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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Tristram Shandy: The Damnation of Obadiah


File:The damnation of obadiah.jpg

The Damnation of Obadiah: engraving by Henry Bunbury in The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, published by J. Bretherton, London, 1773. Dr. Slop holding book containing the form of excommunication, and pointing at Obadiah who is disappearing, one leg and his back alone being visible. Behind Dr. Slop stands Mr. Shandy and Uncle Toby, with crutch under his left arm, pointing at map of Flanders and speaking to Corporal Trim. (British Cartoon Collection, Library of Congress)

'BY the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the holy canons, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour.' I think there is no necessity, quoth Dr. Slop, dropping the paper down to his knee, and addressing himself to my father-----as you have read it over, Sir, so lately, to read it aloud---and as Captain Shandy seems to have no great inclination to hear it,-----I may as well read it to myself. That's contrary to treaty, replied my father,---besides, there is something so whimsical, especially in the latter part of it, I should grieve to lose the pleasure of a second reading. Dr. Slop did not altogether like it,---but my uncle Toby offering at that instant to give over whistling, and read it himself to them;-----Dr. Slop thought he might as well read it under the cover of my uncle Toby's whistling—as suffer my uncle Toby to read it alone;---so raising up the paper to his face, and holding it quite parallel to it, in order to hide his chagrin---he read it aloud as follows-----my uncle Toby whistling Lillabullero, though not quite so loud as before.

'By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, and of all the celestial virtues, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubins and seraphins, and of all the holy patriarchs, prophets, and of all the apostles and evangelists, and of the holy innocents, who in the sight of the Holy Lamb, are found worthy to sing the new song of the holy martyrs and holy confessors, and of the holy virgins, and of all the saints together, with the holy and elect of God,-----May he' (Obadiah) 'be damn'd' (for tying these knots.)-----'We excommunicate, and anathematize him, and from the thresholds of the holy church of God Almighty we sequester him, that he may be tormented, disposed, and delivered over with Dathan and Abiram, and with those who say unto the Lord God, Depart from us, we desire none of thy ways. And as fire is quenched with water, so let the light of him be put out for evermore, unless it shall repent him' (Obadiah, of the knots which he has tied) 'and make satisfaction' (for them) Amen.

'May the Father who created man, curse him.---May the Son who suffered for us curse him.-----May the Holy Ghost, who was given to us in baptism, curse him' (Obadiah)---'May the holy cross which Christ, for our salvation triumphing over his enemies, ascended, curse him.

'May the holy and eternal Virgin Mary, mother of God, curse him.---May St. Michael, the advocate of holy souls, curse him.---May all the angels and archangels, principalities and powers, and all the heavenly armies, curse him.' [Our armies swore terribly in Flanders, cried my uncle Toby,---but nothing to this.---For my own part I could not have a heart to curse my dog so.]

'May St. John the Prae-cursor, and St. John the Baptist, and St. Peter and St. Paul, and St. Andrew, and all other Christ's apostles, together curse him. And may the rest of his disciples and four evangelists, who by their preaching converted the universal world, and may the holy and wonderful company of martyrs and confessors who by their holy works are found pleasing to God Almighty, curse him' (Obadiah.)

'May the holy choir of the holy virgins, who for the honour of Christ have despised the things of the world, damn him---May all the saints, who from the beginning of the world to everlasting ages are found to be beloved of God, damn him---May the heavens and earth, and all the holy things remaining therein, damn him,' (Obadiah) 'or her,' (or whoever else had a hand in tying these knots.)

'May he" (Obadiah) "be damn'd wherever he be---whether in the house or the stables, the garden or the field, or the highway, or in the path, or in the wood, or in the water, or in the church.---May he be cursed in living, in dying.' [Here my uncle Toby, taking the advantage of a minim in the second bar of his tune, kept whistling one continued note to the end of the sentence.-----Dr. Slop, with his division of curses moving under him, like a running bass all the way.] 'May he be cursed in eating and drinking, in being hungry, in being thirsty, in fasting, in sleeping, in slumbering, in walking, in standing, in sitting, in lying, in working, in resting, in pissing, in shitting, and in blood-letting!

'May he' (Obadiah) 'be cursed in all the faculties of his body!

'May he be cursed inwardly and outwardly!---May he be cursed in the hair of his head!---May he be cursed in his brains, and in his vertex,' (that is a sad curse, quoth my father) 'in his temples, in his forehead, in his ears, in his eye-brows, in his cheeks, in his jaw-bones, in his nostrils, in his fore-teeth and grinders, in his lips, in his throat, in his shoulders, in his wrists, in his arms, in his hands, in his fingers!

'May he be damn'd in his mouth, in his breast, in his heart and purtenance, down to the very stomach!

'May he be cursed in his reins, and in his groin,' (God in heaven forbid! quoth my uncle Toby) 'in his thighs, in his genitals,' (my father shook his head) 'and in his hips, and in his knees, his legs, and feet, and toe-nails!

'May he be cursed in all the joints and articulations of the members, from the top of his head to the sole of his foot! May there be no soundness in him!

'May the son of the living God, with all the glory of his Majesty'—[Here my uncle Toby, throwing back his head, gave a monstrous, long, loud Whew---w---w----- something betwixt the interjectional whistle of Hey day! and the word itself.-----

---By the golden beard of Jupiter---(and of Juno, if her majesty wore one) and by the beards of the rest of your heathen worships, which by the bye was no small number, since what with the beards of your celestial gods, and gods aerial and aquatick---to say nothing of the beards of town-gods and country-gods, or of the celestial goddesses your wives, or of the infernal goddesses your whores and concubines (that is in case they wore 'em)-----all which beards, as Varro tells me, upon his word and honour, when mustered up together, made no less than thirty thousand effective beards upon the pagan establishment;-----every beard of which claimed the rights and privileges of being stroken and sworn by---by all these beards together then-----I vow and protest, that of the two bad cassocks I am worth in the world, I would have given the better of them, as freely as ever Cid Hamet offered his-----to have stood by, and heard my uncle Toby's accompanyment.]

-----'Curse him!'-----continued Dr. Slop,-----'and may heaven, with all the powers which move therein, rise up against him, curse and damn him' (Obadiah) 'unless he repent and make satisfaction! Amen. So be it,---so be it. Amen.'

I declare, quoth my uncle Toby, my heart would not let me curse the devil himself with so much bitterness.-----He is the father of curses, replied Dr. Slop.---So am not I, replied my uncle.-----But he is cursed, and damn'd already, to all eternity,-----replied Dr. Slop.

I am sorry for it, quoth my uncle Toby.

Dr. Slop drew up his mouth, and was just beginning to return my uncle Toby the compliment of his Whu---u---u-----or interjectional whistle,-----when the door hastily opening in the next chapter but one-----put an end to the affair.

Laurence Sterne: from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: Volume III (176i), Chapter XI


Elmo St. Rose said...

I suspect Tristram Shandy
should be required reading
for all poets in the English
language...from this and other
excerps here you get a feel how
the descriptive pace could be
quickened and context sharpened.

TC in the authoritative
classic poetical mode again

TC said...

I would agree Elmo, quick and sharp.

This assumes however that poets are capable of reading -- perhaps overly optimistic?

(But wasn't it also a poet who said Beauty is difficult?)