Re: Capek and robots. Robotnik in Czech is closely related to rabotat in Russian, meaning "to work or labor." Thus, the allusion to Capek (which I didn't recognize, not having read R.U.R.) is to a technologically debased humanity, whose sole purpose is to labor, rather than to think or feel. I don't want to wax too Marxist about it, but the monks who drive the treadmill to power Brother Kornhoer's dynamo and risk their eyesight (today we might speak of repetitive stress injuries) to adjust the arc lamp are new prototypes of alienated, exploited labor in a technological society, and remind us of the continuous human cost of technology. In removing the lamp and restoring the crucifix, Dom Paulo implicitly rejects that vision of humanity.

Re: Proteus vulgaris. I quote from Smaller Classical Dictionary (Dutton: 1958; yes, I know it's way out of date, but "smaller" is all I have room for right now):

"At midday Proteus rose from the sea, and slept in the shade of the rocks."


"Anyone wishing to learn futurity from him was obliged to catch hold of him at that time: as soon as he was seized, he assumed every possible shape, in order to escape the necessity of prophesying. . . ." [239]

Rocks are significant images throughout Canticle. In "Fiat Homo," Benjamin Eleazar, the old wandering Jew, rests his feet in the cool sand under a rock (from which he has first driven a snake--the same snake, no doubt, that in the final section of Canticle will serve as catalyst for Brother Joshua--who throws a rock at it). He finds a rock to complete Brother Francis's shelter, and thereby leading him to discover the buried fallout shelter. Francis himself is almost killed by a rockslide while investigating the shelter, and it is the movement of a rock blocking the entrance to that shelter that begins, not only the rockslide, but the process of reindustrialization that starts humanity on the road to nuclear insanity again. In "Fiat Voluntas Tua," Abbot Zerchi dies under rocks when his abbey collapses after a nuclear blast. Before he dies, he finds in the rubble that buries him the skull of Francis. Biblically, of course, both Lazarus and Jesus are buried in tombs that are closed with large rocks.

Proteus as prophet, as seer, is a double allusion. It reminds us of Benjamin Eleazar, who in "Fiat Lux" spars with Dom Paulo about Thon Taddeo and is reluctant to prophesy the results of his visit. "Proteus vulgaris," however, also suggests a vulgar prophet, or a prophet to the mob, one of those who lead humanity down the path to destruction, Blackeneth and, later, the Minister of Defense. That PV is also a pathogenic bacterium intensifies the condemnation of such "prophets."

Again, the webpage is a great piece of work! Thanks for sharing it!

Ron Webb --"Pretend to be good always and even God will be fooled."