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Self-Portrait: Il Guercino,

Il Guercino*

*  Il Guercino: Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (8 February 1591 – 22 December 1666)

My Missing Paragraphs

For reasons I do not understand and will not investigate, the computer took three paragraphs away from my post on Jacques de Voragine (6 February), the author of The Golden Legend.  No, I will not investigate, but I must nevertheless give greater clarity to an incomplete blog.

The Golden Legend: the Bestseller in the Middle Ages

The blog was about an old book, The Golden Legend or La Légende dorée, the bestseller of the middle ages which went out of fashion as Renaissance humanism spread.

In one of the missing paragraphs, I had noted that “St George and the Dragon” was included in The Golden Legend and that, given The Golden Legend was a bestseller, St George must have become a famous hero, in an age where heroism was not quickly nor frivolously bestowed.  One had to qualify before being named a hero.

The Renaissance and the Fanciful or Fantasy

As for the other missing paragraph, it was a comment on the humanists who found fault with The Golden Legend.  It was fanciful.  It contained what the French call “le merveilleux chrétien.”  I have a great deal of respect for Erasmus, but if saints cannot perform miracles, how can we accept that there was a Minotauros, half bull half human, fathered by Pasiphaë and a bull, and that this Minotaurus was slaughtered by Theseus. Theseus also slaughtered Procrustes who stretched people to fit his bed, or cut off the limbs of tall victims so they could fit the very same bed.

Myths as Metaphors

Renaissance authors took an interest in ancient Rome and, particularly, in ancient Greece.  So, the point I wanted to make is that the lives of saints could not possibly be more fanciful than Greek mythology.  Obviously, the humanists were so impressed with the writings of Plato and Aristotle that their field of vision would not encompass ‘fanciful’ mythologies and myths. What would we do without the Procrustean bed?  We would lack a powerful metaphor.

St George as Dragon

The third paragraph had to do with the importance of such myths as the story of St George and the Dragon.  St George is no longer a saint.  That story is now looked upon as apocryphal.  However, we still have dragons and could use a St George to slay them.  But in our society, it seems it is St George we slay and not the dragon.

Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery *

* by Il Guercino, 1621 (Dulwich Picture Gallery).

I had also spoken of Christ’s words regarding the punishment of the adulterous woman.  Jesus of Nazareth said:

Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone. (John 8:7).

What would we do without this parable?  It is being ignored.  Nor have we got rid of the lex talionis.  It is still “an eye for an eye.”

But I must go or we may have too many paragraphs.

Ravel: Jeux d’eau (please click on title to hear music)

© Micheline Walker
6 February 2012
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