02 February 2009

Canto XII

This one feels so different, once we get past the first few lines and start on the story of Baldy Bacon. A fairly understandable story, of Baldy running a financial business in Cuba, and we're moving on the topic of usury, oh dear. Anyway, Baldy becomes "unpopular" in Cuba and returns to Manhattan where he carried on various other businesses - mainly, it's suggested, protection rackets.

Then we move on to the story of Jose Maria dos Santos. This is another business story, set in Portugal. Santos makes his fortune by buying up a wrecked grainship, which no-one else wants because they assume the grain will be worthless. He used the salvaged grain as pig food and became a rich landowner on the proceeds.

And finally, we get the "Tale of the Honest Sailor", told by Jim X, bored at a meeting of bankers. A drunken sailor is in hospital, having an operation. At the same time in the hospital, a "poor whore" is giving birth. The doctors tell the sailor that he has given birth to the child. The sailor leaves the hospital and mends his ways, and becomes a rich merchant, owning a "whole line of steamers". On his death bed he passes on his business to his son and says:
"You called me your father and I ain't.
"I ain't your dad, no,
"I am not your fader but your moder," quod he,
"Your fader was a rich merchant in Stambouli."

So we have moved into the world of business. Contrasting stories of different ways of making it in the world, either by financial dealing, risky investment, or hard work. And it's all so easy to follow!

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