The page numbers and excerpts are from the U.S. St. Martin’s Press hardcover edition of “A Presumption of Death” by Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers.
1 ~ one can’t really expect ships to go quickly when they are convoyed about like a school crocodile, so tedious for them
school crocodile: Moving in a line two-abreast. Unless practiced, the line inevitably begins to weave much like a crocodile moves. During the early part of World War II, German submarines were attacking British shipping in the North Atlantic in an attempt to weaken the island’s defenses and reduce its food supply. Ships had to travel in packs, or convoys, accompanied by warships.
2 ~ I think you must have been listening to Goering or Goebbels or that Haw Haw man or something
Hermann Goering: (1893-1946) Commander-in-chief of the German Luftwaffe and second-highest ranking man in the Third Reich.
Josef Goebbels: (1897-1945) German propaganda minister.
Lord Haw-Haw: propaganda broadcaster and Nazi supporter. Away from the microphone, William Joyce (1906-1946) was the son of a naturalized American citizen whose family moved back to England in 1921. He was a supporter of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley and worked for him as director of propaganda and broadcast speaker until 1937, when he set up his own party and called for an alliance with Hitler. Shortly before the war broke out, Joyce made his way to Germany and began working as news reader for the country’s English-language service, eventually rising to principle broadcaster and propagandist. The “Haw-Haw” tag was coined by a Daily Express writer for another broadcaster, but Joyce’s success at the microphone led him to assume the name and acquire a certain celebrity status as well. A BBC listener report for December 1939 found that two-thirds of the British public listened to Joyce, but didn’t seem to take him seriously. He was captured after the war, and although he was never legitimately a British citizen, was tried for treason in London, found guilty and executed.
2 ~ just as Hitler keeps on saying he’s going to begin, only he doesn’t go: like the people in the “Pirates of Penzance,” and Peter says if he waits much longer the audience will refuse to clap and perhaps the Munich bomb was in the nature of a cat-call
only he doesn’t go: A reference the song “When the Foeman Bares His Steel,” from Act II of “Pirates of Penzance.” At its climax, after the police proclaim they’re off to fight the pirates, they’re praised with a real “blood and thunder” chorus that causes them to loose heart. As they’re marching off, in a circle, the major observes, “Yes, forward to the foe, but you don’t go!”
(Thanks to Little Oojah for the contribution)
3 ~ She’s doing ARP work and looking after her husband
ARP: Air Raid Precautions
4 ~ you can’t think how queer Piccadilly Circus looks with Eros gone
Eros: A statue of a winged archer designed as a symbol of Christian charity in honor of the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury.
4 ~ Peter says we ought to do something constructive in the opposite direction and floodlight the Albert Memorial because the park would be better without it
Albert Memorial: England tribute to Queen Victoria’s husband in Hyde Park. Depending upon your taste, this is either the crowning achievement of memorial art in the Victorian era, or an overwrought sentimental mish-mash of gingerbread and baroque symbolism wrought in stone. A large statue of Albert is seated in what appears to be a small Gothic cathedral with open walls. The base is decorated with 169 carved figures, some in groups representing the four Continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas) and four Industries (Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering and Manufacturing). During the 1990s, weather and pollution had taken its toll, and demolition was considered as an option before it was decided to restore the monument.
6 ~ I’m afraid the infant cherub with the cricket bat made pique, repique and capot of Denver before he could score half his vocabulary
pique, repique and capot: terms used in scoring various plays in the card game piquet (pronounced PICK-ay).
7 ~ If so, we need an Ibsen to deal with public life
Henrik Ibsen: (1828-1906) Norwegian playwright credited as a founder of modern prose drama
8 ~ River, of thy water will I never drink!
8 ~ no wonder we couldn’t stand by the Covenant of the League
Covenant of the League: The charter of the League of Nations, an international body formed after World War I with the idealistic goal of eradicating war. In addition to suggesting restrictions on armaments and suggesting that countries obey a 60-day pause before attacking another member nation, the covenant contained this article:
Should any Member of the League resort to war in disregard of its covenants under Articles 12, 13 or 15, it shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other Members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a Member of the League or not.
It shall be the duty of the Council in such case to recommend to the several Governments concerned what effective military, naval or air force the Members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League.
14 ~ all the children and the land-girls have been skating on the village pond, looking like a scene painted by Brueghel
Brueghel: Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638), Dutch painter whose work vividly evokes his times. Two paintings in particular will fit the bill: “Winter Scene with Skaters and a Bird Trap” (above, click on the picture for a larger version) and “Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap”
15 ~ The other big news is that the Anderson shelters have arrived
Anderson shelters: Small air-raid shelters used by British homeowners during World War II. Named for Home Secretary Sir John Anderson, who devised and promoted the scheme to reduce potential civilian casualties from air raids by dispersing shelters across the country. The Anderson consists of corrugated steel panels sent over a rectangular hole that usually measured ten feet by four feet. Sometimes, the floor was raised to avoid seepage. They were usually outfitted with beds, a table, bookcases, games for the kids, food and water. A more complete description, along with an enlightening story, can be found at the Battle of Britain website.
15 ~ it has a warren of vaulted powerfully ancient-looking undercrofts, which surely must have been part of an abbey before the Reformation
undercrofts: a vaulted chamber under a church
17 ~ But it’s all the news there is from our parish pump
parish pump: used as a slang term, it means petty local politics or parochialism (it’s also the name of several community newsletters, a blog and a for-profit site that offers material for church newsletters). Before that, the parish pump was the local source of water (pumped from the ground, obviously), and of course the community gathering spot where news and gossip was heard. Jane Austen fans who have read of the Pump House in Bath will understand the connection immediately.
