Not Marching in the Field of Trasimene
I had a curry lunch with my old chum Flaminius Titus Ardlus Waddicus who had a Unique Glow about him. Ardle, as he is known to his friends, breezed into the restaurant plugged into his iPod and dressed in a brown Uniclo jacket, beige Uniclo hooded top, beige Uniclo baseball cap, a pair of Uniclo jeans and a pair of those trendy "N" trainers. A mutual friend of ours has suggested that he consider his advancing years, his spreading paunch, and refrain from dressing like 14yo shopping mall hoodlum; but to no avail.
I happened to receive the latest copy of History Ireland from the dear aged pater and had been admiring the works of various artists featured in its pages while riding the tram into town. There was an article about the Irish neo-classical painter and friend of Edmund Burke, James Barry, who in some respects reminded me of old Ardle since he, like him, sometimes evinces
"an overwhelming sense of victimhood... yet clinging to his youthful ideals and able to proclaim them with [Uniclo] style up to the end."
Mind you, I have to admit that James Barry would never have been spotted among the clothes racks of his local Uniclo store had one been available to him, for Barry
"dressed in ancient paint-encrusted clothes."
Ardle has been expressing an interest in things Latin of late and has taken occasion to enquire of me:
"Do you know the classics?"
Well, Sir, I thank you for your impudent groping for trouts in a peculiar river. If you must have an answer then I shall answer you in kind:
"Foreasmuch as it is given unto Man to Know Anything, Sir, I should say that up to a point, Sir, up to a point I do, but no further."
Ardle has taken to reading Livy. Barry and Livy shared a similar view of the moral purpose of their respective fields.
"Our art has the glory of being a moral art, with extensive means, peculiarly universal, and applicable to all ages and nations, to the improvement of the deepest interests of society."
"The subjects to which I would ask each of my readers to devote his earnest attention are these - the life and morals of the community; the men and the qualities by which through domestic policy and foreign war dominion was won and extended. Then as the standard of morality gradually lowers, let him follow the decay of the national character, observing how at first it slowly sinks, then slips downward more and more rapidly, and finally begins to plunge into headlong ruin, until he reaches these days, in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies."
Having had our fill we adjourned to our customary cafe and had no sooner bagged the sofa when we had our noses pushed firmly out of joint by the waitress who told us the joint was closing at 2pm... far too soon for a leisurely game of igo! We therefore retreated to the NHK Starbucks. Ardle ordered himself a large portion of one of that establishment's sickly concoctions and then showed evidence of further retardation by sucking the coffee out of the inbuilt sucker on the plastic lid like a four year old. I tell you, from nearly 40 back to 14 and then to 4 in the space of a few bare hours!
The good news was that Ardle played with a pleasing celerity today so the game flowed along with the flow of the chatter. But for Flaminius Ardle Titus it turned out to be his Battle of Trasimene replayed in miniature. At one stage he likened developments to the movements of the Japanese and Russian navies in the Russo-Japanese War. He was the Russians.
Now, I would not usually liken our Ardle to Flaminius Titus for Flaminius Titus was headstrong. A better comparison would be with Andre Maginot (except that he didn't wear Uniclo). But today, playing with headstrong haste Flaminius Titus Silliarse marched into Hannibal Hurlius his cunning trap.
Thus while our conversation kept itself within light and pleasant boundaries, such as for example, the pleasures of springtime when the birds begin to sing and winter clouts are cast, the heavy and doleful trap was quietly laid.
Flaminius "saw that part only of the enemy which was opposite to him" (Liv. XXII. iv.) until:
"Romanus clamore prius undique orto quam satis cerneret se circumuentum esse sensit, et ante in frontem lateraque pugnari coeptum est quam satis instrueretur acies aut expediri arma stringique gladii possent."
Many troops perished on the shore and the rest were crushed in the centre in a vicious grip.