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WDS p 223 compared with p 226
p.223: Stephen and Jack are talking in the latter's cabin: Stephen says: "'As I was leaving Peru because of the unjustified suspicions of a military man who misunderstood my examination of his wife - a deeply stupid but very powerful and bloody-minded military man - ' This was an explanation for some of Stephen's more bizarre movements that both of them understood perfectly: it was calculated, and very well calculated, to satisfy the minds of the seamen, who for a great while had looked upon the Doctor's licentious capers ashore with an indulgent comprehension. ' - a confidential friend came to see me by night and ... he gave me an account of three American China ships sailing in company from Boston ... no sooner had I reached Valparaiso than I received word from my friend's correspondent in the Argentine: the ships ... meant to traverse the Straits le Maire and to carry on, skirting south of Diego Ramirez by the end of the present month ...'"
Jack cracks on like smoke and oakum to meet these potential prizes - so far so good. But now comes the puzzling thing:
p.226 "Just how it became known throughout the ship that the Captain's chase had a beast in view ... could not be clearly stated; yet known it was ... Some of the knowledge derived from the obvious fact that the Doctor ... was not as simple as he looked - that indeed would have been difficult [ha ha ha, how I love that!] - and that he did not spend all his time on shore in bowsing up his jib or inspecting ladies in their shifts, but sometimes picked up valuable news: yet this did not account for the 'two or three China ships out of Boston' or the 'south of Diego Ramirez' that could so often be heard on the lower deck, together with the calculation that a steady five knots from noon to noon, day after day, would get them there with time and to spare, which could only come from deliberate eavesdropping or very close attention to all possible clues ... "
It really jarred me out right of the Surprise and back into my own skin to read this latter passage, given that just a few pages previously I had heard Stephen talking about these very ships and their location to Jack in a context where it was made clear that both of them fully EXPECTED the conversation to be overheard by those on the quarterdeck, not to mention the flapping ears of Killick: and indeed not a little of what Stephen said was specifically said in order to BE overheard.
Or am I just "deeply stupid" like he of the bloody-mindedness?
I think that POB was a little careless towards the end of WDS. His notes for this book from the Lilly Library are the most confused in organization that I have seen, and it appears that he was struggling with the plot. I suspect that he was also concerned with meeting publisher's deadlines, and thus might have made some quick editing changes.
At a later date, he did make some comment about difficulties in writing WDS, and how he was inspired by a gift of a book from Ken Ringle on Baltimore clippers, which helped him come up with a suitable conclusion.
It was with the US publication of "The Wine-Dark Sea" that I first heard of Patrick O'Brian. He was on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kerault, and seemed a fascinating man. They visited the USS Constitution.
The name jarred, though. I was only familiar with Pat O'Brien, the actor, and every time I heard "Patrick O'Brian" it sounded like someone was making a mistake.
It took several more years before I actually bought "Master and Commander," and nothing has been the same since.
The Wine-Dark Sea" was published the year I read the Canon the first time for the second time ... I first heard of Patrick O'Brian, I believe, in the notes section of a rules book for an Age of Fighting Sail role-playing/miniatures game around 1980. The author of the game rules was very enthusiastic about this author unknown to me, making a comparison with Jane Austen, if I recollect rightly. A year or two later, I found "HMS Surprise" in a used bookstore and then the rest of the Canon up through "The Ionian Command" in paperback in a Toronto bookstore during a 1982 vacation. I read the books ... and pretty much forgot them. What else can I say other than that was not a happy era in my life and nothing, nothing was making a favorable impression on me. But in 1992, in a new era of my life, I returned to the Canon -- now stretching up to "The Truelove" -- and discovered how wonderful they were. And as I was nearing the end of the series, "The Wine-Dark Sea" was published and I coerced my daughter into giving it to me as a Christmas present. As soon as I finished WDS, I immediately returned to "Master and Commander" and began all over again ...
I was reading Wine Dark Sea for the nth time -- reading along at my usual rate (some day I'll expound on speed reading: Evelyn Wood offered me a job teaching in her school) ... I was reading, I say, at a leisurely two pages a minute -- perhaps a bit more -- 800 words every 60 seconds or so -- when I found something new: Jack and Stephen's playing was secretly being compared to a wounded snake.
But wait! First let me quote a brief passage in Hundred Days: Jack and Stephen are preparing to make music for Mr. Wright, who is to repair the broken narwhale horn, when Wright says, "...while you are playing I shall muse with the other half of my mind on the lower shaft... A very extraordinary puzzle indeed."
