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The Last Pool

From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Friday, November 03, 2000 10:45 AM

Discussion of "The Last Pool" is now open for business.

I was surprised that there was so little discussion of "The Lemon," which I thought was one of the most intriguing of O'Brian's short stories.

We've almost completed our (fist?) cycle of discussion of O'Brian's short stories. Kudos to all participants, including innocent readers of these posts who have not joined in more actively.

- Susan Wenger


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2000 6:51 AM

Although it seems unfair to isolate a few sentences out of the taut short stories POB writes, I've pulled together a few that I found relevant to a conclusion: this post will be incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't read this short story yet.

In Conan's time they drowned lepers here.

The gorge was beautiful, but it was a harsh, grim kind of beauty, God forbid.

(The man had no confidence in his alternate fly, which was far too big, but he tied it on anyway): "It seemed but decent to do the thing correctly, although his belief in his motions had almost wholly gone."

His faith in the day's fishing had gone in three stages.

He slipped, he fell. Did he die? I'm certain that he died - that's why the tale is called "The Last Pool." And was James Aislabie a leper?

- Susan, starting the ball rolling, the fly flying, the trout running

=====
To learn about "The Port-Wine Sea," my parody of Patrick O'Brian's wonderful Aubrey-Maturin series, please see

http://www.ericahouse.com/browsebuy/fiction/wenger/index.html


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2000 9:51 AM

Aislabie is an uncommon name. Here's what I found in a google search - but I don't see the relevance to "The Last Pool:"

Aislabie, John (d1742) Member of Parliament, Chancellor of the Exchequer and victim of the South Sea Bubble, John Aislabie inherited the Studley Royal estate in North Yorkshire in 1699. He designed the moon-ponds around1725. He was one of the first to bring natural landscape into the garden, but unlike the later 'Capability' Brown, he contained it behind large yew hedges. His grand design for the gardens was to include the ruins of Fountains Abbey, but he had to make do with the view. Only when his neighbour died was his son William able to buy the ruins and complete the plan for the green-garden of Studley Royal.


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2000 10:05 AM

A note to Lissuns who have recently come aboard: we're discussing POB's short stories (found in "The Rendezvous and Other Stories.) If you want to comment, prefix your message with the letters SS so the references to the short stories can be easily identified. You'll find that his short stories are quite different from anything in the canon--many are highly symbolic underneath a naturalistic surface, tragic, and built around hidden references to his own private life.

Let me tell you a story, says POB.

The hero is dead. He doesn't know he's dead. He finds himself in a landscape, both beautiful and hideous; full of both life and death; and he's on a journey in that landscape; he has a task, something he must perform; he moves toward judgment, though the judgment is often disguised.

This is a familiar story, a story from Egypt, Tibet, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Israel; the Great Myth of the hero's journey, concerning life, death, and the effort to return, enriched.

This is a story whose journey and task takes place in and around a pool--a pool in which lepers have been drowned, and not cured. Nor is it a quiet pool: the top end has "...a menacing roar to it. The outlet [through which the hero will be swept] was...a broad mortal jet that came through a black gate of rock..."

The hero's task is to catch a fish. A fish. Fish, an early Christian symbol for the Christ. He kills it. His last sensation is "the smell of the fresh-run fish."

Here are a few stanzas, part of a vy long poem that refers to that same black gate of rock as a lintel. It takes place deep underground, on the bank of Acheron, Styx, or whatever river you want it to be, and instead of a fish there's the cast-off skin of a snake. A snake. A Greek symbol of life returned. Or maybe just a snakeskin... whatever you want it to be.

Wherever he looks, shadows twist away.
He comes to the edge
of a stream that rubs itself, sliding
through the limestone, rubs against
a glimmering
     boulder at the center
     of that world.

A snakeskin crumples under
his left foot as he is about to take
the step that would put him
into the stream where he would find whatever
     there is to find
     in the thick black water.

He's found the cast-off skin
of a blind snake, a skin split
where the snake, twisting, scraped
herself against that boulder,
tearing the skin beneath
her jaw, tongue flickering, as if she whispered
secrets to the rock,
carving herself
delicately out of her skin,
skin left behind as the new snake,
glittering in darkness, curled away reborn
     under the crags beneath the earth,
     and under all the imaginary stars.

He picks up the snakeskin. He
speaks into the empty cave, saying: "What
should I..." He says nothing more. He
doesn't know what more he wants to say. Water
hisses past him. Kneeling,
he cups his hands
and drinks from the stream; frigid water
stings the bone
between his eyes.
The light on his forehead
makes the ripples
     of his drinking
     dance in the cave.

No insects flitter over the water, no spider
torments them. The water's empty,
drained pure as limestone by centuries beneath
the earth. For a while he rests
by the edge of the stream, watching
the boulder, soaking
his ankle into numbness, chilling
     his forehead
     with sips of burning water.

A small wind
blows downstream a few inches above
the water, blowing from darkness into
darkness. The wind
dries his face. He looks at the threshold
where the water flows away; he sees
there is enough room
for him to crawl beneath
the low lintel stone, following the stream
downward, down on its journey to the place
where waters are gathered
     together under
     the mountains' roots.

The water
flows past him. The noise
of the water is white
noise: he doesn't hear it unless he listens,
and then the noise is all he hears,
the noise that drowns out
     the clamor
     in his heart.

He knows that he has come far
enough. He's found enough. He fills
his canteen, letting the water flow
until, heavy, it pulls
his hand down into the water.
The skin on his hands
is wrinkled, puckered from the chill,
like the skin of the old men he used to see
sitting on benches in the park, hands
on their knees, waiting
for nightfall so they could leave
     the park and find,
     at last, their beds.

He slips the snakeskin inside
his shirt to keep it safe. He rises, turns
to call back his steps
and find the upper air again. His right hand,
     inside his torn shirt,
     caresses the gentle skin.

     Charlezzzz


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 9:01 AM

The hero is dead. He doesn't know he's dead.

Was he dead when the story opened, in the sense that he was destined to die and no escape? Or could he have "saved" himself by not going on to the last pool, or by not trying so hard to catch the fish?


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 1:33 PM

In the context of a mere story, it seems to me, the author cd have done anything he wanted with the hero--but it might not have been much of a story. Successful stories involve conflict--the hero struggles; the story ends when the struggle is resolved. In one kind of simple story, the conflict is obvious, on the surface, visible: the detective catches the dangerous criminal, the lovers marry, the soldier dies, the man catches a fish, or the fish gets away. The clear conflict is clearly resolved.

Some conflicts are hidden--the Dubliners learn, each in his own way, that "you can do nothing in Dublin." The reader, if the reader is perceptive, is moved. He or she may not know why. No matter. The story has done its work.

One can discuss enjoy a discussion of a story in terms of its surface: How many children did Lady MacBeth have? Do salmon really grow as big as the story says? How cd Ahab have kept Fedallah and his men hidden within the small area of a whaler? What was James Wait's illness?

