Friday, May 12, 2023


 Teodorq sunna Nagarajan has joined an expedition tasked with evaluating the"serving tray" as a suitable observation post for the Nooby Empire. The bulk of the party consists of a squad of rangers, who ride the borderlands tracking down outlaws, bandits and other malefactors. In this scene, Sharn Nickle is a part-time deputy marshal who drives the chow wagon. He is a settler, whose ancestors had once fled the Empire.


The stormwind howled and fanned the rain horizontal. It lifted cloaks and punchos as if it deeply resented the oilcloth keeping their wearers dry. The canvas cover on the chow wagon whipped free of its bows and snapped maniacally,

And the rangers began to sing.

It was hard to make out the words, or even the tune, as the wind scattered them like so much detritus, but Teo paused while helping Sharn secure his cover and tried to make it out.

We’ll track through the night

Or by sunlight so hot,

For we are the Rangers

And you poor sods are not.

We’ll turn our face toward snow and ice,

Toward wind, rain, dust, or heat (yes, sizzling heat)

For we are the Rangers

And never know defeat.

“Catchy tune,” said Teo as the wind died off and the rain softened to a steady cascade. “Too bad they didn’t catch it.”

Sharn yanked a stay-rope tight, glanced up the column, then back to the task at hand. “Imperials are full of themselves.”

Teo shrugged. “Long as there’s enough self to fill ‘em. Or are they all song and no stunt?”

“And it’s not even true,” Sharn complained. “Rangers know defeat. At the siege of Fall River during the Civil War, an entire troop was wiped out to the last man.”

 “Ain’t that generally what ‘wiped out’ means?" He thought Sharn unlearned on the nature of defeat.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Lynch Mob


TOF's grandfather's grandmother, Ann Elizabeth Lynch, was born in Burlington VT, in Jun 1847. according to said grandfather, "two days after her parents arrived in America." She was , which tThe travel-savvy Reader will understand that Burlington was no two days travel from any seaport in 1847. Yet, the Liber Baptismorum of Rev Jeremiah O Callaghan confirms the date and place. It is likely that her parents came up the St Lawrence River to Grosse Isle quarantine station by Montreal, thence downLake Champlain to Burlington. 

There were no immigration laws back then. Had there been, the Know Nothings would no doubt have put the Famine Irirsh in cages at the border, The Know Nothings held that, unlike the old immigrants, these new immigrants, being Catholic, could never fit into Anglo-Saxon, Protestant America. TOF's ancestress is thus [in modern lingo] the anchor baby of wetbacks.

The Irish Famine was st its height, and Daniel and Bridget, Ann's parents, no doubt thought it was a good time to get out of Dodge. The Dungarvan food riots were answered by dragoons firing into the crowd. Dungarvan was just down the Waterford coast from Stradbally, where the Lynches lived. The ships on which the 1847 Irish migrated to the border often arrived with typhus fever rampany and enough dead on the voyage that they were called "coffin ships."

The ice on the St Lawrence broke up late that year,and May 1847 “started with ice an inch thick - and the first vessel to arrive, the Syria, arrived at Grosse Isle Quarantine on 17 May. She arrived with 84 cases of typhus fever on board and nine deaths on the voyage. Less than a week later the catastrophe had taken place and was beyond control…. Four days after the Syria, on May 21, eight ships arrived with a total of 430 fever cases.” (Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger. 1963)

As many as 10,000 people died of the typhus, including heroic Canadian doctors who stayed to treat them. For Ann to be born in Burlington in early June, 1847, her parents would have had to arrive at Grosse Isle between late May and early June, and been in the thick of things.

Daniel Lynch and Bridget Barry - came from Co Waterford. Family lore named the place Bannalynch. But there is no such locale. There is a Ballylinch in Stradbally Parish. [Stradbally, An Sraid Bhaulle, means "the (one) street town"]. The Tithe Applotment Book (in which occupants of rural properties were assessed to support the Church of Ireland, even if they were Catholic or Presbyterian) does not name any Lynches in Ballylinch, but does list a Daniel Lynch in neighboring Ballinvalloona. (Don't ya luv Irish place names?) But since Ann's father was only a teenager the year of the assessment, this is not him. 

Daniel's age in US Census records put his birth in Jan 1819 and, lo! such a birth appears in the records of Stradbally Parish. Daniel Lynch, born in Jan 1847 to John Lynch and Joann Whitty. But under the Rule of Two {"Where there is one, there is likely another."] we find in Jul 1819 another Daniel Lynch baptized in Stradbally. The parents of the second Daniel are Patrick and Catherine. So which is it to be?

