Friday, January 01, 2010

Inauspiciously

INAUSPICIOUSLY, adv. In an unpromising manner, the auspices being unfavorable. Among the Romans it was customary before undertaking any important action or enterprise to obtain from the augurs, or state prophets, some hint of its probable outcome; and one of their favorite and most trustworthy modes of divination consisted in observing the flight of birds -- the omens thence derived being called auspices. Newspaper reporters and certain miscreant lexicographers have decided that the word -- always in the plural -- shall mean "patronage" or "management"; as, "The festivities were under the auspices of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Body-Snatchers"; or, "The hilarities were auspicated by the Knights of Hunger."
A Roman slave appeared one day
Before the Augur. "Tell me, pray,
If --" here the Augur, smiling, made
A checking gesture and displayed
His open palm, which plainly itched,
For visibly its surface twitched.
A denarius (the Latin nickel)
Successfully allayed the tickle,
And then the slave proceeded: "Please
Inform me whether Fate decrees
Success or failure in what I
To-night (if it be dark) shall try.
Its nature? Never mind -- I think
'Tis writ on this" -- and with a wink
Which darkened half the earth, he drew
Another denarius to view,
Its shining face attentive scanned,
Then slipped it into the good man's hand,
Who with great gravity said: "Wait
While I retire to question Fate."
That holy person then withdrew
His scared clay and, passing through
The temple's rearward gate, cried "Shoo!"
Waving his robe of office. Straight
Each sacred peacock and its mate
(Maintained for Juno's favor) fled
With clamor from the trees o'erhead,
Where they were perching for the night.
The temple's roof received their flight,
For thither they would always go,
When danger threatened them below.
Back to the slave the Augur went:
"My son, forecasting the event
By flight of birds, I must confess
The auspices deny success."
That slave retired, a sadder man,
Abandoning his secret plan --
Which was (as well the craft seer
Had from the first divined) to clear
The wall and fraudulently seize
On Juno's poultry in the trees.
200910 Update: As a secret plan, confided in a friend.

Happy New Year, all.

12 comments:

javajazz said...

New Rabbit, New Rabbit...
Happy New Year Douglas,
from one who always appreciates
your brilliant compassionate
writings...
ps i cant believe
my word verification today
was "coffee"...

cooper said...

Happy New Year Doug. It's scary if I am one of the first...

Inauspiciously - the way that feeling creeps up when visiting a 90 year old relative in a hospital.

quilly said...

Happy New Year, Doug! May 2010 be better and brighter and happier than you could have hoped for -- and may such goodness not depress you too much. ;)

actonbell said...

Rabbit, rabbit, good luck in 2010, and I hope this doesn't require a special plan.

Mo'a said...

Gledilegt nytt ar og farsaelt komandi ar.
May all your wishes come true...
Does that secret plan mean you will be traveling to the land of my birth this year?

Karen said...

2009 Update: Today, as you probably know, is the first day of 2010. Unless, of course, you posted "Inauspiciously" before midnight and simply forgot that today, in fact, would be 2010.

Jim said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR, DOUG!! (for the last time this year)
Rabbit, rabbit too and all that!
Does your secret plan involve a visit to Texas? Ask the Augur!
..

pia said...

Happy New Year Doug! (for the last time also)

the amoeba said...

Some time later, a second slave, forewarned by the first, set forth from his dormitory, neglecting both his purse and an appointment with the Augur, but carrying instead a snare with which to purloin, secretly if he might, a portion of Juno's portion. He reasoned that forgiveness was superior to permission, but non-detection ruled over all.

The Augur, being the Augur, knew what was afoot, but decided that the lesson would be better learned if he held his peace. Therefore he feigned sleep that night, while the slave slunk through the temple and snagged a nice, large (but somewhat aged) peahen.

"Whence came this?" the slave's wife asked next morning, seeing the skinned bird in the larder.

"'Twas a gift of the gods", came the practiced reply.

"Then we shall ourselves make of it a gift", she replied, and before her stunned consort could react, whisked it into the oven room to prepare it for their Master's table, in the hope of currying his favor.

Alas, the bird was old, and to make matters worse, she over-roasted it. The result, though, looked and smelled delectable. The Master marveled that his slave had in his care a fowl so fine. He took a slice. And chewed, and chewed, and chewed ...

The slave was sold onto a galley, his wife into a brothel. But even unto this day they are not entirely forgotten, for through their efforts the languages of the world first came to know the phrase "rubber chicken".

Best wishes, Doug, for the last year of the decade.

Doug said...

Why thank you, JJ. Best to you in the new year.

Well, Cooper, I suppose it can be auspicious that you have 90 year old relatives to visit. Happy New Year to you.

A perfect wish, Quily, thank you.

Actonbell, if it requires a plan, I'm probably not eligible. Best to you as well.

Takk, Mo'a. I'm not sure yet.

Thank you, Karen. Absolutely right. Writing "Happy New Year, all" at the bottom might have tipped me off but didn't. Inauspicious indeed.

Jim, nothin' but crows from the Augur, but I'll let you know. Happy New Year, friend.

For the last time this year, I hope. Same to you, Pia.

Fantastic homily, Amoeba. Happy New Year.

Thom said...

I thought for sure I left a comment on this post. Something very mundane. It was a hard one for me to do LOL...so I'll just let it go. Better that's it's not here LOL

Karen said...

I'd like to add "New Rabbit, New Rabbit" to my comment, please.