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The Chian Wine

From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Sunday, June 11, 2000 6:37 PM

"When first he came to Saint-Feliu the middle and indeed the dark ages still hung about the streets, while the beach was classical antiquity itself. The village was so heavily fortified, with two castles, five towers and a massive surrounding wall - so heavily fortified against the Spaniards, the Algerine corsairs and the inhuman people from the neighbouring province that there was little room for the three thousand inhabitants. In the course of centuries they had crammed their houses into narrow winding lanes, so close that their roofs, viewed from the nearby hills, resembled a swarm of bees, with never an open place to be seen."

Can a story that starts like that POSSIBLY have a happy ending?

No, I didn't think so either. And remember that image, the swarm of bees. It's going to come up again on the test.

- Susan Wenger

=====

"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified."
- Patrick O'Brian


From: P. Richman
Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 6:43 AM

It was specifically a "Vespers" that did the trick - Vespers, twilight, the bridge between light and dark, the bridge between good and evil.


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 7:41 AM

"P. Richman" wrote:

It was specifically a "Vespers" that did the trick - Vespers, twilight, the bridge between light and dark, the bridge between good and evil.

Good one!

Here's are some tidbits: Halevy was a French composer around 1850-1860. Relevant, or was POB just picking a Jewish name he liked?

Chios was reputed to be Homer's birthplace. Relevant? Saint Feliu was also in "The Catalans." In St. Feliu, people clung to the old ways, didn't much care for modern ideas. Is there really such a place? Or did POB select this name because he already had a mental image of (an imaginary) St. Feliu?

I couldn't find anything about Alphard or Aristolochus of Chios - do these two names ring any bells anywhere?

- Susan Wenger


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 7:59 AM

Susan Wenger wrote:

When first he came to Saint-Feliu the middle and indeed the dark ages still hung about the streets, while the beach was classical antiquity itself. The village was so heavily fortified, with two castles, five towers and a massive surrounding wall - so heavily fortified against the Spaniards, the Algerine corsairs and the inhuman people from the neighbouring province that there was little room for the three thousand inhabitants. In the course of centuries they had crammed their houses into narrow winding lanes, so close that their roofs, viewed from the nearby hills, resembled a swarm of bees, with never an open place to be seen.

The village he describes in detail is either Collioure or its twin (interesting to note the references to the man and the dancing bear). For me, this adds to the horror; the possibility that the story is true.

Dean King, in discussing this story, commented on POB's habit of making a priest the catalyst for evil. This seems true of many of his stories set in Collioure and its surroundings. "The Path" had the priest in the kiosk at the border, "The Walker" had the mysterious priest with the black valise. Other than Sam Panda, and Father Gnomes, has he ever written of a good priest.

Unlike most of the short stories, I found this to be fairly straightforward on the outer most level. I wonder, though, if there are deeper layers, linked by some of his classical references. Why Chian wine? There is something in Greek mythology of Orion pursuing the daughter of the king of Chios. The king got Orion drunk on wine and then blinded him. But I don't quite see how that fits in with this story, particularly since the wine was never drunk. And is there any significance to the name of the winemaker, Aristolochus?

The various bridges to the past, that are repeatedly spoken of, are not particularly consistent. Some are links to ancient Greece, such as the wine and the fishermen in their boats. Others are to the medieval Catholic church.

What is this allegory of the lion and the ass, taken straight from a medieval bestiary? Is it used in church services today? Could it be something POB found in his research on St. Isidore and his bestiary?

A minor point, but Alphard came to the village and was given the wine thirty years earlier. However, he had been attending this special service for only twenty years. Was this particular sermon really ancient, or did it begin just twenty years earlier?

And why did Alphard choose to finally open his ancient wine on this day? Would a devout Catholic invite a friend over on Good Friday to enjoy a special wine?

Don Seltzer


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 8:32 AM

--- Don Seltzer wrote:

The village he describes in detail is either Collioure or its twin (interesting to note the references to the man and the dancing bear). For me, this adds to the horror; the possibility that the story is true.

Montgomery Village, Maryland

I live in a "planned community." The layout for Montgomery Village was pre-planned before ever the first home was built - here would be townhouses, here would be single-family houses, here would be a shopping center, there a community center, and in these six sites there would be swimming pools/tennis courts/community centers, etc. When I purchased my townhouse, I signed a document of "Protective Covenants," designed to maintain the lifestyle and the value of every home in the community (population around 100,000?). No trucks could be parked on-street overnight. Television antennas could not be visible from the streets (this was before cable). Laundry lines could not be left up overnight. I could not change the exterior appearance of my own house without approval of the "Architectural Control Committee." That meant I couldn't paint my door or windows a different color from the paint chip I was given, couldn't add a storm-door unless it met their guidelines, couldn't add on to the house in any way. Lots and lots of similar details. I and everyone else signed the Covenant willingly, agreeing that this would stop "those other people" from lowering the value of my property.

