J1.05 X Marks the Spot

Annotations for Jerusalem by Alan Moore

Book 1 – The Boroughs
X Marks the Spot
General: This chapter could almost be considered 4.5 of Voice of the Fire. It seems certain that if Moore had known of the underlying legend when working on the earlier book, he would have included it. The legend appears to date back to at least 1473. One version of the legend goes:

[St Gregory’s] church became well-known in medieval times for The Rood-in-the-Wall. A rood or crucifix, according to legend, was found by an English pilgrim to the Holy Land, near to where Jesus had been crucified, and he was told by an angel that it should be placed at the centre of the land of his birth. The pilgrim, on returning to England, sought to fulfill this instruction and in due course arrived at the old St Gregory’s church. With further angelic advice, he gave the crucifix to the church and it was erected in the wall.

Setting: “Hamtun” (Northampton), 810 AD, near the Vernal Equinox (mid to late March) (P122p1).

Dramatis Personae:

  • Peter (aka Aegburth, Le Canal) – A monk on a quest.
  • Mysterious old woman in dream – Possibly an avatar of the Nene Hag?
  • A gate guard
  • A woman giving directions
  • “ugly man”
  • Young girl
  • Benedict Perrit – Anachronistically appearing from 2006.
  • Two friars of St. Gregory’s

Page 122 – titled X Marks the Spot

The title is a traditional phrase indicating a location, frequently that of pirate treasure.

paragraph 1

  • white_cliffs_of_dover_02
    “the white cliffs” (Immanuel Giel CC BY-SA 3.0)

    “the white cliffs” – The cliffs of Dover, the point in England which is closest to Europe, and thus a traditional crossing point.

  • “the Roman road” – Though the Romans had been gone for almost exactly four centuries, their roads were famously durable. The road in question is now known as Watling Street. Moore has taken part in a number of works centered on Watling Street.
  • “a great red horse of straw on fire” – Suggest?? Possibly related to a wicker man? The image of what seems to be a symbolic sacrificial bonfire again connects this chapter to Voice of the Fire.
  • “herlots” – Presumably an early spelling of “harlots”, prostitutes.
  • “a dragon was exhibited” – From the description, this was probably a crocodile.
  • “a parliament of rooks” – “Parliament” is the collective noun for a group of rooks (a type of crow). (Wiktionary claims this usage only dates to the 15th century.)
    • Issue #40 of Sandman (August 1992), by Moore’s friend Neil Gaiman, was titled “A Parliament of Rooks”.
  • “a yew that had the face of Jesus in its bark” – The supposed appearance of religious images in random objects is quite common.
  • “about the Vernal Equinox” – The Vernal Equinox in 810 AD would have been March 16 by the Julian calendar, March 20 by our current calendar. It’s odd that Moore would give this a specific date that is so distant from most of the other events in Jerusalem (May 24-26th) — unless Peter’s “about” is very loose indeed.

paragraph 2

  • “half a world” – Many early Christian cartographers believed that Jerusalem was the center of the world. England being roughly at the edge of the (known) world, Peter has traveled almost half the distance of the world as he knows it.
  • “the skirt’s edge of Byzantium” – “Byzantium” probably refers to the Byzantine Empire, though it’s entirely possible that Peter went through/near the city of Byzantium (later Constantinople, now Istanbul) itself.
1600px-byzantine_empire_802_ad
Byzantine Empire in 802 AD (credit: Ichthyovenator CC-SA)
  • “the dazed wake of Charlemagne” – Charlemagne was a contemporary of Peter who conquered much of Europe. Charlemagne had several diplomatic conflicts with the Byzantines, and one outright war, which ended in 810, possibly just as Peter was passing through.
  • “heathen domes in Spain” – It’s not clear why Peter was in Spain, as it’s considerably distant from any likely route between England and Jerusalem. Perhaps some misadventure befell him?
  • dome_-_mihrab_-_la_mezquita_-_cc3b3rdoba
    Dome interior, Cordoba (José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0)

    “a myriad blue stars” – Possibly Peter visited the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba, built in 785-6 CE. While the dome does not technically have “blue stars”, it might be interpreted that way from ground level.

  • Mercia” – the Anglo-Saxon kingdom that Northampton was part of in 810 AD.
  • “the Spelhoe hundreds” – In this sense, “hundred” is an antique term for a small administrative area. By the 12 century, the area covered by a “hundred” had considerably expanded, and the Spelhoe hundred included at least part of modern Nothampton (though it’s unclear if that included what became The Boroughs). Moore’s use of a plural term seems to suggest that the smaller meaning of “hundred” is still retained, but the culture has started to group hundreds into groups that later will take over the word.
  • Medeshamstede” – Anglo-Saxon name of modern Peterborough. Also the site of an important Anglo-Saxon monastery. It is about 35 miles NE of Northampton, well outside the Spelhoe hundred(s).
  • “meadow home” – A common interpretation of the meaning of “Medeshamstede”.
  • cell” – A small room for a monk or nun.
  • A modern jute cloth bag
    A modern jute cloth bag

    “jute-cloth” – Jute was an important vegetable fiber from ancient times until the late 20th century (when synthetics largely replaced it).

