Thursday, 16 January 2014

Let Us Ponder upon Bessler's Rich Pageantry of Words!

I have been meaning to comment on the rather strange passage in Bessler's Apologia Poetica, in chapter XLVI.  Bessler introduces it by urging us to study his 'rich pageantry of words'.  Having returned to the original many times, I can only find the following amateur translation of the original translator's valiant efforts . The original German words appear to describe the passage as containing resplendent words or flaunting words, which doesn't seem to me to a million miles from my original translator's efforts, if a little less poetic. It appears to be a poetic description of something which we suspect is related to the wheel, but quite how is hard to determine.  I decided to put my thoughts down about it, as far as I can, which isn't far.  It is almost all speculation although I have tried to use common sense, avoiding the higher realms of speculation.

It begins thus:- "Those who are keen to ask questions should ask them of this little book. My work will not be revealed prematurely. Should anyone wish to speculate about the truth, let him just ponder on the rich pageantry of words which I now cause to shower down upon him!"

Are they metaphors, similes, analogies or what?  I cannot say but they seem to contain some kind of truth which to me is not apparent but here goes anyway.

So the first thing to do is to identify where it starts.  Many people assume the translation from my book which commences "for greed is an evil plant..." is the beginning of a metaphorical description of the mechanism. My own view is slightly different.  There is a little trick that Bessler uses that some people may not be aware of or have forgotten.  We are all familiar with the names of his avowed enemies, Christian Wagner, Andreas Gärtner and Johann Gottfried Borlach, and Bessler would frequently include their initials in the text, easily identifiable by using Roman characters instead of the usual Fraktur font.  Often the letter would form the first letter of a mildly offensive word probably for his own satisfaction and to poke fun at his enemies.

In the adjacent image taken from the original. I have ringed in yellow, the particular letters to illustrate the point. In the image you can read in order, Gärtner, Wagner and Borlach, twice. Throughout the book there are many examples all aimed at the same three people. 

From the following line, Bessler begins his metaphorical descriptions.

"An anvil receives many blows. A driver drives. A runner runs. The seer sees. The buyer buys. The rain drips down. Snow falls. The shotgun shoots. The bow twangs."

I see these as descriptions of various forces and/or actions within his wheel.  The anvil receives many blows, but it is immoveable, despite the heavy blows it endures. This may relate to the part of the wheel on which the weights land. 

A driver drives and that is a proactive action as demonstrated by the blacksmith hitting the anvil with the hammer.  It seems to indicate that something causes the weights to move. The runner runs, and that is a reactive force moving swiftly without hindrance, perhaps like an object which has been hit and just moves quickly as a billiard ball might move across a table.  The seer sees, is perhaps a non-reactive object which awaits an action upon it.  The buyer buys is the opposite in a way, it is proactive again and awaits its chance to act not react.

Next we see the forces available.  Rain drips down, under the influence of gravity (not in response to an action such as a hammer blow).  Snow falls but it is lighter than rainwater so it falls slowly.  The shotgun is an explosive force and not conserved as gravity is, so it's a once only push.  The bow is similarly explosive but actioned by tension rather than a chemical agregate.  

"A great fat herd of fat, lazy, plump horses wanders aimlessly."  This may refer to the weights hanging without any control from levers or stops, so they hang and swing without guidance, at a certain point during rotation.

"The flail would rather be with the thresher than with the scholar."  The flail was a kind of threshing device and bit like a whip. This suggests that the flail/whip strikes the scholar/pupil but does not linger but instead returns quickly to its 'cocked' position, ready to strike again.  It may relate to the so-called 'stiff fops' mentioned later in the passage.

"The children play on the little/toy pillars/columns with loud heavy little/toy clubs."  There has been much debate over the translation of this piece so it's anybody's guess which is correct., and I cannot suggest something that might be taken seriously as to its meaning!  

The rest is so open to speculation that without the design of the mechanisms in front of me, I cannot relate to any of it, although I have plenty of ideas!

I've added this blog primarily to point out the starting point of the description and perhaps to put aside any thoughts about interpreting the 'greed is an evil plant' line, as it is a dig at his enemies and probably not part of the so-called pageantry of words which the study of, will help those who seek answers from this little book.




  1. John,
    I have ten pages of pondering on this subject, most connected with astrology.
    One I posted a little while back, " Greed is the root of all evil".
    I'll post some more if anyone is interested in a particular line.

  2. Hi Stevo, I welcome comments as long as they don't take up too much space. Bear in mind that my point was that the line including the word 'greed' doesn't, in my opinion, form part of the poetic description, but I might be wrong.


    1. Hi John,
      I only meant to post one line at a time, my two finger typing would take a year to write ten pages !

  3. This little book has the key to my codes. Shall not be revealed early as its date related(future).
    I Kings ix:9 mentions seer.
    A SEAR holds the hammer or striker back until the correct amount of pressure(rain) has been applied to the trigger; at which point the hammer or striker is released. The sear releases, the buyer collects.
    The 'children' relates to a principal of the wheel seen in childrens toys seen in the street.
    a runner is a rooting plant stem tendril, and was in the 1700's.

  4. "A great fat herd of fat, lazy, plump horses wanders aimlessly." hints at chaotic motion (before the cart)
    the PIE root of thresh is *tere- "to rub, TURN" The original Germanic sense is suggested by the use of the word in Romanic languages that borrowed it, e.g. Italian trescare "to prance," Old French treschier "to dance," Spanish triscar "to stamp the feet".
    Specific sense of 'club' is "bat used in games" is from mid-15c german.

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