I think about that when I read in "The Chian Wine:"

"oh, I have a horrible piece of news for you. The municipality has forbidden sardines to be grilled in the street: it seems the tourists do not like the smell." How well O'Brian has captured the spirit of a village, a community.

And how nicely he set up the ending for the story: "They may forbid until they grow black in the face. The past will have its rights. The past will rise up and have its rights."

I think these two paragraphs are the most crucial in the story.


From: Kerry Webb
Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 2:16 PM

Fortunately, people haven't been put off by my flippant response to Susan's post, and discussion has begun.

I really did find it a complete story, easy to understand at the broad level. One question - was such a Good Friday tradition common in France, or was it the case that different villages had their own peculiar ways?I suspect the latter.

As to the behaviour of the "small beaming round-faced child", he reminds me of the similar child in the movie "The Third Man" who betrays Holly. Is this a coincidence?

Kerry

Kerry Webb
Canberra, Australia
http://www.alia.org.au/~kwebb/


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 4:48 PM

Why is this story called "The Chian Wine?" How did the wine get the top billing?

=====
"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified."
- Patrick O'Brian


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2000 9:29 AM

Yesterday I asked, why is the Chian Wine the title of the story? Now I think I have it.

"Now ten and twenty years had passed, a generation and more, and the wine still stood among the books, its seal unbroken. Alphard himself looked much the same, though his hair was greyer still. . ."

The wine is presumably the same after two thousand years, the man is essentailly the same, though his longing for salvation is gone; and people are still the same, although tourists flock through the village. The unchanging wine is a metaphor for the unchanging nature of the people. And the story ends with the small beaming round-faced child who had not yet understood the change. The nature of the world is not going to change with this child, the new generation.

- Susan


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2000 9:39 AM

But having resolved one question in my own mind, another rears up:

when the children at play lurch into Halevy, Alphard apologizes for them: "Ill-mannered brutes," he said. "Really, I am ashamed for the village. I beg your pardon."

This seems fraught with SIGNIFICANCE, but what? Is it that everyone is responsible for everything in their village? Is it that he feels responsible but is not able to prevent what ensues? Is it the ease with which one can apologize for minor offenses, while turning a blind eye to deeper sins? Alphard knows the nature of his village, but doesn't speak out because it doesn't affect him?

- Susan


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2000 10:25 AM

At 9:39 AM -0700 6/13/2000, Susan Wenger wrote:

when the children at play lurch into Halevy, Alphard apologizes for them: "Ill-mannered brutes," he said. "Really, I am ashamed for the village. I beg your pardon."

This seems fraught with SIGNIFICANCE, but what? Is it that everyone is responsible for everything in their village? Is it that he feels responsible but is not able to prevent what ensues? Is it the ease with which one can apologize for minor offenses, while turning a blind eye to deeper sins? Alphard knows the nature of his village, but doesn't speak out because it doesn't affect him?

There is the implication that Halvey, although he is living in the village and operating a shop, is not one of them. And the general attitude seems to be that all outsiders are to be viewed with suspicion, even hostility, whether tourists or even the"inhuman people from the neighbouring province".

From Susan's earlier post,

The unchanging wine is a metaphor for the unchanging nature of the people.

I'd change that slightly to a sealed up bottle of wine as the metaphor for the village as a whole. The mistake is in thinking that by remaining sealed throughout the ages, protected from the changing world, the wine within stills remains good. Both the wine and the village, in their insularity, have spoiled.

Don Seltzer


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2000 12:13 PM

--- Don Seltzer wrote:

I'd change that slightly to a sealed up bottle of wine as the metaphor for the village as a whole. The mistake is in thinking that by remaining sealed throughout the ages, protected from the changing world, the wine within stills remains good. Both the wine and the village, in their insularity, have spoiled.

Aaaah. That makes sense, except I disagree with the last sentence: I think the village hasn't spoiled - it's always been that way.

They walled themselves in, and they walled their own evil in with them.


From: Sherkin@AOL.COM
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2000 4:46 PM

I notice that The Chian Wine was published in 1974, making it one of the most recent of the stories.

I would like to put forward another interpretation. In the scene in the church, Alphard is listening to " a foolish young Dominican rattling away - an involved, enthusiastic sermon about ecumenism. The friar was in favour of it, but that was all his hearers could make out, since the reasoning was tenuous in the first place and the preacher had lost even that thread early on." ..." The acoustics were poor, but even if the Dominican had been content with the voice God gave him most of the older women would not have understood his French. They stared before them in a mild, holy stupor, watching the candles."

And then, writing of Alphard: "He had had the greatest respect and affection for John XXIII as a man, but as pope he thought him utterly disastrous - the results of his actions were utterly disastrous. Temerity, wild zeal, enthusiasm... Could it really be true that he was a freemason, a Communist?"

For those who may have forgotten, in the early sixties John XXIII called together the Ecumenical Council which radically changed the church. One of the most significant changes, which has been carried out during the reign of the present pope, has been the elimination from the services of derogatory and defaming references to the Jews.

