Tuesday, July 24, 2018


The Dull Horror of This Sedentary World

Henry W. Nevinson (1856-1941), The Plea of Pan (London: John Murray, 1901), pp. ix-x:
It may seem as though there were hardly room in the modern world for the few simple savages that still exist. They are survivals from an age not far remote in time, but irretrievable as the dinornis. Amid the drab security of civilisation they wander like captive Indians on parole. Present creeds and ideals do not greatly concern them. They have never been wholly dipt in urbanity, but are like the Celts of early days when British Christianity was at odds with heathendom, and high-hearted mothers left the right arms of their babies unchristened, so that they might strike the stronger blow. They long for the sun, the moon, the stars, and the desert air. In the midst of daily life, in sober streets where policemen rot at ease, in committee-rooms and on boards of education, in quiet rectories and legislative assemblies, a breath of the wilderness comes suddenly, and whispers in their ears. At once the dull horror of all this sedentary world is borne in upon them. The old spirit wakes and cries for the wings of the morning that it may fly away and bid sewage and civilisation go hang.
Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 5th ed., Vol. III (Edinburgh, 1821), p. 144:
In the Border counties of Scotland, it was formerly customary, when any rancorous enmity subsisted between two clans, to leave the right hand of male children unchristened, that it might deal the more deadly, or, according to the popular phrase, "unhallowed" blows, to their enemies. By this superstitious rite, they were devoted to bear the family feud, or enmity. The same practice subsisted in Ireland, as appears from the following passage in CHAMPION's History of Ireland, published in 1633. "In some corners of the land they used a damnable superstition, leaving the right armes of their infants, males, unchristened, (as they termed it,) to the end it might give a more ungracious and deadly blow."

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