Monday, 23 December 2013

Omnia Mutantur

Any ancient civilized people used to regard the rest of the world as uncivilized or barbaric whereas now we know that there was more than one ancient civilization.

When the Chinese scholar, Master Li, meets Dream in a "Soft Place" in the Desert of Lop, riders pass and one asks, "Omnia mutantur, nihil interit...?" (Neil Gaiman, The Wake, New York, 1997, p. 140) "All things change; nothing is lost?"

Master Li asks Dream what the barbarian had said. This is ironic because the rider spoke Latin and the English word "barbarian" is derived from the Latin barbarus, meaning "primitive," "uncivilized" or "from outside the Empire." Derivation: those who do not speak Latin sound as if they are saying, "Bah, bah, bah...," or, to put it another way, babbling.

Dream, no doubt, understands all languages because everyone dreams in their own language. There is something in Hy Bender's The Sandman Companion about Dream speaking the language that we hear in the back of our heads...

Addendum: In The Sandman Companion (London, 1999), p. 52, Gaiman says that the language spoken in the Dreaming is "...the language that you hear in the back of your head."

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