Archive for May, 2012


“See the curtains hangin’ in the window…”

Summer is nigh, the beans in my garden aspire to wind ’round a trellis, and sunshine breeds an early crop of clever and interesting links.

The Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages finds knights at a Rhode Island community college.

Nancy Marie Brown rides an Icelandic horse named Doubt.

Jonathan Jarrett gets a kick from a medieval scribe who was also a “visual learner.”

Luminarium bakes up medieval illuminated initial cookies. (Hat tip: Dave Lull.)

Patrick at Anecdotal Evidence puts Donald Justice and Edward Hopper side by side.

The Book Haven sees fog around bad weather imagery.

Bill Peschel thinks publishers could stand to learn a little showmanship from Star Wars and Tor Books.

Jake Seliger reiterates what you should know before you start a graduate program in literature (although I think his advice applies broadly to the humanities).

Flavia, newly tenured, ponders pseudonymity and its discontents.

Adrian Murdoch finds a German museum disappointing.

James Gurney discovers a video interview with Andrew Wyeth, who wished he’d painted his father.

Dylan pens two ghazals: “And Flowers” and “Zephyr.”

Gabriele at Lost Fort takes you to the delightfully named Dunstaffnage Chapel.

George visits Mount Vernon.

Wuthering Expectations reads Washington Square.

Chris at Hats & Rabbits wonders how he’ll die.

First Known When Lost asks, “What will your epitaph be?”

“No ceiling bearing down on me, save the starry skies above…”

RIDDLE

I saw on the strand     the strangest of sights:
A gleaming pageant     that passed from the sea,
Their foremost borne,     that fine-bearded king,
Through sculpted chambers      skeined with sea-weed,
Mute twirling trumpets      trailing his wake.
Sailing beside him,      his silent white lords
Were marred by the maulings     of millions of wars.
Light on the shoreline,    their lonely race
Watched and waited     wordless ages
For imminent signs.     Silence drained heaven,
Then a dry rustle     like rain in ascent:
The whitecaps boiled        bone-dry, leaving
deserts unplundered,     plains without end.
Long they beheld here     horrors of old:
Ravenous monsters,      maws ringed with arms,
Pried their bulk blindly   from beds of muck
As nobles sternly     stiffened their spines,
For all was lost.     The lords yielded,
Shedding their swords     and shields of gold,
Hurling their helms      hard on the dune,
Laying their war-gear     now lightly aside,
Once-bright armor         bristling with rust.
With no last cry      they cracked their spears;
No howling braced     their broken ranks;
Insensibly stone-eyed     as statues at dawn,
Their remnant sank      in the sand where they stood.
Then forth from the snare     of a fisherman’s nets
In their relics reborn      I rose to my shrine
To wait for water.     Their world is dust,
And so is this matter.     Now say what I am.

(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)

“Merciless, the magistrate turns ’round…”

This pair of grotesques has always struck me as eerie. Is their fecundity enough, or are we meant to wonder what they smother under stony vegetation?

EMAIL FROM THE COMMUNITY GARDEN RULES COMMITTEE

No worm discerns the robin; we dispense
With blazing wing to herald your offense.
The slug secretes his shadow under chard
Where you malinger, lest your way be barred
By negligence that chokes your bolting plants.
We yet may cast you out, beyond the ants
That vainly pray for peonies to burst.
The mess you fell today you raised up first
In indolence. For fear of flaming brand
You hide with mites; we pluck you out. Now stand
As wordless witness wild around you breeds.
The wages of our mortal sin is weeds.


(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)

“…at a place where you can walk across, with five steps down…”

Starting today, more than 3,000 scholars, profs, and students will flock to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, an event that often prompts yuksters to claim it’s peculiar that medievalists should convene in a small city in the Midwest, as if the coasts, or bigger cities, are inherently more hospitable to historical musings.

…which, of course, is silly. Having just rolled back into D.C. after a 3,600-mile roadtrip, I’m pleased to share a few postcards from the medievalist Midwest, evidence that the Middle Ages wind also through the prairies and plains—if not as vitally as the Mississippi, then at least with the same circuitous certainty.

“The hammer of the gods will drive our ship to new lands….” You’ll find a Smithsonian-funded scale replica of a Viking knarr in Alexandria, Minnesota, a town with a gigantic Viking statue and a thriving spurious-runestone-based economy.

In downtown Minneapolis, look up to spot these funny, blockheaded grotesques on the spire at Central Lutheran Church, which just completed its neo-Gothic bell tower after nearly 80 years.

At the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, you can see how Iowa’s own Grant Wood (painter of America’s great medievalist icon) combined his usual humor with a designer’s eye for medieval church pews to create this early-1920s “mourner’s bench” for the principal’s office at the local junior high.

At the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, you can’t miss this gawkworthy replica of La Giralda, a minaret-turned-cathedral-tower in Seville. The Kansas City Giralda (shown here artlessly photographed from a moving car) represents the tower after its adornment with post-medieval doodads. (To the best of my knowledge, the one in Seville never had a Cheesecake Factory on the ground floor.)

On North 18th Street in Kansas City, Kansas, look up to see this grotesque on all four sides of the tower at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, designed by an artistic medievalist rector. According to a friendly parish worker we met, the church plans to sell reproductions of this mascot; he’s known as “the Grinning Gargoyle.”

Whether you’re en route to Kalamazoo or writing and teaching in what some would consider a far-flung place, look up and gaze around. Chances are, a deliberate reworking of something medieval is craving a chance to leer back.