Taboo eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 14 pages of information about Taboo.

THE LEGEND

Fit ex his consuetudo, inde natura

    “I love little pussy,
     Her fur is so warm.”

I—­How Horvendile Met Fate and Custom

Now, at about the time that the Tyrant Pedagogos fell into disfavor with his people, avers old Nicanor (as the curious may verify by comparing Lib.  X, Chap. 28 of his Mulberry Grove), passed through Philistia a clerk whom some called Horvendile, travelling by compulsion from he did not know where toward a goal which he could not divine.  So this Horvendile said, “I will make a book of this journeying, for it seems to me a rather queer journeying.”

They answered him:  “Very well, but if you have had dinner or supper by the way, do you make no mention of it in your book.  For it is a law among us, for the protection of our youth, that eating[2] must never be spoken of in any of our writing.”

[Footnote 2:  Such at least is the generally received rendering.  Ackermann, following Buelg’s probably spurious text, disputes that this is the exact meaning of the noun.]

Horvendile considered this a curious enactment, but it seemed only one among the innumerable mad customs of Philistia.  So he shrugged, and he made the book of his journeying, and of the things which he had seen and heard and loved and hated and had put by in the course of his passage among ageless and unfathomed mysteries.

And in the book there was nowhere any word of eating.

2—­How the Garbage Man Came with Forks

Now to the book which Horvendile had made comes presently a garbage-man, newly returned from foreign travel for his health’s sake, whose name was John.  And this scavenger cried, “Oh, horrible! for here is very shameless mention of a sword and a spear and a staff.”

“That now is true enough,” says Horvendile, “but wherein lies the harm?”

“Why, one has but to write ‘a fork’ here, in the place of each of these offensive weapons, and the reference to eating is plain.”

“That also is true, but it would be your writing and not my writing which would refer to eating.”

John said, “Abandoned one, it is the law of Philistia and the holy doctrine of St. Anthony Koprologos that if anybody chooses to understand any written word anywhere as meaning ‘to eat,’ the word henceforward has that meaning.”

“Then you of Philistia have very foolish laws.”

To which John the Scavenger sagely replied:  “Ah, but if laws exist they ought to fairly and impartially and without favoritism be enforced until amended or repealed.  Much of the unsettled condition prevailing in the country at the present time can be traced directly to a lack of law enforcement in many directions during past years.”

“Now I misdoubt if I understand you, Messire John, for your infinitives are split beyond comprehension.  And when you talk about the non-enforcement of anything in many directions, even though these directions were during past years, I find it so confusing that the one thing of which I can be quite certain is that it was never you whom the law selected to pass upon and to amend all books.”

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Taboo from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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