The Charlotte News
SUNDAY; MARCH 20, 1938
Chortles in Valhalla
The bodies seven eek, lo! hem heer anoon:
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe;
Mars yren, Mercurie quik-silver we crepe,
Saturnus leed and Jupiter tin,
And Venus coper, by my fader kin!
That corner of Valhalla occupied by Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Arnold of Villanova, and Abu-Musa Dschabir Ben Haijan Ben Abdallah el-Sufi el-Tarsusi el Kufi, called Geber, must be in a triumphant twitter these days. Ever since the Renaissance they have been laughed at for believing in alchemy and secretly practicing it at the peril of the stake for their bodies and the Devil for their souls. Alchemy is as old as the Greeks, and its central notion was that of the transformation of metals. All things they said came down to one prima materia. And if you reduce a base metal to that prima materia, you could, given the philosopher's stone or the right conjunction of the planets in the Zodiac or enough heat or something, build it back to whatever you liked, including precious gold. More, they agreed that the prima materia was undoubtedly mercury--"quik-silver we crepe."
For a good while it has been known now that Dame Nature, in the case of radium and its allies, actually does practice such a transformation of metals. But could man do it? Rats, said everybody until recently.Then came the new atomic theories and men were no longer so sure. And the other day at Rochester University Dr. Lee DuBridge turned a proton beam on gold. A proton is "The nucleus of the light isotope of the hydrogen atom.") And when he finished, he had broken down gold into--mercury!
Mercury into gold? It can't be done, yet. But nobody could blame the gray old medieval boys if they chortle a bit behind their ectoplasmic hands.
Gold and Armageddon
If we were to take the July and August days of 1914 as a criterion, it might very well be argued that the flow of gold, at least, does not indicate the imminence of another great war in Europe. For in those days, gold was being called home from this country in great quantities. One German ship with $10,000,000 in her hold sailed from New York the very day before war was declared, and had to put back.
But now--now gold is streaming this way, prodigiously. The other day $2,500,000 was consigned to the Federal Reserve Bank by the Bank of England. And now comes reports that another $30,000,000 is on its way from the same source. And capital is in full flight from France. But perhaps that actually only means that war is almost at hand, or at least that England and France think so.For these gold movements are seriously debasing the English pound, and are adding more ruin to the already ruined franc. Why, then, don't the English and French governments embargo them?
We don't know certainly, but there is this: If war comes, these governments are going desperately to need American supplies. And, under the Johnson Act, it is impossible for them to arrange credits over here to secure them. But if there are large quantities of gold held here for English and French accounts--ah, masters, that can be sequestered and used to buy at least the most badly needed supplies outright.
[Site ed. note: The following article is probably by Cash,
but not definitely. The editorial takes a dim view of Poland's
past policy of forced imperialism while correctly predicting that
they would soon be a target of a Nazi putsch.
When it finally occurred, however, on September 1, 1939, his
thoughts on the subject were somberly different, but again quite
prescient. (See "A Fanatic Menaces Civilization")]
*Poland Plays Wolf
It seems to be characteristic of oppressed peoples that so soon as they escape from that status, they promptly begin to yearn to oppress somebody on their own account. The Irish Free State is hardly out from under the English yoke before it turns its eager attention to schemes to bring Ulster under the Irish Free State yoke. And there is Poland. Throughout the nineteenth century, Poles fought almost incessantly to recover the national existence which had been extinguished in the eighteenth by Germany, Austria, and Russia. But within a few months after it was handed back to them at Versailles, they proceeded to grab Vilna, a city to which they had no more title than they had, say, to Kokomo, Indians. The Lithuanians have dwelt about that town ever since they came into history in the tenth century, and they have quite as good a title to national existence as the Poles.
And now, on top of that, they take advantage of a border incident further to roband humiliate the little country--to make it say that the theft of its capital was quite legal and just. What is idiotic about this is that it completely cuts the ground out from under Poland at a moment when she stands in grave peril. Adolf Hitler has already made his demands on Czechoslovakia. And it may be said at once that he'll probably take the country over just as he took Austria, for England and France are plainly down with the shakes. And after Czechoslovakia, it won't be long until it's Poland's turn. When that hour arrives, she'll have no rational argument against it, since she herself makes force law. And most people, even among those who have before sympathized with her, will think that she got exactly what she deserved--a dose of her own medicine.
*See No Evil
The South Carolina House has passed, to the Senate, an omnibus morals bill prohibiting, among other things, the showing of drinking, murder or divorce scenes in movies. The theory evidently behind it is that what the people don't know can't hurt them; and that maybe, if South Carolinians are not constantly reminded of the sinfulness of the world outside, they will revert to the innocence of the Garden of Eden before the Serpent slithered up with a seductive gleam in his eyes.
And it may work, though that is doubtful, but in any case it is going to have its awkward complications. Exceedingly awkward. William Powell, let us imagine, strolls up to the bar in his latest picture and says, "'Make it a double scotch and soda, George." Will a separate shot have to be taken for use in South Carolina, wherein Mr.Powell says, "George, a flagon of that double strength root beer?" And are all the rest of the customers at the bar going to be quaffing root beer too, some of them, it looks like, neat?
And suppose, as often happens in one of these here sophisticated comedies, that the whole point of the play centers around the humorous situations that arise when a divorced couple encounter one another as free agents. Just what is South Carolina going to do--insist that they stay married? Then, by holy ordinance, it is up to the wife to cleave unto her husband, and the husband to cleave unto his wife, and that, while it might not excite any comment in South Carolina, would look mighty funny to audiences who were aware of the divorce proceedings.
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