  • “a distant bridge” – This wooden bridge across the Nene River is significant in the first two chapters of Voice of the Fire.

paragraph 3

  • “the settlement at Hamtun” – The name Hamtun is similar to names given to Northampton in chapters five and six of Voice of the Fire. The use of the term “settlement” recalls the first chapter of VotF, which featured conflict between “setting-people” (farmers and herdsmen) and “walking-people” (hunter-gatherers).

Page 123

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • phalanx” – A tightly-grouped military formation developed in Ancient Greece.

paragraph 2

  • “a raised-up square of ground with the remains of a square ditch about it” – Possibly a reference to one of the archaeological sites at Briar Hill and Hunsbury Hill, a little over 1 kilometer SW of the bridge. I, personally, wouldn’t describe such a distance as “Not far before”, but then, I haven’t walked to Jerusalem and back!
  • “strongholds of that like” – There is archeological evidence for several Roman forts along the Nene River.
  • “River Nenn” – Archaic spelling of what is now the Nene.
  • tares” – A type of wildflower.
  • “the new Holy Roman Empire” – Now known as the Carolingian Empire. While there were various later versions of the “Holy Roman Empire“, the Carolingian Empire only lasted until 888.
  • “gilt-worked” – That is, embellished with gold leaf.

paragraph 3

  • “the bridge’s hanging logs” – It would appear that at this time the bridge is a simple suspension bridge. See also P125p1.
  • “mygge” – A Middle English word meaning “urine“. But probably intended by Moore as an archaic spelling of “midge“.

paragraph 4

  • wattle_hurdle
    A wattle panel (Richard New Forest CC BY-SA 3.0)

    wattle” – A type of primitive construction using woven branches.

Page 124

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “a very river-thing” – Possibly an avatar of the Nene Hag? See chapter The Trees Don’t Need to Know.
  • “to live beneath the bridge itself” – In Voice of the Fire, chapter “Hob’s Hog” mentions the bones of a woman under the bridge — sacrificed to keep the bridge strong.

paragraph 2

  • “Eyyer brung et?” – Heavy dialect (possibly because the woman is from a much earlier time period) for “Have you brought it?”

paragraph 3 -4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “a page of manuscript where all the corners had been folded in” – A primitive approach towards the idea of higher-dimensional geometry. “Folding” and “corners” are both images that will be repeated many times throughout Jerusalem.

paragraph 6 – 10

Approximate route from Roman fort to South gate (Google Maps 2021)
Approximate route from Roman fort to South gate (Google Maps 2021)
  • No notes.

Page 125

paragraph 1 -3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “Four narrow ditches had been cut through the promontory” – See detail from 1614 map, below.

    Detail of 1614 map showing irrigation ditches
    Detail of 1614 map showing irrigation ditches

Page 126

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “Es et un axe?” – “Is it an axe?”

paragraph 5 – 7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

  • “Aye. Un axe. Un ef I let yer en, shell yer go smashen people’s eds wuth et, un fucken boys un wimmen fore yer sets us all on fire?” – “Yes, an axe. And if I let you in, will you go smashing people’s heads with it, and fucking boys and women before you set us all on fire?”
    • 810 AD is only a few years into the Viking age, and raiders of this sort were a real concern. Medeshamstede Abbey will be destroyed by Vikings in 864.

paragraph 9

  • wavering tongues of soot” – Implying that someone tried to burn down the wall/gate recently. I have not been able to document a Viking raid on Northampton in the early 9th century, but it’s certainly plausible. See also the fresh heads mentioned at P133p4 below.

paragraph 10 – 11

  • No notes.

paragraph 12

  • “I em not minded ef et be the left leg o’ John Baptist for so long uz et’s not put about the smashen o’ men’s eds, nor that ets ragged end be lit un made a torch fer burnen. Not last month were one like thee uz ad the skull-bone of the Lord, un when I asked em ow et were so small, e sed et were the skull o’ Christ from when e were a babe. I erd uz the good folk as dwell beside Saint Peter’s Church ad depped ez cods en tar un sent em cryen ome.”
    “I don’t care if it’s the left leg of John the Baptist as long as it isn’t used to smash men’s heads, or that it’s ragged end be lit as a torch for burning. Not last month there was someone like you who had the skull of the Lord, and when I asked him how it was so small, he said it was the skull of Christ from when he was a baby. I heard that the good folk that dwell beside Saint Peter’s Church dipped his testicles in tar and sent him crying home.”

    • There are many recorded instances (some probably just jokes) of various small skulls being passed off as the skull of an important saint “as a child”.

paragraph 13

  • No notes.

Page 127

paragraph 1 (continued) – 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “away und melk a bull” – “…away and milk a bull”. Bulls are by definition male, and have no milk. Hence the idiom “milk a bull” is to do something foolish and impossible to succeed at.

paragraph 4

  • “pox-barn” – A building for the isolation and “treatment” of disease victims. This recalls the “camps out on the edges of the town” for children with smallpox and diphtheria, as featured in the chapter The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron. Phyllis Painter (in the chapter Rabbits) locates these early-20th-century camps as near the Hardingstone Eleanor Cross, about a mile due south of the south gate.
    • Moore appears to have placed the pox-barn at the approximate site of the later St. John’s Hospital, erected about 1138, and still standing (though no longer a religious site).
  • “poison humours” – This is following what is now called the “miasma theory” of how infection works.
  • “the wind today came from the west” – Suggesting that the pox-barn is to the east of Bridge Road.

paragraph 5

  • pismire” – Archaic word for “ant”.