Some stories reward deeper searches. One type (not the only type) of such a story bases itself on the retelling of a myth.

One of the basic myths is the hero's journey underground. Consider Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Herakles. Consider the journey that the shaman takes in his trance. Consider Jesus. Virgil, Dante. These stories find an echo in our deepest minds...and that's why they can make a story both powerful and memorable when the storyteller gets them right. (And that is also why, I think, spelunking is such a marvelous adventure, echoing and resonant to something deep inside us.)

POB has a particular trick as a storyteller. He bases his stories on materials that he finds available. Anson's voyage--where the events and even the character's names are given to him: all he has to do is connect the dots (brilliantly.) Or Cochrane's adventures. Or the events of various frigate battles.

In his short stories (not all of them) he tells the same mythic story over and over, but with variations in details each time. That's the way the Greeks handled the plays and poems they built from their myths. They were given a basic set of events full of deep though obscure meaning, events that resonate in our minds, and they gave to those events a local habitation and a name. That's what POB is doing in The Last Pool--working up a variation on the Hero's Journey.

To answer your opening question: Yes. In a way, he's dead; (but only in a symbolic death--he walks, thinks, fishes, so in another way he's not dead) but we are all "destined to die and no escape": one of the functions of the hero myth is to show how to fight against that situation. How to live meanwhile. How to struggle, to hope, and how to come to the surface again, enriched. It he had "saved" himself and had given up on the fish, it might have been a fine story, but clearly not the story POB gave us.

Unlike most of the stories I've read in The Rendezvous, the hero of this one is a winner. He catches the fish. He survives. (Consider Hemingway's great "Two-hearted River" in this context. A subtle, beautiful story.)

And consider this--if he did not try so hard "to catch the fish"--if he did not display the virtue of struggle, why shd we want to pay attention?

What it comes down to is this: POB was constructing a story like a carpenter building a chair. It has to work. It has to support its load. He had a great many choices, a great many ways to tell the surface story, but the underlying myth was there to his hand, and he caught it.

Charlezzzz


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 1:59 PM

POB has a particular trick as a storyteller. He bases his stories on materials that he finds available. Anson's voyage--where the events and even the character's names are given to him: all he has to do is connect the dots (brilliantly.)

Do you think that Shakespeare only joined dots as well..as most his his plots were mmmm' stolen?


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 7:48 PM

Good point. There are some stories where originality in plotting is important, but in most instances it makes vy little difference whether the plot is new or old. It's the way it works out that's important...and many of POB's short stories, variations on the same theme, give us a good look at a writer using the same plot (or, anyhow, the same situation) in quite different ways.

Remember Shakespeare: "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet/Are of imagination all compact..." Three ways to use the same plot to develop the same batty story. Who wd know better than sweet William?

Charlezzzz


From: John Finneran
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 2:49 AM

"The Last Pool" was (as far as I can tell) the very first story in the very first collection of short stories ("The Last Pool and Other Stories", published 1950) that appeared under the name Patrick O'Brian.

The hero of this story is a man with the initials J.A. (James Aislabie); and at the next two turning points of his re-invented career as a fiction writer, PO'B re-used these initials: his first novel ("Three Bear Witness" or "Testimonies", 1952) had a hero named Joseph Aubrey Pugh, and again, in 1969, with "Master and Commander", which would be the commencement of the major epic of PO'B's career, J.A. returned in the person of Jack Aubrey (with the name Aubrey being an even more explicit hearkening back to the protagonist in "Testimonies").

We can, in fine, in "The Last Pool" see the dim beginnings of the Aubrey-Maturin saga, and of O'Brian's full future direction as a fiction writer.

In "The Last Pool", James Aislabie has been fishing all day without luck, and he comes at last to what he determines will be the last pool of the day he shall try. "The top of his desire had been a two- or three-pound sea trout, weighed by friendly scale" (p. 226); but, against all probability, he hooks a thirty-pound salmon. Even though his equipment would ordinarily be too flimsy for such a big fish, Aislabie struggles to land it thoughout most of the story, until he slips and hits his head against the stone at the bottom of the pool, but he manages to grab the fish as he falls.

The ending is somewhat ambiguous: there are people all around, including a Dr. Niel, and someone calls to get the priest; the salmon lies next to James. It is unclear if he has died, or is near death (the call for the priest, presumably to give Extreme Unction (Last Rites) suggests one of the two), or if he was just stunned and is recovering consciousness.

The hero's name is inserted rather clumsily into the narrative: "The gorge was beautiful, this man, this James Aislabie, observed to himself" (p. 224) There's no reason at all why the "this James Aislabie" clause need be in that sentence; and from a narrative standpoint, there's no reason to name the protagonist in the rest of the story either. This is certainly a story where the man could have remained "he" or "the man" throughout (a practice PO'B follows in some of the other stories).

Susan has previously posted some biographical information on a historical James Aislabie, but I don't see too much relevance to our character, except to confirm that Aislabie is an actual name.

My guess is that PO'B is using Aislabie as a combination of the words aisling and lullaby. An aisling is an Irish word for a vision, and a lullaby, of course, is a song to lull children to sleep: both words suggest the sort of dream/fantasy/vision of catching the fish. ("The name of the fly [which would land the fish] escaped him; somebody's Fancy,...", p. 224) And, indeed, a possible interpretation of the story is that Aislabie falls asleep, dreams of catching the fish, and falls into the water, where he hits his head, etc.

Like Jack Aubrey, James Aislabie is intimately familiar with the fine points of his craft (fly fishing in this case), and reflects naturally on a 3X cast and the backing of his rod with the intimate familiarity for the jargon that Jack would use on talking of setting the mizzen topgallant staysail, and James becomes as much the natural fisherman as Jack would be the natural sailor: "By now he felt that he knew the fish intimately well, could foretell its reactions, could think in front of it... His own reactions, the working of the rod, the instant reeling-in, the varied check, were quite automatic by now; he did not think of them at all." (pp. 228-229).

More prefigurements to O'Brian's later works:

Here is Dr. Niel speaking: "I tell you he will certainly be at Tobin's -- we sent for him -- my own patient, for all love. Hurry now, Jack, will you? You can take the poor man's bicycle from by the bridge ... Surely to God it must be the biggest fish that ever ran up this river." (p.232) Who does Dr. Niel sound like but Dr. Maturin?

And those names in that little bit of dialogue -- Jack and Tobin -- who do they sound like but Jack and Toby, the heroes of "The Unknown Shore" and the very clear models for Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin?

The placement of this story is significant. I think that the order of the stories in "The Rendezvous and Other Stories" is no accident, but allows a certain development of themes across stories, a meta-story if you will, and "The Last Pool" (third to last story in the present collection) represents more of a closing to the thematic procession than an opening.

