Friday, July 20, 2007

Birthday Verse

I am trying to get into the habit of writing short poems for special family remembrances: birthdays, anniversaries, and the like. Here are a couple composed recently for the birthdays of my two sons. William just turned four yesterday, and Nathanael was one year old in May. Here's William's, first:

A Poem for William’s Fourth Birthday

Four Seasons our Lord sends;
Four Corners, the World’s Ends;
Four Evangelists nobly bring
Four Gospels for One King.

Four great Winds around us blow;
Four Directions a man may go—
East, West, South, North;
And Four brief years since you came forth.

Four years since your happy birth
(In this Fourth Age of Middle-earth);
Four Rivers flow in Paradise:
Drink deeply, and be strong and wise.

May the God of truth your heart enflame
(He of the great, Four-lettered Name)
With all the Four high Virtues, son—
Do not neglect a single one.

Ride on with valour, bravely fight
The Four Dark Horsemen of the Night;
And from this never turn aside:
The Foursquare City of the Bride.

And here's the one written for Nathanael:

A Poem For Nathanael On His First Birthday

A year has passed (as of today);
Again it is the third of May.
The Earth has travelled ‘round the Sun,
And now my little boy is one.

I think that you’re too young to guess
Your father’s pride and thankfulness
(Though I suspect you see and know
More than the experts say is so).

The mysteries behind your eyes,
The parables of infant cries—
So long would take to comprehend,
While our brief time will quickly end.

So while the days are young, and new,
God grant that I may be for you
A father: noble, strong and wise,
Who seeks the truth behind your eyes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Happy Harry Potter Week to all of you. This first: I am not subject to what might be described as Harry Potter Mania—as I’ve said before, a little Harry Potter goes a long way with me—though I admit it’s hard not to get caught up in the Euphoria this week. Can anyone remember any comparable scenario (recently - say, since Dickens and the serialized Old Curiosity Shop), with this level of excitement over the release of a book, of all things?

But I thought I might draw your attention to several articles of great interest, discussing predictions for the imminent Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (see below). Among the more interesting predictions:

1. Harry returns to Hogwarts as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher (a post that Dumbledore, in Half-Blood Prince, admits has been cursed since he refused the job to Tom Riddle, AKA Voldemort, years before.

2. Dumbledore actually died earlier, maybe as much as a couple of years earlier, and someone (Snape?) has been masquerading as him in Polyjuiced form, a la Alastor Moody in Goblet of Fire.

3. Snape killed Dumbledore, but only on the headmaster’s orders (Severus…please…) in order to save Malfoy from the Dark Side.

4. The Climax of the book takes place beyond the Veil of the Death Chamber in the Department of Mysteries (the cover of the American edition is said to be depicting part of this). Here Harry (dead, presumably) is reunited with his parents, Sirius, and Dumbledore.

What about the alleged Christian connections? Here’s a fascinating quote from J.K. Rowling, often overlooked, I think:

‘Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.’ (Source for this quote may be found here.)

I have often said that the overall meaning of the series is something best discussed after Book VII is released. John Granger has made the point that Rowling, while in a certain sense a Postmodern writer, is actually taking on Postmodernism and defeating its worst reductionist and relativist notions, much as the Inklings took on Modernism in their day. I hope he’s right, for I have secretly harboured fears of a Matrix-like anti-climax to Potter, with nothing ending up being what we thought it was—in which case Postmodernism would win out over Rowling’s Christian beliefs.

I’ve never been one for the midnight book release parties—in fact, Half-Blood Prince is the only of the six books that I read upon its initial release—but I think I might wander on over to Books-a-Million, where my pre-ordered copy awaits (thanks, Mom), around midnight of the release date. With all the spoilers out there, I figure it’s best to read the thing before venturing out into the world of loose-tongued fast readers. Besides, I’m not sure that all this hype is bad: thank God it’s not over the release of the new CD from whoever the current popular rap-mongers are. It’s over (I repeat myself) A BOOK. I can’t help but see this, all things being equal, as a good thing. Sure, it’s just a fantasy-world soap opera to some readers (the so called ‘shippers,’ who only care about the relation-ship, or romantic, aspects of the book). But much of what I’m reading is from people who care about the Story, and are immersed in trying to understand what this author is trying to say thereby. Like I say, we’ll wait to see how it ends, but I do think Rowling has given enough in the first six volumes to be hopeful for something good.

You may be interested in reading my three-part series on Harry Potter, including an interview/discussion with John Granger, author of Looking for God in Harry Potter, as well as Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader. John also edited Who Killed Albus Dumbledore? What Really Happened in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?

Here is my three-part series on Harry Potter, including the interview with John Granger:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Here are the links to the articles I mentioned earlier:

Waiting for Harry: Will the Boy Who Lived Live? (One of the best 'looking ahead' articles I've read)

Harry Potter Predictions (Insightful thoughts on the final book)

Harry Beyond? (Thoughts by the same author on Harry Potter and death, and Christian faith)

The very best Harry Potter website is The Harry Potter Lexicon, which has an absolutely astonishing amount of information. Here you can do what I did, if you like: read the chapter by chapter synopsis of Half-Blood Prince, or any of the others, so you can brush up before reading Book VII. This is a good idea, because Rowling’s world of magic is the most thoroughly developed sub-creation since Middle-earth, and the vast array of names, places, people, spells, and events, is (almost) as bewildering as trying to remember all the names in The Silmarillion. Also, it’s been two years since I read Half-Blood Prince, and, not being one of those that has read the books multiple times, I am apt to forget details, which would otherwise likely result in a lot of confusion on my part while working through Deathly Hallows.

Harry Potter vs Public Schools?

A thought on Harry Potter: watching the just-released film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I was reminded of some thoughts I had when reading that book a couple of years ago. Does anyone else notice that, with the intrusion of the Ministry of Magic’s Dolores Umbridge as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher (and eventually headmistress), that Hogwarts goes from being a private school to being a public (government-run) school? The walls are soon filled with newly issued 'Educational Decrees,' and Umbridge goes on a spree of banning and prohibiting and forbidding with the zeal that only a bureaucrat can know.
These books are known, among other things, for their satire: Rowling is particularly ruthless in her portrayal of unscrupulous and inept politicians and media-hounds. We know, from other interviews with Rowling, that magical children are homeschooled until they reach the age of eleven, upon which many go to schools like Hogwarts, or Durmstrang, though some continue on as homeschoolers. There certainly seems to be an underlying satire against government-sponsored education in these books, and especially in Order of the Phonenix. In one part of the movie (can’t remember if this line is in the book or not), Hermione says, ‘The Ministry [of Magic, i.e., the Government] is interfering at Hogwarts.’ This is obviously considered a bad thing, in these stories. I wonder how many readers/viewers will get the point and pull their kids out of government schools?