Page 128

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “new-worked chalk” – I have not been able to find evidence of a medieval chalk industry in Northampton, but the presence of a “Chalk Lane” which seems to be present at least as far back as 1614, is suggestive.
  • “across the side street” – Possibly the small connecting street between Bridge and Kingwell Streets, see map below.
  • “wool-gathering” – While the term woolgathering means approximately “daydreaming” in modern usage, the term did originate as an economic activity, gathering bits of wool caught on hedges.
  • Woolmonger Street (detail of 1614 map, street names added)
    Woolmonger Street (detail of 1614 map, street names added)

    “a woolmonger living hereabouts” – The street just south of Gold Street is Woolmonger Street, and has had that name since at least 1810. An unlabeled street in that location is visible in our oldest map, from 1614 (see detail, right). Presumably at least one wool-monger lived there at some point.

paragraph 2

  • “Helpstun” – Modern spelling Helpston, a village about 6 miles NW of Peterborough, 36 miles NE of Northampton.
  • “some Roman presence in these parts” – See Voice of the Fire chapter 4, The Head of Diocletian.
  • “savage settlements perhaps before” – See chapters one, two, and three of Voice of the Fire.
  • “no person spoke of it” – Possibly alluding to the fact that no written records mention Northampton at (or before) this date.

paragraph 3

  • King Offa” – King of Mercia from 757-796.
  • “his great ditch at Mercia’s edge with Wales” – Offa is best known for Offa’s Dyke, an earthwork marking the border between Mercia and Wales.
  • “had planted new towns in these territories” – Per Wikipedia: “There is evidence that Offa constructed a series of defensive burhs, or fortified towns; the locations are not generally agreed on but may include Bedford, Hereford, Northampton, Oxford and Stamford.”
  • Thorpe” – An archaic word meaning “settlement”. Here referring to what is now called Kingsthorpe, a village about 1.5 miles north of Northampton.
  • “Peter was of the opinion Hamtun’s prominence had come before the time of Offa” – This perhaps represents Moore’s own opinion deriving from sparse and somewhat contended archeological evidence.
  • Aethebald” – King of Mercia between 716 and 757. I have found no evidence linking him or his reign with Northampton.
  • “a circle, drafted by a knob of chalk upon a string” – This calls to mind one of the epigraphs to Moore’s From Hell: “One measures a circle, beginning anywhere – CHARLES FORT, LO!” In both Jerusalem and From Hell, Moore begins the story in what seems like an arbitrary place, gradually filling in details from other time periods and points of view until the whole “circle” becomes visible.
  • “thought to be a hole, like through a ring-loaf” – Bringing up the image of the torus, mentioned earlier in A Host of Angles, and discused further in Do as You Darn Well Pleasey.

paragraph 4

  • “Woolwych to the east of London” – Woolwich is now considered a district in the southeast of London.

Page 129

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • drover” – A person who transports animals over long distances.
  • “the sheep flocks herded down from there” – Sheep droving is discussed at more length in the chapter Blind, But Now I See, Pxxx.
  • “a manor in the settlement” – Probably referring to a large Saxon structure directly east of St. Peter’s Church, Originally of wood, it appears to have been rebuilt in stone in “The beginning of the eighth century”. See diagram below.

    Saxon Manor
    Detail of illustration in WILLIAMS, JOHN H. “From ‘Palace’ to ‘Town’: Northampton and Urban Origins.” Anglo-Saxon England, vol. 13, 1984, p.119
  • “a fine church of its own” – The current St. Peter’s Church was built circa 1100. However (according to their website), “Recent archaeological research suggests that there were two earlier churches here.”
  • “Peter supposed it to be in some far part of the town” – Dramatic irony; the manor is only about a thousand feet west of him, though he doesn’t reach it until Pxxx.
  • “Frith Borh” – The term came up earlier in the chapter Work in Progress, P6p5. As we noted there: “Frith” is an Old English word meaning “peace; protection; safety, security”. “Borh” is Old English for “pledge”. “Frith-borh” is thus a phrase meaning, literally, “peace-pledge”. It seems to have been used to describe an early system of low-level political organization. How the phrase came to be applied to a position “like a tithing-man”, I don’t know.

paragraph 2

  • “He’d by now achieved the crossroads of his path that led up from the bridge” – This crossroad is with Gold Street, going roughly west from here. North is the street now known as Drapery.
  • “a church of sorts, outside of Hamtun’s limit” – See note to paragraph 5, below.
  • “a pendant stone […] sacred to the demon Thor” – Presumably a Thor’s Hammer pendant. These were commonly found in UK archeological sites dated between around 800 and 1100. Precisely what religious or superstitious function(s) they may have served is unknown.

paragraph 3

  • “Yer wud be thenken o’ Sunt Peter’s, dayn away there.” – “You would be thinking of St. Peter’s, over there.”

paragraph 4

  • “along the crossing’s other path” – Again, Gold Street.

