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Pender de un leño, traspasado el pecho,
y de espinas clavadas ambas sienes,
dar tus mortales penas en rehenes
de nuestra gloria, bien fue heroico hecho;
pero más fue nacer en tanto estrecho,
donde, para mostrar en nuestros bienes
a donde bajas y de donde vienes,
no quiere un portalillo tener techo.
No fue ésta más hazaña, oh gran Dios mío,
del tiempo por haber la helada ofensa
vencido en flaca edad con pecho fuerte
(que más fue sudar sangre que haber frío),
sino porque hay distancia más inmensa
de Dios a hombre, que de hombre a muerte.
Read an English translation here
–Luis de Góngora, Al nacimiento de Cristo, nuestro Señor (ca. 1617)
Listen to the traditional Castellian Villancico “Riu riu chiu,” traditionally sung on Christmas Eve, in a setting by Mateo Flecha el Viejo from about 1550, performed here by Kalenda Maya, a Norwegian group specializing in music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
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.”