We Are the Waters

Psalm 44: Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

At one point in City of God Augustine describes the ark as a symbol for the church. The animals inside were not preserved out of necessity, in order to restore any species, as distant islands or angels could have done the job just a well. But the pairs of animals were preserved to represent how the nations would be preserved by the church from the destruction of the world, the church being the ark floating on top of the deluge.

It’s a compelling model, but I’m not convinced because we, the gentiles, are not just the animals. We are the waters. We are the floods slowly seeping into all regions of the world, according to the carefully timed sluice gates of the Lord. The church is swallowing the sea and Christ is plucking the false believers out of her mouth. Augustine’s picture is one of the church wandering within the dissolving world, but I’m more inclined to think of whole worlds being preserved within the church. It is an eschatological riddle and, when it comes down to it, my position is taken on the basis of intuition. People are more than themselves. They aren’t just a community of wanderers, they are parents with homes with basements that always flood and children who grow up exploring the woods of their homeland.

Do humans belong here or do they not? Are they a community of wanderers or a kingdom of lords with dominion over certain appointed places? Are we to be planted or are we always going to be mixed about in the raging heart of the world? Maybe both.

Jesus whispered into the wind storm, into our heart sea:

Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Excerpt: Come Whip the Earth!

The Heretic stood at the shore as he had before, only now with his arms raised. His arms gathered to themselves fresh food of all kinds from the endless storehouse of the lake. First the water hid the movement of what came towards him, but then faint currents dragged themselves on the surface with the pull of something just barely underneath. Red apples jumped out of the water from the end of these lines. They ascended to his arms and bunched together in bundles around his hands. So did two wrapped rotisserie chickens, three bags of potato chips, cans of corn and peas, a bottle of hot sauce, a fresh watermelon, packets of instant coffee, water bottles, a box of orange juice, a bottle of champagne, a sealed loaf of white bread, butter, precooked bacon, and many other things you would come to expect from the submerged old world. These were the rations of the new world. With his arms still raised, covered with the breakfast provisions that floated around them, the Heretic went back to the house.

Back at the house, the woman was wishing they had a better chair for the Heretic besides a pile of leaves. She could see the uncovered dead grass where she had previously dug up the carpet. The dormant rocks all around the house heard this groan of her spirit and picked themselves up by their bootstraps. The rocks moved like potato bugs, as if they had grown many little scuttling protuberances underneath them for even movement across the ground. When the first living stone came to the door, the rest behind him formed a line. They marched like a menagerie on display. The Heretic had to wait for them all to enter. The house he entered was not the one he had left: strange and unessential stone cupboards had their backs against the wall, stone undetailed tapestries hung precariously from the ceiling, and stone chairs encircled the stone table with its stoneware cups and plates. Even a stone hearth, empty without wood or fire, fitted itself opposite the table. Stone pots and pans hung above it.

The couple had already found their seats at the table. There was an uncomfortable look on the woman’s face. She looked coy about getting furniture—stone furniture. Her belly pressed against the rounded side of the cold table.

“It’s starting to look lived in,” the Heretic said, taking his place. The whole room stirred with inhuman motions seeking to please human emotions. The provisions left the Heretic’s arms and flung themselves to the right places on the table. The packs of instant coffee peeled open and poured themselves into the cups. The cork from the champagne whizzed straight through the leafy ceiling and fizzed foam towards the Extra. The packet of precooked bacon pulled open—and apparently a bag of cereal had found its way to the table, tearing open excitedly (without asking) to pour its contents into their bowls. A jug of milk flew into the house uninvited. Meanwhile, the Heretic had summoned a box of matches he now struck across the table. He threw the wad of flame into the starter log that sat in the hearth. A warm fire, some light.

“While they’re getting settled,” he said, “I would love to answer any questions you might have.”

“You’re making it sound like we signed up for this.”

Firenze, One

Oh how it looks just like the pictures!

Now I think when I walk past Brunelleschi’s Dome every day
and night—the Asian tourists with pink polka-dotted umbrellas, the wads of phlegm under my feet, the Libyan selling things, the human rabbits of all ethnicities jumping around asking for lighters, the 2013 yellow crane with an arm taller than the tall cathedral, the dog poop in the street, the Americans with their bulging money pouches under their flashy shirts, the Germans with their black dresses (black scarves (black boots)), the lingerie stores (translation of one chain: ‘Very Intimate’), the man who grabbed his crotch and laughed, the takeaway coffees and wine and beer and everything—of the failure of man’s greatest achievements and his most pious pieties. The golden cross of Jesus on the top of the Dome could be mistaken for this failure.