19 ~ It is through chance that, from among the various individuals of which each of us is composed, one emerges rather than another. Henry de Montherlant, Explicit Mysterium, 1931
Henry de Montherlant: (1896-1972) French novelist and dramatist, known as a moralist, misogynist and antifeminist in life, and after his suicide, a pederast.
20 ~ It’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’
But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot. — Rudyard Kipling
Quoted from “Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling
I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
20 ~ The notorious land-girls were much in evidence, with their city skills in make-up and nice dresses
land-girls: Volunteers from the Women’s Land Army who worked in the fields while the farmers were off fighting the war. In the United Kingdom, by 1944, there were over 80,000 members. The WLA carried on after the war until 1950.
21 ~ As the vicar’s wife I am not often pipped at the post with the gossip
pipped at the post: narrowly beaten. Believed to be from horse racing (a pip, being the seed from a fruit, would be a very small margin indeed).
22 ~ ‘Dreamshine’ … Under a shining moon,/And to a tender tune … “We danced the night away,/And at the break of day/We found the world had changed …
Not traced, although the book notes that the lyrics are quoted with permission of Johnny Greenbay & the Dancehall Flourishers
24 ~ If you are disappointed to miss the last waltz, don’t blame me, blame the ARP officer
ARP: Air Raid Precautions. The program was founded in 1935, so by the time German air raids began in 1940, a number of precautions had already been taken.
34 ~ Abide with me; fast falls the eventide
Quoted from an 1847 hymn of the same name by Henry Francis Lyte, set to “Eventide”:
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s dark sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
34 ~ Hitler has only got one ball! / Goering has two but rather small / Himmler, is somewhat simmler, / And Dr Goebbels has no balls at all
This irreverent jingle is sung to the tune of “Col. Bogey March”, the whistling march theme heard in “Bridge on the River Kwai.” The march was composed by Lt. F.J. Ricketts (1881-1945), a military bandmaster in the Royal Marines. Outside work was discouraged in the military, so the tune was published under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford. Col. Bogey was believed to be an eccentric colonel Ricketts met on the golf course while stationed in Scotland. Before driving, instead of shouting “Fore,” the colonel preferred to whistle a descending minor third and Ricketts used that tune to open his march.
37 ~ said Jerry, looking up from a copy of Picture Post, which he had apparently had in his greatcoat pocket
Picture Post: British photojournalism magazine (1938-1957). An immediate success upon its debut, selling about a million copies a week during the war.
41 ~ No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues. Bertrand Russell, On Education, 1926
42 ~ But I’m afraid I don’t expect him, even if mony a heart would break in twa … should he no’ come back again
Quoted from”Will Ye No Come Back Again?”
Bonnie Charlie’s noo awa,’
Safely o’er friendly main,
Mony a heart would break in twa,
Should he ne’er come back again —
Carolina Oliphant: (1766-1845), songwriter. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Scottish songs were moving in her time from the days when “daughters of gentlefolk could bound about waving ‘gully knives’ and singing ‘geld him, lassies, geld him” to something more proper for ladies to sing. Influenced by Robert Burns’ work, Oliphant refashioned the old songs, sometimes commenting on contemporary politics and the social life of the gentry. Since her family were heavily involved in Jacobite politics, supporting the house of the Stuarts and opposing the union with England, Oliphant created a number of songs in praise of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
42 ~ I’m glad you’re not too oppressed to play the game
In “Busman’s Holiday,” Lord Peter discovers that Superintendent Kirk was a student of literature (“I like to do a bit o’ reading in my off-duty … I often think as the rowtine of police dooty may tend to narrow a man and make him a bit hard, if you take my meaning.”). They began swapping literary tags in the hopes of catching each other out. The only rule was that you couldn’t go back to the same source twice (“Here!” said Peter, “that’s not fair. You can’t have Tennyson twice. Anyway, there it is and what’s done — no, I may want Shakespeare later on.”) (pp. 109-111)
45 ~ Then I will stand at your right hand
A reference to stanza 29 of Macaulay’s “Lays of Ancient Rome”:
“Haul down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?”
(Contributed by Stephen Clark)
50 ~ She said as how you couldn’t necessarily trust a body along of ?im wearing a Nar A ef uniform
Nar A ef: The Royal Air Force (known as the RAF).
50 ~ Harriet remembered the Ruddle family’s long-lasting grudge against a village policeman who had been replaced some time back.
The grudge, over false accusations in the case of some missing hens belonging to Miss Twitterton, is recounted in “Busman’s Honeymoon.”
53 ~ Just the same, timeo Danaos, and all that … beware of the Greeks when they bear gifts … the cake is a Trojan Horse
The Latin tag is part of a longer quote from Virgil: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis” meaning “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”
61 ~ We’re being led to the altar this spring: its flowers will I suppose nod and yellow and redden the garden with the bombs falling — oh, it’s a queer sense of suspense being led up to the spring of 1940. — Virginia Woolf, Diary, 8th February, 1940
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941): writer and publisher.
73 ~ Miss Climpson had worked ingeniously for Peter for some years. “Putting questions,” he had said, “which a young man could not put without a blush.”
A reference to Lord Peter’s first description of her in”Unnatural Death”:
She is my ears and tongue … and especially my nose. She asks questions which a young man could not put without a blush. She is the angel that rushes in where fools get a clump on the head. She can smell a rat in the dark. In fact, she is the cat’s whiskers. … Just think. People want questions asked. Whom do they send? A man with large flat feet and a notebook — the sort of man whose private life is conducted in a series of inarticulate grunts. I send a lady with a long, woolly jumper on knitting-needles and jingly things round her neck. Of course she asks questions — everyone expects it. Nobody is surprised. Nobody is alarmed. And so-called superfluity is agreeably and usefully disposed of. One of these days you will put up a statue to me, with an inscription:
“To the Man who Made
Thousands of Superfluous Women
without Injury to their Modesty
or Exertion to Himself.”
