Universal Translator

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Benjamin Franklin Rewrites the Lord's Prayer

Traditional Version of the Lord’s Prayer (King James Version)
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Franklin’s New Version of the Lord's Prayer
Heavenly Father,
May all revere thee,

And become thy dutiful Children and faithful Subjects.
May thy Laws be obeyed on Earth as perfectly as they are in Heaven.
Provide for us this day as thou hast hitherto daily done.
Forgive us our trespasses, and enable us likewise to forgive those that offend us.
Keep us out of Temptation, and deliver us from Evil. 

Franklin Portrait by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, c. 1785
January 1, 1768
Reasons for the Change of Expression

Old Version: Our Father which art in Heaven
New Version: Heavenly Father, is more concise, equally expressive, and better modern English.

Old Version:  Hallowed be thy Name. This seems to relate to an Observance among the Jews not to pronounce the proper or peculiar Name of God, they deeming it a Profanation so to do. We have in our Language no proper Name for God; the Word God being a common or general Name, expressing all chief Objects of Worship, true or false. The Word hallowed is almost obsolete: People now have but an imperfect Conception of the Meaning of the Petition. It is therefore proposed to change the Expression into New. May all revere thee.

Old Version: Thy Kingdom come. This Petition seems suited to the then Condition of the Jewish Nation. Originally their State was a Theocracy: God was their King. Dissatisfied with that kind of Government, they desired a visible earthly King in the manner of the Nations round them. They had such King's accordingly; but their Happiness was not increas'd by the Change, and they had reason to wish and pray for a Return of the Theocracy, or Government of God. Christians in these Times have other Ideas when they speak of the Kingdom of God, such as are perhaps more adequately express'd by New Version: And become thy dutiful Children and faithful Subjects.

Old Version: Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven 
More explicitly, New Version: May thy Laws be obeyed on Earth as perfectly as they are in Heaven.

Old Version: Give us this Day our daily Bread. Give us what is ours, seems to put in a Claim of Right, and to contain too little of the grateful Acknowledgment and Sense of Dependance that becomes Creatures who live on the daily Bounty of their Creator. Therefore it is changed to New Version: Provide for us this Day, as thou hast hitherto daily done.

Old Version: Forgive us our Debts as we forgive our Debtors - Matthew
Forgive us our Sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us - Luke.
Offerings were due to God on many Occasions by the Jewish Law, which when People could not pay, or had forgotten as Debtors are apt to do, it was proper to pray that those Debts might be forgiven. Our Liturgy uses neither the ‘Debtors’ of Matthew, nor the ‘indebted’ of Luke, but instead of them speaks of those that trespass against us. Perhaps the Considering it as a Christian Duty to forgive Debtors, was by the Compilers thought an inconvenient Idea in a trading Nation. There seems however something presumptious in this Mode of Expression, which has the Air of proposing ourselves as an Example of Goodness fit for God to imitate. We hope you will at least be as good as we are; you see we forgive one another, and therefore we pray that you would forgive us. Some have considered it in another Sense, Forgive us as we forgive others; i.e. If we do not forgive others we pray that thou wouldst not forgive us. But this being a kind of conditional Imprecation against ourselves, seems improper in such a Prayer; and therefore it may be better to say humbly and modestly

 New Version: Forgive us our Trespasses, and enable us likewise to forgive those that offend us. This instead of assuming that we have already in and of ourselves the Grace of Forgiveness, acknowledges our Dependance on God, the Fountain of Mercy, for any Share we may have of it, praying that he would communicate of it to us.

Old Version: And lead us not into Temptation. The Jews had a Notion, that God sometimes tempted, or directed or permitted the Tempting of People. Thus it was said he tempted Pharaoh; directed Satan to tempt Job; and a false Prophet to tempt Ahab, &c. Under this Persuasion it was natural for them to pray that he would not put them to such severe Trials. We now suppose that Temptation, so far as it is supernatural, comes from the Devil only; and this Petition continued, conveys a Suspicion which in our present Conceptions seems unworthy of God, Therefore might be altered to New Version: Keep us out of Temptation.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Twain to Keller: "...All Ideas Are Second-Hand..."

When she was 11-years-old, Helen Keller wrote a story called The Frost King.  The story was published in The Goodson Gazette, a journal on deaf-blind education. Keller was accused of plagiarism after someone accused her story of being very similar to Margaret Canby’s Frost Fairies.  There was then a tribunal to discover if she had knowingly plagiarized Canby’s story.  Ultimately, young Keller was acquitted.  However, it had been discovered that Keller had been read the story when she was very young by using finger spelling.  However, some came to Keller’s defense saying that she had adapted her own story out of the story by Canby.  Anne Sullivan said, “all use of language is imitative, and one's style is made up of all other styles that one has met.”  Margaret Canby herself stated that Keller's version was superior to her own.  Keller never wrote fiction again.

Mark Twain read about the event in Keller’s autobiography, and sent the following letter of support:


St. Patrick's Day, '03

Dear Helen,—

must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book, and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break, and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they'll say, "There they come—sit down in front!" I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger's last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well;—you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.

I am charmed with your book—enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world—you and your other half together—Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make a complete and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary competencies of her pen—they are all there.

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that "plagiarism" farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men—but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington's battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite—that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.

Then why don't we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well as the story itself? It can hardly happen—to the extent of fifty words except in the case of a child; its memory-tablet is not lumbered with impressions, and the actual language can have graving-room there, and preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person's memory-tablet is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase. It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed on a man's mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to turn up some time or other to be mistaken by him for his own. No doubt we are constantly littering our literature withdisconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and now imagined to be our own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes's poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my "Innocents Abroad" with. Then years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass—no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your "Plagiarism Court;" and so when I said, "I know now where I stole it, but whom did you steal it from," he said, "I don't remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anyone who had."