But held in place of this failure is the presence of the eternal victory of Jesus. God happily witnesses the ubiquity of religious symbols that now form the composite of what is the church’s largely disinherited value.

Let that value be forgotten, I say. God does not dwell in temples made by human hands—tourists do. The unspoken spirit of this cathedral is the Lord’s testimony to man’s rejection of salvation in favor of cream horns and cheap Chinese leatherwork [purchased en masse for crowded markets]. The knowledge of God is ubiquitous—so is the knowledge that man always fails at reverting Jesus into temples, money, intellectual aspirants. Jesus cannot be reduced or reused, Jesus cannot be made one portion or subsumed under a reasoned and imagined vision for humanity’s highest heights. Jesus tears down the highest heights and what heights we offer up to him he has no need of; he lets our motivations be forgotten with time, our buildings and our greatest ambitions {IN HISS HOLY NAME} drown under the cacophony of Mister Pizza, Intimissimi, and people looking at the deceased’s lasting impressions on this world muttering to themselves, not, “What a God!” but instead, “I didn’t know they had windows back then!”

The cathedral is man’s glory, not god’s. And like man’s glory, it is surrounded by people making money from it—inside, outside, around, throughout, by means of. And it is quite a glory. It is way taller and way bigger than it is in the pictures.

There is the pagan impulse to be careful around a God, to not make a God angry, to hedge your bets. There is the religious impulse to multiply indivisible grace. And in the city Dante Alighieri fled and the Medici mafia stamped their lasting fingerprints on, Caleb Warner as the sole representative of the evangelical impulse listened to Sara Groves. I don’t think this city knows about that impulse and it still doesn’t. I had my earphones in, I felt moved, and no one who saw me even knew what was going on inside me. Am I somehow failing, the evangelical thinks? By the way,

I think God loves wine, allows men their lingerie, and doesn’t mind the smell of cigarettes.

Brief Thoughts on the ‘Empire State Tribune’ Hit Piece

The article from the King’s College student newspaper strikes me as pure classist insult. NSA and its students are essentially being criticized on our institution’s resources, and so ultimately on our individual means and how we use them. How dare we not have the resources or even desire to place our college in the center of New York City? But our so-called insularity is actually the opposite of monastic, if one takes note of how many marriages (and subsequent children) are produced in the context of this institution. The point is that here in Moscow a different kind of wealth has been prioritized: the wealth of strong families.

I’d love to see that sort of thing happening in downtown New York, too, but the living costs are obviously too prohibitive. How many young couples do you see starting large families in downtown New York? That would only be possible at a highly selective class status. This doesn’t invalidate the whole project of King’s College; in the abstract, I think it’s admirable to try to move a classical college into the very heart of the modern world. But NSA students and other Muscovites shouldn’t be insulted for having a different level of means or a different vision of what ends their wealth and labor should be directed towards, and we certainly should not be equated with full-on LARPing “knighthood” and “ladyship” colleges.

You’ll notice that the author is happy to bring that up while ignoring the fact that King’s College puts its students into Hogwarts Houses literally named after Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

(pictured: the new york yacht club)

Trending Now: Be1ng LAME

My Unprolactated Response

King’s COlelge’s school newspaper wrote this thing recently on my almond mater and here’s what i have to say about it!

you accuse us of an almost monastic social-model but you’d be surprised that we actually work on a hareem model, recently moved form courtship model to just go for it model which is why so many alums are married and now married and married now to produce later big bunch of teachers both male and female, main motivation and self-sustaining!

On NSA Alums 

also our alums go on to be used extensively in the wool industry[4] from Classical antiquity, during the Middle Ages, and well into 19th century as a mordant or dye fixative in the process of turning wool into dyed bolts of cloth.[citation needed]

Some alums occur as minerals. The most important members – potassium, sodium, and ammonium – are produced industrially. Typical recipes involve combining alumina, sulfuric acid, and the sulfate second cation, potassium, sodium, or ammonium.

