Parkins, His Pin

Posted by on November 14th, 2010 at 9:12 AM

In principle I dislike fussing about quaint prose from long ago, but I can make exceptions. From The Secrets of Numbers by William Ingpen (published 1624) we find a list of astrology’s uses prefaced thus: “The true use of Astrology consisteth in these ten following.” And down the list we find:

Sixthly, wars, famines, unusual drought, inundations, death of cattle, changes of kingdoms, destruction of princes, and so forth. … Eighthly, it giveth much light to those who profess physic, take upon them to be pilots, discoverers of countries and kingdoms, or will gain them any knowledge in the art apodemical.

Ha, not bad. Of course, the last word had better mean astrological or we have a mystery on our hands. Googling it establishes only that Mark Twain used the word once.

I found the quote in Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas. The book is straightforward social history and lays out the nutty things that people (specifically, English people) believed and wrote 400 or 500 years ago. Nothing about a monotheist plot to deny us our natural psychic powers, just a consideration of how human nature manifested itself in the learned and popular beliefs on hand before the scientific revolution hit its stride.

I like Thomas’s prose, which is smooth and donnish, and I like the old-time book titles, popular sayings, prose extracts, etc., that he has loaded into Decline. Here’s a book from 1697: A Compleat History of the most remarkable Providences, both of Judgment and Mercy, which have hapned in this present age. The “hapned” and other oddities are all from the original.

Here’s a fun fact. During the Civil War people kept seeking the King’s Touch (supposed to heal them) even though the king had been deposed. So, Thomas writes, “the soldiers who guarded Charles I irreverently gave him the pet name of ‘Stroker.'”

And a piquant jingle. “If one affirm he learned it of a Jew / The silly people think it must be true.”

And some more irreverence. Thomas: “In 1623 a Bromsgrove butcher got into trouble after he had ‘reverently’ offered a crooked pin to an acquaintance, declaring, ‘Take this in remembrance that Parkins of Wedgebury died for thee and be thankful.'” That’s from the chapter “Religion and the People,” a discussion of ecclesiastical court records and other sources that indicate that the people back then had less religious belief and more indifference or even hostility than we assume was the case.

A good prose bit from the same chapter:

Being demanded what he thought of God, he answers that he was a good old man; and what of Christ, that he was a towardly young youth; and of his soul, that it was a great bone in his body; and what should become of his soul after he was dead, that if he had done well he should be put into a pleasant green meadow.

Spam. I love garbled foreign English, so here’s a sample courtesy of my Hotmail inbox.

Hey, Friend Blessing
how are you doing recently? Our company is Large-sized China foreign trade companies. We sale cellphone, computer, TV, GPS?MP3 and Motorcycle and so on. We have our warehouse and shopping centers. we have very good price and credit. We will ensure our product 100% eligible. Hoping we can have long-time cooperation.

Oddity. The below isn’t so much a piece of garble as a specimen of the strange things you can stumble across if you do an Internet search:

The Mitchell BNC Camera we had at the Institute was one of the very few ones that was in India at that time. I hardly saw any one using it in Chennai at least. May be in Mumbai there was one or two.

I had no idea that one day I would read anyone on the subject of the availability of BNC motion picture cameras in India.

Miniaturized Amarcord soundtrack cover. Most people don’t know that the recording industry issued a number of miniaturized LPs during the 1970s. It was an attempt to position themselves for the arrival of CD players. I don’t know who painted the cover we see now; possibly he or she had small hands.

Sarah Palin. The only thing I dislike about this story is the possibility that Sarah Palin does (or did) her own shopping. It makes me think better of her.

Once, while shopping at Target, a man saw Palin and hollered, “Oh my God! It’s Tina Fey! I love Tina Fey!” When other shoppers started laughing, the governor parked her cart, walked out of the store, and drove away.

The passage is from the article about post-Gov. Palin that Vanity Fair ran a couple of months back. Note that sourcing for the incident is gauzy at best. (Click the link and search “shoppers” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Made-up tv line. This is another one done with a bad ’50s TV drama in mind. And here it goes: “Friend, I show ‘compassion’ every time I talk to you. Oh Lord, let it be known—no matter how crumpled, a man may still be puffed up.”

Daily proverb. You can always go fuck yourself.

Stan says. Come along as the Son of Satan takes a journey into himself in Marvel Spotlight #22!

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