Alphard is undoubtedly one of those conservatives who preferred the Latin mass, instead of the vernacular. Nor did he understand the other reforms. The young Dominican friar is preaching the New Church in French. Unfortunately, the old women in the congregation do not understand French, or his message.

Earlier in the story Halevy decries the abandonment of the village's old standards.

He says" "There is no excuse. No: it breaks my heart to contradict you, but these people have lost their sense of beauty. The doctored wine alone, and what they buy from me, must convince you of that. Here too the past has died: two thousand years of tradition have died! There is no bridge between the jet-age and the past."

'Monsieur le Cure,' cried Alphard, rising from his chair and bowing to the cassocked priest, 'Good evening to you'. There,' he said to Halevy, 'there is your bridge - one of your bridges. The Church has not changed.' Halevy smiled, raising his shoulders and spreading his hands; but he only said, "He seems an excellent man, to be sure; it does me good to see him.' Alphard felt the strength of Halevy's tactfulness and the naivety of his own remark in the present circumstaneces, and he cried, "Not changed essentially, not here, I mean. The vernacular is so close to Latin any way that it makes little difference. The natural piety of the village is the same as it always was."

The Chian wine is unchanged after two thousand years.

Alphard has lived in the village for twenty years, and from his reaction to the attack on Halevy, has never witnessed anything like it. The village, in its isolation, in spite of the superficial changes, is, like the Chian wine, in a kind of time warp.

Jean A.

(Respectfully submitted, and hoping that no one confuses this with pop psychology.)


From: Martin Watts
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2000 7:00 AM

Jean wrote:

I notice that The Chian Wine was published in 1974, making it one of the most recent of the stories

Do we have publication dates for the individual stories? I would be interested to compare these dates to see how POB's writing developed over the years.

BTW: Is 1974 the publication date for the short story or the collection called "The Chian Wine"? A copy of the latter is *somewhere* around the house; I read it just a few months ago, and I can't remember where I put it down!

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


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2000 7:19 AM

In a message dated 6/14/0 9:01:03 AM, Martin.Watts@MARCONI.COM writes:

A copy of the latter is *somewhere* around the house; I read it just a few months ago, and I can't remember where I put it down!

A small dog, dripping salt water, dropped it on my porch one day in March. Now the book is on the eighth shelf from the bottom to the right of the fuse box in my basement, or was when I last saw it. Since the lights are out down there, I can't find it to return it to you just yet. Be patient. I'll replace the fuse once the water subsides and the alligators are asleep; then the lights will come on and I'll find all the books I ever misplaced, lost, lent to false friends, or gave away to ladies I met in waterfront bars.

Charlezzzz


From: Martin Watts
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2000 7:33 AM Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2000 7:33 AM

Charlezzzz wrote:

A small dog, dripping salt water, dropped it on my porch one day in March.

Not a large dog with a dubious reputation where asses are concerned? I'm concerned it would be a rather long swim for a small dog (follow the channel out by Sandbanks then turn right...).

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


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2000 8:31 AM

In a message dated 6/14/0 9:35:31 AM, Martin.Watts@MARCONI.COM writes:

Not a large dog with a dubious reputation where asses are concerned? I'm concerned it would be a rather long swim for a small dog (follow the channel out by Sandbanks then turn right...).

Well, it was a sea dog, and most of them have dubious reputations.

Charlezzzz


From: Stolzi@AOL.COM
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2000 11:21 AM

In a message dated 6/13/00 6:48:23 PM Central Daylight Time, Sherkin@AOL.COM writes:

Alphard has lived in the village for twenty years, and from his reaction to the attack on Halevy, has never witnessed anything like it.

Jean's post is indeed most astute, and I apologize for speaking in some ignorance - the book has gone back to the library - but it seems to me we are seeing some loaded POBian irony here, namely:

Halevy (per the text she quoted) wants to see the village keep its old ways: he was certainly not prepared for THIS reversion to old ways.

A sad, brutish grobian,
Mary S
35░ 58' 11" N
86░ 48' 57" W


From: John Finneran
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 2:56 AM

"The Chian Wine" begins, "When first he came to Saint-Feliu the middle and indeed the dark ages still hung about the streets, while the beach was classical antiquity itself." (p. 137). Saint-Feliu, as Susan has already mentioned, is also the setting for Patrick O'Brian's earlier novel "The Catalans". Saint-Feliu is a town in French Catalonia; according to Dean King's biography, it is a fictitious town based on PO'B's own Collioure.

"The Catalans" was set shortly after World War II: I'd say about 1947. "Chian Wine" take place about a generation later, during or after the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, during the Second Vatican Council. I'd place the year of the story as 1963 (the year of John's death). As you'll see in a moment, the date is significant. (A few years plus or minus would not make a big difference, but if the story took place as late as, say, 1970, some of my date analysis below will not apply.)