74 ~ to read horrible, dirty stories about Jews and priests in that dreadful Stuermer
Stuermer: An anti-Semitic newspaper published in Germany from 1923-1945. Its editor, Julius Streicher, was hanged as a war criminal after World War II.
75 ~ And when one thinks how deeply the nicest Germans have always been attached to their gemutlich (isn’t that the word?) Home-life, it seems quite heart-breaking
gemutlich: a congenial, warm, friendly feeling
77 ~ she saw him with Bredon and Polly, playing French cricket on the lawn
French cricket: A variation in which the batter’s legs represent the wicket. The legs are placed together and must not move. The bat is used to defend the wicket. The batter is out if he falls over or moves, the legs are hit or if the ball is caught on the fly. Fielders may throw the ball at the batsman from where they catch it. Since the ball may go in any direction, the result may be some awkward positions for the batsman.
83 ~ Oh, come and live with me my love. — Aelfrida Tillyard, The Garden and the Fire, 1916
85 ~ I had a hand and spring off of Mr Puffett last time we had a share-out … Even my Bert was pleased, and he always wants the trotters
hand and spring: meat from the foreleg of the pig, usually boned and stuffed
trotters: the feet, particularly the meaty long-cut hind feet. An excellent recipe for pig’s trotters can be found in “Lobscouse & Spotted Dog,” a cookbook by Ann Grossman and Lisa Thomas, inspired by the novels of Patrick O’Brian.
89 ~ And if not that, working hard enough as fire-watchers, or in the WVS to compromise the energy they could give to the household
WVS: Women’s Voluntary Service, responsible for dealing with the aftermath of air raids, organizing salvage drives, organize rest centers and canteens. They also made medical supplies from sheets, such as bandages, nursing gowns and pajamas.
87 ~ Liquorice water!
Licorice root boiled in water, one of those things that’s been around for hundreds of years until it was superseded by Coca-Cola and other drinks.
Author Richmal Crompton sent a letter to a girl with this mention of L.W.:
“…We bought strings of liquorice at a chemists’, chopped them up & put them in a bottle of water, shook it till they melted. I’ve forgotten what it tasted like but it sounds horrible!”
97 ~ most particularly of Peter calling her Queen Aholibah
Queen Aholibah: Quoted from Charles Algernon Swinburne’s “The Masque of Queen Bersabe,” a play about various queens of antiquity and mythology, of whom Aholibah is one.
I am the queen Aholibah.
My lips kissed dumb the word of Ah
Sighed on strange lips grown sick thereby.
God wrought to me my royal bed;
The inner work thereof was red,
The outer work was ivory.
My mouth’s heat was the heat of flame
For lust towards the kings that came
With horsemen riding royally.
105 ~ He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune. — Francis Bacon, ‘Of Marriage and Single Life,’ Essays, 1625
Quoted from an essay. The complete essay is below:
He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means, have married and endowed the public. Yet it were great reason that those that have children, should have greatest care of future times; unto which they know they must transmit their dearest pledges. Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences. Nay, there are some other, that account wife and children, but as bills of charges. Nay more, there are some foolish rich covetous men, that take a pride, in having no children, because they may be thought so much the richer. For perhaps they have heard some talk, Such an one is a great rich man, and another except to it, Yea, but he hath a great charge of children; as if it were an abatement to his riches.
But the most ordinary cause of a single life, is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters, to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fugitives, are of that condition.
A single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground, where it must first fill a pool. It is indifferent for judges and magistrates; for if they be facile and corrupt, you shall have a servant, five times worse than a wife. For soldiers, I find the generals commonly in their hortatives, put men in mind of their wives and children; and I think the despising of marriage amongst the Turks, maketh the vulgar soldier more base.
Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hardhearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon. Grave natures, led by custom, and therefore constant, are commonly loving husbands, as was said of Ulysses, vetulam suam praetulit immortalitati.
Chaste women are often proud and froward, as presuming upon the merit of their chastity. It is one of the best bonds, both of chastity and obedience, in the wife, if she think her husband wise; which she will never do, if she find him jealous. Wives are young men’s mistresses; companions for middle age; and old men’s nurses.
So as a man may have a quarrel to marry, when he will. But yet he was reputed one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when a man should marry, – A young man not yet, an elder man not at all.
It is often seen that bad husbands, have very good wives; whether it be, that it raiseth the price of their husband’s kindness, when it comes; or that the wives take a pride in their patience. But this never fails, if the bad husbands were of their own choosing, against their friends’ consent; for then they will be sure to make good their own folly.
123 ~ O had she been a country maid, And I the happy country swain! Robert Burns, “The Lass o’ Ballochmyle,” 1786
‘Twas even-the dewy fields were green,
On every blade the pearls hang;
The zephyr wanton’d round the bean,
And bore its fragrant sweets alang:
In ev’ry glen the mavis sang,
All nature list’ning seem’d the while,
Except where greenwood echoes rang,
Amang the braes o’ Ballochmyle.
With careless step I onward stray’d,
My heart rejoic’d in nature’s joy,
When, musing in a lonely glade,
A maiden fair I chanc’d to spy:
Her look was like the morning’s eye,
Her air like nature’s vernal smile:
Perfection whisper’d, passing by,
“Behold the lass o’ Ballochmyle!”
