Footmarks in coarse sand
he goes away in a fading ray
stepping over scattered set and props
and wind frays his shadow on the wall
like the theater bill of a failed play
by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2018
the world surprised me ~ with its charm that I let in ~ one enchanting day — © Lize Bard @ Haiku out of Africa
the world surprised me ~ with its charm that I let in ~ one enchanting day — © Lize Bard @ Haiku out of Africa
A beautiful world
Even for color-blind people
No colors needed
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— 1.6 —
In another room of the palace, Princess Imogen sat alone.
She said to herself, “A cruel father, and a treacherous stepmother, a foolish suitor to a wedded lady whose husband has been banished — the banishment of my husband is my supreme crown of grief! These are my vexations, and I endure them day after day. If I had been kidnapped as my two brothers were, then I would have been happy because I could have married without problems the man I chose. Most miserable are those who have an unfulfilled longing for glorious things; blessed are those, however humble and impoverished, who have gotten their humble and honest desires, thereby giving a relish to their comfort.”
She saw Pisanio and a strange man — Iachimo — coming toward her, and said to herself, “Who may this man be? Bah!”
Pisanio said to her, “Madam, this is a noble gentleman of Rome, who has come from my lord, Posthumus, with a letter.”
Iachimo, seeing Princess Imogen looking sad, said to her, “Cheer up, madam. I bring good news. The worthy Posthumus Leonatus is safe and he dearly and deeply greets your highness.”
He gave her a letter from Posthumus.
Imogen replied, “Thanks, good sir. You’re kindly welcome.”
Iachimo thought, All of her that is on the outside is very rich! She is beautiful! If she has a mind that matches her rare beauty, she is alone the Arabian bird, and I have lost the wager.
The Arabian bird is the mythological Phoenix, of which only one exists at a time. When old, the Phoenix burns itself and is reconstituted from the ashes. Iachimo, whose opinion of women was poor, believed that Imogen, if she had a mind that matched her beauty, was as rare as the Phoenix — she was the only chaste woman on the planet.
Iachimo thought, May boldness be my friend! Arm me, audacity, from head to foot! Or, like the Parthian, I shall fight while fleeing. Or else I shall give up trying to win the wager and shall directly flee.
The Parthians fought on horseback. They would charge their horses at the enemy and throw their spears, and then shoot arrows while riding back to their ranks. Iachimo was praying for the boldness to directly attempt to seduce Imogen. The alternatives were to be indirect and convince Posthumus that he — Iachimo — had seduced Imogen, although he had not, or to give up trying to win the wager.
Imogen read part of the letter out loud, the part that praised Iachimo: “He is one of the noblest reputation and distinction, to whose kindnesses I am most infinitely tied. Welcome him accordingly, as you value your trust — LEONATUS.”
She then said, “So far I read aloud, but not the rest. But even the very middle of my heart is warmed by the rest, and takes it thankfully. You are as welcome, worthy sir, as I have words to bid you, and you shall find that you are welcome in all that I can do for you.”
“Thanks, fairest lady,” Iachimo said.
He then began his attempt to seduce Imogen by pretending to have distracting thoughts. He pretended to be wondering how Posthumus could be unfaithful to a woman such as Imogen. In doing so, he spoke disjointedly and not clearly.
He said, as if to himself but making sure that Imogen could hear him, “What, are men mad? Has nature given them eyes to see this vaulted arch, and the rich harvest of sea and land, which can distinguish between the fiery orbs above and the twinned stones upon the numbered beach? And can we not make division with spectacles so precious between fair and foul?”
Iachimo was saying, in unclear language, that he could not believe that Posthumus was unable to recognize the worth of Imogen. Men are able to see the sky, the sea, and the land, and they know the difference between the Sun and the Moon and the differences among the grains of sand of the beach — grains that look alike and are so numerous that only God can count them. On the Earth we see sights and can tell them one from another and tell which sight is more spectacular and better than the others. Why then can’t men — and especially Posthumus — tell the difference between fair and foul, between Imogen and other women?
Imogen asked him, “What is causing your amazement?”