Our alums are used as the acidic component of some commercial baking powders and are used to clarify water by neutralizing the electrical double layer surrounding very fine suspended particles, allowing them to flocculate (stick together). you can see this in the interlrelations of faculty, we have a flocculating faculty which is your point After flocculation, the alums will be large enough to settle and can be removed BUT MOST OF THEM STAY.

NSA: where LARPing is done best

We might not have a knighthood class, but we do LARPing of middle-aged bankers best (sorry 4 libel), as seen by dear leader, DG WLSN (whose name must not be writ with vowels) we follow how he wears because he is so good at clothing choices and fashionista extroganiary and strive 2 floppy, shiny ties and have eelective even called Normhood how 2 dress best.

New Lectureship Series PROVes ur wrong

Guess this author didn’t KNOW about NEW SAINT ANDREW’S COLLEGE’s lectureship series for nExT yEaR: Dr. Eggs Benedict, Professor of Crunch at Breakfast College of Christ, speaking on the importance of local communities eating from the same bowl of cold cereal as a means by which to overcome insularity and isolation felt by lonely individuals while partaking in breakfast.
That dude is SOLID protestant: overcoming boundaries of wine and bread by making it something everyone eats: cold cereal, esp. forested flakes. Take THAT Anglicans (too fancy-pants) & NEW monastics (recently defended fig newtons as use of in lord’s supper TL;DR: Michael Horton DESTROYs Shane Claiborne on this perticlar point!)
Both sides shot down, take middle appoach. speaking of poaching, his thots on poached eggs and degenaracy of complex breakfasts is 2 true.


He really engages with culture outside of church too! that dude has spoken on the importance of brunch at Harvard! COme on! He co-authored a book with Capn’ Crunch on crunchatized Christians and the place for them in the church
(celibate sterilization; crunchatization is hereditary)


The Breakfast Crisis in this country has only gotten worse in the past few decades, what with packaged cold cereals since fifties. the state of breakfast. He points almost sixty years ago that commercials continue influencing tempting our children.
Consider grapefruit market if you look at stocks in grapefruit, how they’ve declined. Old women aren’t eating grapefruits with sugar on them anymore for breakfast. they’ve moved now 2 drink only meal replacement drinks like Ensure (which is soooper tasty by the way especially strawberry).
Statistics show small minority in church of eople eat graepfruits with salt on them say it’s umami.

What is umami?

Liberals!

Fix a lot of problems in country if took eucharist and made it breucharist so it happens every day because we need that and to do it together. But by doing it to be made breakfast and every day, won’t be confused with catholics which are wurst and SO MANY catholics at king’s college sumting fudgeamentally wrong with way they encourage breakfast there–

like hillsdale–

O! speaking of wurst, liver is eaten during tea time here because to engage with liberal vegetarians we make sue to get that tasty sustenance from fresh organs so yum


we engage by stay cage stage which TBH so does king’s college do they are like in a cage in middle of new york so people can point and say, ‘what’s there?’ and no one really knows because there is no sign and hard to find and many business in empire state building where is bathroom but we have soccer team and school newspaper called empire state tribune which so cool but TBH rent is expensive and honeslty we just want to be the RITE kind of small conservative chsitian college, h-h-HELP!!

Our Constant Cameras

We are always stealing our own souls because we are always making meaningless images of ourselves. Every day the online tribe (several billion souls strong) practices casual visual cannibalism. Remember that cannibalism is a communal practice. We will stop bearing children because the machines can bear images for us.

“Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day.” (2 Samuel 18:18)

“In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves), and of natural ruler and subject, that both may be preserved.” (Aristotle’s Politics, 1.2)

Come Whip the Earth!

