Imagens das páginas

of the manuscript, it will be seen that the artist of the Scriptorium leaves no doubt as to his understanding of the scheme of the poem. In the passage where Cadmon sings of the beginning of Creation that o'er the Deep

Was swiftly borne, on bright and radiant wing,
The Spirit of the Lord,

the accompanying illumination shows the "Heavenly concaves" as the artist imagined Cædmon to have conceived them.

The same artistic interpretation of primeval space, occurs a few lines farther on in the poem, when Heaven's "All-glorious Chief"

and bade

severed Light from Darkness,

Rise the bright framework of the glistening stars.

This illumination has a double representation of the "Heavenly concaves," in the upper one of which is depicted the Deity in the act of severing Light from Darkness, and in the lower one of which He is causing to rise the brilliant Firmament. In both, however, the same pictorial imagery is preserved. There is, in each representation, an upper concave, the Empyrean or dwelling of the Deity; and a lower one, which is swart and dark and dim, and is termed the Deep, or Chaos, or the Abyss.

We are not left, however, to the imagination of the illuminator for the portrayal of the physical aspect of the lower concave or Chaos. Cædmon, early in the poem, describes the swart Abyss in his own weird, graphic style:

As yet was naught beneath God's radiant Throne
But gloom as dark as in the cavern reigns,
And this wide-spread Abyss stood deep and dim
In idle uselessness, distasteful sight

To Him the source of all creative power.
The mighty King, in mind resolved, beheld
The joyless shade and saw the lowering cloud
Lie swart and waste, like an eternal sea

Of blackest Night, beneath the effulgent glow
Of Light ineffable.

It is all important to keep this primal imagery in mind, since, as we shall subsequently see, upon this

point will depend the right understanding of the poet's idea as a whole.

The poem opens with a grand outburst of praise to the Deity; a terrestrial Gloria in Excelsis, which forms a fitting exordium to the narrative which it introduces. The poet then describes, in brief, the treason of the proudest, most beloved Archangel in Heaven, and of the rebellious tribes, whose will he had subtly alienated from their rightful allegiance. The Archangel's proud boast,

"In the North part of God's sublime domain * Will I a kingdom found, a palace rear,"

arouses the righteous wrath of the Deity, who forthwith forms a place of exile, and thither banishes the rebel host who have been faithless to their high estate,

Down the dark, steep, unutterable path

That leads to Hell.

It will therefore be necessary, now, to modify our diagram of primeval space. Hitherto, there have been but two concaves mentioned by Cædmon, the Empyrean and Chaos; but, with the formation of Hell, a small concave is carved, by the Almighty, out of the nethermost part of Chaos, as a torturehouse for His traitor-Archangel and his band, and

* Vide Note H.

divided from the Empyrean by the broad belt of Chaos. This "exile-house" is represented as a vast region of fire, sulphurous lake, plain, and mountain, and of every form of fiery and icy torment. The conditions of the poem require, therefore, now three divisions of primeval space; the Empyrean, Chaos, and Hell.

[blocks in formation]

Among the illuminations of the manuscript, there are two which show distinctly the artist's interpretation of the changed conditions of the picture.

In the following illumination the three divisions of space are clearly delineated. The Deity, surrounded by adoring Cherubim and Seraphim, is

« AnteriorContinuar »