The Irish custom of the time was to name the first-born boy and girl after the father's parents, the second-born after the mother's, and the third-born after the parents themselves. Daniel and Bridget named their first daughter Ann and their first son John, and none of them Patrick (They did christen last daughter  Catherine.) So John and (Jo)ann seem the likely parents. However, the naming custom was only a custom, not a law of nature, so this is an educated guess.

 TOF found a marriage record for John Lynch and Ann Whitty in Feb 1817 in Stheirtradbally Parish. Since Daniel was born in Jan 1819, he was likely their first-born and hence, John's father was likely Daniel, possibly the one listed in the Tithe Applotment Book. Scouring the parish baptisms for Stradbally, we find the following children born to John and Ann: Daniel (1819), Bridget (1822), Mary (1824), and James (1834). The ten-year gap between Mary and James is suspiciously un-Irish, but as it stands, John's parents may have been named Daniel and Bridget. After that, the names of John's children's match those of Daniel jr. But the handwriting in the parish book is horrible and despite finding 28 Lynch baptisms between 1815 and 1835, TOF may have overlooked some!

Ann Lynch Flynn (2nd from right) visiting her son Daniel (r).Others: d/law Tillie, grd/law Blanche (in back) and grandson "Uncle Dan" (kid) with hair!


Thursday, April 6, 2023


 "Don't bug him about the blog," writes a commentor with the mysterious and ominous name of Unknown, "he's busy WRITING stuff for you."

For those who may be wondering what TOF is writing, the following is a some-ary; that is, some of what is in progress. Several of them have appeared intermittently as Opening Passages here in this vast wasteland known as the TOF Spot. 

  • The Shipwrecks of Time. Set in Milwaukee WI during the early 1960s. This concerns the search for a mysterious medieval text known as the Peruzzi Manuscript. The danger does not so much lie in finding it as in being known to be researching it. Somebody may not want it found.
    This novel is complete and has already been rejected by one publisher. 
  • In the Belly of the Whale. Set in a multigenerational starship two centuries into a thousand-year transit to Tau Ceti. The challenge was to find an approach to the subject that has not been over-done. They forgot they were on a ship? Aldiss did that wonderfully in Starship, FTL makes their trip meaningless? Done and done again.
    This novel is also done and is now in the hands of the publisher who requested it. 
  • "Adventures in Mythistory." Fact article. How history is recast as myth, with special attention to the Hypatia Myth and to fiction-writing. This article is complete, but languishes in uncertainty as to what to do with it.
  • "The New World." Short Story. A small flotilla of junks, sent by Srivijaya to find the southwest passage around Africa to the fabled land of Tai Ch'in. This is complete, but as it is a section in a longer, collaborrative work that may or may not see daylight, needs a little tweeking to enhance a standalonr, Currently steeping.
  • "The Journeyman: On the Mangly Steppe." Teodorq sunna Nagarajan accompanies a scouting party setting out to the 'serving tray' to assess its suitability as an observation post to keep an eye on the mangos of the steppe. The party is led by an imperial from the Nooby Empire and includes a troop of imperial rangers, as well as a handful of settlers from the frontier settlement of Stubborn Man plus one local [i.e., pre-settlement] who is unafraid of the ghosts said to haunt the serving tray. Nooby has more advanced technology than Cuffy or Yavalprawns: cap pistols, chuffers anf the singing wire. In Progress.
  •  "Red Clay Man" A short story in which a H. erectus discovers how to think. In Progress.
  • "The Laws of Science and the Ignorant Chicken." A fact article on the Dappled World of Science. In Progress.
  •  "Hunter's Moon." Mickey, the POV from "In Panic Town on the Backwards Moon," finds a mysterious death at the Hadley Ran above Falcon's Landing on the Moon. Idle.
  • "Mayerling." Kronprinz Rudolf contemplates suicide at his hunting lodge near Mayerling. Idle.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Journeyman: On the Mangly Steppes


The Journeyman: On the Mangly Steppes

by Michael F. Flynn


For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson


a tall one, warm

Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand sat on the patio of the Turf and Peak and enjoyed a schooner of beer. Or he would have enjoyed it had it been chilled rather than warm.

“If yer honor wisht it cold,” the serving wench told him when he complained, “come ye back in winter, though I doubt ye would like it then. The winds offen the steppes fetch tolerable deep snow outen the east.”

Teo grunted at this wisdom and fell to considering the eastward vista. To the northeast, the Mangly Steppe rolled away, enough like the Great Grass of his home to stir a twinge of memory, though the grass here was short and yellow.

