Category: Free Content


Poem of the Week: A Sonnet of Keats

Happy is England! I could be content
To see no other verdure than its own;
To feel no other breezes than are blown
Through its tall woods with high romances blent:
Yet do I sometimes feel a languishment
For skies Italian, and an inward groan


McGrath and Fleming, Part II

Tom, I, too, am stunned by the decline of literacy among the literate classes, which is far more disappointing to me than the general decline.  Kids growing up today don’t have the people in the profession–whether the media, academe, or writers–we had to learn from.  After a discussion about writing essays and grammar in one of my classes back in the 90s a couple of older students came up to me.  They were both women who had come back to school to earn teaching credentials and master’s degrees after rearing families.  They had grown up when English was properly taught...


Wednesday’s Child: Capram et circenses

For Christmas dinner we had ordered a roast baby goat, and consequently the teenage daughter of one of our invited guests regretted on the grounds that she is “a Vegan.”  When the animal, just shy of sixteen pounds in weight, arrived from the local fornaio, resplendent in a cloud of rosemary and a jubilation of potatoes, I must confess I felt a trifle abashed at the spectacle and glad that the girl would not be coming.  The serving platter took up the entire dinner table, with cutlery, plates and wine glasses huddling around its edges like poor relations, and the...


A Dialogue on the Decay of English, by Roger McGrath and Thomas Fleming

I received this message from Prof. McGrath in response to my columns on learning foreign languages. Tom: For what it’s worth, I took French in high school and Latin in college.  I think Latin teaches one a surprising amount about the English language or perhaps reminds one of all those things that we were supposed to learn in the 7th and 8th grade–when English teachers emphasized parts of speech, diagramming sentences, tense, mood, et al. During my years playing professor I noticed a slow but steady decline in the writing skills of the average student.  By my final days of teaching...


Should Students Read T.S. Eliot?

Dear Autodidact: Question for you. T. S Eliot is one of my favorite poets. ( I have read and re-read many of his poems) Most friends of mine aren’t as enthusiastic about him. I’ve often heard people say that he “killed poetry” with his “Modernist” style. This is also the view of a number of conservative professors I know (none is  a literary scholar, though) Do you think there’s any truth to this claim? I tend to read poetry for its meaning, not its style (so Eliot’s style doesn’t bother me much) A Catholic College Student Dear Catholic College Student,...


Direct Election: A Grave Threat to Republics

John Seiler has posted a sensible column on why the electoral college is not going to disappear in a puff of smoke.  He points out that one of the great compromises that made the Constitution possible is an electoral system that protects the interests of smaller states without eliminating all the advantage enjoyed by larger states.  There is, however, another aspect of the electoral college that is worth looking at:  the principle of indirect election.


Sicilian Trog, Part II

This is the long-awaited Part II of my Agrigento Trog There is hardly a better place in Europe—not even Athens—were the differences between the ancient and the modern world can be felt so acutely.  20th century Agrigento is, at its best, a tribute to the greed and and contempt for humanity that have characterized modern governments that are the distilled essence of democratic man.  The local government is hopelessly inept at carrying out the most basic tasks—picking up trash, policing traffic, cracking down on organized crime.  And yet, good democratic socialists that they are, they have imposed new rules on...


God Rest You Merry: Carols, Hymns, Dances and Ditties of ChristmasBy David Wihowski


Then why should men on earth be so sad, Since our Redeemer made us glad, When from our sin he set us free, All for to gain our liberty? ~ from the “Sussex Carol These four lines capture the essence of Christmas celebration. Those puritanical Christians (or even non- Christians) who would squelch the celebration, miss the point: “our Redeemer made us glad!” In a previous posting (“Not Christmas Yet”) I may have seemed a little Scrooge-y, but I believe that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every a purpose under heaven.” And that means that...


Trog 5: Excelsior!

Ancient Akrágas was built on top of a steep hill overlooking the sea.  In its century of prosperity from the late 6th to the early 5th century, when it was mercilessly destroyed by the Carthaginians, the city spread down to a ridge that slid steeply to the sea.  It was on that lofty brow that Theron, the lord of Akrgas, began constructing temples even before he teamed up with Gelon, the lord of Syracuse, to defeat the Carthaginians, who had invaded the island from the North.   I am using the term “lord,” because the Greek term, tyrannos, is almost...


Imperialism from the Cradle to the Grave, Part One of Two

Speaking in the broadest generalities, a  healthy and thriving religious civilization does not have to reassure itself by burning temples and overthrowing altars.   The atrocious vandalisms and massacres perpetrated by bands of Isis thugs in the name of Islam tells us something about Islam, and the same can be said for Christian sects whose members have broken stained glass windows and destroyed images of Christ, his Mother, and the saints.  They have  moral and spiritual screw lose, not just individually but collectively.