The stately volume on the bottom is one of Milton's Poetical Works, in which Jonathan is reading Paradise Lost. It's a lovely facsimile edition of the 1674 text, and he greatly enjoys the antiquated spellings and typography, with copious notes on the text. It's borrowed from the college library, where it was a gift from the class of ‘23 (!). That link is to an exorbitantly priced set, but it has some photos so you can see the beauty of the text. Jonathan notes that he was inclined to read Milton after reading Hilaire Belloc’s book on the same. A quote from Belloc:
A man having read Paradise Lost as it should be read, from beginning to end; a man having had the sense not to interrupt that reading by the reading of other fiction, history or verse; a man having taken it as a great meal (it is a meal that will take him a day or two), does find that he is nourished. He has continually regarded the sublime, and he has followed a slow but living sequence which leaves his mind furnished with an air of satisfaction; he has been filled with sufficient beauty and dignity. Throughout all those thousands upon thousands of lines you feel the fashioner at work, you are dealing with something made and with its maker; you are in communion with an achieved, creative effort of the human mind.
Next up is The Age of Revolution, the third volume Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples which my husband is reading. He reports that he is now slightly less confused about British history than he was previously. Also, there were lots of world wars before the World Wars.
Hot Water was a Christmas gift for Josiah. I somehow have been remiss in not giving him any Wodehouse before in his life. He promptly offered his deep and profound remarks on the book: 'Got any more?' I actually took the picture on Saturday - I think he's reading Laughing Gas now. Incidentally Leila recently linked to an article in the New Yorker, and here are her own thoughts on the Inimitable P.G. Wodehouse.
I set aside some other books during the holidays and picked up in the middle of Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Daybook where I had left off some months ago. I enjoy reading her simple, straightforward prose on all the ins and outs, peace and perplexities of everyday country life. You never know if the next paragraph will bring you more antics of the cocker spaniels and the joys of strawberry shortcakes for supper or musings on the necessity of poetry or how it is that man brings himself to go to war. A taste:
Having been raised with poetry, I am astounded at the lack of it in young people nowadays. Although we began in school reciting “The snow had begun in the gloaming-and bus-ily all the night-“ and went on to “Lars Porsena of Clusium by the nine Gods he swore,” still we did learn that words went in form and pattern sometimes. But recently a young man asked me, “just what is a sonnet anyway?”
“A sonnet is a moment’s monument,” said I, quoting Rossetti rapidly, “Memorial to the soul’s eternity” –and then I wondered -is that Rossetti and then I saw the blank stare on my listener’s face and I sat down and folded my hands and said meekly, “a sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines, and it has to be fourteen lines, and it has a definite rhyme scheme, either English or Italian- Now the Elizabethan-” But he wasn’t listening anymore. Quatrains and sestets meant nothing to him, he was pulling a bur out of the Irish ear nearest him, and I thought, well, that is practical and constructive anyway and Dante is still Dante and Shakespeare is still Shakespeare and always someone-as long as we are on this odd little planet-someone will read “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone bewail my outcast state.” Or “Life has no friend; her converts late or soon, Slide back to feed the dragon with the moon.”
The sky is wonderful in July….
Lydia is reading The Alley, an Eleanor Estes that we had never read. I gave it to her for Christmas, as she is so fond of Janey Moffat and the like. Melancholic child heroines and all. She is finding it delightfully amusing, although the 'modern' setting is slightly alarming at times. Being so accustomed to the Pyes and Moffats, that is. Illustrations by the illustrious Edward Ardizzone of the small feet.
Mary Rose is dabbling in The Pink Fairy Book. She's also just started Finding a Hidden Church, 'The wondrous tale of the underground life and revival of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church in the former Soviet Union.' The brutal persecution of the Catholics at the hands of the Communists is relatively little known and little discussed. I am very much looking forward to reading this too.
We didn't seem to fit in my usual seasonal read aloud of A Christmas Carol so Kateri is reading it herself. Can't let a Christmas go by without the Dickens. As noted in the title, I snapped the stack picture on Saturday. Today she's on to Hilda van Stockum's delightful A Day on Skates, the perfect book to read with cocoa and a candy cane at hand.
Up at the top of the stack are Christmas with Anne, a collection of seasonal stories which Eliza is currently reading, and Chronicles of Avonlea, an L.M. Montgomery I gave Anna for Christmas as we didn't previously have it.
Bonus book: One of our current read alouds is The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton. I read this myself for the first time last year and knew it would be great fun to do aloud one year. Set in an English town in some quaint and distant past, it's the tale of a young man's gallant attempts to woo his desired fair maiden. Francis is sincere but not romantic enough for the starry eyed Annaple until he gets some tips from her siblings and really puts his mind (and plentiful wealth) to it. The story starts on St. Nicholas Day and follows the twelve days of Christmas along with charming traditions, customs and carols, some real and some fictional, sprinkled throughout. The wonderful pictures are by Shirley Hughes, one of our most favorite children's book illustrators of all time. It's a perfectly cheery little book for the season.