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On the Bog

From: Martin Watts
Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2000 5:49 AM

The title has an unfortunate double meaning in colloquial English, bog being a synonym for toilet.

Though Meagher spends most of the story in the sticky stuff I don't think the pun was intended.

Martin Watts
50 45' N 1 55' W.
The Borough and County of the Town of Poole

From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2000 7:03 AM

On The Bog

In this story, we meet the characters by name: Boyle and Meagher.

They are going to go hunting (poaching): the handsome Boyle, with his high, arrogant nose, and Meagher, who starts wildly out of his sleep with a cry of alarm. Meagher is flattered that Boyle even notices him, and will do whatever Boyle asks of him. "It is the devil we have no dog," says Boyle. Meagher offers to act as the dog. This sets up the initial relationship between the two. Boyle sends Meagher for cartridges and gives him the money to pay for them. Meagher is pleased and excited just to be with Boyle, but he gets uneasy by the warning notices posted all along the bank, forbidding trespassers, warning of mantraps, stating that DOGS should be shot on sight. (Remember here, Meagher is in the capacity of Boyle's dog).

Meagher is reluctant to admit to his fear, and follows Boyle, completely lost; he did not know which county they were in even.

Boyle reassures him: "You are only an honorary dog; and in any case geese and duck are not game. They are ferae naturae - they have no animus revertendi." Meagher could hardly reply to THAT.

Boyle easily shoots the first partridge and the bird hit the ground so hard it bounced twice. Before they even get to the bog, Meagher picks up two rabbits and a snipe as well as that partridge. So much for geese and duck not being game. They will hunt tomorrow morning at first light.

Meagher barely sleeps. He is wet and hungry all night, and smokes himself out. He is angry and resentful when they begin the hunt.

Meagher is afraid of getting caught and wants to remain hidden; Boyle sets up a fusillade, a firework display, an artillery battle. There's POB laying it on thickly enough for the meanest understanding - a fusillade OR a firework display OR an artillery battle wouldn't have been enough to get the point across. Every shot made Meagher wretched. He bites his tongue and doesn't criticize Boyle for getting him into such danger without a word of warning. It is Boyle who speaks - without a word about Meagher's shortcomings as a hunter, which Meagher considers to be so tactful that it is an unfriendly offence. We read what Boyle says - the offence is entirely in Meagher's mind.

Then we get a little background into the relationship between Boyle and Meagher; Meagher feels a kind of one-sided exasperated love toward Boyle; he feels it a privilege to find ways to protect such an infinitely superior creature as Boyle. Boyle has a key to a house behind Enniskerry, he also has a tower in the County Clare, and he has access to the Kildare Street Club, and a beautiful cigarette-case, made of gold. What more proof of his elegance could there be?

Boyle appears wealthy, but often makes Meagher ASK for funds for a shared dinner, occasionally borrows one of Meagher's precious pounds and forgets to repay. More importantly, sometimes he disappears for a minute and comes back with a freshly-lit cigarette, not sharing.

Something in their relationship has gone wrong in the night, however. There is now an unspoken uneasiness between them - possibly one-sided. Boyle walks out of the butt leaving Meagher to carry the game-bag - as has happened before to Meagher's resentment, he lit a cigarette outside without offering to share, and we've already seen that Meagher has smoked all of his own.

Meagher is carrying Boyle's gun, and Boyle says, "oh for Christ's sake don't hold your gun like that, you silly whore! Don't you know you must never point your gun at anything you don't mean to kill?" Watch for THAT theme to reappear!

Meagher again worries about being in the bog, of having a gun pointing at his back, and who could tell what Boyle might do?

Meagher gets caught up in barbed wire, his loaded gun swinging in an arc, pointing now at Boyle's head, now at his loins. Boyle lights another cigarette.

Meagher is now limping, the bag is heavy, the weight of the gun a torment; he is wet through and through; he was full of yellow rancour and spleen.

In his exhaustion and frustration, he inadvertently messes up the hunt when they do get to the geese; he tries to apologize but Boyle looks at him not with intense dislike or anger nor even fury but of utter contempt. "A frigid, objective, dismissing contempt like a blow, breaking even the most rudimentary social contract." And while Meagher is trying to word an apology, Boyle lights another cigarette for himself.

And now I won't give away the big ending.

- Susan

From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2000 7:23 PM

Just as the last story (The Long Day Running) had the same setting as an early story in the collection (Slope of the High Mountain), this is clearly the same setting as Dawn Flighting. The same path along the seawall, even the same righthand turn. But I am stunned by the two endings:

Dawn Flighting -

"From far away there came a sound over the marsh on the still, frozen air: he looked round and above, but he could see nothing. The sound grew stronger, a rhythmic beating, strangely musical, and he saw three wild swans. The light caught them from below and they flashed white against the cold blue. High up in the air, their great singing wings bore the swans from the north: they flew straight and fast with their long necks stretched before them.

The rhythm changed a little, sighing and poignant, and a leaping exaltation took the man's heart as he gazed up at them, up in the thin air.

The beat changed more, and now they flew striking all together, so that their wings sung in unison as they went over his head. He stood stock still watching them, and long after they had passed down the sky he stood there, with the noise of their wings about his head."

On the Bog -

"Then from far away on the motionless air over the bog came a sound. He looked up - the sky had turned pale - but there was nothing above him. The sound grew stronger, a rhythmic singing beat, and turning his appalled face still higher he saw three swans. The first light of the sun touched them from below and they flashed pure against the blue, flying straight and fast from the north with their long necks stretched out before them. The rhythm changed a little,sighing and poignant: changed still more, and as they passed high overhead their wings sang in unison, bearing his spirit away and far, far away."

Certainly he wouldn't be plagerizing himself. What could be his intention in ending these two quite different stories so similarly?

Don Seltzer

From: u1c04803
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2000 7:30 PM

Similar image, but hardly similar endings. Almost--the first sounds youthful, hopeful; the second an ending, or death--through the trinity, and an assumption.

Anyway, nice catch.


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Friday, September 29, 2000 10:51 AM

Don Seltzer wrote:

Certainly he wouldn't be plagerizing himself. What could be his intention in ending these two quite different stories so similarly?

No answer, just some thoughts:

1. He wasn't finished exploring the theme. So he revisited it with a different twist, just to see how it would come out.

2. One of them (which?) came out in a periodical, and when a publisher wanted to include it in a collection of short stories, he (the publisher) didn't like the ending and asked for a change.

3. Or, on the other hand, POB sent it to a periodical and it was rejected, so he changed it and got it published, but kept the original for his own files because he still liked it; then sent in both for a "collected short stories."

I like number 1 best - he occasionally does that in the novels as well - re-explores a theme with different characters or a different setting, gets a different resolution.

A few of the short stories were re-writes - I remember there were two versions of "The Walker," with different endings.

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