paragraph 5

Peter's Walk, part 2 (Google Maps 2021)
Peter’s Walk, part 2 (Google Maps 2021)
  • “Thet one there’s All Hallows what wur only belt when my mam was a child. Ef et’s a church yer arfter we’ve Sunt Gregory’s near by Sunt Peter’s, or else the old temple ayt upon the sheep trail, not far up ahead und en the way as yer be gooen.” – “That one there is All Hallows that was only built when my mom was a child. If it’s a church you’re after, we’ve Saint Gregory’s nearby Saint Peter’s, or the old temple on the sheep trail, not far ahead in the direction you are going.”
  • “All Hallows” – The original name for what is now All Saint’s Church (location for the chapter The Steps of all Saints). The earliest record of a church there that I could find was 12th century, but Moore’s use of fairly precise dating suggests that he has seen archeological evidence for an earlier church of the 8th century. It being outside the city walls is initially surprising, but it gradually becomes clear (especially at P131p1) that the city walls in 810 AD are much closer in than they would be in later centuries.
  • “Sunt Gregory’s near by Sunt Peter’s” – They are indeed near by, about 300 feet apart.
  • “the old temple” – See notes below at P131p3.
  • “the sheep trail” – Roughly equivalent to modern Sheep Street.

paragraph 6

  • “the wife” – In pre-modern times, “wife” was often used to mean “woman”, not to indicate specific marital status.

Page 130

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “a crossroads or its like might suit the crucial item” – A double pun. The item is, itself, a cross, hence suitable to crossroads. But “crucial“, in addition to its meaning of “important” can also mean “cruciform”, cross-shaped.

paragraph 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “over the crossroads” – Entering the rough equivalent of modern Drapery.
  • tanners” – People who tan leather, making it suitable for use in clothing or other applications.
  • drape-makers” – Probably in the sense “cloth-makers”. This area was marked as “The Drapery” in our earliest map (1614), and the street remains named that to this day.

paragraph 4

  • “Here was a fantasy of things” – An unusual usage of the word “fantasy“, though possibly relating to its sense as a literary genre
  • noisome” – Bad-smelling.
  • tanning-pits” – Depending on what stage the process was at, these pits might contain urine, salt water, or animal brains. Noisome indeed! Which is probably why they are located at what is at this time the edge of town. We see in the chapter Malignant, Refractory Spirits (Pxxx) that a tannery remains in this area until at least the Great Fire in 1675. It’s unclear whether or not it was rebuilt afterwards; references to 19th and 20th century tanneries are all out near the northwest corner of the Boroughs.
  • “wild designs of pigment dug into the skin upon their arms” – That is, tattoos. I have been unable to find any solid evidence of tattoo use in 9th -century England, though it’s certainly possible. Note that Peter is from this region of the world, and hasn’t been away for many years. Is his surprise at the tattoos because they are a new fad? Or a regional fashion?
  • “cloth, a richer red than any he had glimpsed in Palestine.” – Presumably due to the Scarlet Well, see P132p2 below.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

Page 131

on his left side there were many lanes and passages (detail of 1614 map, street names added)
“on his left side there were many lanes and passages” (detail of 1614 map, street names added)

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “he passed beyond the market street” – In modern terms, he is approximately leaving Drapery and entering Sheep Street. The 1614 map marks it as “Sheepe market”.
  • “The settlement’s east wall […] not far off and to his right” – A major difference between Moore’s conception of the 810 layout and our earliest map (1614) is here revealed. The town’s eastern walls at this time are roughly following the eastern edge of what is now The Boroughs.
  • “on his left side there were many lanes and passages” – Possibly including King Street, Bearward Street, and Bull Head Lane, see map.

paragraph 2

  • “the western cattle-trail” – While the word cattle is most commonly used today to refer to cows, it can also refer to other domesticated animals, such as the sheep being discussed here. The movement of sheep is discussed more in the chapter Blind, But Now I See, Pxxx.
  • “from Helpstun or else Peterboro” – That is, the area where Peter grew up, see P128p2.
  • “the district of Saint Neot” – Modern St Neots, a village about 25 miles due east of Northampton.
  • “Norwych” – Modern Norwich, a large city about 70 miles ENE from St Neots.
  • “tied into a knot at Hamtun by some giant midwife as it were the country’s umbilicus.” – The umbilicus is the cord that connects a fetus to the placenta. Traditionally, a midwife would cut that cord immediately after a birth, and tie a knot is it to prevent excessive bleeding. The metaphor suggests that Northampton was of vital importance to the “birth” of England, but is now a vestigial, useless reminder.

paragraph 3

Peter's Walk, part 3 (Google Maps 2021)
Peter’s Walk, part 3 (Google Maps 2021)
  • “a kind of mean church” – This pagan temple is also discussed in the Voice of the Fire chapter Limping to Jerusalem, wherein it is replaced by St Sepulchre’s Church, still in existence. While I am unaware of any definitive proof of a pagan building on this site, it’s certainly plausible.

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

Page 132

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • tympanum.jpg
    Tympanum of St. Sepulchre’s

    “The old stone posts […] had winding round them graven dragon-wyrms” – Probably a reference to the mysteriously carved tympanum in St Sepulchre’s, which might have beeen incorporated from an earlier structure. In Voice of the Fire, Moore also mentions “a pillar inlaid with a barbarous, serpentine device … coiled down the column’s length” – No such pillar remains today.

