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Chapter 1: The Two Poets of Saffron Park July 31, 2007

Posted by Ashleigh in The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton.

I’m posting the questions for chapter 1 a bit early since my company arrives on Thursday, and I’m sure I’ll be cleaning like crazy tomorrow. I plan on posting questions for chapter 2 on Friday or Saturday.

1. What was your first impression of the two poets of Saffron Park, Mr. Lucian Gregory and Mr. Gabriel Syme?

2. Gregory argues that “an artist is identical with an anarchist,” going on to say “an artist disregards all governments, abolishes all convention. The poet delights in disorder only.” Syme disgrees, believing that order characterizes a true poet and artist. He says, “It is things going right that is poetical! Our digestions, for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is the foundation of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than the flowers, more poetical than the stars—the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.” What are your thoughts on this? Who do you agree with? Or is there a middle ground?

3. Syme tells Rosamond, “There are many kinds of sincerity and insincerity. When you say ‘thank you’ for salt, do you mean what you say? No. When you say ‘the world is round,’ do you mean what you say? No. It is true, but you don’t mean it. Now, sometimes a man like your brother really finds a thing he does mean. It may be only a half-truth, quarter-truth, tenth-truth; but then he says more than he means—from sheer force of meaning it.” Do you think this is true? That when an individual is passionate about something, they may at times get carried away, saying things they don’t necessary mean? Also, do you think this is true of Gregory? Is he serious about his anarchism?

4. What did you think of the following quotes:

“The rare strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross obvious thing is to miss it.”

“And it is always the humble man who talks too much; the proud man watches himself too closely.”

5. For those of you who haven’t read ahead, do you think Syme will regret promising not to tell the police what Gregory is about to show him?

6. Any other thoughts on this chapter?



1. Danielle - August 2, 2007

I just picked up my book from the library. I hope to start it tomorrow.

2. Danielle - August 4, 2007

1.) I liked the description of Gregory:

“His dark red hair parted in the middle was literally like a woman’s, and curved into the slow curls of a virgin in a pre-Raphaelite picture. From within this almost saintly oval, however, his face projected suddenly broad and brutal, the chin carried forward with a look of cockney contempt.”

My first thought of Gregory is that he’s obnoxious. Syme I’m not sure about yet.

2.) I think there is some middle ground, although I lean more towards Syme’s definition of an artist. It is only by knowing the “rules” and working within certain boundaries for writing, art, etc. that you know when and how breaking them will add something that is meaningful to your message. Otherwise, you run into chaos. Gregory seems argues that chaos is a good thing within itself; I don’t agree with that.

4.) I really liked the quote about humility and pride. At first I disagreed. I was thinking that the proud man likes to hear himself talk. But upon thinking about it further, “Pride and Prejudice” came to mind. I was thinking about how Mr. Darcy was proud and thus didn’t like to talk upon arriving in Elizabeth’s town. However, the “humble” people who didn’t care much about what others thought about them talked all the time. Mrs. Bennet comes to mind. She doesn’t have the common pride of decency. I don’t know if this is a good example, but it’s what I immediately thought of. It actually can probably go both ways, depending on the personalities involved.

3. Danielle - August 5, 2007

I found this quote by Madeleine L’Engle in “Two-Part Invention” which explains my view of the artist and boundaries vs. chaos. Speaking of Bach she writes:

“Bach’s immense and vital freedom within the tight boundaries of strict form. Perhaps that’s why life doesn’t drive one mad; it’s interesting to see how alive and free one3 can remain within the limits that are always imposed on one and from which there can be no escape.”

4. Ashleigh - August 7, 2007

Danielle, thanks for sharing the quote from Madeleine L’Engle. I agree with you on leaning more toward Syme’s definition. As you noted, one needs to know the rules in order to break them in a meaningful way. I remember in grad school, the really good film editors and directors were those who knew the rules, such as not crossing the axis line or cutting on the action, well. They were so familiar with them that they could break them in a purposeful way with the intention of making the film more meaningful or driving home a specific point. And when I write, I do break rules but not without having reasons for doing so.

Also, I liked the example you gave from Pride and Prejudice.

5. Ashleigh - August 7, 2007

I have to say that Syme’s conversation with Rosamond about sincerity really got me thinking. I try very hard not to say things that I don’t mean. And, when I am giving a compliment, I try very hard to make sure I mean exactly what I’m saying. For example, I’m not one to say, “Oh, I love your hair” at someone’s new haircut if I don’t really feel that way. However, I may find something that I do like about it. Perhaps they styled the new haircut well or the color is nice. Something like that.

Yet, I think there are still times when I may say something because it’s socially expected. Do you ever find yourself doing this? Would it be better for us not to say anything in these cases? Or is there a place for this? What do you all think?

6. Michelle - August 9, 2007

Danielle – I like the Pride and Prejudice example you shared. It helped me to understand what Syme meant.

Ashleigh – regarding sincerity and insincerity, I think it is very common to say something without meaning it. One of the everyday ones that comes to mind is the typical “How are you?” greeting. We aren’t usually asking that question in a genuine manner. Like, if the grocery clerk responded that she had a headache, we may be taken a little off guard. I find myself, when I do mean it in a genuine manner, having to say it twice, as if the first were a greeting and the second a question I would like to hear answered.
I think more on Symes point, when we find ourselves in impassioned arguments or repeating our stances on an issue, we tend to become more firm – as if is unacceptable to bend our beliefs or consider anothers points… or as if we are convincing ourselves with our dogmatic stance.

As to whether Gregory is serious about his anarchism yet, I don’t yet have much of a feel for his character but if I had to wager a guess I’d say no. I’d guess he likes to play the part more than believe or live the part. A pretty common phenomenon.

Will Syme regret promising not to tell the police? Ummm… well, if anyone asked me to promise not to tell the police what they are about to do/show me, I’d get a little nervous. Esp if they are a declared anarchist. I was a little surprised that Syme agreed. I suppose it sets the story though.

7. Bethany - August 16, 2007

I finally got my book today!!!!!!!! So hopefully I can read at least the first chapter tonight and catch up with you all……….course if my baby girl decides not to sleep today maybe I will forget cleaning off the dining room table and mopping the floors and just hold her and read. HEE HEE.

8. bethany3boys - August 17, 2007

This first chapter I was like WHAT??? But once it got going I really liked it.

Danielle that is a good comparison to the the quote on humility and pride. I had to think about that one after reading it but it really does make since and your comparison helps.

I also like your quote from L’Engle.

Ashleigh I also try not to say what I don’t mean….finding something nice to say about something I don’t like etc. But at times it is hard it is just natural to throw things out there to make conversation and be socially acceptable and then I am whoops I didn’t mean that.

I feel like I am just figuring the characters out in this chapter and didn’t really have a grasp of what was going on. I am leaning more towards Symes as far as liking….Gregory seems full of himself or out just to argue.

9. Ashleigh - August 17, 2007

Bethany, the first time I read this book last fall, I kept going WHAT??? the entire book! It’s like a rollercoaster that never quite makes complete sense.

10. Ashleigh - August 22, 2007

I found a Chesteron quote that ties into the idea of order and rules in art. He once wrote: “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.”

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