O what can ail thee, knight at arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O What can ail thee, knight at arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a fairy’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A fairy’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
I love thee true.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death pale were they all;
They cried—”La belle dame sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

I saw their starv’d lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

At only a short twelve stanzas, of only four lines each, with a simple ABCB rhyme scheme, this poem written by John Keats in 1819, is nonetheless full of enigmas, and has been the subject of numerous interpretations.

With numbers you can do anything you like. Suppose I have the sacred number 9 and I want to get a number 1314, date of the execution of Jacques de Molay — a date dear to anyone who, like me, professes devotion to the Templar tradition of knighthood. What do I do ? I multiply nine by one hundred and forty-six, the fateful day of destruction of Carthage. How did I arrive at this ? I divided thirteen hundred and fourteen by two, three, et cetera, until I found a satisfying date. I could also have divided thirteen hundred and fourteen by 6.28, the double of 3.14, and I would have got two hundred and nine. That is the year Attalus I, king of Pergamon, ascended the throne. You see ?

Foucault’s pendulum, Umberto Eco, pp. 288-9

A term throffer is a portmanteau of threat and offer, i.e. a proposal that mixes an offer with a threat which will be carried out if the offer is not accepted. The term was first used in print by political philosopher Hillel Steiner. Though its threatening aspect need not be obvious, or even articulated at all, an overt example of a throffer is:

Kill this man and receive £100; fail to kill him and I’ll kill you.


The stencil duplicator or mimeograph machine is a low-cost printing press that works by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper. Thomas Edison received US patent 180,857 for “Autographic Printing” on August 8, 1870. The patent covered the electric pen, used for making the stencil, and the flatbed duplicating press. In 1880 Edison obtained a further patent, US 224,665: “Method of Preparing Autographic Stencils for Printing”, which covered the making of stencils using a file plate, a grooved metal plate on which the stencil was placed which perforated the stencil when written on with a blunt metal stylus.