State preserves of loaves and fishes

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Veraz, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. Veraz Senior Member

    Montpellier
    Spain Spanish
    "In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever".

    The book is talking about the monarchs of France and England before the French Revolution.

    What could "State preserve of loaves and fishes" mean? Official premises where loaves and fishes were stored maybe?
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Hello Veraz. I think the author's making a sideways reference to the Bible story of the loaves and the fishes, the one in which Jesus miraculously turned (erm) a small amount of bread and fish into enough to feed a whole crowd of his followers. So I'd 'translate' the lords of the State preserves and loaves and fishes as those people in power who controlled the supply of basic foodstuffs to the general populus.

    That's my take on it, at least.
     
  3. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I'd go perhaps a bit further than Ewie. The reference is to the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two small fish. Here's a Biblical version. I suspect this is an ironic reference of the insensitivity of the ruling classes to the plight of the poor in pre-Revolutionary France and England, and the idea that all was for the best in the world; it was not for us to try to change anything. The quote is strange because preserves is being used in its non-gastronomic sense here, to mean a sphere of responibility, with overtones of segregation and exclusion. Nobody was responsible for feeding anyone then, any more than they are today, but to observe mass starvation and not try to help, was almost the opposite of the feeding of the five thousand.

    In pre-revolutionary France things were particularly bad because poor transport and high internal customs dues could mean that people were throwing food away in one place and dying of starvation fifty miles away.
     
  4. Veraz Senior Member

    Montpellier
    Spain Spanish
    Thank you, ewie. It's a great help, although it's still unclear to me why he makes this reference to this biblical food-related story here.
     
  5. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Thanks TT for remembering all the details of the Bible story that I'd forgotten.
     
  6. Lis48

    Lis48 Senior Member

    York, England
    English - British
  7. Veraz Senior Member

    Montpellier
    Spain Spanish
    Thank you, Thomas. That makes sense. I was completely unaware about the exact meaning of "preserves" in that sentence, let alone any irony underneath it!
     
  8. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Great link, Lis ~ that seems to pretty well wrap it up and stick a bow on it.
     
  9. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I agree Veraz. The entire point of the loaves and fishes story is that it portrays a miracle. A single basket of loaves and fishes were miraculously able to feed a multitude. I don't see how a state preserves could have had a miraculous dimension, and therefore think this is a mistaken and misleading allusion. Perhaps there is something about these preserves that I don't know (well, there certainly is, because I don't know the history here), but it's hard to imagine anything that would make this reference in truly appropriate. If it only means that these preserves were to feed a multitude, I don't think that's sufficient parallel to invoke a miraculous comparison.

    EDIT: I have read the article that Lis48 kindly provided. So if it is ironic then the meaning is that rather than a few loaves and fishes feeding a multitude, a great store of loaves and fishes fed only a few (a complete reversal), which makes sense of the reference.
     
  10. Veraz Senior Member

    Montpellier
    Spain Spanish
    Thank you too, Lis48. That's been of great help!
     

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