To the southeast, mountains heaped upon mountains like stallions upon mares, reaching their apotheosis in the snowcapped peaks lining the horizon. He wondered if the sight triggered nostalgia in the heart of his boon companion, Sammi o’ th’ Eagles, a hillman from the mountains west of the Great Grass.

He rather hoped the surer route to Varucciyaman would be across the steppes but suspected for that very reason that Fate would send him into the mountains.

While he pondered these things, he had been watching also the approach of a rider loping from the steppe. No one else in the saloon or its patio seemed to pay mind, although some had laid casual hands on their sidearms.

When in Cuffy, the saying ran, do as the Cuffs. He had left Cuffland in his horse’s dust, but if this was the way the locals greeted visitors, he would go along with the gag. He hooked his foot around his duff, pulled it close, and unfastened its thongs.

The rider proved to be a man with a sun-burnt face and a hunched-back. He galloped up to the hitch-rail before the patio and leapt from his saddle in a billowing of his dirty-white robes Teo noted a battered old musket in a saddle scabbard, a short, curved sword in another, and a recurved bow tucked behind the cantle. When he strode into the saloon, the rider left this arsenal behind, and Teo supposed from this that he bore concealed arms. That the stranger was unarmed was too risible a notion to entertain.

The hunchback brushed close by Teo and, not to be outdone by his eyes, Teo’s nose detected the strong whiff of sweaty horse and sweaty rider and the suggestion that the rider had not bathed in a very, very long time.

Curiosity – and prudence– twisted him in his seat to watch.

The rider breasted up to the bar and croaked in the local djabbah, “Wishkaybah. Long and hard be the ride that lieth behind my horse’s hooves.” At least, Teo thought he said that. He was still learning djabbah.

The barkeeper, a tall, gangly man with prominent eyes, stretched his frame to maximum height and said from that lofty altitude, “We don’t be sarvin Mangos here.”

Teo made no sense of this, inasmuch as the stranger had not ordered a mango. He wondered if the stranger and the barkeeper were having two different conversations. Others in the saloon were taking notice, and another patron at the bar said, “Get this smelly huncher outta here,” which, save for the effect of bad odors in confined spaces, struck Teo as inhospitable.

But the stranger said nothing. He studied the faces in the room and, harvesting visages ranging from the merely curious to the openly hostile, shrugged and departed with an arrogant stride. Teo opened his duff. He could not have said why, but as they said on the Great Grass, the fool builds a shelter once the storm has passed.

When the stranger reached the patio, he whipped a knife from under his robe and completed the motion with a swipe across the throat of one of the drinkers seated at the tables there. The man fell gripping his throat, blood spurting between his fingers, and the stranger leapt upon his horse with a yelp of triumph. Guiding the steed with his knees, he pulled his bow from behind the saddle. He knocked an arrow in one smooth action, twisted in the saddle as he galloped off, and loosed it into the heart of another drinker.

Teo thought this an intemperate response to the previous snub and retrieved his own bow from his duff. Unstrung as it was, the bow curled in a tight circle, and Teo’s shoulders and biceps bulged as he pulled the limbs back to fit the bowstring to the nocks.

A tall man with short, sandy hair had come to stand beside him. “That thar Mango’s a-galloping off,” he said, returning his sidearm to its scabbard.

Teo looked up, saw the receding figure and the plume of dust in his wake. He nodded. “Yah.” He pulled an arrow from the quiver in his duff.

“He’s outta range,” the sandy man suggested helpfully.

Teo looked up again, nocked the arrow to the string. “Nope.” He loosed his shaft.

It struck the distant horse in the rump, and the steed bucked and reared until the rider flew off and struck the ground head-first. The horse continued to buck, trying to rid itself of the pain in its hindquarters.

“Damn,” said Teo. “I missed.” 

(c) 2023. Michael F Flynn

The New World - Opening passage


 The New World

by Michaelmf Flynn

  Đặng Văn Denizci, puhāvam of Golden Wind for Sriwijaya’s Palembang, stood in the bow of the junk and studied the eastern horizon through his farseer, praying to the Buddha that he would raise land before the crew grew more mutinous than it already had. After a long voyage across seas both strange and hazardous, a bit of solid land would not go unappreciated. Fleshpots would be nice, too.

He had the fleet’s latitude and, if old Kartawidjaja’s cartographers had known their craft, it ought to be close to that of the fabled Tai Ch’in; but he had lost his longitude and had no idea how distant the exotic “Far West” might yet lie along this latitude. It was all very well for Farūq to say “Hug the African coast north to the Pillars,” but not when coast, wind, and current all conspired to bend his course west to the balmy isles of the Orang-Awok.

