Sprite

Lutine Bell in Lloyd's of London

Lutine Bell in Lloyd’s of London

The french word “lutin” is translated as “imp” in English.  The feminine form is usually translated as a “sprite”. In truth the realm of the faery world is poorly understood by humans and it is difficult to nail down exactly what a sprite is.  Sprites can be fairies, imps, pixies, elves, dryads and so on.

To my mind the correct translation of Lutine should be Nymph, a nubile female spirit who is associated with water.  There were nymphs associated with lakes, pools and rivers, but also nymphs of the sea.  The most famous of these were the Nereids and in particular Thetis, who married Peleus and gave birth to Achilles.

The name Lutine was given to a frigate of the Royal French Navy.  Originally called the “St Jean” she was berthed at Toulon during the siege that made the reputation of Napoleon.  The British under Admiral Hood took the ship and renamed her the HMS Lutine.

In Oct 1799 the Lutine was carrying gold bullion to Germany when she went aground on a sandbank in the West Frisian Islands.  She sank with total loss of crew and cargo with only one survivor from a crew and passengers numbering over 240.  Also lost was the shipment of gold.  Despite many attempts only a fraction of the bullion has been recovered.

Some timbers from the ship were salvaged and made into a chair for the Chairman at Lloyd’s who bore the insurance.  Also salvaged was the Lutine bell, which hangs in Lloyd’s to this day, where it marks especially important occasions.

Originally the Lutine Bell was rung to mark the fate of an overdue vessel to the trading community, so that everyone would get the information at the same time.  It rang once for a loss and twice for a safe return.  The bell now has a crack and the practice of ringing for returned ships has ceased.

During the second world war the German propagandist Lord Haw Haw quipped that the Lutine bell never stopped ringing during the war of the Atlantic.  In actual fact it rang only once during the war, when the Royal Navy sank the Bismarck

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

……………………John Donne

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Eris; discord and strife

Peleus, one of the Argonauts, is one of the more interesting characters in Greek mythology.  After his adventures with Heracales and the Amazons and Jason and the Golden Fleece he settled down to marry Antigone.  After a hunting accident he was purified of the killing of King Eurytion (his father in law) by another Argonaut, Acastus.

The wife of Acastus, Astydamia fell in love with Peleus, but he scorned her.  In retribution she sent a messenger to Antigone telling her that her husband was marrying another, and Antigone hanged herself.

She also told her husband that Peleus had tried to rape her (not a nice lady).  Acastus took Peleus hunting and stole his sword so that he would be killed by the Centaurs.  But Peleus got his sword back, sacked the city that had tried to kill him, chopped up Astydamia in to little pieces, and marched his army between the bits.

Peleus then went on to marry Thetis the sea nymph and a shape changer.  Peleus had to sneak up on her when she was asleep and bind her tight.  She changed into flame, a lioness, water and a serpent, but he clung on tightly.  At last she settled down and agreed to marry him.  The child of Peleus and Thetis was Achilles.

But we are here today because of their wedding.  Lots of Gods and Goddesses were invited to the wedding, in particular Aphrodite, Athena and Hera.  Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, was not invited, because she was always causing trouble!  She was very upset and in response she tossed the “Apple of Discord” into the middle of the celebration.

The golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides was inscribed “for the fairest one”.  So the ladies started fighting over who should get it.  The job of awarding the apple was given to the hapless Paris of Troy.

Hera bribed him with power, the Kingship of Europe and Asia.  Athene bribed him with wisdom.  Aphrodite won the bet by offering him the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta.  The result was the Trojan War.

So it all came down to not inviting Eris to the wedding!  On January 5th in 2005 the Palomar Observatory discovered a new planet that they named “Eris”.  True to her name she sowed discord amongst the astronomical community.  Larger than Pluto she was originally posited as the 10th planet.  Then the rules were changed in 2006 and the designation of “Dwarf Planet” was introduced.  Pluto lost status as a planet and was demoted to join with Eris, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake.

Epic; by Patrick Kavanagh

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
“Here is the march along these iron stones.”
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.