Fair is the morn in flowery May,
And sweet is night in autumn mild;
When roving thro’ the garden gay,
Or wand’ring in the lonely wild:
But woman, nature’s darling child!
There all her charms she does compile;
Even there her other works are foil’d
By the bonie lass o’ Ballochmyle.
O, had she been a country maid,
And I the happy country swain,
Tho’ shelter’d in the lowest shed
That ever rose on Scotland’s plain!
Thro’ weary winter’s wind and rain,
With joy, with rapture, I would toil;
And nightly to my bosom strain
The bonie lass o’ Ballochmyle.
Then pride might climb the slipp’ry steep,
Where frame and honours lofty shine;
And thirst of gold might tempt the deep,
Or downward seek the Indian mine:
Give me the cot below the pine,
To tend the flocks or till the soil;
And ev’ry day have joys divine
With the bonie lass o’ Ballochmyle.
143 ~ I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, 1643
Religio Medici: Although ostensibly a spiritual autobiography, Sir Thomas Browne’s work is more interested in arguing for tolerance for all religious practices. A popular success (when it was first published in an unauthorized pirated edition, then revised by Browne for the 1643 edition). The Vatican placed it on its Index Expurgatorius in 1645, and Browne was accused of Popery and atheism.
159 ~ If thou beest he; but O how fall’n, how changed From him who in the happy realms of light Clothed with transcendent brightness did outshine Myriads, though bright … John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667
Quoted from the first book, lines 84-87.
160 ~ So she had hedged the visit to the house all about with Eiluned and Hatchard’s, in case it pained her.
Hatchard’s: A bookstore
161~ The train was packed with men and women in uniform, or with the ubiquitous armbands — WAS, HDV, WRVS, ARW — which stood in for uniforms
These were various volunteer groups formed to help the war effort: WAS: Woman’s Army Service; HDV: Home Defence Volunteers (also known as the Local Defence Volunteers); WRVS: Woman’s Royal Voluntary Service; ARW: air raid warden.
(Contributed by Nigel Wassell)
166 ~ Since she is in the Ministry of Instruction and Morale — Dieu sait pourquoi! — I suggested to her that some attempt should be made by that body to instruct the urban population in the science of walking in the dark
Dieu sait pourquoi!: “God knows why”
175 ~ Jack shall have Jill, Nought shall go ill …
Quoted from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” Act 3, scene 2:
On the ground
To your eye,
Gentle lover, remedy.
Squeezing the juice on Lysander’s eyes
When thou wakest,
In the sight
Of thy former lady’s eye:
And the country proverb known,
That every man should take his own,
In your waking shall be shown:
Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill;
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.
177 ~ and chase the children into the kitchen to play Ludo
Ludo: a simplified form of Pachisi, or parcheesi, suitable for children, published in 1896 in England. The name is Latin for “I play.”
181 ~ It was a maxim with Foxey — our revered father, gentlemen — ‘Always suspect everybody.’
From chapter 66 of Charles Dickens, “The Old Curiousity Shop”
185 ~ I see Mr Harold Nicolson wants to run a series of replies to Haw-Haw
Harold Nicolson (1886-1968): politician and diplomat. At times an author, broadcaster, member of parliament and foreign office official, at the time of PD, he was a minor official in the Ministry of Information who wrote a weekly column for “The Spectator.”
185 ~ Do you imagine anything is going to stop the British public from taking cock-shies at an enemy alien?
cockshies: a person taken as the object of criticism; to throw at a target
189 ~ wearing her navy Viyella dress
viyella: a fabric with a twill weave consisting of 45% cotton and 55% wool. It looks like fine flannel and can hold a pleat.
199 ~ “What’s that young sirs? Stole a pig?” “Where are your licences?” said the policeman. Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Pigling Bland, 1913
The complete story
205 ~ We uster catch tiddlers in that when we were boys
tiddlers: a small fish such as a stickleback or minnow
206 ~ his tousled blond hair and flushed plump cheeks reminding her of Mabel Lucie Attwell postcards from before the war
Attwell: Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964) was the British Anne Geddes. Her illustrations of pudgy, red-cheeked toddlers doing extremely cute things — sold on postcards among other ephemera — made her very popular during the 1930s and ?40s. She also illustrated books, greeting cards, gift books, an edition of “Peter Pan and Wendy” at J.M. Barrie’s request, posters, calendars and even a comic strip. A set of Mabel Lucie Attwell China was used in the Royal Nursery of infant Prince Charles.
208 ~ My mother said Always look under the bed Before you put the candle out, In case there is A MAN about …
A music hall song, popularized in part by Nellie Wallace, who would dress up as a frustrated spinster. A more complete version runs:
My mother said always look under the bed,
Before you blow the candle out,
To see if there’s a man about.
I always do, but you can make a bet,
It’s never been my luck to find a man there yet.
209 ~ Someone called Quisling — may his name be cursed for centuries — had appointed himself head of the Norwegian state and ordered resistance to cease
Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945): Nazi sympathizer. Founded a fascist party “Nasjonal Samling” (“National Unity”) in Norway in the 1933, which gained support for a few years before declining due to its militaristic and anti-Semitic policies. Quisling declared himself the head of the government when the Germans invaded in 1940, to the surprise of both Germans and Norwegians. However, he was installed as prime minister in 1942. After the war, he and two other N.S. leaders were executed, many others jailed.
219 ~ If Sir John Simon would only explain how exactly one is to spend hard to win the Economic War
John Simon (1873-1954) was lord chancellor at the time of PD. As chancellor under Neville Chamberlain, he was responsible for the management of the economy and believed that a vibrant economy, according to the DNB, “would represent the nation’s ?fourth arm of defence’ in any future war.” In standard economic theory, the amount of production was dependent on the amount of spending, so if Britons would “spend hard,” they would stimulate production and provide jobs.
