ancient tomes and rosetta stones
hmm hmm. i’d like to speak to you today of bloody horse skins and steaming bull-feasts, golden calves and burning bushes, yellow calfskins and chinese girl’s backs and other dream-fetchers, or books as they’re called these days.
now people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and point taken, edgar, soft, squidgy-toed entities only a cm or so tall, however long they might be should probably take your sound advice to avoid stepping on the toes of steel-capped leather-booted giants everybody is using for transport these days, though the great god pan alone knows what they think their destination might be – they’ve left it up to the giants and the giants don’t even know who they are, because they’re all dead long ago. be that as it may, class, i have my quibbles when it comes to the ‘dreams’ of the ancients and i’d like us to have a little look at one or p’raps two.
let’s invoke merlyn. i’m sure he’s got other things to do, but he might be persuaded to trickle some insight-stimulating nwyfre into our midst for the good of all beings. eus kres, old man, beloved of all? kres. well, nearly. as much as kres ever gets this far from a cricket pitch, and well, since we’re here, what a strange test we’ve just had and the ashes in our keeping again, where it seems they think they belong – light laughter, with a fastish-fading tightish smile from merlyn, who’s been, i trow, subdued since the last match, along with the rest of the poms. hahaha.
elaine, dear, a propos of your enquiry, there’s a case in point. see how kresek has been taken into the beatnik (bennik = blessed) jargon and anglicised as the nearest plausible english phonetic equivalent to obtain a decidedly ‘strange’ meaning. it’s a feature of translation that you sometimes encounter affecting, as here, key words and concepts. kres = craze = highly desirable: it’s crazy man, i.e., coll, (or kell, or school), spelled cool these days and meaning just beaut.
but the subject you’ll remember is books.
if you look at the establishment dogma we’re handed out and persecuted for rejecting or daring to refute, there weren’t any really. when the ancient hebrews needed the best advice they could get for their favourite or eldest son’s future they used to consult burning bushes. when they doubted the qualifications of a leadership claiming to be tuned infallibly to the vaporous wesen, they made golden statues of calves to replace them. our culture is based upon their wisdom, so it’s nice to know that bushes can still burn, although there’s no-one alive today who i’d trust to interpret, and that statue-making of animals and all sorts in everything from plasticine to pure gold is still a vital pass-time for millions, a hobby for thousands and a livelihood for hundreds of people in any sample of population of a reasonable size.
(no wendy, newts do not make statues of anything much, although we have our ways with mud – reuzegezellig it is too!!!!!)
the point is, human, that taken all together there are some very good reasons for suspecting every consulted thing in ancient texts of being a book or a school or other institution which kept annals, pedigrees and other kinds of history, science and philosophy in treasured books, while every act of recording is translated as writing.
the process is often described: an animal or several hundred or thousand are killed. hermeneuts are always pretending they know the various precise meanings of all the words they encounter that probably mean kill and often use the word sacrifice whenever it gets religious, or rather whenever they’re too scared to say what it really means.
there’s so much evidence of books, tomes and parchments, writing and reading, education and communication by the written word in those texts and they seem to me to be doing everything in their power to pretend there just wasn’t any. perhaps this is because they want to believe that the texts they’ve got are new and fresh and original, not too tricky to date, and they want it to reflect racist roman propaganda to the effect that there was no literature except greek and egyptian which they couldn’t really hide before they came and educated the barbarians, and they do this by refusing to acknowledge the vast piles of evidence of widespread developed taken-for-granted generalised literacy among the majority of pre-roman peoples.
