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Lost Antiquities, Boo Hoo

Einhard on Charlemagne: “Item barbara et antiquissima carmina, quibus veterum regum actus et bella canebantur, scripsit memoriaeque mandavit.” [And he had the rough old songs, the Frankish epics of bygone kings and wars, written down so they would definitely never be forgotten, no matter what. -d]

Those Frankish songs are all lost. The antiquarian bemoans this — the lost masterpieces — the callous disregard for heritage — the guns cleaned, herrings wrapped, bindings shored up with unique pages from priceless manuscripts. Take this chap for an especially overwrought, hand-wringing example…

I feel with the antiquarian — there is a deep, abiding pain in the loss of the past. But on the other hand, whaddya gonna do. We’re bound to lose something or other. And the gaps, wherever they are, give play to the imagination. For instance, Tolkien wouldn’t have given us the riders of Rohan if he hadn’t shaped his mind with Germanic poetry and conceived a longing for the Goths (singuli aut simul? ha ha). Apart from some translation of the Bible or whatever — far from the manly Northern vigor that kept Germanicists of a century ago awake at night — we don’t have any Gothic writings. This gave Tolkien a place to build up his ideal — to create stoic, moral, surprisingly hygienic people with nary a hint of human sacrifice. No slaves. No unseemly heathen worship practices. No nuthin nasty, nor naughty. Heck, they might as well be Christians!

I get impatient with trying to write anything I think. As a rule, my mind moves quickly to conclusions and images, skimming over all the middle stuff. And when I do try to develop the middle matter, I get distracted by making jokes about beloved fantasy writers and their beloved horsemen.

Anywho, on my walk from class to work this morning I entered a state of extreme equanimity about my beloved antiquities, wherein burning down the library of Alexandria seemed about as good as preserving it. I can still see that endpoint of the thought process, but not in the flaming blaze of death-defying pyromaniac glory in which it first appeared. It seems kind of scholastic and pointless. I guess I probably wouldn’t burn that ol’ library down after all.

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