  • “the poor thing he had seen caught in its muck-hole out near London” – See P122p1
  • “the serpent wound about the world’s girth” – Jormungandr from Norse mythology.
  • “our mortal realm was held to be the middle one of three, with Hel below it and the Nordic heaven built across a bridge from it above” – This is a simplified and Chritianized understanding of the Norse world view.
    • The human world was referred to as Midgard, literally meaning “middle enclosure”.
    • Hel (with one l) was the Norse realm of the dead.
    • “Nordic heaven” refers to Asgard (literally “enclosure of the gods). It shares with the Christian concept of Heaven the notions of “residence of the supreme being” and “place where worthy souls go as a reward after death”. Asgard is reached by the Rainbow Bridge.
    • These three realms are only part of the nine realms envisioned in Norse cosmology.

paragraph 3

  • “in some means over it, at a superior height” – Stumbling towards the notion of higher dmensionality that will be explored in detail in Book Two.
  • “the truth or otherwise of writings” – While the majority of Christians at this time professed a belief in the Literality of the Bible, there did exist church officials who believed some parts were metaphor. So Peter’s beliefs here, while atypical, are not implausible.
  • “From what he knew of the Mohammedans” – Not that he knows very much. Whether or not to interpret the Quran literally has been an argument since it was written.
  • “Bede’s history” – Written by The Venerable Bede in about 731 AD. Per Wikipedia: “The History of the English Church and People has a clear polemical and didactic purpose.”
  • “the Daneland monster yarn” – Presumably Beowulf. We have no manuscript as old as 810 AD, but various scholars (including J.R.R. Tolkien) have argued for a composition not long after 700 AD.

Page 133

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “only vanity” – Alluding to the beginning of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” A major theme of Ecclesiastes is the emphemeral nature of the physical world.
  • “the fallen, overshadowed world” – A reference to the “Dark Ages” between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. This is somewhat anachronistic, as the idea of the dark ages seems to have originated in the 1330s.
  • “He did not have belief in angels as substantial forms, and as ideals had no need to believe in them: he knew them. He had met with them upon his travels and had seen them, though if this were with his mortal eyes or with the ideal gaze of vision he cared not at all.” – This seems to be Moore’s own views on the nature of supernatural beings such as angels and demons.

paragraph 3

paragraph 4

  • “several severed heads set onto spikes above the gate” – The custom of placing heads on the north gate of Northampton continues at least until 1618 per Voice of the Fire (chapter Angel Language). Earlier in VotF (chapter The Cremation Fields), Moore suggests that variations of the custom go back thousands of years. The VotF chapter Confessions of a Mask is narrated by one such head!

paragraph 5

  • “It was not very far.” – Roughly 0.6 miles.
  • “started off downhill” – Traveling along modern Grafton Street (A428). See map below.

Page 134

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “a district reaching out on Hamtun’s west and to the far side of the Nenn.” – Possibly the area now known as St James’s End (colloquially, “Jimmy’s End”). While I haven’t been able to find firm details, archeological finds suggest the area has been at least sparsely inhabited since the Paleolithic. Moore set a series of shrt films in this area, the first of which is even named “Jimmy’s End“.
  • “a bridge across it in a wooden arch” – The modern Spencer Bridge.
  • Peter's Walk, part 4 (Google Maps 2021)
    Peter’s Walk, part 4 (Google Maps 2021)

    “He saw a high wall too” – Since Peter seems to think this is a different wall than the town wall, though like it, I presume that the town wall stops at some distance before reaching the estate wall. I have mapped this wall as equivalent to the later western wall of St. Andrew’s Priory (see below).

  • “It mayhap was a cloister or a lord’s land” – The site will eventually be St. Andrew’s Priory, founded c.1100 by Simon de Senlis. What it was in 810 AD is unknown.

paragraph 2

  • “That would not be,” – Subtle foreshadowing here. While there is an “until” later in the sentence, ultimately, “That would not be.”

paragraph 3

  • “like a nest of rabbits.” – Suggesting that the association of the neighborhood with “burrows” goes back centuries. See notes to Work in Progress, P37p3.
  • “Hamtun did not seem a half so far from east to west” – Accurate, it’s only about a quarter mile from the north gate to the “west wall”.

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

Page 135

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “a single dwelling […] near the corner of a track” – This seems to be a 9th century version of the lonely house on the corner of Scarletwell Street.
  • “two that led up from his route and eastward” – Modern-day Spring Lane and Scarletwell Street.

paragraph 3

  • “as he supposed out of a fount or spring up near the top” – A plausible origin for the name “Spring Lane”.

paragraph 4

  • “the brightly painted wooden bucket” – Such decoration would be highly unusual for a well bucket. And indeed, it is not so much “painted” as “stained”.
  • “a cup” – The use of “cup” instead of “bucket” is possibly meant to signal a connection to the Holy Chalice from the Last Supper, and the ceremony of the Eucharist, where wine is transmuted to blood.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “a very cavalry of different understandings were stampeding” – The use of the word “cavalry” is almost certainly meant to evoke the name “Calvary“, the site of the crucifixion.

