Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TMWWT-Chapter Fourteen

The Six Philosophers

This is a great turnaround chapter, going from a wild goose chase, with torn clothes and confusion, to a ballroom dance and confusion.

I love how Syme is always "carrying his yellow beard forward."

And also, what I pointed out in last chapter, about Sunday being so heavy and being carried away in a balloon, is quite exactly the point of the beginning of Chapter 14.

There is a paradox when the Professor says he would hurt Sunday if he could catch him, and then he calls him a diminutive, "Little Snowdrop"--what's that all about?

Sunday was fat and light, a Chestertonian paradox. Great line: "Supreme strength is shown in levity."

Sunday is seen as being absentminded. Not unlike the author. Probably neither of whom really was.

Each detective finds Sunday different, but they each compare him to the universe itself.

And then Chesterton does that "back of the world" thing, like the back of the tapestry idea.

Chesterton's humor: "...he was only like a father playing hide-and-seek with his children....It is a long game..." I laughed at that!

The whole "Who is your master?" scene with Syme reminded me for some reason of the part in the Bible where Jesus sends his disciples to prepare a room for him, and he tells them exactly who they'll see and what that person will ask, and how they will answer.

And also, the "hedges were ordinary hedges, the trees seemed ordinary trees; yet he felt like a man entrapped in fairy-land" is a line that reminded me of Chesterton's description of his first visit to the Blogg home, where he says something like (this is from memory) the mailbox looked ordinary, the door looked ordinary, there was nothing to indicate that the window might wink or something to that effect.

Many of Chesterton's descriptions in this chapter reminded me of how I saw things as a child. Especially that "face lining up" thing. You see things differently as a child--unless you make an effort to remain child-like.

Mistake? When Syme's dress is first described, it is green, but a few paragraphs later, it is blue and gold. What?

A sword? With the Sun and the moon? How does that fit together?

The disguises don't disguise but reveal. Ah, what do they reveal?


  1. The description of Thursday's dress: "The servant lifted off a kind of ottoman a long peacock-blue drapery, rather of the nature of a domino on the front of which was emblazoned a large golden sun, and which was splashed here and there with flaming stars and crescents."

    Though I have smeared a canvas or two, I cannot really speak as an artist - but I think of "peacock-blue" as being one of those border-colors in the transition between green and blue - I have heard it said that males are not as good as females in distinguishing colors here, but I do not think that is the point GKC is making. And I don't really have room here to give x-refs to his use of "peacock" (e.g. Pavonia in FFF, or peacock feathers in P&L) and its significance, but again that is also not the point.

    Rather, I think that is a back-link to the first chapter, where we find this:

    "All the heaven seemed covered with a quite vivid and palpable plumage; you could only say that the sky was full of feathers, and of feathers that almost brushed the face. Across the great part of the dome they were grey, and with the strangest tints of violet and mauve and an unnatural pink or pale green; but towards the west the whole grew past description, transparent and passionate, and the last red-hot plumes of it covered up the sun like something too good to be seen."

    Remember in this Heptemeric allegory, "Thursday" is (as Fr. Jaki might say) the day of the adorning of the sky with the sun, moon, and stars...

    The sword? Given the strikingly Pauline, paradoxical, and militant character of the Council, I should think that is obvious. And it makes me think of Gandalf's words on the bridge of Khazad-dum: "I am a guardian of the Secret Fire."

    Also: I like your allusion to the Blogg-home...

    Sort of like this one.

  2. I think all of the members of the Council of Days received swords. I don't see why it should be considered so strange, both in light of what the above poster said, and in light of the fact that Chesterton just loved swords. There is nothing incongruous about the members of the Council of days, who are revealed later to be much more than we know them as now, to receive swords.

  3. Peacocks are both blue and green, but I imagined Thursday's dress as the very bright, electric or royal blue, like the sky of paradise.
    "You're to be dressed as Thursday, sir," said the valet somewhat
    My favorite part:

    "Dressed as Thursday!" said Syme in meditation. "It doesn't sound
    a warm costume."

    "Oh, yes, sir," said the other eagerly, "the Thursday costume is
    quite warm, sir. It fastens up to the chin."
    And I think this is the best possible explanation of the sword:

    "...and when he found that he had to wear a
    sword, it stirred a boyish dream. As he passed out of the room he
    flung the folds across his shoulder with a gesture, his sword
    stood out at an angle, and he had all the swagger of a troubadour.
    For these disguises did not disguise, but reveal."

    Do you think the secretary, the philosopher, had a sword as well? I'm not sure.

    PS. Gandalf was the servant of the secret fire (not guardian).

  4. It says somewhere that they all had swords. So that must have been part of the costume.

  5. "The week is a colossal epic of creation," cried Starwood excitedly. "Why are there not rituals for every day? The Day of creation of Light, why is it not honoured with mystic illuminations? The Day of the Waters, why is it not the day of awful cleanings and immersions? The Day of the Earth—what a fire of flowers and fruit; the Day of Birds, what a blaze if decorative plumage; the day of beasts, what a —"
    "What a deed lot of nonsense," said Middleton.

    "A Picture of Tuesday" (The Quarto, 1896), CW XIV, 63.


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