viernes, 31 de enero de 2014

TWENTY-TWO

This post is meant to announce the mistress's twenty-second birthday (which makes her an Aquarius) this evening!!!

May she live (and write) for many more years!

jueves, 30 de enero de 2014

FALLEN FROM GRACE

Nowadays, the concepts of honour and a good reputation are not as relevant as they were to the military of the olden days. Even professional officers and landsknechts adhered to a strict code of honour: To a present-day audience, Lieutenant Cassio may seem to throw a tantrum upon having failed his commanding officer under the influence ("I would rather die than deceive so good a commander with so slight, so drunken, and so indiscrete an officer!"), while his noncom Iago states that whoever mugs him/picks his pocket just snatches trifles, a good reputation being the most valuable jewel for a person to have.
Kurosawa films show us that such a worldview was not restricted to the Western world alone. Yet the relevance of this code in the Occident, and in historical fiction, is the theme of this post in particular.

In Ben-Hur, both the film and the book, the Israelite nobleman who gives the story its title is fortunate enough to have a Navy tribune for a guardian plus "fairy godsire". Both men meet on a galley, as a rower and the captain, respectively. It is during a confrontation against some pirates that Quintus Arrius, determined not to lose the battle, attempts to commit ritual suicide. Ben-Hur, ignorant of the military's code of honour, saves the officer's life and gives him both a new outlook and a foster son.

A prudent man was Arrius--prudent, and of the class which, while enriching the altars, was of opinion, nevertheless, that the favor of the blind goddess (Lady Fortune) depended more upon the votary's care and judgment than upon his own gifts and vows. 
Knowledge leaves no room for chances. Having begun with the chief of the rowers, the sailing-master, and the pilot, in company with the other officers--the commander of the marines, the keeper of the stores, the master of the machines, the overseer of the kitchen or fires--he passed through the several quarters. Nothing escaped his inspection. When he was through, of the community crowded within the narrow walls he alone knew perfectly all there was of material preparation for the voyage and its possible incidents; and, finding the preparation complete, there was left him but one thing further--thorough knowledge of the personnel of his command. As this was the most delicate and difficult part of his task, requiring much time, he set about it his own way.
The cabin, it should be stated, was the central compartment of the galley, in extent quite sixty-five by thirty feet, and lighted by three broad hatchways. A row of stanchions ran from end to end, supporting the roof, and near the centre the mast was visible, all bristling with axes and spears and javelins. To each hatchway there were double stairs descending right and left, with a pivotal arrangement at the top to allow the lower ends to be hitched to the ceiling; and, as these were now raised, the compartment had the appearance of a skylighted hall.
The reader will understand readily that this was the heart of the ship, the home of all aboard--eating-room, sleeping-chamber, field of exercise, lounging-place off duty--uses made possible by the laws which reduced life there to minute details and a routine relentless as death.
At the after-end of the cabin there was a platform, reached by several steps. Upon it the chief of the rowers sat; in front of him a sounding-table, upon which, with a gavel, he beat time for the oarsmen; at his right a clepsydra, or water-clock, to measure the reliefs and watches. Above him, on a higher platform, well guarded by gilded railing, the tribune had his quarters, overlooking everything, and furnished with a couch, a table, and a cathedra, or chair, cushioned, and with arms and high back--articles which the imperial dispensation permitted of the utmost elegance.
Thus at ease, lounging in the great chair, swaying with the motion of the vessel, the military cloak half draping his tunic, sword in belt, Arrius kept watchful eye over his command, and was as closely watched by them. He saw critically everything in view, but dwelt longest upon the rowers. The reader would doubtless have done the same: only he would have looked with much sympathy, while, as is the habit with masters, the tribune's mind ran forward of what he saw, inquiring for results.
The spectacle was simple enough of itself. Along the sides of the cabin, fixed to the ship's timbers, were what at first appeared to be three rows of benches; a closer view, however, showed them a succession of rising banks, in each of which the second bench was behind and above the first one, and the third above and behind the second. To accommodate the sixty rowers on a side, the space devoted to them permitted nineteen banks separated by intervals of one yard, with a twentieth bank divided so that what would have been its upper seat or bench was directly above the lower seat of the first bank. The arrangement gave each rower when at work ample room, if he timed his movements with those of his associates, the principle being that of soldiers marching with cadenced step in close order. The arrangement also allowed a multiplication of banks, limited only by the length of the galley.
As to the rowers, those upon the first and second benches sat, while those upon the third, having longer oars to work, were suffered to stand. The oars were loaded with lead in the handles, and near the point of balance hung to pliable thongs, making possible the delicate touch called feathering, but, at the same time, increasing the need of skill, since an eccentric wave might at any moment catch a heedless fellow and hurl him from his seat. Each oar-hole was a vent through which the laborer opposite it had his plenty of sweet air. Light streamed down upon him from the grating which formed the floor of the passage between the deck and the bulwark over his head. In some respects, therefore, the condition of the men might have been much worse. Still, it must not be imagined that there was any pleasantness in their lives. Communication between them was not allowed. Day after day they filled their places without speech; in hours of labor they could not see each other's faces; their short respites were given to sleep and the snatching of food. They never laughed; no one ever heard one of them sing. What is the use of tongues when a sigh or a groan will tell all men feel while, perforce, they think in silence? Existence with the poor wretches was like a stream under ground sweeping slowly, laboriously on to its outlet, wherever that might chance to be.


Here, we see the galley as a societal microcosm: "the community crowded within the narrow walls", like Othello's outpost, the HMS Surprise, the Animal Farm, or the Nostromo in Alien (compare "Das Galley"!): the few officers as the elite, the foremen as the middle class, the many rowers and privates on the lower rungs. Quintus at the top, unaware of the debacle that lurks a stone throw away. His quarters are "of the utmost elegance", yet harsh and austere. He is a responsible commander. He believes in Lady Fortune's favour. Quintus Arrius thus resembles Jean 't Serclaës de Tilly, whose case we will deal with in the second half of this post.


There is no wiser providence than that our occupations, however rude or bloody, cannot wear us out morally; that such qualities as justice and mercy, if they really possess us, continue to live on under them, like flowers under the snow. The tribune could be inexorable, else he had not been fit for the usages of his calling; he could also be just; and to excite his sense of wrong was to put him in the way to right the wrong. The crews of the ships in which he served came after a time to speak of him as the good tribune. Shrewd readers will not want a better definition of his character.

Like both Othello and Tilly, Quintus is a seasoned veteran, respected by his own and ruthless to the foe. "The good tribune" sounds like "the noble Moor" or "Pêre Jean", respectively: as an honorific term of endearment. "Inexorable". "To excite his sense of wrong is to put it in the way to right the wrong", even though it may be through a ruthless massacre of innocents.
Still, there is a heart beating in that scarred and frozen bosom of his. And, like for Othello and Tilly, it takes a disgrace, social death, to realize it.

For once the tribune was at loss, and hesitated. His power was ample. He was monarch of the ship. His prepossessions all moved him to mercy. His faith was won. Yet, he said to himself, there was no haste--or, rather, there was haste to Cythera; the best rower could not then be spared; he would wait; he would learn more.

He is "monarch" of the galley: he represents authority in this "community crowded within narrow walls", like Othello at Hussif or Tilly within the League. He has learned to play the power game, that of social ladders and chains of command, like any other flag officer during wartime. Self-controlled, disciplined, modest, austere, stern, and yet he feels a little stir, a twinge in his left breast, on the eve of battle...

To the convicts, on the other hand, the confrontation may be the golden ticket to freedom:

A battle, it should be observed, possessed to the slaves of the oar an interest unlike that of the sailor and marine; it came, not of the danger encountered but of the fact that defeat, if survived, might bring an alteration of condition--possibly freedom--at least a change of masters, which might be for the better.

In good time the lanterns were lighted and hung by the stairs, and the tribune came down from the deck. At his word the marines put on their armor. At his word again, the machines were looked to, and spears, javelins, and arrows, in great sheaves, brought and laid upon the floor, together with jars of inflammable oil, and baskets of cotton balls wound loose like the wicking of candles. And when, finally, Ben-Hur saw the tribune mount his platform and don his armor, and get his helmet and shield out, the meaning of the preparations might not be any longer doubted.

There is a stir in the air, the pirates are coming... Everyone on board is tense, from the monarch of the community to the meanest of his motley crew of subjects.
At every turn of the oar, one of the convicts looked towards the tribune, who, his simple preparations made, lay down upon the couch and composed himself to rest. Then the tribune stirred--sat up--beckoned to the second-in-command.
Every soul aboard, even the ship, awoke. Officers went to their quarters. The marines took arms, and were led out, looking in all respects like legionaries. Sheaves of arrows and armfuls of javelins were carried on deck. By the central stairs the oil-tanks and fire-balls were set ready for use. Additional lanterns were lighted. Buckets were filled with water. The rowers in relief assembled under guard in front of the foreman. As Providence would have it, Ben-Hur was one of the latter. Overhead he heard the muffled noises of the final preparations--of the sailors furling sail, spreading the nettings, unslinging the machines, and hanging the armor of bull-hide over the side. Presently quiet settled about the galley again; quiet full of vague dread and expectation, which, interpreted, means READY.

Quintus knows what is coming up next... yet he feels that twinge... call it intuition...


