Sunday, September 30, 2018

Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival

I went up to NH for my mom's birthday, and we went to the local metropolis for a maritime folk festival.  It was a spectacular day.

We stopped in briefly to a cafe/bookstore called "Book & Bar," but we figured out before we ordered anything that there was to be poetry, rather than music, in that venue.  A pity, since I'd have liked to browse their collection...

The theme continues! (Yes, we ate there once)

We got a late start, so we saw just two acts, the Vox Hunters and the Johnson Girls.

The Vox Hunters are a duo from Rhode Island.  The fiddler had unfortunately been stung on the left hand by a bee earlier that morning -- he was icing it again after the close of their set -- but the show must go on, as they say.

The Vox Hunters at the John Paul Jones House

I found "Ocean Burial" particularly moving -- especially the line "It matters not, I've oft been told, where the body lies when the heart gets cold."

Loved this version of Yankee Doodle:

The Johnson Girls had a lovely blend of voices, and it was interesting to hear them tackle various traditional songs that offer a male perspective, as well as others that focus on the women left behind.

We also attended a sing-along in a somewhat unfortunately named bar ("Portsmouth Gaslight"), where there were a large number of musicians up front by the windows and a seemingly well-informed audience -- or perhaps I should say, an audience apparently well-versed in the lyrics of many maritime folk songs.

My brother and the girls met us at home in the later afternoon; my sister-in-law couldn't make it, but sent a delicious cake.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Grice in Othello III.3

After listening to Lingthusiasm episode 11, it seems to me that Iago nicely deploys the Gricean maxims of relevance and manner in gulling Othello (e.g. III.3.94-104).

1.  Manner

Here, Iago's manner draws attention to his words; he breaks himself off, as if he were uncertain about whether or not to speak:
IAGO:  My noble lord--
OTHELLO:  What dost thou say, Iago?
And of course, Othello immediately asks about it (as most people will in such circumstances).

Some 20-25 lines later, Othello also comments on Iago's halting speech, essentially laying bare his presumptions about Gricean cooperation in his good friend Iago -- even while manifesting awareness that "false disloyal knaves" might counterfeit such starts:
And, for I know thou'rt full of love and honesty,
And weigh'st thy words before thou givest them breath,
Therefore these stops of thine fright me the more:
For such things in a false disloyal knave
Are tricks of custom, but in a man that's just
They are close delations, working from the heart
That passion cannot rule...

2.  Relevance (and possibly quality and quantity)

Here is relevance at work, as Iago takes an irrelevant fact (and one he already knows) and gives it a seeming weight or significance (while pretending to be uncertain of it, cf. quality):
IAGO:  Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady, / Know of your love?
OTHELLO:  He did, from first to last: why dost thou ask?
IAGO:  But for a satisfaction of my thought; / No further harm.
The slight over-assurance ("No further harm") may trigger the maxim of quantity.  In any event, Othello falls for it and follows up to discover the relevance, asking:
OTHELLO: Why of thy thought, Iago?
IAGO:  I did not think he had been acquainted with her.
3.  Manner 

And here Iago starts echoing Othello's words, as if he were stalling for time and trying not to answer his questions (i.e., as if he were trying to conceal unpleasant answers).
OTHELLO:  Indeed! ay, indeed: discern'st thou aught in that?  / Is he not honest?
IAGO: Honest, my lord!
OTHELLO:  Honest! ay, honest.
* * *
OTHELLO: What dost thou think?
IAGO:  Think, my lord!
OTHELLO:  Think, my lord!
Othello again presumes "cooperative" speech on Iago's part, and comments on it:
OTHELLO: By heaven, he echoes me,As if there were some monster in his thoughtToo hideous to be shown.  Thou dost mean something...

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Cloverleaf Hike

I did a kind of cloverleaf hike today: first leaf is the loop up Washburn over Bull Hill, second leaf is a loop along the upper half of Undercliff over Breakneck Ridge, then the final "leaf" is the lower half of Undercliff, down around to Cold Spring.

large bird overlooking the path on the road not taken

I was really excited to see this bright yellow fungus with neon orange interior; I'd only seen its like once, years ago, further north on the yellow trail. 

size 6 foot

Plus, I had the satisfaction of having it apparently all to myself; it was growing on just one side of a tree stump, facing me... and everyone else on the trail was coming the other direction.

side view

Detailed route notes: Started on Washburn (white), up and over Bull Hill.  At the trail end, I took the left trail Notch (blue) until its intersection with the Brook trailhead (red).  I followed Brook toward 9D, but at the intersection with Undercliff (yellow), I turned right and crossed the bridge.  On Undercliff, steep ascents, zig-zags and hairpin turns up to a T-intersection with Breakneck Ridge (white).  Right on Breakneck Ridge, up and down along the ridge, until it parts ways in a forest crossing with Notch (blue).  At that point, right on Notch down through the hillside forest, past the ruins, across the water until you reach the intersection with Brook.  At that point, there's about a .2 mile overlap on Brook, until the intersection with Undercliff... But this time I turned left, and followed it all the way across and down to the end and walked down Main street.