the references to massive, house to captive house, methodically thorough booksearchings and book burnings, aside (see don quixote for some gloriously telling examples), they seem to want us to think that the scarcity, fragmentariness and poor condition of the pitiful few survivals of pre-roman literature reflects their pre-roman condition. to keep up this pretence you have to translate them wrongly, and that ensures that the translations make no sense or nonsense or at the very best bizarre sense that fully justifies not only the destruction of the culture concerned, but its continued subjection to the authority of… of whom, precisely, i often wonder…
you’re wondering about the golden calf? words for yellow and golden and tan etc tend to be easy to mistake for one another even when they are clearly defined. in my own vocabulary, i’d use all those words to denote the same colour in different situations. but it beautifully suggests the colour of parchment, don’t you think, and the best parchment is made from the skin of young animals, while it is still very supple and pliable and still very thin. you can refer here to rhonabwy’s yellow calf skin upon which he ‘dreams’ – dreams are almost always readings – and to prophecy, dreams, or consultation involving animal skins that cause clairvoyant dreams all the way back to joseph in his tartan kilt in the land of egypt. the buggers were up to their elbows in books, poring over tomes, ruining their eyesight in doing so and saving up all their dinerii shekels and pingines to have their young hopefuls taught to do the same.
the burning bush? there are many word pairs in extant languages whose ancestors probably contributed to the hebrew’s texts either directly or in translation (they were always translating each others texts, wives’ texts in particular into the language of their husbands, and much of the populace of the middle east seems to have been goidelic ((galilee for example and galatea)) though brythonic and hellenic speakers were also there) which mean either bush or book depending on which language you’re thinking in. tom/tome and buch/bush are two.
i’ve got reasons i can’t go into here, it’s almost time for my slot with axel lottle where we do really exquisite things together in the murk to make it more intelligible and yielding of its meanings, for preferring to think that the old hebrews having married some proto-irish colleens, their descendents inherited translations of some now lost, very ancient proto-irish texts and some dickhead ((related to dichet(al) perhaps, and meaning something like deep-thinker and certainly not obscene)) mistranslated a phrase which meant ‘illuminated/illustrated tome’ as burning bush. tom is irish for bush or shrub.
note tomahawk here, girls and boys, for when we glance at the possibility that the irish really did sail to america and go native, because it will do you good to see in this native american work the elements tom and hawk. tom is bush, and hawk is hack, or hacker, the thing you hack with see hacha, axe and saxe. a tomahawk is a small axe for cutting bushes with. you’d need something bigger for a tree – that’s how to check to see that the meaning fits. snug as a foot in a moccasin. goes right up to the saxons that etymology does and helps us to distinguish them from the sasanas, with whom they are currently incorrectly confounded by most scholars who haven’t been paying attention to moi. they’re almost certainly more to do with slate rooves than battle-axes, although they no doubt used those too.
and the chinese girl’s back? well, you can imagine for yourself what kind of text the sort of nitwit who does this sort of thing
was working with here: there’s the scene, some events of great significance have taken place and it’s hard to make out exactly what but what fun if it’s the one where they all hate each other, so they read it as a vengeful resentment that makes them record it as is proved by their method of recording it: they inscribe the text on the girl’s back with a knife, cutting each letter deeply enough into the skin to leave permanent scars which will be legible for as long as she lives.
well, maybe it was someone else’s back – perhaps an old sheep’s after the sheep had finished with it, and maybe it was written on with ink in the ordinary way, and maybe we’re not dealing with glorious vengefulness – a very suspect trait, in a culture in need of careful correction – but only with an honest intention of preserving in the ordinary way the details of events they felt were worthy of remembrance, and maybe there wasn’t any offence given or taken at all.
hermeneutics is like that.
now before you go, o golden ones of wisdom and truth, consider this: the first thing anyone could think of doing with the rosetta stone once they’d found it and polished it all up clean was to brush ink on it and press paper against it and lift off the paper and while still wet, press it against another piece of paper, and do that several times and distribute the copies to interested persons, rewetting the stone when it got dry and washing it carefully clean when they’d finished work for the day.
my question, and i want three thousand words from each of you, with footnotes and bibliography extra, illustrations fine, powerpoint presentation welcome, on whether or not you think the egyptians were too stupid to think of that and give arguments to support your opinion and evidence to support your arguments and i’ll see you down the slushpond after for a drink or a wallow in the mud. entitle your essay: was the rosetta stone once part of a printing press?