Haven't we all (except, perhaps, for our professional musicians) done that same thing at a concert -- turned lose the "other half" of our minds to muse on whatever takes our interest at the moment. And -- here's the nub -- don't we do that while reading too, sometimes?
Now I approach my point.
Wine-Dark Sea, page 20. Sea rough, confused. Jack and Stephen "...dashed away into a duet which they knew very well indeed, having played it together these ten years and more, but in which they always found something fresh, some half-forgotten turn of phrase or of particular felicity."
Now, ain't that a description for many of us when we re-read for the nth time a passage from the canon? In wch we always find something fresh, some "half-forgotten turn of phrase..."
Aha! thinks I. If this be so, then in the description of the music itself there must be something fresh, some half-forgotten turn of phrase, some parallel between the music and the prose and the act of reading...
And that's where the snake comes in.
Wine-Dark Sea, page 21. Sea more rough, more confused. Ship cutting extroadinary capers. Maturin lashed into his seat. Then, "The andante wound its slow length along with a curious gasping unpredicatable rhythm; and when they had brought it to its hesitant end, each looking at each other with disapproval at each false note, Jack said..."
D'ye twig it? D'ye see the snake? The wounded snake? Well, you have probably half-forgotten a certain turn of phrase that POB sneaks in as he describes the false playing: 'tis from Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism," and Pope is describing (a bit unfairly) a kind of line that has six stressed syllables instead of the usual five: he describes it like this...
"... the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along."
And so, there's the half-forgotten turn of phrase, the quotation from Pope that POB lifts in order to describe the playing itself, and how neatly he drags it in, visible only to the "other half" of our minds.
Well spotted Charlezzzzz.
It's a brilliant piece of poetry from Pope. For the record, the preceding line is (standard) iambic pentameter:
"A needless alexandrine ends the song,"
Kerry (nothing needless about those lines)
Thank you for bringing this to mind, Charlezzzzz. I haven't read Wine-Dark Sea in quite some time, but I recall noting that phrase "...wound its slow length along...." Pope is one of my favorite poets, and Essay on Criticism one of my favorite poems.
To be fair to Pope, though, he's not really "describing (a bit unfairly) a kind of line [with] six stressed syllables." His argument in the Essay is against bad poetry and bad poems. The alexandrine--the six-beat line--had a long and honored history, most particularly (if I recall correctly) in French poetry. Pope's gripe, from which this line is drawn, is with poets who focus purely on the sound of the poetry. After complaining about awkward syntax and simplistic rhymes, he goes on:
Then, at the last, and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning Thing they call a Thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the Song,
That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow length along.
The objection is to the ritualistic and pointless alexandrine line ending the poem.
I love this poem. It contains one of the most widely misunderstood lines, often quoted, in literature: "A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;..." A teacher of mine once told me that Pope was the third most quoted source in English, following only Shakespeare and the Bible. I wonder if it's true.
on 3/14/03 1:34 AM, Bob Fleisher at rlfleish@FLASH.NET wrote:
The alexandrine--the six-beat line--had a long and honored history, most particularly (if I recall correctly) in French poetry. Pope's gripe, from which this line is drawn, is with poets who focus purely on the sound of the poetry.
Exactly so. I am completely of your way of thinking. (I cut a dozen lines from my little essay -- lines that wd have made clear that Pope was writing about the Alexandrine and other techniques as used by bad poets.)
If I remember, the Alexandrine, as used by Spenser in the Faery Queen, brings each stanza to a glorious round ending.
As for Pope: is he not the wittiest man who ever wrote poetry in our language?
POST OF THE DAY
My mouth hangs agape
Like a wounded snake
Who is this guy charlezzzzz anyway?
Which he's the list bard, dontcha' know? And when it comes to poetry, why, he can rouse your brains right out of your head, set them to rhyme, and plop them back in before you can say "Bob's yer job," and if "Bob's yer job" don't rhyme, I don't know what does.
Susan, wishing for some Mandaretto
I met him once ... He's about 6' 8" with black hair braided into a long pigtail, wears a patch over one eye, carries a parrot on his left shoulder. He (Charlezzzzz, not the parrot) spouts poetry whenever he's had a bottle of rum or two, and sometimes reminisces about his days in the French Foreign Legion, the Austrian Navy, and the New Zealand Lifeguard Service. He was a political advisor to the Greeks during the Turkish War (or was it to the Turks in the Greek War?) and is rumored to know where Ambrose Bierce is buried. Other than his penchant for chewing jalepenos as breath mints, he's just your everyday ordinary Gunroom lissun.
