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    Smile Davy Jones's street and number by heart

    Dear all,

    What's the meaning of the underlined?
    Thanks in advance.

    The cabby has his point of view. It is more single-minded, perhaps, than that of a follower of any other calling. From the high, swaying seat of his hansom he looks upon his fellow-men as nomadic particles, of no account except when possessed of migratory desires. He is Jehu, and you are goods in transit. Be you President or vagabond, to cabby you are only a Fare, he takes you up, cracks his whip, joggles your vertebrae and sets you down.
    When time for payment arrives, if you exhibit a familiarity with legal rates you come to know what contempt is; if you find that you have left your pocketbook behind you are made to realize the mildness of Dante's imagination.
    It is not an extravagant theory that the cabby's singleness of purpose and concentrated view of life are the results of the hansom's peculiar construction. The cock-of-the-roost sits aloft like Jupiter on an unsharable seat, holding your fate between two thongs of inconstant leather. Helpless, ridiculous, confined, bobbing like a toy mandarin, you sit like a rat in a trap--you, before whom butlers cringe on solid land--and must squeak upward through a slit in your peripatetic sarcophagus to make your feeble wishes known.
    Then, in a cab, you are not even an occupant; you are contents. You are a cargo at sea, and the "cherub that sits up aloft" has Davy Jones's street and number by heart.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Davy Jones's street and number by heart

    Davy Jones's locker is an idiomatic expression for the bottom of the sea. If you are cargo on a ship at sea, and the cherub that sits up aloft (the driver) knows exactly where the bottom of the sea is, then where do you think he is going to send his cargo (you)?

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    Re: Davy Jones's street and number by heart

    The idea of death is introduced earlier on in the phrase 'peripatetic sarcophagus' - not that people in hansom cab's usually died (). It's just that if the cab were a 'sarcophagus' the cabby would know where it was bound.

    The idea of a nautical image is introduced by the word 'aloft', which was used - in pre-radio, pre-GPS days - to refer to the highest point on a ship's main-mast, where there was a platform called a 'crow's nest'. A man who was 'aloft' was in the crow's nest looking for land or another sail. (This is not to say that 'aloft' wasn't also used to mean something like 'up there' in non-sea-faring contexts. But aloft, with no precise statement of whereabouts ('he's aloft in the tree'), has a specific meaning on ships even when there's no statement of whereabouts; if a man's 'aloft', he's in the crows nest or up in the rigging - an old sea song has the chorus

    While raging sea did roar
    And the story winds did blow
    And we jolly sailor-boys were up up aloft
    And the land-lubbers lying down below...

    Another song, Tom Bowling uses the ambiguity of 'aloft' in reference to a dead (but peacefully retired) sailor: 'Tom has gone aloft'.

    It's really quite a 'pregnant' passage.

    Last edited by BobK; 17-Oct-2010 at 17:17. Reason: Added song passage

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