Wednesday, March 2, 2011
A bodkin, by the way, is "a small tool for piercing holes in leather," which you might have learned playing Balderdash. Or reading. But I always have to look it up. Back to The Anatomy of Melancholy:
So I didn't. I looked higher on the page, and found the phrase, "Odds bodkins!" uttered in connection with "many base, impudent, brazen-faced rogues, that will be moved with nothing, take no infamy or disgrace to heart, laugh at all...." Yes, the kind of person who would say, "God's body!" as an oath, instead of "Odds bodkins!" to temper it, make it less offensive, and so on. (Hmm, even Shakespeare had to learn this, according to The Phrase Finder.) Or the kind of person who would indeed say the softened oath, and move on. Burton dismisses them handily in Subsection 6--Shame and Disgrace.
And here, on page 228, I learn the shocking news that Aristotle died of shame. Wait, maybe I had heard that in the past, and dismissed it as unlikely, or a legend. Burton says that shame and disgrace cause some people to "melancholize in corners, and keep in holes." Note to self, and to groundhog: come out, come out! It's March, and spring will come later this month! The sun is shining, but there's no need to fear one's own shadow! Some comfort: "The most generous souls are most subject to it."
And that's when he drops the A-Bomb: "Aristotle, because he could not understand the motion of Euripus, for grief and shame drowned himself."
Euripus is a strait with wild tidal currents (that anyone might drown in) and Wikipedia tells me that its motions were not fully described and understood till the 20th century, so Aristotle need not have felt so ashamed! Wikipedia also tells me that Aristotle probably died of natural causes after leaving Athens to avoid angry feelings aimed at philosophers, especially those who had tutored Alexander the Great, who also had a beef with Aristotle later in life. Oh, those ancient politicians hated intellectuals, too!
Odds bodkins! That can happen!
But I hoped to provide another option, for what to do with shame, and suffering, in my tiny (3 1/2 line) poem, "Red Nasturtium."