You asked me what is the good of reading the Gospels in Greek.
I answer that it is proper that we move our finger
Along letters more enduring than those carved in stone,
And that, slowly pronouncing each syllable,
We discover the true dignity of speech.
Compelled to be attentive we shall think of that epoch
No more distant than yesterday. Yet still it is the same eon.
Fear and desire are the same, oil and wine
And bread mean the same. So does the fickleness of the throng
Avid for miracles as in the past. Even mores,
Wedding festivities, drugs, laments for the dead
Only seem to differ. Then, too, for example,
There were plenty of persons whom the text calls Daimonizomenoi, that is, the demonized
Or, if you prefer, the bedeviled (as for “the possessed”
It’s no more than the whim of a dictionary).
Convulsions, foam at the mouth, the gnashing of teeth
Were not considered signs of talent.
The demonized had no access to print and screens,
Rarely engaging in arts and literature.
But the Gospel parable remains in force:
That the spirit mastering them may enter swine,
Which, exasperated by such a sudden clash
Between two natures, theirs and the Luciferic,
Jump into water and drown (which occurs repeatedly).
And thus on every page a persistent reader
Sees twenty centuries as twenty days
In a world which one day will come to its end.
It’s strange that all birds don’t fly in the same way. After all, the air’s just the same at the same place and the same time. I’ve heard that the wings of aeroplanes all conform to the same formula, whereas birds each conform to a formula of their own. It has undeniably required more than a little ingenuity to equip so many birds each with their own formula, and no expense spared, either. Nevertheless, there has perhaps never been a bird that flies as correctly as an aeroplane; yet all birds fly better than aeroplanes if they can fly at all. All birds are perhaps a little wrong, because an absolute once-for-all formula for a bird has never been found, just as all novels are bad because the correct formula for a novel has never been found.
[Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier]
Occasionally I pass by little shops – in the rue de Seine, for example. Dealers in antiques or small second-hand booksellers or vendors of engravings with overcrowded windows. No one ever enters their shops; they apparently do no business. But if one looks in, they are sitting there, sitting and reading, without a care; they take no thought for the morrow, are not anxious about any success, have a dog that sits before them, all good nature, or a cat that makes the silence still greater by gliding along the rows of books, as if it were rubbing the names off their backs.
Ah, if that were enough: sometimes I would like to buy such a full shop-window for myself and to sit down behind it with a dog for twenty years.
[Rainer Maria Rilke, Malte Laurids Brigge]
None writes so ill, that he gives not some thing exemplary, to follow, or flie. Now when I beginne this booke, I have no purpose to come into any mans debt; how my stocke will hold out I know not; perchance waste, perchance increase in use; if I doe borrow any thing of Antiquitie, besides that I make account that I pay it to posterity, with as much and as good: You shall still finde mee to acknowledge it, and to thanke not him onely that hath digg’d out treasure for mee, but that hath lighted mee a candle to the place.
[John Donne, Metempsycosis (1601)]
Reading, like speech, is an ancient, preliterate craft. We read the tracks and scat of animals, the depth and lustre of their coats, the set of their ears and the gait of their limbs. We read the horns of sheep, the teeth of horses. We read the weights and measures of the wind, the flight of birds, the surface of the sea, snow, fossils, broken rocks, the growth of shrubs and trees and lichens. We also read, of course, the voices that we hear. We read the speech of jays, ravens, hawks, frogs, wolves, and, in infinite detail, the voices, faces, gestures, coughs and postures of other human beings. This is a serious kind of reading, and it antedates all but the earliest, most involuntary form of writing, which is the leaving of prints and traces, the making of tracks.
[Robert Bringhurst, A Story as Sharp as a Knife (1999)]
You shall see rude and sturdy, experienced and wise men, keeping their castles, or teaming up their summer’s wood, or chopping alone in the woods, men fuller of talk and rare adventure in the sun and wind and rain, than a chestnut is of meat; who were out not only in ’75 and 1812, but have been out every day of their lives; greater men than Homer, or Chaucer, or Shakespeare, only they never got time to say so; they never took to the way of writing. Look at their fields, and imagine what they might write, if ever they should put pen to paper. Or what have they not written on the face of the earth already, clearing, and burning, and scratching, and harrowing, and ploughing, and subsoiling, in and in, and out and out, and over and over, again and again, erasing what they had already written for want of parchment.
[H.D. Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers]
Writing is planting.
Writing is born in the lands of wet-farming.
The field prefigures the table and page.
The garden prefigures the table and page.
from the domestication of water.
Rain and the sea
are the mothers of letters.
The mind of the scribe
moves like a long-legged waterbird,
stoops like a rice-farmer, steps like a crane.
When you next see the hunters,
say to the hunters:
O say can you see
how the earth is rewritten
under our hands
until it says nothing?
Say to the hunters: the herders
have taught us the metres, but we
have forgotten. Say to the hunters:
Teach us a song
as subtle as speaking, teach us
a song as lean and as changeable
as the world.
[Robert Bringhurst, The Blue Roofs of Japan:
a Score for Interpenetrating Voices (1986)]