Like any other gesture, the Corporal’s flourish embodies a certain duration. The line to which it gives rise is, therefore, intrinsically dynamic and temporal.
When, pen in hand, Sterne recreated the flourish on the page, his gesture left an enduring trace that we can still read (Sterne 1978: 743). The artist Paul Klee described this kind of line as the most active and authentic. Whether traced in the air or on paper, whether by the tip of the stick or the pen, it arises from the movement of a point that – just as the Corporal intended – is free to go where it will, for movement’s sake. As Klee memorably put it, the line that develops freely, and in its own time, ‘goes out for a walk’ (1961: 105). And in reading it, the eyes follow the same path as did the hand in drawing it.