosecutor's claims that Meursault's crimes are equivalent or more horrific than intentional Parricide. 

I disagree in a way.  While Mersault is not guilty of premeditated murder, he is also not guiltless.  His inability for introspection and his lack of a sense of right and wrong, illustrated when he lies to the police for Raymond, when he helps Raymond plan to punish his woman, and when he doesn't intervene when Raymond is beating her, are characteristic of a sociopath.  In other words one incapable of existing normally in society. 

It's there I find the dilemna in "The Stranger", I feel sorry for Meursault although his choices have put him in the situation he finds himself in I don't think he is really guilty.  After all the Arabs followed Meursault and Raymond to the beach, the Arabs pulled a weapon first and cut Raymond, and the Arab pulled the knife to intimidate Meursault.  But at the same time I recognize that a shared morality is what holds a society together.  That sense of right and wrong is what allows people to interact on a day to day basis and Meursault violates that code so maybe he really does deserve to be punished.  I don't have a good answer. 


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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just a Quick Update

I haven't posted here for awhile so I wanted to get a quick update in.  I have finished book three and most of book four of the .  I will be posting my discussion in the main post later.  I haven't been super active in the reading for a couple weeks because of work and school but I will catch up and be moving forward.  Also at the moment I have The Stranger by Camus as my carry araound book. 

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Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 'Beowulf' undertakes glorious deeds on stage and in films - 'Beowulf' undertakes glorious deeds on stage and in films

Amazingly Beowulf isn't on the list despite being:

usually the first thing studied in any English-lit survey course because it's the first piece of literature in English — actually, Old English, which eventually became modern English.

I guess if you want to attract attention make a movie with Angelina Jolie, especially if you can put her in that chainmail outfit that Tina Turner wore in "Beyond Thunderdome"

Hell I'll go see it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

From Burke to Kirk and Beyond...: More about how to lose a war...

From Burke to Kirk and Beyond...: More about how to lose a war...

Well I am not the only one reading Thucydides even if I am the only one reading this blog.


Mary Beard

I need to figure out a way to increase traffic

I have had this blog up since May. I have had zero visitors.

I don't know if it is the subject matter or if I am not posting often enough or if it is the format. It is really hard to blog about these books because of the way they are written. For example the History of the Peloponnesian War is composed of 8 separate books. I have just been adding on to the main post as I finish each book. Should I do a separate post for each book? If you by chance read these offer suggestions, please.

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