Verse 06


 

General notes on Verse 6

 

 

Interpretation

Lines Interpretation(s)

Of all the romance retold

Men of tales and tunes

Cruel and bold

Seen here

By eyes of old

  This appears to be a rewording of the preface to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The full verse is below (with emphasis added in places to indicate similarities).

"TO THE HESITATING PURCHASER

If sailor tales to sailor tunes,
Storm and adventure, heat and cold,
If schooners, islands, and maroons,
And buccaneers, and buried gold,
And all the old romance, retold
Exactly in the ancient way,
Can please, as me they pleased of old,
The wiser youngsters of today:

--So be it, and fall on! If not,
If studious youth no longer crave,
His ancient appetites forgot,
Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,
Or Cooper of the wood and wave:
So be it, also! And may I
And all my pirates share the grave
Where these and their creations lie!"

 

  These introductory lines could simply be an indicator that the verse corresponds to an area with a history of piracy.  The features in Image 2 indicate that the area in question is Charleston, South Carolina.  Most of the remaining lines in Verse 6 appear to match up with various landmarks in White Point Garden, a public park at the southern tip of the Charleston peninsula.

 

Stand and listen to the birds

  White Point Garden has a bandstand that was once used for concerts ("stand and listen").  No connection to "birds" has been identified so far.

 

Hear the cool, clear song of water

  There are two matching fountains on the Hunley memorial, although it isn't clear if they were actually operational at the time Preiss visited the park.

 

Harken to the words:

  This line, ending in a colon, introduces a series of references to historic events in the history of Charleston.  Preiss (who clearly had a poetic nature) appears to be saying that we should stand amid the trees and fountains of White Point Garden and "harken" back to these dramatic, historic events.

 

Freedom at the birth of a century

  Given the historical nature of the site, it's likely that "birth of a century" would be a reference to either 1800 or 1900.  Who would have achieved freedom around those dates?  Neither date is a good match for the American Revolution or the Civil War, both of which are strongly tied to the concept of "freedom."

 

  Some searchers have suggested that these lines could be a reference to the William Gilmore Simms memorial that stands in White Point Garden.  Simms was a famous writer and speaker in his time and many people did, indeed, "harken" to his words.  The problems with this interpretation are that A) Simms lived from 1806 to 1870, never even approaching the turn of a century, and B) Simms was a very prominent supporter of slavery.  It's very, very unlikely that Preiss would reference the words of Simms with the word "freedom." 

 

  The only good match that has been proposed is that this is a reference to Denmark Vesey, who lived in Charleston in the early 19th century.  Vesey was originally a slave, but he won won $1,500 in a city lottery in November of 1799 and was able to purchase his own freedom at the "birth of a century."

 

Or May 1913

  This line is almost certainly a reference to the capstan from the USS Maine, which was given to the city of Charleston in May 1913 and was on display in White Point Garden at the time The Secret was written.  (You can see photos of it in 2006 here and here.)  A bronze marker on the north side of the monument's base noted the donation and ended with the line "May, 1913."

 

  The capstan was removed from the park in 2007, but it was replaced with a statue of William Moultrie, so the location is still clearly defined.  It would be very useful to find photos showing the removal of the capstan and the installation of the statue.

 

Edwin and Edwina named after him

  This is likely a reference to a visit to Charleston by Edward Blyden in 1889.  The visit was described this way: "In his search for converts to the colonization cause, Blyden concentrated on Charleston with its large black population and important newspaper, the News and Courier, whose editors were sympathetic. Many in Charleston sought from Blyden news of the South Carolinians who had emigrated a dozen years before. He was enthusiastically welcomed; he even had twin babies named after him, Edwin and Edwina Wilmot Blyden, during his stay." 

(Abroad in America: visitors to the new nation, 1776-1914, by Marc Pachter and Frances Stevenson Wein, 1976, p. 164)

 

  We can assume that Byron Preiss took the information about Blyden's visit from Abroad in America because he used another quotation from the same book as a clue in Verse 2.

 

Or on the eighth a scene

Where law defended

  On November 8th, 1718, a group of pirates were hanged in Charleston near what is now White Point Garden. (Presumably the hanging of pirates could be seen as a defense of the rule of law.)

 

  There is a historical monument in the garden to commemorate the event:

The Legend,

 

  Note that the marker only says "the autumn of 1718," rather than an exact date.  Presumably that's because the crew were hanged on November 8th but Stede Bonnet himself wasn't hanged until December 10th. 

 

  The hanging of Bonnet is, by far, the more famous of those two execution events.  It was immortalized in pictures and several historical accounts. But the hanging of Bonnet's crew is almost forgotten.  It isn't mentioned in the main brochure for the park or in most history books.  If this monument is the correct reference for the verse, it means that Preiss must have consulted some fairly obscure sources when he was researching the history of the area.

 

  The reference to piracy would make particular sense in this verse, given the reference to Treasure Island in the first lines.

 

Between two arms extended

  The interpretation of this line depends on finding the correct definition of "arms."  Under the most literal interpretation, the line could refer to the arms on two statues in the park.  The extended arm on the Sgt. Jasper statue points out towards Fort Moultrie. The arm on the Fort Sumter statue points along High Battery towards Fort Sumter.

 

  But under an alternative (and more poetic) interpretation, "arms" could be short for "armaments" and "between two arms" could refer to a position between any pair of the many weapons on display in the park.  There are several short, bucket-shaped mortars at the perimeter, but "arms extended" would more likely refer to two of the guns with longer barrels.  The capstan for the USS Maine was positioned between the two columbiads on the eastern edge of the park.

 

Below the bar that binds

  "The bar" could be the sea wall, or "battery," that runs along the eastern and southern edges of the park.  It binds the tip of the peninsula and keeps it from eroding.

 

  "The bar" could also be the capstan from the USS Maine, which stood in the park on display until 2007.  According to the Wikipedia definition, a "capstan is a vertical-axled rotating machine developed for use on sailing ships to apply force to ropes, cables, and hawsers."

 

Beside the long palm's shadow

  As with the earlier reference to "arms extended," there are (at least) two different ways of interpreting this line, and it's quite possible that Preiss was making a double entendre and hoping we would see both meanings.

 

  The words "long palm" could literally refer to the palm of a hand, which might make this a reference to either the Confederate Defenders monument or the Fort Moultrie monument.  The latter of those two, sometimes referred to as the "Sergeant Jasper Monument," commemorates the same battle described above in which a fort made of palmetto logs on Sullivan's Island was successfully defended against the British in 1776.  The Fort Moultrie monument is topped with a statue of Sergeant William Jasper with an outstretched arm and a palm facing down.

 

  Alternatively, "long palm" could refer to a cabbage palm or palmetto (Sabal palmetto).  These trees have long skinny trunks and cast long shadows.  They also have a very strong connection to South Carolina and, in particular, to Charleston.  During the Revolutionary War, the city of Charleston was successfully defended by a fortress constructed on Sullivan's Island out of palm trunks and sand.  To honor that defense, the South Carolina state flag was modified in 1861 to include a palmetto, and South Carolina now has the nickname of "The Palmetto State."  There is also thought to be the shadow of a cabbage palm hidden in Image 2

 

  There are now many palmettos in and around White Point Garden.  One of them is at the east end of the park, near one of the two columbiads that flank the spot where where the capstan from the USS Maine once stood.

 

Embedded in the sand

Waits the Fair remuneration

  "Sand" might mean that we are looking for a place that isn't covered with a lawn or other plants.  It could also be a hint that we should be looking in a coastal area.

 

  "Fair" may be capitalized just as a reference to the "Fair Folk" in the book.

 

White house close at hand.

  This is possibly a reference to the Villa Marguerita at 4 South Battery, near the pirate memorial.  It has a front porch with tall, white columns and it resembles a smaller version of the U.S. White House.  Church Street runs along the west side of the house, so this might be related in some way to the Christian cross hidden in the lion's mane in Image 2.

(Photo from the Charleston County Public Library site, which has descriptions and photos of all the buildings along the street.)

 

 

 

Illustrations:

 

The reference to a scene on "the eighth" is thought to refer to the execution of some notorious pirates.  The paragraph shown here is from History of South Carolina, Volume 1 by Yates Snowden and Harry Gardner Cutler (1920).
The historical marker that describes the same event is on the northern edge of White Point Garden.  From this perspective, the statue of William Moultrie is visible in the distance on the left.
Charleston - White Point Garden: Pirate Monument
The two monuments that might qualify for having "arms extended" are the Confederate Defenders monument (near left) and the Sgt. Jasper monument (far right).
Charleston - White Point Garden: Fort Sumter Memorial "To the Defenders of Fort Moultrie - June the 28th, 1776" - Monument dedicated June 28, 1876 - White Point Garden, Charleston, SC

At the east end of the park, where the capstan from the USS Maine once stood, there is now a statue of William Moultrie.  The statue is between two historic columbiads that are positioned with their barrels pointing toward the street ("arms extended").  For more information on the weapons and monuments, see our White Point Garden Landmarks page.

 

There are two cabbage palms near the southern columbiad. At the time this picture was taken (early in the morning) the sun was behind the photographer and the shadows were pointed away from the street.  During the course of a day, the shadow from each palm tree would sweep around to point first toward the statue and then toward the street.  In late afternoon or early evening, it's possible that "the long palm's shadow" would be between the two guns (if "palm" does, in fact, refer to these trees).

IMG_6738-White Point Garden

 

 

Other Notes: