Three Quotations

(Jan 6th to 13th)


1. ...(he) said to me: "Serve Caesar. You are not canvas I can cut to advantage at present. But if you serve Caesar you will be obeying at least some sort of law." He talked as though I were a barbarian. Weak as I was, I could have snapped his back with my bare hands. I told him so. "I don’t doubt it," he said. "But that is neither here nor there...what concerns you now is that, by taking service, you will be rid from the fear that has ridden you all your life"... This is from "The Manner of Men" in Limits and Renewals.

Sulinor, a Roman sea captain, is recounting how he had carried the Apostle Paul as a prisoner to Rome, on a voyage in which his ship was wrecked, and Paul had shown great steadfastness and leadership. Here he is remembering how Paul had urged him to keep faith with Caesar.


2. . ‘...We saw the twinkle of night-fires all along the guard towers, and the line of the black catapults growing smaller and smaller in the distance. All these things we knew till we were weary; but that night they seemed very strange to us, because the next day we knew we were to be their masters.’... This is from "The Winged Hats" in Puck of Pook’s Hill.

Parnesius and his friend Pertinax have been made Captains of the Wall (Hadrian’s Wall) against the onslaughts of wild northern invaders, by Maximus who aims to make himself Emperor of Rome. They know that they do not have enough men to be sure of victory, and that Maximus may well fail. But in the meantime they are steadfast against the ‘winged hats’.


3. ‘...this time he conformed to the man, with inimitable judgement and temper. He allowed himself to be played into the shadow or the sun, as the delighted audience demanded. He raged enormously, he feigned defeat; he despaired in statuesque abandon, and thence flashed into fresh paroxysms of wrath, but always with the detachment of the true artist who knows he is but the vessel of an emotion whence others, not he, must drink..." This is from "The Bull that Thought", in Debits and Credits.

Apis is an exceptional bull, a bull that thinks, and when he comes to the bullring he outwits his tormentors, killing three men. The spectators are shocked into silence. But he knows that he is doomed unless there can be a change in their mood, and he achieves this in a pas de deux with the final bullfighter, an experienced old hand , which delights them. They permit him to leave the ring free and in triumph.