Cry Havoc!

This image was taken a few years ago in an abandoned farm house on top of a mountain in Albemarle County, Virginia. A local told me for some months several years before it was occupied (with the owner’s consent) “by a bunch of hippies.” I’ll let you decide exactly what the term “hippy” means these days. Wandering around there were 4 or five rotting mattresses laying in two of the upstairs rooms (where I found this proclamation) along with indications of a wood stove (gone) that was used to prepare food. The phrase is from Shakespeare. Here’s a bit of info on this term and the quote.

The military order “Havoc!” was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare’s parlance ‘the dogs of war’) to pillage and chaos.

Shakespeare was well aware of the use of the meaning of havoc and he used ‘cry havoc’ in several of his plays. The ‘cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war’ form of the phrase is from his tragedy Julius Caesar, 1601. After Caesar’s murder Anthony regrets the course he has taken and predicts that war is sure to follow.ANTONY:
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

In the next room the phrase “Live free or die!” was on a wall–you can see a bit of it in the left side of the picture. That phrase is the official state motto of New Hampshire and is probably the inspiration for the title of a 2007 American action film starring Bruce Willis called “Live Free or Die Hard”—the fourth in the “Die Hard” series.


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