Our Own Dear John Ronald: Copyists’ Ignorant Errors

‘Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.’

Balrogs owe a part of their existence to an editorial problem.  There is an Old English poem called EXODUS, like several Old English poems a paraphrase of a part of the Bible.  (…) [Tolkien] thought on linguistic grounds that it was older than BEOWULF, and he thought that like the BEOWULF-poet, the EXODUS-poet had known a good deal about the native pre-Christian mythology, which could with care be retrieved from his copyists’ ignorant errors.  In particular, the poet at several points mentions the SIGELWARA LAND, the ‘land of the Sigelware’.  In modern dictionaries and editions, these ‘Sigelware’ are invariably translated as ‘Ethiopians’.  Tolkien thought, as often, that that was a mistake.  He thought the name was another compound, (…) and that it should have been written *SIGEL-HEARWA.  Furthermore, he suggested (…) that a *SIGEL-HEARWA was a kind of fire-giant.  The first element in the compound meant both ‘sun’ and ‘jewel’; the second was related to the Latin CARBO, soot.  When an Anglo-Saxon from the pre-literate Dark Age said SIGELHEARWA, before any Englishman had ever heard of Ethiopia or the Book of Exodus, Tolkien believed that what he meant was ‘rather a son of Múspell [the Old Norse fire-giant who will bring on Ragarök] than of Ham, the ancestors of the Silhearwan with red-hot eyes that emitted sparks, with faces black as soot’.

The fusion of ‘sun’ and ‘jewel’ perhaps had something to do with Tolkien’s concept of the SILMARIL.  The idea of a fire-spirit re-emerges in the brief glimpse of the orc-chieftain who stabs Frodo, with his ‘swart’ face, red tongue and ‘eyes like coals’, but it also gave Tolkien Durin’s Bane, the Balrog. (…)  The clash of Gandalf and the Balrog produces (…) feelings of mystery: we hear of, but do not understand, the opposition between ‘the Secret Fire … the flame of Anor’, and ‘the dark fire … flame of Udûn’.  What Tolkien does in such passages is to satisfy the urge to know more (the urge he himself felt as an editor of texts so often infuriatingly incomplete), while retaining and even intensifying the counterbalancing pleasure of seeming always on the edge of a new discovery, looking into a world that seems far fuller than the little at present known.  If gold and greed and mastery are ‘the desire of the hearts of dwarves’, then words and links and inferences are the lust of philologists.  Tolkien had that lust as strongly as anyone ever has, but he felt it was one which could be strongly shared.

~ Tom Shippey: J.R.R. Tolkien.  Author of the Century.

balrog and gandalf movie

The Question Concerning Technology

The essence of technology is by no means anything technological.


“Technology is not equivalent to the essence of technology. When we are seeking the essence of “tree,” we have to become aware that That which pervades every tree, as tree, is not itself a tree that can be encountered among all the other trees.

Likewise, the essence of technology is by no means anything technological. Thus we shall never experience our relationship to the essence of technology so long as we merely conceive and push forward the technological, put up with it, or evade it. Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which today we particularly like to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology.”

Further reading:  The Question Concerning Technology, MARTIN HEIDEGGER

Poet at Heart

Let us therefor love poetry and respect the poets.

One is noble (in the sense of the “nobility of the heart”) in so far as one is a poet at heart.  Let us not smother the nobility within us by an overestimation of practical aims or by a preoccupation with our salvation, but on the contrary let us ennoble our work and our religion by bringing in the breath of poetic inspiration.

~ Valentin Tomberg

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Not Either-Or, But Both

It is necessary to think, and to await the growth and ripening of the thought.

The primordial and eternal mission of mankind is to cultivate and maintain the “garden”, i.e. the world in a state of equilibrium and cooperation between Spirit and Nature!  It is not necessary either to do or to leave alone; either to build systems of thought, or let all thought pass through the head without control.

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It is necessary to work, and to allow growth; to think, and to await the growth and ripening of the thought; and it is necessary for the magical word to be accompanied by the magical silence.  In a word, it is necessary to cultivate and maintain!

~ Valentin Tomberg

lilac featured

VIDEO:  Sir Roger Scruton | Oxford Union

Sir Roger Scruton | Full Address and Q&A | Oxford Union

Sir Roger Vernon Scruton FBA FRSL is an English philosopher and writer who specialises in aesthetics and political philosophy, particularly in the furtherance of traditionalist conservative views.

ABOUT THE OXFORD UNION SOCIETY: The Oxford Union is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. Since 1823, the Union has been promoting debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe.

You are what you…

… eat, read, contemplate.

… eat, read, watch, listen to, dwell on, and do.  Nourishment is for the body, the mind and the soul.  Food for thought.


 Is 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.



He who does these things shall never be moved.

Did you ever wonder what Integrity means practically?  Ps 15 answers thus:


Walk blamelessly and do what is right
and speak truth in your heart;
do not slander with your tongue
and do no evil to your neighbor,
nor take up a reproach against your friend;
despise a vile person,
but honor those who fear the LORD;
swear to your own hurt and do not change;
do not put out your money at interest
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.


Quote: Blake’s “Clod and Pebble”

So sang the little Clod of Clay, / Trodden with the cattle’s feet: / But a Pebble of the brook, / Warbled out these metres meet.


This strikes me as eerily relevant to our times, even more so in principle.  Something to ponder.

Here’s the typed up text, in case you have difficulties reading Blake’s own hand:

‘Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.’

So sung a little clod of clay,
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

‘Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven’s despite.’

~ William Blake, “Songs of Experience”

New Eyes

Gustate et videte.


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How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and at home in it?
~  G. K. Chesterton


The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust


Gustate et videte.  Ps 34

Stoic Principles In Short

Since Stoicism is primarily practical, a list of its basic principles can help to stay focused.

On Massimo’s How to Be a Stoic site, you can find this morning

“a list of short phrases summarizing key Stoic teachings, to keep handy for everyday practice. Below is the list (which, I’m sure, could easily be expanded), organized according to Epictetus’ three disciplines of Desire, Action and Assent, with each phrase accompanied by a sourced quotation and a brief explanation.”


Since Stoicism is primarily practical, a list like this can help to stay focused.  Had over and have a look.  Incidentally, a link to a printable pdf version of the list (8 pages) is conveniently provided there as well.

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