Portent of doom

Today’s total solar eclipse is, I am given to understand, by the almanacs as well as the fools in the media, the first to pass right across those Natted States Merica, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean; the path of totality impinging upon no other nation state. If I were a USAmerican, I’d be worried. Will it also be the last? Will it be like Halley’s the portent of doom?

As Eilmer of Malmesbury (mentioned before in these Idleposts) foresaw, the appearance of Halley’s Comet in early 1066 marked the end of old Anglo-Saxon England. It wasn’t a retrospective thought on the part of this flying monk. If I read William of Malmesbury aright, it was a prophetic announcement. The tail of that comet, passing unusually close to Earth, filled the night sky, and its head was competitive with the Moon in brightness. The Battle of Hastings promptly followed.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to astronomical portents. An eclipse of the sun can be no good thing. But my contemporaries, who seem to live for spectacle alone, are out there in their millions, in their camp trailers and so forth, apparently cheering the thing along. Thus, the spectacle I behold is that of good old American optimism.

We have had alternating Ages of Faith, and Ages of Superstition; the most recent of these latter having been dubbed an “Age of Science” by its fetishizing enthusiasts. In my own humble view, it is an Age of Bullshit, founded upon philosophical propositions that will not fly as far as Eilmer in his glider. (See here.) Among these propositions is the silly belief that man is the author of his own portents, there being no God, except that recognized in some pantheistic, New Age way. All nature’s lesser portents are predictable “by our science,” or will be soon, according to this shibboleth; and true enough, we could see this eclipse coming from temporal miles away.

On Saint David’s Day, 1504, Señor Cristóbal Colón cowed inhabitants of Jamaica with his anticipation of a lunar eclipse. He got this from some European ephemeris he happened to be carrying, for purposes of navigation. He said the Moon would disappear, and it did. He pretended to have ordered it, and asked his Arawakan interlocutors if they would like to have it back. This prototypically supremacist imposture tipped the power scale between him, and those by whom he was seriously outnumbered, in a decisive way. Smarter than us moderns, I should think, the ancient Taino (who gave us our words for hammock and canoe; barbecue, hurricane, tobacco, &c), could see immediately that they were beaten, thus sparing their island a great deal of unnecessary violence.

Will we?

But what am I saying! The question is rather, Will they? (I am a Canadian, after all; only partial eclipse up here.) I don’t ask, Will they take the message from the heavens, and change their ways? For that would be another optimistic reading.

Instead, let me suggest that it’s too late now. The Washingtonian Americans had a good run; let me not be ungenerous to them. But game’s up, and the fat lady sings. George III will be returning, promptly; live with it. The statues of your republican heroes are already coming down.

The Sun, I say, will disappear. You want it back, Yankees?