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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Saturday November 15, 2003

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Aes Triplex

The title, from a Robert Louis Stevenson essay, means “triple brass” (or triple bronze):

From the admirable site of J. Nathan Matias:

Aes Triplex means Triple Bronze, from a line in Horace’s Odes that reads ‘Oak and triple bronze encompassed the breast of him who first entrusted his frail craft to the wild sea.’ ”

From Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle:

Juliana said, “Oracle, why did you write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy? What are we supposed to learn?”

“You have a disconcertingly superstitious way of phrasing your question,” Hawthorne said. But he had squatted down to witness the coin throwing. “Go ahead,” he said; he handed her three Chinese brass coins with holes in the center. “I generally use these.”

This passage, included in my earlier entry of Friday, combined with the opening of yet another major motion picture starring Russell Crowe, suggests three readings for that young man, who is perhaps the true successor to Marlon Brando.

Oracle, for Crowe as John Nash (A Beautiful Mind):

Understanding the I Ching

Mutiny, for Crowe as Jack Aubrey (Master and Commander):

Bartleby, the Scrivener

Storm, for Crowe as Maximus (Gladiator):

Pharsalia, Book V:
The Oracle, the Mutiny, the Storm

As background listening, one possibility is Sinatra’s classic “Three Coins”:

“Three hearts in the fountain,
Each heart longing for its home.
There they lie in the fountain
Somewhere in the heart of Rome.*” 

Personally, though, I prefer, as a tribute to author Joan Didion (who also wrote of coins and the Book of Transformations), the even more classic Sinatra ballad

Angel Eyes.”

 * Horace leads to “Acroceraunian shoals,” which leads to Palaeste, which leads to Pharsalia and to the heart of Rome.  (With a nod to my high school Latin teacher, the late great John Stachowiak.)

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