Novak (novak) wrote,
Novak
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Personal/Theological Notebook: Summerfest; Translating Vatican II; Rasputin Quote

Summerfest began today and the city is in transportation-chaos. Added to that, I swung by Jazz in the Park a bit ago – more of a Latin Jazz, not really catching my interest tonight, although it likely would at other times – and Cathedral Park was packed out with that, too. So the Big Gig begins and the town is already shaking.

My main concern with Summerfest this year is to take in Paul Simon's concert at the Marcus Amphitheatre on Saturday. The Lloyds' were looking to cookout that day, which would have been a loss for me, but they've moved things to July 4th proper, which will allow both me and Michel Barnes to make it, as he'll be visiting that week.

I was reading the latest issue of America on the bus today, turning from an authoritative strategic analysis on the Iranian nuclear question to an account of the Baltimore priest who did the bulk of the English translations for the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The author, the Rev. Jospeh J. Gallagher, ended with an absolute gem of an anecdote, one that reminds you of the continuities and connections of history, how people then were able to talk to others who knew a more distant past, which seems amazing to us now, the way young people in the future will think it amazing that I talked with veterans of World War I and II, and with Fathers of the Council:
To end on a more melodious note, I must share one accidental high point of this whole story. As I mentioned, my Roman typist was British. Each week or so she would serve a tea for English visitors whom she happened to know were in town. I was invited to one of these gatherings and had the good fortune to meet a man who was a translator at the Geneva Arms Conference.

His name was Shelley, and he was related to the celebrated Romantic poet. (The Keats-Shelley Museum was just up the street.) He was a guest of Russian aristocrats when Lenin’s Revolution broke out.

Somehow he managed to meet Rasputin, who, Shelley said, spoke in a kind of peasant poetry. At one point the spellbinding “monk” wrapped his hands around Shelley’s. Presumably contrasting the youth’s fresh eyes with his own, the man soon-to-be-murdered uttered or quoted these indelible words: “The dew upon the morning grass is a rainbow of joy. But the damp upon the evening ground is the weeping of fate.”

When I started on the translations I was arguably still dewy; now I am inarguably dampish. But four decades later I still feel the audacity, perils, excitement, exhaustion and honor of it all.
Tags: barnes, friends-marquette era, historical, milwaukee, musical, personal, quotations, second vatican council, theological notebook, writing
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