Politics and Prose
Upon their return to England, Mason and Dixon took residence in the Cheshire Cheese Tavern. One evening over a game of Dominos, a dinner of Lark Puddin and a jug or two of Porter Ale, they by chance encounter’d Reverend Maskelyne, no doubt in London for meetings of the Royal Society.
“Charles and Jeremiah, what a surprise, I was aware that your return from the Colonies was imminent, but not that you were in this very Tavern. Thy surveying has been much discuss’d at the Society. I will sit whilst ye recount your experiences and tell of future Plans.”
Unexpectedly Mason, who had been looking rather vexed since Maskelyne arrived, began to recite a Poem in a rhythmic tone:
“Summer flowers wither and die.
Water the seedling.
Plump breasts nurture children.”
“Mr Mason was much affected by the loss of his Dear Rebekah,” Jeremiah explained. “On our travels a remedy for his malaise was suggest’d by an Oriental expert on such matters. Mr Mason is seeking to balance Life’s dualities,— hot and cold, light and dark, Life and Death etc. etc. by only speaking in Prose.”
“How extraordinary, his Recitation did rather discombobulate me. Yet tell me Jeremiah, whilst I share your jug of Ale, what knowledge did ye glean from the Colonies? I do greatly desire to hear of your Travels. May I?” The Rev'd reaching for the Ale Jug.
“Help yourself Reverend. I have indeed learned much and am now composing a paper on the Earth’s true co-ordinate system. Sitting under a tree in Virginia an Apple did fall upon my head. I picked up my Knife to peel this fruit and upon that moment I reflected that by cutting from a single point on the Equator at a fixed bearing to said circumference ‘tis possible to reach any given point upon the Sphere. From that moment I have dispens’d with the notion of Latitude and Longitude entirely. I mensurate every location upon the Earth’s surface via distance and bearing from the Equatorial Reference.”
“Distant is the Lunar Ball.
Map to mark the Path.
The hands of Time do not lie.”
“Jeremiah, your Conjecturing is much misguided,” intoned the Reverend, ignoring Mason’s latest outburst and helping himself to a slice of Lark Puddin. “First, a line south from Greenwich to the Equator results in a reference point in mid-Ocean, not a convenient measurement origin. Second, your bearing lines define loxodromic spirals rotating logarithmically to the Poles. A Rhumb line indeed.”
“In my theory Reverend, Greenwich is just another point offset from the true origin. ‘Tis my belief that the origin of the Earth should be defined with reference to the Garden of Eden, the source of all Life, which God placed on the Equator somewhere within Abyssinia. My System shall be defined with reference to Divine construction, not a centre of Depravity renowned amongst Seamen.”
“Poor soul lost on the Ocean
Finds time on a Clock.
“Jeremiah, to suggest that Mankind originated out of Africa, the Savage Continent, land of heathen Natives, is madness. Pass some more of that Ale if you please. I speculate that this Apple was of considerable weight and did hit your head with enormous Gravity.”
“Tis fashion to be dismissive of the heathen Natives beyond Europe’s shores. I have discovered that the natives of the American Continent were the first to leave Africa, travelling via Rhumb line across the steppes of Mongolia till they arrived at the Pole, where of course all Rhumb lines must end. Then achieving what is considered mathematically impossible they journey’d on beyond the Pole, perhaps within another Dimension, finally arriving in the Americas. These so-called Savages have experiences and knowledge beyond our Understanding, gained on extraordinary travels. My intention is to stand for Parliament and bring Representation to the native peoples of the Americas. One day every Man will be judged equal in Law, as he is in the eyes of God.”
“Stars are hidden in the Clouds.
I look to my Watch.
History will be the Judge.”
“I never considered a vocation in Politics as your calling, Jeremiah. And your views will find little support in the King's Great Empire. Both of you seem much changed by your travels.”
“The Moon can lead to madness.
Look how Time has flown.
All is done to gain the Prize.”
“Indeed considerably changed, especially Mr Mason it appears. Yet alas the Pudding dish is bare and the Ale jug is empty, pity. Well, I would love to stay and gossip but I have an audience with King George in the morning and must away. Adieu gentlemen.”
Once the Reverend had departed Mason picked up the empty jug and called to the serving maid for more Ale. “You know, Jeremiah, I have to agree with Mr Harrison, the Reverend is a humourless Windbag.”
“Indeed so Charles, and his purse is sewn tighter than the Landlady’s corset. Drank our Ale jug dry and proceeded away as soon as it was empty.”
“’Yet 'twas worth every Penny to hear you spin him that Rhumb tale, he is easier to wind up than Mr Harrison’s Clock.. Politics and Prose indeed.”
“Tale? You may have been jesting but I meant every Word.”
Attribution: Horological image G. W. Booth