The Angels for the Nativitie of Our Lord

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Run, shepherds, run where Bethlem blest appears;

We bring the best of news, be not dismay’d,

A Saviour there is born, more old than years,

Amidst the rolling heaven this earth who stay’d:

In a poor cottage inn’d, a virgin maid,

A weakling did him bear who all upbears;

There he in clothes is wrapped, in manger laid,

To whom too narrow swaddlings are our spheres.

Run, shepherds, run, and solemnise his birth;

This is that night, no day, grown great with bliss,    

In which the power of Satan broken is;

In heaven be glory; peace unto the earth.

Thus singing through the air the angels swam,

And all the stars re-echoed the same.

 

William Drummond*

 

There are three crucial elements in the 17th-century Scottish poet William Drummond’s poem that make it almost the perfect Christmas poem: immediacy, paradox and harmony.

Read the first lines aloud and the immediacy of the lines is the first thing that will strike you – the imperative addressed by the angels to the shepherds on the hills above Bethlehem is also addressed to the reader. As it was celebrated in Drummond’s day and in our own, the nativity is more than just the remembering of the birth of Christ, but its re-enactment. With its imperative, its urgency and its engagement with the feelings of the listener, the poem, like the visit to the crib on Christmas Eve, involves us in the cosmic drama of Jesus’s birth.

Cosmic drama? or domestic scene? Both. An important element of the nativity is the paradox of the greatest power embodied in the humblest of settings and characters: a ‘Saviour’ ‘in a poor cottage inned’, a ‘weakling’ who bore him ‘who all upbears’, his swaddling bands our world. No longer, as in the Platonic conception of the world, is the earth and human life impossibly distant from the power of Gods and the heavens. Just as we are involved in the story of the nativity, so God is involved in life on earth, for – as I have written about elsewhere Homo Factus Est.

Night is not now something to be feared, not – as in the realm of folklore – the time of evil spirits and devils, but a day ‘grown great with bliss’ in which the devil is defeated. The world – like the rigorously rhymed sonnet itself is brought to harmony. The last lines bring to mind the poem I wrote about last post, ‘The Star’ by Henry Vaughan, in which we saw the poet seek after the source of the mysterious concordance between himself and the distant heavenly body, to find that it lay in God, their co-creator. Here that consonance is taken a step further, in an ‘echoing’ between the physical world of the stars and the angels.

I will post another final seventeenth-century poem soon (with a New Year, rather than Advent theme). Before then, Happy Christmas to all who have stopped by to read!

* This is the version from Bartleby, with modernised spelling (https://www.bartleby.com/340/17.html)

Image: 15th Century anonymous Flemish miniature of the annunciation to the shepherds, courtesy of Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annunciation_to_the_shepherds 

 

The Star

Whatever ’tis, whose beauty here below

Attracts thee thus and makes thee stream and flow,

And wind and curl, and wink and smile,

Shifting thy gate and guile;

 

Though thy close commerce nought at all imbars

My present search, for eagles eye not stars,

And still the lesser by the best

And highest good is blest;

 

Yet, seeing all things that subsist and be,

Have their commissions from divinity,

And teach us duty, I will see

What man may learn from thee.

 

First, I am sure, the subject so respected

Is well dispos’d, for bodies once infected,

Deprav’d, or dead, can have with thee

No hold, nor sympathy.

 

Next, there’s in it a restless, pure desire

And longing for thy bright and vital fire,

Desire that never will be quench’d,

Nor can be writh’d, nor wrench’d.

 

These are the magnets which so strongly move

And work all night upon thy light and love,

As beauteous shapes, we know not why,

Command and guide the eye.

 

For where desire, celestial, pure desire

Hath taken root, and grows, and doth not tire,

There God a commerce states, and sheds

His secret on their heads.

 

This is the heart he craves, and who so will

But give it him, and grudge not, he shall feel

That God is true, as herbs unseen

Put on their youth and green.

 

Henry Vaughan

(In the public domain)

 

‘Commerce’ between the universe and the earth is an idea that is most crudely and in most easily comprehendible form in astrology: that man’s life is affected (guided, even!) by the influence of the heavenly bodies. Although astrology is widely derided these days, it is entirely consistent by its own principles, and there is in it a kernel of truth: life on earth really is affected by the heavenly bodies, – the tide by the influence of the moon, the weather by the sun, and so on. That is not to say that the fate of man really is decided by Mars passing through Orion’s Belt or what have you, only that there really is an influence of the heavenly bodies on earth, and, though infinitesimal, of earth on the other heavenly bodies.

Vaughan’s commerce is more metaphysical in nature, the idea that there is a sort of spiritual sympathy or influence between the stars and something ‘here below’, not so much physically as in the mind of the person looking at it. For Vaughan this is a perfectly natural idea, given that both man – and consciousness itself – and the star are creations of God. In fact, in some sense, it is the perception of the perceiver that calls forth the movement of the star, or percieves it as moving as it does.

And what then does the star call forth from the perceiver – or, to put it another way, what is the benefit of a man to look at a star? First, Vaughan explains, it is a kind of proof of life that one sees and notices the star. Second, one admires its great desire, and it kindles in one such a desire. It is such a desire that God wants to kindle in men’s hearts, and indeed that will help them come closer to him. Many readers will think of the star of Bethlehem that drew its viewers towards an encounter with the living God.

As always in Vaughan’s poetry, what may be metaphysical is never only metaphorical. His poetry was as inspired by his walks in the Welsh hills as by his theology. Vaughan is not using his stargazing as a metaphor for man’s relationship with God, only saying that that they are like each other in nature – and that they may have the same motivating force behind them.

What God is

For the advent season, I will be blogging on a few religious poems from the 17th century, starting with this very brief poem:

 

God is above the sphere of our esteem,

And is the best known, not defining him.

 

Robert Herrick

 

Robert Herrick, a poet and Priest of the Church of England, lived in a devout but fractious age. In his lifetime – and in the period in which he wrote most of his poetry, his countrymen were tearing themselves apart on religious and political issues. The English Civil War saw Anglicans and Catholics lined up against Presbyterians, Puritans and an ever sub-dividing group of independents. And yet nearly everyone believed in God.

So for his age, this rhyming couplet is a reminder of intellectual humility before God: not to define him too narrowly – at all, in fact, and perhaps not to presume too much knowledge of the nature and the will of God.

We live in a different age, of course, one of widespread disbelief in God, of a great deal of disinterest in and derision of religion. What does the poem say to our age?

The intellectual presumption that we can easily define God applies as much to non-believers as to believers. In his book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, David Bentley Hart has argued that the new atheists of the 21st century, misunderstand the God that they are arguing against, as something like a super-powered ‘demiurge’ within the universe, rather than a higher being transcending it. He is, as Herrick has it, ‘outside the sphere of our esteem’.

 

The Bare Peninsula

Some Thoughts on the Glories of Melrose

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I spent some pleasant hours in Melrose in the Scottish Borders with family and friends last weekend, under clear and clement (though cold, initially) skies as England was being busily drenched by Atlantic rains. I had never been before, and was greatly impressed by it, and it set me thinking on a number of historical themes.

Romans

It came as a surprise to some of our party that the town has a Roman museum, and makes much of its Roman history. Our friends are not British, so can be forgiven for thinking – as so many people in England do – that Scotland lay forever outside the Roman Empire, while those with a little more knowledge know that before Hadrian’s wall, between the Tyne and the Solway, the Antonine wall between Forth and Clyde marked the limits of the Empire. The garrison and town of Melrose was situated at an important strategic point – the crossing of the main north-south road – Dere Street – with the biggest river in the region, the Tweed. The garrison was named after the distinctive nearby mountain – Eildon hill, or the Eildon Hills – known to the Romans as Trimontium, a suitably trinitarian name for what would later become an important place of Christian Worship.

A bit about the geography

Melrose itself was originally a couple of miles to the east, where the Tweed loops round to form what the Brythons,i.e. the Welsh-speaking inhabitants of these parts, called the ‘Mail Ros’, the bare peninsula. (If you think that is an inaccurate use of geographical terms, consider that similar landforms have been called islands, such as ‘Dun Holme’ – Hill Island – that is, Durham, on its loop in the River Wear). 

We drove to Melrose up the A68, the modern road that more or less follows the line of Dere Street, and there is a noticeable shift of the geography once you pass the border at Carter Bar. Redesdale is full of long, tilting hills, covered in forests planted for timber, and long, tilting moors, dry and windblown. On the Scottish side, you instantly notice different kind of hill, less broad, but steeper, almost angular and irregular in shape – apparently caused by a substratum of volcanic rock. The resulting landscape is distinctively different from that just south, greener, more varied, with old forests, narrower valleys and crisscrossed with small roads and paths. It is also different from the Scottish landscape of popular imagination – heather moors, mountains and lochs and what have you – but no less beautiful for it. It gets an autumn foliage to rival anywhere I’ve seen too… the peninsula is not so bare these days.