The Saint-Feliu of "Catalans" sounds very much like the Saint-Feliu of "Wine"'s first sentence: essentially timeless; with very small changes, and none of them of central importance to the book, the novel could as soon take place in 1847 or 1747 as 1947. I don't have a copy of "Catalans" to refer to, but as far as I can tell, no characters from the novel appear again in "Wine".

After the opening sentence, we see that the timeless "Saint-Feliu had changed, changed almost out of recognition" as electricity, running water, and, above all, tourists wrought their changes: "in high summer the villagers wandered like strangers among the tourist hordes: out of an obscure sense of shame the men had laid aside their red caps and broad sashes and the women their white lace coiffes". The younger generation no longer even speak "the ancient tongue" (presumably Catalan). (p. 140).

But before we hear of the changes to Saint-Feliu, we are told of the Chian wine: 30 years (p.139) before the story's present, a fisherman named Joseph pulled a "neat little jar" from the sea. He gave the jar to Alphard (the story's central character; the "he" of the opening sentence) as a present. Inside the jar was wine "or at least a liquid of some sort" made by Aristolochus of Chios; the wine is "at least two thousand" years old (p.142). Alphard leaves the unbroken jar of wine among his books, planning to try it some day when he has good news.

After the narrative of the changes to the village, the story drifts into a dialogue between Alphard and HalÚvy, "an Avignon Jew who had recently opened a small gallery outside the sea gate, not far from the church" (p.141) Alphard argues that "the spirit of the place is quite unaltered", (p.140) but HalÚvy disagrees: "No," he says, "it breaks my heart to contradict you, but these people have lost their sense of beauty. The doctored wine alone, and what they buy from me, must convince you of that. Here too the past has died: two thousand years of tradition have died! There is no bridge between the jet-age and the past." Alphard argues that the Church is one bridge between the past and present. (p.141)

HalÚvy announces that he shall go to Gosol "where a man tells me his cousin has a Romanesque Virgin he might sell. I doubt the story very much. A true twelfth-century Virgin is scarcely to be hoped for today -- all that were portable have already been sold. But I shall go: I love those strong, pitiless faces, even when they are fakes." (p. 142)

On Good Friday, Alphard attend two church services: the first is in the morning, and is celebrated by "a foolish young Dominican rattling away - an involved, enthusiastic sermon about ecumenism." Innovations designed to make the service easier to understand make it less so: the friar's voice is distorted by the new electrical loudspeakers, and he is speaking in the vernacular, but the wrong vernacular (French rather than Catalan), rather than the universal Latin. (p. 142)

Alphard's attention wanders. It is hot and there are flies in the church and Alphard mutters to himself, "frying in Hell .. frying in Hell." "He [Alphard] had had the greatest respect and affection for John XXIII as a man, but as pope he thought him utterly disastrous - the results of his actions were utterly disastrous. Temerity, wild zeal, enthusiasm... Could it really be true that he was a freemason, a Communist?" (pp. 142-143)

Note that I am using this scene to date this story. The Second Vatican Council began during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII and continued into the reign of Pope Paul XI. The use of the vernacular in the story and the evident thinking of a New Church vs. an Old Church suggests a late date, but Alphard's reference to John in the present tense ("as pope he thought him" and "actions were utterly disastrous", rather than "as pope he had thought him" and "actions had been utterly disastrous") suggest that John is still living: therefore I think this story takes place on Good Friday, 1963. (John died in the summer of 1963, a few months after). As I understand it, the vernacular Novus Ordo mass ("New Order" mass; the current liturgy) was not mandated until the late 1960s, but the Tridentine mass (the traditional Latin mass adopted at the Council of Trent during the Catholic Counter-Reformation; Tridentine is the adjective form of Trent) began to be celebrated in certain areas in the vernacular in the early '60s.

After the service, Alphard was surprised to find HalÚvy back at his gallery: "he had found no Madonna -- four hundred miles in pursuit of a myth -- and that he was profoundly discouraged." Alphard invites him to sample his Chian wine that evening at half past six (i.e., after the evening vespers) and HalÚvy accepts. Then HalÚvy tells Alphard, "The municipality has forbidden sardines to be grilled in the street: it seems the tourists do not like the smell." Alphard, enraged, responds, "They may forbid until they grow black in the face. The past will have its rights. The past will rise up and have its rights." (p.144)

Later that day, Alphard prepares his room for his guest, then goes to the evening vespers. During the service, Alphard glances about the church at "the shrouded form of Saint Eulalie" and "the instruments of the Passion" (p. 145).

St. Eulalie was an early Christian virgin and matyr. She was burned alive in A.D. 304 for refusing to repudiate her faith.

