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.
"Worse than the sunflower," she had said. But the new dimension of truth had only recently Burst in on us. Now it was to be condemned. And in vagrant shadow her mothball truth is eaten. In cool, like-it-or-not shadow the humdrum is consumed. Tired housewives begat it some decades ago, A small piece of truth that is it was honey to the lips Was also millions of miles from filling the place reserved for it. You see how honey crumbles your universe Which seems like an institution – how many walls? Then everything, in her belief, was to be submerged And soon. There was no life you could live out to its end And no attitude which, in the end, would save you. The monkish and the frivolous alike were to be trapped in death's capacious claw But listen while I tell you about the wallpaper – There was a key to everything in that oak forest But a sad one. Ever since childhood there Has been this special meaning to everything. You smile at your friend's joke, but only later, through tears. For the shoe pinches, even though it fits perfectly. Apples were made to be gathered, also the whole host of the world’s ailments and troubles. There is no time like the present for giving in to this temptation. Once the harvest is in and the animals put away for the winter To stand at the uncomprehending window cultivating the desert With salt tears which will never do anyone any good. My dearest I am as a galleon on salt billows. Perfume my head with forgetting all around me. For some day these projects will return. The funereal voyage over ice-strewn seas is ended. You wake up forgetting. Already Daylight shakes you in the yard. The hands remain empty. They are constructing an osier basket Just now, and across the sunlight darkness is taking root anew In intense activity. You shall never have seen it just this way And that is to be your one reward.
Fine vapors escape from whatever is doing the living. The night is cold and delicate and full of angels Pounding down the living. The factories are all lit up, The chime goes unheard. We are together at last, though far apart.
Things I have learnt from being irritated by my tutoring student:
1. I am a hypocrite.
2. I will never be a teacher.
It is the first colour I have seen in months. Or so it seems. Scarlet. A little wild poppy, of a red so sudden it made my blood stop. I kept saying the word over and over to myself, scarlet, as if the word, like the colour, had escaped me till now, and just saying it would keep the little windblown flower in sight.
Poppy. The magic of saying the word made my skin prickle, the saying almost a greater miracle than the seeing. I was drunk with joy. I danced. I shouted. Imagine the astonishment of my friends at Rome to see our cynical metropolitan poet, who barely knows a flower or a tree, dancing about in broken sandals on the earth, which is baked hard and cracked in some places, and in others puddled with foul-smelling mud — to see him dancing and singing to himself in celebration of this bloom.
Poppy, scarlet poppy, flower of my far-off childhood and the cornfields round our farm at Sulmo, I have brought you into being again, I have raised you out of my earliest memories, out of my blood, to set you blowing in the wind. Scarlet. Magic word on the tongue to flash again on the eye. Scarlet. And with it all the other colours come flooding back, as magic syllables, and the earth explodes with them, they flash about me. I am making the spring. With yellow of the ox-eye daisy of our weedy olive groves, with blue of cornflower, orange of marigold, purple of foxglove, even the pinks and cyclamens of my mother’s garden that I have forgotten all these years. They come back… though there was, in fact, just a single poppy, a few blown petals of a tissue fineness and brightness, round the crown of seeds.
Where had it come from? I searched and searched but could find no other. The seeds must have blown in and taken root. But from where? From the sea — carried high up in a stream of luminous dust and let fall among us. Or in the entrails of some bird on its way north, and growing out of the bird’s casual droppings as it passed.
I sit on the ground and observe it. I love this poppy. I shall watch over it.
Suddenly my head is full of flowers of all kinds. They sprout out of the earth in deep fields and roll away in my skull. I have only to name the flowers, without even knowing what they look like, the colour, the shape, the number of petals, and they burst into bud, they click open, they spread their fragrance in my mind, opening out of the secret syllables as I place them like seeds upon my tongue and give them breath. I shall make whole gardens like this. I am Flora. I am Persephone. I have the trick of it now. All it needs is belief.
And this, as I might have guessed, is how it is done. We give the gods a name and they quicken in us, they rise in their glory and power and majesty out of minds, they move forth to act in the world beyond, changing us and it. So it is that the beings we are in the process of becoming will be drawn out of us. Beginning, as always, with what is simple.
Poppy, you have saved me, you have recovered the earth for me. I know how to work the spring.