CLASS OF 1945 | 2015 | ISSUE 2

The preceding issue of this magazine included notice of the 2013 death of Gene Noble ’47; but before leaving for WWII service, he was a member of our class. He was also one of the 13 of us from Wesleyan who enlisted in the Tenth Mountain Division, which distinguished itself in combat in Italy and revolutionized the post-war ski industry. So far as I know at this June writing, four of us may still be alive; of two I am certain. That division was unique in military history, and its story and Wesleyan’s chapter of that story deserve a place in the college archives.

My last column generated no influx of news from you out there, but I did receive one unsigned scribbled note telling me, “A curse on your nonsense blessings.” Alas, that anonymous curse lacks spirit, lacks sting; it has no hint of elegance. Consider, if you will, how the ancient Irish curser had a fearsome power. To offend him or her was to flirt with a fate that could last four generations. Every chief had his personal bard whose function was to eulogize his employer and to curse without end his employer’s enemies. Next to the bard in cursing power came the widow woman, and a widow’s curse is still greatly to be feared. The orphan’s curse was no joke, either, and the priest’s curse was to be avoided like the plague. There’s a whole litany of curses in the Irish tradition: the hereditary curse; the reverting curse; the ceremonial group curse; the historical curse (probably the best-known historical curse in Ireland is ‘the curse of Cromwell’; the saint’s curse; and the poet’s curse. They take too many words of explanation for these notes’ allotted maximum, so I’ll end with my favorite delineation, the cursing contest, which has an underlying hint of good humor today. In Sligo town I witnessed a cursing contest between a shopkeeper and a woman of the Travelers. They went at it with vigor until the shopkeeper delivered this curse: “May the seven terriers of hell sit on the spool of your breast and bark in at your soul case.” The Traveler woman defeated him with, “The curse of the goose that lost the quill that wrote the Ten Commandments on ye.” American English has no elegance or imagination in what we coyly call four-letter words. The loss of powerful cursing is appalling.

Slán go fóill