Thou art my life, my love, my heart
The very eyes of me
And hast command of every part
To live and die for Thee.
His Queen who may Command him Anything Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)
Imagine you had an Ideal!
A vision of allegiance, an indissoluble covenant, and with it the profound satisfaction that is the reward for serving your Queen unconditionally. As her protector in any kind of weather. As a knight whose humaneness has been steeled by fire and agony. As a man who saw it all, yet grew stronger instead of giving in to despair. As a champion who has sworn an oath of courage, decency, fairness, goodness, honesty, modesty, morality, probity, purity, rectitude, righteousness, trustworthiness, truthfulness, uprightness and virtue on his flag of convenience, namely her flaming red mane. In short, as a man who has ditched his selfish individualism for a larger design. Could that appeal to you?
Oh come now, I hear you say. Stuff this sort of utter nonsense! Because we aren’t living in the times of the Round Table anymore. Today’s ideals are greed, graft, lies, deception, blackmail, assassination and pornography, and those who get a deep satisfaction out of it are the ones who rule the world.
Giving in to despair, then?
Not yet, I hope. Let’s look indeed at what we have now, and what we had once, and why it got lost. Though lost is a relative term, as you will agree. Because even if it has been forced by the Pharisees and their combined media onslaught below the surface of our benumbed and befuddled minds, it is still there. And with it a whole range of dormant emotions. Like the intense joy of having been able to fulfil a vow. Or the elation to be cheered by burghers and peasants whose turf you have defended. Or the bliss of hearing a poem written in your commendation. Or the delight to be called a man of some consequence. Or the enchantment of listening to a lovely maiden singing a song in your praise. Or the ecstasy on receiving an accolade from your most beautiful Queen.
What has struck me always as extraordinary, or absolutely enthralling, is the extent to which we Christian men have gone in the worship of our women. The ease and certainty of how we elevated them to a status of near divinity, knowing full well that all our swords and hellebores and daggers combined stood not the faintest chance against a slight touch of their slim hands, a fleeting kiss from their rosy lips.
And if the hands weren’t so very slim, or the lips a bit less rosy, it made not much of a difference either. Because most likely the knight in question didn’t look always as handsome as the one in the lovely painting on top of this piece, but had grown a bit bow-legged from all that horse-riding, or potbellied from all the wine before and after a battle, or bald from wearing a heavy iron helmet most of the time and in any kind of weather. Thus, as we say in Germany, on every pot the proper lid. Which doesn’t diminish the emotional impact of my argument in any way.
The adoration for the eternal Female has come down to us from our Indo-Aryan forebears as a largely undefined primeval impulse, but received a tremendous boost with the invention of Love as a system of thought and, in consequence, an all-compassing and imperative sentiment.
With few exceptions, this sentiment is missing in most societies. Meaning those where women are historically treated as inferior, due to the simple fact that they can’t hit back with equal force if attacked or abused by a man. And who are thus looked upon as second-rate creatures whose God-commanded duty it is to serve their male masters in any way ordered. There are whole tribes in Africa where the women till the fields, feed the kids, cook the food, and do in fact every bit of work necessary to sustain the family, while the men lay about and get high and giggle or beat them to kingdom come if they object. With regard to a general workload, the same is true of any docile lass married to an Orthodox Jew. The latter who thanks his heathen god every morning for having been created a man and not a woman, while he struggles into his scarecrow outfit and then takes off to submerge himself all day long in the intricacies of the Talmud where it is probably stated on every second or third page that cleaning so much as a teaspoon is against Yahweh’s divine intentions. All this with the exception of popping now and then into a cathouse and the devout aim to divert some of the household money onto a fallen Ukrainian angel.
As to Muslim women living in the classic Islamic countries, I can’t help but thinking of one of the saddest proverbs I’ve ever heard during my journeys, namely one they whisper to each other when their supremo isn’t around: Life is just a Veil and a Grave…
Or to quote a somewhat tougher stance I’ve come across in a recent novel:
They have killed Love. They treat their women like subhuman beings. They marry without love, they breed without love, they pamper their grubby sons like kings and abuse their daughters like dogs. They beat the living shit out of their wives, strangle them or stone them to death if their pride demands it. They have deprived themselves of God’s greatest gift, the free and happy love between a man and a woman. They live in terrible barrenness, because over the ages this lack of love has killed their souls. That is why they are dumb, cruel and near mad. With us Christians they see what love can be, and it drives them crazy. The only remedy they can find is hate, because their sick honour forbids anything else. That is why they long so much for their silly paradise. That is why they hate life and worship death, their own death included. That is why they kill their animals and enemies and women so barbarously, because it pleases them to see someone suffering more than themselves.
Very strong stuff, admittedly, though it needs just one look at the photos of a present-day stoning to make it stick. Which could lead to the assumption that only primitive people treat their women in this vicious way. But that isn’t true. Take the Chinese, for example, a highly cultured bunch who could elevate the mere drinking of a cup of tea to an endless ceremony of the highest sententious significance, yet forced their girls at an early age into shoes that crippled their feet and made them hobble painfully for the rest of their lives. Which had the advantage of a tighter vagina when grown up, but most likely lacked any deeper emotional remuneration for both sides involved.