Bruce Trinque, which he is fibbing about the parrot -- it's the parrot who's
the poetic half of the pair
Bravo, Bruce - at last the truth about this shadowy character is out!!!!
John R. Gosden (and I believe the bit about the parrot)
7*51'59"N / 98*20'28"E
Not to draw attention away from Charlezzzzz's incredible observation on Pope's wounded snake, which made my week, truly, but near the first part of Charlezzzzz's post is this:
Jack and Stephen are preparing to make music for Mr. Wright, who is to repair the broken narwhale horn, when Wright says, "...while you are playing I shall muse with the other half of my mind on the lower shaft... A very extraordinary puzzle indeed."
Lower shaft? Hello? Hidden sex comedy? Wounded snake ain't that far off either.
Robin (still not budging from her theory)
Hello there -- New to the Gunroom, I've been lurking, enjoying lots of your comments, but finally had to chuckle and give in reading Robin's response.
I'm with you on this one, Robin. I think POB certainly might have had that in mind when he wrote those words; he did after all have a wonderful sense of humor.
Robin famously asked:
Lower shaft? Hello? Hidden sex comedy? Wounded snake ain't that far off either.
Remember the narwhale tusk? And how Killick and his dwarvish assistant broke it? Into three parts? One of wch was the "lower shaft."
But, of course, a broken tusk and a wounded snake come pretty much to the same Freudian thing, don't they? Not far off at all, as Robin notes.
There is a pretty strong indication that syphilis was brought to Europe from the New World by Columbus' sailors, though this is not certain.
One of the earliest "Indian" words surely brought back from the New World to Europe, however was "guaiacum." It was a "cure" for syphilis.
On pages 74-5 of Wine-Dark, Maturin "still had some obstinate gleets and poxes" in sick bay. "These cases he treated with calomel and guaiacum."
And, I suppose, buried them (the poxes, anyhow) over the side later.
A menace to the careers of all Naval officers, is pax.
"Guaiacum," Google reveals, is the same as lignum vitae, whose wood has the quality of lubricating itself, which John Harrison used for the bearings of a clock he built, in Brocklesby Park, England, a clock that still tells time; he being the same John Harrison who built the chronometer, as told in the book "Longitude," but whether that clock had bearings of lignum vitae or not, I do not know.
The wood being so useful that it was used for propeller bearings in the battleships New Jersey and Missouri.
I think I remember some previous Gunroom discussion of whether Stephen - or anyone - could cure syphilis prior to antibiotics, but I can't recall the conclusion. The established shipboard system of treating "venereals" seems to indicate that they _thought_ they were accomplishing something. Maybe suppressing symtoms for a time?
The article by J. Worth Estes in Sea of Words concludes "However, it seems unlikely that such [mercury-based] treatments could have eradicated the syphilis organism."
Do we know whether guaiacum is efficacious? Natural antibiotics, perhaps?
Mercury had some success, then arsenic was shown to be better,
introduced as a patent under the name of Salvarsan. There was also a
system that arificially raised the patient's temperature by putting him
in a sort of electrical Turkish bath, on the principle that the
spirochaete was more sensitive to high temperatures than man.
All these depended for success on killing the bugs before the patient
died from the treatment.
John R. Gosden
7*51'59"N / 98*20'28"E
Phew! - Sounds a lot like chemotherapy! At one point in a former career I was photographing the packaging for generic methotrexate being produced by my employer, and stopped to read the package inserts. It almost made the cancer sound preferable!
This forum has inspired me to read many new authors and revisit some old favorites. One of these is Mary Renault. I'd read a couple of her books as parallel reading for Latin in high school, but hadn't realized at the time what a stunningly good writer she is. Now I'm savoring all her books.
"The King Must Die" is the first of a two-volume series on the legendary hero Theseus. Near the end of this book is an episode that is almost a reverse image of the volcanic island erupting from POB's wine-dark sea.
A little background: Theseus, heir to the throne of Athens, was led by Poseidon to go voluntarily with a group of adolescent boys and girls that Crete demanded in tribute each year to dwell in the Labryinth and perform the ritual bull dance. Led by Theseus, the Athenians became a tightly knit team and survived their ordeal. The bull dancers armed themselves and plotted to overthrow their captors. Poseidon warned Theseus that a powerful earthquake was on the way. When it struck, they seized the opportunity to escape. They found a ship that had washed up into an olive field, and sailed for Athens. Soon they approached the island Kalliste, which they had passed on the way to Crete. At that time they had noticed smoke pouring from a volcano and wondered if its god was angry. Now they saw what Poseidon had done to Kalliste.