Page 136

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “It was his own blood, where his throat was cut that he’d not known.” – Evoking the fate of Hob’s Hog from Voice of the Fire.
  • Saint John the Divine” – Author of the Biblical Book of Revelation.
  • “the blood of saints […] quaffed at the world’s end” – Revelation 17:6 “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” The woman in question is the Whore of Babylon, whom Moore wrote about previously in Promethea.
  • “two hundred years from now” – That is, at 1000 AD, the millenium. Revelation 20:2-3 refers to Satan being bound for a thousand years, which gave rise to a popular belief that the world would end at the millenium.
  • “the land and soil itself were Jesu’s flesh” – Calling to mind the Fisher King, a character in Arthurian mythology whose health is tied to that of the land.
  • “like the barley and the things of earth was he not cut down to grow up again?” – Calling to mind The Golden Bough, and its theory of a sacred king who dies and is reborn to make the crops flourish.

paragraph 2

  • According to The Records of the Borough of Northampton (1898), Northampton “was famed from early days for the purity of its scarlet dye.” This street will eventually named “Scarletwell” due to this dye-well.

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • There was a 2008 discovery that some medieval monks did suffer from mercury poisoning, presumed to be from licking illumination brushes. None are decayed to the extent of the individual described here, but it is certainly plausible that such a story might be told, true or not. Also, any mention of monks inadvertently poisoning themselves with books has to be considered a reference to Umberto Eco’s classic, The Name of the Rose.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

Page 137

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • This consideration of two different worlds, the real and the imagined, is a frequent theme for Moore. To quote an interview from 2000:

    This leads to a consideration of the relationship between fiction and reality. I started to come to the conclusion that fiction has an immaterial reality that is exactly equivalent to material reality. It is no less or more real, it is simply different. For example, we have a three dimensional solid material chair such as the one that I’m sitting in. This is real in material terms. Then we have the idea of a chair. The idea of a chair is perhaps more important than any single individual chair, and yet the idea of a chair exists nowhere in the physical universe.

paragraph 2

  • “decided to go east” – Turning on to modern Scarletwell Street.
  • “newly familiar” – Today, more commonly called déjà vu. The term dates only to 1903, so of course Peter would not know it. In Moore’s view of Eternalism, these are brief moments when we perceive the tru nature of time. See P138p2. This particular instance may in some way have been prompted by his proximity to the lonely house on the corner of Scarletwell Street.

paragraph 3

  • “he yet half-thought that he was overlooked” – An odd turn of phrase. While “overlooked” certainly can mean “looked at over something”, in modern usage it is far more likely to mean the nearly opposite “missed, gone unnoticed”. Perhaps Moore is subtly admitting to the fact that this chapter in some sense should have been in his earlier novel, Voice of the Fire, but the story of the Rood in the Wall had been overlooked by him.
  • “it was the snail-eyed hag from out his dream” – As will transpire, the inhabitant of the corner in 2006 is an old woman.

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

Page 138

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “a lesser path to the southeast” – Roughly equivalent to modern Lower Bath Street.

paragraph 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “an air or a miasma that was risen up in this locality” – Clearly, Peter is passing near the future site of The Destructor.

paragraph 4

  • “on another dirt path” – Modern Bath Street.
  • “a kind of main square” – Peter can see The Mayorhold at the east end of Bath Street.

Page 139

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “a great fire was builded up” – As described, this is a sort of cultural ancestor to The Destructor, on the same site.
  • “this burning-ground” – The phrase, and the imagery of a large fire, both call to mind Voice of the Fire, particularly the chapter The Cremation Fields.

paragraph 2

  • “he turned off his eastbound way, along a little cross-street” – A minor pun: Peter is now on modern Little Cross Street, see map above.
  • Peter's Walk, part 5 (Google Maps 2021)
    Peter’s Walk, part 5 (Google Maps 2021)

    “a great hall” – Probably the “Saxon Palace“. Assuming I’m correct about Peter’s location, it’s about 750 feet to the south, down modern Doddridge Street.

  • “wastes were burned, yet as those billows had been black, these were all white.” – Possibly some by-product of the chalk-processing business? Suggest??
  • “a carriage [with] loads of chalk” – Peter is at the north end of Chalk Lane.

paragraph 3

  • “a path run up from it and to the east” – Modern Castle Street, see map above.
  • Castle Hill turf (Google Street View Apr 2009)
    Castle Hill turf (Google Street View Apr 2009)

    “a mound like to a square that had one of its sides squeezed shorter than the rest” – Probably what is now called “Castle Hill”. This is where Alma Warren’s exhibition will be held, 1194 years from now.

  • piss-the-bed” – A colloquial name for dandelions.

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

Page 140

paragraph 1 (continued) – 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “as though to the south road that had the lonely hut and bloody well” – Possibly meaning that she’s traveling off northwest, along early 20th century Bristol Street. Alternately, she might be headed west or southwest, to intersect St Andrew’s Street (the “south road” from Scarletwell Street).

Page 141

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “these worrisome new times” – Nearly everyone thinks that things have gotten worse over time, and always has done.

paragraph 2

  • “the lane that went up by the north side of the lifted mound” – Modern Castle Street.

paragraph 3

  • “another rough-shod pilgrim” – This is an anachronsitic meeting with the ghost of Freddy Allen. We saw Freddy’s POV of this meeting in the chapter Rough Sleepers, P95p3ff.
  • “his garments were an oddment as though cast away by others” – Presumably Freddy is “wearing” cast-offs, though no doubt any 20th century clothing would strike Peter as odd.
  • “an air about him that was pale and grey” – Of course he does, he’s a ghost.
  • “a poor man who mayhap had his small mischiefs but seemed good at heart” – Peter shows himself a good judge of character.

paragraph 4

  • The dialog is, of course, repeated exactly. The surrounding text varies due to the differing points of view and what each one tends to notice (or ignore).

