Ben Jonson on the Power and Frustration of Prayer

On the subject of poetry, Joseph Bottum provides an exegesis of the poem “To Heaven,” by the great English poet and playwright Ben Jonson (1572–1637):

In his day, of course, Jonson . . . wielded at least as much influence as his contemporary William Shakespeare. . . . Even if we didn’t know that, if we came to this poem with the purity of ignorance, not thinking about comparative reputations, we would still recognize, in these limpid iambic pentameter couplets, that the poem gets at a difficult human truth. Prayer, which is supposed to make us feel better, often doesn’t. It’s not God’s failing, but our own, that we pray not because we love God, but because we’re tired of life. If this poem contains no ringing lines, what it does offer is an unflinching view of the human soul. This is its ambition, and in this lies its excellence.

Herewith, its opening lines:

Good and great God, can I not think of thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: English literature, Poetry, Prayer

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy