All Hallows eve

So it’s pretty much the eve of Samhain; in the Christian calendar, All Saints Day, when we luxuriate in our great cloud of witnesses.

On this day I’ll always remember my great teacher Eric Hamp, who was supposed to be teaching us the grammar of Old Irish but in his endearing way would often go off on a tangent. The evening I’m thinking of was, let me think, about fifty years ago now; a drab classroom in dreary darkling Chicago, in the evening, as the snow had begun to fall.

We got off the track of infixed pronouns and onto the occasion, and Eric, in his casual way — this stuff was all very present to his imagination — talked to us a bit about the Celts, a people who had come to inhabit a formerly long-inhabited landscape, with rugged old tombs still standing, the relicts of a people of whom they, and we, know basically nothing. At these corners of the year the spirits of the dead were not to be neglected. It’s grown dark outside the classroom windows, and the snow is falling. I trudged slowly home afterwards a very much changed young man.

2 thoughts on “All Hallows eve

  1. as The Onion said, the problem with the US is that it’s all built on ancient Indian burial grounds. and rotting buffalo carcasses.

    now with more Iraq, Syria, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Korea, etc., etc., etc. oh and of course, Palestine.

    our cows fill the world. those military bases bring lots of KFC’s and Taco Bells in their devastating wake. not just drugs and sex trafficking.

  2. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. “All is vanity.” ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;—not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.
    you left out Moby Dick in your subsequent post.

    Oh! the metempsychosis! Oh! Pythagoras, that in bright Greece, two thousand years ago, did die, so good, so wise, so mild; I sailed with thee along the Peruvian coast last voyage—and, foolish as I am, taught thee, a green simple boy, how to splice a rope!

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