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

Page 142

paragraph 1 (continued) – 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “a broader street ahead” – Modern Horse Market.
  • “A thick elm stood there” – Presumably this is not the same tree that Freddy points to in 2006.

paragraph 8-9

  • No notes.

Page 143

paragraph 1 (continued) – 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “croft-man” – A croft is a small plot of farmland.

Page 144

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • Peter's Walk, part 6 (Google Maps 2021)
    Peter’s Walk, part 6 (Google Maps 2021)

    “where the horseflesh dealers made their truck” – Indeed, from at least 1807 this street has been named Horse Market.

paragraph 3

  • “This was the far end of the street where were the forges” – That is to say, modern Gold Street. Peter passed the east end of Gold Street at P129p2 and is now at its west end.

paragraph 4

  • This paragraph contains some regrettable Jewish stereotypes. Wikipedia claims that there was a large Jewish population centred on Gold Street in the 13th century. I have been unable to find any information about when those Jews arrived (the first written record of Jews in England dates to 1070), but Moore seems to think them well established in Northampton by the current date of 810.
  • “a pearl without compare.” – Probably a reference to the Parable of the Pearl.

paragraph 5

  • “off to the west, along a street where many of the horses from uphill behind him were now being led.” – Modern Mare Fair.

Page 145

paragraph 1 (continued)

paragraph 2

  • “across the street and on his left” – Down modern Horseshoe Street.

paragraph 3

mede” – Middle English “meadow”.

paragraph 4

  • “he had once or many times before arrived here to find nothing” – A brief glimpse of Eternalism again.

paragraph 5 -6

  • No notes.

Page 146

paragraph 1 (

Peter's Walk, part 7 (Google Maps 2021)
Peter’s Walk, part 7 (Google Maps 2021)

continued)

  • “On the waste-field there” – Which is to say, the earthly location corresponding to the Trilliard Hall in Mansoul.
  • “he held a polished rod made from fair wood” – There are several sources (all apparently quoting some unknown original verbatim) that tell of the Archangel Michael appearing in Phrygia holding a rod during the early days of Christianity. But Moore probably intends the rod to be a pool cue, see paragraph 5 below.

paragraph 2

  • “bright and blinding pinions” – Peter is unfamiliar with this “wing effect”, described in the chapter Rough Sleepers, P119p2.

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

Pool cue tip and chalk (pooldone.com)
Pool cue tip and chalk (pooldone.com)
  • “the tip for decoration was a blue like cornflowers” – While pool cue tips come in many colors, blue is the most common. And even if the tip itself is not blue, the chalk applied to the tip is most often blue.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

Page 147

paragraph 1 (continued) – 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “The lightnings came again” – The appearance of lightning and storm associated with the appearance of an angel recalls the events of the chapter A Host of Angles.
  • “the left one that was numb” – Given the other symptoms that Peter has gradually been experiencing, he would appear to be suffering a heart attack or a stroke.

paragraph 4 – 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “a place of skulls” – Alluding to Calvary/Golgotha, the site of the Crucifixion. The name has often been interpreted as “place of the skull”.

Page 148

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “a black silk of Orient” – Trade with China did exist in this period, along the Silk Road.
  • “[clouds] were tucked in and had been cunningly compressed” – For more on this, see chapter xxx, Pxxx.

paragraph 3

  • “people small like unto mygge-flies” – Dead souls awaiting his arrival in Mansoul. Explained more thoroughly in chapter xxx, Pxxx.
    • “mygge” – Midge (see P123p3 above).

paragraph 4

  • “The last word that he said, it was Jerusalem.” – Moore having coyly avoided using the word “Jerusalem” anywhere earlier in this chapter.

4 thoughts on “J1.05 X Marks the Spot”

  1. OBSERVATIONS & QUESTIONS:

    • p129, par1: Apparently the “Frith Borh,” as originally mentioned by Alma’s mom, Doreen, in Ch1 is a “tithing-man,” (like a medieval tax man?).

    • p129 bottom: The word “Sunt” in the context here sounds like it means “church.” But while looking it up I found two definitions:

    Wikipedia lists it as this: “Ubi sunt (literally “where are… [they]”) is a phrase taken from the Latin Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?, meaning “Where are those who were before us?” Ubi nunc…? (“Where now?”) is a common variant.”

    And the Urban Dictionary lists it as this: “sunt is a contraction of stupid and cunt…to call someone a stupid cunt in public without offending anyone too ignorant to put 2 and 2 together” haha

    • p131, par 2: “Were all of England’s tangling lines met here, he wondered, tied into a knot at Hamtun by some giant midwife as it were the country’s umbilicus?”

    Yep, Moore definitely sees Northampton as the center of England! This image maybe also calls to mind the structure the Third Borough and friends were building in Ch1?

    • p134, par 3: A “drover” is a person who drives sheep or cattle to the market.

    • 146, par 4: The dialogue spoken by the angel is in italics with no quotations marks, just like how the Third Borough spoke to Alma in Ch1 and how the ceiling angel spoke to Ernest in Ch2 (and, like in Ch2, speaking only a few words of the statement while the rest “unfolds and unpacks” in the mind of the listener).