No pause, no stay! Forward rushed the Astroea; and, as it went, some sailors ran down, and plunging the cotton balls into the oil-tanks, tossed them dripping to comrades at the head of the stairs: fire was to be added to other horrors of the combat.
Directly the galley heeled over so far that the oarsmen on the uppermost side with difficulty kept their benches. Again the hearty Roman cheer, and with it despairing shrieks. An opposing vessel, caught by the grappling-hooks of the great crane swinging from the prow, was being lifted into the air that it might be dropped and sunk.
The shouting increased on the right hand and on the left; before, behind, swelled an indescribable clamor. Occasionally there was a crash, followed by sudden peals of fright, telling of other ships ridden down, and their crews drowned in the vortexes.
Nor was the fight all on one side. Now and then a Roman in armor was borne down the hatchway, and laid bleeding, sometimes dying, on the floor.
Sometimes, also, puffs of smoke, blended with steam, and foul with the scent of roasting human flesh, poured into the cabin, turning the dimming light into yellow murk. 
The Astroea all this time was in motion. Suddenly she stopped. The oars forward were dashed from the hands of the rowers, and the rowers from their benches. On deck, then, a furious trampling, and on the sides a grinding of ships afoul of each other. For the first time the beating of the gavel was lost in the uproar. Men sank on the floor in fear or looked about seeking a hiding-place. In the midst of the panic a body plunged or was pitched headlong down the hatchway.
He had become a half-naked carcass, a mass of hair blackening the face, and under it a shield of bull-hide and wicker-work--a barbarian from the white-skinned nations of the North whom death had robbed of plunder and revenge. How came he there? An iron hand had snatched him from the opposing deck--no, the Astroea had been boarded! The Romans were fighting on their own deck!
Arrius was hard pressed--he might be defending his own life!
The rowers on the benches were paralyzed; men running blindly hither and thither; only the drummer on his seat imperturbable, vainly beating the sounding-board, and waiting the orders of the tribune--in the red murk illustrating the matchless discipline which had won the world.

The young Israelite, left fatherless at an early age, feels sorry for the endangered commander:


But at last he had seen it in the promise of the tribune. What else the great man's meaning? And if the benefactor so belated should now be slain! The dead come not back to redeem the pledges of the living. It should not be--Arrius should not die. At least, better perish with him than survive a galley-slave.

The youth sees the veteran as a "great man", "belated", and hopes that he should not be slain. 
He is completely unaware of how Arrius will perceive himself: the respected and honoured warrior's lengthy career shattered by chance at one fell swoop.
The Astroea, meanwhile, sinks down into Neptune's locker, as Ben struggles for survival in pursuit of Quintus:

The influx of the flood tossed him like a log forward into the cabin, where he would have drowned but for the refluence of the sinking motion. As it was, fathoms under the surface the hollow mass vomited him forth, and he arose along with the loosed debris. In the act of rising, he clutched something, and held to it. The time he was under seemed an age longer than it really was; at last he gained the top; with a great gasp he filled his lungs afresh, and, tossing the water from his hair and eyes, climbed higher upon the plank he held, and looked about him.
A quick intelligence told him that they were ships on fire. The battle was yet on; nor could he say who was victor. Within the radius of his vision now and then ships passed, shooting shadows athwart lights. Out of the dun clouds farther on he caught the crash of other ships colliding. The danger, however, was closer at hand. When the Astroea went down, her deck, it will be recollected, held her own crew, and the crews of the two galleys which had attacked her at the same time, all of whom were ingulfed. Many of them came to the surface together, and on the same plank or support of whatever kind continued the combat, begun possibly in the vortex fathoms down. Writhing and twisting in deadly embrace, sometimes striking with sword or javelin.

About that time he heard oars in quickest movement, and beheld a galley coming down upon him. The tall prow seemed doubly tall, and the red light playing upon its gilt and carving gave it an appearance of snaky life. Under its foot the water churned to flying foam.
He struck out, pushing the plank, which was very broad and unmanageable. Seconds were precious--half a second might save or lose him. In the crisis of the effort, within arm's reach, a helmet shot up like a gleam of gold. Next came two hands with fingers extended--large hands were they, and strong--their hold once fixed, might not be loosed. Ben-Hur swerved from them appalled. Up rose the helmet and the head it encased--then two arms, which began to beat the water wildly--the head turned back, and gave the face to the light. The mouth gaping wide; the eyes open, but sightless, and the bloodless pallor of a drowning man--never anything more ghastly! Yet he gave a cry of joy at the sight, and as the face was going under again, he caught the sufferer by the chain which passed from the helmet beneath the chin, and drew him to the plank.
The man was Arrius, the tribune.
For a while the water foamed and eddied violently about Ben-Hur, taxing all his strength to hold to the support and at the same time keep the Roman's head above the surface. The galley had passed, leaving the two barely outside the stroke of its oars. Right through the floating men, over heads helmeted as well as heads bare, she drove. A muffled crash, succeeded by a great outcry, made the rescuer look again from his charge. A certain savage pleasure touched his heart--the Astroea was avenged.

After that the battle moved on. Resistance turned to flight. But who were the victors? Ben-Hur was sensible how much his freedom and the life of the tribune depended upon that event. He pushed the plank under the latter until it floated him, after which all his care was to keep him there. The dawn came slowly. He watched its growing hopefully, yet sometimes afraid. Would it bring the Romans or the pirates? If the pirates, his charge was lost.
At last morning broke in full, the air without a breath. Off to the left he saw land, too far to think of attempting to make it. Here and there men were adrift like himself. A galley up a long way was lying to with a torn sail hanging from the tilted yard, and the oars all idle. Still farther away he could discern moving specks, which he thought might be ships in flight or pursuit, or they might be white birds a-wing.
An hour passed thus. His anxiety increased. If relief came not speedily, Arrius would die. Sometimes he seemed already dead, he lay so still. He took the helmet off, and then, with greater difficulty, the cuirass; the heart he found fluttering. He took hope at the sign, and held on. There was nothing to do but wait, and, after the manner of his people, pray.

The throes of recovery from drowning are more painful than the drowning. These Arrius passed through, and, at length, to Ben-Hur's delight, reached the point of speech.
Gradually, from incoherent questions as to where he was, and by whom and how he had been saved, he reverted to the battle. The doubt of the victory stimulated his faculties to full return, a result aided not a little by a long rest--such as could be had on their frail support. After a while he became talkative.
"Our rescue, I see, depends upon the result of the fight. I see also what thou hast done for me. To speak fairly, thou hast saved my life at the risk of thy own. I make the acknowledgment broadly; and, whatever cometh, thou hast my thanks. More than that, if fortune doth but serve me kindly, and we get well out of this peril, I will do thee such favor as becometh a Roman who hath power and opportunity to prove his gratitude. Yet, yet it is to be seen if, with thy good intent, thou hast really done me a kindness; or, rather, speaking to thy good-will"--he hesitated--"I would exact of thee a promise to do me, in a certain event, the greatest favor one man can do another--and of that let me have thy pledge now."
"It cannot be," he proceeded, "that thou hast not heard of Cato and Brutus. They were very great men, and never as great as in death. In their dying, they left this law--A Roman may not survive his good-fortune. Art thou listening?"
"A Roman in triumph would have out many flags. She must be an enemy. Hear now," said Arrius, becoming grave again, "hear, while yet I may speak. If the galley be a pirate, thy life is safe; they may not give thee freedom; they may put thee to the oar again; but they will not kill thee. On the other hand, I--"
The tribune faltered.
"Perpol!" he continued, resolutely. "I am too old to submit to dishonor. Let them tell how Quintus Arrius, as became a Roman tribune, went down with his ship in the midst of the foe. This is what I would have thee do. If the galley prove a pirate, push me from the plank and drown me. Dost thou hear? Swear thou wilt do it."
Arrius remained passive.
He tossed the ring away. Arrius heard the splash where it struck and sank, though he did not look.
"Thou hast done a foolish thing," he said; "foolish for one placed as thou art. I am not dependent upon thee for death. Life is a thread I can break without thy help; and, if I do, what will become of thee? Men determined on death prefer it at the hands of others, for the reason that the soul which Plato giveth us is rebellious at the thought of self-destruction; that is all. If the ship be a pirate, I will escape from the world. My mind is fixed. I am a Roman. Success and honor are all in all. Yet I would have served thee; thou wouldst not. The ring was the only witness of my will available in this situation. We are both lost. I will die regretting the victory and glory wrested from me; thou wilt live to die a little later, mourning the pious duties undone because of this folly. I pity thee."
Ben-Hur saw the consequences of his act more distinctly than before, yet he did not falter.
"In the three years of my servitude, O tribune, thou wert the first to look upon me kindly. When I caught thee, blind and sinking the last time, I, too, had thought of the many ways in which thou couldst be useful to me in my wretchedness, still the act was not all selfish; this I pray you to believe. Moreover, seeing as God giveth me to know, the ends I dream of are to be wrought by fair means alone. As a thing of conscience, I would rather die with thee than be thy slayer. My mind is firmly set as thine; though thou wert to offer me all Rome, O tribune, and it belonged to thee to make the gift good, I would not kill thee. Thy Cato and Brutus were as little children compared to the Hebrew whose law a Jew must obey."


The rescuers turn out to be Romans, and the outcome of the battle, to be...

