Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Babylonian Street Scene

A robed merchant riding his donkey leads a train of loaded donkeys, guarded by cudgel-wielding toughs, that fills the narrow, twisting street from side to side. The crowd pushes, chaffers and shouts. There is "...a snatch of nasal twanging song..." (On The Oceans Of Eternity, p. 118). A storyteller reciting the deeds of Gilgamesh is paid in metal, beads or dried fruit. A public writer with a stylus and damp clay shouts his skill. A deformed beggar whines for alms. Tiny shops spill into the street and stretch back into gloom. A jeweler works in gold leaf and carnelian. Figurines mark a chapel. Laborers carry heavy burdens. A top-knotted foreign slave asks directions. A drunk reels. Priests chant. Housewives carry shopping or water jugs on their heads. There are no street signs or house numbers.

"An eeriness went beneath everything..." (p. 119)

"To Everard the scene was eerily half-familiar."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 24.

Everard heard cries for alms in ancient Persia. Flandry recounted the deeds of van Rijn when he went undercover as a storyteller.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Very Andersonian, this list of the sights and deeds of everyday life in Babylon! And it wouldn't be long before King Kashtiliash would introduce COINS of standardized types and quality, to reduce the need for barter or laboriously weighing out metals of various kinds for buying or selling goods and services.

More exactly, Dominic Flandry told stories NEW to Unan Besar in THE PLAGUE OF MASTERS, tales about Pierre the Fortunate. Polesotechnarch van Rijn was mentioned as a favorite topic of public story tellers on that planet.