black pot boiling on the bonfire of time


Senior Member
Hi, Forum Members!

This is from a novel "Last days of the Condor" by James Grady.

The place is the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Washington.
I understood that 'boiling on the bonfire of time' means 'so hot because of the weather as if it boils'.
But the black pot, is there anything which looks like pot near the Marine Corps?

The Marines host public parades there on summer Friday nights.
Rows of brave & brilliant men and women in snappy white hats, tan shirts, and bright blue trousers march to the beat of pol iti cal witches banging spoons against a low-bid government black pot boiling on the bonfire of time.
  • london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The black pot is a cauldron, the pots witches typically use. Here, Grady is comparing politicians to witches weaving their evil spells: in this case it is the Marines who are (unwittingly) under their spell. The fact that the pot boils on the bonfire of time is merely a metaphor, I believe.

    My interpretation, of course.;)


    Senior Member
    By the way, the author wrote ' low-bid government black pot' quite specifically as 'low-bid'.
    Doesn't 'low bid' mean something is constructed by lowest price method? Then isn't it possible that somewhere near the barrack exists a building or something which looks like cauldron?


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Maybe there's some idea in all that imagery of a "black pot" accusing the kettle of being black. The low-bid government black pot is somehow guilty of something? What is this "low-bid black pot" that is to have grave consequences - "flag-draped coffins shipped back home" as the next sentence tells us?

    It sounds to me as though the government is being accused of providing soldiers with inferior equipment, to save money at the risk of losing American lives. But I haven't read the book.


    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Different suppliers compete for government contracts. If everything else is the same, the contract is awarded to the person who submits the lowest bid (that is, who says he can supply the item at the lowest price.) This is considered an example of "good government", because public money is not wasted unnecessarily. There is an ironic contast between the "virtuous" action of buying items for the government through a proper bidding process, and the evil item (a cauldron) that was purchased being used by evil witches.
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