PURITANS AND ROMANTICS: Religion was reduced by the Puritans “to mere morality,” the Puritan imagination was “thoroughly moralized,” said H.B. Parkes and H.W. Schneider respectively, both of them quoted by Yvor Winters in his 1930 book Maule’s Curse.  The “highly stimulated” Puritan, said Winters, was “no longer guided by the flexible and sensitive ethical scholarship of the Roman tradition.”  [italics mine]  Highly stimulated but Calvinistically predestined, he was told by preachers he couldn’t repent even as he was told to repent, in some of the roughest, toughest preaching this side of Beelzebub.

This morality emphasis came to the fore when many years ago I profiled a Unitarian church I knew quite well, focusing on members’ common denominator, morality.  The preacher was very good.  But his game was morality, nothing but.  Fellow Daily News man Bill Newman saw that and observed they would feel pretty good to be characterized that way.  He was right.  Morality sells.  The doctrine that undergirds it does not.

Young romantics of the early 19th century did not feel as Puritans did.  Love is free, said the poet Shelley at 19.  Monogamy, he said, like religious faith “excludes us from all inquiry.” 

Inquiry is it?  I hadn’t heard that one.  A learned senior Jesuit, asked about being married, or hearing someone wishing he was, observed, “Yes, it would be good to have someone to share your ideas with.”  At 19 we young Jesuits laughed at that story, but I would quote it in refutation of Shelley.

But young romantics’ ideas were a bad deal for the women in their lives, being “illusory, naive, and damaging” especially to them.  Several committed or tried to commit suicide, says Oliver Herford in his Times Literary Supplement 9/24/2010 review of Daisy Hay’s book Young Romantics and Richard Marrgraff Turley’s Bright Stars.

Keats was another story.  He read Chapman’s translation of Homer until daybreak with his friend Cowden Clarke, then left for a two-mile walk to the next town, composing on the way.  (No small use was made here of an early-morning walk.)  He wrote out his poem when he reached the town and sent it back by courier to Clarke, who read “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” — “Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold . . .” — when he opened the envelope.

Keats’s “realms of gold” went beyond the written page.  On the voyage to Rome, consumption-stricken, he went out of his way to cheer up a fellow traveler, a young woman also a consumptive, offering “golden jokes” and helping her to “laugh and be herself,” according to Joseph Severn, who was accompanying Keats and would nurse him in his fatal illness in Rome.

Not-so-young romantics were not so dismissive of religion.  William Wordsworth, for instance, showed respect for the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in calling Mary “our tainted nature’s solitary boast” — which was not bad for a separated brother.

POLITICALLY SPEAKING: If I were to drop a bundle, I said in early December, commenting on Republican politics, it would be on Congr. Paul Ryan’s Prosperity PAC, which picks fiscally principled smarties in congressional primaries.  As for the presidential race (I said then), Romney’s the man, Newt a comparative fly-by-night.  In any case, congressional votes tell.  Go Ryanistas.  (I said.)   I have veered Newt-ward since then, as here

Right now, pre-Florida, I find Newt wanting in various ways which he has overcome time and again and could when faced with the Liar-in-Chief in November and Mitt wanting in willingness and/or ability to do more than clog the airwaves with anti-Newt stuff, including punch up and out a small-govt. tea-party-style message. 

As for the Liar-in-Chief, just when I think he’s done the worst he can do, he comes up with another violation of all that’s good, true and beautiful.  Now it’s Catholic hospitals and Obamacare’s birth control and abortion requirements.  Phew.

TALKIE-TALK: AT&T woman, in re our longstanding two-line service: Why do you need two lines?  Me: So two of us can talk at the same time in different conversations.  (She asked a stupid question, got an obvious answer.)  She was referring maybe to call-waiting as a way to catch a 2nd  call.  Or not.  Maybe to some personal reason, which was not her business.

This was not typical of AT&T non-digital telephone service, by the way — which we must use because the radio station down the street spills into digital telephoning, in several languages.  The telephone people follow an old tradition.  The digital (U-verse) service is another matter.  Comcast does immensely better.

* We hear someone’s bipolar.  Clinically very bad, even condemnatory.  We toss it about, hanging medical tags, which are much heavier than “he’s nuts” or “off his rocker,” or to roll one’s eyes.  Same for Alzheimer’s, also clinical, vs. “losing it” or even “senile,” which we can wrap ourselves around.  Not so a doc’s diagnosis, with its ring of finality.

* Heard in dentist office, from radio news lady doing traffic report: “Erections on the Jane Addams toll”!  In broad daylight!  What a gal!