I have provided a long quote because Renault's writing is much more concise and infinitely more expressive than my attempts to paraphrase could be.
"Once more I stood in a ship of Crete, looking at the wine-dark restless sea, and seeing the towering yellow cliffs stand with their feet in foam. . . .
"Next day we saw a great smoke ahead of us. Toward evening the pilot said to me, "It is on Kalliste, where we should lie tonight. A forest is on fire, or there is war.". . .
. "We sailed onward, and the smoke hung in the sky like a great cloud black with thunder. As we drew nearer, an ashy dust began to fall on us, darkening all the ship, and our flesh and clothes. . . . The pilot said, "The land itself has changed." . . . .
"We came on. A fresh following wind streamed off the smoke to the northward; the late sun shone pale and clear. And then, as we stood in to westward of Kalliste, we saw the dreadful thing that the god had done.
"Half of the island was clean gone, sheared off from the hilltops straight down into the sea; and in place of the smoking mountain there was nothing. The god had carried it all away, all that great height of rock and earth and forest, the goat pastures and the olive groves and the orchards and the vineyards, gone, all gone; nothing was there but water, a great curved bay below huge sheer cliffs, where wreckage floated; and outside the bay, by itself on a horn of land, a little mound pouring out smoke, all that was left of Hephaistos' lofty chimney. . . . ."
I hope that Ms. Renault and POB are enjoying many glasses of Chian wine together in the Elysian fields.
I'm a little behind in writing that this was a great post. I wonder how many other references to other literature POB has made that we've missed? I remember that Jerry Shurman did a brilliant analysis of POB and Alice in Wonderland in the description of the Aubrey cottage in The Mauritius Command (see http://mat.gsia.cmu.edu/POB/DEC1001/0684.html
I hadn't really meant to imply that POB's wine-dark sea was a reference to Renault's. Rather, both references would evoke some Greek poet or other- Homer?? who used the phrase first. But Jerry Shurman may have been right about Alice.
We need a new companion volume to the canon. In addition to people, animals, ships, cannons, sea terms, and foreign phrases, how about a guide to literary quotes or allusions? The problem is that, for most of us, these are not as immediately visible as the other categories.
A few days ago, Charlezzzz suggested that some of us might have missed a quote from Pope because we were thinking with the starboard side of our brains instead of the port side. He was being much too charitable. I wouldn't have recognized a line from Pope if it had bit me on the azzzz.
Obviously, compiling a literary companion would require someone with special expertizzzze. Any volunteerzzzz?
I hadn't really meant to imply that POB's wine-dark sea was a reference to Renault's. Rather, both references would evoke some Greek poet or other- Homer?? who used the phrase first
Yes it was Homer. "Wine-dark sea" is one of Homer's repeated poetic stock phrases. Another one is "Eos rubodactylos" (sp?) = "rosy-fingered dawn"
Grey-eyed Athena sent them a favorable wind, a gentle breeze singing over the wine-dark sea. [Homer, The Odyssey, Book II]
a Rose by another name at Home
37° 23' 28" N 122° 04' 09" W
on 3/25/03 3:26 PM, Tharp, Katherine at KTHARP@DKSLAW.COM wrote:
Obviously, compiling a literary companion would require someone with special expertizzzze. Any volunteerzzzz?
Nil, and none from this direction. Alas, poor Borick. Cast yr eye on vacancy. Get thee to a nunnery. Go.
on 3/25/03 10:51 AM, Linnea at ronlin@BRINET.COM wrote:
This forum has inspired me to read many new authors and revisit some old favorites. One of these is Mary Renault.
POB dedicated one of his books to her, didn't he? Owls to Athens, what?
Yr recommendation of The King Must Die is a fine one, but I also strongly recommend The Last of the Wine because the hero becomes a captain of marines, serving on a trireme, and you can't say fairer than that.
on 3/26/03 11:41 AM, Lois Anne du Toit at ldutoit@UKONLINE.CO.UK wrote:
No indeed, a fine, fine book. Charlezzzzz, you started me wondering which Mary Renault book I would recommend above the others - tough choice ... I decided on The Mask of Apollo, because the end of the book is one of the finest pieces of writing I've encountered anywhere.