221 ~ Perhaps, thought Harriet, the poor man was skiving, postponing his return to active duty
skiving: malingering or playing hooky
223 ~ So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men, And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then. William Shakespeare, sonnet 146, 1609
Quoted from “Poor Soul, the Centre of my Sinful Earth”
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
[Thrall to] these rebel powers that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more.
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And, Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
226 ~ Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
Quoted from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Act 1, Scene 4:
My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.
Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!
I say, away! Go on; I’ll follow thee.
Exeunt Ghost and Hamlet
He waxes desperate with imagination.
Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey him.
Have after. To what issue will this come?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Heaven will direct it.
Nay, let’s follow him.
229 ~ And sorrow proud to be advanced so …
Quoted from “My Lady’s Tears” by anonymous. Printed in John Dowland’s “Third and Last Book of Songs or Airs”
I saw my Lady weep,
And Sorrow proud to be advanced so
In those fair eyes where all perfections keep.
Her face was full of woe;
But such a woe (believe me) as wins more hearts
Than Mirth can do with her enticing parts.
Sorrow was there made fair,
And Passion wise;
Tears a delightful thing;
Silence beyond all speech, a wisdom rare:
She made her sighs to sing,
And all things with so sweet a sadness move
As made my heart at once both grieve and love.
O fairer than aught else
The world can show, leave off in time to grieve!
Enough, enough: your joyful look excels:
Tears kill the heart, believe.
O strive not to be excellent in woe,
Which only breeds your beauty’s overthrow.
230 ~ It was as if the two of them had boarded the “Marie Celeste” alone
Marie Celeste: One of the most famous sea-faring mysteries. The Marie Celeste — credit Arthur Conan Doyle for changing the ship’s first name to Marie in his short story “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement” — was found abandoned at sea halfway between Portugal and the Azores. The ship was waterlogged but seaworthy, its cargo of alcohol untouched. Food and water were aboard, but the ship’s papers were missing along with the navigational instruments. The small crew, Captain Briggs, his wife and daughter, were missing. No one knows for certain what happened to the Mary Celeste, but there are plenty of theories, and you can read all about them at the Straight Dope Web site.
233 ~ Peter’s name might have been destined to be written in gold in Balliol College chapel
The chapel contains memorials to its alumnus who have died in the wars.
237 ~ The patrol boat went close inshore, and pushed the body overboard, hoping it would be washed up on a handy beach. And it worked. The Germans did react to the phoney orders Brinklow was carrying.
The inspiration for this may have been an actual OSS operation that is recounted in the book “The Man Who Never Was,” and as this is my site and this is one of my favorite espionage stories, let me go into tedious detail about it.
With the Allies intending to invade Sicily in July of 1943, a way had to be found to fool the Germans into believing that the target would be Sardinia and then Greece. With the help of pathologist Bernard Spilsbury, a search was made for a body that could have died from a plane crash at sea and washing ashore after several days. Spilsbury explained that a body wearing a life-jacket would probably faint from cold and freeze to death in the water. A bachelor who had died of pneumonia in London was found, and Spilsbury confirmed that it could pass for a man who died of drowning. The parents were contacted and agreed to the plan. The body was dressed as a major of the Royal Marines and given the common name of William Martin. A letter to Sir Harold Alexander, commander of British forces in north Africa, dropping hints about the plan was composed by Sir Archibald Nye, deputy Chief of Imperial General Staff, and typed by his private secretary. A second letter from Lord Louis Mountbatten added details calculated to fool the Germans, and even included a joking reference that, after the assault, Martin by “bring some sardines with him — they are ‘on points’ here!”
Major Martin was also given papers to indicate a private life. A man who resembled Martin was found, and a pretext was found to take his photo to use for the passport. A War Ministry typist provided two love letters, and Lloyds Bank added one showing him overdrawn on his account. Keys, notebook, cigarettes, bus tickets, theater tickets, and a briefcase attached to his wrist completed the ensemble.
Martin was put into the water off Huelva on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain on April 29, 1943, and found by a fisherman the next day. The British Consulate in Gibraltar was informed, the briefcase turned over to the vice-counsel in Huelva, a headstone ordered and the body was buried on May 2 in Huelva. The briefcase passes through the hands of several Spanish authorities and winds up in the German Embassy, where the letters are carefully opened, copied, translated, and sent up the chain of command to Hitler’s hands (with a note saying that “the authenticity of the captured documents is beyond doubt.”).
The operation was a complete success. A German tank division is moved from the south of France to the Peloponnese, and mines were laid in the Aegean Sea. The defenses on Sardinia were strengthened, and defense forces on the south coast of Sicily (where the landing took place) were moved to the western corner. Even weeks after the invasion, the Germans were still working to improve the defenses along the coastline of Greece, preparing for the invasion that never came.
UPDATE: A poster on the Lord Peter e-mail list pointed to an article in the Spring 2005 issue of Scottish Life magazine that mentions a book “The Secrets of H.M.S. Dasher,” which identified the man used in the ploy as a Scot named John Melville, whose body became available when the ship he served on blew up in the Clyde Estuary. The family was never told until recently of his role in Operation Mincemeat, and in October, 2004, his daughter, now 64, attended a Royal Navy memorial service aboard the new H.M.S. Dasher.
238 ~ Harriet was looking at a little brick-coloured fibreboard disc on a string stamped with name, number and ‘RC.’ That’s why we didn’t see him in church, she thought.
RC: Roman Catholic. Harriet and Peter are, of course, Church of England.