Iachimo continued, “The faulty perception cannot be in the eye, because apes and monkeys between two such females would chatter approvingly toward the better female and contemn with grimaces the other female. Nor can the faulty perception lie in the judgment because idiots in this case of favor would be wisely definite — in such a case even fools would definitely make the wise choice and realize which is the best woman. Nor can the faulty perception lie in the sexual appetite. Sluttishness opposed to such elegant excellence would make sexual desire turn into dry heaves and not be tempted to feed.”
“What is the matter, I wonder?” Imogen said.
Iachimo said, “The overfilled sexual desire, which has been satiated and is yet unsatisfied, which is a tub that has been filled and is yet leaking, which has feasted first on the lamb and is yet longing to feast on garbage ….”
The lamb is a symbol of purity. Iachimo was hinting — make that lying — that Posthumus had enjoyed sex with Imogen but yet was pursuing sex with garbage, aka whores.
Imogen asked, “What, dear sir, is making you rapt? Are you well?”
“Thank you, madam,” Iachimo replied. “I am well.”
To get Pisanio out of the way, Iachimo said to him, “I beg you, sir, to tell my servant to wait for me where I left him. My servant is a foreigner here, and he is a worrier. He may be wondering about what he should do.”
“I was going, sir,” Pisanio said, “to welcome him.”
Pisanio exited to carry out his errand.
“Is my husband well?” Imogen asked Iachimo. “Please tell me whether he is healthy.”
“He is well, madam.”
“Is he disposed to be mirthful? I hope he is.”
“He is very cheerful. None of the other foreigners there is as merry and playful. He is called the British reveler.”
“When he was here,” Imogen said, “he was inclined to be solemn and often he did not know why.”
“I have never seen him solemn,” Iachimo said. “There is a Frenchman who is his companion, a person who is an eminent monsieur who, it seems, loves very much a French girl at home. The Frenchman sends out like a furnace very many warm sighs, while the jolly Brit — your husband, I mean — laughs from his open and unimpeded lungs and cries, ‘Oh, can my sides hold, when I think that a man, who knows by history, report, or his own experience what women are, yes, what she cannot choose but must be, will during his free hours languish for assured and betrothed bondage?’”
“Does my husband say that?” Imogen asked.
“Yes, madam, with his eyes drowned in a flood of tears with laughter. It is entertaining to be nearby and hear him mock the Frenchman. But, Heavens know, some men are much to blame.”
“Not my husband, I hope.”
“Not he,” Iachimo said, “but yet Heaven’s bounty towards him might be used more thankfully. In himself, Heaven has given him many gifts; Heaven has also given him you, whom I judge to be more valuable than all his other gifts. While I am bound to wonder at these gifts, I am bound to pity, too.”
“What do you pity, sir?”
“I heartily pity two creatures,” Iachimo replied, looking at Imogen.
He was pretending that he pitied Posthumus and Imogen.
“Am I one of the creatures you pity, sir?” Imogen asked. “You are looking at me. What fault do you see in me that deserves your pity?”
“This is lamentable! Should I hide myself from the radiant Sun and find solace in the dungeon by the smoldering burnt-out wick of a candle?”
Imogene was speaking deliberately unclearly, but he was saying that he was attracted to Imogen and the difference between her and any other woman was the difference between the Sun and the burning stub of a candle that was about to go out.
“Please, sir,” Imogen said, “speak more clearly when you answer my questions. Why do you pity me?”
“That others do — I was about to say — enjoy your — but it is the duty of the gods to avenge it, not mine to speak about it.”
Iachimo was lying that the gods needed to avenge what Posthumus was doing to his marriage — Iachimo was lying that other women were enjoying Imogen’s husband.
“You seem to know something about me, or something that concerns me,” Imogen said. “Please — since thinking that things may be ill often hurts more than being sure that they are because certain knowledge means knowing that things cannot be remedied, or if the ill things are known in time, the way to remedy them is also known — tell me what you start to say and then stop saying.”
Iachimo said, “Suppose I had this cheek to bathe my lips upon. Suppose I had this hand, whose touch, whose every touch, would force the feeler’s soul to take an oath of loyalty. Suppose I had this object, which takes prisoner the wild motions of my eyes, fixing it only here.”
“This object” referred to Imogen; he was objectifying her.