The vespers are being led by the old curÚ. After psalms and antiphons "followed their universal course" (universal = catholic; I'm assuming this part is in Latin) "and then the ancient local variation began, in the vernacular" (not French now, but Catalan, and perhaps an archaic form of Catalan). (p. 145)

The curÚ holds his audience in rapt attention as he repeats an elaborate allegory, identical from year to year, about a lion, representing the Church, and a sole ass, which resists him. Then the curÚ explains each part of the allegory: "The sharp crooked claws are vengeance against the Jews; and the ass, who is the evil ass but the Jews? With the terrible face of a lion He will appear to the Jews when He judges them, for they damned themselves ... For they damned themselves: the Jews betrayed their king." A pause and then the horrific conclusion: "Death to the Jews!" and all the congregation cry out, "Death to the Jews" and instantly a sort of Mardi Gras begins, with the children rushing out of the church with "rattles, whistles, saucepans, drums" while the curÚ concludes. (p. 146)

Alphard heads back to his house and sees "a dense crowd, an impenetrable swarm -- every youth and child in Saint-Feliu" and realizes "something was terribly amiss". (p.146) At the front of the mob of children are "half a dozen great boys swinging a baulk of wood, a launching stretcher from the beach" which they use as a battering ram to break into HalÚvy's gallery. "All round the edge there were women screaming, grasping at their own children: astonished men and dogs came running." The children break into the gallery, with HalÚvy inside: he fires an antique gun into the crowd. A moment of confusion, then diesel-oil from a pump on the nearby beach is sprayed into the gallery "and the flames shot up, straight into the windless air". The men arrive and turn off the pump and HalÚvy sees a small girl "who had not yet understood the change, a child that danced still, marvelling at the fire, waving her ratttle and chanting 'Death, death to the Jews.'"

"The Chian Wine" is remarkably similar to "The Walker". Again it seems there is a demoniac possession culminating in murder; but whereas in "The Walker" it was a single individual who was possessed, in "Wine" it is all the young people of the village. Again there is a focus on the Passion in the build-up to the murders.

Note the similar "crimes" of the AlbŔres in "Walker" and the Jews in "Wine".

From "Walker":

"Clearly I knew it was not for the murder I had been sent: no, no; it was for accidie. These wicked people had despaired of all forgiveness: they had hardened their hearts, and for that last wickedness they were to be destroyed in this world as they were already damned in the next." (p.79)

In other words, the AlbŔres have already doomed themselves: the walker is just the instrument of their self-damnation. Similarly, in "Wine", the curÚ declares, "For they damned themselves: the Jews betrayed their king... Death to the Jews!" (p. 146)

A similar theme of spiritual self-immolation was sounded in The Catalans: "I will tell you what I mean by the death of the soul. When you no longer have the power to love, when there is no stir of affection anywhere in your being, then your soul is dead. That is the death of your soul. Your soul is dead, and you are damned: you are dead walking, and you are in hell in your own body." (Catalans, p. 96)

Similar themes throughout: spiritual withdrawral from the external links of love and intimacy (the AlbŔres withdraw from the society of their small village, the Jews separate themselves from their King, Xavier in "Catalans" ceases to love his son), leading to accidie (spiritual despair) and the death of the soul, auto-damnation, which leaves one as a walking deadman.

There are both positive and negative forces leading to the attack at the end. The positive are the dark impulses within the souls of the villagers: these impulses are demoniac, neo-pagan, pre-Christian impulses, the embodiment and manifestation of Original Sin, and are encouraged and symbolized by the lion and ass allegory and by the Chian wine. The negative forces are the restrainsts which have kept the dark impulses in check: one by one we see the restraints broken, until the forces of darkness are able to break through.

First, let's look at the breakdown of the old restraints:

Amongst the villagers in "Wine" we can see the breakdown of the old order: the villagers abandon their custons, their clothes, even their language: all the ties of their society built up over generations, and with each broken tie is gone one more restraint.

Still the blows come: the unchanging Catholic Church herself (to believers the rock against which the forces of Hell will not prevail) seems to be declining. Finally, even the public grilling of the sardines is to be forbidden. Gone is their old connection to one another, and their very sense of self-identity: it is perhaps not too much to see the village entering into a state of social accidie.

For the older villagers, there is at least the memory of former things to tie them together: to the children there is nothing at all. In this context, the unchanging allegory to the older villagers may be conservative, that is, an unchanging custom that cements a common sense of experience and that serves to restrain impulses, but to the children, who are empty vessels, the allegory is suggestive and inflaming: they respond to the hatefulness present in the allegory, rather than the common experience of hearing the same thing, year after year.

The story takes place on Good Friday, which is the day of the death of Jesus. On this day, the images of the crucified Jesus in churches are taken down, or, if they are too large, are covered. More importantly, in Catholic services this day, there is no consecration (under the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, consecration is the transformation of the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ). In sum, this is a time of a great spiritual vacuum: God is dead (not to rise up again until Easter Sunday), Christ is present neither symbollically (in the images) or physically (in the bread and wine).

There is perhaps another symbolic loss of Christ in the forbidding of the sardines to be grilled in the streets. (Sardines = Fish = a common symbol of Christ).

Not only is Christ missing, Mary is missing as well. HalÚvy's 400 mile quest to find a statue of her turns up fruitless.