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Cuthbert

Saint Cuthbert is, for reasons I have discussed elsewhere, strongly associated with the north-east of England. But he was born and grew up in Melrose in southern Scotland.It is worth remembering, of course, that in Cuthbert’s day the residents of this part of the island would by no means have considered themselves ‘Scots,’ a word used to describe the Gaelic speaking invaders of the north-west of the country, as well as their brethren in Ireland. In the 7th century, Melrose’s population would have been ‘Anglian’ or perhaps, mixed Anglian and Brythonic, and under the rule – though tenuously, perhaps – of the Bernician kings of Bamburgh. In one sense, however, there was some ‘Scottish’ influence in the town – in the monastery that had been set up under the tutelage of the great Irish monk Saint Aiden, brought to Bernicia by King Oswald, a Gaelic-speaking Anglian who had grown up fostered at the court of the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Riata. At Oswald’s request, Aiden set up a monastic community at Lindisfarne modelled on the one at Iona in Dal Riata, that eventually birthed a network of monasteries that would stretch from the Tyne to the Solway and from the Humber to the Forth. Melrose was one of the earliest monasteries and in its day one of the most important, in newly conquered territory, and en route to the Bernicians’ then allies, the Dal Riatans in the North West. 

The first abbot of the monastery, taken from Lindisfarne by Aiden, was Saint Eata, the second Saint Boisil, after whom nearby Saint Boswells is named, and the third his protege, the brilliant Saint Cuthbert. Cuthbert was recognised as an able man, and thus brought over to the head abbey on Holy Island, (and for a while later down in Hexham), where his influence was so great he became a kind of totemic figure for the community – and even for the whole of Northumbria (as was, after Bernicia had merged with its southern neighbour Deira). A walking route from Melrose to Holy Island remembers this link.

King David

Though the Christian roots of Melrose go back to the 7th century – though, on the ‘bare peninsula’ now known as Old melrose, it was in the 12th that the current town and abbey was built up.

The abbey was built under the reign of the fascinating Scottish king, David I. He brought up a group of monks and masons from the Cistercian Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, and the building was initially done in a similar style, though later, when relations with the English deteriorated, the lion’s share of the building work was overseen by a French architect, one John Morrow. The building is a great example of the beguiling mix of transcendent beauty and warm humour typical of, say, York Minster. On the apse ceiling, for example, is an intricate octagon pattern with image of the trinity and saints, while between the buttresses on the south side there hangs a smiling pig gargoyle playing the bagpipes.

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David had great ambitions for his northern kingdom. During the Anarchy, when would be Monarchs Stephen and Matilda were fighting over the English crown, David extended his kingdom to include the whole of the north-east of England down to the Tees. He was, like his warring brethren to the south, a Norman, and had typically Norman attitudes towards kingship, consolidating and growing his kingdom, developing its towns and cities while patronising the church and the orders. Melrose was again at a crucial crossroads in Scotland, on the main route between the capital and the new territories of his kingdom, and on the river that was its most important trade route, as the Tweed then was.

That is why, they say, David chose Melrose for the Cistercian abbey – but the religious history of the place must have influenced him too. The north-east of England was strongly associated with the society of Cuthbert, who had continued his work at Lindisfarne until the Viking invasion, before resettling his remains at Durham. An abbey at Melrose would inherit the sanctity of the Ionian-Northumbrian heritage of centuries before, but also stress the common culture between those areas long considered part of Scotland and those recently brought in – lands that had been evangelized by Columba, Oswald, Aiden, Eata, Boswell, Cuthbert and Bede and their inheritors..

Severed at the Tweed

David’s extended kingdom wasn’t to be. His capture of the north-east had always been ambiguous – initially to help his ally Matilda in her war against Stephen, it eventually took on a more permanent-looking character. Henry II, Matilda’s son, and the heir to Stephen, promised David he could keep the regions if he supported him – but promptly reneged on his promise when he took power. Northumbria was English again, and Melrose was near the border – a position that would cost it dearly in the coming centuries of Anglo-Scottish warfare.

The abbey actually survived very well – though sometimes badly damaged in battle, it was usually rebuilt, and sometimes better than before. One notable rebuilder was Richard II, who, the guidebook explains, either rebuilt it out of guilt at having damaged a holy building, or to re-emphasise the town’s importance as, briefly, part of England. But though the abbey survived, the area as a whole dwindled in wealth and importance as a result of its border status, not just because it of repeated English incursions and Borderer reiving, but because this fertile valley’s towns were now cut off from their outlet to the sea – for Berwick fell, more often than not, into English hands. The once great trading port became a garrison town, while the once important town of Roxburgh (after which a county is named) dwindled to nothing. Melrose survived, and even sometimes prospered, but was never again as important as it had been under the reign of David.

Reformation and Romanticism

Melrose Abbey has a rather splendid museum- on the north side of the grounds, with a plethora of artefacts from every period of the abbey’s life. On the ground floor, there is a glass case of figures in detailed period outfits, ending in a rather bleak, black-clad fellow called the commendator. This was the man who was in charge of the abbey and its grounds after the Reformation, one of the men who oversaw its despoilation, and profited from the sale of its materials – and who lived in the building which now houses the museum!

The abbey had entered a period of decline before the Reformation, one that had much to do with the intensification of hostilities with the English, under a particularly ruthless king. But it was the Reformation that finished it off for good. Thankfully, the abbey was spared some of the more zealous expressions of Protestentisation – the bagpipe-playing pig was spared the hammers of the iconoclasts. 

Though finished as a religious site, the area would continue to inspire devotion. There was a surprisingly short time – as in England – between the dissolution of the monasteries and a certain kind of nostalgia for the time when they had been at the heart of the community, not least because of the beauty that their buildings had left in the landscape. The writer and poet Walter Scott was one who was beguiled by Melrose, its history and its landscape, making his home at nearby Dryburgh. 

My friends and I finished our trip to Melrose with a trip up to ‘Scotts View’, where the writer used to walk – and which does indeed present a splendid prospect of the curvingTweed and the Trimontine Eildon Hills – and, on the day we went, a spectacular autumnal landscape. The woods in the picture below, on the north-west side of the Tweed are known as the Gledwoods – after an old Scottish word for the red kite, which used to hover here. Perhaps one day they will re-introduce the bird here, as they have in many other parts of the UK – I would like to see that – and the abbey re-opened too, that would be even better!

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Further reading:

The King in the North, Max Adams

The Steel Bonnets, George Macdonald Fraser

Stephen (Penguin Monarchs), Carl Watkins

Tales from the Long Twelfth Century,  Richard Huscroft

 

 

Dionysus in the 21st Century

Last post I explained the Girardian interpretation of the Dionysus story, as told by Euripides, and applied it to the English Civil War, casting Oliver Cromwell as Dionysus, the lord of mob action (not, as commonly thought, of wine), the Roundheads – especially the sectaries – as the mob, and Charles himself as Pentheus – the king of Thebes who enters into the Bacchic revels and is torn limb from limb by the revellers. For Girard, remember, the whole story is a transfiguration of an ancient sacrificial rite, whereby a scapegoat is sacrificed for the whole community, to forestall worse violence.

This post I want to see how these figures might apply to our present political dramas. First, I would like to emphasise a couple of aspects of the myth (and the rite it retells). The first is one that I did not cover last time was the reason that Dionysus picked on Thebes in the first place. Dionysus wanted Thebes and its king to pay tribute to him, but the king, Pentheus, refused. The second is one that I did mention, but had no reason to emphasise: that is that Pentheus himself joined in with the revels, albeit in disguise. I would suggest that it is these two facts on which we can build a bridge between Euripides’ story and our own age.

We can start in the USA, whose President fits the Dionysus figure well. Donald Trump rose to power on a wave of what the political class call Populism – a wave of discontent with the status quo that existed before him, but that he skillfully exploited, and in doing so exacerbated. He was initially seen as a novelty candidate, even as his chance of winning grew. He struck a chord, in particular, with Americans who felt that their concerns had been long dismissed by the political establishment, concerns to do with the decline of traditional industries, the acceleration of immigration, the foreign adventurism of the ‘War on Terror’ and the globalisation of the American economy, and – more nebulously – the sense that the values of America’s golden age  – faith, family and nation – were being usurped by identity politics. These voters included blue-collar Republicans who, taken for granted for years, rejected the establishment candidates – Bush, Rubio – who had said little to address their worries; and it included independents and Democrats who felt much the same way about Hilary Clinton, the ultimate establishment insider. The establishment, having failed for years to address, or even to acknowledge, the concerns of a large part of the electorate should hardly have been shocked at their electoral ejection. That Trump, a feckless, narcissistic playboy became the standard-bearer of the electorally disenfranchised was… hardly ideal, but reality, as Greek myth, does not provide us a pleasant way out of such impasses.

A wise voice (I think it was Jonah Goldberg) has said of Trump that he brings out the worst in people, but that this applies at least as much to his enemies as his allies. Respectable journalists set aside impartiality, CIA employees conspired to undercut his presidency, and worst of all, the Democrats – or a large portion of them – doubled down on the identity politics that had turned away the blue-collar vote. That is, on the centre and the left, there was no shortage of would-be Pentheuses willing to sacrifice the dignity and probity of their office to join in the ‘resistance’ to the duly elected president (whatever else he may be) and contribute to the divisions of the country. Trump becomes his own justification – all that stands between his supporters and the chaos that he (of course) has helped to foster.

The UK too, like the USA and like much of Europe, saw a rise in Populism in the 2010s, in such movements as the SNP and, south of the border, UKIP,  who campaigned to see the UK leave the Europen Union. The Conservatives seemed to have the most to lose from the rise of UKIP who were taking the votes of more traditionally minded – and anti-EU – ex-Conservative voters, as well as disenfranchised ex-Labour voters in the north, the midlands and even Wales. The Conservative leader and Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the party out of hand as ‘fruitcakes and loons’. UKIP was indeed a party whose membership included a good deal of cranks and weirdoes, but it had a shrewd and articulate leader in Nigel Farage and – because no other party would – it became a channel through which the public could vent long-ignored concerns about immigration and the seeming growth of London at the expense of the regions, but most of all about the EU.

Rather than engaging with these issues, Cameron sought to lance the boil with a single referendum that would cut away the raison d’etre of UKIP by deciding membership once and for all. The trick had worked once before, or had seemed to, in Scotland. Cameron had fought and won a referendum campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. Rather than finally deciding the question, however, the referendum deepened the divides in Scotland. This was not Cameron’s fault – it was the nationalists who had agitated for the referendum – but he might have noticed the tendency of a referendum to increase tension and division before he repeated the process across the UK. But that is what happened – and this time Cameron’s favoured side lost. The Dionysian Farage was triumphant, while the Penthean Cameron fell on his own sword (figuratively speaking).

Granted this is an unorthodox reading of an already unorthodox reading of myth, but perhaps the Dionysus myth – in its Girardian reading – tells us something useful about our own age: that when the governing class of a country gets too far removed from the people it governs, that if it does not listen to the voice of the demos, forces arise that can threaten to overthrow the whole society and its power structures.

The God of Political Chaos

A Girardian reading of Euripides… and The English Civil War

 

We think of Dionysus (Bacchus) of the God of wine, but – as Girard explains – he was originally something like the God of mob frenzy – or more specifically, of decisive mob action, action that resolves a problem that it itself brought about. Having come to Thebes and enlisted its women to his Bacchanal, he is opposed by the king, Pentheus. Pentheus disguises himself as a participant in the bacchanal and is torn limb from limb by the crowds.

For Girard, the myth is the retelling – in fact the mistelling – of an ancient rite, and this rite is itself the reenactment of a still more ancient crime. The details have been transfigured, with the unconscious purpose of obscuring the original, ugly truth – thus, for example, the Bacchae are women in Euripides’ telling, whereas most violence is male in origin. Pentheus’s death is a kind of sacrifice, a purge of all evil in a society – a controlled violence that forestalls a more deadly general violence – a scapegoating.

It’s awfully unfair, of course, that the victim is innocent, but this, Girard argues, is in the very nature of a sacrificial victim – a scapegoat, which Pentheus unwittingly becomes. I don’t intend to get too deep into why mobs behave as they do, or why scapegoating works the way it does; but let’s say, they just do, it just does, and this is the way that society works, then how does that play out in history?

My particular interest is in the reign of Charles I, and this provides us with fertile territory in which to see the scapegoating mechanism at work, and instances where one figure or another might be compared to Dionysus or Pentheus.

The first scapegoating was of the king’s favourite and close ally, the Duke of Buckingham. A successful social climber, a favourite and (probably) lover of the king’s father before him, Buckingham had been in charge of England’s military under Charles in the 1620s, in which – at the urging of a strongly pro-war parliament – a more aggressive foreign policy was pursued against France and Spain. Whether or not it was the Duke’s fault, the policy was a disaster, from England’s drunken defeat to the Spanish at Cadiz, to its humiliating loss to the French at the Isle de Re. Parliament tried to impeach the Duke and puritans chugged out propaganda sheets condemning and blaming him; a disgruntled soldier returning from the farcical campaigns took them to heart and stabbed the Duke to death over his breakfast in Portsmouth one morning.

The king suffered through the gleeful public response to the Duke’s death. His foreign adventurism came to an end, and his court became more decorous. He became closer to his Roman Catholic wife, and – after initial concessions to parliament – more autocratic, proroguing parliament indefinitely and embarking on a personal rule of his kingdoms.

The second was Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford. A highly efficient, disciplinarian Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Council of the North, he was made pre-eminent in the king’s council when the Scottish Bishop’s wars started and the king had to recall parliament. Once the Scots had captured Newcastle, however, he was vulnerable to his enemies in parliament, who were allied to the Scots in the quest to reform religion in Britain, and to Strafford’s Anglo-Irish enemies, they put him on trial for abuses of power – a trial which Strafford easily won. The parliament then ‘attainted’ him – that is, they passed a bill for his execution (a salutary reminder that parliament is not always the ally of law and liberty), and – with their Scots allies withholding Tyneside’s coal – pressured the king to sign it. At his execution, Strafford rued Biblically that he had put his faith in princes – and Charles, for his part, felt guilt at allowing the execution for the rest of his life.

Far from restoring order, the execution emboldened the parliamentarians so that within a couple of years they were trying to wrest power over the army from the king, the struggle that led into the English Civil war proper.

The third scapegoat was the short, imperious Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Long a bete noir of the Puritans in England – and the Presbyterian Scots, he was condemned for forcing reforms on the English church widely – if inaccurately – seen to be ‘Papist’. Locked in the Tower of London before the outbreak of the war, he was executed in its midst, as the Parliamentarians, increasingly radical, sought not only to undo his reforms but to banish episcopy altogether. Like Strafford, Laud was attainted, killed by act of parliament.

Sacrificial victims in the civil war are not hard to find – and they are often, as in the Bacchae, figures like Pentheus, of power and influence. The cavaliers, with their devil-may-care hedonism, may more closely accord with our traditional idea of the Bacchanal, but if we define Dionysus, as Girard insists, as the impulse to decisive mob action, then it is the Roundheads who are the Bacchae. The stout and rigid Cromwell may strike an unlikely Bacchus, but the tumults of the 1640s gave rise to a plethora of cults, sects and movements, of various religious and political flavours, that threatened to overhaul the society of England in ways that the original parliamentary rebels could not have conceived and did not particularly want. As head of the New Model Army, only Cromwell had the power and authority to bring the chaos to an end.

By 1649, three years after the king’s capitulation at Newark, and a subsequent civil war, Cromwell had reached the conclusion that war and its attendant chaos could not be concluded without the death of the king. This was quite rational to some extent – the king’s duplicity with his captors, and his playing of factions, had helped prolong resistance to the Roundhead settlement, but the killing of the king was supra-legal and determined: Cromwell purged parliament of any dissenters, staged a show-trial of the king and did not inform his nominal allies in Scotland (who were horrified). The monarch he called ‘the man of blood’ was executed on a cold January morning in 1649. History does not replay myth – or never exactly, because myth is a distillation of history, and of all human actions. Still, the figures and tropes of myth occur, in one way or another, in every age. Next post, I will look at our own.

Thrones Flashbacks

How come the people in Game of Thrones call kings ‘Your Grace’, and we say ‘Your Majesty’? Who were the Andals? Is Daenerys a neocon? Where did Martin get the idea for Dragon Fire? 

Also, what’s with dragons, generally?

A couple of years ago, inspired by George R.R. Martin’s books and the TV series, I wrote a few articles on Game of Thrones and some of the interesting historical echoes in the programme. They refer to storylines mostly over and done with now, but may still be of interest…

https://andyflecksblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/your-grace/

https://andyflecksblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/daenerys-bush-and-missions-unaccomplished/

https://andyflecksblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/dragon-fire-greek-fire-dark-fire/

https://andyflecksblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/andals-vandals-visigoths-and-vicissitudes/

Another article Thrones’ fans may enjoy is this on dragons, which I wrote for the (now sadly defunct) literary magazine, The Wagon Magazine:

https://thewagonmagazine.com/post/the-wanderer-andrew-fleck-wanderer-on-worms

Image:

By Karl Bryullov – Karl Bryullov, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19262708