Econstudentlog

The Innocents Abroad II

I have had my last exam for this semester by now, but I haven’t spent much time (book-)reading since then. I expect to spend the next couple of days reading, however for now a few quotes from Mark Twain will have to do (I still love it! – and if you like the quotes, you will too):

“They say that a pagan temple stood where Notre Dame now stands, in the old Roman days, eighteen or twenty centuries ago – remains of it are still preserved in Paris; and that a Christian church took its place about A.D. 300; another took the place of that in A.D. 500; and that the foundations of the present Cathedral were laid about A.D. 1100. The ground ought to be measurably sacred by this time, one would think.”

“Crowds, composed of both sexes and nearly all ages, were frisking about the garden or sitting in the open air in front of the flag-staff and the temple, drinking wine and coffee, or smoking. The dancing had not begun, yet. Ferguson said there was to be an exhibition. The famous Blondin was going to perform on a tight-rope in another part of the garden. We went thither. [...] Blondin came out shortly. He appeared on a stretched cable, far away above the sea of tossing hats and handkerchiefs, and in the glare of the hundreds of rockets that whizzed heavenward by him he looked like a wee insect. He balanced his pole and walked the lenght of his rope – two or three hundred feet; he came back and got a man and carried him across; he returned to the centre and danced a jig; next he performed some gymnastic and balancing feats too perilous to afford a pleasant spectacle; and he finished by fastening to his person a thousand Roman candles, Catherine wheels, serpents and rockets of all manner of brilliant colors, setting them on fire all at once and walking and waltzing across his rope again in a blinding blaze of glory that lit up the garden and people’s faces like a great conflagration at midnight.”

The entertainment industry has changed somewhat in the time that has passed. It seems this was the kind of thing you’d go out and do in the evening if you were rich and had a lot of spare time 150 years ago. Point also being you had to go out not to get bored to death; no tv, no radio, no internet, no nothing (besides books). In terms of standards today, I’d probably rather break my arm than to spend an hour or more looking at some guy doing line-dancing tricks (also, a famous line-danser? Seriously?). Pretty sure I’m not alone.

“In Paris we often saw in shop windows the sign, “English Spoken Here,” just as one sees in the windows at home the sign, “Ici on parle francaise.”* We always invaded these places at once – and invariably received the information, framed in faultless french, that the clerk who did the English for the establishment had just gone to dinner and would be back in an hour – would Monsieur buy something? We wondered why those parties happened to take their dinners at such erratic and extraordinary hours, for we never called at a time when an exemplary Christian would be in the least likely to be abroad on such an errand.”

*the 2. comma in the first sentense was placed inside the quotation marks in the original and there was no cédille in the original under the c in française, for one reason or another.

(…) “Genoa. I think there is a church every three or four hundred yards all over town. The streets are sprinkled from end to end with shovel-hatted, long-robed, well-fed priests, and the church bells by dozens are pealing all the day long, nearly. Every now and then one comes across a friar of orders gray, with shaven head, long, coarse robe, rope girdle and beads, and with feet cased in sandals or entirely bare. These worthies suffer in the flesh, and do penance all their lives, I suppose, but they look like consummate famine-breeders. They are all fat and serene.”

“It is hard to forget repulsive things. I remember yet how I ran off from school once, when I was a boy, and then, pretty late at night, concluded to climb into the window of my father’s office and sleep on a lounge, because I had a delicacy about going home and getting thrashed. [...] When I reached home, they whipped me, but I enjoyed it. It seemed perfectly delightful.”

There’s also a long passage describing some fist-fights the sailors had with the locals over a period of three days, but I decided not to quote that. It’s obvious that the general attitude towards the use of violence was very different back then.

“The priests [in the Cathedral of Milan] showed us two of St. Paul’s fingers, and one of St. Peter’s; a bone of Judas Iscariot, (it was black) and also bones of all the other disciples; a handkerchief in which the Saviour had left the impression of his face. Among the most precious of the relics were a stone from the Holy Sepulchre, part of the crown of thorns, (they have a whole one at Notre Dame,) a fragment of the purple robe worn by the Saviour, a nail from the Cross, and a picture of the Virgin and Child painted by the veritable hand of St. Luke. This is the second of St. Luke’s Virgins we have seen. Once a year all these holy relics are carried in procession through the streets of Milan.”

Here you can read my first post about the book in case you missed it.

January 22, 2010 - Posted by | books

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