(Salt 4; third Eusa story; Eustace; Goodparley's story; Punch show; Goodparley's program; Belnot's fate; toward Cambry)
Riddley finds Belnot, but Goodparley has found them both. The bag of "yellerboy stoan" turns out to be central to Goodparley's plans, and prompts him to reveal privileged information to Riddley, including the origin of the Eusa Story as well as his own painful history. He also reveals what the hunchbacked puppet, Mr. Punch, is for.
The Ram has preserved a single piece of ancient writingmodern commentary on the story of Saint Eustaceand over the course of six pages, Goodparley misreads nearly every word of it. At first these are hilariously irrelevant misreadings, which provide what may be the funniest passage in the book. Toward the end, they become deadly serious: Goodparley has managed somehow to extract a scrap of scientific knowledge from the religious text, and proves to be willing to go to any lengths to get the rest.
"the yellerboy stoan the Salt 4"
This is of course sulfur, which is not found in England; the nearest source for it would be southern Europe. [EB]
Sulfur was viewed as male (hence a yellow boy) in the alchemical system. [RG]
Inthe discovery of sulfur enables humankind once again to begin the long trek toward weapons of mass destruction. Back in the 20th century, however, Russell Hoban might also have had in mind the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I and II) between the US and the Soviet Union. SALT I lasted from November 1969 to May 1972, and led to the ABM treaty signed by President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev. SALT II negotiations began in November 1972; two years later, President Ford and Brezhnev agreed to the basic provisions of a new treaty, and SALT II was signed by President Carter and Brezhnev in 1979. Hoban began in March 1974 and finished it in November 1979. There was much talk of "Salt 2" in the air during those years; perhaps he thought that the SALT talks would continueSALT III, SALT IVbut fail to prevent the Berstyn Fyr. The SALT II treaty was not ratified because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and in 1986 President Reagan said the US would make decisions about strategic weapons in light of the threat posed by Soviet forces rather than by the terms of the SALT treaty. It seems that all SALT IV means, in Riddley's time and ours, is sulfur. [MWS]
"Spare the mending and tryl narrer"
Experimenting, trial and error.
"the Ram which is the head of Inland"
Apparently the government has indulged in some wishful reconstruction of history, believing that Ramsgate has always been the "head of state."
"the head wer swimming then agenst the tide"
Eusa's oracular head here follows the same course as Orpheus.
"The Legend of St Eustace"
This text is taken verbatim from the handwritten commentary that is displayed next to E.W. Tristram's reconstruction of the painting, at Canterbury Cathedral. See pictures and links.
"some kynd of paint callit fidelity"
Goodparley's inability to understand the word fidelity is ironic: besides the altered sexual mores of the time, there is a general lack of personal loyalty demonstrated throughout the book, especially by Goodparley and other political actors. The word's other senseaccuracyis also reflected ironically in this scene, as we see historical knowledge being passed along with extremely low fidelity.
"by the time they done 1997 years they had boats in the air and all them things and here we are weve done 2347 years and mor and stil slogging in the mud?"
Of course Riddley's logic is off, since he doesn't know what A.D. means and thinks human history started from zero. If about 2500 years have passed since humanity was bombed back to something resembling the late Stone Age, then their technological progress is actually about on track with ours, since roughly the same amount of time passed between the original Stone Age and Iron Age in Europe. But even at the dawn of history, people were already developing myths of having come "way way down from what they ben time back way back."
"The wife is the sof and the sweet you see which is took off by the sharp and the salty"
Goodparley is now talking alchemical allegory. Medieval European alchemists were looking for the Philosopher's Stone rather than the 1 Big 1, but their methods and language are the same: poetic stories about a character's spiritual quest are believed to illustrate physical processes, and vice versa. (The allegories were also meant to hide the alchemist's secrets from a casual reader. See links for some examples of alchemical writing.) And, as occasionally happened with medieval alchemy, Goodparley's questionable reasoning has arrived at results that are not entirely untrue. The puns in this section are fast and furious: assits = acids, catwl twis = catalyst, res and due = residue, new clear = nuclear, break and thru the barren year = break through the barrier. [EB]
According to alchemists, all metals were made from three elements: sulphur, salt, and quicksilver. The 1 Littl 1 also has three components. [RG]
Hoban comments via E-mail: "In Pilgermann, Bembel Rudzuk mentions the alchemy of Abraham's going into the furnace and coming out again and on the opposite page he points out the "wind alchemy" of the sails of the dhow. I think elsewhere I've cited the hot and the dry and the cold and the wet but I don't remember where. I read Fulcanelli on alchemy and it comes up here and there in my writing." [MB]
"Hes so old he cant dy is what Granser tol me"
This is also what Russell Hoban was told by a famous Punch showman, who one hopes did not otherwise resemble Granser.
"A border fents it were Bad Mercy Fents you wont fynd it now its long gone .... Weaping Form is what it is now"
Though Bad Mercy has been replaced by Weaping (weeping), we will later encounter Good Mercy. Note that the fate of Bad Mercyplundered and destroyed, then replaced by agricultureis the same as what happened to Littl Salting, an event that Goodparley's regime did its best to cover up.
"Now you ask Mr Punch if hes ready"
This is a fairly traditional Punch and Judy introduction, and the show that follows sticks closely to the usual story (Punch kills everyone) and style, though the details are much bawdier. (Traditionally, Judy is a rather sexless matriarch.) The cannibalism is a sign of Riddley's times.
Mr. Punch traditionally craves sausages (as do all of his rivals) and steals them whenever he gets a chance. The strange sausage or "banger" described here (banger being an English sausage) is of course a bomb.
A running joke in some versions of the show is that Punch is unable to pronounce the word "sausages" and instead calls them swossages, squashages, etc. Sometimes he is half-aware of this disability and illogically tells the audience, "I can't say sausages, so I say swossages."
"Jack Ketch is who I am which Im the Loakel Tharty"
Local authority. Jack Ketch was a real hangman in 17th-century Tyburn, subject of the ballad "Hanging Johnny." The name has come to be used for hangmen in general.
"Drop John the Foller Man which they call me Mr On The Levvil as wel"
Hoban says Drop John was named after "Knock John," the location of a World War Two offshore fort north of Herne Bay. [EE] "Mr On The Levvil" for "Devil" sounds like Cockney rhyming slang, but seems to be Hoban's invention.
"Punch has done for Mr On The Levvil now every 1 can do as they like"
Also a traditional line for Mr. Punch.
"he done deacon terminations .... national healfing"
Decontamination; National Health (the U.K. state medical plan).
"Good Mercy Form"
"Iwd have to wait a nother year before I begun to man for my self becaws I ben boying on my 12th naming day"
In context it seems that Abel and Riddley use the word "boy" to imply sexual servicemen do, boys are done to. When Riddley refers to children outside of the context of sex and power, he usually calls them "kids" instead.