Friday, May 01, 2009

A Break In the Action

My friend "Love2Learn Mom" asked me something about one of my favourite books, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and I paused to wonder about it, as I have so many times... am I more like King Azaz or like the Mathemagician?

And, as a true Chestertonian, I must answer a resounding YES! Followed by the usual "Thank God for George Boole" - which is the response computer scientists make when they respond YES to a "or" question. Hee hee. (See here for more about all this, with an awesome tech picture for a teeshirt.)

Anyhow, I once wrote a kind of riddle poem (yes, rather like the kind for Gollum and Bilbo) which might help you grasp a little of why I agree with Chesterton in saying "I never can really feel that there is such a thing
as a different subject." [ILN Feb 17 1906 CW27:126]

OK - now - are you ready for the riddle? Take your hands out of your pocketses and read on...

8549176320 (or, A Curious Place)

Good comes after evil, and love after hate;
Peace precedes war, choice before fate.
One follows nine, and both before seven,
Heavy and height between hell and heaven.

Earth comes before sky, and land before sea,
First one is bound but then one is free.
Small after large and slow after fast;
But future first before present and past.

Humble humility comes before pride
Truth is discovered once falsehood has lied.
Courage is found before panic or fears
Hours and days before weeks or years.

[Made February 25, 1998; it appeared in Something Good To Read Vol. CXIV No. 232, and is used here by the kind permission of the Editor-in-Chief. Also published in my poem collection "Aren't You Glad".]
Now, if you can guess, please do not post your answers as comments. But if you cannot guess, and want a hint, you may ask. (Yes, it does remind one a little of "Anagram" by Rush, but that will not help you solve the riddle.)


At 04 May, 2009 17:38, Blogger Sheila said...

He and she are in the house
But there's only me at home.

Yes, I get it. Sheila comes before Thursday in that place -- the only place where I do. ;)

At 05 May, 2009 17:17, Blogger Dr. Thursday said...

This sounds like a modery poem - when Sheila comes before Thursday... Indeed. (Presto) I see you have opened the box and found the mystery within.

Since I posted this rhyme I have pondered it a little. I may have hit on a true curiosity here, which might be fun to discuss with a philosopher - or a philologist.

Here's my question: is it possible to TRANSLATE this poem into another language? In even a very casual examination, it seems that translation must depend upon the inner purpose, and not in any strict adherence to precision - which will likely fail to translate the sense, except possibly by coincidence.

A further note: this issue (or riddle) might possibly assist with some of the more complex puzzles of the Bible...

At 14 May, 2009 18:15, Blogger Sheila said...

I am not certain that anything is translatable -- poetry even less so. That is why I chose to learn Greek. There is no translating the Agamemnon.


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