It is important to realize the importance of Marian protection in Catholic devotion: her protection extends not to the just alone, but to sinners as well, and most especially. ("Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners..." is one line from the "Hail Mary").

Here is Henry Adams on this concept:

"To her, every suppliant was a universe in himself, to be judged apart, on his own merits, by his love for her, -- by no means on his orthodoxy, or his conventional standing in the Church, or according to his correctness in defining the nature of the Trinity. The convulsive hold which Mary to this day maintains over human imagination -- as you can see at Lourdes -- was due much less to her power of saving soul or body than to her sympathy with people who suffered under law, -- divine or human, -- justly or unjustly, by accident or design, by decree of God or by guile of the Devil. She cared not a straw for conventional morality, and she had no notion of letting her friends be punished, to the tenth or to any other generation, for the sins of their ancestors or the pecadilloes of Eve."

(Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, pp. 276-277)

Nor is this protection entirely otherworldly. Marian protection was commonly believed to be the key to the Christian victories over the Ottomans at Lepanto and Vienna. In more recent times, Pope John Paul II publicly attributed his survival of the 1981 assassination attempt to Marian intervention: "it was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death" (John Paul II, May 13, 1994, 13th anniversary of the assassination attempt).

But after his pilgrimage in "Wine", HalÚvy finds no Maddona: "four hundred miles in pursuit of a myth" (p.144)

Now for the positive forces leading towards the attack:

First there is the allegory, with its ending: "For they damned themselves: the Jews betrayed their king... Death to the Jews!" It need hardly be said that this is anti-Semitic, but curious even for anti-Semitism, because it is internally inconsistent: the Jews have already damned themselves. There's no reason given at all for wishing them dead: it won't do them any good, nor is there any suggestion that they are doing evil to others, either by spreading their errors or doing any of the other crimes variously ascribed to Jews over the years (killing Christian babies, etc.). The first part is curiously restrained (the Jews have harmed only themsleve) and the second part suggests an action or a wish out of all proportion to the charges in the first.

The statement is also extremely dark and pessimistic for both Jews AND Christians. The Jews' damnation is shown as final and irrevocable: there is no suggestion that they can avoid their fate by, e.g., converting to Christianity. And look again at their crime: they betrayed THEIR king. Surely, to a Christian, this should be OUR king. What is subtly suggested is the worst of all worlds: God (the God of Jews and Christians) is strictly a tribal god, offering salvation only to his chosen people, who have rejected it irrevocably. There is no suggestion of a New Covenant, of extending the promise of salvation to all people. No, there is no salvation for the Jews, no salvation for the Christians: it's damnation all around.

This is, as I said, an extremely pessimistic message, difficult to reconcile with even the most bigoted conception of Christianity.

Now to the lion and the ass: for some information on the Christian bestiary (symbolic meaning of animals in art), see the following articles from the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia:

"The Bestiary":

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02529b.htm

"Animals in Christian Art" :

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01515b.htm

The ass is an unusual figure in Christian symbolism. The use of the ass in the context of the allegory makes sense as a representation of obstinacy, but it is also interesting since it suggests an appeal to the calumny of onolatry (a useful phrase I picked up recently from the article below: onolatry means ass-worship), or the charge common in Roman times that Jewish religious practices included the worship of an ass; however, the Roman charge of onolatry also extended to Christians: a well known anti-Christian mural shows a caricature of Christ on a cross with the head of an ass. For more on this subject, see

"The Ass (in Caricature of Christian Beliefs and Practices)", again from the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01793c.htm

The lion as a symbol of the Catholic Church is again unusual. As noted in "Animals in Christian Art", the lion was used symbolically to represent both Christ and the Devil, but its use for such diametrically opposite figures shows its meaning was not universally established. The most common symbol for Christ was the fish; also common were the lamb and the dove. In common usage, the lion is often used as a symbol of strength and power. Among other things, the lion was the symbol of Babylon. (A fine example of the Babylonian lion may be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.) To a Christian, the most common connotations of the lion would be as an enemy of Christianity (the Christian matyrs being sacrificied to the lions, Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel was a an Old Testament Jew, whom Christians would consider their spiritual ancestor)).

In sum, the imagery of the lion and the ass seem strange in a Christian allegory, since both animals have anti-Christian connotations.

My theory is that the allegory pre-dates the arrival of Christianity in the region. The animals originally had different meanings -- it was perhaps even an anti-Christian allegory originally -- and at some point in the past the current meanings to the animals were clumsily added.

There is perhaps a clue to this in PO'B's description of the allegory as the "ancient local variation" (p. 145). The word "ancient" elsewhere in this story seems to indicate pre-Christian times; e.g., "It was here on the beach that the ancient world showed purest: with his back to the town he could forget the two or three thousand intervening years." (p.138) Ancient = 2,000 or 3,000 years previous.

It was on the ancient beach, where the boats "with pagan symbols on their bows" lie (p.138), that a fisherman first handed Alphard the jar containing the Chian wine, which is "at least two thousand years" old (p.142), i.e., from before the Christian era.