I could go on, sadly enough, for a few more pages stating similar horrors, but they aren’t really the issue here. Let us therefore, and with a sigh of relief, return to the Christian men. Or, by giving chronology its due, to their forebears first, namely the old Greeks.
One of those, most likely the greatest of them all, but unfortunately not known by name, was the glorious hopper who conceived the hitherto unheard of idea that one might get an infinitely greater kick out of life if it were to be shared with an intelligent, warm-hearted, self-assured, witty, happy and sexy consort, instead of an illiterate harem moll who knew a few tricks in bed but nothing else, or a downtrodden colleen who hardly said a word for fear of catching a swipe. It can be assumed with near certainty that the idea was divinely inspired, most likely by Zeus Himself, King of Gods, who had a predilection for exceptionally beautiful women and sired such stupendous dishes as the Muses or peerless Aphrodite Herself.
All this happened long before the great Homer roamed our sacred earth. Because when he was up and about, the social status of a fine woman had reached already such eminence that it could trigger a long and costly war. Talk is here of course about the lovely face that launched a thousand ships, Helen of Troy. Who offered a cold shoulder to her husband-king and eloped with fetching young Paris, thereby unleashing nine long years of bloodshed, but also one of mankind’s most magnificent literary monuments.
Which doesn’t mean that cuckolding was a generally accepted pastime in ancient Greece. Quite the opposite. Women were on the whole expected to be loyal to their hubbies and keep a cool eye on house and hearth. But they didn’t get pushed about, meaning that all hell could break loose if they had reason for serious discontent. Just think of Lysistrata, heroine of Aristophanes’ irreverent and sometimes ribald comedy, who locked herself and her fellow plotters into the acropolis of Athens and Sparta respectively, in this way refusing any sexual favours until their brutish husbands refrained from cutting each others throats and behaved for a change like decent human beings.
Or take Socrates’ wife Xanthippe, who wasn’t too impressed by his flights of fancy or the tea she had to serve his disciples all day long, but kept telling everyone within earshot that a new dress and perhaps help in the kitchen would be a lot more tangible than all those ethics and epistemologies and Zeus help her. Though it is also said that she cried bitterly when the Athenian Neocons forced him to drink his deadly poison.
As to the purely visual development, it reached a veneration so sublime that we still stand stunned whenever we have the great good luck to come face to face with it in one of the greater museums. Take, for example, the Aphrodite of Rhodos.
Or Arsinoe II, a Greco-Egyptian queen who lived some two hundred years before Cleopatra, and who dressed herself into robes of epic delicacy that defy any human imagination.
The mood continued through Roman times, excellently expressed in poetry but somewhat less so in the Fine Arts. It was during this era that God’s blueprint for the Human Race received an important thrust towards its distant perfection, namely with the arrival of another glorious hopper. One who didn’t only say Love Thy Spouse like Thyself, but extended the admonition to his neighbours as well. Meaning that whereas the former might contain some rather egoistic overtones, the latter per definition could not.
Now this was of course a piece of cake so large that the world needed nearly a millennium to digest it. But then: Eureka! Almost out of the blue a cultural Golden Age began to blossom that lasted nearly another thousand years. And it soared and expanded and reached celestial heights that are without equal in the entire History of Man, and will never be attained, let alone surpassed again, by anybody but its inventors.
Our problem is that we took it for granted.
But I mustn’t forestall myself, and need to remind you that I’m talking about our great art and our great women. Allow me therefore to take you to France, namely the city of Autun. Here we find one of the first wondrous examples of a Greco-Roman renaissance that grew beyond itself and culminated in Botticelli’s Venus or Lord Leighton’s Flaming June.
Eternal Eve she is, and Romanesque in style.
She reclines her splendid figure in a garden with many trees and a thousand flowers. Her skin has the texture of polished alabaster, her lovely bosom is small but firm. Her gorgeous long hair flows freely. Her delicate head is supported by an exquisitely long hand. The enchanting lips are pursed in thoughtful contemplation, tempered with the faintest touch of mischievousness. Her enchanting eyes are half-closed and have a dreamy expression. She tentatively reaches out for the forbidden fruit with another deliciously long hand.
No serpent, mind you.
Just look at her, lo and behold, and tremble! This is the quintessential Female Evil, the wicked temptress and sinful seducer who brought upon us all the world’s woes. Because of her we got kicked out of paradise and have regretted it ever since! Damn the Bitch!
Can you believe that?
Well, don’t! It is Judaism’s most ugly and vicious invention, and was from the very beginning intended to smother any female dissent. Because what really happened must be obvious for anyone with open eyes and a grain of sensitive feeling, namely that Eve tasted the mysterious apple, and as a result saw with breathless wonder that she lived in an earthly Paradise of such incomparable splendour as could never be more beautifully imagined. And that she did what every loving wife would do, namely offer her man a bite as well.
And if they hadn’t noticed until then that they were naked, they knew it now, and my spirited guess is that they didn’t mind it at all.
This interpretation of Eve was clearly intended by Ghislebertus, the man who carved her so beautifully around 1140 AD, and who gave us the clue to any future reading of the marvellous epoch that had just begun to unfold itself.
End of Part One of Three.