About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
W. H. Auden
Fun Medieval Doodles
Here is a small selection of doodles I tweeted over the past year (@erik_kwakkel). Although they are usually not exactly eye-candy, they are easy to like. I think this is because they are often very funny, but also because the activity is such a familiar one. Almost without thinking we ourselves doodle on notepads, post-it notes or in the margin of the newspaper.
While our drawings are often the result of boredom, in the Middle Ages there was often a more pragmatic rationale behind their creation. In some cases they were a response to the text, such as the Adam and Eve doodle above. Moreover, many were the fruit of correcting the nib of the pen, like the little dog’s head. They are the medieval equivalent, as it were, of our scratching on a piece of paper to get the ink flowing.
In other cases still it remains a mystery what the doodling scribe was thinking. Why draw the skeleton that seems to hold a glass, for example? Is it a warning that our enjoying the delights of this planet will ultimately come to an end? A medieval campaign against riding your horse while under influence? Whatever the meaning of this poor guy with his drink may be, and in spite of the fact we are reminded of our own mortality, sketches like this do brighten the page - and my day.