Michael Blackburn's ART ZERO

I HAVE CROSSED THE BRIDGE BUT NOT THE RIVER

Some discussion has ensued over this now defunct proverb. Its generally accepted meaning has always been: I have accomplished something with ease and hence without the experience of its potential dangers. Henryson (in Tauromachia, Berlin 1936) argues that there is a moral self-criticism implicit here: because I have easily achieved something which was once perilous I am now complacent and thereby open to fault. There may be some corroboration in the view that a moral criticism obtains, in light of Mendlesonís comments in Eros and the Helping Hand (London 1974): she had, indeed, crossed a bridge but not a river in that she [Tracey Gray, the novelist] slept with her husbandís analyst on a frequent basis without being discovered. In this case, however, it seems that the act of crossing the bridge represents transgressing an ethical boundary and not crossing the river signifies evading punishment or condemnation. A further twist is added by Matthaeus (Regenswald, Malmo 1948) who interprets the meaning as I have proposed or intended a transgression but not carried it out.