Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tempora Mutantur

"Boom. Boom. Boom-boom-boom-boom...
"The hammer of the huge Lambegs massed behind them was soul-shattering, which had been precisely the intent of her ancestors, when they made them echo over moors and down the glens; to break the heart of an enemy..."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Seventeen, p. 451.

Musical instruments as weapons: I never thought of them like that.

Juniper says something that brings home how close alternative realities are to the here and now:

"She nodded towards the leaping figures and their painted, snarling faces. '...if the Change hadn't happened, they'd be thinking about the senior prom, or what courses to take next semester, or a new fad diet to shed a few pounds, and watching TV ads for mouthwash and personal computers...they'd be entirely different people, not even looking very similar.'" (p. 452)

But that is us, or some of us, those that survived. How close to actuality is that probability?

Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis. Times change and we change with them. That saying refers to social change over years and decades in linear time. However, time travel and divergent timelines give "Tempora mutantur" another dimension of meaning.

There is another nuance. "'Let's not discuss the Change...'" has become "...a proverb for 'utter waste of time.'" (Chapter Sixteen, p. 435)

It is the premise of the series so it must be accepted! - at least until there is maybe some explanation in a later volume. There is another novel in which the title becomes a proverb. When HG Wells' Sleeper wakes, he hears himself mentioned on television: "When the Sleeper wakes..." has come to mean "Never."


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

The idea of using music and musical instruments for cowing and intimidating one's enemies can be found not only in Stirling's Emberverse series, but also in Tolkien's THE LODRD OF THE RINGS. Book II, Chapter VI of LOTR has deep, menacing drums being used by the orcs in Moria as they pursused the Company of the Ring. The drums also heralded the arrival of a menacing enemy, the Balrog.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Bagpipes. If that eerie wailing isn't unnerving enough by itself, it also tends to mean "the wee Scots'll set aboot ye."

With regard to proverbs meaning "never," Brazilians used to say, "the snake will smoke" in that context. During World War II, Brazil's dictator had fascist sympathies, so the people said it about the question of when Brazilian troops would fight alongside the Allies. Nonetheless, they managed to push the dictator into sending Brazilians to fight the Nazis in Italy. They fought HARD; maybe they felt they had something to prove. Nowadays, at least according to Wikipedia, "the snake will smoke" has REVERSED its meaning from the original, and is a Brazilian's statement that something WILL happen, and "in a furious and aggressive manner."

Paul Shackley said...

Someone told me of a Tibetan "prophecy" along the lines of: When an iron bird flies, a carriage moves without being pulled by horses and the Buddha Dharma is preached in the land of the red-faced men, then the Tibetan people will be scattered across the face of the Earth." I wondered if that meant that the Tibetans would NEVER be scattered.

David Birr said...

Iron birds have flown, carriages have moved without horses, and I'm not familiar enough with Buddhism to know if that particular aspect has yet been preached in the Americas — whose early inhabitants WERE sometimes called "redskins" (I'm just belaboring the obvious, here) — but I'd say the Tibetans are NOT protected by that "prophecy." Any day now, in fact....

Of course, the Chinese government doesn't WANT the Tibetans scattered. It wants them to stay in Tibet and be quiet, obedient, powerless subjects of China.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, DAVID!

Perhaps I should have mentioned bagpipes, alongside the kind of drums used in LOTR and the Emberverse books. I simply hadn't thought of them.

Very nice, what you said about the Brazilians and the "snake" proverb. I suspect as well that the Brazilian thought it prudent to get IN on the winning side of WW II. By 1943 it was becoming plain Germany was most likely going to lose the war.

And, the regime in Peking has not only kept its crushing boot firmly on the necks of the Tibetans, it has also been SINICIZING Tibet. For the past 30 years and more Peking has been settling millions of Han Chinese there, to make SURE Tibet stays under Chinese domination.