Liber Jonae CAPUT TWO Page TETH



_____TETH_____

From where do you obtain your information?
It has the spurious air of the tabloid,
Highly suspect and not to be trusted.
Certainly Nineveh has its problems, bird,
But life here is perfectly acceptable.
And there has been nothing in the papers
About any kind of impending doom
Or any urgent need for a prophecy.
Would wire services fail to pick it up?
And what, exactly, can threaten the city?
Do you refer to the barbarians gathered
To the north, led by the thug Tamberlaine?
I understand that the legions have him checked.

Mark my remarkable words, Marguerite.
The legions are in a greater disarray
And the barbarians closer than you think,
If those are neighing northwinds that I hear.
Never believe that tomorrow defeats foes:
God turns colours if your sleep's too deep,
And overconfident archers soon learn
It's best to eat victory feasts first,
On the night before, when you still have a chance,
Before it's clear that, along with lunch,
Along with boots and even uniforms,
Fieldmice ate bowstrings while you slept.
But there is worse to fear than human force.
Not wishing a panicked population,
The powers-that-be have kept under wraps
The city's unhappy predicament.
They'll await the results of the Oracle
Before going public with dread tidings.
And therein is found a new conundrum:
The Oracle has failed to produce reply.

I can find a solution to that problem.
Tell the Oracle to produce a result
Or tomorrow we will eat Oracle stew.

Direct action is not always the best
Or most effective of our human methods
To deal with the mystery-shrouded divine.
I see that I should take a short digression
Into the theory and practice at work here.

I'm not too keen on theory - or practice.

But you will thank me in the end, Marguerite.
Now all agree that the State Oracle
Ought to be both ostensibly random
And ostensibly speech-like in its nature
Or else fail to meet the purpose set,
Fail to evolve the signal out of noise,
Fail to simulate the resolution
Of present confusion to future order.
On this point the experts are emphatic.
All fate depends on Godhead's fiat;
The whole parole of this visible world
Is generated from God's holy speech,
From our twenty-six mystic hieroglyphs,
From the vivid and vociferous alphabet
Which in random movements of moveable type
Exhausts his conversational resources.
Mankind's speech was created in image
Of the divine commands which set in motion
The Cartesian vortices of all things.
In the beginning was neither word nor deed
But an inarticulate grunt, a low moan,
Another grunt, another and another,
Until at length, after a great labour,
A rudimentary sentence was emitted.
Twenty-six grunts in all, each unique,
Were permuted in such a way to provide
The living cosmos with a genetic code.
However, doubt remains on the meaning
Expressed in this first expostulation.
Some say that it meant "Let there be light!"
Some claim it meant "Oh Christ, turn it off!",
And some maintain that it had no meaning,
None at least we'd ever understand.
These last also will dispute the belief
That a first light, hot and penetrating,
Ever blazed forth to illumine the world.
They say that darkness was never total,
Light was always there, just much dimmer,
Growing bright by degrees, by rheostat.
This is only the first disagreement.
While all agree that the Godhead's sayings
Are manifest in all events and things,
None agree on how best to decipher
The long, boring, and pointless anecdotes
That seem to construct the bulk of creation.
While all agree that apparent nonsense
Is in reality high quality sense,
None agree on two basic principles.
Students of divination are divided
Both on the Oracle's interpretation
And on the oracular process itself.



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