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From Hildegard Abess at Rupertsberg to Henry, King of England, greetings:
When a certain man holds a high office over other men, the Lord commands him:
“Yours are the gifts of giving, it is by ruling and defending, protecting and providing, that you may reach Heaven.”
But then a bird, black as pitch, will come to you from the North, and it will say:
“You can do whatever you want; so do this and do that; make this excuse and that excuse, for it does not profit you to have regard to Justice; for if you always consult Justice, you are not the master, rather you are reduced to mere slavery.”
It is imperative that you not listen to the Thief who so counsels you, who is like the one who in the First Age stripped humanity of its great glory, when from dust humankind was made in a beautiful form, and when it received that vital spark of life. Rather you must pay your attention to your Father the Creator, especially since your mind is well-intentioned, and thus you will willingly do good unless you are overcome by the squalid habits of those around you and become estranged from Him in the course of time. Dear Son of God, you must flee this environment and call on your Father with all your might, as He gladly reaches out His hand to help you.
Thus may you live forever and dwell in eternal happiness.
–Hildegard of Bingen, letter to King Henry II of England (ca. 1154)(composed when Hildegard learned of Henry’s falling out with Thomas à Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury) from: Analecta Sanctæ Hildegardis Opera. Analecta Sacra, vol. 8, p. 556 (J.B. Pitra ed. 1882)(S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”