Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fiddling on the woof ...

Here's Matthew d'Ancona on the EU treaty in today's Telegraph:
Mr Brown's hope is that the duration and tedium of parliamentary ratification will force the media and electorate to lose interest (more mysteriously, he believes the debate will open up crippling divisions in Tory ranks, which it will not).

He will ask whether Britain really wants to jeopardise its position in the EU by tinkering with something, by implication, so technical and dull.

In politics, the attention deficit of voters and foes alike can often be exploited by a determined PM. "The dogs bark," as William Waldegrave likes to say, "but the caravan moves on."

Well, Malcolm has already suggested a sure-fire way to drive the wedge into the Tory fragile consensus of a referendum: up the ante.

Since the treaty now includes a trap-door clause for leaving the EU, that's what any referendum should be about. So sincere ultra-EUsceptics (and the Tories play this oneupmanship game of being more sceptic than thou) should be moving towards getting the treaty debate out of the way (by approving it as soon as possible), then regrouping for the main event.

But, of course, that won't happen, because the referendum-on-the-treaty is the fig-leaf that preserves the Tories' lack of ...

To issues of greater importance, however.

Malcolm is intrigued that the dogs and the caravan are now allocated to William Waldegrave. He cannot be allowed the credit for their currency.

The expression seems to have become more common after Truman Capote used it for his 1977 book The Dogs Bark. He based that title on an episode:
It must have been the spring of 1950 or 1951, since I have lost my notebooks detailing those two years. It was a warm day late in February, which is high spring in Sicily, and I was talking to a very old man with a mongolian face who was wearing a black velvet Borsalino and, disregarding the balmy, almond-blossom-scented weather, a thick black cape.
The old man was Andre Gide, and we were seated together on a sea wall overlooking shifting fire-blue depths of ancient water.

The postman passed by.
A friend of mine, he handed me several letters, one of them containing a literary article rather unfriendly toward me (had it been friendly, of course no one would have sent it).

After listening to me grouse a bit about the piece, and the unwholesome nature of the critical mind in general, the great French master hunched, lowered his shoulders like a wise old . . . shall we say buzzard?, and said, "Ah, well. Keep in mind an Arab proverb: 'The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.'"

It has been around in English some time before 1977, long enough for Dodie Smith to invert it in One Hundred and One Dalmatians:
The shut-in Romany dogs heard [the Dalmatians] and shook the caravans in their efforts to get out ... "The caravans bark but the dogs move on," remarked Pongo.
That's from 1956, so we need to go still further back.

Scott Moncrieff used it in his translation of Proust, in the first chapter of Within a Budding Grove:
“In the words of a fine Arab proverb, ‘The dogs may bark; the caravan goes on!’” After launching this quotation M[arquis] de Norpois paused and examined our faces, to see what effect it had had upon us. Its effect was great, the proverb being familiar to us already.
Even that is not the end of the chase.


There is an earlier appearance, which Malcolm finds quite fascinating. John Lockwood Kipling, in 1891, published Beast and Man in India, wherein we find:
'The dog barks but the elephant moves on’ is sometimes said to indicate the superiority of the great to popular clamour, but the best form of the phrase is, ‘Though the dog may bark the caravan (kafila) moves on.’
John Lockwood Kipling? India? Any connection?

Yes, indeed, Malcolm reassures us. The dear dad of the said Rudyard (the only person of whom Malcolm has heard tell to be named for a reservoir). And a man of considerable distinction in his own right.

When Kim was first published, the New York Times (24 August, 1901) gave the senior Kipling prominence in its review:
... it is illustrated by the author's father, Mr Lockwood Kipling. It is not generally known that Kipling, the elder, was for several years one of the central figures around whom the artistic education of native India flourished... His work would have sufficed to make the name of Kipling famous even had there not been the brilliant Rudyard to add lustre to it. All the Kiplings are clever, and the head of the family is as many-sided and gifted a man as need be sought. He has a taste for literature himself, and has written a valuable work, Man and Beast in India. His illustrations of his son's newest novel are immensely interesting as accurate presentations of the living characters of Kim.
Now, for the hunters of literary trivia...

... a link from Kim to Pongo to Gide to Gordo can't be bad. Sphere: Related Content

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