I believe the significance of the Chian wine is that is the bringing forth into the modern world a mentality and spirit that is pre-Christian and pagan. In a world without Christ or the old traditions, this revived paganism is able to fill the spiritual vacuum.

The beach is clearly shown as the source of evil later in the story: the children take the battering ram from the beach to break into Halevy's gallery; the diesel pump that fuels the final fire is on the beach as well.

Alphard receives the jar from this beach thirty years before the story's present. Note the parallel with "The Walker": the (apparent) murder and robbery of the priest took place thirty years before "The Walker"'s present (p. 77).

In "The Walker", the beach was the place where the walker found the German sailor's pelvic bone and the cheap ring with the swastika on it. Now (and here's where my date speculation above is relevant), if "Wine"'s present is 1963, the Chian wine would have been retrieved in 1933 (30 years before), the year of the National Socialist ascension to power in Germany.

So the beach in both stories is associated with Nazism, which was itself a neo-pagan revival in the modern world (what Pope Pius XI called "that so-called pre-Christian Germanic conception of substituting a dark and impersonal destiny for the personal God" in his 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge)

This dating also accounts for another seeming anomoly in "Wine" noted earlier by Don Seltzer. Don wrote:

"A minor point, but Alphard came to the village and was given the wine thirty years earlier. However, he had been attending this special service for only twenty years. Was this particular sermon really ancient, or did it begin just twenty years earlier?"

The actual language used is "the ceremony was perfectly familiar to him [Alphard] now, although it had seemed so strange twenty years ago" (p.145). Again, starting with 1963 as the present, 20 years earlier would have been 1943, which we can fudge a bit and call 1943/1944. In those years, when the evidence of the mass deaths of Jews in the Nazi concentration camps was being revealed, the allegory, with its "Death to the Jews" conclusion, may have sounded altogether different (stranger) than it did in previous years.

Then the story's conclusion: Good Friday 1963. With all the old restraints broken down, Alphard decides to open the Chian wine and share with HalÚvy.

"I should be very happy," says HalÚvy, unknowingly. "Thank you. Such a privilege." (p. 144)

Some foreshadowing in the two church ceremonies (I don't know whether they can properly be called masses, since there is no consecration): the church is thick with flies (Lord of the Flies, one of the titles of Satan) (p. 142, p.145); Alphard mutters to himself, "Frying in Hell ...frying in Hell" (p.142); the mention of St. Eulalie (p.145).

Then comes the attack at exactly the hour set to open the Chian wine. (This is speculation, actually: Alphard and HalÚvy are to meet at half past six, which is clearly after the evening vespers, though not necessarily immediately after).

When the children attack, "the door gave way" (p.147), like the cork being pulled off the bottle.

Then comes the deadly "jet of diesel oil" (p.147). And what does this resemble but the stream from a champagne bottle when the cork has been pulled off, but with inverted imagery, so that the white champage is now black diesel?

(It also resembles ejaculation, reminiscent of the psycho-sexual suggestions of the climactic murders at the end of "The Walker")

Then, with the genie out of the bottle, as it were, the rest is inevitable: conflagration, smoke, and an unknowing girl, dancing smiling, and marvelling.

Thus on the day of the unconsecrated wine comes the fruit of opening the Chian wine.

John Finneran


From: Gary W. Sims
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 12:44 AM

From: "John Finneran"

Amongst the villagers in "Wine" we can see the breakdown of the old order: the villagers abandon their custons, their clothes, even their language: all the ties of their society built up over generations, and with each broken tie is gone one more restraint.

And isn't POB's image of the consequence a disturbing one to place beside the book "Bowling Alone?" I will include a URL to the editorial review of that scholarly book at Amazon.Com, but I suspect it's too long to use easily, and it may be better to run a search for the title under "books" for yourself:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684832836/qid%3D964769901/103-195007 1-6991029

Gary W. Sims, Major, USAF(ret)
--------------------------------------------
Glad to have a community
At or about 34░42' N 118░08' W


From: u1c04803
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 5:59 AM

From: "John Finneran"

"The Chian Wine" begins, "When first he came to Saint-Feliu the middle and indeed the dark ages still hung about the streets, while the beach was classical antiquity itself." (p. 137). snips

Thank you very much for this, John.

Note that I am using this scene to date this story. The Second Vatican Council began during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII and continued into the reign of Pope Paul XI. The use of the vernacular in the story and the evident thinking of a New Church vs. an Old Church ETC

The "New" Church v. the "Old" Church is treated in the Aubrey/Maturin works also, at least twice: once when Stephen enters a church and is comforted by the "universal" language--and the knowledge that one can enter a church anywhere in the world and be confident that the same ritual in the same vernacular will be available. Maybe Chris knows exactly where this occurs.

