Log24

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday December 22, 2008

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , — m759 @ 9:00 PM

The Folding

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

Ghost:

“I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!”

This recalls the title of a piece in this week’s New Yorker:”The Book of Lists:
Susan Sontag’s early journals
.” (See Log24 on Thursday, Dec. 18.)

In the rather grim holiday spirit of that piece, here are some journal notes for Sontag, whom we may imagine as the ghost of Hanukkah past.

There are at least two ways of folding a list (or tale) to fit a rectangular frame.The normal way, used in typesetting English prose and poetry, starts at the top, runs from left to right, jumps down a line, then again runs left to right, and so on until the passage is done or the bottom right corner of the frame is reached.

The boustrophedonic way again goes from top to bottom, with the first line running from left to right, the next from right to left, the next from left to right, and so on, with the lines’ directions alternating.

The word “boustrophedon” is from the Greek words describing the turning, at the end of each row, of an ox plowing (or “harrowing”) a field.

The Tale of
the Eternal Blazon

by Washington Irving

Blazon meant originally a shield, and then the heraldic bearings on a shield.
Later it was applied to the art of describing or depicting heraldic bearings
in the proper manner; and finally the term came to signify ostentatious display
and also description or record by words or other means. In Hamlet, Act I. Sc. 5,
the Ghost, while talking with Prince Hamlet, says:

‘But this eternal blazon
must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.’

Eternal blazon signifies revelation or description of things pertaining to eternity.”

Irving’s Sketch Book, p. 461

By Washington Irving and Mary Elizabeth Litchfield, Ginn & Company, 1901

Related material:

Folding (and harrowing up)
some eternal blazons —

The 16 Puzzle: transformations of a 4x4 square
These are the foldings
described above.

They are two of the 322,560
natural ways to fit
the list (or tale)
“1, 2, 3, … 15, 16”
into a 4×4 frame.

For further details, see
The Diamond 16 Puzzle.

Moral of the tale:

Cynthia Zarin in The New Yorker, issue dated April 12, 2004–

“Time, for L’Engle, is accordion-pleated. She elaborated, ‘When you bring a sheet off the line, you can’t handle it until it’s folded, and in a sense, I think, the universe can’t exist until it’s folded– or it’s a story without a book.'”

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