Saturday, March 19, 2005
The Bible in Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad
The voice of the turtle is heard in our land.Innocents Abroad, chapter 47:
He was just in the act of throwing a clod at a mud-turtle which was sunning itself on a small log in the brook. We said:The Biblical turtle was of course the turtle-dove.
"Don't do that, Jack. What do you want to harm him for? What has he done?"
"Well, then, I won't kill him, but I ought to, because he is a fraud."
We asked him why, but he said it was no matter. We asked him why, once or twice, as we walked back to the camp but he still said it was no matter. But late at night, when he was sitting in a thoughtful mood on the bed, we asked him again and he said:
"Well, it don't matter; I don't mind it now, but I did not like it today, you know, because I don't tell any thing that isn't so, and I don't think the Colonel ought to, either. But he did; he told us at prayers in the Pilgrims' tent, last night, and he seemed as if he was reading it out of the Bible, too, about this country flowing with milk and honey, and about the voice of the turtle being heard in the land. I thought that was drawing it a little strong, about the turtles, any how, but I asked Mr. Church if it was so, and he said it was, and what Mr. Church tells me, I believe. But I sat there and watched that turtle nearly an hour today, and I almost burned up in the sun; but I never heard him sing. I believe I sweated a double handful of sweat -- I know I did -- because it got in my eyes, and it was running down over my nose all the time; and you know my pants are tighter than any body else's -- Paris foolishness -- and the buckskin seat of them got wet with sweat, and then got dry again and began to draw up and pinch and tear loose -- it was awful -- but I never heard him sing. Finally I said, This is a fraud -- that is what it is, it is a fraud -- and if I had had any sense I might have known a cursed mud-turtle couldn't sing. And then I said, I don't wish to be hard on this fellow, and I will just give him ten minutes to commence; ten minutes -- and then if he don't, down goes his building. But he didn't commence, you know. I had staid there all that time, thinking may be he might, pretty soon, because he kept on raising his head up and letting it down, and drawing the skin over his eyes for a minute and then opening them out again, as if he was trying to study up something to sing, but just as the ten minutes were up and I was all beat out and blistered, he laid his blamed head down on a knot and went fast asleep."
"It was a little hard, after you had waited so long."
"I should think so. I said, Well, if you won't sing, you shan't sleep, any way; and if you fellows had let me alone I would have made him shin out of Galilee quicker than any turtle ever did yet. But it isn't any matter now -- let it go. The skin is all off the back of my neck."
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.Innocents Abroad, chapter 50:
At Nazareth we camped in an olive grove near the Virgin Mary's fountain, and that wonderful Arab "guard" came to collect some bucksheesh for his "services" in following us from Tiberias and warding off invisible dangers with the terrors of his armament. The dragoman had paid his master, but that counted as nothing -- if you hire a man to sneeze for you, here, and another man chooses to help him, you have got to pay both. They do nothing whatever without pay. How it must have surprised these people to hear the way of salvation offered to them "without money and without price." If the manners, the people or the customs of this country have changed since the Saviour's time, the figures and metaphors of the Bible are not the evidences to prove it by.Bucksheesh = baksheesh.
Thou gavest me no kiss.Innocents Abroad, chapter 51:
Presently a wild Arab in charge of a camel train recognized an old friend in Ferguson, and they ran and fell upon each other's necks and kissed each other's grimy, bearded faces upon both cheeks. It explained instantly a something which had always seemed to me only a farfetched Oriental figure of speech. I refer to the circumstance of Christ's rebuking a Pharisee, or some such character, and reminding him that from him he had received no "kiss of welcome." It did not seem reasonable to me that men should kiss each other, but I am aware, now, that they did. There was reason in it, too. The custom was natural and proper; because people must kiss, and a man would not be likely to kiss one of the women of this country of his own free will and accord. One must travel, to learn. Every day, now, old Scriptural phrases that never possessed any significance for me before, take to themselves a meaning.On the name Ferguson, see Innocents Abroad, chapter 35: "All guides are Fergusons to us. We can not master their dreadful foreign names."