03 February 2009

Canto XVIII

This one starts with an account by Marco Polo of the use of paper currency in China. So I suppose we're linking Venice with the economic concerns. Polo's account of paper money seems to contain the sense that it's a bit of a con-trick; the notes
Are smeared with the great Khan's seal in vermillion;
And the forgers are punished with death.
And this costs the Kahn nothing,
And so he is rich in this world.

We move on to the story of Metevsky, apparently an arms dealer, and I detect anti-Semitism here. Metevsky, whoever he was, seems to have hidden behind Biers (whoever ...) while their company thrives. 'You' becomes 'yew'; 'to' becomes 'tew' (how could that possibly be a fair transcription of the word, in any accent?). Metevsky becomes:
The well-known philanthropist,
Or "the well-known financier, better known,"
As the press said, "as a philanthropist,"
Gave - as the Este to Louis Eleventh, -
A fine pair of giraffes to the nation,
And endowed a chair of ballistics,
And was consulted before the offensives.

So there's a conflation of financiery and warmongery, which isn't that surprising. It's another manifestation of the disgust with the political state after the war.
And so on, without much to add until
War, one war after another,
Men start 'em who couldn't put up a good hen-roost

I'm being surprised at the amount of reference to the Great War. Obviously, I shouldn't be, but Ez was (as far as I can see) not a combatant, so he's not a war poet in the conventional sense.

One day, while investigating a complaint, I was in a law library annex, where bound volumes of The Magistrate from 1914-18 were in the bookcases. Naturally, I flicked through them, and it struck me that the war had quite little effect on life away from the front - a magistrate's life went on as before, while the suffering of the troops was largely ignored or minimised. But then Ez was not a comfy magistrate. Nevertheless, I can't help keeping seeing echoes of Mein Kampf, that same sense of betrayal and of a world gone badly wrong and in need of a saviour. (Post posting edit: wish to point out I haven't read Mein Kampf, but have read about it. Thank you. Goodnight.)

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