Thursday, April 15, 2010

Catch Us the Little Foxes

It would appear to be time to quote a bit from John of the Cross, and then comment. The above title is from his Spiritual Canticle, stanza 16, although I take liberty with the exact words of the Allison Peers translation, as he says "Drive us away the foxes", while the Kavanaugh/Rodriguez version has 'Catch", but omits the "little" that one finds in the source text for John of the Cross' creation, the Song of Solomon.
And to be truthful, I want to say that I don't find the foxes I have in mind very little at all. Bigger animals on the whole, wolves on the one hand, jackals and hyenas on the other. But foxes will do for the poetry of what is in hand, because of the tradition of fox hunting as it is carried on in England, Ireland, and few other places fond of galloping along on horseback in a group. Not everyone agrees with the sport, but there are a number of stirring elements in it, and it will do as an image, inasmuch as it feels to me like the hunt is up, although I'm not totally clear about what we will catch at the end, or how much of it.
I've actually seen very few foxes. They're primarily nocturnal hunters, from what I understand, usually must be woken up to be hunted themselves by day. Usually by a large pack of beagles. I think my very first sighting was of a rather big Reynard, sitting in the middle of the highway to Vancouver, years ago, in broad daylight, without any hint of pursuers anywhere. He struck me as a symbol. He seemed very friendly, although we did not stop to see if he was up to a pat on the head. He was probably a symbol of Firefox, our server for this blog. The second I saw in the Kootenays, a few years later, and it was dead, probably hit by a vehicle, leaving a field near Rosebud Lake. Otherwise, my principal experience of foxes is from watching films, invariably BBC, in which a hunt is part of the plot.
I'm hearing the horns now, and baying of the dogs, and the thunder of the hooves. Not quite a cavalry charge, but close enough.
To John of the Cross, of course, foxes were a symbol of vices, malicious and envious spirits, and disorders of feeling or imagination within the soul. In other words, he's primarily concerned, as a spiritual writer, with good advice to the soul struggling to perfect itself, and paying attention to God's efforts on its behalf. But from time to time these images spill over into a more general activity, if not a perfecting of a sizable segment of humanity, at least a purging of some of the segment's deficiencies.
It is also correct to think of the fox as a symbol of cunning, and, furthermore, as a creature that enjoys is own cunning, like priests I have known who have turned out to be pedophiles, womanizers, homosexuals. And then there were the lesbian nuns, or feminist nuns using their position of trust and respect to get their own rebellious ways in regard to Church doctrine or practice. Saint Thomas speaks clearly about those who enjoy hiding their cunning minds behind the clerical or religious facade. This is why sympathy for these abusive examples of "humankind" can only go so far.
I like those images of the fox hunt, written two days ago, still wearing well, still escaping the waste basket of the writer's morning after. I have some ideas about the significance of the horns and the hounds, but I'll sit on them until I find out if the drumming of the hooves is equated with the droning of an airplane or two. I have sent out some instructions, rather similar to some I sent out early in 1984, which if obeyed, would have started the Irish round up far earlier than is the case and also made the world press look like less of a goat than it's going to.
Are you listening, NBC?

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