Four weeks westing before he had found favorable winds and currents. But he had been five weeks now on his easting and it seemed as if he had somehow misplaced an entire continent.

Văn Denizci kept his glass level by long practice, absorbing the rolls with his knees and hips. This Western Ocean was choppier than the seas that lapped the Home Islands; but he was more than grateful to be out of the terrible swells and ferocious winds of the Southern Ocean and would accept this rough chop with gratitude.

A following wind tousled his long, black hair, blowing it forward into his face. He brushed it back impatiently and adjusted his headband. Then he straightened and blew his breath out, lifting his drooping moustaches, and handed the farseer to first officer Budhiharto, who stood beside him.  \

“What do you make of that cloud on the horizon. Four points sisi kiri.” He pointed off to the left. The Melayu tongue was not tonal like Yüeh or Min-dong, but Deni hailed from the kingdom of Mìng-uŏk in Fukien and, like most Turco-Yüeh, he spoke Melayu with a habitual sing-song. The old Empire had gone out like the tide now these many centuries since, but such legacies had been left behind in the South like the flotsam of a great wreck.

Budhi was the opposite of Denizci in every way: short and round where the captain was tall and lean, blank where the captain was thoroughly inked, and possessing a guileless face where the captain owned the look of a hungry sea-eagle. He stared at the indicated spot for several minutes before lowering the glass. “Black smoke…,” he said. “Storm cloud? Volcano, maybe.”

“Maybe. Volcano means land, though.”

Budhi shook his head. “But smoking volcano means bad land. I remember when Tandikat blew his top… I’d say wide berth, bapak.”

Deni retrieved the farseer and studied the cloud once more. A smudge, barely discernible, hugging the nearly invisible horizon. “Might be only a rain cloud,” he temporized. Was it a large cloud far off or a small one closer in? Distance was hard to judge with nothing but the trackless ocean for scale. He sniffed the air but could taste no land in it. 

(c)2023 Michael F Flynn

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

O Tempo, O Morae!

 On the Nature of Poetry

Had poetry no nature,
How would you know
You had written one?

And yes, the title of today's post is a pun on Cicero's famous epigram, "O tempora, o mores."

TOF once heard a member of a writers group explain that she did not wish to be confined by rules, and so her poem fell into no particular pattern, But then how do we know it was a poem rather than some perhaps pithy prose lopped into lines? That is called Advertising Copy, in whuch "Eat at Joe's. Open all night.: becomes

At Joe's
Open all night.
(Which actually does have a pattern. It is a doubling of syllables: 1-2-4.)

The Art of poetry consists not of gushing thoughts -- nothing gushy about Beowulf -- but of patterns of sounds. It is the ability of the artisan to express those thoughts, gushy or not, within constraints. Poetry without the form is like tennis without the net.The oomph depends on the thought rather than on how it is expressed. And most of our thoughts,,, Well, Faithful Reader may complete that thought. 

Pitter Pattern

If poetry is patterned sound, what are the patterns?

That depends on the sounds. Each language has its own grace and beauty, and the best forms take advantage of this. That is why haiku are so prototypically Japanese and come awkwardly to English-speaking lips. In Japanese, there is no strong stress and the pattern emerges from the rhythm of the syllables, English OTOH has very strong stresses, and the poetry come from the "beat." Think of Robert Browning's poem "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix."

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;

 in which the beat invokes galloping horses Or Kipling's "In the Neolithic Age"

In the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage
  For food and fame and woolly horses' pelt.
I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man,
     And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt. 

in which the rollicking, singing beat evokes the music hall, building to last lines

Here's my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
  And the reindeer roamed where Paris roars to-night:—
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,

which is to say that there is no one pattern for poetry. A version sung by the great Leslie Fish skips a verse or two and changes a now-obscure reference, but indicates how poetry should be sung aloud.

Different languages find oatters differently. Ancient Greek found its groove in the pattern of long and short syllables, as in the opening of the Iliad:

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
5οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι,

which translates as

Sing, goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus,
destructive as it was, which gave the Achaeans much grief;
and it hurled down to Hades many strong souls
of heroes, and made them spoils for the dogs
and every bird;

It's hard to see the poetry there, because it is not the bumpity-bump of English, but the aa-a-aa of ancient Greek. The translation looks like free verse1 

I modified this as a template for the opening of In the Lion's Mouth 

Sing, O harper, the anger of Donovan buigh,
That graced us all with boundless grief,
And left brave men a prey to dogs and kites
As we foresaw upon that fateful day
When Donovan buigh and Those of Name
First fell out.

but it incorporates elements of English poetry -- note the alliterations and rhythm. 

