|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
III.3 pp. pages 792-823
792.1] Quién es?: "Who is it?"
794.40] the miracle at Bolsena: "According to the Church," writes Marsh, "the [fourteenth-century] miracle of Bolsena was performed to convince a skeptical priest, and though him his doubting brethren, of the reality of the transformation of the sacred elements. When he cut the consecrated wafer, blood flowed from the bread and stained the napkin on which it lay. The napkin, or corporale, with its yet visible stains of the divine blood, is alleged to be still preserved in the Cathedral of Orvieto, in which diocese Bolsena lies" (MMSM 49).
795.39] Stephan Asche: ash (Ger.: Asche) recalls the phoenix myth; see notes to 390.1, 700.3, 774.3.
796.37] Dies irae [...] in favilla: see 322.29 ff.
797.36] feeling chilly and grown old: the last line of Browning's "A Toccata of Galuppi's" (see 193.12).
798.2] as the poet wrote, the natural in woman closely is allied to art: from the conclusion of the song of the Garden-girls in Goethe's Faust, Part Two (act 1, "A Spacious Hall"):
Garden-girls and fair to look on,
798.27] de couloir: Fr. "of the hallway."
800.8] Carnival [...] carne vale: the Latin carne vale ("flesh, farewell") was a folk etymology of "carnival" (see 428.2).
800.8] Ave carne! . . . Salve! . . . macte virtute esto!: Lat.: "Hail flesh! . . . Greetings! . . . good work [bravo]!"
800.10] Descartes [...] Larvatus prodeo [...] he kept a Salamander: cf. 96.21-23, where "he advanced masked" derives from "Larvatus prodeo." Maritain explains: "In the juvenilia of Descartes we find the phrase Larvatus prodeo. 'Like an actor wearing a mask, I come forward, masked, on the stage of the world.' [...] It will be for the masked philosopher to unmask the sciences and to make their continuity and their unity appear with their beauty" (The Dream of Descartes, 41, 92 n.25). The phrase also refers to the precautions Descartes took not to offend the authorities with his new philosophical systems.
800.12] Copulo, ergo sum: Descartes's cogito, ergo sum altered to "I copulate, therefore I am."
800.12] Carne, O te felicem!: "O, you happy flesh!"
800.15] Stesichorus: (ca. 640-555 B.C.), Greek lyric poet. He wrote that Helen of Troy was a phantom created by Hera to instigate the Trojan War, while the real Helen remained in Egypt during the conflict; this is the story Euripides used in his Helen. Plato implies ("Phaedrus" 243)" that Stesichorus was blinded by Helen herself -- by then a goddess -- for this "slander." The anecdote is also related in Irenaeus's Against Heresies (1.23), where Simon Magus's prostitute-consort is said to be Helen's avatar.
800.27] Jesús del Gran Poder: "Jesus of the Great Power."
801.22] sliding down between the casks: cf. Faust riding a wine cask in Goethe's "Auerbach's Tavern" episode.
802.1] five Jones brothers [...] Los cinco-jones: the joke is a pun: Los cinco Jones looks and sounds like los sin cojones ("Those without balls").
802.28] Cien iguales me quedan: "I have a hundred of the same left."
802.41] juerga: a drinking party.
802.44] Pastora: Sp. "shepherdess." Originally, Gaddis intended Wyatt to have a daughter by Pastora, and in the illegitimate daughter to be "at last redeemed through love" (Gaddis's notes, quoted in Koenig's "'Splinters of the Yew Tree,'" 36). Although there are hints about a child later (and see 897.16 ff. and 900.3-6), Gaddis decided that such a redemption would be dishonest and facile.
803.24] Krishna seduced sixteen thousand maidens: an anecdote first recorded in the Bhagavata Purana and repeated elsewhere in Indian literature and art.
803.28] They let the path stay dirty: see 28.44.
804.3] Déjame! [...] Déjale!: "Leave me! [...] Leave!"
804.6] Hoy los nobios se van a casar: "Today the sweethearts [should be novios] are going to get married" - the first line of "La Tani" (see 771.27); line 12 below is the chorus.
804.12] No sale la cuenta porque falta un churumbel: see 813.11-16 below.
804.17] Me quieres? [...] Yo te quiero y tu no me queires: "Do you love me? [...] I love you but you don't love me."
804.23] Vámonos: "Let's go."
804.24] Vida! . . . Cielo! . . . no termina . . . mi vida! . . . Vamos hacer un niño: "Life! . . . Heaven! . . . don't stop . . . my life! . . . Let's make a baby!"
804.34] Me quieres? . . . Díme lo, aunque no es verdad!: "Do you love me? . . . Tell me so, even if it's not true!" Cf. Esther's plea at 117.41-42.
805.8] Vaya Usted con Diós: Good-bye; but see 821.38 ff.
805.39] La Zarza Mora: unidentified (zarzamora is Spanish for "blackberry").
810.27] Point d'argent, point de Suisse: Fr.: "No money, no Swiss [soldiers]" - a saying from the Renaissance conveying the commercial attutude of Swiss mercenaries: they were willing to serve anyone who paid them, but abandoned their employers the moment they ran out of money.
810.31] aber die jüngste [...] Sonne selber: see 273.14 ff.
811.3] Allí se mueren [...] allí se mueren: "Then they die. [...] Not in winter, but when the leaves return to the trees, then they die" (see 813.19, .23-24).
815.40] Somebody's said that going to sea is the best substitute for suicide: so says Ishmael in the first chapter of Melville's Moby-Dick.
816.20] Herr von Falkenberg: see 770.30.
818.39] Un extranjero [...] un falsificador: "A foreigner, see, a North American, you know . . ." "Why?" [asked in Italian] "Sure, look, a North American . . ." "Why?" [...] "Yes sir, a counterfeiter, get me? A North American, you know, a counterfeiter."
820.37] Calderón's La Vida es Sueño [...] "El delito mayor del hombre es haber nacido": Life Is a Dream, a tragicomedy of ethics and intrigue by Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-81), concerns the testing of heir-apparent Sigismundo for his suitability as King Basil's successor. Sigismundo was imprisoned at birth because the stars predicted his tyranny and cruelty, which he indeed fulfilled when allowed out of his cell. After this he was imprisoned again and was led to believe that his short-lived freedom was only a dream - hence the play's title. When released from his cell a second time, he is just and noble. The quoted line, used by Wyatt earlier (393.3-4), is from Sigismundo's first speech.
820.44] even the gods themselves, can't recall their gifts: see 335.15.
821.1] Quiere comer?: "Do you want to eat?" (from 771.39).
821.4] shelter to travelers [...] a god in disguise: Faust II (act 5, "Open Country") adapts Ovid's tale of the aged couple Philemon and Baucis, the only couple who offered shelter to Jupiter and Mercury when they traveled in disguise.
821.5] The whole family there, eating, the whole . . . all the family: Wyatt recalls his underlined passage from Thoreau (see 265.2-4).
822.10] Los turistas, sí . . . pero los marecones: "The tourists, yes . . . but the queers."
822.30] sereno: night porter.
823.33] the hag of the moon, the dark winnower: cf. Graves's suggestion "that the [White] Goddess was once worshipped at Moeltre [in Wales] in her triple capacity of white raiser, red reaper and dark winnower of grain" (WG 52-53).