Monday, February 02, 2015

2015-02-02: A Year With The Harvard Classics: "Apparel Oft Proclaims the Man"

"Apparel Oft Proclaims the Man" Before his son, Laertes, departs for a foreign country, Polonius advises him as to his conduct and dress, while Hamlet, the King's son, has to learn by experience." (Shakespeare's twins--Hamlet and Judith--baptized Feb. 2, 1585. Read from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Vol. 46, pp.107-120.

"Give thy thoughts no tongue, 

Nor any unproportion'd thought his act. 
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar: 
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, 
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel; 
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment 

Of each new-hatch'd, unfledg'd comrade. Beware 
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in, 
Bear't that th' opposed may beware of thee. 
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; 
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment. 

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, 
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; 
For the apparel oft proclaims the man, 
And they in France of the best rank and station 
Are most select and generous, chief in that. 

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; 
For loan oft loses both itself and friend, 
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. 
This above all- to thine own self be true, 
And it must follow, as the night the day, 

Thou canst not then be false to any man."

(HamletAct I, Scene 3) 

I have a distinct memory of the day my parents took me to college for the first time.  As luck would have it my room-mate was a childhood friend.  The families arrived together and immediately Scott and I found ourselves watching our mothers begin to unpack our belongings and set up the room.  Eager to have a hand at setting up our own room, we were visibly pensive.  My father announced that he was taking Scott and I over to the Student Center for a burger and we'd be back shortly. (Scott's dad wasn't with us this trip).

My father had read us like two well-known books.  Over our fried fare, he asked us to relax.  He knew we were eager to get to set up our own room.  He also knew that our mothers needed to do what they were doing.  In another hour they'd be done and he'd take them home and we'd have all the time in the world to organize our room the way we wanted.  (A side note here. . . This was great advice until I had to confront my mother's reaction to our rearrangement a few months later - he hadn't give us enough wisdom AND if memory is correct didn't step in to help when I was confronted with "Didn't you like the way we did it" - I think it was he saw it as a "sink or swim" moment when I responded, "It was very nice and it inspired us to consider ways we hadn't thought of before, so we decided to try some of them." (Her BS meter must have spun out of control)).  When the moment came for the mother's to leave, my father ushered them out of the room and closed the door behind him.  He opened it again and stuck his head back in saying.  "I have only one more piece of advice for you two, work hard and play hard, neither to the excess of the other."  I can see his face and hear these words so clearly even 40 years later.  Polonius, eat your heart out!

2015-02-01 - A Year With The Harvard Classics: King Arthur's Knights Find Holy Grail

February 1 - King Arthur's Knights Find Holy Grail - the intrepid Knights of the Round Table where startled by "crackling and crying of thunder" which rang through the great hall of the castle.  Then there entered "The Holy Grail covered with white samite." Read from Malory's The Holy Grail, Vol. 35, pp.112-123.

"Not long after that Joseph was laid in his deadly bed. And when King Evelake saw that he made much sorrow, and said: For thy love I have left my country, and sith ye shall depart out of this world, leave me some token of yours that I may think on you. Joseph said: That will I do full gladly; now bring me your shield that I took you when ye went into battle against King Tolleme. Then Joseph bled sore at the nose, so that he might not by no mean be staunched. And there upon that shield he made a cross of his own blood. Now may ye see a remembrance that I love you, for ye shall never see this shield but ye shall think on me, and it shall be always as fresh as it is now. And never shall man bear this shield about his neck but he shall repent it, unto the time that Galahad, the good knight, bear it; and the last of my lineage shall have it about his neck, that shall do many marvellous deeds."   (Le Morte D'Arthur, Vol. II, Book XIII, Chapter XI).

My father used to say, "We are all children of God and therefore have a responsibility to live up to that genetic heritage."  For him, the vision of being an offspring of the Divine was not so much mystical as ethical.  It was about the responsibility that such a familial heritage required in order to live up to one's potential and promise.  Like Malory's vision of the relationship between Joseph of Aramathie and Sir Galahad (above) my father's saying was a reminder.  Both bonded by the vision of a "blood-line" that instills in those who remember its origin and the vision of what it means to live a life of meaningful service and faith.  For Galahad it was about that quest which brought to fulfillment his faith. For my father it was a journey that embodied the essence of the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord your God, with all your heart  and with all your soul and with all your mind. . .and your neighbor as yourself."  As quests go, its one that continues to inspire me.