"Thank thou thy God," he said to Ben-Hur, after a look at the galleys, "thank thou thy God, as I do my many gods. A pirate would sink, not save, yon ship. By the act and the helmet on the mast I know a Roman. The victory is mine. Fortune hath not deserted me. We are saved. Wave thy hand--call to them--bring them quickly. I shall be duumvir, and thou!  I will take thee with me. I will make thee my son. Give thy God thanks, and call the sailors. Haste! The pursuit must be kept. Not a robber shall escape. Hasten them!"
Judah raised himself upon the plank, and waved his hand, and called with all his might; at last he drew the attention of the sailors in the small boat, and they were speedily taken up.
Arrius was received on the galley with all the honors due a hero so the favorite of Fortune. Upon a couch on the deck he heard the particulars of the conclusion of the fight. When the survivors afloat upon the water were all saved and the prize secured, he spread his flag of commandant anew, and hurried northward to rejoin the fleet and perfect the victory. In due time the fifty vessels coming down the channel closed in upon the fugitive pirates, and crushed them utterly; not one escaped. To swell the tribune's glory, twenty galleys of the enemy were captured.


Though Othello the Moor and Tilly the Old Walloon are not that fortunate upon falling from grace.
Both of them are found in the same predicament as Arrius: "I am too old to submit to dishonour. I will die regretting the victory and glory wrested from me".
Their stories of disgrace, however, are tragic, with ritual suicide for a coda. The Ringstetten Saga singles out Tilly's (and later, Wallenstein's) fate as a "tragedy", following Northrop Frye's Mythos of Autumn: the cathartic story of a successful individual's gradual downfall.

One of the main sources for The Ringstetten Saga, Swinborne's poem Gustavus Adolphus, laid the foundations for the "tragic" character arcs of Tilly and Wallenstein. The falling action of the veteran's tragedy, his fall from grace, starts at Breitenfeld:


In vain with frantic, desperate energy 
Does Tilly, though himself despairing, try 
His ranks to rally, and avoid defeat, 
Tis now too late for orderly retreat. 
Upon one flank Gustavus, conquering, wheel'd, 
His own lost cannon on the other peal'd 
Their loudest thunders, belch'd their ceaseless shot, 
Honour and order, discipline forgot, 





His panic-stricken regiments heed him not ; 

For on their front advances Gustav Horn 

Whose men the whole day long had patient borne 

Their fiercest onslaughts now their turn is come, 

The trumpets sound, in thunder rolls the drum, 

And on they charge charge home the Austrians run ; 

The victory is gain'd, the field is won ! 

And Tilly ! he who ne'er had known defeat, . 

How did the ever-conquering leader meet 

This new experience ? Chose he there to die, 

Himself unconquer'd, though his veterans fly ; 

Was he as calm, as dauntless, in that hour 

That shatter'd all his fame his vaunted power, 

As he had ever been in victory ? 

The soldier give his due He meant to be, 

And was 'twas not in him to fly the field, 

He could not win nor knew he how to yield. 

Stern and determined, see him at the head 

Of men as stern and brave, whom he had led 

Ever to victory they would now be true 

Even to death a grizzled, gallant few, 

Veterans of many a hard contested day, 

All, like their leader, grown in conquest gray, 

With death familiar long, no fear they know, 

They will not flinch from any mortal foe. 

On them concentred their own cannon play, 

Advance they cannot, fast they melt away, 

They may not stand and live, they will not turn, 

All offers of surrender quarter spurn. 

In sheer amaze the Swedes before them halt, 

In admiration, ev'n forbear to assault, 

To slaughter such brave men ; but, while they wait, 

Hoping they yet may yield, ere 'tis too late, 

Again the shout of "Magdeburg" is heard; 
"Remember Magdeburg!" as Eric spurr'd 
Straight at Count Tilly with the German horse, 
Out leap a score of warriors, bar the course, 
With their own bodies break his onset's force, 
The Swedes press in, soon are those veterans sped, 
To the last man they fall but Tilly fled. 

The victory is complete : upon the field, 

Among the dead and dying, Gustave kneel'd, 

His soul in fervent thanks to Him outpour'd, 

Who is the Lord of Hosts Who guides the sword ; 

While Luther's grand old hymn of joy and praise, 

" Now let us all thank God," the soldiers raise, 

Far o'er the battlefield the strains resound, 

Loud peal the joyous bells for miles around : 

From every village, hamlet, steeple, rung, 

Gustavus' praise is borne on every tongue ; 

For far and wide the countryside rejoices, 

And wives' and mothers', maidens', children's voices 

Unite, in glad thanksgiving, loud to sing 

Praise to the Lord! Long live the Lutheran King ! 


On the other hand, the Leaguers' leader is wounded, 
routed, getting through excruciating pain, 
recovering all winter long, shedding tears mixed 
with blood. And thus, when spring comes, the League sets up
the last stand across the Lech:

IN seething flood the Lech stream flows, 
Swollen by the melting snows, 
And on either bank lie in hostile rank 
The Swedes and their long-sought foes. 
For while Ferdinand treated with Wallenstein, 
Gustavus had broke up his camp on the Rhine ; 
With the earliest spring the victorious King 
Had order'd his generals their troops to combine, 
Intending to fling 
The whole weight of his might, 
As soon as the weather fresh movements allow'd, 
Upon the League's Leader, Bavaria proud, 
Compel him a battle decisive to fight; 
And then to push on, when the battle was won.

At Donauwerth the Danube's cross'd, 
And Tilly still is backward forced, 
But holds fast to the line 
Of the river Lech, encamp'd at Rain, 
And, all its bridges breaking down, 
Commands the stream to Augsburg town. 
And thus the King and Tilly lay 
On either bank in stern array ; 
The Catholics in their camp secure, 
The Lutherans chafing at delay, 
Of victory sure, 
If only they could find a way 
To deal a blow upon the foe : 

But the flooded river's rapid flow 
No hope affords 
Of crossing swords. 
For weeks to come the melting snow 
Upon the mountains at its source...
Impassable are all the fords, 
And, except the King, 
No one had ever dreamed 
A bridge across the stream to fling ; 
And it had seem'd 
Sheer madness to attempt to cross 
Full in front of Tilly's force, 
His strong position to attack 
With a foaming river at their back 
To bar retreat, 
And turn repulse into defeat. 


And at the Council Gustav call'd 
The dauntless Horn himself demurr'd, 
The fearful risk even him appall'd 
Whose courage dangers only spurr'd, 
Constrain'd the veteran to point out 
What would result in case of rout : 
The soldiers by the river hemm'd, 
Whose raging flood could not be stemm'd 
Even by the strongest swimmer's skill, 
The musket fire would quickly kill ; 
The batteries in front would mow 
Whole regiments down in ghastly row, 
The bravest could but die ; 
And panic-stricken, then, the rest 
In wild disorder backward press'd, 
Could neither stand nor fly ; 
And those who escaped the foeman's shot 
Would find as desperate a lot 
The choice betwixt a bloody grave,
Or, what would scarce be better hap, 
Inglorious ending to the brave, 
A struggling death beneath the wave. 



Thus Horn and all the generals speak, 
Nor to disguise their fears they seek, 
For they had proved, 
In many a hard-contested fight, 
That they could face even death unmoved ; 
And long ago had earn'd the right, 
The right that only veterans share, 
Whose courage is beyond dispute, 
What younger soldiers would not dare, 
Of long experience 'tis the fruit, 
To express outright their anxious fears, 
Relying on their fame and years ; 
Of cautious prudence unashamed, 
Since cowardice may not be named, 
Even under breath, 
To veterans who can smile at death. 
But Gustav, with a kindling eye, 
Thus to his generals made reply : 



"In safety, and the Elbe, the Rhine, 
And other rivers mightier far 
Than this Lech stream, on aid Divine 
Relying still throughout the war, 
Who also but the other day 
To cross the Danube found a way ; 
What, Generals! shall we now despair? 
That God, who aye was with us there, 
Will still attend our course. 

What though the foe 
Holds yonder hill in mighty force? 
What though an angry stream in flood 
Covers his front and both his flanks ? 
What though well-mask'd by underwood 
His troopers line the opposing banks; 
Is he on that account secure ? 
Are his defences refuge sure ?

Or, were he confident of right, 
As confident as we, 

Would he then need such broken reed 
As heartless Tilly still to use? 
Who grandest talents dared abuse, 
Whom Magdeburg's dread curse pursues, 

Converting victory 
Which waited ever on his arms, 
Through conscience-stricken dire alarms, 
Into defeat, 
And almost hurling from its seat 
By memories of his awful crime, 
Damn'd, doubly damn'd throughout all time, 
His tottering reason. 
With caution we have not to do 
Bavaria, Austria we pursue, 
In season, out of season, 
Until the victory is gain'd, 
Until our object is attain'd, 
Our Lutheran Faith to us secured, 
And Europe's liberties assured !

 
" Though caution we may cast away 
Prudence shall still our councils sway. 
Fear not that we shall lose the day ! 
For I have been 
In person to the river's bound, 
And carefully have look'd around, 
I have mark'd we hold the higher ground. 
'Tis easy seen 
Our cannoneers their shot will throw 
To more advantage than the foe. 
No matter though 
In boiling flood the river runs, 
We will fling a trestle-bridge across, 
Which, cover'd by a hundred guns, 
Will soon transport our storming force. 
Once over, who can doubt that we 
Shall soon achieve the victory!" 

Astonish'd, Maximilian sees 
The Swedes erecting batteries, 

And Tilly soon becomes aware 
That their carpenters a bridge prepare, 
And that the Hero-King designs 
To cross in force, 
And attack him in his guarded lines 
Deem'd inexpugnable. 
A year ago he had thought the foe 
Foolhardy, who had dared to throw 
Himself against his might at all, 
Hoping a battle to provoke ; 
But what of him who meant to fall 
Upon his camp, by a master stroke 
To carry all before him still ? 
His camp is rear'd upon a hill 
Whence every shot will tell ; 
The winding river's horseshoe bend 
Its front and both its flanks defend, 
And tangled growth and marshy ground 
Its strong entrenchments quite surround, 
Themselves an obstacle 
To impede and stay the floundering course 
Of those who should the river cross. 