(Not that I have this meta-story idea completely worked out; this is a theory-in-progress).

"The Last Pool" is quite similar to "The Return" (opening story in the present collection), except that in "Return", the hero lets the fish go and is able to leave the woods safely himself. In "Pool", the hero gets what he wants, but apparently at the price of his life.

The symbolism in "The Last Pool" is not nearly as heavy as in some of the other stories, but it is there.

The only bit of overt religious symbolism is the mention of the priest at the end, but there is much more that could be interpreted as hidden religious imagery. Charlezzzz has previously noted the fish as a symbol of Christ. Dr. Niel (Kneel) has a vaguely religious name (much like the last doctor we encountered in the short stories, Dr. Kirk (Church) from "The Long Day Running").

Much of the language is likewise ambiguously religious: "it [changing flies on his rod] was more a gesture of piety than anything else" (p. 224); "His faith in the day's fishing" (p. 225); "he could see the wake it made, curving away right-handed to cross the tip of the spit" ("wake" and "cross" being the significant words) (p. 227); "He realized that his arms were as heavy as they could well be" (p. 229). (This is James battling the fish, reminiscent of the Biblical battle where the Israelites have the upper hand just as long as Moses keeps his arms raised.)

Then there is the water that James falls into (baptism): his thoughts as he falls are "Oh God, the speed ..." (p. 231) (compare this to "Not Liking to Pass the Road Again", where the narrator says, "oh God the great bursting crashing in the wood and he came, brutal grunting with speed" (p.36)). God is mentioned again on the next page by Dr. Niel ("Surely to God it must be the biggest fish that ever ran up this river.", p. 232) The fall and death (real or symbolic) is followed by a resurrection (again, either real or symbolic).

Charelezzzz has mentioned the similarity of this story to several variations of the Hero's Journey; I want note its similarity to another story, or a song in this case: "Finnegan's Wake" (the song being also one of the bases for James Joyce's novel of the same name). In "Finnegan's Wake", a builder named Tim Finnegan, after having a bit of whiskey, loses his balance, falls from a ladder, breaks his skull, and is brought home to be waked.

In "Pool", James likewise loses his balance and falls, seemingly dead from a blow to the head: "he felt his weight swaying over ... It was quite impossible for him to get his balance again ... It was a relief when he fell at last -- he no longer had to do anything now; it was decided for him now. He observed that his reason was working perfectly well although he was terrified and sweating with the fear of death." (p. 231)

Here's the corresponding scene in the song:

He head felt heavy, which made him shake,
And he fell from the ladder, and he broke his skull,
And they carried him home, his corpse to wake.

(There are various alternative versions of the song.)

And, while we're at it, here's the scene from Joyce's book: "His howd feeled heavy, his hoddit shake. (There was a wall of course in erection) Dimb! He stottered from the latter. Damb! he was dud."

And, in the song, the wake takes place, and things are going along fairly well, as Mrs. Finnegan passes out tea and cake, but then she brings out the whiskey, and the women go in for conversating, and then arguing, and then fighting, and the men follow right along, and fists and shilleleaghs are flying all about, until someone throws a barrel of whiskey at Mickey Maloney, who ducks his head, and "the liquor scathers over Tim" and:

Begod, he revives!
See how he rises!
Tim Finnegan rising from the dead,
Saying, "Send me around a bottle like blazes!"
"Be the t'undering Jaysus, d'ye t'ink I'm dead?"

Now the song is a nice bit of ribaldary, but it is also a symbolic rendering of the idea of Christian baptism and resurrection, the word whiskey meaning "the water of life" ("'Thank you, sir,' said Peter, taking back the serpent. Then in an evil moment he added, 'We call it uishge beatha at home -- the water of life.'", PO'B, The Golden Ocean, p. 218)

As in the song, the water of life (actual water now) revives James (again, either really or symbolically).

I'll end with a bit of ill-informed speculation about what the fate of J.A. #1 (James Aislabie) can mean for J.A. #3 (Jack Aubrey). (Spoiler in the next 3 paragraphs for "Blue at the Mizzen", though you've probably figured out what it is just from the title of the book).

At the end of BATM, J.A. #3, like J.A. #1, achieves his heart's desire at last, by catching the prize he has sought for so long (the order to hoist his flag as a blue admiral): "Jack said, 'By God, Stephen, I am so glad it was you who brought me this news. Sophie will be so happy. By God, I never thought my flag would come.'", p. 261, hc) (as with "Pool", two mentions of God).

If J.A.#1 has truly died at the end of "Pool", is J.A. #3 to now meet the same fate? Is this one possibility (or "potentiality", to use a word favored by PO'B), that PO'B has been considering since the saga's beginning (and by extension, in utero as it were, 20 years before the saga's beginning)?

We'll see if the final three still unpublished chapters (and any notes if they exist and are released) of the Aubrey-Maturin epic will answer this.

John Finneran


From: Peter Mackay
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 1:48 AM

The hero of this story is a man with the initials J.A. (James Aislabie); and at the next two turning points of his re-invented career as a fiction writer, PO'B re-used these initials: his first novel ("Three Bear Witness"

Which I was in the uni Co-op bookshop this arvo and I saw they had Hussein and Caesar for sale. This Three Bear Witness would be a similar wildlife story, I collect?


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 5:54 AM

Three Bear Witness was the original English publication name for The Catalans the American publishers renamed it, I believe, sort of like Clarissa Oakes and The Truelove.


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 8:32 AM

In a message dated 11/19/2000 12:50:38 AM, John.Finneran@PILEOFSHIRTS.COM writes:

I want note its similarity to another story, or a song in this case: "Finnegan's Wake"

Finnegan, Finneran? You are doing well!

A vy nice analysis.

Charlezzzz


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 8:45 AM

yippie aye ay for the one eyed Reilly!!


From: Peter Mackay
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 11:24 AM

Three Bear Witness was the original English publication name for The Catalans the American publishers renamed it, I believe, sort of like Clarissa Oakes and The Truelove.

I've not read this - but a wildlife story, is it? Bears and the Pyrennees go together in Patrick O'Brian's mind.

We gain an astonishing insight on a daily basis in the Gunroom.


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2000 12:07 PM

The Catalans/Three Bear Witness is not really a wildlife book, unless the villagers of Catalonia get up to some wild activities.


From: Martin Watts
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2000 1:05 AM

Peter and Adam were discussing "Three Bear Witness" and "The Catalans":

"Three Bear Witness" was the original title of "Testimonies", the Welsh novel. "The Catalans" was a.k.a "The Frozen Flame" IIRC. I prefer "Testimonies" as a title, on the ground that the original is too likely to be filed with the fairy tales.

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


From: Martin Watts
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2000 12:52 AM

John wrote:

The ending is somewhat ambiguous: there are people all around, including a Dr. Niel, and someone calls to get the priest; the salmon lies next to James. It is unclear if he has died, or is near death (the call for the priest, presumably to give Extreme Unction (Last Rites) suggests one of the two), or if he was just stunned and is recovering consciousness.

