Two illustrations reprinted in Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales (1974). From a 1794 edition of Tommy Thumb’s Song Book, for all little Masters and Misses (p63), we see the giant’s refrain:

Fee Faw Fum

Then, in The History of Tom Thumbe (1621 edition), from the “gyant” while searching for Tom (p40):

Now fi, fee, fau, fan,
I feele smell of a dangerous man:
Be he alive, or be he dead,
Ile grind his bones to make me bread.

Onto Jack the Giant Killer (1761 edition, p63):

Fee, fau, fum,
I smell the blood of an English man,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

The Opies footnote the pattern as “perhaps the most famous war cry in English literature” (p63), common to British tales of giants and ogres, in numerous versions, such as:

Fe, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman;
If he have any liver and lights
I’ll have them for my supper tonight.

But as to its origins? Thomas Nashe cautions in Haue with You to Saffrom-Walden (1596, p48):

O, tis a precious apothegmaticall Pedant, who will finde matter inough to dilate a whole daye of the first inuention of Fy, fa, fum, I smell the bloud of an Englishman.

Which brings to mind this woodcut from an 1840 edition of Jack the Giant Killer (p59):

Jack the Giant Killer

Still, leaving Opie, a two-part footnote in Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales (p152) tantalizes. First, in the 1889 The Folk-tales of the Magyars, Kriza et al. review cross-cultural olfactory keenness of folk creatures, and include this elf king’s version (p341):

With fi, fe, fa, and fum,
I smell the blood of a Christian man,
Be he dead, be he living, with my brand,
I’ll clash his harns frae his harns pan.

Then, in his introduction to Perrault’s Popular Tales (pCVI/II), Lang traces the blood-scent archetype back to at least AeschylusEumenides from 458 BC, wherein the Furies trace the scent of Orestes (“The smell of human blood gives me a smiling welcome” (l252))—although their apothegms miss apophony.

Two diagrams from Homer Sprague‘s 1883 edition of Milton‘s Paradise Lost: the first, Milton’s cosmography; the second, Satan’s “probable course” from hell, through Chaos, to our own world, hanging fast to heaven.

“Such place eternal justice has prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.
Oh, how unlike the place from whence they fell!” (p16/7).

Milton’s Cosmology

“Farewell happy fields,
Where joy forever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor! one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same…” (p30).
—“So Satan spake” (p31).

Satan’s probable course

Click image to view larger, legible version.

“Long is the way
And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.
Our prison strong, this huge convex of fire,
Outrageous to devour, immures us round
Ninefold; and gates of burning adamant,
Barred over us, prohibit all egress.
These passed, if any pass, the void profound
Of unessential night receives him next,
Wide gaping, and with utter loss of being
Threatens him, plunged into that abortive gulf.
If thence he scape into whatever world
Or unknown region, what remains him less
Than unknown dangers, and as hard escape?” (p77/8).

Gell on Articulatory Landscapes

February 11th, 2007

An illustration from Alfred Gell’s “The Language of the Forest,” reprinted in The Art of Anthropology.

“One can indeed imagine the Umeda world/landscape as a series of articulatory gestures, syllabic shapes moulded within the oral tract (microcosm) and the macrocosm consisting of the body, social relationships mediated through the body, and other natural forms, particularly trees, and the encompassing physical ambiance” (p242).

Triple Analogy

Click image to view larger, legible version.

“In the New Guinea forest habitat [dense, unbroken jungle]… hearing is relatively dominant (over vision) as the sensory modality for coding the environment as a whole… Umeda, and languages like Umeda, are phonologically iconic, because they evoke a reality which is itself ‘heard’ and imagined in the auditory code, whereas languages like English are non-iconic because they evoke a reality which is ‘seen’ and imagined in the visual code” (p247/8).

“Even vicarious participation in alterity is subversive of the conceptual restrictions which motivate our own sense of the real, and, by derivation, our conceptions of the poetic” (p257).

Freher’s Paradoxical Emblems

February 8th, 2007

Two emblems from Dionysius Andreas Freher’s Paradoxa Emblemata (71 and 76), written in the early 18th century. Through a sequence of 153 such emblems, Freher (born 1649) illustrates Jakob Böehme‘s mystical cosmology: a progression beginning at a natural unity, differentiating via free will—even rebellion, and finally returning to a more sublime unity.

Perpetuum Mobile

What Thou hast of One yield to that One again, if thou intendest to keep it. Only by doing so canst thou be a perpetuum Mobile.

Although distributed amongst his peers in manuscript form, Paradoxa Emblemata was never published. The emblems here are taken from Adam McLean‘s hand-bound edition, produced in 1983, and based on manuscript 5789 in the British Library.

Out of the Center

From whence is this & that, if not out of the Center?

“When one… begins to use these [emblems] in meditation, as opposed to merely intellectualising over them, one will find that it is difficult to exhaust the implications of each emblem. …The meditator will find the sequence to slowly unfold its beauty of construction and see how each step builds upon the former… to… sense the inner architecture of the emblems…” (McLean introduction, p6).

Yantras in Tantra Art

February 3rd, 2007

Two yantras from Rajasthan in Tantra Art by Ajit Mookerjee (1971 edition, plates 43 and 45).

“The dynamic graph of the diagram of forces by which anything can be represented—the picture of its functional constitution—is called the yantra of that thing. It is not an arbitrary invention but a revealed image of an aspect of cosmic structure” (p20).

Kali Yantra

The yantra below “tries to express primordial vibrations, or spandas, the ‘cosmic drum of sound’, which by their lines of sound-energy create a dual ‘magnetic field’. Here vibrations are slowed down at laya (absorption) points” (p80).

Damaru Yantra

“And just as the musical string must be plucked in a particular fashion to sound a certain note, so must the yantra line be mastered and mentally plucked to bring forth its image or power” (p21).