A year ago, from every foe 
Tilly had deem'd the place secure ; 
Ceaseless assault it would undergo, 
Against tenfold odds he might endure, 
Of victory in the outcome sure. 
But he was now no more the man 
Who ever-conquering overran 
The Lutheran land, 
Seeming even Fortune to command ; 
His powers were dead, 
His genius fled, 

At Magdeburg appall'd away; 
Self-confidence he lost 
For ever after Leipzig's day, 
And though his courage he regain'd, 
It was but a courage forced, 
The gloomy courage of despair, 
To desperation strain'd, 
In which true valour had no share. 

All day the Swedish cannon roar'd, 
All day an iron storm they pour'd, 
Across the swollen flood ; 
All day the axe and hammer blows, 
As o'er the stream the work arose, 
Resounding on the wood, 
Swell'd still the mighty volume's sound 
Thunder'd from all the guns around. 

And 'twas a weird sight, 
The skeleton bridge seen through the smoke, 
At intervals throughout the night, 
As oft the breeze the canopy broke 
That o'er the waters hung ; 
The torches flaring on the wave, 
As plank on plank was further flung, 
A ghostly, flickering radiance gave, 
Through the dense, stifling, sulphurous air, 
Flash'd fiercely from the cannon there. 
The carpenters upon the planks, 
Looming like spectres from the banks 
Huge forms and ill-defined,
Seem'd beings of another world. 
So to the clashing battle shock 
These fiendlike spirits wing their flight, 
Eager to see 
The most of human misery ; 
Eager to hear 
The horrid sounds of human woe, 
Of hate and fear, 
The piercing shriek on mortal blow ; 
Gloating on parting agony, 
The death-pangs near, 
On the trickling of the life-drop's flow, 
The glazing of the starting eye, 
On the rending clutch, convulsive grasp, 
The struggling breath, the dying gasp, 
On all the horrors pain can show 
That make it terrible to die. 

Through many a veteran's heated brain 
These weird tales of the camp-fire pass'd, 
As, through the night, their eyes they strain 
Upon the bridge now rising fast, 

And shuddering think, 
As, standing guard upon the brink, 
They watch for the signs of coming dawn. 

Where may be they 
When once again another morn, 
Another day, shall have pass'd away ; 
And what the outcome of the fight 
When eve shall darken into night. 
Though Tilly had before them fled, 
His former fame was by no means dead, 


And well the soldiers knew 
It was a daring thing to do, 
To attack him on his chosen ground, 
By art entrench'd, by river bound, 
Which river, trenches, they must cross 
Full in the front of his ambush'd force. 

As well might hunter dare, 
From his cavern lair, to oust the bear, 

As for them to venture there 
Across the flood where Tilly stood 
So savagely at bay : 

But they for the King they loved would bleed, 
Would follow where he chose to lead, 
And doubtless gain the day. 
Not theirs, the coward's craven fear. 
The dread of foeman's steel ; 
They would not flinch from death when near, 

Yet could they not but feel 
This was the hazard of the die 
Then on to death or victory ! 

The morning broke, the camp awoke, 
The clanging weapons rang, 
As at the trumpets' stirring notes 
The Lutherans from their slumbers sprang : 
Loud beats the rolling drum, 
Up to the bridge the stormers come, 
And from the cannons' blacken'd throats 
The deafening thunder roars, 
And thick upon the opposing shores 
An iron hail 
The deadly grapeshot pours. 
They pass the bridge, they do not fail. 


They leap upon the bank 
With axe and spade, 
And now in duly ordered rank, 
As though upon parade, 
Throw out a trench, it is quickly done, 
Erect a palisade, 
And, Hurrah ! the bridge-head's won ! 

But where is Tilly all these hours? 
And Maximilian where ? 
Now is the time to launch their powers 
Upon that handful there, 
To concentrate their fire upon 
The rising palisade, 
To aim their cannon every one 
Full on the bridge-head laid, 
Till not a stick shall stand, 
And, ere supports can come to aid, 
To annihilate that gallant band. 
But nought is done, 
The thunders of the Swedish shot, 
Sustain'd till every piece is hot. 

And till the marksmen tire. 
Bavaria's batteries answer not ; 
Silent is every gun ; 
Mayhap until the foe comes nigher 
His cannoneers reserve their fire. 
For sure, behind that frowning work 
Which the Swedes must shortly storm, 
Ten thousand varied deaths must lurk,
In every ghastly form ! 

Silent the sullen fortress lies, 
It will soon re-echo to the cries 
Of wrath and agony;




And shouts of triumph and despair 
Will mingle with the death-shriek there, 
And the faint, feeble, heaven-sent prayer 

In last extremity, 
With piteous moans, heartrending groans, 
And curses loud and deep, 
where, trodden in a shapeless heap, 
The wounded, helpless, lie, 
And all the horrid, awful sounds 
With which the battlefield resounds, 
when, in the earthquake of the soul, 
Reason loses all control, 
Revenge and passion, fury, hate, 
Vile passions of our fallen state, 
Usurp its place...


But to the fight! Still Tilly's might 
Is held within the work. 
And silence reigns along the line. 
What can be the foe's design ? 

Is it that his forces lurk 
In ambush in the underwood, 
Till the Swedes have cross'd the flood, 
Waiting till the last are near 
To attack them in the rear, 
And break the bridge behind ? 
It was plain such fears pass'd through his mind 
For the King 
was loath to fling 
His troops upon the work in storm; 

But cautiously they form 
In firm array, and feel their way. 
Advancing higher, 
Still cover'd by their cannons' fire. 

Yet, as they closer press, 
The frowning lines seem tenantless ; 
For the foe 
Does not show, 

And to their deafening cannonade 
He answers not with a single shot ; 

And no attack is made 
Upon their flank, though gain'd the spot 

Where ambush might have hidden ; 
Nor yet on their rear docs a force appear ; 

So the stormers now are bidden, 
As the column's head approaches near 
To the rampart there, 
To prepare ; 

And then the word is given, 
With a shout that mounts to heaven 
Out of the ranks at once they fall, 
Into the ditch, over the wall 

They rush, and the work is crown'd.. 
No shots resound, 
Not the death-dealing musket's rattle, 
Nor yet the cannon's deeper boom, 
No awful sounds of raging battle 

That knell the warrior's doom ; 
But a ringing cheer 
Their fellows hear, 
And the stormers soon again appear. 

The camp was empty, in the night 
Bavaria had taken flight, 
Deeming the battle lost, 
Though not a single Swede had cross'd 

And the bridge-head was not won, 
For Tilly, badly wounded, fell, 
And Altringer was hit as well, 

And nothing could be done, 
So deadly was the Swedish fire, 
Their batteries being placed the higher. 

Forced to look idly on, 
His cannon silenced, while the bridge 
Rose rapidly, Bavaria knew 
To suffer enemies pouring in
Each fertile vale, each wooded ridge, 
Safe from the invaders hitherto, 
Would now be overrun, 
And his capital laid bare. 
Vet to stand he did not dare 
To await the morrow's dread attack ; 
Though his camp was fortified, 
And guarded well on every side. 
Rather than fight, 
In the dead of night, 
he to Ingolstadt fell back: 
And the Swedes to their amazement found 
The foe had vanish'd from the ground, 
Which, had he held, 
Might have repell'd. 
So strong was it in every part, 
Even their conquering Monarch's art. 

Gustavus saw with wondering pride 
The vast camp's natural strength ; 
As critically the place he eyed, 
The stretching breastwork's length, 
he could no more amazement hide. 

But loudly cried : 
" Had I been Maximilian, 
Ne'er had I given up for lost 
So strong a post, 
So long as I had troops to man 
I had held the wall ! 
Never, even had a cannon ball 
Carried away both beard and chin, 
Had I given up the place at all, 
To suffer enemies pouring in 
To penetrate, 
Like a full flooding tide, 
O'erleaping barriers, spreading wide, 
Into the heart of my estate ! 
These lines, the key to his own land, 
Could almost any force withstand ; 
And bid defiance to our might, 
Had they been only held aright!" 



As soon as it was clear 
There was no longer aught to fear 

From the Duke's retreating force, 
And as soon as Gustave knew 
It were useless to pursue, 

Since the foe the Danube cross, 
And at Ingolstadt in safety lie 
Within the walls, 
Which by their strength assault defy, 
On Augsburg next he falls ; 
From the Bavarians wrests the place, 
And, leaving there a garrison, 
His course next hastens to retrace, 
And presses on 
Without delay, by another way, 
Siege now to Ingolstadt to lay. 

Soon after his arrival there, 
On the fourteenth day 
Since Tilly had his wound received, 
The veteran General pass'd away, 
The Catholic cause, his dying care, 
For it alone he grieved. 
His hurt was mortal, near his end, 
But few short hours had he to spend ; 
Yet, face to face with death, 
With utterance scant, and failing breath, 

He begg'd Bavaria to attend 
To his last, his best advice, 
How now Gustavus to withstand : 
The Danube's stream he must command, 


And there await, 
Whatever might be Munich's fate, 

Although the King 
Would overrun his defenceless State, 

The succours Wallenstein would bring. 
There only could he be secure ; 
Its situation would assure 
Communications still ; 

Betwixt Friedland's rising camp at Znaym 
And Regensburg at any time, 

His scouts could pass at will. 
Once master of the place, the Swede 
Might vainly at its ramparts bleed, 
In vain the town blockade, 
For Friedland's troops would haste to aid ; 
And, once combined, 
The Swedish King his match would find. 

