Miscellany + What the Jennifer Ehle Fan Notices

Archbishop Dolan with his second-grade teacher

Click HERE for Timothy Card. Dolan op-ed on Reforma Migratoria.

…Here’s a little homily for today:

The Lord Jesus chose His twelve Apostles. Then He stood to speak to a great crowd. Anyone know what He said to begin? The first part of the great sermon? The heart of His teaching?

Here’s a hint: “Blessed are…” The Beatitudes.

Ok. Let’s review from the beginning. I mean literally the beginning. The first man’s name was… The very first man. Starts with an ‘A’…

Adam and Eve sinned and lost God’s friendship. They lost their blessedness. But the Lord began a covenant with another man whose name starts with ‘A,’ namely… The father of the nation of Israel…

twin towersNow, God asked Abraham to leave his homeland and wander as a nomad. God demanded absolute obedience from Abraham. Truth to tell, God gave Abraham a pretty rough life, a life requiring enormous faith. But Abraham kept going, because God had given him such wonderful…

To Abraham, God had made magnificent…

“You will have descendants more numerous than the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky. In your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

God promised Abraham that he would father a unique nation–the nation of salvation, the nation of blessedness. Abraham never completely understood the Lord’s promises. But he believed them. He believed them.

So maybe we could say: Lesson #1 we can take from the Holy Bible is this: God makes promises, and He keeps them.

Jesus’ Beatitudes promise us that if we dedicate ourselves to God, we will find His kingdom. In the meantime, we will suffer. We will be hungry. We will have to struggle to hold on to what is good and holy. When we dedicate ourselves to God, we find that other people wind up having more money and being more popular. Other people have fancy lives, while we wait on God in the cheap seats.

But: It’s worth it. God makes promises, and He keeps them. We read how power went forth from Christ, power that overcame sickness and evil. That power dwells in us, when we have faith.

Probably none of you young people can remember. Twelve years ago tomorrow, all of us older Americans had to look at death over our morning coffee. Because a catastrophic terrorist attack hit our country, almost out of nowhere. Over 2,000 innocent people died.

We needed spiritual power that morning. We needed to listen, as if for the first time, to Jesus’ Beatitudes. Yes, in this world, there is suffering. Yes, evil comes our way. But when we love God and seek His kingdom; when we try to make peace and act with justice; when we let go of the fleeting pleasures of life and reach out towards God’s eternal holiness: when we follow Christ, in other words, we have nothing to fear. Even death. We don’t even have to fear death, because the Lord has promised us eternal life.

Let’s pray for peace. Let’s hope for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus keeps His promises. Blessed are we when we remember that.

kings-speech ehle rush firth

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again. (The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2)

Any run-of-the-mill Jennifer Ehle fan takes note of the fact that she and Colin Firth re-united in “The King’s Speech.”* Ehle plays Lionel Logue’s wife Myrtle.

Jennifer Ehle ElizaMyrtle says ‘perhaps’ exactly like Eliza did in the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Though, with only two short scenes with Lionel, Ehle hardly has the opportunity “to exhibit”–as Mr. Bennett would put it.

What would require a higher level of intensity in the Jennifer-Ehle-fan department: Noticing that the Pride-and-Prejudice reunion involves another actor, too.

Mr. Collins also appears in “the King’s Speech:” David Bamber plays the director of the Richard III production that Lionel does not get a part in.

But did any other Jennifer Ehle fan, while watching “The King’s Speech,” notice this? For the amusement of his sons, Lionel recites a speech from Shakespeare–Caliban’s speech, about the enchanted isle where The Tempest takes place.

Who dwells on the isle? Which innocent daughter of the resident magician? Miranda. And who portrayed Miranda in the Arkangel Shakespeare audio production?

Jennifer Ehle.

* I know the movie came out some time ago. But it just arrived at the public library.

On First Recognizing Jennifer Ehle’s Voice on Film

I found the following scribbled on a slip of paper, tucked into the public library’s copy of the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice:

On First Recognizing Jennifer Ehle’s Voice on Film

Does she thus live? With such eyes, cheekbones, and lips?
With this quietly furnaced fire?

It began with the springtime-mountain-brook sound filling the car,
highway hours moving with Propero’s Miranda.
A daughter’s duty spoken gently; articulate, sweet.
The Prince lands, and The Tempest’s breathless Eve
beholds her Adam. Her voice keeps the fruit ripe on the branches.

Then, a lazy evening with a set of DVDs: O heavenly God,
do you so ply both lute and brush together?
Darcy’s Eliza—a sister and friend
with the same patient music of duty,
now gamboling on the dale with glistening eyes!
now standing her ground under an autumn arbor
with steel-spined zeal for truth,
admitting to herself error, but not defeat.

My Bard, my dear Jane Austen: never despair.
The fulfillment of these, your heroines,
time has given freely.
Check the jewel cases. Both credits read:
played by Jennifer Ehle.


1. Keats invented the genre, as you may recall. We tried it here last spring.

2. In between the news and various forms of tune-age, one might enjoy the Arkangel Shakespeare for company in the car.

Prospero’s Books

Now that I am growing old, I was thinking of changing my motto to “33 until I die.” But then the band played Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” and I changed my mind back again to 18…

John Geilgud starred in a weird movie-version of The Tempest called “Prospero’s Books” in 1991. But that is not our subject matter here. Our subject is Prospero’s actual books.

Ironically enough, Prospero suffered miserable misfortune.

Prospero reigned as Duke of Milan, exercising his power with a philosopher’s detachment. But his ambitious brother conspired to set Prospero adrift on the sea.

The King of Naples, too, had betrayed Prospero.

But his old friend Gonzalo saved Prospero’s books and devised a means to get them to him on the deserted island upon which the exiled Duke made his home.

Like the Bard himself, Propsero grew, by reading, to godlike power. The spirits served him. The one enemy he had on his island was Caliban, the son of a witch.

When a boatload of Italians were shipwrecked on the island, Caliban tried to convince some of them to murder Prospero.

Why, as I told thee, ’tis a custom with him,
I’ th’ afternoon to sleep: there thou mayst brain him,
Having first seized his books, or with a log
Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake,
Or cut his wezand with thy knife. Remember
First to possess his books; for without them
He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command: they all do hate him
As rootedly as I. Burn but his books.

Our godlike power comes from books. And, of those books, the best teach us about the sweet pity of God.

Prospero’s old enemies are among the shipwrecked. He visits mild chastisement upon his brother and the King. But then he forgives.

Prospero’s reading has filled him with the greatest of all powers: perspective.

He invokes the spirits to bless the betrothal of his daughter to a prince.

But then he admonishes the young man with this speech from the “We-Love-Weddings-But…” sub-folder of the Sister Death file:

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay’d: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

At the end of the play, Prospero reliquishes all his magic powers.

This is as close as we get to Shakespeare the man. He was bidding farewell to the stage. He never wrote another play after “The Tempest.”

Prospero hopes that he has pleased his audience. We have seen him use his frightening power with kindness and mercy.

Then he begs for our prayers and exits.