A fine book, a lovely book: theatricals in Ancient Greece, and I especially delight in the scene where the ship reaches Syracuse and finds the harbor full of shipmasters afraid to go ashore because nobody quite knows whether the tyrant has died during the night; and yes he had died, and the troupe of actors whom he had invited to come and put on his play have lost their gig, and one of them says, in essence, "Well, that's show business."
Nikeratos: "We put off our hopes in silence, like gorgeous costumes and masks from a failed play. We would not be needing them again. After a while I said, 'Well, my dears. That's the theater.'"
Well, my dears.
One of the things about Renault's writing that most impresses me is its timeless quality. In writing about an era four centuries B.C., with characters speaking classical Greek and other "dead" languages, she somehow makes them sound contemporary, but without any 20th-century idioms that will make them seem dated later on. Renault is in a very different position than POB, who had Jane Austen, RN memoirs and countless other examples of how Jack and Stephen would have spoken and written. He uses language to establish his characters in their very specific milieu.
How does a writer make classical Greeks seem real and immediate, while always part of their own world? Not by using pseudo-archaic language and throwing in a lot of thees and thous and whithers. The same difficulties arise with translations. The other day after someone posted a lovely quote from the Odyssey I was inspired to read the whole thing, but after pulling out my old college edition c. 1965, I realized why I hadn't touched it in 40 years. It is a very bad translation. And my edition of the Iliad is a condensed version. Two more books to buy.
Sorry to post a (near) one liner, but I have to share my love of that expression:
absolutely punch-the-air-jump-up-and-down-life-is-great beautiful.
Nice to see it in Greek too. Different, but those harsher sounds improve it a little too, I think. Can anyone give a transliteration they are sure of?
Was this term unique to Homer? An unaswerable question, I suppose, since Homer predates every other Greek/Ionian writer?
Also interesting that the same device is used in Anglo-Saxon poetry (kennings) and how many other cultures?
Finally, the newest part of War Music by Christopher Louge has arrived. I haven't read it yet, but I brought and consumed the previous parts on the the advice of one lissun. I'd say it pretty much covers why conflict is facinating. Buy it!
not a one liner at all!
Indeed, and I wonder if Shaxpur had enough Greek to know the phrase, because...
MARCELLUS, shaken, having seen a Ghost in the dark part of night, tries to speak of less terrifying matters:
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
HORATIO, who is too smart to believe in fairies, and hides behind his "in part," and then leaps into poetry
So have I heard and do in part believe it.
But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill:
Break we our watch up; and by my advice,
Let us impart what we have seen to-night
Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life,
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
Charlezzzzz, wondering whether Jack and Stephen, being fired on by the guns at Elsinore, noticed that "yon high eastward hill."
And the Bard himself also has the wondrous line in R&J
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops --
John R. Gosden
7*51'59"N / 98*20'28"E
wondering whether Jack and Stephen, being fired on by the guns at Elsinore, noticed that "yon high eastward hill."
One thing I have in common with Shakespeare is that neither of us have been to Elsinore. But I can Google, and see that Kronborg Castle is situated on a spit of land, well-positioned to fling round shot and shells at Jack and Stephen passing by. To the east. No yon high eastward hill, but open water.
The ramparts from which Horatio and Marcellus gazed looked out over the Great Sound and passing ships. But perhaps they could have been looking beyond, to the distant shores of Sweden.
I am told that after Hamlet died, Fortinbras, who, after all, was merely a successful mirror of Hamlet (avenged his father and became king of Denmark) had the hill leveled and used as a tumulus over Hamlet's grave. Students from Heidelberg used to make spring break in Elsinore (wild women!) and wd touch the tumulus for luck -- it was known as Viagra Hill -- until it quite wore away.
There are a few points in "The Wine-Dark Sea" that particularly caught my attention:
One charactistic that I especially value in the gunroom: . . . the fine steady flow of talk . . . (page 45)
And a few lines that had me rolling:
Jack considered for some moments and then said, "Well, sir, I must say you are an anomalous kind of prisoner, rather like the creature that was neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring but partook of each: the Sphinx." (page 36) and
"If you had been asleep, here is a sight that would wake you even if you were a Letter to the Ephesians. Look over the leeward quarter. The leeward quarter." (page 59)
and lastly, a perhaps autobiographical note?