Now as the world outside was flooding, there inside that house once called the Old Manor slept The Extra with his wife. She slept with her mouth open. Into her mouth and past her teeth, down her trachea, entering her left lung, as she took a breath, through the membrane of her alveoli, her bloodstream, a small arteriole, a sliver-of-a-river, down through the chambers of her heart until coming to the arteries that lead down to the placenta, that bright red leaf with its bulging latticework, past a layer of stratum spongiosum and into the hollow of the intervillous spaces that are filled continually like the basins of the deep with blood, diffusing through the sprigged fingers of the chorionic villi containing the umbilical vein entwined together with the umbilical arteries which carry off what has been received, flowing to the branch of the vein embedded inside the white gummy rubber, the Wharton’s jelly, of the umbilical cord near instantly traversing inch after inch until reaching the navel of his abdomen, bypassing other routes by poking up through the transverse fissure of his liver, entering the branch of the Arantius’ Duct, flowing into the vena cava, the right atrium of his heart, through the shunt that is called the foramen ovale into the left atrium, pumping into the aorta, up the carotid arteries until forking into the ophthalmic artery forking still to the central retinal artery that pierces near the optic nerve and spreads offshoots all across the surface of his retina, there is the organ through which the child, unable to sleep like his parents, senses his dark world for any light. There is no light inside that swollen cave he can tell in the fog of the fluid that wraps around his kicking limbs. He must content himself with his world as it is, the world swelled just so he could be inside it, just so he might have some place to grow. There is no picking and choosing for him now, there is no way for him to shape what has been already shaped out of the walls of his mother’s uterus. He is the one who has been shaped, he is the one who has only to rest. If he cannot rest, he is the one who must find some way to bide the time. Let them him jump on the pliant walls of the amniotic sac until he gets his mother’s attention. Then she could say, “See! He’s in there, he’s energetic and happy to be alive.” That would be a comfort.

But at that very moment, his mother’s dreams were dark. She dreamed of the life that she could have lived with her husband had the world not been destroyed. The extra and his girlfriend, Rachel, were in the same position that the child of the cave found himself in. The Old Manor is dark inside, wet. The only difference between her womb and the womb of that house is warmth. There is no comfort for them there in the cold, but sleep. They will throw off the questions they have about their new world until they wake up. They hear unconsciously the echo of the outer world’s sounds drift like dead shadows on the watery floors of the living room. These sounds influence what it is they dream of. It’s good they sleep. When they wake up they will call dreams dreams and life, life. For now, they dream about waves crunching light poles as they roll down city streets, shattering windows and lifting neat lawns. They dream about men out on oceans or lakes or ponds meeting towers that fall to devour their boats, bending bows to splinters and sides to hulks. The couple has no happy dreams that night, but they wake to the lie that their unhappy dreams were untrue.

If only they knew what price they buy the comfort of unhappy dreams at! It was not just in their dreams that the world met its end by water. Their sleeping hearts pieced together the truth long before their waking thirsts and worries could. Their sleeping hearts presented the truth inside their minds without any help from the two organs that assemble the fragments of the fractured world by the hands of a thousand saccades. The organ of our dreams is buried deep inside our guts. Like the eyes, it works only with fragments: scraps from our lives and rumors of our worst worries. Like the eyes, the organ of our dreams passes over these pieces, again and again, until it has come upon a settled picture. This is the picture it shows us. Many people, according to this narrator, give too much credence to the ability of the eyes to perform this task of grasping—and too little credence to our dreams. Why do we do this, when both give us the same service? It is because one organ works while we are awake to pass our own judgment upon its judgment, while the other works best when our hands are tied, our mouths shut, eyes bound. So we never see horrors with our eyes and take them as comforts, because we judge them as horrors. When we see horrors in our dreams, however, we wake and judge that it was only a dream. It was designed this way, so that we do not get a double portion of the horrors contained in this world. Instead, we get a half portion of mourning and a half portion of comfort, even though we saw more horrors than our eyes themselves revealed. Wise men take all the mourning and no comfort, because they know how it is.

Although the child could not see anything in his world, he could hear the muffled groans of his parents as they woke up to discover their own wombed world. They spoke to each other. It was the voice of his mother that he heard best. He felt it in his bird bones; it reverberated inside the amphitheater of his soft skull. His parents woke up and the child shifted his weight as she rose from the chair. His mother cried—but his father hugged her, pressing his stomach against hers, compressing the walls of his home. The child kicked back against him. They said something to each other and he felt his father’s hand on the wall. He kicked his father’s hand away and held fast with his fingers loosely around the cord that had him bound to his mother. He could not see a thing, but neither could his parents. All they could see was what they felt with their hands, like the blind. And like a blind old woman, his mother walked with her hands outstretched in the darkness of that night while her husband put his arm around her waist. Water slushed against their pants. They wished they could be as safe as their child, as care free. They heard sounds on the walls of the house, distant howls, screeching. None of these noises came to their waking attention.

“I’m hungry,” the extra said, “are you hungry?”

“I’m always hungry,” she said.

“You let me go into the kitchen, then. Stay here. I’ll see if I can find a flashlight and some food.”

