A Survival: Gold and the Imperishable Rock

“A man never knows what tiny thing will startle him to such ancestral and impersonal tears. Piles of superb masonry will often pass like a common panorama; an on this grey and silver morning the ruined towers of the cathedral stood about me somewhat vaguely like grey clouds. But down in a hollow where the local antiquaries are making a fruitful excavation, a magnificent old ruffian with a pickaxe (whom I believe to have been St. Joseph of Arimathea) showed me a fragment of the old vaulted roof which he had found in the earth; and on the whitish grey stone there was just a faint brush of gold. There seemed a piercing and swordlike pathos, an unexpected fragrance of all forgotten or desecrated things, in the bare survival of that poor little pigment upon the imperishable rock.”

– G.K. Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions, chap. 15, “The Gold of Glastonbury,” pp. 116-117. Reprinted in: The Quotable Chesterton, the Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, ed. Kevin Belmonte (Nashville: Thomas Nelson c2011)

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Past the Screens of Words and Signs . . . are Stones

“Une des caractéristiques de la littérature contemporaine est d’être animée par le désir de dépasser les écrans de mots et de signes pour renouer avec une expérience immédiate du monde, avec l’élémentaire, dont la minéralité offre l’image la plus radicale.”

Livres de Pierre : Segalen, Caillois, Le Clézio, Gracq / by Bruno Tritsmans. Tübingen : G. Narr, c1992. p. 126.

“One of the characteristics of contemporary literature is to be animated by the desire to get beyond the screens of words and signs to reconnect with an immediate experience of the world, with the elementary, of which minerality offers the most radical picture.”

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Gone But Not Forgotten…

Gone But Not Forgotten...

’tis a pity to lose a cherished stone…

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Underground Mythology — Who, or What Were the Knockers?

A valuable article on “knockers” — better known in the United States as “tommyknockers” — the diminutive beings whom underground miners have encountered for centuries, by British researcher Sylvia P. Beamon: 

http://old.speleo.cz/soubory/speleo/sp16/mytho.htm:

UNDERGROUND MYTHOLOGY — WHO, OR WHAT WERE THE KNOCKERS?

Sylvia P. Beamon, M.A.

For presentation at the Symposium on Bohemian Subterranea, Praha (Prague) 22 – 28 August, 1993. Includes: Introduction; Mining Folklore; Cornish Tin Miners; Who were the ‘Knockers’ or the ‘Knackers’?; Scotland and Wales; the Continent and elsewhere; the Czech Republic (with thanks to Vašek Cílek); bibliography & references.

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America’s First Gold Rush — a democratizing, divine subsidy

“History has overlooked America’s first gold rush perhaps because the gold produced in the Carolinas and Georgia [in the early 1800s] was not all recorded in the books at the U.S. Mint. Much of the gold was shipped to Europe and perhaps as high as twenty-five percent went into the decorative arts of the period such as jewelry making, gun smithery, picture frames, and other articles.

“A good deal of the gold was taken to the nearest bar instead of the nearest mint. Many a gold nugget stuck in a miner’s pocket and somehow was accidentally discovered by the miner after he left work. In those days when someone stepped up to the bar proclaiming the drinks were on the house, the chances were the drinks were on the mine owner!

“The value of the gold that did reach the mint is recorded at the rate of eighteen to twenty dollars an ounce, about half the current thirty-five dollars an ounce. In a land where a man was lucky to make ten dollars a week, an ounce of gold was two weeks’ pay.

“For a nation with no Fort Knox gold behind its currency, the Carolina gold rush saved the eagle and the dollar from being dependent upon foreign sources of gold. It also put into circulation gold coins, both privately and officially minted, in a land where cash of any kind was scarce. At country stores and taverns throughout the Carolinas gold dust was the poor man’s currency and many a farmer and miner picked out his supplies in country stores from Marion to Greenville while the store owner got out his scales and measured pennyweights of gold dust in payment.

“The Carolina gold rush is best described perhaps as a subsidy program instituted by divine providence to help a particularly deserving and needy section of a young nation. It was one of the most successful monetary programs ever undertaken in the United States.”

Source: The Carolina Gold Rush, by Bruce Roberts. Charlotte, N.C.: McNally & Loftin, [1971]. pp. 62-63.

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“She Herself, the old Mother, gave birth to the gems from her heart”

“The world of stone is not dead: its seeds are the crystals, its flowers, the gems. They are the buds of a mysterious light life in the corridors of darkness, the colored dreams of abysses. The spirit of the flame is embodied in stone by them. They are like the tears of the stars, spilled into the dark underworld. They are the treasures and jewels of the earth and rock mother. With their prisms and grains, she has garlanded her brown neck. Transparent bolts of lightning flash around the sleeping face, in her cupped hand lie diamonds and rubies of the purest water, and the rock crystal of her signet ring shimmers rounded and pure like the ice cold drop of her mountain spring.

“She herself, the old mother, gave birth to the gems from her heart.”

– Das Kleine Buch der Edelsteine [The Little Book of Gems]. Colored pictures by Hans Lang; text by Frederick Schnack. (Insel-Bücherei Nr. 54) Leipzig: Insel Verlag, [1938? 1950?]. p. 26

—————-

“Der Steinwelt is nicht tot: ihre Keime sind die Kristalle, ihre Blumen die Edelsteine. Sie sind die Knospen eines geheimnisvollen Lichtlebens in den Fluren der Finsternis, die Farbigen Träume der Abgründe. Der Geist der Flamme ist in ihnen steinern verkörpert. Sie gleichen der Tränen der Sterne, vergossen in die düstere Unterwelt. Die Schätze und Kleinodien der Erd- und Felsenmutter sind sie. Mit ihren Prismen und Körnern hat sie sich den braunen Nacken bekränzt. Gläserne Blitzen umzucken das schlafende Gesicht, in ihren Handmuscheln liegen Diamanten und Rubine reinsten Wassers, und der Bergkristall ihres Siegelrings schimmert geründet und rein wie der eiskühle Tropfen ihrer Bergquelle.

Sie selbst, die alte Mutter, hat die Edelsteine aus ihrem Herzen geboren.”

Das Kleine Buch der Edelsteine. Farbige Bilder von Hans Lang; Geleitwort von Friedrich Schnack. (Insel-Bucherei Nr. 54) Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, [1938?]. S. 26. 

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The Prospector

“King Midas with the turn of a golden key had unlocked the door to Alaska, our last frontier.

“And the prospector, what became of him?
In a class by himself, the prospector gathers about him a romantic air as he heads out again into the mystery of the wilderness. No map marks the way that he would go. Starting out alone, he makes his way along the trails where man has never walked before, guided by peculiar instincts, buoyed up by hopes that some day he will find gold. But there is more to the urge than the finding of gold. There’s the solitude, the murmur of the mountain streams, the clean air, and earthly things.

“Whether pitching his tent beside some river or making his bed beneath the branches of a tree, the prospector finds contentment. He prospects here and there along the creeks or picks at the ridges, until one day he strikes it rich. Word leaks out — a whisper which grows ever louder until the word GOLD echoes to the far corners of the earth. The world comes crashing in. Others benefit from his find because they are business men and he is just a prospector, governed by the honor of his given word and not by the intrigue of a moneyed world. So others start mining where he prospected. They get the glory and the gold — while he goes further on into the wilderness.”

(the last words of the book “Klondike ’98; Hegg’s Album of the 1898 Alaska Gold Rush,” by Ethel Anderson Becker (Portland, Or.: Binfords & Mort, [1949])

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