Iachimo continued, “If I had all this, then would I, who would be damned if I should do these things, sloppily kiss lips as common as the stairs that everyone climbs to the Capitol in Rome; clasp hands made hard by telling lies each hour, hands made as hard by lying as by laboring; and then glance sideways into eyes as base and ill-lustrous as the smoky light that is fed with stinking tallow? If I would do these things, then it would be fitting that all the plagues of Hell should at the same time come to the one who revolts.”
Iachimo was lying that Posthumus was revolting against the vows of marriage.
Again, his language was unclear. What does it mean to say that hands are made hard by lying? A person who works hard will have hard hands. Prostitutes can work hard, but their work involves a kind of lying. Married people make a legal contract that allows them to have sex, but prostitutes have sex without having first made the legal contract; prostitutes act as if they are married, but they are not married — at least, not to their customers. Acting as if they are married although they are not married is a kind of lie. Iachimo was also saying that the prostitutes with whom Posthumus was having sex were hardworking — they slept with many, many men. If they were to work in the fields rather than in bed, they would have hard hands indeed. Metaphorically, the hands of prostitutes are hard.
“My lord, I fear, has forgotten Britain,” Imogen replied.
“And himself,” Iachimo said. “I am not inclined to tell you this information regarding your husband’s change and descent into baseness, but your virtues charm this information from my most silent inmost thought and bring it to my tongue.”
“Let me hear no more,” Imogen said. “Tell me no more.”
“Oh, dearest soul!” Iachimo said. “Your situation strikes my heart with pity so much that it makes me sick. A lady as beautiful as you, the heir to an empire, would make the greatest King double in happiness and success. And yet you share your husband with prostitutes who are paid with money that you give to him. You share your husband with diseased whores who have sex with everyone for gold, despite their many infirmities that rottenness gives to a human being! Such stuff — whores — who ‘boil’ in vats filled with hot water used to treat venereal disease is enough to be poisonous to poison! Be revenged on your husband, or she who gave birth to you was no Queen, and you fall away from and make degenerate your great stock.”
“Be revenged on my husband!” Imogen said. “How should I be revenged? If this is true — my heart will not easily allow my ears to abuse it — if what you say is true, how should I be revenged?”
Iachimo replied, “Should he make me live, like Diana’s virginal priests, between cold sheets, while he is vaulting variable ramps — jumping on various whores — in contemptuous disregard of you, paying the whores with your money?”
Although Iachimo used the word “me,” referring to himself, he meant his words to apply to Imogen — why should she live without sex while her husband is having lots of sex with other women?
Iachimo continued, “Get revenge. I dedicate myself to your sweet pleasure. I am nobler than that runaway from your bed, and I will remain steadfast to your affection. I will be secretive about what we do as well as loyal to you.”
“Pisanio!” Imogen called. “Come here!”
“Let me offer you my service by kissing your lips,” Iachimo said.
“Get away from me!” Imogen said. “I condemn my ears that have listened to thee for so long.”
This society used “you” as a respectful and more formal way of referring to someone and “thee” and “thou” as a less respectful and more informal way of referring to someone. Imogen no longer respected Iachimo. “Thee” and “thou” were used to talk to a servant or a child or a pet dog. “Thee” and “thou” could also be used when talking to a person with whom one had an intimate relationship, such as one’s husband or wife. In the King James Bible, God is “Thou” because human beings can have a personal relationship with God. Imogen, however, makes it clear that she is using “thee” and “thou” to refer to Iachimo because she does not respect him. Iachimo is a newcomer to the palace and so ought to be called by the formal “you.”
Imogen continued, “If thou were honorable, thou would have told this tale for a virtuous reason, not for such a contemptible end as the one thou seeks — as dishonorable as it is strange. Thou wrong a gentleman, who is as far from thy report as thou are from honor, and thou are soliciting here a lady who disdains thee as much as she does the devil.”
She called again, “Pisanio!”
She then said to Iachimo, “I shall tell the King my father about thy assault. If my father thinks it fitting that an impudent, insolent foreigner should do business in his court as if he were in a Roman stew — a Roman whorehouse — and to expound his beastly mind to us, he has a court he cares little for and a daughter whom he does not respect at all.”
She called again, “Pisanio!”
