An English In Kentucky


















Monday November 20th 2017Tim Candler9


      I was now-casting the frost this frigid morning when the Mockingbird had a bit of a go at a Downy, then followed up by doing battle with a Sapsucker who'd settled on the trunk of the ornamental Apple. It's a well known fact that woodpeckers of all kinds tend to struggle a little with being told what to do, but amongst woodpeckers, Sapsuckers are probably the most stubborn and the Downy is the cutest and the sneakiest of all. For some reason, as I watched, I wondered why Hobbes chose to call his first and most remembered book Leviathan rather than Behemoth. It's also the case that one of the Victorian poets, probably of high birth and perverse morals, wrote a poem about the Leviathan. And as I uttered the two names aloud it struck me that Leviathan sounds nicer than Behemoth. Back in those days of course there was a lot of sitting around in the company of others chatting about this and that, and otherwise demonstrating knowledgeableness around mythical beasts mentioned in the scriptures. There might even have been arguments through the cigar smoke, across the bottle of port, as to whether the Behemoth was an Elephant and the Leviathan was a Whale. I can just picture Hobbes saying, "I don't give a hoot, I'm calling it 'Leviathan: or the matter, forme and power of a commonwealth ecclesiastical and civil.'" The other thing about Hobbes' book, it was written in Latin, it called for a social contract between a populace and an All Powerful Sovereign. In context, when the book was written the Brits were engaged in a civil war, Parliament against the Monarchy, Roundheads and Cavaliers, the brute of nature let loose across the green and pleasant land, and yes, you could call it a Culture War. But you'd be wise to remember that even in the clip notes an All Powerful Sovereign isn't always a King or Queen, sovereign comes from the Latin for "above."



     Descriptions of the Behemoth include the idea that it was incredibly loud. One account suggests that on Midsummer the creature would roar in a manner so fierce that all other creatures would tremble, and for the remainder of the year they would tip-toe around just in case they happened upon the Behemoth who no doubt would eat them up. And too the Behemoth's roar would remind other creatures that they were far from invincible and wholly mortal, so creatures didn't just go around being beastly to other creatures by doing things like poking them with sticks for no good reason. Job himself reckoned the Behemoth, despite the beast being a few crayons short of a coloring book, was totally uncontrollable, and in some interpretations of Job's description the Behemoth was driven more by the size of his gonads than anything remotely associated with a rational mental process. I think in terms of Mockingbirds and their relationship with the community of Woodpeckers, the Behemoth would be a Pileated Woodpecker, quite insane, entirely unstable and from personal observation I have noticed that Mockingbirds generally become polite when a Pileated Woodpecker is out there in front of everybody pointlessly destroying a brand new treated fence post. But whichever way you look at it, none of these Behemoth behaviors are really something a person looks for at the other end of a Social Contract. No doubt in my mind that Hobbes felt the same way about the Behemoth, which is why as a rational being in the struggle for a commonwealth ecclesiastical and civic Hobbes chose an enormous sea creature for the title of his book. Leviathan could have been a dragon, some argue for Crocodile, but the thing about sea creatures in those simpler days before Twitter and chaps like Cousteau had National Geographic specials, sea creatures were usually just underwater, and no one really knew what they got up to or how unbalanced or obnoxious they might have been. Hobbes' second book, published after his death, was a history, more of a dialogue on the causes of the English Civil Wars and this book in all its gory down to earth detail he gave the title Behemoth.


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