O'Pinions & O'Bservations O' O'Bscure O'Briania


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Samphire

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 05:37:39 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

"Samphire" - St. Peter's herb - is there a relevant St. Peter story?

"Samphire" starts with one of O'Brian's physical settings: "Sheer, sheer, the white cliff rising, straight up from the sea, so high that the riding waves were nothing but ripples on a huge calm. Up there, unless you leaned over, you did not see them break, but for all the distance the thunder of the water came loud. The wind, too, tearing in from the sea, rushing from a clear, high sky, brought the salt tang of the spray on to their lips."

So we are very high up, a stark setting; why indeed would you lean over, wouldn't you be afraid of falling, especially when you get the word "break," the "thunder," the wind "tearing" in from the sea? A scary place.

There were two, and the man was indeed leaning over as far as he dared.

He's not a pleasant man to be around. He had a high, rather unmasculine voice, and he seems whiny, demanding, bullying, and a general pest, much given to showing away, repeating himself, intruding.

Molly was afraid to be up there - the round of her chin was trembling like a child's before it cries. She felt cautiously for a firm foothold up there. Heights terrified her, always had, and he was very well aware of that, and he insisted on her coming up to the heights anyway.

"Lacey," he called himself. This was a pet name that he had coined for himself. "Lacey was her lord and master, wasn't he? Love, honour and obey?" he said.

The next morning, SHE said she wanted to climb the mountain again to see the samphire again.

And when they got to the top, she shoved him. "God give me strength: but as she pushed him she felt her arms weak like jelly."

Murder isn't usually a deed you ask God's help for. Her resolve was there, she had premeditated this one, but she weakened at the crucial moment - God's joke on Molly?

"By her side he was, and his face turned to hers, peering into her face, closed face. His visage, his whole face, everything, had fallen to pieces: she looked at it momentarily - a very old terribly frightened comforting-itself small child. He had fallen off a cliff all right." So when Lacey peers into Molly's face, O'Brian does not describe her face - he describes Lacey's face. "He had fallen off a cliff all right" - an odd statement. Lacey had NOT fallen off a cliff - he'd been pushed; and he didn't fall off, he regained his physical balance. The cliff Lacey fell of whas not the physical cliff.

And we STILL don't know Lacey's real name. What is the significance of the name "Lacey?" Is there some famous person named Lacey?

And what is the significance to the fact that he bought a walking stick for the second trip to the top?


Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 13:49:47 +0100
From: Martin Watts

I've renewed my loan of the collected short stories so I can continue to contribute here.

1. "Samphire" comes from the French "Herbe de saint Pierre". I leave it to anyone suitably qualified to drag any religious significance out of this.

2. "Lacey" as the husband in this story calls himself is another irritating prig like Edwin in "The Stag At Bay", and miserly with it. Where Julia was driven to adultery the wife in this story, Molly (a diminutive of Mary) is driven to attempted murder. I found no references to Lacey in Phrase and Fable.

3. There seems to be premeditation. Molly is scared of heights and hates the cliff top yet she asks to go up to see the samphire again. Has she already decided to try to push him over?

4. Lacey starts by saying "You pushed me", then retreats to "... not well; a spasm. Wasn't it Molly?" and sometimes "accident". From asking how they can "possibly live together? How can we possibly look at one another?" he then realises that they have taken their room for a month (presumably to get a cheaper rate!) and tries to persuade himself that it was just an accident. As Edwin believes that Julia will return, Lacey still tries to believe that all is well.

5. Lacey's miserliness is illustrated by the walking stick. He tries in two shops to find one at the right price, he even tries to haggle the price down by a shilling, though he later claims to Molly that it was the best in the shop and really very cheap "though perhaps they had better go without tea tomorrow to make it up. She remembered, didn't she, what they had agreed after their discussion about an exact allowance for every day?". So *she* should go without a meal to pay for *his* walking stick. Similar anecdote below.

6. Molly hears a voice "Go on, oh, go on, for Christ's sake go on". Are we in religious or medical territory here?

Someone I know was once married to a man who would happily buy drinks in a pub but insisted that potato crisps counted as food and so came out of the housekeeping money.

I wonder where the story is located? Eastbourne, Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters come to mind for me - but this is not relevant to the story

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


Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 09:24:08 -0400
From: u1c04803

From: "Martin Watts"

I found no references to Lacey in Phrase and Fable.