More ambiguity: a "priest" is a small bludgeon used to knock a caught fish on the head.

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


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2000 5:09 AM

Adam Quinan wrote:

Three Bear Witness was the original English publication name for The Catalans the American publishers renamed it, I believe, sort of like Clarissa Oakes and The Truelove.

"Three Bear Witness" was the original title for "Testimonies."

"The Frozen Flame" was the original title for "The Catalans."

- Susan

=====
To learn about "The Port-Wine Sea," my parody of Patrick O'Brian's wonderful Aubrey-Maturin series, please see
http://www.ericahouse.com/browsebuy/fiction/wenger/index.html


From: John Finneran
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2000 5:48 PM

Brian Tansey wrote:

yippie aye ay for the one eyed Reilly!!

Well, now that I think of it, there was plunge into the water in "The One Eyed Reilly" as well (though no novel by James Joyce).

For those of you not familiar with the song:

In "The One Eyed Reilly", also known as "O'Reilly's Daughter", the narrator is sitting by the fire talking to O'Reilly's daughter (O'Reilly and The One Eyed Reilly is the same person, and did I mention he only has one eye?), and decides to marry O'Reilly's daughter, so off they go and get married, but O'Reilly doesn't much cotton to the idea, so he comes with two pistols in his hands in search of the narrator, who escapes by plunging O'Reilly's head into a pail of water.

John Finneran


From: Astrid Bear
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2000 3:37 PM

Peter and Adam were discussing "Three Bear Witness" and "The Catalans":

So why am I thinking of Three Dog Night?


From: Warren Godfrey
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2000 7:02 PM

Jean A. writes that for her the "Last Pool" is just a fishing story with a happy ending.

For Charlezzzz the meanings may be deeper: heroic journeys, encounters with and meditations on the snake-shed skin and death not-death. JA a kind of Schrodinger's cat to Charlezzzz.

And Finneran's "Finnegan's Wake." Yes, good. I wish I had thought of it; no doubt O'Brian did. Well thought and well-written.

For me, the "Last Pool" is a better "Pincher Martin," which was better than "The Return" and "Happy Despatch," even though they are all the same story turned this way and that. Charlezzzz is right in his analysis so far. I think he understands the "more" in "The Last Pool" more than he has said so far. But hey, we might get another fine poem.

So these are my thoughts. Yeah, the fish for Christianity in all its myths and twists. The promise of salvation and renewal through rebirth. The main themes: compulsion, death and resurrection. A rough baptism for each of the main characters in the kettle-shaped pool emptied by the "mortal jet."

"In Conan's time they drowned lepers here." The Christian view of Conan's time was that the leper was afflicted by a demon, and that was the cause of the disease. The drowners solved the public health problem and those of the afflicted by separating the soul from the ruined body. For the believer the body would then be restored immaculate and without blemish to the right hand of God. Cured and reborn.

The "fresh-run cock salmon" is compelled as well, hot-wired by his genes and juiced by his hormones to swim or leap all rocks and rapids, to sniff and taste and tease out the same stream from whence he came; compelled to spawn and then to die. We are even told that the water is unusually low in the last pool and perhaps this cock salmon might go no further, even without JA's intervention. Salmon age mightily in a few weeks at the end, but their offspring will be fresh and new. The salmon's genes go on, cured of age and death, reborn. And the salmon does not go quietly, but battles JA stubbornly, saving nothing, heroically. This is probably as much salvation as a fish can get.

And what of James Aislabie? In "Last Pool" O'Brian gives us an obsessed character with a twist. JA wants above all to catch one fish, a kind of small salvation for a wasted day.

It seems to me that JA, like Pincher Martin, is dying, with his boots on no less. As he dies, his dream is of catching the one great fish. As he dreams, a voice intrudes from outside, calling: "James Aislabie" and "Aislabie" and "Aislabie" and "James Aislabie" again and again. It doesn't scan most times and "he" or "him" would do better, but there it is. The name grates on this reader as I struggle to burrow back into the dream, the wonderful flowing prose. I think the repeated name represents people shouting the name of the drowned, and calling to each other to bring the priest for the last rites and the doctor to make the death official.

So JA has come to the pool to die, and he is immersed further and further. First the toes, then the hand and arm, then the face and the whole body. With his last grimace he is completely immersed, baptized. But is he dead, and will he be reborn? Can't tell.

And then there is the name Aislabie. Almost but not quite "easy lips." But ease would be "aise" in French, and "labie" refers to a labiate plant. But as I played with it, I could see that it likely amused O'Brian to use "James Aislabie," and to insert the phrase "can we ease you as you lie, Mister?" into the final paragraph of the story. Hmnnn. "Easy lips," "relaxed lips." "loose lips." Oh yeah, "Loose Lips Sink Ships," as Astrid Bear recently reminded us. And of course Pincher Martin gets torpedoed because one sub found his boat and sank it. "Loose lips"? Maybe, maybe not. Certainly the first appearance of "The Last Pool" was in 1950, around the time Golding managed to sell "Lord of the Flies" and then his earlier work, including "Pincher Martin."

And then there is ease and dis-ease. The lepers have a disease which is "eased" by dying. The salmon is deprived of his ease by his instincts but eased by a heroic death. JA is made uneasy by his inability to catch one fish, and perhaps he never does, but the onlookers offer to "ease you as you lie." So perhaps the fish story is a lie, at least as it first appears?

And maybe sometimes a fish is just a fish.


From: Dawn Harkins
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2000 10:49 PM

I'm reminded of why I hated to write (pick apart) literature in school: it seemed, so often, to compromise my innocent and literal enjoyment of the story, the characters, the prose. And it often seemed suspect to me: What right had any reader to interpret, to say "this is what the writer was *really* saying"?

Here's a true story: Once upon a time I entered an abstract painting in my school's annual student art show. As I matted the piece, I discussed possible titles with the department head and others in the studio. Various possibilities were thrown out, but I kept shaking my head.

Then someone said hey, how 'bout Young Girl on a Swing? For whatever reason, and having nothing to do with the piece itself, its imagery or its conception, I laughed and said why not. I was also pleased by the disparity, from my point of view, between the title and the piece.

Flatteringly, Young Girl on a Swing won a purchase award, meaning the college bought it for its permanent collection. At the reception, I sneakily stood behind a couple of people who were analyzing my work.

They discussed, in learned tones, how the artist had used this color, that line, this shape, that volume to suggest the girl swinging. They even "saw" the youth of the girl, right there on the canvas.

What stuff! And in writing papers for my lit proff, I found that what was required was that I do the same: simply paste my own interpretations of the work's meaning onto the author's setting, theme, characters, etc. And it flew, as long as I carefully supported my claims with "evidence" from the work in question.

