Three Fighting Saints
INTRODUCTION Vox audita perit; littera scripta manet "The voice heard perishes; the written letter remains," the Latin proverb reads. But the words of the proverb seem to have lost some of their truth. Whether we read them in Latin or in English is not what makes the difference, it seems. What makes the difference is our consciousness that things have changed. The sounds of the human voice no longer vanish without a trace the moment their sound waves become still. Our new found ability to slip a cassette into a slot and push two buttons, one marked PLAY the other RECORD, has changed all that. The voice heard may not, after all, perish. And the other half of the proverb also seems less firmly true. Roman letters inscribed in stone remain, and Old English letters boldly written with ink distilled from oak galls remain visible as long as good strong parchment lasts. Letters of the Roman alphabet and the Old English thorns and ashes and eths I typed twenty years ago on my sturdy Smith-Corona can still be read, along with their xeroxed copies. But yesterday in my neighborhood the power surged and the bright green words on my black screen-written words, because a moment before I saw them and could read them-were suddenly, and irretrievably, gone. Perhaps both parts of the proverb were always a bit untrue. In the Old English bookworm riddle-and in "Tinea," its Latin predecessor, as well-the riddle speaker claims to eat, swallow, consume the written...
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