Went to the bistro for a steak sandwich and a glass of vino verde, then just had time to catch the train.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Waxing Gibbous 99%

We drove out to a barrier island to see the nearly full moon, passing through a bit of amplified live music and concomitant crowds to get to a quieter section of the beach, where we could sit on the sand and watch the sandpipers skirting the waves.  Unfortunately, we couldn't quite catch the moment of moonrise through the cloud cover, but it loomed a little briefly before fading from view.

Courtesy of Bae Tripod

Monday, August 20, 2018


So I'm trying to re-watch movie!FotR for the first time in over a decade, and it is irksome.

Among many other issues too numerous to mention, I can see no reason for the hobbits to escape the Black Riders on the road, in the forest, and at the easily-jumped dock (other than plot armor).

And why is Merry stealing Sam's lines?!

'I am being eaten alive!' cried Pippin. 'Midgewater! There are more midges than water!' 
'What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?' asked Sam, scratching his neck.
MERRY [smacking cheek]: What do they eat, when they can't get hobbit?
[PIPPIN falls into water for no reason.] 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

C.S. Lewis & Terry Pratchett

Vimes talking to Carrot about the light:
"Vetinary sits up half the night writing, and in the morning the candle's burned down.  Poisoned by the light.  The light's something you don't see. Who looks at the light? [...]  We don't look at the light because the light is what we look with."  (Pratchett, Feet of Clay 289)
Opening passage of CSL's "Meditation in a Toolshed":
I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. 
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Je fus li chevaliers navré"

Vinaver again, talking about interlace in the early romances:
When about eight hundred pages after the first appearance of the wounded knight and some time after the last occurrence of the theme we meet the knight again and discover, for the first time, that his name is Trahans le Gai, his remark: 'Je fus li chevaliers navré' is intended for those who have not forgotten any detail of the earlier episodes.  The assuption is not only that the reader's member is infallible, but that the exercise of such a memory is in itself a pleasurable pursuit which carries with it its own reward.
Vinaver pp. 82-83 (footnote omitted).

So I was familiar with navré in modern French, but wondered about its meaning in OF.  Here's what wiktionary has to say about its etymology:
Past participle of navrer (“to upset, dismay”), from Middle French, from Old French navrer, nafrer (“to hurt by piercing or cutting”), from Old Norse nafra (“to pierce or bore with an auger”), from nafarr (“auger”), from Proto-Germanic *nabagairaz (“auger", literally "nave-spear”). Cognate with Old English nafogār (“auger”), Old High German nabagēr (“auger”). More at auger.
Or, as the Anglo-Norman Dictionary suggests, naufré as adjective might simply be translated as "wounded" (see nafrer).

And just as fus is the passé simple of être in modern French, fus appears to be a past form of estre in earlier phrases of the language (see estre3).

So perhaps the above-referenced phrase means something like "I was the pierced (wounded) knights" - i.e., the knights Lancelot slew or wounded in avenging him as requested?

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Sin or Misfortune

"[N]ever does the magic of [the love-drink], all-powerful though it is, remove the cause of Tristan's misfortune–his sense of allegiance to" his uncle and overlord, King Mark (Vinaver 47).

Vinaver provides the following discussion, apparently recounting the discussion between Tristan and the hermit Ogrins:
'We love each other,' he says to the hermit who tries to make him repent, 'because of the potion we drank: ce fut pechiez;[fn] and pechiez can mean either sin or misfortune, or possibly both.  (47-48)
This is more or less where I was planning to end the post -- I was just going to share Vinaver's comment on the word "pechiez."  But then I looked at the footnote for context.  Strangely, Vinaver does not provide a closing quotation mark to show where his translation of Tristan's words ends.  And then, without explanation, he drops a footnote to Iseult's words in Béroul's version of Le Roman de Tristan, ll. 1413-16:
Il ne m'aime pas, ne je lui,
Fors par un herbé dont je bui
Et il en but: ce fu pechiez.
(I checked because the unexplained pronoun "il" made me wonder if it was Iseult speaking.)

