Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum

I’ve been thinking in recent days of Virgil’s classic personification of Fama—Rumor—in Book 4 of the Aeneid:

Swift through the Libyan cities Rumor sped.
Rumor! What evil can surpass her speed?
In movement she grows mighty, and achieves
strength and dominion as she swifter flies.
small first, because afraid, she soon exalts
her stature skyward, stalking through the lands
and mantling in the clouds her baleful brow.
The womb of Earth, in anger at high Heaven,
bore her, they say, last of the Titan spawn,
sister to Coeus and Enceladus.
Feet swift to run and pinions like the wind
the dreadful monster wears; her carcass huge
is feathered, and at root of every plume
a peering eye abides; and, strange to tell,
an equal number of vociferous tongues,
foul, whispering lips, and ears, that catch at all.
At night she spreads midway ‘twixt earth and heaven
her pinions in the darkness, hissing loud,
nor e’er to happy slumber gives her eyes:
but with the morn she takes her watchful throne
high on the housetops or on lofty towers,
to terrify the nations. She can cling
to vile invention and malignant wrong,
or mingle with her word some tidings true.
She now with changeful story filled men’s ears,
exultant, whether false or true she sung:
(courtesy of Perseus) [ll 174-188 for those who keep track of such things]

If ever the foul titan was swift before, the Internet has lent her new wings—especially in the realm of things Anglican. If news of all of these controversies weren’t so readily, quickly, and easily available–and easy to comment upon–I wonder if we wouldn’t be able to focus on the Gospel a bit more clearly…

About Derek Olsen

I'm a layman within the Episcopal Church with a PhD in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. My chief job is keeping up with my priestly wife and our two awesome kids. In addition to that, I earn a living, run the St Bede's Breviary, listen to loud goth/industrial music, and do some stuff for the church. I currently serve as Secretary to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music where I'm also co-chair of the Calendar committee and chair of the Digital Publications committee.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum

  1. *Christopher says:


    I think that indeed we’d be able to concentrate on the Gospel a bit more clearly…on the other hand, I see the internet as a way of sharing Good News as well…especially with people like myself who in a less “netted” world might leave completely isolated and hateful lives.

  2. *Christopher says:

    hmmm. That didn’t quite sound right, people of my condition might have been better.

  3. bls says:

    You’re right, Derek. It’s gotten terrible. I try not to listen anymore, and try to turn my attention to other things, but I’m having more and more difficulty doing this.

    Got to keep trying, though. Perhaps we’re the canary in the coal mine here, an object lesson for others to come.

    The warning: Beware Fama.

  4. bls says:

    But *C is right, too: I’ve met some great people online as well.

    Yin-yang. Each contains the seed of its opposite.

  5. Annie says:

    Yes! It shakes me off course all the time! And, like a magnet, I am drawn to it.

    (Derek, Did I say something that hurt your feelings at some point?)


  6. *Christopher says:

    You know, I was thinking…don’t turn around like Lot’s wife or get focused on the falling tower, as James Alison, OP puts it…when we get focused on that we too get sucked into the round of to and fro. Better to keep sharing our faith stories and struggles and thoughts and not get too far gone into the row. Or if we get involved, keep it civil at the very least.

  7. Annie says:

    Strange where inspiration comes from and how it gells! I was just reading a letter from MLK in prison and spent a good long time writing an entry on it and then I come here to see if Derek has visited and see this comment from you, *Christopher, and what dawns on me is that we are to listen to each other the way we would listen to God if God were speaking! Isn’t that part of the first and second commandments? And, if we did listen to one another this way, would there be any controversy at all? Would the ills of society still haunt us? Would the hatred in the world not have been killed? I condemned myself after my musings for striving for the right time, of waiting for the whole church to come to an accord when that is not our warrant from Christ. So, here this morning, I find that part of my mornings musings were spawned by last night’s readings. Focus on the Gospel!


  8. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Hey y’all–back from the weekend (my lovely bride was visiting the city). Good point, Annie, it’s also part of the practice of seeing (and hearing) Christ in the others that we meet. One of the central Christian virtues–certainly in the gospel of Matthew, 1-3 John, early writings like the Didache and Benedit’s Rule–is hospitality. It seems to be much neglected in this time and place but interacting graciously with the other is part of it. Maybe all social ills wouldn’t go away if we practiced it in an intentional fashion but it certainly wouldn’t hurt…

    And no, you didn’t hurt my feelings. I’ve been doing more lurking than commenting. 😉

  9. Joe says:

    Got to keep trying, though. Perhaps we’re the canary in the coal mine here, an object lesson for others to come.

    It’s so funny that you say this bls…I just made this exact analogy over at Christopher’s. It is not a role that I would wish on anyone…but I have to admit that if it were not for the consistent witness of GLBT Christians that I have “met” in these settings over the last several years, I very well might be on the fence. That is where people like me who consider themselves “orthodox” have always failed…we worked it all out in our minds, but to do so, we stopped listening to GLBT Christians. It is through listening that I heard the authentic move of the Spirit, and it opened my heart.

    For that, I am very grateful.

    Still…I also have to admit to being a bit of a news addict, and this current debate is like candy to me sometimes…if it’s there, I’ll eat it. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

    Grace and Peace,

  10. Derek the Ænglican says:

    I do disagree with some of the things that you posted in regard to that but I completely respect your right to say it and think it and wouldn’t stop reading what you have to say because of it. I make it a policy to refuse to live in an echo-chamber–one of the things that annoys me about some (but certainly not all) of our more conservative brothers and sisters… 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s