What stuff...and yet, I acknowledge that there are depths beyond the surfaces. This post of Warren's is an intriging and enlightening explication, one which I plan to hang on to until I read The Last Pool myself, for heaven knows I would never "get it" without help. Great post, Warren.

Dawn, intensely grateful for my annotated edition of Shakespeare


From: Jean A
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 7:56 AM

I am a great admirer of of the imaginative and scholarly posts of the lissuns, and most of the time I marvel and nod my head, "Yes, yes, that's what it means. I see, I see...." But buoyed by a joyous Thanksgiving celebration, and several good wines, I found it difficult to cram all those wondrous, readings into what still seems to be, unlike most of the other stories in the book, a happy fish story. The fault is all mine.

Warren Godfrey wrote in his very good post:

"In Conan's time they drowned lepers here." The Christian view of Conan's time was that the leper was afflicted by a demon, and that was the cause of the disease. The drowners solved the public health problem and those of the afflicted by separating the soul from the ruined body. For the believer the body would then be restored immaculate and without blemish to the right hand of god. Cured and reborn."

Curious. I find Conan, son of the Daghda; Conan, son of Liath Luachra; Conan, son of Cinn Sleibhe; Conan Maol. All are pre-Christian, but, of course, recorded in Christian times, since the ancient stories were passed on orally. But I find no prominent Conans in Christian times, and no references to a Conan who drowns lepers.

Where did O'Brian get that story? Where is Warren's source for his interpretation? It sounds singularly un-Christian to me, what with all that stuff in the New Testament about curing lepers and all!

Jean A.
(With child to know!)


From: Peter Mackay
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 8:40 AM

Textual interpretation may take two forms:

1. The passive or "female" way of trying to see what the artist/author was getting at - passive interpretation involves looking at other works by the same dude, reading his diaries, working out what he was trying to say with the work.

Good stuff, but then you have

2. The active, "male" method of assigning meaning to something based on the eye of the beholder. The author's intentions are of secondary importance, or may have zero relevance, as in the case of works from antiquity, where all other evidence of the artist's intentions has vanished.

I say "male" and "female", not because I wish to assign attitudes based on sex, but because that's the way my professors pushed it.


From: Warren Godfrey
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 8:41 AM

When "Last Pool" was written and first published (1950) O'Brian was emerging from the death of his first life and marriage as Russ to his invention of and rebirth as Patrick O'Brian. It has been said that all fiction is somewhat autobiographical and all autobiography is somewhat fictional, and seems to me that so is O'Brian in "Last Pool." He casts himself with the seekers and the heroes, doing what they must. (The echo in the canon is "each man is the hero of his own story.") So it is Russ who has spawned and died, sought and failed, and is disfigured. JA and his fish story is O'Brian seeking to conquer and kill his past self. His ex-wife's sympathizers will likely have cast him as a kind of leper, a past he cannot completely deny, and it is from that stigma that he must disassociate himself even as he attempts to invent a self and a living.

So O'Brian casts it all as a story, and takes all the hero parts. Not unlike the half-century to follow for O'Brian, who made it up so gloriously as he went along.

But in 1950 he has mixed feelings about his life as Russ and his failures as a father and husband. Dying to all you were is not easy, and so the fish is bigger and better than perhaps his life had been, its actions purer, and its death heroic rather than sad or sordid. Can he overcome Russ to be O'Brian, the constant invention? In the 1950 I suggest he does not know, and that is why the character and the construction of the story is so wonderfully ambiguous.

No doubt his emotional state in 1950 would be described as "labile" which comes from the Latin labilis, liable to slip, fall; ultimately from the root "labi" which is to slip, fall. The first definition in my Webster's is "1. liable to err, fall or lapse." The second is "2. liable to change, unstable." So Russ, who has slipped and fallen, erred and lapsed is changed to O'Brian, who invents a character who slips and falls, perhaps to drown.

Warren, in way too deep, gurgling


From: Warren Godfrey
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 8:54 AM

Dawn Harkins wrote:

Flatteringly, Young Girl on a Swing won a purchase award, meaning the college bought it for its permanent collection. At the reception, I sneakily stood behind a couple of people who were analyzing my work.

They discussed, in learned tones, how the artist had used this color, that line, this shape, that volume to suggest the girl swinging. They even "saw" the youth of the girl, right there on the canvas.

What stuff!

Dawn, what a wonderful post. It is obvious that you are even more talented than you ever imagined!

What stuff, indeed.

I share your mixed feelings about interpretation of someone's work. I'm constantly amazed that people find meanings in my work that I did not put there, and no doubt O'Brian would be at me with an axe for my thoughts on "Last Pool."

But it is interesting to speculate on stories and how they might work, and I look forward to your further thoughts on "Last Pool" and other subjects.

Warren, causing trouble yet again


From: Jean A
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 10:52 AM

Warren wrote:

"You might try Conan Meriadoc, King of Dumnonia and Brittany;" or "St. Conan, he who dealt summarily with the devil himself for souls in the Isle of Man in the 7th century C.E..."

Ah, but this is an Irish story, ruling out residents of The Isle of Man and Dumnonia, and Conan, whoever he was, once was here, on the very site:

"...the falling water accentuated the black polish of the half-sunken rocks. In Conan's time they drowned lepers here."

(To be sure, St. Conan of the Isle of Man may very well have been one of the innumerable Irish missionaries who are honored in places like Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Northumbria, Scotland, and, indeed, the continent of Europe, and endured what they called "The Green Martyrdom", exiling themselves from their native land to enlighten the Dark Ages. Stephen Maturin would say the same.)

I propose, if I may take the liberty, that Conan*, if found, will prove to be an Irish pagan, and that the drowning of the lepers will have nothing whatever to do with Christian practices.

Jean A.
(*Conan the Barbarian?)


From: Dawn Harkins
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 10:56 AM

Dawn Harkins wrote:

I'm reminded of why I hated to write (pick apart) literature in school

Oops, sorry, I meant "write about literature."

Dawn


From: Dawn Harkins
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 11:30 AM

Peter Mackay wrote:

snip

The author's intentions are of secondary importance, or may have zero relevance

True. An artist must not worry about what people will make of his/her work. Once it it completed, and sent out into the world, it is on its own and defenseless, quite rightly. IMHO, if an artist wants to have no misinterpretation, he/she must be grossly explicit, which would take all the fun away and make the end product into something other than art, which is something that has meanings upon meanings, layers upon layers, and indeed invites the viewer/reader to interact with and become part of it, thus changing it. Like that physics concept (insert name here_______, not Schroedinger's cat, maybe, yes that's it, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle?), where the observer changes the event simply by observing it.

Dawn


From: Warren Godfrey
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 9:25 AM

Jean A wrote:

But I find no prominent Conans in Christian times, and no references to a Conan who drowns lepers.

