there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

From Tolkien’s “The Land of Shadow” (chapter 2 of book VI) in The Return of the King.

turn off the limelight

From “The Superstition of School” (1923) by G.K. Chesterton:

Education ought to be a searchlight given to a man to explore everything, but very specially the things most distant from himself. Education tends to be a spotlight; which is centered entirely on himself. Some improvement may be made by turning equally vivid and perhaps vulgar spotlights upon a large number of other people as well. But the only final cure is to turn off the limelight and let him realize the stars.

double darkness

Prayer by Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding. Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance. Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm. Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion. I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cited in Jens Zimmermann and Norman Klassen. The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (197-198).

broken Hallelujah

A couple lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I heard it recently from a friend and teacher. With several versions during Cohen’s long career and recordings by some 50 artists, the lyrics seem to vary slightly each time.

It’s not the laughter of someone who claims to have seen the light
No, it’s a cold, and it’s a very broken Hallelujah

…There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

sounds of the harp

Beowulf, translated by Frederick Rebsamen, lines 99 to 107:

They lived brightly   on the benches of Heorot
caught up in laughter   till a creature brought them
fear in the night   an infernal hall-guest.
Grendel circled   sounds of the harp
prowled the marshes   moors and ice-streams
forests and fens.   He found his home
with misshapen monsters   in misery and greed.
The Shaper banished him   unshriven away
with the kin of Cain   killer of his blood.