Matter of Fact

Matter of Fact

HENRY ASHBERY January 1 1941
Matter of Fact

Matter of Fact

HENRY ASHBERY January 1 1941

Matter of Fact

HENRY ASHBERY

The usually cautious and accurate Thucydides writes: “The first person known to us by tradition as having established a navy is Minos. He made himself master of what is now called the Hellenic Sea. and ruled over the Cyclades ... He did his best to put down piracy in those waters, a necessary step to secure the revenues for his own use.”

No man knows when sponges were first used. They were a household word in Homer’s time, and Ulysses called for water and a sponge to wash down the tables and chairs after a certain sad scene in the palace. The name is far older than Greek, and harks back to that ancient lingua franca of the Levantine fishermen to which tunny and pinna and the seine net belong. Oppian gives a picturesque account—it might be a modern one—of the sponge diver, with a lump of lead in one hand and his crooked knife in the other, and a mouthful of oil to smooth the sea and let the sunlight through.

Hunting is one of the greatest crimes in Tibet, for Buddhist doctrine forbids the taking of life in any form. The result is that wild creatures are very tame. In Southwestern Tibet, hares, marmots, partridges, white pheasants, wild ducks and geese are completely unmoved when one approaches to within a few feet of them. In most of the monasteries meat is eaten, but only the meat of domestic animals, which, it is thought, are clearly expiating some past sin in a former human existence by their present enslavement.

There is no maritime agency that can at all be classed with Lloyds, London. On a Lloyds policy one may see the origin of the term “underwriter” concretely illustrated. The total amount insured being named in the body of the policy, the amount of risk assumed by each insurer is written below (underwritten) or endorsed

upon the back, where each underwriter signs his name opposite the amount of risk which he assumes. A Lloyds policy for a large sum frequently has a long string of underwriters attached to it. This is really one of the original forms of policy, in which the responsibility of the individual is fully expressed and maintained. Lloyds offers insurance to civilians against injury or death from Nazi bombs. The premium rate is one shilling per month for every fifty pounds sterling of insurance.

During the reign of Henry VIII lawyers having beards had to pay certain penalties. Queen Elizabeth passed a law that the wearer of a beard of more than two weeks growth should be taxed according to his station in life. In Ireland it was enacted that in order to be recognized as an Englishman a man must have all hair above the mouth shaven, and this law actuali y'remained in force for 200 years.

Shepherd crooks are often of great antiquity. In Great Britain they are used in the same family for generations. A crook for a South Down sheep is about six feet long, of ash pole and iron, and wrought more cunningly than is apparent. The slot must be just the width of the sheep’s stout little hind leg bone, and the end curved outward and blunted, so as not to jab, and the whole is set at a slight angle downward. The crooks made for Southern sheep would not hook their Northern brothers.

The earliest piece of wickerwork that still continues in use is a child’s crib or cradle. The coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Basket Makers (1569) still survives in London, England:

“Crest on a wreath of the colours a cradle therein a child rocked at head by girl, at feet by boy, both vested all proper. Motto, ‘Let us love one another.’ ”