You might try Conan Meriadoc, King of Dumnonia and Brittany; he of the unfortunate almost marriage to the even more unfortunate Ursula in the 4th century C.E. I doubt Conan Meriadoc would have drowned lepers personally, but I doubt he would have found it exceptional either, being of a somewhat pragmatical turn.

And of course there's St. Conan, he who dealt summarily with the devil himself for souls in the Isle of Man in the 7th century C.E., and he a Christian Bishop, for all love! "Paw for paw," said he, as they still say there today.

As to Christianity, the demonic notion of disease and exorcism persists throughout the Bible, and though I've found no mention of drowning lepers, leprosy is certainly held up in the Old and New Testaments as a standard of disease and misery.

And meaning no slight 'gainst Christians, a religion that would raise a crusade against the Cathars ("Kill them all and let God sort them out.") and countenance the Inquisition would not stick at drowning a few lepers. But I wonder as well, and my search continues. I do not know his source as yet. But I will.

To address your question more directly, though, that wonderful sentence "In Conan's time . . ." is meant, I think, to evoke the idea that this rock-bound kettle is an ancient place of death.

Warren


From: Warren Godfrey
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 1:17 PM

Jean A wrote:

Ah, but this is an Irish story,

Are we sure 'tis Irish?

ruling out residents of The Isle of Man and Dumnonia, and Conan, whoever he was, once was here, on the very site: "...the falling water accentuated the black polish of the half-sunken rocks. In Conan's time they drowned lepers here."

Perhaps, but still we say "In King George's time" after our independence, and "In Napoleon's time" for a time in all the western world, so why not a Conan who never gazed upon these polished rocks? But I concur that JA would most likely have heard the legend time bound to a locally important Conan, and if it is Ireland, then I'm as puzzled as you.


From: Jean A
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 4:19 PM

Warren was not sure that the setting of The Last Pool is in Ireland. That it is is proved by the next to the last paragraph in the story, which I have previously quoted:

" They were wrangling softly about where the priest was to be found, and Dr. Niel said again, " I tell you he will certainly be at Tobin's - we sent for him - my own patient, for all love. Hurry now, Jack, will you: You can take the poor man's bicycle from by the bridge ... Surely to God it must be the biggest fish that ever ran up this river."

The surnames, including that of 'Tobin's" , which is, perhaps, the name of the person's house, or perhaps the local pub, where the priest is to be found, are Irish.

And 'for all love' and 'surely to God' are phrases which POB puts in Maturin's mouth.

Finally, 'Goileadair' is Gaelic for 'kettle'.

Jean A.


From: Warren Godfrey
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2000 3:42 PM

Warren is convinced, utterly, Jean. "Tis Ireland indeed!

But we still don't know who the devil is Conan? And have you found a real Goileandir, for all love?

Warren, abashed


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 3:11 AM

"You might try Conan Meriadoc, King of Dumnonia and Brittany;" or "St. Conan, he who dealt summarily with the devil himself for souls in the Isle of Man in the 7th century C.E..."

St Conan-originally from Scotland-became Bishop of Ireland & taught St Fiacre before going to the Isle of Man,where he worked as a missionery and was consecrated bishop there also. He died Circa 648

Saints on Line !!

I will try to get more information in town tomorrow(monday)


From: P. Richman
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 6:57 AM

Although I haven't read this story yet, I'm enjoying the discussion and saving it until I do get to read it. The O'Brian short story thread is one of the many great things about gunroom.


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 10:02 AM

Jean remarks:

I propose, if I may take the liberty, that Conan*, if found, will prove to be an Irish pagan, and that the drowning of the lepers will have nothing whatever to do with Christian practices.

The first time I read through POB's short stories, I must admit that I didn't know what was going on, and didn't take much pleasure in them. They were obscure.

But the kind of analysis we're taking on as we consider these stories can greatly increase the pleasure that they give us. That's the reason why some people enjoy digging beneath the surface in literature--because the author (if he's trying to create more than a simple description of simple events) has planted both "reasons and surprises" that give meaning to the surface events. This "planting" is usually, but not always, done consciously.

Consider: we read it in ten minutes, while the author has taken a great and intense period of his best skill to write it and revise it, and has drawn on a lifetime of his own experiences and skills to create a work that's important to him. It's no wonder, if he creates the events properly, that the story is "far more than appears on the page," that it can reward analysis, and that it can give us intense pleasure.

I think it's obvious that many of POB's stories are about a character on the way to judgment.

He (it's always a man in the short stories) has done something in his past that gives him great pain, something that he cannot undo, some burden that he carries with him, a burden that is sometimes described as being about the size of a child. He must live with this burden, or flee from it. (Think of Diana running away from Bridget's illness--think of Diana constantly running away from Maturin--running away, deserting, causing great pain--question, even, whether Diana's final accident was quite the accident it seems--consider it, if you will, in the light of Freud's utterly illuminating "Psychopathology of Everday Life," a wonderful and not very difficult book. Consider it also in the light of Edmund Wilson's "The Wound and the Bow," where he puts forth the thesis that an artist's drive comes from some wound which the artist has suffered and is trying to cure, and that this effort forces the artist to probe deeply.)

Anyhow, to return to the "leper," consider that this pool, the same pool into which the protagonist falls or is drawn, consider that this pool is a place where lepers are drowned. Can't we consider that the protagonist (a man with a secret burden like the other protagonists in the many of the stories) might be thought a "moral" leper?

It's just a passing reference, but isn't the author here giving himself a flick of the whip? What other function does the leper reference have in the story, except to help make the water a little more "charged" than it otherwide wd be. This is a miraculous pool, a healing pool or a killing pool, as bodies of water so often are in literature.

And, given the slightly ambiguous ending (is he alive or not?) I think we here have POB telling himself that a man can indeed live on after creating his own burden. In most of the other stories he takes a darker view of abandonment and redemption. But his struggle, his battle with the great fish, has (at least in this story) cleansed him. That's what ordeals are for. Sometimes.

Charlezzzz, who knows nothing about Conan, but who remembers the Old Man and the Sea


From: Jean A
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 11:42 AM

Brian Tansey wrote:

"St Conan-originally from Scotland - became Bishop of Ireland &taught St Fiacre before going to the Isle of Man, where he worked as a missionary and was consecrated bishop there also. He died Circa 648."

Thanks, Brian. I daresay we can rule him out.

I still go for one of the pagans with wonderful names: Conan, son of the Daghda; Conan, son of Liath Luachra; Conan, son of Cinn Sleibhe; Conan Maol..... All barbarian Conans and more likely to have drowned lepers than the saintly bishop.

As for Charlezzzz' post, I quite agree with him, especially with the bit about the reference to the lepers' drownings not having been dropped into the story without purpose.

Nevertheless, this story could have been published forty years ago, when working class and middle class men still read magazines full of stories featuring struggles of sportsmen against nature, in one of those magazines.