So it turns out that, at least in this section, Tristan does not seem to use the word "pechiez."  Rather, the Ogrins/Tristan dialogue includes these lines (ll. 1379-92):
'Par foi! Tristran, qui se repent
Par foi et par confession,
Deu du pechié li fait pardon.' 
    Tristran li dit: 'Sire, par foi,
Que ele m'aime en bone foi,
Vos n'entendez pas la raison:
Q'el m'aime, c'est par la poison.
Ge ne me pus de lié partir,
N'ele de moi, n'en quier mentir.' 
Ogrins li dist: 'Et quel confort
Puet on doner a home mort?
Assez est mort qui longuement
Gist en pechié, s'il ne repent;
Doner ne puet nus penitence
A pecheor senz repentance.'
So in this passage, Ogrins (not Tristan) uses "pechié" (ll. 1380, 1390) and "pecheor" (l. 1392).  But I can't help thinking that the hermit's use of these words (unlike, perhaps, Iseult's) is likely to carry only the connotation of sin, rather than misfortune, given that he is urging repentance.

And now I'm suddenly thinking of Claudius in Hamlet II.3:
But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?

Béroul. The Romance of Tristan. Edited by Stewart Gregory, Rodopi, 1992. 
Vinaver, Eugène. The Rise of Romance. Oxford University Press, 1971.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fyghtynge Like Lyons in Malory

  • "Than Arthure as a lyon ran unto kynge Cradilment of North Walis and smote hym thorow the lyffte syde, that horse and man felle downe."  (22)
  • "But whan kynge Arthure saw the batayle wolde nat be ended by no manner, he fared woode as a lyon and stirred his horse here and there on the ryght honde and on the lyffte honed, that he stynted nat tylle he had slayne twenty knyghtes." (23)
  • "Be than com into the felde kynge Ban as ferse as a lyon, with bondis of green and thereuppon golde." (25)
  • "Be that tyme com into the prees kynge Arthure and founde kynge Ban stondynge amonge the dede men and dede horse, fyghtynge on foote as a wood lyon, that there com none nigh hym as farre as he myght reche with hys swerde..." (26)
And how do we get our blow-by-blow description of the battle?  "Bloyse wrote the batayle worde by worde as Merlion tolde him, how hit began and by whom, and in lyke wise how how hit was ended and who had the worst. And all the batayles that were done in Arthurs dayes, Merlion dud hys master Bloyse write them. Also he dud write all the batayles that every worthy knyght ded of Arthurs courte." (29)  It's not entirely clear to me whether Merlyon was present during the battle; but I'm not sure it makes any difference to his knowledge of Every. Single. Detail.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Code-Switching in Lord of the Rings?

There are probably other and better examples, but this one just struck me tonight:
‘Alas!’ said Aragorn. ‘Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape.’  
At these words all the Elves in the hall cried aloud in grief and amazement. ‘These are evil tidings,’ said Celeborn, ‘the most evil that have been spoken here in long years full of grievous deeds.’ He turned to Haldir. ‘Why has nothing of this been told to me before?’ he asked in the elven-tongue.  
‘We have not spoken to Haldir of our deeds or our purpose,’ said Legolas. ‘At first we were weary and danger was too close behind; and afterwards we almost forgot our grief for a time, as we walked in gladness on the fair paths of Lórien.’  
‘Yet our grief is great and our loss cannot be mended,’ said Frodo. ‘Gandalf was our guide, and he led us through Moria; and when our escape seemed beyond hope he saved us, and he fell.’  (LotR II.7 at 355)
It looks like both Celeborn and Legolas are code-switching in this scene.

Celeborn's comment to Haldir obviously switches from the Common Language to the elven-tongue as this rebuke is an internal matter, an aside not intended for all the visitors.

But of course Legolas understands and responds to defend Haldir -- and Frodo jumps in to offer clarification to Legolas's comment.

However, it's already been established that Frodo is not particularly fluent in the elven-tongue(s).*

So I infer that Legolas has responded in the Common Language; otherwise, Frodo would not be able to jump in as he does.  I think it's clear that Frodo is responding to Legolas's seeming down-playing of their grief ("we almost forgot our grief for a time"), without quite understanding the motivation behind Legolas's words (as he would if he'd understood Celeborn's aside to Haldir).

All citations to: Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings. 50th Anniversary One-Volume Edition, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2005.


  • cf. "It was singing in the fair elven-tongue, of which Frodo knew only a little, and the others knew nothing." (79 - Exiles, in the Shire)
  • cf. "At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven-tongues, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend to them." (233 - in Rivendell)
  • "...then another clear voice spoke in an elven-tongue. Frodo could understand little of what was said, for the speech that the Silvan folk east of the mountains used among themselves was unlike that of the West. Legolas looked up and answered in the same language." (342)
  • "Then he shut off the light again, and spoke words of welcome in his elven-tongue. Frodo spoke haltingly in return. ‘Welcome!’ the Elf then said again in the Common Language, speaking slowly. ‘We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with any other folk....'" (343)