Greek 'quantitative; poetry' was prestigious enough that when the Romans wrote their own epic, they tried the same gimmick, even though the native lilt of Latin lay elsewhere. Virgil famously opens the Aeneid with these lines

Arma virumque canō, Trōiae quī prīmus ab ōrīs
Ītaliam, fātō profugus, Lāvīniaque vēnit
lītora, multum ille et terrīs iactātus et altō
vī superum saevae memorem Iūnōnis ob īram;

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger,

Latin has the property that the endings of words tell us what English tells us with prepositions and word order. Hence, the words can be arranged for poetic effect, laying out the long and short syllables to the pattern. The first line literally reads

arms-(of) man-(and) sing-(I), Troy-(of) who first from coast,

We know ab ōrīs (from coast) applies to Troy, not Italy, because Trōiae is in the genitive and Ītaliam is in the accusative. Not until we get to qui do we get the subject of the subordinate clause, which we recognize because it is in the nominative case, (The subject of the main clause =I= lurks in the suffix of cano.)

Browbeating English   Submit ye Saxons

The Latinate grammarians of post-Renaissance England kept trying to shoehorn the feet of English into the boot of Latin. They couldn't manage it with the long and short syllables because English lengthens her vowels by ablauting, not by holding the sound for two beats [morae] instead of one as Greek and Latin did. So the classical meters were reinterpreted as heavy and light stress instead. An iamb was originally a-aa, short-long. In English, this became ba-BOOM, light stress-heavy stress.

But when we look at Old English, we see that Anglo-Saxon poetry used alliteration for its pattern-making. The line is broken in two with a pause between and the same consonants are repeated. In Beowulf, for example:

Hwæt. We Gardena    in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,    þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas    ellen fremedon.

Seamus Heaney tried to keep much of this in his English translation. [It takes an Irishman to properly translate Anglo-Saxon poetry into English!]

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.

It's Time to Rhyme

Late Latin poetry turned to rhyme and therefore classicists insisted that English poetry ought to rhyme as well. This is easy to do in Latin, since standardized case endings provided ready-made rhymes.

Tantum ergo sacramentum
veneremur cernui
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui
Rhyming is much harder in English than in Latin, which is why it requires greater art to pull it off in English. Done poorly, unless for humorous effect, it becomes doggeral, especially if dome in a thumping beat. Hence, many would-be poets resort to blank verse ir even free verse, It seems easuer; but we can do those poorly as well.

The confluence of rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration provides a rich bouillabaisse, with a variety of rhyme schemes and rhythm meters. Larger forms, like ballads, sonnets, epics, and the like are also available, Then there are forms that use patterns of repeated words (sestina) or whole repeated sentences (villanelle), such as Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night."

.TOF once attempted a sestina and wrestled with it until it had defeated him. He failed to alter the meanings of the repeated words each time they appeared. Presented for your horror and disgust: 

Though finer points of their philosophy may prove obscure

Alas we seem alone; no other mind takes form
On this fair Earth – nor any other place
That eye can see or instruments appraise.
From distant stars no missives we receive.
As if in that vast vacuum no soul
Abides save only those we call our own.

Such life, we’re told, will be unlike our own;
That’s true for trivia: species, body, form,
Appetites and senses foreign to our soul.
(What lusts do bats endure when squeaks they place,
What pleasures due to echoes they receive?
Our minds cannot conceive what bats appraise.) 

But not unlike entire, for kinship we appraise
Beneath those accidents they call their own:
They too preserve, perfect what they receive.
(The struggle to survive is higher form
Of that by which a boulder holds its place.
Inertia is but life deprived of soul.)

They will pursue the good known to their soul,
Whatever good it is that they appraise
In foreign far-flung interstellar place.
Survival’s urge is much alike our own,
Though executed through some other form:
Those powers and appetites that they receive.

Do bats admire the echoes they receive?
Do certain sounds enrich their very soul?
What drives impel the unfamiliar form
On distant stars we do not yet appraise?
Far from and yet alike unto our own
They are, no matter where their outré place.

And what awaits, would we fare to their place
Or they to ours? What welcome to receive?
A sister mind? A tasty snack? A pet to own?
It all depends on what completes their soul
And how both good and ill they do appraise.
When seeing us, what image do they form?

A place within each soul
Receives and does appraise
Its own and other’s form.


  Teodorq sunna Nagarajan has joined an expedition tasked with evaluating the"serving tray" as a suitable observation post for the...