When you look about among your acquaintance do you find many happy marriages? Martin considered. "No," he said, "I do not. My own is very happy, however." (page 48)
In the sharp but bloody battle with the Alastor in the Wine Dark Sea I wondered how, in that part of the early 19th century, a pirate ship could manage. Where did they refit? Where would they sell prizes? How would they recruit sufficient crew, though that might have been the easiest part. A four-masted, heavily armed and crewed vessel was not inconspicuous. Perhaps some of the more learned Lissuns could give chapter and verse on actual incidents?
in the land of the Zulu
where the water comes hot and hot from both taps in our summer
I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this, although I had thought I didn't like these last books dealing with Peruvian and Chilean uprisings, et al. This time around, it was as if I were reading different books entirely---especially since I could barely remember them!
One of the passages was especially powerful and I certainly remembered that. I re-read those pages several times these past few months, as it's like watching your favorite scene in a movie. The suspense is terrible but you know it shall turn out all right. In so few pages, POB can paint such visual effects.
Jack and a small crew are on the ALASTOR's launch, striving to reach Callao to warn Stephen that Dutuourd has jumped ship and must have gone there to spread rumors in order to wreck Stephen's plans. But a wind squall has driven Jack seaward, with Callao and the mountains behind it in view most of the time, and they've only been able to keep from being driven past all help, sheltering when they can behind rocks with sea-lions on them. The scene shifts to Stephen and his flight from Callao towards Chile over the Andes---wonderful writing and settings. But Jack's plight is ever-present in the reader's mind. Stephen of course is confident that Jack will pick him up in Chile.
O'Brian leaves it up to the reader to imagine most of the travail of the men in the launch--Jack's bad eye, the loss of the oatmeal, the cold wind blowing from the Andes day after day, but we are worried. The rescue unfolds like a dream: Chapter Nine begins: "Early on Wednesday, the east wind, which had been dying all night, at last expired in a peaceful calm...." Pullings rows out on Friday to an island to scan the horizon for his captain yet again and sees the FRANKLIN coming in with a prize. He is happy, because he believes Jack to be aboard her and in that mood he pulls back towards the SURPRISE, ignoring the facetious cries of those in small boats around him, especially "a particularly obstinate bugger, a good way off, in a disgraceful battered old thing almost the size of a man-of-war's longboat but only pulling three lackadaisical oars [which] kept barking like a comic sea-lion, on and on, anything for a laugh." Pullings turns his head away and we think, oh no, oh NO, it's Jack, he won't see them, all is lost. To him, they sound like sea-lions bawling together, but he hears a lone disgusted voice clear across the quiet water, and he recognizes the massive form of his Captain and the shattered hull of the ALASTOR'S launch.
He tries to tow them to shore but it will be hopeless with three miles to go and the ebb will set in and carry them all far out to sea. Our hearts sink. But then, O'Brian describes the three midshipmen aboard the SURPRISE skylarking, and just as Reade was ready to slide down from the top his eye wanders towards the island and caught the "odd spectacle of a very small boat trying to tow a much larger one." He calls for a glass and what he sees makes him break into the loudest hail of "on deck there" of his life.
I shouldn't try to recap these few pages, but hoped to refresh your memories. This is masterful writing, which I can only hint at. Every time I think of this scene, my hair stands on end. Then there is the return and Jack's disappointment that Stephen is away, and the crew's joy and care of him, and his enormous supper. He tells his natural son, Sam Panda, that all they've had to eat was a raw sea-lion.
As usual, O'Brian used animal references throughout the book, and this book has its share of sea lions. There may have been others before I began to notice them, the first on page 123 (Norton's ppbk). Just as Stephen is to be called below to attend to his patients, he is musing; he gathers his wits and says "I thought I heard a sea-lion bark." While he's in the orlop, the ships part company, the SURPRISE to carry him to Callao and the FRANKLIN, now with Jack as its captain, to cruise until all was ready for their passage to the Horn. As we find, the sea-lion may be a portent of the danger that will befall Jack when he sets off to reach Callao in the launch. And yet the same sound signals something else to Martin, who has been so ill. Stephen suggests that land under foot may work wonders, and Martin agrees, saying further: "In parenthesis, may I tell you a strange thing? Some hours ago, as I was coming out of a blessed doze, I thought I heard a sea-lion bark, and my heart lifted with happiness, as it did when I was a boy, or even in New South Wales. How close are we to the shore?" Here again, a sea-lion barking is a connection to both Martin's yearning and Jack's yearning to be rescued, to be ashore, to regain health.
