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 Unwitting prophecy ...

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Nobiles Barbariæ

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Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Unwitting prophecy ...   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 09:02

We are conditioned to appreciate as plausible the notion that some individuals can prophesy the future better than others, or as Webster coined it "predict with assurance or on the basis of mystic knowledge". Now, while this belief may be contentious, in a world in which we all like to prognosticate (99% of sport "reporting" for example is anticipating what will happen - not what has occurred), the sheer probability of some small portion of these prophecies coming to pass can alone count for some pretty impressive "guesstimates" over the years.

However while some charlatans might exploit our gullibility in these matters and even impress with some direct hits on occasion, that which is far more impressive is when certain individuals quite unexpectedly, and often quite unwittingly, hit the prophetic nail on the proverbial head, sometimes indeed while thinking they were thinking about something quite other than that which eventually proved their prophecy correct.

Take this example from the poet Christina Rossetti, anticipating internet trolls as far back as 1859. In fact her entire poem "Goblin Market", and the strange ordeal the two sisters undergo in it, reads these days like a pretty hard-hitting and accurate allegory outlining the very real dangers to adolescent females of online grooming and internet dependency. This excerpt below indeed is nothing less than the Victorian version of the advice known to all frequenters of discussion sites such as our own - "Don't feed the trolls" ...

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?

Another accidental prophet could well be considered to be Thomas More - he of all condiments fame - who, like many of his contemporaries, had the misfortune to work for a master who regarded other people's necks as irritating obstacles standing between him and posterity. More himself came a cropper over the same megalomaniac's desire that he give his approval to Henry's intention to divorce and trade up in the royal breeding stakes. More's refusal to play along lost him his head, but in fact this is quite ironic in the context of what More himself had predicted - albeit with sarcasm and satire ladled in dollops - in his 1515 "De optimo rei publicae deque nova insula Utopia" (thankfully abbreviated these days to the last word in the title). More's Utopia, despite how the word has since acquired a distinct definition indicating a naive paradise on earth, reads today more like a rather nasty hell of a place, what with slavery, extreme cruelty to prisoners, and people pissing in gold chamber pots etc. However two of his satirical predictions, guaranteed to raise a guffaw in their day, were extraordinarily prophetic of life in 21st century Britain - the ordination of female priests (also that priests could marry), and - the reason for the irony mentioned above - readily granted divorces based on declared incompatibility by the partners concerned.

Those impressed by More's other anticipated social developments, such as a welfare state with free hospital care (a prediction the truth of which has already expired alas) and the use of passports to facilitate cross-border travel, might note however that the same Utopian "ideal" included compulsory euthanasia to reduce over-population, enforced life-long celibacy as a punishment for pre-marital sex, and the abolition of public houses!

Bearing in mind that some authors - such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells - made a living out of predicting the future and were bound to have guessed some things reasonably accurately, can you think of any others who rather fortuitously stumbled into the prediction business and scored some palpable hits?
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Gilgamesh of Uruk

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PostSubject: Re: Unwitting prophecy ...   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 23:14

Rather OT, but here goes.
Not all the predictions credited to Wells & Verne are real - there is a persistent myth that Verne predicted the periscope so accurately that no-one was later able to patent it. In fact there is no mention of such a device in "20000 Leagues under the Sea", and Wells' "Land Ironclads" are most assuredly not a precursor of the "Landships" (tanks) of WWI.
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Virgo Vestalis Maxima

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PostSubject: Re: Unwitting prophecy ...   Wed 20 Apr 2016, 11:07

Difficult to come up with anything as good as Goblin Market (should be required reading in all secondary schools), but here is a feeble effort. Just replace "Italy" with "Syria". The line about people's capacity for sympathy being exhausted because of the constant exposure to cruel and barbarous deeds is perhaps particularly apt in today's world.

The mention of Caesar made me think of a line from the recent superb BBC drama, The Night Manager: in Episode 5, the smooth and urbane villain, the arms-dealing, Mephistophelian Richard Roper, declares, with complete authority: "‘We are Emperors of Rome…blood and steel, the only elements that ever meant anything."

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife

Shall cumber all the parts of Italy.

Blood and destruction shall be so in use,

And dreadful objects so familiar,

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quartered with the hands of war,

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds,

And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Ate by his side come hot from hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice

Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war...
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PostSubject: Re: Unwitting prophecy ...   Sun 18 Jun 2017, 12:39

I was thumbing through an old volume earlier and came across this from Walter Scott's poem Rokeby (1813). It seems to express (for me at least) the disquieting juxtaposition of these glorious midsummer days (and particularly the sunny and serene June mornings) with the grim and sad aftermath of Wednesday's horrific fire in Notting Hill:

A shapeless mass lie keep and tower, 
That hissing in the morning shower,
Can but with smouldering vapour pay
The early smile of summer day.
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Meles meles

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Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Unwitting prophecy ...   Sun 18 Jun 2017, 13:29

Indeed Viz ... and it's considerably better, IMHO, than most of the cod doggeral that, just at the moment, is being posted on the internet by every would-be William McGonagall.
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PostSubject: Re: Unwitting prophecy ...   Wed 28 Jun 2017, 14:13

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