Thus the great Catholic General died, 
Humbled his pride, 
Within a close beleaguer'd town, 
In which he was compell'd to hide 
From fickle Fortune's frown, 
He whom for such a lengthen'd while 
She favour'd ever with her smile ; 
His spirit broken by defeat, 
His conqueror's triumph all complete, 
His failing cause at lowest ebb; 

And yet in death his only thought 
How to burst through the tightening web, 
How best the enemy might be fought, 
His army into safety brought. 
In his eye's dying gleam 
Once more his genius reign'd supreme ! 

Had he but fought for a better cause, 
His name had through the ages shone 
The ablest general of these wars, 
Who ever still the victory won, 

Until Gustavus rose. 
The scourge and terror of his foes, 
The ruthless cause of the nations' woes, 
Which, though they mounted high to Heaven, 
Had they been all he had been forgiven. 
The Church that did his service claim, 

Which by his sword 
The peoples' blood outpour'd, 
Must bear the blame, the lasting shame, 

Till time shall be no more, 
And then must answer to its Lord 

For its part in this cruel war. 
Count Tilly's dazzling victories 
Had blotted out his cruelties 

From the world's eyes, 
Which, widely open to success, 
Are ever blinded by distress, 
But there are crimes which even condemn 
The man who has committed them, 

And, however great, 
However glorious his fame, 
Howe'er exalted be his name, 
His guilt perpetuate ; 

And after Magdeburg's dread day 
From reeking Tilly pass'd away, 
Not only victory, 
But with it, too, the world's applause, 
Till even Holy Church saw cause 
Her champion to deny. 
And heap upon his guilty head 
The blood she herself had really shed. 
For, of the two, 
The Romish Church had more to do 
With the carnage of that day ; 
Be hers the guilt 
Of all the innocent blood there spilt, 
Who encouraged him to slay, 
Who heartless taught, 
Were but her own advantage sought, 
Whatever means to bear were brought 
The end would justify. 
No matter who their doom might share, 
He must not rebel heretics spare. 








What though the innocent die? 
Let Magdeburg example set, 
A wholesome terror to beget, 
This, plainly understood, 

Would be the means of saving life, 
And would put an end to further strife, 
And stay the flow of blood. 
The foul rebellion nearly broke 
By past reverses in the war, 
Stamp'd out by one relentless stroke, 
Its overthrow complete 
With Magdeburg's defeat, 
Would rear its head no more ! 





Tilly had been in youth 
A Jesuit, forsooth, 
But soon the Order he forsook, 
And service under Alva took, 
Because he own'd as truth 
That he would higher fame attain, 
His Faith would more by his genius gain, 
In the fierce trade of war, 
Than by the subtleties of his brain, 
Though versed in churchman's lore: 
That he would prove an apter tool, 
Nurtured in Alva's bloody school, 
With an iron hand 
To carry out Rome's dread command, 
To extend her cruel rule ; 
And would in the field find wider scope, 
And gain far more renown, 
Than ever he could dare to hope 
Clad in the chasuble and cope, 
Or in the schoolman's gown. 

But, ere on him our judgment's pass'd, 
Upon his bloody creed 
Our burning censure must be cast ; 
That such a man could need 
His very virtues prostitute, 
To sink the genius to the brute. 
Virtues he had we may admire, 
And qualities which all desire ; 
Oh ! had he not been Jesuit bred, 
In nobler cause his blood had shed, 
He had been high renown'd, 
To victory his troops he had led, 
Had himself with glory crown'd, 
And won the warrior's deathless fame, 
But second to Gustav his name. 


He fought for neither power nor pelf, 
All selfish motives could disclaim, 
Refusing honours for himself, 
To bigotry his sword he gave 
While Gustav battled for the Right, 
To advance the glorious Gospel Light. 

Sad, sad that he so brave, 
So talented, for Priestcraft's night, 
For Romish error's deadly blight, 
Should aye fanatically fight. 

To be cursed in his grave, 
And have all ages crying shame 
On Magdeburg's destroyer's name. 

While Tilly lies within the town 
Dying slowly of his wound, 
A swifter fate well-nigh befalls 
The King outside the walls, 
For a shot of four-and-twenty pound, 
Brought both the horse and rider down. 

And loud the outcry rose 
A cry of anguish from the Swedes, 
" The King is hit, he bleeds ! "- 
A shout exultant from their foes, 
Who concentrated all their shot, 
From every gun, upon the spot. 

But the ball had spent its force 
Upon Gustavus' favourite horse, 
And the King arose unharm'd, 
Another charger soon bestrode, 
Back to his people safely rode, 

And them rejoicing show'd 
They had no cause to be alarm'd 
For their loved Monarch's sake ; 
By trusty followers begirt, 
Their dangers he would still partake : 
Though smear'd with dirt he was unhurt, 
He had ventured too near, there was nothing to fear 
They might answer the foe 
Who had aimed the blow 
With a ringing Swedish cheer. 


Thus dies Count Tilly, attended by Gustavus's surgeon
(the Swedish ruler, though wounded himself, sees such a
deed as "a greater need"), confronted with his war crimes,
and finally reconciled with himself, kissing his beloved
rosary. Both his generals and Gustavus himself shed tears.
The funeral procession towards the linden chapel, at the end of 
the story arc, set to the Requiem mass, is perhaps the most 
cathartic scene...













RACISM IN "DAS GALLEY"?

The article "Das Galley", which I have recently written, may have appeared racist to some readers.

The intention of said post is not racist or otherwise offensive (leftist, for instance).

The word "negro" was used by Oscar Wilde to refer to the ethnically Sub-Saharan officers on the galley. Thus, Wilde should be the one blamed, if there is any blame. "Negro" is more or less positive (United Negro College Fund), but this Spanish word has given rise to a particularly offensive cognate in the English language (there would never be a United N***er College Fund!)...

Actually, it struck me as a child that Anglophones can tell the difference between "sauce" and "salsa". To them, "salsa" is one specific kind of "sauce" (hyperonymy/hyponymy).
The same observation can be said about "nap" and "siesta". Or, if you're in for something more outré and Carrollian, about "flamingo" and "flamenco" (imagine flamingos dancing flamenco, dressed in Andalusian folk costumes!).

But this Anglo-Spanish relation can be zigzagged as well. The reptile whose scientific name happens to be Alligator mississippiensis and whose Castilian (European Spanish) denomination is "caimán del Misisipí" (or simply "caimán", for short) is known in some parts of the Americas as "lagarto", id est, "lizard". Now this would have surprised me... hadn't I known that the English word that lends itself to the scientific name is actually a metathesis ("ligator" for "lagarto") . Imagine some conquerors, or conquistadores, having come over from Castile (the Spanish heartland, which they call Castilla) to found a new colony, in the days of Charles V. They land in a swampy region in springtime, and the glades are rife with blossoms of all shapes and colours. Thus they decide to call the place "Flowering" (Florida). What kind of strange logs are there, basking on the shores? They have eyes! Back in Castile, we have much smaller lizards (lagartos)! The English arrive after the Spaniards, and they take the word "lagarto" to call those reptiles, since the English have no word themselves (unlike the Castilian conquistadors, who took the croc-like reptiles for lizards, the Britons have at least seen that they're not European lizards). And from "a lagarto" to "a ligator", easier to pronounce for an English speaker ("lagarto" sounds way too cacophonic in English), there is a teeny tiny step.

Un señor lagarto.
NOT "a gentlemanly lizard".
Known in Spanish (even in Castilian!) as
"El lagarto Juancho", i.e. "Jack the Lizard".


Call a spade a spade, and it will prove dull, as in ordinary. Call a spade a pica, and every reader or listener will make an O with his/her lips.
After all, a rose by any foreign name, such as a rosa (with a short O and a final A), will always display a difference to the Tudor rose in scent, shape, colour...

miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014

BRAVE LITTLE LIESL

I have taken to the silver screen since I saw Tangled a couple of years ago.
Before meeting Rapunzel, I had been a decade without entering a cinema.
So far, I have been surprised by Tangled, Brave, Frozen, Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer, Les Misérables… and The Book Thief.

Yesterday evening, I saw The Book Thief, a wonderful film about the value of love and literature, set against the backdrop of Third Reich Bavaria, and featuring a dynamic and clever heroine in plucky orphan Liesl, whose parentage and backstory remain unknown (we only know that she comes from the Protestant North, that the Red Cross nurse who brought her to the Hubermanns' is not her mother, that the dark-haired boy who died on the train was merely her foster brother [different surnames], that she was illiterate when she came to Bavaria, that she is left-handed), but whose present and future life are full of optimism and excitement, hope and loving care.
Liesl Hubermann and her kindly guardian Hans embrace.

The narrator is Death, a self-proclaimed "faithful servant to the Führer" and many other tyrants,  (highlight for spoilers) who takes the lives of Liesl's loved ones, sparing her alone, during the Russian invasion (the heroine lives to the ripe old age of 90, happily married with children and grandchildren, a worldwide celebrity and prize-laureated novelist living in Sydney!). That's an interesting viewpoint, a demythification of the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war"… a dark view only known to scarred veterans.
Frederick Pfander-Swinborne, in Gustavus Adolphus, and the author of this blog, in The Ringstetten Saga, have explored such a view of warfare without glory, but full of tears.