Also, in Treason's harbor, the same idea is expressed symbolically. Stephen meets Wray in St. Simon's where they have both gone to hear plainchant, Pp. 56-59, and the French desecration of the church is discussed, since the French have stripped the gussied up structure of its marble and precious stone facades, and wantonly left it stark and unadorned. "Yet, this was not without its advantages. The acoustics were much improved, and as they stood there among the dim, bare stone or brick arches the choir-monks might have been chanting in a far older church, a church more suited to their singing than the florid Renaissance building the French had found. Their abobot was a very aged man...and now his frail but true old voice drifted through the half-ruined aisles pure, impersonal, quite detached from worldly things..."

Lois


From: Philip Sellew
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 6:31 AM

Lois reminds me that when I read this passage last I was reminded of Garry Wills' book on the modern (?) Catholic church, Bare Ruined Choisr:

Also, in Treason's harbor, the same idea is expressed symbolically. [snip] "Yet, this was not without its advantages. The acoustics were much improved, and as they stood there among the dim, **bare** stone or brick arches the **choir**-monks might have been chanting in a far older church, a church more suited to their singing than the florid Renaissance building the French had found. Their abobot was a very aged man...and now his frail but true old voice drifted through the half-**ruined** aisles pure, impersonal, quite detached from worldly things..."

Philip Sellew
at or about 45 00 N 93 10 W


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 11:05 AM

Regarding "Chian Wine", I have one question which I believe I asked previously. Is it not highly unusual for a devout Catholic to invite a guest over to enjoy a special bottle of wine on Good Friday?

Don Seltzer


From: Jean A
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2000 12:08 PM

Thanks to John Finneran for his commentary on The Chian Wine. He writes:

"In sum, the imagery of the lion and the ass seem strange in a Christian allegory, since both animals have anti-Christian connotations."

But the symbol of St. Mark, one of the four Evangelists, is the winged lion, which one can see all over Venice. ( I love the little lions that are tucked into a lot of unlikely places.) I remember that the Venetians appropriated Mark's remains from somewhere else and brought them to Venice.

In a previous post on The Chian Wine I pointed out that since the Second Vatican Council called by John XXII, the Catholic Church has been excising derogatory references to the Jews in its liturgies.

In the story, the young Dominican friar is preaching about the reforms, but the old ladies of the village do not understand his French. Ironically, we are told that the village dialect is more akin to Latin, which has elsewhere been supplanted by vernacular languages, than to French. So the village is shown to be somewhat insulated against the Church reforms initiated in the 1960s.

Jean A.


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 5:20 PM

Also, in Treason's harbor, the same idea is expressed symbolically. [snip] "Yet, this was not without its advantages. The acoustics were much improved, and as they stood there among the dim, **bare** stone or brick arches the **choir**-monks might have been chanting in a far older church, a church more suited to their singing than the florid Renaissance building the French had found. Their abobot was a very aged man...and now his frail but true old voice drifted through the half-**ruined** aisles pure, impersonal, quite detached from worldly things..."

Oh, that sneaky, treacherous POB--the hidden man of the world, with his reference to one of Shakespeare's great poems on growing old, like the "very aged" abbot...

"That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs that shake against the cold--
Bare, ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang"

Of course Shakespeare himself is no slouch at the hidden reference, reminding us of Henry VIII's seizures of the monasteries...and that, in turn, bumps up against what the French have done to the church where Maturin and Wray find themselves.

Charlezzzz


From: Philip Sellew
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2000 2:53 PM

Well sure, G. Wills's title is Shakespeare's line (and TH is after all named for another). But Stephen's refelctions on the older/more modern church in this passage still make me think more of Wills than of The Bard.

As you say, Chzzzz, the theme of age is in there too with the abbot, but in my muddled memory don't we see the 'getting older' theme more with Jack, as with Admiral Hartley in this same book (TH 2 acc. to PASC)? When Stephen discusses age isn't it often to lecture Jack?

Philip Sellew
at or about 45 00 N 93 10 W


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2000 7:06 PM

In a message dated 7/29/0 4:45:26 PM, selle001@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU writes:

When Stephen discusses age isn't it often to lecture Jack?

Indeed, Jack clearly grows older as the books progress, but Stephen seems to stay about the same age. Indeed, in evening one of chapter one of book one, Jack looks at Stephen and thinks he cd be almost any age. And so he stays.

Charlezzzz, thinking that Diana wd age almost any man


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Saturday, August 18, 2001 9:40 AM
Subject: Chocolat Wine

Watching Chocolat last night, I was immediately reminded of POB's short story "The Chian Wine". The insular French village, where everyone knew his place and all outsiders and modern thoughts were suspect, could have been a close cousin of POB's Saint Feliu/Collioure.

With the added elements of the Church's role in promoting intolerance, the setting during Lent, and even the element of fire, I found myself dreading what I thought might be a similarly tragic ending. And relevant to the recent thread on winds, I noted the importance and symbolism of the Northern wind in Chocolat, and the southern Sirocco in Chian Wine.

Don Seltzer


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