She leaned against the railing of the stairs and said nothing, because she was going to be sick. She heaved and heaved until she vomited on the water. The image of three corpses floating on the water in the other room, bumping against her legs, came into her mind. As the extra was making noise inside the kitchen, opening and closing kitchen cabinets, another sound came from inside the house. The stairs creaked behind her, but not like someone was coming down them. They creaked as if they were being twisted. A light flashed on the water in the doorway of the kitchen. Two lines of shadow from the doorway scanned across the dancing diamonds of grey and dark blue, fitted like an ornament on the surface of the floorboards. He came to her and shed light on her. She turned to see what was happening, and behold, the stairs looked as if they were melting in heat. They were like metal that had just recently been plunged into the burning embers of a furnace, only to be pulled out and struck into shape on the anvil. The stairs of wood hammered together once sawn long ago gained the youthful looks of the trees that bore them. They had the look of white flesh once the bark has been peeled off a fresh, living stick. The stairs could bear no further delay and, as the soft flesh rose around them, plunged their finished edges into it and were swallowed. And those were now twigs that used to be called spindles in the railing. Neither of them could believe the miracle they witnessed and reached out their hands in disbelief to feel the surface. Where stairs used to be was now at the touch the soft inside of a tree. The extra stood at the bottom of the long-gone stairs. He directed the light up them. The stairwell grew rapidly upwards—as the hollow of a giant root. Those spindles, once twigs, had all too soon grown together and formed the sides of this root, on one side limpid, a hard bark on the other. This giant root pushed against the roof of the house, in order to puncture it, and the extra saw in a sudden moment what he thought would be the immediate death of his whole family. But instead of piercing the outer membrane of their safety, the root only carried on, high, higher up. The root was now racing off into the heights so far that the light could not find its end. The extra and his wife did not know why this happened, but they knew what it was: an offer. So they came to the bottom of that strange ascending well, and began scrambling up it. They found that the scrambling came easy, for the tissued walls of the root was kind on the feet and hands, nor was the incline too steep.

As they climbed, they came to a spot that they knew was well beyond the Old Manor down below, still sunken. They took a break here and heard the creaking of the root still expanding upwards, going before them to the world they had not yet met or seen. The hope overshadowed their hunger and thirst, but their exercise in hope only grew their desperation. There was no immediate answer to their appetites, which made it worse. They discussed whether or not to return to the Old Manor for the night, or to continue on until they came to the end. Neither seemed like a good idea. The extra shut off his flashlight.

He prayed in the darkness, his hands with her hands, “Please, if you can flood the world and give us a way out, bring us some food and water or show us what we are supposed to do to eat.”

[…]

Excerpt: Prince of the Couriers of the Air

When Malvin slept on the couch in the empty living room of the Bliss Homestead, he dreamt that he was really hanging in the dark room of the basement, the room where the cobwebs had piled up to the height of small children, where bones of deer lay scattered, where the leaves of the overgrown bushes pushed through the cracked window, where Malvin avoided. He was chained to the wall like a prisoner in a dungeon.

In his dream, someone paced down the board stairs, someone whose face remained unseen. Malvin felt the approaching presence of death. This being came into the room, but the face remained hidden by necessity of dream logic. He knew that if he was able to see the face of this being, the features would be too much for him to bare, features grotesquely detailed. The entire face was really a textured map, with rivers colored blue streaking across the cheeks, with mountain ridges where eyes should be, popped up high, snow-capped, with cities of America labelled, but in all the wrong places, because the inhuman face was a map of some unknown geography, captured in an order that existed nowhere. Malvin knew that if he could see the face, if for one second he could catch a glimpse of the face, he would see small, mite-sized cars zooming down the highways on its temples. Malvin knew that if for one moment he could see that face which contained the entire known world in the dense detail of a spider’s abdomen, he would recognize in it all the memories that ever filled him with longing. In that terrible dream he had every night, Malvin made every attempt to picture the face before the being had come into that dark room.