Iachimo had failed to seduce Imogen. Now he needed to stay out of trouble — and to not die. Kings had the power to impose capital punishment.
“Oh, happy Leonatus!” Iachimo said. “I may say the respect that your lady has for you deserves your trust, and your most perfect goodness deserves her assured faith in you.”
He said to Imogen, “May you be blessed and live long! You are the wife to the worthiest gentleman that a country has ever called its own! You, his wife, are suitable only for the very worthiest! Give me your pardon. Forgive me. I have spoken these things only to learn if your marriage vows were deeply rooted, and I have discovered that they are. Those vows shall make your husband that which he is, but renewed — your lover. He is the truest mannered man. He is such a holy warlock — he uses white magic — that he enchants societies of friends. Half of the heart of every man is given to him.”
Imogen forgave Iachimo and began to use “you” when speaking to him: “You make amends for what you said.”
“Your husband sits among men as if he were a god who had descended from Heaven. He has a kind of honor that sets him off; his appearance is that of more than a mortal man. Do not be angry, most mighty Princess, that I have ventured to test how you would take a false report about your husband. This test has honored you by confirming your great judgment in choosing to marry so rare a gentleman — you know that your judgment in this matter cannot be wrong. The love I bear your husband drove me to fan and winnow — to test — you like this, but the gods made you, unlike all others, without chaff and unsullied. Please, I beg your pardon.”
“All is well, sir,” Imogen said. “You may use my power in the court as if it were yours.”
“I give you my humble thanks,” Iachimo said. “I had almost forgotten to ask your grace to fulfill a small request, and yet it is important, too, because it concerns your husband. He, myself, and other noble friends are partners in this particular matter.”
“Please, tell me what it is.”
“Some dozen of us Romans and your husband — who is the best feather of our wing — have mingled sums of money in order to buy a present for the Emperor. I, as agent for the rest, purchased the gift in France. It is a dish made of precious metal, remarkably well designed and inlaid with jewels of rich and exquisite form. The value of the dish is great, and I am somewhat anxious, being a foreigner, to have this gift placed in a safe place for now. May it please you to keep this gift to the Emperor safe for me?”
“I will do it willingly,” Imogen said. “I will pawn my honor for the safekeeping of this gift. Because my husband has an interest in it, I will keep it in my bedchamber.”
“It is in a trunk being looked after by my servants,” Iachimo said. “I will make bold to send the trunk to you for this night only. I must go onboard ship tomorrow.”
A good hostess, Imogen said, “No, no.”
“Yes,” Iachimo said. “I must, please. I shall fall short on what I promised if I lengthen the time of my return to Rome. From France I crossed the seas because I promised to see your grace.”
“I thank you for your pains,” Imogen said, “but do not sail away tomorrow!”
“Oh, I must, madam; therefore, I shall ask you, if you want to write to your husband, please do it tonight. I have taken up too much time; I must leave quickly because time is relevant to the giving of our present to the Emperor.”
“I will write my husband,” Imogen said. “Send your trunk to me; it shall safely be kept, and truly returned to you. You’re very welcome.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
In 1948, African-American pitcher Satchel Paige joined the Cleveland Indians and became the oldest rookie in the major leagues at age 42. He had made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues, but until Jackie Robinson broke the color line, no black athletes played in the major leagues. Indians shortstop and manager Lou Boudreau strongly supported integrating the major leagues, but he wondered whether Satchel was too old to play major-league baseball. Therefore, Mr. Boudreau put Mr. Paige through a workout to test his skills. First, Mr. Boudreau caught several of Mr. Paige’s pitches; nearly all were in the strike zone. Next, Mr. Boudreau, who was almost a .400 hitter at the time, tried to hit Mr. Paige’s pitches. Mr. Paige threw 20 pitches, and Mr. Boudreau failed to make solid contact with any of them. Shortly thereafter, the Indians offered Mr. Paige a contract. By the way, Mr. Paige’s career as a major-league pitcher was long-lived. In 1965, when Mr. Paige was 59 years old, Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, brought Mr. Paige in to pitch three innings as a way to boost attendance. In three innings, Mr. Paige allowed one hit and no runs, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead; unfortunately, the Athletics lost the game, 5-2, to the Boston Red Sox.