240 ~ I suppose the poor devil got pranged
241 ~ Only we’ve got a game of sardines going out there
sardines: a form of hide-and-seek, played best in a dark house with lots of space. In this variant, one person hides while the rest count to 100. Everybody splits up to find the person, and when found, joins him or her in the hiding place. This continues until the last person has found the group.
247 ~ Oh, ’tis my delight of a shiny night,
In the season of the year!
“The Lincolnshire Poacher”, Anon c. 1776
When I was bound apprentice in famous Lincolnshire
Full well I served my master for more than seven years
Till I took up to poaching, as you shall quickly hear
Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.
As me and my companions were setting of a snare
‘Twas then we spied the gamekeeper, for him we did not care
Far we can wrestle and fight, my boys and jump out anywhere
Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.
As me and my companions were setting four or five
And taking on ‘em up again, we caught a hare alive
We took a hare alive my boys, and through the woods did steer
Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.
I threw him on my shoulder and then we trudged home
We took him to a neighbour’s house, and sold him for a crown
We sold him for a crown, my boys, but I did not tell you where
Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.
Success to ev’ry gentleman that lives in Lincolnshire
Success to every poacher that wants to sell a hare
Bad luck to ev’ry gamekeeper that will not sell his deer
Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.
247 ~ composing a scene like Millais’ “The Boyhood of Raleigh”
249 ~ The lower plate overlaps the upper one, because she was designed by Mitchell and he was a sea-plane fellow
Reginald Joseph Mitchell (1895-1937): aircraft designer, whose work on military flying boats for Supermarine such as the Sea Eagle, the Scarab, the Swan and the Southampton between the wars established England as a leader in marine aviation. (The “lower plate overlapping the upper plate” feature is characteristic of flying boats who need to keep water from infiltrating the plane upon landing.) Mitchell also built high-speed racing planes for the Schneider flying races; his S6B model won the trophy in 1931 and later set a world speed record of 407.5 mph. Building on these experiences enabled him to create the Spitfire with the help of aerodynamicist Beverley Shenstone. The Spitfire and its subsequent versions proved highly effective as an intercepter. Unfortunately, Mitchell died in 1937 of cancer at the age of 42.
259 ~ A tragedy is a good theory defeated by a fact.
269 ~ And take upon’s the mystery of things, As if we were God’s spies … Shakespeare, King Lear, 1608
Quoted from “King Lear”, Act V, Scene 3
No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds I’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.
270 ~ Aristotle again. You were told that the encounter had happened. What has happened is obviously possible, however unlikely it was that it should happen. Coincidence is history, once it has happened. Poetry, the philosopher tells us, is about what might probably or necessarily occur. The underlying logic of the world.
A reference to “The Poetics”. In book 9, Aristotle has this to say about poetry and philosophy:
From what we have said it will be seen that the poet’s function is to describe, not the thing that has happened, but a kind of thing that might happen, i.e. what is possible as being probable or necessary. The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse–you might put the work of Herodotus into verse, and it would still be a species of history; it consists really in this, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.
(Contributed by Stephen Clark)
271 ~ Revenons a ces moutons … Ces cochons would be more to the point.
Revenons a ces moutons: Quoted from “L’Avocat Patelin” (1704), a French farce by David-Augustin Brueys (1640-1723). In it, a shepherd is charged with stealing sheep. The accuser, a woollen-draper, keeps wandering from the point during the trial, with the judge reminding him constantly “Mais, mon ami, revenons a nos moutons” (“return to the sheep”). As “moutons” means sheep, that accounts for Harriet’s rejoinder that “Ces cochons (pigs) would be more to the point.”
275 ~ You wouldn’t consider Bannockburn by way of Beachy Head?
A reference to a poem in G.K. Chesterton’s novel “The Flying Inn,” published in 1914.
“Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire.
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
That night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.
“I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchmen I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.
“His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.
“My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.”
(Contributed by Stephen Clark)
277 ~ Reading for the Le Fanu book
In Chapter 7 of “Gaudy Night, it is mentioned that Harriet was using the excuse of researching Le Fanu as an excuse to investigate the strange goings-on in Shrewsbury College:
The excuse was good enough; Harriet really was gathering material, in a leisurely way, for a study of Le Fanu, though the Bodleian [Library in Oxford] was not, perhaps, the ideal source for it. But there must be some reason given for her presence, and Oxford is willing enough to believe that the Bodleian is the hub of the scholar’s universe.
Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873) was an Irish writer known for his mystery and ghost fiction, particularly Uncle Silas (1864), a macabre mystery novel and classic of gothic horror, and “In a Glass Darkly” (1872), a collection of short stories.
(Contributed by Deb Schuler, as well as several others)
279 ~ I have always rather liked the old one hundredth
A hymn based on Psalms 100:
1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
279 ~ What should we rise because ’tis light?
Quoted from “Break of Day” by Donne:
‘Tis true, ’tis day; what though it be
O wilt thou therefore rise from me
Why should we rise, because ’tis light
Did we lie down, because ’twas night
Love which in spite of darkness brought us hither
Should in despite of light keep us together.
Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spy,
This were the worst that it could say —
That being well, I fain would stay,
And that I loved my heart and honour so,
That I would not from her, that had them, go.
Must business thee from hence remove
Oh, that’s the worst disease of love!
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong as when a married man doth woo.
280 ~ Aristotle … that pity is occasioned by undeserved misfortunes, and fear by that of one like ourselves?
A reference to Aristotle’s “Rhetoric”, in which the philosopher considers the definition and nature of pity:
Pity may be defined as a feeling of pain caused by the sight of some evil, destructive or painful, which befalls one who does not deserve it, and which we might expect to befall ourselves or some friend of ours, and moreover to befall us soon.
(Contributed by James Fulford)
281 ~ But when those great words roll over us — man that is born of a woman hath but a short time; all flesh is grass; the places where he was known shall see him no more
man born of woman: Quoted from the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer’s Burial of the Dead, “First Anthem”: Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
The prayer is derived from Job 14:1-2
1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.
2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
3 And doth thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee
all flesh is grass: Quoted from Isaiah 40:6:
6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
places where he was known: Quoted from Job 20:9: “The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.”
282 ~ Scene from a marriage: the quotation game between Lord Peter and Harriet
Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments: Quoted from Shakespeare’s Sonnett 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree:
Quoted from Yeats’ “The Lake Island of Innisfree”:
I will arise and go now,
And go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there,
Of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there,
A hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there,
For peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning
To where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer,
And noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now,
For always night and day
I hear lake water lapping
With low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway
Or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now: Quoted from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Act 3, Scene 2:
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
‘Twas on a summer’s evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii:
Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb’d;
And as he pluck’d his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it,
As rushing out of doors, to be resolved
If Brutus so unkindly knock’d, or no;
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel:
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquish’d him: then burst his mighty heart;
And, in his mantle muffling up his face,
Even at the base of Pompey’s statua,
Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
Whilst bloody treason flourish’d over us.
O, now you weep; and, I perceive, you feel
The dint of pity: these are gracious drops.
Kind souls, what, weep you when you but behold
Our Caesar’s vesture wounded? Look you here,
Here is himself, marr’d, as you see, with traitors.
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief: Quoted from Gerald Manley Hopkins:
No worst, there is none.
Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing?
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked “No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief’.
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.
Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there.
Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep.
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind:
all Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
Go, lovely Rose! Tell here, that wastes her time and me: Quoted from a poem by Edmund Waller (1606-1687):
Go, lovely Rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her that ‘s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Then die! that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair!
Music hath charms to sooth a savage breast: Quoted from William Congreve
Busie old fool, unruly sunne: Quoted from John Donne
3. The Sunne Rising
Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windowes, and through curtaines call on us
Must to thy motions lovers seasons run
Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide
Late schoole boyes, and sowre prentices,
Goe tell Court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,
Call countrey ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knowes, nor clyme,
Nor houres, dayes, moneths, which are the rags of time.
Thy beames, so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou thinke
I could eclipse and cloud them with a winke,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Looke, and to morrow late, tell mee,
Whether both the India’s of spice and Myne
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with mee.
Aske for those Kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt heare, All here in one bed lay.
She is all States, and all Princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes doe but play us; compar’d to this,
All honor’s mimique; All wealth alchimie.
Thou sunne art halfe as happy’as wee,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art every where;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy spheare.
So sweet, so smooth, so silvery is thy voice: Quoted from “Upon Julia’s Voice” by Robert Herrick
So smooth, so sweet, so silvery, is thy voice
As, could they hear, the damned would make no noise,
But listen to thee (walking in thy chamber)
Melting melodious words to lutes of amber.
Vivre est une chute horizontale: An aphorism by Jean Cocteau meaning “Life is falling sideways”
285 ~ Where there’s a will there’s relations
Misquoted from the Book of Proverbs
286 ~ A young man I knew at college was a Barnado’s boy. He wasn’t grateful
Barnado’s: A charity founded by Thomas John Barnado that grew into a number of homes that cared for orphans. Scholarships were granted to “Barnado’s boys.”
288 ~ a dozen Hudsons and an Anson were drawn up on grass
Hudson: A type of British airplane.
Anson: Another type of British airplane.
288 ~ A scatter of tents, and some Nissen huts still under construction
Nissen hut: A prefabricated curved building made of corrugated steel, used in the military. Named for Norman Nissen, (1871-1930), British army officer and mining engineer.
294 ~ She had a pair of secateurs in one hand
secateurs: pruning shears
299 ~ On your midnight pallet lying …
A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad, 1896
Quoted from poem 40:
XL. On Your Midnight Pallet Lying
On your midnight pallet lying,
Listen, and undo the door:
Lads that waste the light in sighing
In the dark should sigh no more;
Night should ease a lover’s sorrow;
Therefore, since I go to-morrow,
Pity me before.
In the land to which I travel,
The far dwelling, let me say!
Once, if here the couch is gravel,
In a kinder bed I lay,
And the breast the darnel smothers
Rested once upon another’s
When it was not clay.
301 ~ The mind has mountains — hold them cheap may who ne’er hung there
Quoted from a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins:
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief-
woe, world sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing-
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked “No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
302 ~ See the coloured counties?
Quoted from A.E. Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad”
XXI. Bredon Hill
In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.
The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away:
‘Come to church, good people;
Good people, come and pray.’
But here my love would stay.
And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
‘Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time.’
But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.
They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.
The bells they sound on Bredon,
And still the steeples hum.
‘Come all to church, good people,’ —
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.
302 ~ His breath’s a vapour, and his life’s a span
‘Tis glorious misery to be born a man.
Not traced, although a more fuller description can be found on a plaque in the parish of Zennor, near Towednack:
Hope, fear, false-joy, and trouble,
Are these four winds which daily toss this bubble,
His breath’s a vapour, and his life’s a span;
Tis glorious misery to be born a man.
306 ~ I’m but the son my mother bore,
A simple man and nothing more
But, God of strength and gentleness,
Be pleased to make me nothing less!