If he could picture everything the face contained, the being would not do what it did every night to him. The being walked into the room slowly and Malvin was compelled to just keep his eyes on its feet. It was as if his head was forced down by some invisible hand from the sky to remain looking at the worlds of darkness the floor contained: dirt as hard as clay, uneven, that rats scampered around under Malvin’s hanging feet. When the being approached the room, he saw its feet stop in the doorway. The feet peeled off gently and water came forth from the roots of its legs. The currents of water carried away the hollow, shining feet. This water splashed and spilled from the towered legs like volcanoes bursting at the bottom of the ocean. All so soon, the rats that found their home in that basement would be swimming on the surface of the water, their small backs like rowboats navigating in senseless circles, tails like rows. The water climbed its way up Malvin’s body. First, his feet. Legs. Chest. The water was blacker than the walls of the dark room, for it picked everything up in the basement that had lain dormant or self-satisfied, whether it was the bones on the floor: cobwebs, spiders, rats, old toys, or rusted nails. All of these things kicked against Malvin as the dark water climbed up his body. Desperately, Malvin would seek to use his mental demand to picture that basin of the labyrinth, the face of the being, before the dark waters filled up the dark room…the dark water whose only means of escape was down Malvin’s throat and the shattered basement window. All that had been kicked up from the past, that had failed to be swept, would try to go down Malvin’s throat. The rats bit at his shirt, lips, eyes, toes, him, as if for the rats, Malvin was their means of escape. Malvin felt all the legs of the spiders on his skin, the cobwebs clinging to his fingers, the nails poking into his arm, then bounding back, coming back again, old fishing hooks nicking his legs, the binding of flayed books bobbing against him like loaves of bread on the water.

As Malvin’s eyes closed in that fervid water burying him, Malvin would still be seeking to picture the map on the face of the being. He was able to catch glimpses of what it contained. He could read the legend down its long neck of the strange symbols across the endless plains, ridges, valleys, fjords, glaciers, cliffs, hills, plateaus, desserts, deep woods. All of these were rendered in illuminated colors of pinks, the dark greens that splash out as leaves from buckling roots, tans of the ocean’s lining, azures you can only see when your eyes are shut against a dream sun, dazzling red that nature achieves in the pin-pricked polka dotted worlds contained within petals, and the warm gold that shimmers in the fins of coral fish. Malvin would sometimes see the densely intense snapshots of cities. These cities proved to be micro biomes. Though they were perhaps no larger than plant cells, they buzzed with activity. Particle people ascended particle elevators up skyscrapers that rose minutely from the surface of the face’s crust. What plenteous miniatures! Malvin felt protective of these infinite and insignificant lives. He witnessed these cities with desperation in his heart, knowing that just one scratch, one indecent scratch of the itch that these cities must have been on the eyeless, mouth-less face, would destroy them and all they had worked so hard to achieve. This being seemed unknowing to the crusted surface of its mapped face, or seemed to have no knowledge of that small world that filled Malvin with paternal love for even the sharp-pointed trees of its forests. This being seemed only interested, whenever it entered the room, to flood the room and drown Malvin. But so too the whole world! If those waters came up the neck of the being, if they covered its face, forever its world would be lost.

Intimations of Immortality in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’

Keats poem, Ode to a Nightingale, is about the longing for a mystic past. The portal to this past time is the song of a nightingale at night in the forest. Keats hears the bird and hears a whole world through its song. How do the poetic elements reveal this mystic longing?

There is no special significance in the fact that there are eighty lines and eight stanzas. The rhyme scheme, also, is not symbolic. What we can say, generally, about the poem is that it has a song-like quality to it and that each stanza, like a healthy prose paragraph, has its own purpose. Many stanzas have some rhyme interwoven through them. Take stanza IV, where ‘moon’ and ‘glooms’ together rhyme, although they are internal and four lines apart. Or, in stanza VII, there is ‘born’, ‘corn’, and ‘forlorn’. This internal rhyming sews up each stanza nicely. The progression of the poem is not just pulled along with rhyme. Keats uses a lot of assonance, the repetition of syllables within a line. It is quite clear in lines 25 (‘sad’ and ‘last’) and 41 (‘I cannot see what flowers are at my feet’), but also appears more subtly in lines 35 (‘Already with thee! Tender is the night’) and 72 (‘To toll me back from thee to my sole self’). We get some kind of more protracted assonance in stanza I with ‘numbness’, ‘numberless’, and ‘summer’. Keats also uses a bit of alliteration, but never quite goes beyond a two-word usage of it: ‘fade far’ (21), ‘mid-May’s’ (48), and ’sole self’ (72). From stanza to stanza, ideas seem to echo and return like the reverberations, perhaps, of the nightingale’s song—fade far comes back in 47 as fast fading and in 75 as plaintive anthem fades, but we first got the idea of fading in line 20.