Stu Miller was a major-league pitcher who made it by using his intelligence rather than using a blazing fastball because he didn’t have a blazing fastball. According to sportswriter Jim Murray, who enjoys exaggerating, Mr. Miller had “three speeds of pitches—slow, slower, and reverse.” He also had the ability to make a good batter swing before the ball arrived to where it could be hit. Occasionally, a mighty hitter would take a mighty swing and fall mightily to the ground, fooled by a slow-moving baseball. Mr. Miller was once asked if he ever felt like laughing when that occurred. He replied, “No, I’m too busy thinking what I’m going to throw next time.” Mr. Miller was so good that he once pitched in nine out of 10 games for the Giants, and manager Alvin Dark made him wear civilian clothing and sit in the bleachers for game 11: “Go put your clothes on, and get up in the stands. I want this team to get along without you for one night.”
When African-American Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson was playing minor-league baseball in Columbia, South Carolina, he ran into a problem with three drunken home fans who hurled insults at him during a game. After a game, Mr. Robinson grabbed a baseball bat and started for the abusive fans, but fortunately the other African-American player on the team, Marv Williams, stopped him before he did major damage and perhaps ended up lynched. Manager Ernie White, a white man, investigated quickly and found out what the home fans had been saying to Mr. Robinson. The taunts made Mr. White furious. He ran after the three home fans, got their license plate number, and wrote the car’s owner, saying that if the abusive home fans ever wished to meet Mr. Robinson and test his courage, he would set up a meeting. The three abusive home fans never set up the meeting and never returned to the ballpark.
Jackie Robinson was fiercely competitive, and he kept up to date about what people were saying about him and the Dodgers in the newspapers. For example, in his final season, he read that New York Giant chief scout Tom Sheehan had said, “The Dodgers are over the hill. Jackie’s too old, Campy’s [Roy Campanella] too old, and [Carl] Erskine, he can’t win with the garbage he’s been throwing up there.” Both Mr. Robinson and Mr. Erskine read that quote, and the truth is, Mr. Erskine was feeling old. However, that day he threw against the Giants a no-hit, no-run game, due in part to a magnificent catch that Mr. Robinson made of a baseball that Willie Mays hit to third base. After the game, Mr. Robinson went to the Giants’ dugout, waved the newspaper clipping in Mr. Sheehan’s face and said, “How do you like that garbage?”
Casey Stengel coached third base while managing the Dodgers. During a doubleheader against St. Louis, the Cardinal pitchers Dizzy and Daffy Dean were magnificent. In the first game, Dizzy allowed no Dodger past second base, And in the second game, Daffy pitched a no-run, no-hit game. Following this exhibition of impressive pitching in which no Dodger had reached third base, a fan yelled down to Casey, “Nice work. You never did a better job of coaching third base. I didn’t see you make one mistake all day.”
When Lou Boudreau was player-manager of the Cleveland Indians, his team faced St. Louis Browns pitcher Jack Kramer. During the game, the Indians were razzing Mr. Kramer, and when Mr. Boudreau batted, he got hit with a pitch square in his ribs. Mr. Boudreau took his base, and Mr. Kramer came over. Mr. Boudreau expected an apology, but instead Mr. Kramer told him, “Look, you’re the boss of the Indians. You keep those guys off my neck, or the next time I’ll knock your head off.”
Truett “Rip” Sewell once pitched against a bunch of new ballplayers the Philadelphia Phillies had brought up from their Eastern Shore League. He didn’t know who they were, but they were a group of talented ballplayers who became known as the Whiz Kids. Anything he pitched at them, they hit. At one point, a manager talked to the catcher to find out “if Rip has anything on the ball.” The catcher replied, “How the hell do I know? I haven’t caught one yet!”
When the great hitter Rogers Hornsby was working as a batting coach, a young player asked him for advice: “What would you do, Mr. Hornsby, if you got in a batting slump?” Mr. Hornsby replied, “When you have a lifetime average of .358, you don’t have any slumps.”
In 1963, Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey both hit 44 home runs, becoming co-champion home run hitters in the National League. Coincidentally that season, both Mr. Aaron and Mr. McCovey wore No. 44 on their uniforms.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved