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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Feeling Neglected

It's good enough, or at least dear enough to me, for me to bring it up again. A Tale, and its exegesis. No one could have any idea how it troubles me. Why did I even write it?



J

4 comments:

brent said...

And the knight rested the rest of a babe on his mother’s breast. When he awoke he was in the quaint dwelling of the shepherdess, cared for by her tender hands. Autumn rolled into winter, and winter into spring, and in the fullness of time the knight’s wounds were healed and he had regained his strength beyond former glories. As the knight looked into the shepherdess’ eyes he no longer saw horror and hatred but love and compassion, for he had become her unicorn.

or

And when the knight died in her arms he was carried by the angels into the presence of the King. As the knight looked into the King’s eyes he saw the deepest blue beyond color like the giant springs gushing forth tons of water, except that the water was love pouring forth for him, bathing him in the King’s joy. Ashamed, the knight turned away, but the King with His firm and gentle hand touched his face and all his pain and shame and tears dissipated. All the knights former torments were but a breath passing in the night, in the awareness of the King's presence.

Then the King spoke, “Hail, great knight. Welcome! Come and receive the fullness of your reward. For you are most favored among knights.” The knight was confused, “O King, how can you say such a thing? For my life was marked with failure and torment.” The King replied, “Do you not see, fair knight? I was the dragon. All your suffering was for me. It is not the deeds but the heart that makes the knight.”

Jack H said...

Ah yes, you know the variant readings. I, like most conservative scholars, think the oldest texts are most reliable. Texts are so very mutable, no?

My theory is that the wounds were fatal. Miracles are so rare. But some kings do hate injustice.

There is a well-known ellipsis in that second reading, as you will know. While some corrupted manuscripts have the king saying, "I was the dragon", this is clearly heretical. More authoritative copies have: "I had loosed the dragon for a time." I know of one fragment that reads: "It is mine to slay the dragon."

I view these addenda as pious glosses, clearly authored by a different hand. Rather like the pseudepigraphic Acts 29 --

http://www.biblefacts.org/church/Acts29.html

(see http://www.tertullian.org/articles/goodspeed_strange_new_gospels.htm#8 )

-- well-meaning, but of merely human origin.


J

Anonymous said...

Yes, I see the variance. Clearly this manuscript lacks the darkness of the former. How could I have been so misled? I suppose my own hope for a happy ending has clouded my exegetical judgment. However, the others are clearly written from different times. Could this manuscript be written from a redeemed knight at some distant future? And the obvious context points to the King also being the dragon, possibly even a puppet doing the Kings bidding – testing the knight’s love. Or could this be symbolic of what most would deem hideous but those with eyes to see discern the true beauty in love of the unlovable – God-like.

Jack H said...

I am no mystic, to speculate so loftily. I would suppose, if we were to deal in symbols, that the imagery of the dragon is sufficiently attested in scripture that we need not speculate as to its nature. In this sad tale, the dragon destroys and betrays and abandons. It does not return in any form, unless it be that of the dire wolf. What is it that burns maidens and children? What is it that tears lambs and attacks girls? What is it that craves destruction? Surely, not shepherds. Not unicorns.

We might have hope that the dragon of this tale is so transformed. But that would be another story, and its history seems to have been lost. It is certainly unknown to me, and I have ears for such rumors.

We are the servants of our nature, and there is only one force in the universe, or outside of it, that can redeem corruption. That force, that Force, does not elect to do so, in every case. However we might mirror and pour out this Force, of love, it is not all-powerful. Free will has its place, and dragons are monsters of will. Some are touched, and transformed. Some are untouchable, and remain agents of darkness. How are we to know the difference? We can only love as much as we are able, and trust that such a seed bears fruit. We cannot be surprised that such trust sometimes proves false. We were given no promise of unwavering success. We were, rather, commanded to love, regardless of the object, and regardless of the outcome.

We must be careful not to read our desires into the text. Just as scripture must answer scripture, so here, in this merely secular chronicle, we must let the words mean what they say. I too would have liked a happily everafter. In fact, I did what no scholar should do, and inserted one, after a fashion -- selected from a number of possible choices, as the many variant texts indicate. The ending I selected, would have the knight as a second dragon, and this one finally transformed, where the first was not. The obvious homiletic lesson from such a reading would be that even those who appear to be good, are nothing but monsters, if untransformed by love. It is not the works of love, but love itself, that has meaning. Works show forth love, but they are not love. But as I said in the exegetical appendix of the Authorized Edition, the fact is that the last authentic report on the knight has him lost in the wild wood, unconsoled, if not inconsolable. I fear the third act of this Tale is mere pious apocrypha.

I do have access to unpublished material -- a fair bit of my private researches have been into this theme -- and it may be that I will release it to the public, some day. But the material is chaotic and badly preserved, and I'm not sure that the field would be enriched by any contribution I might attempt to make. We shall see.


J