~~ Linnea Angermuller
on 3/29/03 3:13 PM, Linnea at ronlin@BRINET.COM wrote:
Just as Stephen is to be called below to attend to his patients, he is musing; he gathers his wits and says "I thought I heard a sea-lion bark."
And I never ever wd have caught a sneaky POB reference to a New Yorker cartoon without this catch of Linnea's.
There's a Thurber man and a Thurber woman in bed. Behind the bed there's a Thurber seal. Says one to the other, clearly gathering moral dominance: "Have it your way. You heard a seal bark."
Oh, rare POB.
O, rare Charlezzzzz wrote:
And I never ever wd have caught a sneaky POB reference to a New Yorker cartoon without this catch of Linnea's.
Take a peak (URL thanks to Lois):
Great article. Lifted from the text accompanying the cartoon:
"Physically as well as spiritually, she is a true representative of "the Thurber woman"--a species Newsweek once defined as
a fiercely aggressive female with the figure of a potato sack, a face which is a cross between a weasel''s and a swordfish''s, and, the final indignity, perfectly straight and stringy hair. She is also chinless, the bottom of her face consisting entirely in a lower lip, under which lies a fat neck. She is markedly unfeminine and sexually unattractive.
The husband is a perfect match for her. He is bald, fat-necked, round shouldered, has a receding chin, a weasely nose, and is as lacking in virile appeal as his wife is in femininity. The look on his face is a mixture of bewilderment and exasperation, resulting at least in part from the wife''s aggressive expression of her disbelief. He knows what he has heard, but can''t understand it or defend his claim, and is utterly helpless in these respects."
Having read this and agreeing with it, I have a better picture in my mind of Mr Williams : }
On Saturday 29 of March 2003 21:13, Linnea wrote:
As usual, O'Brian used animal references throughout the book, and this book has its share of sea lions.
A central theme I see in WDS is the nearness of failure in all our endeavours, when whe seem to have the end already in sight. Jack and his crew are almost within sight of Callao, yet are driven back time and time again. Stephen has his uprising nearly starting, when at the last moment it fails due to the untimely appearance of Dutourd. And there is a powerful animal metaphor - when Stephen shoots the guanaco in the Andes, the shot is perfect, the animal is killed instantly, yet upon examination he finds that at the last moment it had leapt off a cliff and is now inaccessible, though perfectly visible. All revolves around the theme of frustration and failure when the success was almost in hand. And a timely warning it can be for the present day, indeed.
Thankee, Pawel. As usual, you give us a reason to read the book all over again, looking for the point you make.
Remember, early on in the canon (Post Captain?), when Maturin tells Diana she "has a beast in view"?
The quotation is from Dryden's "Secular Masque"
All, all of a piece throughout;
Thy chase had a beast in view;
Thy wars brought nothing about;
Thy lovers were all untrue.
'Tis well an old age is out,
And time to begin a new.
Charlezzzzz, and the quotation seemed to fit your thesis better before I looked it up
I think that the star Canopus is mentioned several times in significant passages, but now I can only find one reference, on page 160 Norton ppbk., as Jack and his small crew are driving the ALASTOR's launch towards Callao. Very early in the morning of the day that the wind gall will drive them back, "Canopus was just clearing the horizon." Jack calls out to stand by to go about and then, "Helm's a-lee."
Alert to these celestial references because of the earlier ones to Arcturus, I looked Canopus up, and here's a description, which seems to allude to Jack's nautical character, and at the end, a reference to Canopus being Menelaus's helmsman:
CANOPUS. As northerners drive south on winter vacations, they encounter something of a surprise. Just below the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is the SECOND brightest star, Canopus, 30 degrees and almost exactly south of Mirzam, Sirius's announcing star. Nearly 53 degrees south of the celestial equator, and the great luminary of Carina, the Keel, Canopus is not visible from latitudes above 37 degrees north, which excludes all of Canada and most of the continental United States (though from the Gulf Coast to southern Arizona the two make a grand winter sight, as they do in all the summertime southern hemisphere). Unlike most stars, the name refers to a person, though its origin is unknown. Canopus was originally the Alpha star of the ancient constellation Argo, the ship on which Jason sailed to find the golden fleece. In more modern times, huge Argo was broken into three parts, Carina (the Keel), Puppis (the Stern), and Vela (the Sails). Canopus fell into Carina, and is therefore now Alpha Carinae. Shining at the minus-first magnitude (-0.72), Canopus appears..............