The only name that comes to mind now is Argosy, although the Saturday Evening Post might have included it.

My father and uncle read them, and when there wasn't anything else available, so did I. Many of the writers were quite good.

(Charlezzzz mentions The Old Man and the Sea. Wasn't that published in Life?)

PAX, and best wishes, Warren!

Jean A.


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 12:01 PM

On Sun, 26 November 2000, Jean A wrote:

Thanks, Brian. I daresay we can rule him out.

One thing I would not rule out is the drowning of lepers in the 7th century-by christians.

When was Joan of Arc burned at the stake ? (you can phone a friend)


From: Jean A
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 12:21 PM

Brian, that was most of a millenium later. It was a political struggle between the English and the French, and it was the politicos who put the English clerics up to it.

Of course, at my age, I don't rule out much.

If you are, as I suspect, quite a bit younger, I am interested in your views on what has happened to Ireland, socially and otherwise, since I was there in 1987.

Ireland, I have read, is, like Spain, one of the countries that has most benefitted from being part of the EU, which is currently a topic of discussion on the list.

I recently read that the Republic is the third biggest exporter of software in the world, only behind the US and one other country, which I don't remember.

And people from all over are clamoring to get in.

When I was there a child in remotest West Cork, which at that time only received RTE, ask me what I thought of Madonna. In 1970 I was asked a similar question about Donny Osmand by a small child in a village south of Glasgow.

Have British and American pop culture taken over Ireland, too? Will the new prosperity engulf what is distinctively Irish?

Jean A.


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 12:45 PM

Just as a matter of interest and to a certain degree on seeing Jean's total disbelief of the possibility of the drowning of lepers by Christians in the 7th century.

Did any of you hear about the the Inquisition ??

that was some rapid response force!

boiling Oil an' all,(with no damaging global warming emissions).

by the way:-

A bearded vulture!Its a bearded vulture! A young bearded vulture. Stephen cried.

Well said Jack instantly-'I dare say he forgot to shave this morning'

HIS RED FACE CRINKLED UP,HIS EYES DIMINISHED TO A BRIGHT BLUE SLIT AND HE SLAPPED HIS THIGHS, BENDING TO SUCH A PAROXYSM OF SILENT MIRTH,ENJOYMENT AND RELISH etc

Is there a better author?


From: Marian Van Til
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 3:35 PM

In a message dated 11/26/2000 3:01:43 PM Eastern Standard Time, tanseyb@OCEANFREE.NET writes:

One thing I would not rule out is the drowning of lepers in the 7th century- by christians.

When was Joan of Arc burned at the stake ? (you can phone a friend)

No, no, you don't understand! From a 20th century vantagepoint to put someone to death for heresy or supposed heresy may be incomprehensible, but this must be looked at in historical perspective.

Lepers were *physically* unclean (according to Jewish law), and outcasts as well in Christian society, which in a certain way made sense because without proper cleansing, etc., lepers was quite contagious and the disease could disastrously infect whole communities.

But Joan, and others who suffered her fate, were considered *spiritually* unclean, i.e., heretics -- a malady far, far worse than mere physical disease, and with eternal, not just temporal consequences. (Consider, even, the role that one's spiritual state plays much later in Shakespeare's world and work, and how seriously such things were taken.)

So though lepers may still have been shunned in the 7th century (as they still were in many parts of Africa, e.g., earlier in the 20th century) I doubt very much whether medieval Christians would have drowned lepers who had physical, but not spiritual, maladies.

Marian


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 4:28 PM

'Blessed are they who know what happened in 7th century Isle of Man'

'which didn't they cut the tails off all them cats sir'


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2000 7:17 PM

In a message dated 11/26/0 2:43:29 PM, Sherkin@AOL.COM writes:

I still go for one of the pagans with wonderful names: Conan, son of the Daghda; Conan, son of Liath Luachra; Conan, son of Cinn Sleibhe; Conan Maol..... All barbarian Conans and more likely to have drowned lepers than the saintly bishop.

Give me joy! I have connected a certain Conan with a leper, in a context which may have attracted POB because of certain matters in his own life. Here is a bit from the writings of that Conan:

"The facts, as I read them, are something like this: This woman was married in America. Her husband developed some hateful qualities; or shall we say that he contracted some loathsome disease, and became a leper or an imbecile? She flies from him at last, returns to England, changes her name, and starts her life, as she thinks, afresh."

The quotation, as all Baker Street Irrigulars will recognize, is from The Yellow Face. The Conan, of course, is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The speaker, naturally, is Sherlock Holmes. Diabolically clever, that POB, when you realize that he is hinting that detective work will be necessary to identify the proper Conan. And that he himself, POB, has changed his name and started his life afresh.

Charlezzzz, wondering what wd happen if one were to go to www.Google.com and search for "Conan" together with "leper."


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 3:56 AM

Brian Tansey wrote:

'Blessed are they who know what happened in 7th century Isle of Man'

Most Manx saints were not indigenous but missionaries from the Celtic church. For example St Maughold (my father's parish) who was an Irish evildoer and expelled from Ireland floating on a millstone by St Patrick himself. He drifted over to the Isle of Man and set himself up as a monk and teacher and became a saint.


From: Doug Essinger-Hileman
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 6:11 AM

On 26 Nov 2000, at 13:02, Charlezzzz@AOL.COM wrote:

Anyhow, to return to the "leper," consider that this pool, the same pool into which the protagonist falls or is drawn, consider that this pool is a place where lepers are drowned. Can't we consider that the protagonist (a man with a secret burden like the other protagonists in the many of the stories) might be thought a "moral" leper?

It's just a passing reference, but isn't the author here giving himself a flick of the whip? What other function does the leper reference have in the story, except to help make the water a little more "charged" than it otherwide wd be. This is a miraculous pool, a healing pool or a killing pool, as bodies of water so often are in literature.

Excellent insights, Charlezzzz. To expand a bit on the last:

It seems to me that every time we encounter one of these "miraculous pools" in our life, they are always and only either healing pools or killing pools. I think that I (and I suspect many others) oftentimes miss the healing or the killing because the one or the other comes in such small degree; yet the healing or killing is always there. It seems that the accumulated wisdom of the ages understands this with killing pools, as it teaches us of the straw (such a small and weightless thing) that breaks the camels back, or the death that comes from a thousand paper cuts (cuts which I endure on a regular basis with no apparent ill effects). Funny, though, I cannot think of any story which teaches of the healing power of a thousand good but almost unnoticeable acts of kindness. (Any help?)

I remain, &c.,

Doug Essinger-Hileman
List Greeter Ordinaire
3951'06"N 7954'01"W


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 6:17 AM

Just to continue this Conan saga-some very brief research on my lunch break:-

Irish Mythology-3 of the best known warriors/hero were Finn Mc Cumhaill,Oisin and Chuchullain.

