In the course of brass rubbing, I encountered a new type of brass: the palimpsest, which was not embedded into the stone church floor because it was two-sided, and the modern viewer was intended to see the back as well as the front. I had always assumed that the word 'palimpsest' referred to the fact that a brass was double-sided: it seems, however, that it actually refers to a brass that has been re-worked (possibly at a later date, and possibly on the reverse side).
The word 'palindrome' finds its etymology in the Greek word, palindromos (running back again): the word 'palimpsest', from palimpsestos, is made up of 'palin' (again) and 'psestos' (rubbed smooth). Apparently, a large number of 16th century brasses were found to be 'palimpsest' when they became detached from their slabs. You might find, for example, a knight on one side and a priest on the other.
All this is really a preamble to my current thinking about something else that is two-sided - the palindrome. You will find a good website of interesting examples here. A famous early palindrome, the Christian 'Sator Square' in Latin, dates from the destruction of Herculaneum.
My friend and fellow-blogger, Wendy Webb, has created a new poetry form, a kind of double sonnet in which the second half or stanza is a reverse of the first. Wendy's form is called the 'palindromedary', and a number of examples have appeared in her magazine, 'Tips for Writers'.
It has just occurred to me that a 'palindromedary' conjures up (in my mind, at least) a picture of a marvellous mythical creature, not unlike the 'pushmi-pullyu' of Doctor Dolittle!
Speaking of doctors, and on a serious note, there is a kind of palindromic rheumatism in which the patient has joints that swell up and subsequently settle down. The joints go through the following palindromic phases:
normal - abnormal - normal.
What is your favourite palindrome? Do we have any examples in languages other than English? Or examples from poetry?
- Read a poem about a palindromedary here.
- For Greg Garrard on teaching poetry, see 'The Lines of Beauty' (THES 9 April 2009 p.24), containing his vision of a poetry 'program that would visualise any selected poem through a palimpsest of readings'...