“As poets and as readers we are both the users and the transmitters of this lexicon. Today we need to keep adding not subtracting meaning, remembering not forgetting, to connect ourselves to the chain that ultimately joins all cultures.”
Welcome to Lexicon
Unlike Ludwig, Sophia, in whose memory this site is maintained, did not accept “remaining silent” as a viable intellectual option—not because she thought ultimate meaning any more expressible than did Wittgenstein, but because she thought the battle was necessary.
Heroic, doomed to failure, absolutely essential.
Treasures from the Vault: Sophiae Filiae Dulcissimae The Internet is an amazing resource. As an historian, Sophia found it wonderful that, even in Australia, thousands of miles from the centres of the ancient and medieval worlds she studied, she could get access to primary sources—texts, manuscripts, images, epigraphs—that once scholars had to make pilgrimage to find. Here is one resource, a website that provides online access to Greek and Roman epigraphs: http://www.edr-edr.it/en/present_en.php On the site I found a record of a grave marker (from Rome) that seemed particularly poignant. Translating from Latin the text in effect says: To the memory
Keats: Forever Young Keats died today. February 23rd, 1821. He was 25 years old. It is a select group, the band of poets who died young. The admission price is steep. I wish Sophia had not had to pay it. I wish she was not now, like Keats, “forever young.” Yet she is. She will always be 22, as he is 25. “Bury me in garlands/ Of burning paper/ With all my pollen sparks of steel,” Sophie says in one of her poems. Fire and steel. The kid was fierce and she was brave. She was more a Metaphysical than a
Saving Narnia: Sophia, On History There is a strange and wonderful symmetry to Sophia’s life, as if it was crafted with a writer’s eye; every piece feels necessary and precisely placed, like one of those poignant yet beautiful Russian stories Sophie loved so much, a vivid portrait sketched by Tolstoy. One aspect of such symmetry is the deeply embedded nature of Sophia’s love of history. It runs, like a golden thread, through the pattern of her whole life. As I’ve noted elsewhere, living in Italy as a 4-year-old had had a powerful effect on her. At this age too, little
Sophia: January 17th In the car park, green things Push through bitumen to survive, While above, a winter sky of powdered jewels, Fra Angelico blue, waits for its angels. Suddenly your eyes, so blue themselves, looking up Are full of tears. There, in a wheelchair, in a car park, Amid the grime and weeds, You cried for the beauty of the sky. I cry thinking of it, thinking of the mind That thought the thoughts you thought, The soul that saw the world you saw. And I see, beautiful child, I see the world with your eyes.
Scrovegni Chapel—The Nativity The image of the Nativity scene, and the detail of the angel from it which accompanies one of the Christmas posts (The Gift), are from Giotto’s fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel (or Arena Chapel) in Padua. These images were chosen not just for their appropriateness to the time of year, but also because the Scrovegni had a particular significance for Sophia. The Scrovegni is an artistic gem. It is one of the loveliest works of art in a country filled with lovely things. Padua was bombed during the war, and what is left of the historical section
The Annunciation and the Nativity The following poem is by a 16 year-old Sophia. It is taken from Loose Leaves, the sequence of poems she wrote after seeing The Medieval Imagination, an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts at the State Library in Melbourne. Ours is a broken world. The battle against disorder, which (as is symbolised in Sophie’s poem) includes suffering and death, is fought line by line, poem by poem, thought by beautiful thought. Sophie loved Christmas, and would wish to give to others the deep meaning of it. The Annunciation and the Nativity, Psalter-Hours (Southern Netherlands, Liege, 1270s) The
The Gift. It is that time of year. Joy lies at the heart of it. Christmas signifies the astonishing concept at the centre of Christianity, that of the Incarnation (in which the Absolute Being sustaining all things but eternally existing—perfect and unchanging—outside them, entered our world, doing so in the most vulnerable and mutable of human forms, that of a tiny baby). Libraries have been written to unpack this notion. A lazy familiarity with the Christian story prevents many people from understanding its philosophical complexity (we are more amenable to the idea of “mystery” in the religion and philosophy of
JOY Sophia was, and is, a joy to me. It seemed appropriate to enter a poem into the 2017 ACU poetry competition which had “Joy” as its theme. It was a poem I wrote when Sophie was alive, over which she had passed her incisive critical eye, so I feel it bears a part of her. Sophie was the best reader one could have—observant, precise, never self-interested, always focussed on the craft. How wonderful it was to share thought and work with that clear and lovely mind. The poem, Orison, was shortlisted, and published in this year’s collection (named, obviously, Joy).
Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter. TS Eliot, East Coker, Four Quartets
Poetry Prize Update It is planned that Sophia’s prize will be up and running again next year. There will be a slightly different format, but a similar emphasis. Culture is a living organism. It needs the rich soil of history in order to unfold its potential. “Know thyself,” was the injunction inscribed at Delphi (it is, as Sophia notes in Kaddish, "…the one wise thing the Delphic woman said”), but we cannot truly know ourselves without understanding the network of influences that have made us. The full flowering of creativity is necessarily grounded in this knowledge. As the ancient Greeks