One of Finn's trusty warriors was Conan(meaning little wolfhound). In the stories I scanned quicly he seemed peripheral-apart from one where he was 'the main man'-suffering a number of frightening delusions-and being rescued by his co -warriors anf Finn's magic


From: John Meyn
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 8:07 AM

In a message dated 27/11/00 11:57:30 GMT Standard Time, adam.quinan@HOME.COM writes:

Blessed are they who know what happened in 7th century Isle of Man'

'which didn't they cut the tails off all them cats sir'

The IOM was the preferred supplier for the extra seven tails required for naval cats.

Peace
John G. Meyn
The parish of Rettendon, Essex, England.
51" 38. 10' N 0" 33. 56' W


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 8:22 AM

In a message dated 11/27/0 9:12:27 AM, revref@INTERIOR-CASTLE.ORG writes:

Funny, though, I cannot think of any story which teaches of the healing power of a thousand good but almost unnoticeable acts of kindness. (Any help?)

Can't think of any involving "almost unnoticeable" acts of kindness, because how cd one write it? I'm afraid it wd be dull and repetitions--as a story, anyhow, though as a life it might be healing indeed. But, all through the canon, Stephen does one kind act after another; he is, to some degree, healed of his various wretchedness, though POB continues to throw new heavy burdens at him.

Charlezzzz


From: u1c04803
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 8:36 AM

There's an undercurrent of that in Little Women. And it's true the best of the kind actors dies young.

If goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, most of the time they don't seem to catch up.

Lois


From: Charlezzzz@AOL.COM
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 8:38 AM

Saki has a short story--is it The Shwartz-Metterklume Method?--in wch a good little girl, a very good little girl, a little girl so good she was awarded medals for goodness, was chased by some fierce beast. She hid. But the medals clanked together and so the beast found her, caught her, and ate her up.

Charlezzzz, remembering Good Mrs. Murphy


From: Jean A
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 8:44 AM

Adam Quinan wrote:

'Most Manx saints were not indigenous but missionaries from the Celtic church. For example St Maughold ( my father's parish) who was an Irish evildoer and expelled from Ireland floating on a millstone by St Patrick himself. He drifted over to the Isle of Man and set himself up as a monk and a teacher and became a saint.'

In the 'Testimonies' story 'The Virtuous Peleg', which has already been discussed, POB writes:

'It was at about this time that news came to Deara of Brothen's wonderful voyage to the Picts, how he went on a millstone that happened to be on the shore, and he sleeping most of the way and without oar, rudder or sail, and how he had baptized seven Pictish kings in one day, eleven dukes with their families, with many other nobles and four large fields of ordinary people.'

The history and myths of the first half or so of the first millenium in the British Isles is so diverting that I wonder at the almost total ignorance of that period by most people. And of course, very little of it is taught in the schools. The pre-Christian and early Christian stories make one realize that the tellers and writers were quite human.

Here is a story of one of the numerous Conans, Conan Maol. As Brian wrote, Conan is ' a diminutive of 'cu', literally hound, but figuratively 'warrior', and the epithet means ' bald'. This Conan was portrayed as a buffoon, but a sinister one. He was excessively cruel, and so is a good candidate for the drowner of lepers.

In one story, the Fianna, Fionn mac Cumhaill's warriors, were stuck to the floor in a magical dwelling.

They were released by the application of a magical liquid. Unfortunately, there was not enough to release Conan, and he had to be forcibly unstuck, leaving much of his backside behind him. In one medieval version his back is patched with the skin of a sheep, which is sheared yearly and the wool made into socks for the Fianna.

This Conan was actually an enemy of Fionn, and Fionn eventually got rid of him by sending him to woo the daughter of a man who had vowed to kill any such wooer.

Jean A.


From: Jean A
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 8:52 AM

Charles thinks that the Schartz-Metterklume Method might be the story in which the good little girl is betrayed to her death by the clinking of her good conduct medals.

No, the S-M Method of teaching history to children is employed by a woman of fashion who is accidentally confused with a newly employed nanny. She amuses herself by teaching the children temporarally in her charge by the above method, which involves a 'hands-on' approach to the teaching of history.

She finally is forced to leave ( she was going anyway) when she had her charges kidnap the children of certain employees on the estate in a historically correct enactment of The Rape of The Sabines.

Jean A.


From: Mary S
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 3:30 PM

In a message dated 11/27/2000 10:34:38 AM Central Standard Time, u1c04803@MAIL.WVNET.EDU writes:

If goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives

It works for Gluck in "The King of the Golden River" by Ruskin (?) and indeed in several of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. "Rose Red and Snow White," fer instints.

Like ... a galvanized manatee, or dugong,

Mary S
35 58' 11" N
86 48' 57" W


From: Brian Tansey
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 3:34 PM

I will shorten the Conan story which I came across today.

The Fianna as the bodyguards of the High King of Ireland travelled throughout the country-(this a mixture of fact and myth-time circa 300BC)

Fionn was their leader and he was assisted by other warriors(Na Fianna).The trials to become a member included -taking a thorn from a bare foot while running;bending under a knee height stick without slowing and jumping ones own height.

The Fianna were staying in an enchanted house and Fionn warned them not to succomb to any temptation. That night while asleep a beutiful woman came to them one by one in their dreams and asked them to walk away with her.

They all resisted except for Conan who reached out to touch her.All of a sudden he was descending at great speed into a deep pool of hot water.He cried out for help and grasped a branch. The other Fianna rushed into the room and found him hanging on to the'flesh fork'(?) of the cooking cauldron.

He went to sleep again but once again fell into the same temptation-this time he was chased,and about to be devoured by a great wild animal-once more he roared for help. The Fianna rushed to him and found a cat licking his whiskers.

He fell for the temptation a third time-and became stuck to the ground having the pains 'that women only have'(?) He roared for help in a voice that could be heard from Sligo to Wexford.

The Fianna were unable to assist him-but Fionn using his magic(placing him thumb in his mouth-from a previous story- the salmon of knowledge),was able to summon the wicked druid that had cast the spell and in turn obtain a potion to release Conan-it did not work on his hair however which was left stuck to the ground. And his head resembled the moon.

Maybe that is how his name changed from Conan Mac Morna to Conan Moal(bald).

I promise that was a real short version!!


From: LoveSTNG@AOL.COM
Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2000 5:02 PM

In a message dated 11/27/2000 11:53:30 AM Eastern Standard Time, Sherkin@AOL.COM writes:

No, the S-M Method of teaching history to children is employed by a woman of fashion who is accidentally confused with a newly employed nanny. She amuses herself by teaching the children temporarily in her charge by the above method, which involves a 'hands-on' approach to the teaching of history.

By the great H. H. Munro, I might add, and one of the funniest short stories ever. I remember a TV version starring Hermione Gingold of blessed memory.


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