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Sunday, January 15, 2012


Jupiter and Mercury in the house of Philemon and Baucis
We've spent the last two cities talking about spiderwebs and how the metaphor may or may not apply to the Khan's far-reaching, and perhaps tenuously maintained, empire.  It took me a few minutes (and certainly well after the first read nearly ten months ago now) to see what's going on in Baucis.  More than just the subject of the imagery is the scale of it all.  Before we get to punch line, then, let's look at the city's description in reverse:

The 3 hypotheses:
  • "that they hate the earth";
  • "that they respect it so much they avoid all contact"; and
  • "that they love it as it was before they existed and with spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward they never tire of examining it...."
The description:
  • A number of great stilts like flamingos' legs supporting the city, which, on a sunny day, casts and angular shadow;
  • and perhaps this one is stretching it, but check out how long it takes to get to the city: not seven days does it take, but only after seven days do you arrive there, and what, of course, comes after seven?  And then immediately the mention and description of the long slender stilts reaching up into the heavens?
A spider, right?  And not just any spider, but a spider so lofty as to dwell in the heavens, where only the gods and, perhaps, at least one of the greatest of emperors reside, right?

Interesting that the citizens of the city never descend, as they have everything they need with them, yet they leave ladders out for those who may desire an ascent a means of access.  

As far as the name is concerned, Baucis, I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

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