Lecture by Alan Chadwick in New Market, Virginia, 1979
Lecture 1: Philosophy of Gardening, Part 8
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
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Alan Chadwick continues the fairy tale of the Emperor and the Nightingale, one of his favorite moral tales illustrating the results of relying on connivance rather than on natural authenticity. (8:36)
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New Market, Virginia, 1979, Lecture 1
Philosophy of Gardening, Part 8
…full of dreams and intuitions. And thus, on waking in the morning, it was all resolved; it had been resolved. It was all clear, quite crystal clear. It didn’t need any thinking about. And so when the Grand Vizier came, and the court was to be held again, the Emperor would take his seat with great contemplative happiness knowing that those answers were full of truth and purity and goodness. And the state would continue to fruit on this and be happy and the people content.
Now, you must conjecture in your mind that the Grand Vizier was very definitely a person of statistics. Now he had a great friend who was a mechanic, who also was at the court. And of course he had other friends who had what you might call mechanical minds. For those were the lines they thought of. And they used to get very itchy indeed, and very perversely vexed with many of the Emperor’s decisions. And of course even when the results were obvious, they still couldn’t see that they were so beautifully right, that there couldn’t very much be anything better. They always used to think that it could be derived at instantly, that people could be given the answers, and that things could get on at a very much faster rate if only they would come to the proper technical statistical decisions on the spot, which were so very obvious to them. And that the Emperor was really getting a bit of a doddering old fool.
Thereby it did strike the Grand Vizier one day when he was sitting alone, verbally thinking the whole of this out, that his vexations rose to a point. And he suddenly got a colossal idea. And he went to his friend the mechanic and whispered in his ear a great deal. And the mechanic’s eyes shone and glinted. And both of their eyes leapt completely and shone. And they realized that they had gotten extraordinarily clever device, which they set about and put into cooperation with the other members, of course.
Therefore all of that went ahead in the meantime. And now it came to the great period in the state when the celebrations and rituals of the year took three days, and enormous feastings took place. And all of the great people were entertained in the palace, and the people came from the state all round and encamped. And the whole state went into festivalia. And it was at this great event, of course, that the Emperor always made a public announcement and speech of great import. And of course, indeed, so did the Grand Vizier. And the other accomplices all had their parts to play in this matter. And so it was that, on this occasion, had come during the festivities to the occasion where the Emperor was placed in his throne and was to deliver this enormous speech to the people of the year.
And it was at that very moment that he was about to open his mouth to begin, that the Grand Vizier had envisaged how to play his tricks. Before the Emperor could quite open his mouth, he passed right in front of him, between him and the whole audience, and placed upon his knees a matter covered with a large cloth. And then walked to the other side, and the mechanic remained on the right. The Emperor was heartily dumbfounded and a cloud passed over his forehead. However, he contained his equanimity and did nothing.
So, the Grand Vizier stepped forward again, and with his left hand took the cloth and removed it. And there on the Emperor’s lap, coming almost up to his knees, was a birdcage. And in the birdcage was a perch. And at one end was a feeding trough. And at the other end was a water trough. And underneath was a droppings board. And on the perch was an artificial mechanical nightingale that looked exactly like a nightingale. The whole audience was in absolute silence, and likewise the emperor with a great cloud on his head, dumbfounded.
It was at that point that the mechanic stepped forward and placing a key close to the back of the nightingale in the cage went squiqh, squiqh, squiiiqh, squiiiiiiiiiiqh, withdrew the key and stepped back into position. In a short while the nightingale moved its head, and then began to trill with its beak, and the tail wobbled. And out of the trill suddenly a scale of notes. And in the middle of the trill and the scale of the notes, here and there, squiiiqh, would take place. And eventually as it was going up the scale the whole thing suddenly went squiiiqhk, and stopped. So everybody was dumbfounded, including the Emperor. But they were beginning to be able to move, to look at each other.
Thereupon the mechanic, eyeing the Grand Vizier, stepped forward [ ] again in his timing, and wound it up. And this took place a number of times, whereupon the emperor rose, placed the nightingale upon the chair, and left the throne. Whereupon the whole of the festivities, having proceeded, you understand, to this juncture, where they undoubtedly fed very well, and drunk quite considerably, were now ecstatic over this performance, and wanted nothing else but that this bird should be wound up and made to sing. And you can imagine in a very short time they were all trying, in some form or other, to join in. Indeed they were fetching wine glasses and drinking and gargling through it, trying to make the trill, and then sing scales and all copying.
And so you can perceive that the Grand Vizier and the mechanic had completely won the day, and that the whole court was engulfed in this extraordinary brilliant piece of mechanical performance which seemed to have outweighed all possibility of natural procedures. And no sooner had they left it off for a few moments to do their own garglings and noises and laughter, and it had become by now… You can imagine every person had become quite uproarious over the matter, especially if they’d been left…