    And speaking of “unfolding and unpacking,” this is a similar concept to what Peter is thinking about the clouds as he’s dying on p148, par 2: “He saw now what he had not seen before, that clouds were of a grotesque shape by reason that had been tucked in and had been cunningly compressed. He saw that were they but unfolded they should have a form at once more regular and yet more difficult to be encompassed by the gaze.”

    • Yeah Freddy from Ch4 is totally the ghost whom Peter encounters on p141! Further evidence: “…all his garments were an oddment as though cast away by others, yet what others Peter could not tell, the bits a pieces were so strange.” Peter is unknowingly describing how a homeless person would dress nowadays.

    Plus, Freddy walks past a monk in Ch4 when he’s visiting his friend in the public restroom spot.

    • p147, par 2: Describing the friars trying to shield Peter from the rain: “They crouched above him with their habits spread out as they thought to keep the rain off him, though it made them seem like crows and did not shield him much.”

    So at the end of Ch4 we learn that the angle-angels (who wear white and are glowing) playing billiards look like DOVES when they cheer, and the ghosts (who exist in black-and-white) look like PIGEONS when imitating the angle-angels. So now we’re told the friars (who I am assuming are wearing black robes) look like CROWS as they attempt to shield Peter from the rain.

    …man, this book is for the BIRDS! (Sorry, super outdated expression haha)

    “EINSTEINIAN BLOCK UNIVERSE” MOMENTS:

    In the recent London Hollywood interview with Moore he refers to it this way, so “Einteinian Block Universe” it is! (Opposed to my previously suggests (and appreciated – thanks Yenam!) term “spacetimey”)

    • p138, par 2: The entire paragraph, especially: “so that was called unto his mind an image that was like an endless row of him, his separate selves all passing by the same forsaken nook but many times repeated, all of them within that instant made aware of one another and the queer affair of their recurrence, of the world and times about them were recurring also.”

    • p143, the last paragraph, especially: “Rather, it seemed that events had been already set into their place and time, with all their joints and decorations long ordained.”

    THESE LINES MADE ME LAUGH:

    • p128, par 1, describing Hamtun/Northapton: “It had always been there, he had the impression, though not very much there, and remarkable only in that it never was remarked upon.”

    • p133, par 4: “There was a different air about this quarter of the settlement that had a quality of harm and malice, and to which he thought those several severed heads set onto spikes above the gate may have contributed.”

    Like

    1. “Sunt Peter’s & Sunt Gregory’s” = “Saint Peter’s & Saint Gregory’s.” Both are contemporary Northampton churches; the former Anglican, the latter Roman Catholic.

      Like

      1. Thanks!

        I suppose consulting the Urban Dictionary for a word used in a story that takes place in the year 810 is a bit of a stretch haha.

        Like

  2. I’ll put my dramatis personae and index lists here.
    NOTES:
    Page referrers are for 3 volume paperback edition by Knockabout.
    Dramatis personae-characters in brackets are only mentioned but not in scene.

    Dramatis Personae
    • Peter (= Aegburth; = Le Canal in France): POV, Benedictine monk with bag. Travelled from far away (Palestine) to Hamtun (= Northampton) to deliver something in bag to center of England
    • (Friend of Peter, = angel Michael, gave instruction for delivery)
    • Several boys at bridge over river Nenn
    • Old woman (witch): dream sepctre
    • Thin & gloomy-looking spear guard at southern gate of Hamtun
    • (Relic dealer)
    • Pox victims
    • mother with children
    • (Peters grandfather)
    • (Drover at Woolwych)
    • Woman (wife) with Thor-pendant at East Gate
    • (her mother)
    • Shepherd and their dogs
    • (Peters ›brother‹ Matthew): Illuminator
    • (Monk poisoned by red ochre made of mercury rust)
    • Laughing men, scolding women with babies at main square
    • Old men heaping dung on burning ground
    • Ugly, compressed man on drag with horse
    • young girl/maid, nearly caught by ugly man on drag
    • Queer dressed pilgrim (= Freddy Allen from Rough Sleepers. See p 100)
    • Sooty men working gold
    • Old men stooped over silver filigrees
    • Man/dwarf blowing glass
    • Smiling gem traders with spidery fingers
    • Idle man outside smith’s yard (could this be Charlie from Modern Times)
    • Man in white with white hair and rod (= Friend in Palestine = Mighty Mike)
    • Two young monks in graveyard of Saint George Church

    Index
    • Charlemagne (c 742-814), King of the Franks, 1st Holy Roman Emperor: 125
    • Spelhoe hundreds http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol4/pp63-64 : 125
    • John {the} Baptist (died c 31-36), Jewish preacher, New Testament, Bible: 129
    • King Offa of Mercia (died 796): 131
    • King Aethebald of Mercia (died 757): 131
    • ›one of Offers kin‹: 131
    • Thor, hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing and fertility: 132, 133
    • Hel, is a being in Norse mythology who rules over realm of the same name, where she recieves a portion of the dead: 134
    • Koran as ›bible of the Mohammedans‹: 135
    • Bible: 135
    • Beda Venerabilis (c 673-735), Northumbrian monk: 135
    Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, as ›Bede’s history‹: 135
    • Christus (Jesus): 135, 137
    • Saint John the Divine, author of Book of Revelation, New Testament, Bible: 137

    Like

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