Keats wants to fade away with the bird. Then he tells the bird to fade away. Next, we find that the violets are fast fading. Finally, the song of the bird fades back into the forest. This is the entire storyline of the poem. Keats wants to go away with the bird, because his world is one where violets—beauty—fades away. He is like the violets and he, too, will fade. The bird then leaves, but Keats is left high and dry. We find that Keats cannot go with the bird, because if he did, he would not have heard its song fade into the distance. The next thing we can expect, after the poem, is that Keats himself will fade. But the bird? The bird itself never fades. The bird was not born for death (61). Keats was (26). He wants to go where beauty might keep her lustrous eyes (29), but he cannot. This inability to go where the bird hails from fills him with a peculiarly mystic longing.

Keats longs for ‘a draught of vintage’, a metaphor comparing the memory of summer to a rich wine. We see this later in the stanza with the image of a ‘purple-stained mouth.’ The bird sings of summer ‘in full-throated ease’ (10) and it is this song that fills Keats with the craving of summer. This is not just a memory of summer, though, which is a mundane desire everyone has in the heart of winter. It is much, much more. This memory has been ‘cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth’ (12) and so it is an old, perhaps ancient, memory. In lines 2-8, he expands the idea of summer as an entire country (13), not only where people dwell and dance (14), but where Hippocrene is (16). Hippocrene is a pool that the Muses drank from and it filled them with the inspiration to imagine. At this point, Keats is saying that the bird’s song has filled him with a longing for poetic imagination. We at first thought it was just a longing for summer, because of a pretty song. And here, at the end of line 8, we find that the entire second stanza is set up in premise-conclusion form. The poem’s form lends itself well to this.

There are ten lines in each of the eight stanzas, broken into three clumps. The first two clumps are of four lines and then there is a final, two line ending. In stanza II, the first two sections begin with parallel summaries of the next three lines, respectively: ‘O, for a draught of vintage…O for a beaker full of warm South.’ The second summary is an expansion of the meaning in the first line. It is not a drink of old memory, but a pitcher of warmth. If the second section is building on the first, what is the necessary poetic conclusion? It is that Keats ‘might drink, and leave the world unseen’ (19). This only makes sense. Everything in stanza II is unseen and only the song of the bird has inspired Keats to produce it. But Keats has not seen ‘the country green’ or ‘beaded bubbles winking at the brim.’ The unseen world can be no other world than the world he has made with his poetry. And this world goes far beyond Keats. It is a world that comes upon him with the song of the bird. What else should Keats conclude, but that his poetry has accessed something beyond himself? He did not make his own heart ache. The bird did. Like Daedalus giving the idea of flight to Icarus, Keats only attempts poetic imagination because of the nightingale’s song. Like Daedalus and Icarus, Keats tries flying with the bird, but cannot sustain his flight of poetry. The bird flies on towards a new world—and Keats, having flown too high for a mortal, falls.

Throughout history, there have been mystics obsessed with birds for this very reason. Mystics consider the bird as the perfect symbol of longing for an unseen world. Why? Because birds are from the world above and they come singing a beautiful and unintelligible language. It is that language that grants us intimations of immortality–provides us with glimpses of the divine. We cannot, however, maintain the moment of beauty. It flies and fades past us and we try to capture it, like Keats, ‘on the viewless wings of Poesy’ (33). We are filled with dissatisfaction, because it leaves us. The mystics are the ones who find themselves beset with a longing to hold beauty eternally. Mystics long for death—for mystics believe that this reality is a dream, a shade of the immortal beauty beyond.

We find all these elements in Keat’s poem Ode to a Nightingale. There is a bird, a ‘light-winged Dryad of the trees’ (7) and its beauty causes his heart to ache. His heart aches, because the bird teaches him of a world beyond his own, for ‘thou wast not made for death, immortal bird!’ He wants then to die, ‘I have been half in love with easeful Death.’ This encounter is fleeting and his mind cannot grasp the full meaning of the encounter. Keats is experiencing a moment of mystic longing…with one key difference. Instead of the bird being a messenger of the divine heavens, it is a symbol of the undying beauty in nature. This is the longing to reach beyond death and become immortal. ‘O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth’ (11-12). In the end, like a good mystic, Keats questions whether his entire life is the dream and whether by dying he might wake up into immortality.

The answer is yes.