DAS GALLEY

The following post is not intended to be racist or otherwise offensive.

Recipe for a successful social critique plus reflection on human nature

  • Take a diverse and minimalistic cast with clear power dynamics.
  • Place your cast in a secluded setting. A boarding school, a snowed-in country estate, an outpost community, a desert island, or even a ship (whether ocean ship or space ship) will do. It takes what Lew Wallace refers to as the community crowded within the narrow walls.

Stories like Othello, Lord of the Flies, Master and Commander, Alien, Billy Budd, or And Then There Were None follow these steps. They're the finest explorations of human nature there ever were. Plus social critiques.

Sometimes an episode within a story can illustrate such power dynamics. "There is Death in the heart of the pearl", says the young ruler in the lesser known Oscar Wilde tale about the second of three lurid dreams. I was tempted to title this post "Death in the Heart of the Pearl"… but then, I thought of how power is illustrated in the episode, thought of the renowned WW2 film Das Boot, with its thirty-something "Old Man (der Alte)" and his discontented crew… Hence the title!

Death is, of course, a leitmotif in the Second Dream. A nomadic rider and a young captive forfeit both their lives during its course. And, upon awakening at his own Occidental palace at the crack of dawn, the heir to the throne "woke, and through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn clutching at the fading stars.

Long gray fingers clutching. Like the bony fingers of the Ghost of Christmas Future, or those of his alter ego the Grim Reaper. Clutching at fading stars… why?

Lunar/feminine imagery
The oceanic/coastal/nautical setting conjures up images of being "far from dry land/Occident/kosmos", which is reinforced by the Oriental setting. "A little bay", shaped like a crescent; "a painted bow", sharing that shape; the pearl for the royal sceptre, "fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz (a strait in the Middle East)", the young captive's face being "strangely pale" (when we return to the captives, we'll discuss the theme of pallor mortis and "white death"). Lunar/feminine imagery permeates this episode.
The ocean and the moon seem to have power over mortal men in the outpost setting of Othello: a storm wrecks the Turkish fleet, the characters' changes in mood and behaviour are attributed to the full moon ("lunacy" comes from "luna"), and of course the ocean and the moon are both the cause of the tides. The outpost community being on the fringes of Europe/Christendom, its people are close to passion and chaos (and the Orient): they're Christians... yet they thank the ocean for the victory, and they blame the moon for the lieutenant's drunken quarrel and the general's loss of mettle. "Chaos is come again", the play can be summed up in four words from it.









The Master (the galley master)
The captain is referred to with the rank of "master of the galley", as if he owned the craft and all of its crew. Right when the hero falls asleep, he gets to see a glimpse of the Master: 
On a carpet by his side the master of the galley was seated. He was black as ebony, and his turban was of crimson silk. Great earrings of silver dragged down the thick lobes of his ears, and in his hands he had a pair of ivory scales.
The Master is a powerful character and the leader/ruler on board. Seated on a Persian carpet, wearing a turban of crimson silk and great silver earrings, weighing the wares (pearls) on ivory scales… the dark colour of his skin immediately seems to contradict the luxury and elegance of his attire. He appears as a self-made outsider, having made a fortune and found a niche in the system (here, the European realm whose young ruler he serves) through trade, in his case (the ivory scales, instead of the ornate sword of an Othello or Wallenstein, the microphone of One Direction Zayn, or Zlatan's/Ronaldinho's boots). The figure of the self-made outsider catches many an eye: a discriminated person who rises to prominence through merits (trade, warfare, entertainment) tends to suggest both well-deserved success and indignation. In our days, the master and his officers would have been respected had they lived… but, as secondary characters in a literary text, they have frequently been subject to racist interpretations.
Furthermore, the master is neither good nor evil, but just taking orders from above (the would-be monarch wanted the best pearls in the world for his sceptre). Yet he appears as a corrupt deputy ruler in charge of an overseas affiliate or branch, ruthlessly enforcing his own will (Compare Wallenstein! Upon speaking of the deaths, I will refer to the master's aloof, "Mr. Fawlty-like" attitude).
The character of the master of the galley, like for instance that of Wallenstein, is both attractive and repulsive to me. Repulsive because of the way he treats both the rider and the pearl fisher. And attractive just because he is a self-made outsider. The luxurious, ostentatious attire he wears and the position of power he has got, considering the historical context of the story, are at odds with the colour of his skin. I imagine that he has had to strive and struggle a lot, even risking his life, honour, dignity... to get his galley, carpet, earrings, turban, and scales, and a niche in the establishment.




The officers
The officers are referred to as "negroes", a rose-tinted word for Sub-Saharans in English (see the United Negro College Fund): they share the master's skin colour. However, they are portrayed in as negative a light as the master, whose commands they obey (when we come to the deaths, their attitude will be compared to their commander's):
The negroes ran up and down the gangway and lashed them (captives) with whips of hide. 
While the captive is underwater, they show a particularly "racist" attitude:
 The negroes chattered to each other, and began to quarrel over a string of bright beads.
"A string of bright beads". Since the days of the Spanish Habsburgs, glass beads (the "bright beads") were traditionally one of the European gifts used to subjugate dark-skinned natives. The other one was brandy ("liquid fire" or "firewater"). Knowing that "natives are like children (naive)" is enough to offer them beads or liquor like Jacob offered Esau a mess of pottage. And Esau being naive as a child, and besides, the hunter/macho in the nomadic clan, Jacob being the feminine cook/"mother's boy"…
(Enlightened critics employed the story of Esau and the mess of pottage to explain the way non-Europeans sold their rights for "bright beads" and "liquid fire"!)
Again, this attitude can be viewed through another glass. The officers may view their beads as currency, like Western children use marbles and trading cards… the same way Western adults use money. Dark natives or Caucasians, children or adults… From the captives' viewpoint, they must be crazy. They might as well be quarreling over a heap of bright disks. For their duty is to give and take orders. To punish the rebel subordinates and hope for reward from their superiors. And then squabble over the reward: they're the middle-class foremen in this affiliate/foreign branch, of which the Master of the Galley is chairperson.

The drummer
Amidst the officers, one alone does not wield a whip. He sets the tempo for the galley captives to row: At the prow of the galley sat a shark-charmer, beating monotonously upon a drum. This is the galley drummer featured, for instance, in Ben-Hur.

The captives
The setting is described by Wilde as a huge galley that was being rowed by a hundred slaves. The place is "huge", yet secluded, like the setting of Othello, Alien, or And Then There Were None. I should quote my favourite words by Lew Wallace à propos (an expression to refer to the galley in Ben-Hur): 
"the community crowded within the narrow walls".
It just precisely describes any of these secluded settings like those quoted above.
There is one master and a dozen officers, plus the drummer. And there are a hundred rowers, all of them indentured servants, perchance prisoners of war. They stretched out their lean arms and pulled the heavy oars through the water. Malnutrition has made them "lean" and weak, which makes us imagine the master's waistline as at least slightly broader, and the officers' shoulders as more developed.
"The slaves were naked, but for a ragged loincloth, and each one was chained to the one beside. The hot sun beat brightly upon them, and the negroes ran up and down the gangway and lashed them with whips of hide. They stretched out their lean arms and pulled the heavy oars through the water. The salt spray flew from the blades. ".
Their childlike nudity is due to "the hot sun" of Oriental and Mediterranean latitudes, that still sends its lethal UV rays over their unguarded shoulders and "lean arms". One can imagine them as dark, but when the youngest one, selected for pearl fishing, dies, "his face was strangely pale". 
Are they, thus, rosy Caucasians (turned "strangely pale", the colour of the moon and pearls, by pallor mortis)? So it appears to be. Furthermore, it appears to be rather subversive to portray the Master and his officers as Sub-Saharans... and the rowers as Caucasians. Subversive in the way that only the "proletariat", the vast overworking majority, is shown to be fair-skinned (Perchance because socialites, unlike factory workers, had the privilege of sunning themselves in Victorian Britain? Or did Wilde want to equate, metaphorically, "fair of face" and "fair in grace"?)! Caucasians subservient to dark masters, and yet worth but chicken feed to them (when we get to the death of the young rower, we will find out). Also noteworthy that the elite of the galley consists of self-made, more-than-integrated outsiders!

Death I: the nomadic rider
At last they reached a little bay, and began to take soundings. A light wind blew from the shore, and covered the deck and the great lateen sail with a fine red dust. Three Arabs mounted on wild donkeys rode out and threw spears at them. The master of the galley took a painted bow in his hand and shot one of them in the throat. He fell heavily into the surf, and his companions galloped away. A woman wrapped in a yellow veil followed slowly on a camel, looking back now and then at the dead body.
Upon reaching the "little bay", the crew notice a few spear-carrying nomadic riders attacking them. The master counterattacks. Why this skirmish? The crew and riders may have perceived each other as intruders, which calls to mind the first murder in the Book of Genesis: brothers Cain and Abel, who represent the antagonism between settled farmers and nomadic shepherds (when flocks wandered into the villages and lived upon the farmers' crops, shepherds and farmers would clash violently, and even wage war). The "little bay" seems to be a Royal Pearl Reserve of sorts, the riders being unaware, then taking the galley for a war ship and throwing their spears in self-defense.
The riders' leader, "shot in the throat", "fell heavily". Already Homer (in The Iliad) had pointed out the throat as the place "where life can be quenched the quickest". It's a vital point, comprising the trachea and the spinal cord, the jugular vein and the carotid artery. Any major injury to the throat of a vertebrate would be lethal, ensuring a quick death through either air choke, blood choke, paralysis of the respiratory muscles, or hypovolemia/blood loss (the fate of the rider corresponding to this one), or drowning in one's own blood. The breastplated warriors of the olden days would occasionally wear a collar (for instance, a frilled "Elizabethan" collar, like Francis Drake or 't Serclaes de Tilly) to shield such an important point: one of the most vulnerable and targeted by opponents. (Note the laconic description of death: "he fell heavily". Three words!
A fourth nomad, a veiled female, follows the three males "slowly" and seems to have some connection to the fallen leader, being loved ones to each other (married? betrothed? siblings? father and daughter?). She represents the mourning female loved one/s in quintessential war stories (Mary Eleanor in most Thirty Years' War fiction).

