Friday, April 12, 2013

No Special Artifice, No Special Credit

"How nice, 'to meet a mermaid washing her silken sark by the stream' in the words of the learned L. C. Wimberly, author of Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads. He says this was 'evidently common experience; no special artifice was needed to get such a story believed.' In which case no special credit would have been obtained by telling it. In which case no special reason was needed to make it up. How’s that for remorseless logic? And has anyone ever spoken of remorseful logic? Don’t answer that. Washing her silken sark by the stream: ever such a lovely alliteration; remember the bear sarks? Who went berserk? Serk or sark, then, means skin… or garment… and, by extension, skirt: to which it is obviously related; and shirt, just a bit less obviously. A cutty sark, in small letters, is a short garment, and, by extension, either a loose woman or a cut-down sail. The Cutty Sark was a famous sailing vessel, and a brand of whisky is named after it. I was once, like the wedding guest in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, seized hold of, in England, by a very old man who proceeded to tell me that one of his cousins had been the last second mate on the ship Cutty Sark and that another of his cousins had shot the last man killed in a duel in England. It would have been even more interesting and to the point had he himself been an ancient mariner, but he was actually an ancient dentist. From time to time, though, I have had a mental image of a sailor, clad in a cutty sark, having had a drink of Cutty Sark, sent aft (or would it be forward?) to trim the cutty sark of the Cutty Sark. Whilst so engaged he espies a woman a-washing her cutty sark; 'A mermaid!' he cries. Says the second mate: 'No, she is only a cutty sark.' Ah well."

-- Avram Davidson, Adventures in Unhistory.

A truly wonderful ebook, by a truly wonderful writer.

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