Quoted from an anonymous poem, found in January 1942, “Written on a scrap of paper, it fluttered into the hands of a soldier sheltering in a slit trench, during the battle of El Agheila.” (Source: “Poems from the Desert: Verses by Members of the Eighth Army,” foreword by General Sir Bernard Montgomery)
Stay with me, God – A Soldier’s Prayer
Stay with me, God. The night is dark,
The night is cold: my little spark
Of courage dies. The night is long;
Be with me, God, and make me strong
I love a game; I love a fight.
I hate the dark; I love the light.
I love my child; I love my wife.
I am no coward. I love Life,
Life with its change of mood and shade.
I want to live. I’m not afraid,
But me and mine are hard to part;
Oh, unknown God, lift up my heart.
You stilled the waters at Dunkirk
And saved Your Servants. All Your work
Is wonderful, dear God. You strode
Before us down that dreadful road.
We were alone, and hope had fled;
We loved our country and our dead,
And could not shame them; so we stayed
The course, and were not much afraid.
Dear God that nightmare road! And then
That sea! We got there-we were men.
My eyes were blind, my feet were torn,
My soul sang like a bird at dawn!
I knew that death is but a door.
I knew what we were fighting for:
Peace for the kids, our brothers freed,
A kinder world, a cleaner breed.
I’m but the son my mother bore,
A simple man, and nothing more.
But, God of strength and gentleness,
Be pleased to make me nothing less.
Help me, O God, when Death is near
To mock the haggard face of fear,
That when I fall-if fall I must-
My soul may triumph in the Dust.
306 ~ Aet. Sua. 16 ann. … Carpe Diem
“Died in the 16th year of his age.” Carpe diem, a common Latin phrase, does indeed mean “seize the day,” with the implication here being that, in wartime Britain, with the reality of daily air raids and the coming struggle against Nazi Germany, it’s best to take your pleasure while you can.
(Contributed by James Fulford)
307 ~ You know, Harriet, by the pricking of my thumb
Quote from “Macbeth” Act IV; Scene 1:
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
312 ~ Chaps pointing out to him that the Duke of Marlborough was famous for not needing to take them off
“His Grace returned from the wars today and pleasured me twice in his top boots”
— Sarah Churchill (1660-1744), Duchess of Marlborough, diary entry.
317 ~ Many would be cowards if they had courage enough
—Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
Thomas Fuller (1654-1734): physician and author. “Gnomologia” was a collection of precepts for the benefit of his son.
335 ~ Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live and act and serve the future hour;
And if, as towards the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope,
and faith’s transcendent dower
We feel that we are greater than we know.
—William Wordsworth, The River Duddon, 1820
Quoted from “Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon.” The River Duddon is in the Lake District, in northwest England below Scotland.
I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide,
As being pass’d away.—Vain sympathies!
For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes,
I see what was, and is, and will abide;
Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies;
While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise,
We Men, who in our morn of youth defied
The elements, must vanish;—be it so!
Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live, and act, and serve the future hour;
And if, as toward the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope, and faith’s transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.
347 ~ I ran into an art lesson the other day, with all of them sitting around that copy of Apollo Belvedere that we have in the Long Gallery
Apollo Belvedere: A popular statue of the Greek god. It was believed to have been discovered on an estate belonging to Julius II and by 1523 stood in the Vatican’s Belvedere garden.
349 ~ Tell him if he passes the scholarship examination he could get into the Slade and study art
The Slade School of Fine Art: Founded in 1871 by Felix Slade, it was the first school to accept students regardless of gender, race or religious belief, and the first to study fine arts as opposed to teaching art skills useful in the working world.
355 ~ The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity. — Benjamin Disraeli, “Sybil”, 1845
Quoted from the concluding paragraph of Disraeli’s novel “Sybil.”
355 ~ We raise not a stone and we carve not a line
Quoted from”The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna” by Charles Wolfe. Corunna was a village on the coast of northwest Spain and the site of a battle against Napoleon. Sir John Moore, who commanded the British troops, was mortally wounded. The British Army evacuated from Spain, but later returned in 1809 under Wellington.
The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna
Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his core to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot?
O’er the grave where our hero we buried.
We hurried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light?
And the lantern dimly burning.
No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,
With his martial cloak around him.
Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
Bur we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.
We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed?
And smoothed down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o’er his head,
And we far away on the billow!
Lightly they’ll talk of the sprit that’s gone?
And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him,—
But little he’ll reck, if they let him sleep on?
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.
But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring;
And we heard the distant and random gun?
That the foe was sullenly firing.
Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raise not a stone,
But we lift him alone with his glory.
359 ~ fix you up a mug of Horlicks … Would you rather have Bournville
Horlicks malted food drink and Bournville cocoa are still available today. “Horlicks is good for you” was a popular advertising slogan of the day.
362 ~ to send a despatch rider to pick this up and take it to Bletchley
Bletchley Park: An English estate 50 miles northeast of London, was the site where a group of code breakers successfully deciphered top secret German codes.
366 ~ Love is not love which alters where it alteration finds; and, Peter, that would be alteration
Another reference to the sonnet “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”, see note 282.
367 ~ You will not change, nor falter, nor repent?
Quotation from the climax in Act 4 of Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound”.
371 ~ So we hope it won’t take too long for your gallant band of interventionists to succeed, and shut up Lindbergh and people like him who are telling you to stay at home and not get involved. … perhaps the poor man was unhinged by having his baby kidnaped in that horrible manner
Lindbergh: A reference to Charles Lindbergh, aviator and Nazi sympathizer. In 1932, his 20-month-old son, Charles Lindbergh Jr., was kidnaped and held for ransom. It turned out that he died accidentally the night of the crime, and after the ransom was paid, his decomposed body was found in wooded area 73 days after he disappeared.