Death II: the young captive



The death of the riders' leader serves as prelude and foreshadowing of the death of a younger character of lower standing, whose fate may symbolize that of the average child worker:
As soon as they had cast anchor and hauled down the sail, the negroes went into the hold and brought up a long rope-ladder, heavily weighted with lead. The master of the galley threw it over the side, making the ends fast to two iron stanchions. Then the negroes seized the youngest of the slaves and knocked his gyves off, and filled his nostrils and his ears with wax, and tied a big stone round his waist. He crept wearily down the ladder, and disappeared. 
A few bubbles rose where he sank. Some of the other slaves peered curiously over the side.
After some time, he rose up out of the water, and clung panting to the ladder with a pearl in his right hand. The negroes seized it from him, and thrust him back. The slaves fell asleep over their oars.
Again and again he came up, and each time that he did so he brought with him a beautiful pearl. The master of the galley weighed them, and put them into a little bag of green leather.

This use of a young person may recall Kurtius wading into the icy, surging Lech: stark naked, with a pole "as long as a Leaguer's pike" not to sink or be carried away by the stream (in The Ringstetten Saga). Though this young pearl fisher won't be that fortunate.

His ears and nostrils plugged with wax, the fact that he was already weak ("weary"), more than probably burned out by rowing, at the start of the expedition, "panting" to fill his lungs as he produces the pearls he holds in his right hand (because he's right-handed like most humans... and/or subservient to the system?), and the officers "thrust him back" for more, as the master weighs his personal gain in the scales of injustice, indifferent to the youth's plight (They take his pearls, which he risks his health for, and still ask for more: doesn't that remind you of what one Karl M**x once said about "alienation of the proletariat"?). 

In the end, too many changes of pressure (also, of "being under pressure" from superiors) take their toll upon the captive's battered system:

Then, he came up for the last time, and the pearl that he brought with him was fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz, for it was shaped like the full moon, and whiter than the morning star. But his face was strangely pale, and as he fell upon the deck the blood gushed from his ears and nostrils. He quivered for a little, and then he was still. The negroes shrugged their shoulders, and threw the body overboard.

And the master of the galley laughed, and, reaching out, he took the pearl, and when he saw it he pressed it to his forehead and bowed. 'It shall be,' he said, 'for the sceptre of our young King,' and he made a sign to the negroes to draw up the anchor.


Our young wretch has finally produced the pearl that will crown the royal sceptre. But which price has he paid? His face is "strangely pale" as the moon or the final pearl, but "the blood gushes from his ears and nostrils", "crimson" like the master's elegant silk turban. "He quivered for a little, and then he was still" ("he was still": death described in just three words once more!) Decompression has brought on the cranial internal bleeding that put a freeing end to a short life of suffering. The wax plugs would either have loosened or fallen out.
Note that the youth, who is not his own man, has his life sacrificed for a pearl—not for another's life, but just for an ornament.

Unlike the riders' leader, this captive has met his end after gradual exposure to pressure changes, rather than a lightning-fast bleeding from without by means of a puncture wound. And he is revealed to be rather expendable, one petty pawn out of one hundred. He is "thrust back" (="thrown") into the ocean by the shrugging officers for the last time, as the master laughs to his heart's content. So different was the fate of the self-made bourgeois socialite from that of the orphaned and indentured child worker. An underage miner or chimney sweep cramped in a tight passage means as little to the master of the company/factory/mine, as an underage captive bled to death through decompression to the master of the galley.

In Othello, the General's fair-skinned lady is also compared to a pearl, the moon, and a star. So does he love her. When deceived to believe in her unfaithfulness, he strangles her. No blood did gush, no blood did flow, but still "she quivered for a little, and then she was still", before he threw her back on the bedsheets and laughed. Upon seeing the light, he regret and burst into tears, stabbing himself.

The master of the galley, unlike Othello, is not a warrior or a lover, but a capitalist/businessman, through and through. The young rower identified with a male Desdemona is not his beloved, but an expendable tool that can be easily replaced. No suicide fills the master's thoughts: it's his reward that motivates him. In that sense, he may be an Iago masked as an ostensible Othello (didn't the honest ensign say: "I am not what I am"?).  


Death in the heart of the pearl

Once slain, the nomadic rider is referred to as "the dead body". The late captive becomes, in a similar vein, "the body". Both have become forms bereft of life, left to their fate.

Parallel is also the mention of the part through which the life-blood surges away, followed by a laconic yet impressive three-word description of death (in the former case: "he was shot through the throat", "he fell heavily"; in the latter case: "the blood gushed from his ears and nostrils", "he was still")… which identifies both deaths with each other. That of the enemy and that of the child worker, both of them condemned by the system. Both of them bodies with life, yet without souls.

Lastly: those "long gray fingers of the dawn clutching at the fading stars", those of the Grim Reaper or the capitalistic system, are they ready to clutch star-shaped souls leaving their mortal bodies… (or rebel souls, steering away from the "little bay", into the reddish horizon to the left?)


Lilies whiter than fine pearls, and their stems of bright silver

Thus, the young ruler steps into the throne room in the guise of a peasant lad, with austere regalia such as a wooden wand for a sceptre, amidst the courtiers' jeers and irony. To their amazement, the regalia are transformed by the light of day. The wand blossoms:
Whiter than fine pearls were the lilies, and their stems were of bright silver.
The Fourth Story of The Snow Queen lets a faint echo in: also a Marian or Desdemonian echo of whiteness as the colour of purity rather than that of pallor mortis (the true sense of whiteness in Othello happens to be, like the lily-bed of the Clever Princess, that of Desdemona's and Cassio's innocence... the purity threatened by others, yet triumphant in the end). The whiteness of feminine purity (star, moon, silver, lily, spray) rather than that of a "strangely pale" face, that of a tortured innocent.
Wilde does not give away the end of the Master, but we are left to presume that he is broke and has nowhere to go... I feel a little sorry for him, after all of this climbing to a niche of his own...

Ann Trugman comments:

The second dream is about a galley master making a slave dive deep in the bay for pearls. One after another he brings them up, and each time the galley master forces him to dive again. Finally he brings up a pearl that "was fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz, for it was shaped like the full moon, and whiter than the morning star."As the galley master says that this pearl is to be given to the Young King for his sceptre, the slave dies.

...
Also, "'There is Death in the heart of the pearl.'"
...
The pearl fisher who is not his own man has his life sacrificed for a pearl—not for another's life, but just for an ornament. 
People toil and suffer not for the important things in life but for ornaments to enhance the shallow life of the privileged.

Other comments:


The (second) dream reveals the death of the black (?) (sic) slaves who fish for pearls for the royal sceptre.


The second dream shows the young King a slave galley run by a black master. The youngest of the slaves is forced to dive for pearls till he dies finding what is truly a pearl of great price, "fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz [. . .] shaped like the moon, and whiter than the morning star".


The young King’s second dream corresponds to the albedo phase. This is evident through the presence of ‘feminine’ alchemical signifiers: water, pearls, the full moon, the morning star.


For example, those beautiful pearls are obtained at the price of slaves’ lives.

Within this dream there is time movement; a galley is journeying on a sea. A long voyage is semantically encapsulated in the adverbial phrase ‘. . . At last they reached a little bay . . .’; the painfully slow movement of dream events is conveyed in adverbial phrases like ‘. . . followed slowly . . .’, ‘. . . crept wearily . . .’and ‘. . . beating monotonously . . .’ The young slave looking for pearls surfaces ‘. . . after some time . . .’ and the painfully dragging length of time realized in adverbial phrase ‘. . . again and again . . .’, or adjectival modification,’. . . each time . . .’ and ‘. . . the last time . . .’ The protagonist wakes up and the real world time has moved further towards the day, the time expressed with a preposition and captured metaphorically this time in ‘. . . and through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn clutching at the fading stars.’ The prepositional phrase ‘through the window’ orients the reader towards the two time scales on which this tale is moving: the dream time that is inside the room and real world time that is glimpsed outside the window. 
Wilde uses the comparative adjectival degree to bring out the quality of whiteness in phrases like, ‘. . . pearls of Ormuz . . .whiter than the morning star . . .’, ‘. . . and the bare lilies were whiter than pearls.’ and the inverse phrase ‘Whiter than fine pearls were the lilies . . .’ Silver is again used as complementary to the quality of whiteness of the noun in ‘. . . and their stems were of bright silver.’ 
Within this dream there is time movement; a galley is journeying on a sea. A long voyage is semantically encapsulated in the adverbial phrase ‘. . . At last they reached a little bay . . .’; the painfully slow movement of dream events is conveyed in adverbial phrases like ‘. . . followed slowly . . .’, ‘. . . crept wearily . . .’and ‘. . . beating monotonously . . .’ The young slave looking for pearls surfaces ‘. . . after some time . . .’ and the painfully dragging length of time realized in adverbial phrase ‘. . . again and again . . .’, or adjectival modification,’. . . each time . . .’ and ‘. . . the last time . . .’ The protagonist wakes up and the real world time has moved further towards the day, the time expressed with a preposition and captured metaphorically this time in ‘. . . and through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn clutching at the fading stars.’ The prepositional phrase ‘through the window’ orients the reader towards the two time scales on which this tale is moving: the dream time that is inside the room and real world time that is glimpsed outside the window. 

