Rorate Caeli

"L'Enfer est partout où n'est pas Jésus-Christ."

The great book which was opened before me, and in which I learned my lessons, was the Church. May this great and majestic Mother be praised forever on my knees for all I have learned! I spent all my Sundays in Notre-Dame [de Paris] and went there as often as I could on weekdays. I was as ignorant of my religion as one can be of Buddhism, and, behold, the sacred drama was played before me with a magnificence that surpassed all my imagination.

Ah, this was no more the poor language of devotional books! This was the most profound and grandiose poetry, the most august gestures ever entrusted to human beings. I could not have enough of the spectacle of the Mass, and each movement of the priest was deeply inscribed in my spirit and in my heart. The reading of the Office of the Dead, that of Christmas, the spectacle of the days of Holy Week, the sublime chant of the Exsultet ... all that filled me with respect and joy, with acknowledgment, penance, and adoration!
Paul Claudel
Ma Conversion


  1. Anonymous9:21 PM

    I was just over at fish eaters and watched the NO table being transformed to the TLM altar. Amazing and revealing, how can anyone not now see that these two rites are simply not the same.

    Banal to awesome.,3427795.0.html

  2. and all this had to be abolished in the name of what ... ?

  3. Anonymous11:53 PM

    Vatican Official Dismisses Calls For Resignation

  4. Since no one else is doing it, I shall say a word or two about Paul Claudel, the man who wrote the words ostensibly being commented upon here. Although he is at present deeply out of fashion in France (he was never in fashion anywhere else, except briefly in Britain)--in part but by no means entirely because artists and their theorizing epigones everywhere tend to consider nothing so old hat as yesterday's giants--a measure of the stature he has attained is that attacks upon him, his oeuvre, or his politics are still pretty common. (That is, you know you're a nonentity when everyone ceases to give a damn.)

    A few hours surfing the Net have left me dazzled by the amount of sheer, fundamental misinformation and incomprehension to be found among Anglophones who claim to be his fans. Of itself, this doesn't surprise me; I am surprised, however, at how many of the ill- and uninformed are so utterly certain that they've got him nailed. "He was part of Action française!"; "He had nothing to do with Action française!"; "He was an anti-Semite like his crony Maurras!"; "He was a philo-Semite and loathed Maurras!" And it goes on like this.

    On the other hand, I've been reading, studying, and even acting in Claudel's stuff since I was 17 (nearly half a century ago), and I've looked into his private and public life darn near as long--yet I still consider myself profoundly ignorant about much of what lies behind his words, actions, and thoughts. He's a tough nut.

    Since this is neither the place nor the time to ramble on about what I do or don't know, I shall simply take this opportunity to recommend to any interested parties two out-of-the-way collections of his verse (N.B., the collecting and titling were his, not an editor's). The first is called Visages radieux; it is a collection of poems each of whose titles is a saint's name. Some of the poems are short, some long; some are in easy-to-read rhymed stanzas, others are in Whitmanesque blank verse; some are addressed to the saint, others are meditations prompted by his/her name. None, alas, are to be found in English--so consider this a chance to break out your Larousse pour Tous and your guides to grammar and idiom, especially for the Whitmanesque poems.

    Most will find my second title more appealing. It is called Cent phrases pour éventails and has been excellently translated as A Hundred Movements for a Fan. (Though formally out of print--it was translated and published in the early nineties--copies of the handsomely designed trade-paper edition are easily found online.) For people who associate Claudel with complexity and grandiosity, this book might come as a revelation, or at least a surprise. The hundred poems, each accompanied by a Japanese ideogram of the poet's choosing, are each short enough to be inscribed on a Japanese fan and reflect the poet's knowledge and love of Japan, its language, and its poetic forms. By turns breezy, concise, laconic, and just plain short, some of the poems are meditative in the Japanese mode, but others are simply what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Many are immensely witty, and not a few are charming--a quality with which Claudel is seldom charged! In addition, Cent phrases constitutes a splendid introduction to one of the two most telling influences on Claudel's thought, beliefs, and work: his remarkable knowledge of the world away from France and his profound love of the East, both of which were the product of his almost forty years of service at the highest level of the French diplomatic corps.

    Look at it this way, if you even glance at either of these books, you'll know more about Claudel the Catholic and writer than anyone you're likely to meet for the rest of your life.

  5. Anonymous4:18 AM

    jonas said...
    and all this had to be abolished in the name of what ... ?

    Modernism and liberalism of course!


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