Another site says CANOPUS was Menelaus's helmsman (also Egyptian seaport)
~~ Linnea Angermuller
HMS Canopus is mentioned in a number of the books of the Canon, but a mention of the star itself comes in "Treason's Harbour" (pp 192-3 of the Norton edition) when aboard the Niobe in the Red Sea:
"The Niobe swung to her anchor, the leeward tide running with a continuous gentle ripple; if the people spoke at all it was in an undertone. The eastern sky grew perceptibly lighter. Jack had been looking at Canopus, an indistinct glow in the south, and thinking about his son: would a boy brought up by his mother, with only sisters to play with, grow up a milksop? He had known smaller boys than George go to sea. Perhaps the clever thing to do was to take him for a four seasons' voyage and then put him to school for a year or two before returning to the Navy, so that he should not be as illiterate as most sea-officers, including his father. Some friend would certainly keep George's name on his ship's books, so the schooling would not mean the loss of any time before he could pass for lieutenant. Two bells. At the sound he glanced forward; and when he looked back again the star was gone."
With each volume I re-read, it seems more clear that PO'B gives each some defining theme, which the plot reflects. I would guess that the plot and the theme developed concurrently, with PO'B thinking of a plot, and what interesting things it brings up, and then thinking 'I'll develop that.'
Being only half-way through this volume, and so miserably behind the group read, I can only offer this as my tentative theme for this volume: liberty.
Perhaps this is rather obvious. Clearly, we see the beginnings of Maturin's South American independance attempts, and we have too the slavery / abolitionist strands, together with Dutourd and the Knipperdollings.
Would you agree? And could Martin's strand (an important sub-plot in the first half of the volume) be said to reflect this?
Additionally, I think this volume reveals more than any other about Stephen's political ideas. He says at one point that 'slavery is one of the few points in which Jack and I disagree', but it is clear before this that Stephen does not ally himself with Dutourd's radical veiwpoint. Clearly a very different Stephen from the one recalled by Stephen who had such high hopes of man.
Perhaps PO'B's point is that too much liberty is a bad thing? Think of the ill-at-ease freed slaves aboard the Franklin, as a possible source of one of PO'B's little vignettes, which can be so revealing when extended to the theme (I apologise for my poor grammar there). What do you think?
Sorry if you've forgotten the book, as we've now moved on...
Thanks for reading,
I was hoping someone would respond to this fine post sooner. The idea of a different theme underlying each book hadn't occurred to me before you mentioned it, but I'm sure you are in the right of it.
Last week, Sam Bostock posted some interesting thoughts on a possible theme for WDS, concerning liberty and slavery. I've been meaning to respond, after checking POB's notes for WDS from the Lilly Library, Bloomington, IN.
Unfortunately, POB rarely states his themes in his notes, concentrating instead on plot development. It seems that he intended to make slavery a key element of his plot. In his very earliest draft, he lists Stephen's stated motives for approaching the South American revolutionaries as:
"to prevent the pro-French party's success & then to encourage an anti-slavery lot." The pro-slavery side then responds by capturing Stephen.
This was to lead to an interesting piece in which Stephen was to "die" in prison, and
"be brought back to the ship embalmed for burial in his own country by a group of deeply hooded friars at dusk - drum - reversed crozier (no Sam - discreet - perhaps simulated quarrel)
One of the friars is SM the corpse (? silver mask - open coffin) an anatomical specimen."
The imprisonment is to be passed off among the crew "as sexual depravity on SM's part - called in to examine Governor's daughter - his little instrument"
Another plot element involving slavery was to be the capture of a slave ship and the problem of "what to do with murderous blacks? Beware good deeds. For all this I should have to read about slavery at the time".
Apparently he did do his research for the next book, in which much of the story relates to enforcing the ban on the the slave trade.
Along the lines of the plot that might have been, the original ending for WDS was to have the American frigate chase Surprise well out into the Atlantic.
"In the very early morning, pursuit having been shaken off some days or even weeks ago. The thick weather off the (?) Azores clears, shows a man of war quite close, large"
[It is the Desaix, Linois's former ship. Jack does not know that it has been taken by the British.]
"Alarm, despondency, somebody (?JA & all Sophies) have been POW aboard her.
More ships discovered to leeward, escape impossible. JA below for signal books, secret papers.
Reid [sic] come to him with shining face. 'The 3rd ship is Victory, sir, & she is signalling Captain repair aboard flag"