It begins like the earlier similar sentence with a stylistically marked and at the beginning of the sentence that is chronological in its semantic import. The second and is also chronological, after falling asleep he dreams and third additive and serves as a lead into the description of his second dream. The dream this time is located away from his land takes him to wild seas, ships, galley masters and slaves. The dream narrative is made of predominantly additive and chronological and relations. The next two passages comprise of seven descriptive sentences containing five additive and one chronological and-conjunctions. The Young King finds himself on a galley being rowed by ‘a hundred slaves’. The master of the galley is painted with two additives: ‘On a carpet by his side the master of the galley was seated. He was black as ebony, and his turban was of crimson silk. Great earrings of silver dragged down the thick lobes of his ears, and in his hands he had a pair of ivory scales.’ The second passage describes the slaves and their plight with three additive and one chronological and relations: 

"The slaves were naked, but for a ragged loincloth, and each one was chained to his neighbour. The hot sun beat brightly upon them, and the negroes ran up and down the gangway and lashed them with whips of hide. They stretched out their lean arms and pulled the heavy oars through the water."
When this oriental galley reaches its destination we get the description of the place in two sentences. The first one contains a chronological and joining the two clauses. The second sentence contains a chronological and an additive and-conjunctions; ‘At last they reached a little bay, and began to take soundings. A light wind blew from the shore, and covered the deck and the great lateen sail with a fine red dust.’ The wildness and cruelty of the site is established by a violent attack on the galley crew that seems to have no link with the movement of the action in the dream except to 
introduce an element of fear. The clip contains action and we find it narrated with three chronological and-conjunctions in three sentences. The fourth sentence contains and as part of a phrase: 
"Three Arabs mounted on wild asses rode out and threw spears at them. The master of the galley took a painted bow in his hand and shot one of them in the throat. He fell heavily into the surf, and his companions galloped away. A woman wrapped in a yellow veil followed slowly on a camel, looking back now and then at the dead body."
Having got rid of the raiders, the crew gets to work and we get three passages in which they carry out their operation. Ten chronological, one additive and one phrasal and conjunctions are used to describe the activity: 
"As soon as they had cast anchor and hauled down the sail, the negroes went into the hold and brought up a long rope-ladder, heavily weighted with lead. The master of the galley threw it over the side, making the ends fast to two iron stanchions. Then the negroes seized the youngest of the slaves, and knocked his gyves off, and filled his nostrils and his ears with wax, and tied abig stone round his waist. He crept wearily down the ladder, and disappeared into the sea. A few bubbles rose where he sank. Some of the other slaves peered curiously over the side . . .
After some time the slave rose up out of the water, and clung panting to the ladder with a pearl in his right hand. The negroes seized it from him, and thrust him back . . .
Again and again he came up, and each time that he did so he brought with him a beautiful pearl. The master of the galley weighed them, and put them into a little bag of green leather."
The impact of this spectacle is so much more overwhelming than the first dream that the Young King is unable to speak. His predicament is shown in one sentence comprising of three clauses joined by two conjunctions, one of them an additive and; ‘The young King tried to speak, but his tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of his mouth, and his lips refused to move.’ The world of the galley is ruthlessly going on; so is the natural world. An additive and a phrasal and-conjunction describe the scene; ‘The negroes chattered to each other, and began to quarrel over a string of bright beads. Two cranes flew round and round the vessel.’ The final haul of pearls ends in his death. Two additives describe the precious pearl that he brings up and one additive and three chronological and applications narrate the process of his miserable and ruthless death:
"Then he came up for the last time, and the pearl that he brought with him was fairer than all the pearls of Ormuz, for it was shaped like the full moon, and whiter than the morning star. But his face was strangely pale, and as he fell upon the deck the blood gushed from his ears and nostrils. He quivered for a little, and then he was still. The negroes shrugged their shoulders, and threw the body overboard."
The next long sentence beginning by a stylistically marked chronological and joined by five more chronological and-conjunctions give us the reason and the conclusion to the whole adventure. The sentence gives the indifferent attitude of the galley master to the death adds to the cruelty of the scene:
"And the master of the galley laughed, and, reaching out, he took the pearl, and when he saw it he pressed it to his forehead and bowed. `It shall be,' he said, `for the sceptre of the young King,' and he made a sign to the negroes to draw up the anchor."
The Young King’s unasked question is answered to the worst that he fears. The conclusion to this narrative is similar to the first dream , the sentence begins by stylistically marked resultative and-conjunction, contains another chronological and that imports him back to the reality of the waking world and the third additive and links the passing night that is now close to dawn. In one sense the additive and conjunction serves to establish the temporal parameter of the tale at this point: 
"And when the young King heard this he gave a great cry, and woke, and through the window he saw the long grey fingers of the dawn clutching at the fading stars."

A retelling of the tale here:


Afterword: The absurd of "glorious war" and Moor echoes of Stuart-era Shakespeare

That was the second dream of our young royal, but the third one, set in a lush and exotic rainforest (a cloth factory in the Western world, in the dreamer's own kingdom, was the setting of the first one), featuring a conversation between Death and Greed ("Two Grim Reapers meet in the Amazon…" sounds like a good start for a joke)… takes the casualties of the second dream up to thirteen: from a couple of deceased to thousands of them!

Death said, 'I am weary; give me a third of them and let me go.' But Avarice shook her head. 'They are my servants,' she answered.

And Death said to her, 'What hast thou in thy hand?'

'I have three grains of corn,' she answered; 'what is that to thee?'

'Give me one of them,' cried Death, 'to plant in my garden; only one of them, and I will go away.'

'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice, and she hid her hand in the fold of her raiment.

And Death laughed, and took a cup, and dipped it into a pool of water, and out of the cup rose Ague. She passed through the great multitude, and a third of them lay dead. A cold mist followed her, and the water-snakes ran by her side.

And when Avarice saw that a third of the multitude was dead she beat her breast and wept. She beat her barren bosom, and cried aloud. 'Thou hast slain a third of my servants,' she cried, 'get thee gone. There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings of each side are calling to thee. The Afghans have slain the black ox, and are marching to battle. They have beaten upon their shields with their spears, and have put on their helmets of iron. What is my valley to thee, that thou shouldst tarry in it? Get thee gone, and come here no more.'

Weeping, Avarice tells Death to go away. "'There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings of each side are calling to thee" and the "Afghans have slain the black ox, and are marching to battle.'"

Here, we find many an interesting commonplace: battle as the quintessence of war, as well as another exotic locale (Tartary/Afghanistan: one that remains a war zone in our days!) as the setting of the conflict, tribal kings (khans) arming their men with shields, spears, and iron helmets (no firearms!)… the slaying of a black steer: as either sacrifice to the gods for good luck and victory on the battlefield, or as a symbolic declaration of war (I would like to quote Marvin Harris's essays on the Tsembaga Maring war-peace cycle, in which the truce is broken by uprooting the local "peace tree" planted at the end of last conflict… and the massacre of warriors on the battlefield is followed by the slaughter of a great number of pigs for a feast to which all survivors, both winners and losers, are summoned. The people of both feuding villages conclude the feast by planting the peace tree, and spend some time recovering from the wounds of war by having sons, farming yams, and raising pigs… until the boys and pigs have come of age and are ready to meet their destinies, as the tree is uprooted once more).

Grim visions of cruelty and oppression are painted in distant lands of Afghanistan. A third level of space is introduced here than that of the dream world and the real world. The translocation is achieved in a mental space through very graphic descriptions.
What she says is another exotic picture of faraway lands, and like previous such pictures, each sentence consists of two clauses connected by additive and-conjunctions:
There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings of each side are calling to thee. The Afghans have slain the black ox, and are marching to battle. They have beaten upon their shields with their spears, and have put on their helmets of iron. What is my valley to thee, that thou should'st tarry in it? Get thee gone, and come here no more. 

The enemy kings are calling for Death to come. That's interesting. 
Yesterday evening, I saw The Book Thief, a wonderful film about the value of love and literature, set against the backdrop of Third Reich Bavaria, and featuring a dynamic and clever heroine in plucky orphan Liesl, whose parentage and backstory remain unknown (we only know that she comes from the Protestant North, that the Red Cross nurse who brought her to the Hubermanns' is not her mother, that the dark-haired boy who died on the train was merely her foster brother [different surnames], that she was illiterate when she came to Bavaria, that she is left-handed), but whose present and future life are full of optimism and excitement, hope and loving care.
The narrator is Death, a self-proclaimed "faithful servant to the Führer" and many other tyrants,  (highlight for spoilers) who takes the lives of Liesl's loved ones, sparing her alone, during the Russian invasion (the heroine lives to the ripe old age of 90, happily married with children and grandchildren, a worldwide celebrity and prize-laureated novelist living in Sydney!). That's an interesting viewpoint, a demythification of the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war"… a dark view only known to scarred veterans like Othello and Iago. Frederick Pfander-Swinborne, in Gustavus Adolphus, and the author of this blog, in The Ringstetten Saga, have explored such a view of warfare without glory, but full of tears.