Maybe associating himself with Lovelace?

Lois


Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 15:05:45 +0100
From: Martin Watts

Lois wrote:

Maybe associating himself with Lovelace?

Which one? Lovelace from Clarissa "a libertine, a lothario" according to Brewer, or the poet "Stone walls do not a prison make/ nor iron bars a cage." Neither matches my image of the character - or my image of his self-image.

I am pretty sure that the Shakespearian "laced mutton" is irrelevant here, in spite of his "joke" that the tobacconist's is a "house of ill fume".

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


Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 10:29:24 EDT
From: Stolzi@AOL.COM

Perhaps the scene from KING LEAR was in POB's mind when he wrote this story?

(For those who do not recall, the unhappy, blind Gloucester seeks to commit suicide. Edgar tricks him into believing he stands at a cliff:)

EDGAR Come on, sir; here's the place: stand still. How fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles: half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head:
The fishermen, that walk upon the beach,
Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight: the murmuring surge,
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more;
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.

GLOUCESTER Set me where you stand.

EDGAR Give me your hand: you are now within a foot
Of the extreme verge: for all beneath the moon
Would I not leap upright.

a wicked contumelious discontented froward mutinous dog,

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


Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 09:29:33 +0100
From: Martin Watts

As a matter of interest I asked Elaine about samphire and she thinks it may have some herbal/medicinal use, apart from being eaten as food. If so, I wonder if it is significant to the story?

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


Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 09:42:43 +0100
From: Martin Watts

Following up my own suggestion I searched on samphire and found the following reference:

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/samphi10.html

From the above I quote:

---Medicinal Action and Uses---

In Gerard's time it was in great reputation as a condiment. He wrote in 1597: 'The leaves kept in pickle and eaten in sallads with oile and vinegar is a pleasant sauce for meat, wholesome for the stoppings of the liver, milt and kidnies. It is the pleasantest sauce, most familiar and best agreeing with man's body.'

In this context the 'milt' would appear to be the spleen.

Culpepper, writing some fifty years later, deplores that it had in his days much gone out of fashion, for it is well known almost to everybody that ill digestions and obstructions are the cause of most of the diseases which the frail nature of man is subject to; both of which might be remedied by a more frequent use of this herb. It is a safe herb, very pleasant to taste and stomach.

In some seaside districts where Samphire is found, it is still eaten pickled by country people.

The quotes are from "A Modern Herbal" by Mrs M. Grieve, published 1931 - funnily enough Elaine has a copy that I could have referred to. The full book is available in hypertext form. If anyone is interested the home page is: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html

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


Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 04:38:37 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

--- Martin Watts wrote:

In this context the 'milt' would appear to be the spleen.

Good job! So "Lacey" needed a little soothing for his spleen!

- Susan


Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 12:43:55 +0100
From: Martin Watts

Susan wrote:

So "Lacey" needed a little soothing for his spleen!

In the context of the herbal reference the spleen seemed to be indicated. The soft roe of a male fish somehow didn't seem appropriate - and I don't think I'll try to work out a connection.

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


Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 21:07:33 -0400
From: Don Seltzer

Martin Watts wrote:

I wonder where the story is located? Eastbourne, Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters come to mind for me - but this is not relevant to the story

Foreness Point in Kent, perhaps?

Dean King notes the chilling similarity of the setting to the scene of the suicide death of Patrick's aunt, Pauline Russ, who fell from a similar cliff.

Don Seltzer


From: P. Richman
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2000 11:09 AM

At the end of the story Samphire, "she turned her dying face to the ground, and there were her feet marching on the path;' one, the other: one, the other; down, down, down."

I hope this sorely provoked long-suffering woman isn't going to hell here.


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2000 11:27

In a message dated 5/25/0 1:11:21 PM, p_richman@HOTMAIL.COM writes:

At the end of the story Samphire, "she turned her dying face to the ground,and there were her feet marching on the path;' one, the other: one, the other; down, down, down." I hope this sorely provoked long-suffering woman isn't going to hell here

I'm afraid she is, in a sense. She had a chance to push him off the cliff, and chickened out. So, instead of his falling, it's she who falls, one step at a time, and for the rest of her life. This is the story of a marriage that should be broken up, but, due to weakness on the part of the spouse who should swiftly and even violently, end it, doesn't.

Charlezzzz


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