To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child's heart with their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn't sleep for blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole lives, their whole histories, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions were one solid rock of plagiarism, and they didn't know it and never suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they think they've caught filching a chop! Oh, dam—

But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary today.

Every lovingly your friend,


(Source: www.lettersofnote.com; Mark Twain's Letters, Vol. 2 of 2; Image: Mark Twain, via.)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

“Family Comes Back to Family”

       Most of us have a connection to the past that only goes as far as our grandparents.  For many, it is usually just an odd snapshot from a past reunion, a remembered story about a long-lost relative, or names in an old family Bible.  Some of us only get to experience our ancestors from genealogical information we discover in books and online.  But what if an artifact from a distant ancestor seemed to travel through time to find you.  What would you think?  Divine intervention?  Coincidence?  How would you feel if it happened to you twice?  Well just ask Allison Houston Olson, because she’s experienced it.
       “I received a phone call from my good friend, Julie Baggett Burroughs.  She called to tell me about a sale occurring at an antiques store near my house,” recounts Allison.  Some old student desks that were being sold in this particular store had interested Allison; however, after arriving and inspecting the desks, she decided that they weren’t what she wanted.  This is where the story could have ended, but it took an incredible twist.  She turned to her mother-in-law who was accompanying her, and asked her if she wanted to have a look around.  They entered the first antique booth and found several interesting items on display.
Portrait of Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls 1852-1899
       “An antique photo resting on a lower shelf caught my attention.  While looking at the photo, I commented to my mother-in-law that I could not understand why on earth people would sell old photos of their family members.  As I stood up, my eyes immediately rose to the items on the wall above my head.  What I then saw produced a lump in my throat and caused my heart and emotions to race.  Directly above me was the 18”x20” original framed photograph of my great-great grandmother!” she recalls.  “I couldn't catch my breath.” 
       "That is my great-great grandmother, that is my great-great grandmother,” she remembers telling her mother-in-law excitedly.
       “Are you sure?” her mother-in-law repeatedly asked her.
       “I am positive!” Allison replied.
       She had just found an antique photograph portrait of her great-great grandmother, Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls!  She knew that was who it was because several family members had copies of the original photograph portrait, but the whereabouts of the original were never known.  Allison goes on to say that her grandmother, who has passed away just a year before, had wondered about what had happened to that original photograph of her maternal grandmother.  
       “Almost exactly one year later, I locate it in an antiques store, “ Allison says, “ With hands shaking, I took the photo off the wall, walked to the cash register, and told the owners that the photo was of my great-great grandmother.  The owners questioned me, so I gave them her name.  They turned the photo over and there on the back was her name.  I was still shaking and on the verge off tears.  I called my mother and told her what I had found, and then the tears began welling up again.”
       The original photograph now resides in the home of Allison’s mother, Bobbie Wyatt Houston.
       "I felt like she had found a priceless treasure. I was very excited when she gave it to me. I felt like my mom, who had just passed away only a year before, was sending us a sweet message of endearment. The picture now holds a place of honor in my home,” says Mrs. Houston.
       How does Allison herself now look back on the event?
       “Initially I was dumbfounded. My emotions were all over the place. I then realized she was home. Sarah Luvenia, that is. I had brought her home, so to speak. Why had it been me? I don’t know. Was it God? Could be. Coincidence? Doubtful. Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. For some reason, I was supposed to be there that day. For some reason, I needed to be there that day and my friend, Julie, was the instigator, for lack of a better word, in getting me there. Sarah Luvenia's portrait had been hanging there since February of that year, no one had purchased it, thank goodness, but in October, she needed to come home. I truly have no answers, other than, she needed to come home.”
       Now that’s an incredible story all by itself, but what if a very similar event happens just a bit further down the road? 
The actual antique cotton basket

       Allison describes herself “a collector of all things vintage”.  She has recently started to sell some of her finds on a Facebook page.  She recalls a recent event.
       “I received a message from someone, unknown to me, asking if I bought antiques. For those that know me well, this is one of my weaknesses, that and genealogy. After much conversing on Facebook, we agreed to meet. This gentleman lived in an area where many of my maternal grandmother’s family members lived.  There is even a road with the family name. My family and I arrived at his barn one afternoon.  The man was very welcoming. He had several things set out for me to peruse. I noticed a large hand-woven cotton basket near the front.”
       She says she asked him about the antique basket and he said he had gotten it from a man named Mayfield who lived just up the road from him. Allison says that that the name sounded familiar, but “it didn't initially click”.
       She says she continued to look around his barn at his wonderful collection of antiques; all the while in the back of her mind, she was thinking about the name “Mayfield”. She picked out a few items, one being the basket; then questioned him further about the gentleman that had made the basket.
       “He told me the man’s name was "Robert Mayfield".  BING!  Lights and sirens went off in my head! My great-great-great grandfather was Robert "Robin" Jasper Mayfield. What were the odds, I thought at the time. After much discussion, I discovered that a past relative of mine had made the basket. A conversation with my mom later confirmed it. This gentleman was gracious enough to take us to the old home site of my relative where I took photos and heard stories about how life used to be when my relative was living. The old cotton basket is now in my home, where it shall remain.  I reconnected with a part of my history that I would not have known about had this gentleman not contacted me. He welcomed us into his home and barn; but most importantly led me into a part of my history, and for that I am eternally grateful.”  She adds, “Someone once told me ‘family comes back to family’. I don’t know where they saw that or read that, but I believe it to be true.”

Tom Clardy also claims Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls as a great-great grandmother and can't be more happy that the portrait now has a safe home with family.  He may be contacted at tfclardy@aol.com