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Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor

Vixen 20 Nov 13 - 10:06 AM
Jack Campin 20 Nov 13 - 10:59 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Nov 13 - 11:25 AM
Crowhugger 20 Nov 13 - 11:02 PM
Vixen 21 Nov 13 - 09:53 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Nov 13 - 02:15 PM
JohnInKansas 22 Nov 13 - 04:31 AM
GUEST 22 Nov 13 - 06:22 AM
clueless don 22 Nov 13 - 08:36 AM
JohnInKansas 22 Nov 13 - 05:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Nov 13 - 09:34 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Vixen
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 10:06 AM

Hi Mudcats--

What are the origins of the "Great Divide" as a metaphor for death?

I happened to hear "Far Beyond the Great Divide" and "The Pearl" back-to-back this morning, and I wondered if the Western (US) settlers called it the "Great Divide" because it seemed like heaven when they got to the other side, or whether it was called the great divide first for its physical geography and acquired the metaphorical meaning later...or even some other origin...

Any thoughts?

Thanks,

V


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 10:59 AM

It's not a common expression in the UK so I suspect it's a geographical metaphor from the US.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 11:25 AM

Google says it first appeared in 1868, but I will have to go to my complete OED to get the original quote or postulated origin. Later.

Also the Continental Divide in the U. S. is called the Great Divide. A line of mountains that separates waters that flow into the Atlantic Ocean from those that flow into the Pacific.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Crowhugger
Date: 20 Nov 13 - 11:02 PM

Another great divide is that great river, which divides the southern half of North America more or less into east-west halves.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Vixen
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 09:53 AM

Hi All--

What I'm wondering:

was the term "great divide" applied first to the geographical Continental Divide, and THEN became a gospel metaphor for the line between the quick and the dead;
OR
was the term "great divide" already in the gospel tradition as the line between the quick and the dead, and THEN applied to the Continental Divide as the pioneers migrated "over the hump" of North America to find the green and fertile valleys on the other side.

Thanks much!

V


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Nov 13 - 02:15 PM

Earliest quote I found (Lighter, Historical Dictionary of American Slang) is about elimination of a disliked governor- we will send him across the great divide. 1872.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 22 Nov 13 - 04:31 AM

For settlers migrating westward, it was uphill all the way to the Great Divide, and on the other side it was an easier downhill run to (they thought) a better place. (Although many of them wound up in California despite what they hoped for?)

While I don't have any historical references, it's a reasonable metaphor for the "stuggle through life" but when you "cross the divide" it gets easier (regardless of which downhill direction you take to wherever you're going to end up?).

There actually were/are TWO "divides" in the US. The Appallachian divide is reached from sea level to around 3,000 to 6,000 ft (guessing a bit) elevation, but passes through the second Rocky Mountain divide run up to 8,000 to 10,000 ft MSL on some routes.

After crossing the Appalachians, you'd descend to about 1,000 ft MSL, followed by a relatively easy 300 to 400 mile ascent across a rising praire, to the "mile high" area where the Rockies start up.

Lots of people settled in the middle plains because of anticipation of how difficult it would be to cross something as high as the Rockies (up to 2,000 ft higher than the other one they'd already fought with) without considering that they would be starting from 5,000 or more ft on the "high plains" when they hit the second hard ascent.

Another vaguely associated term from the same era was "He/they saw/seen the elephant." Worth discussion, perhaps, if there's interest in what the migration and settlement were like, although some others may know the stories better than I do.

John


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Nov 13 - 06:22 AM

Is that the origin of Kate Wolff's song "Across the Great Divide"?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: clueless don
Date: 22 Nov 13 - 08:36 AM

Ol' Bill Pickett's gone away
over the Great Divide
to the place where all the Preachers say
both Saints and Sinners abide ...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 22 Nov 13 - 05:44 PM

An old "folk legend" (?) is that after you pass over the great divide there are THREE places where you may go. Those who have sinned of course go to hell, and those who were virtuous go to heaven; but heaven is divided into two parts. The have to keep the Methodists separate so they can continue to believe they're the only ones there.

(You're welcome to substitute your own choice for "Methodists.")

John


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Great Divide Metaphor
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Nov 13 - 09:34 PM

And they were served Methodist pie.


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