What is Art ? It is the mirror to life.
Primitive art thus has certain characteristics that mirror the culture of the artist. In May or June 1907, Picasso experienced a “revelation” while viewing African art at the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro. Picasso’s discovery of African art influenced the style of his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (begun in May 1907 and reworked in July of that year.) In the early 20th century African artifacts were being brought back to Paris museums in consequence of the expansion of the French empire into Africa. The press was abuzz with exaggerated stories of cannibalism and exotic tales about the African kingdom of Dahomey. It was in this climate of African interest that Picasso would look towards African artifacts as inspiration for some of his work and it makes no difference that he was an outsider reinventing artistic impulses of his life and the times into art. It is recognizable and and the life of a nameless primitive artist is interpreted according to canons of art. Whereas in the hands of Joseph Conrad the African interest would focus altogether on the mistreatment of Africans in the Belgian Congo. Heart of Darkness is a literary work of exceptional quality that can transcend the narrow boundaries of time and place to be equally at home in another time and place. Francis Coppola set it in Vietnam with equal success and called it Apocalypse now.
Art as the mirror of life. This is what Art can achieve. It gives life thousand faces and the mirror is telling the truth each time. Only that the beholder need to remember the emphasis is laid in each case differently. Truth is absolute and only God can define what it is. So let us not assume to know what it is.
When Patriarch Jacob wrestled with angel or saw a ladder reaching heavewards we need to accept Truth is set in a certain form that does not vitiate the narrative or the underlying veracity. Does it touch some familiar chord in you? If you have in your life wrestled with good impulses with all the might and sought a blessing from the Highest the story of Jacob cannot remain alien to you. It does not mean if you succeeded or not. The Scriptures holds up the mirror to your life so as to elicit certain feelings in you. When you respond to it in a positive manner the Word has achieved its purpose.
According to Moslem tradition Prophet Mohammad was carried at night by a fabled beast Al-Buraq to the presence of Angel Gabriel. We need to remember that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction simply because we have no way of knowing Truth in its perfection. Art as I said earlier gives Truth a human tongue. It is thus we get the best out of the Word. For that matter how is that we have the Hand of Fatima in many versions ranging from Egyptian, Hebrew and Christian traditions? It is life given a certain symbol naming it as good omen or charm and so on. It is to be treated as such and not make undue fuss over it. Instead some silly fellows want to impose their own nonsense as truth. They pose as the Watch and Ward staff for God. Among Jews and Moslems alike there are those who want to make worshippers think in the way they think. What makes them think they know the truth? Wahhabism would try hard to make Islam ‘pure’ but would require plenty of money to stuff down the throats to make it digestable! In sacred and secular art also you find such misguided fellows. Shakespeare had been bowdlerized by some and yet Shakespeare lives on preeminent above such ignoble souls.
For me art must serve life. When we see Truth in its perfection words of human artifice shall fail since we ourselves shall be part of that Absolute quality.
Archive for the ‘religion,’ Category
Posted in art, religion,, tagged absolute quality, African art, Apocalypse Now, art, Francis Coppola, fundamentalism, Heart of darkness, Joseph Conrad, life, religion,, Shakespeare, Truth, wahhabism on December 17, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
What is Art ? It is the mirror to life.
Posted in religion,, tagged Benny Thomas, conjugation principle, insticnt, Papacy, Petro-Islam, the Avignion papacy, the Great Schism of the West, unholy alliance on November 26, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
In the evolution of man instinct came to play a vital role since Nature fine-tuned his physiology to address the question: flee or fight? The adrenalin rush of your body in sensing danger is of different make up than when you need to think seriously what is the best course for your future. In the latter case time is on your side and you may weigh pros and cons to arrive at a conclusion. This is what thinking means. You brain is not merely reptelian brain but has also complex rewiring to help you in the process. Speech, visual and other faculties are controlled from locations that can be mapped and studied. Thus nature has provided certain initial back-up to which your life among men and animals add ancillary support. The thinking machine Head has its adjunct the Heart with which your feelings reinforce your life experience. Basic emotions fear and pleasure have myriad shades of meaning to make your life significant. This is what makes man different from animals.
Such a man also has rational and irrational side to which I only need to point the wakeful state and the dream state. If you go by the latter irrational side alone you are a menace to the society and you might require supervision and medicine to keep you from harm. The point is the head should remain in its place and consequently the heart must hold its own. The relationship of State and religion is like this.
In order to understand how poorly religion and state can hold together we only need to look at the Church of Rome.
In the Early Church the bishops elected for the office were considered as shepherds of the flock. Following the stricture of Jesus to Simon Peter they were to cater to the spiritual needs of the early converts who were mostly marginalized in society or were actively hounded out by Rome as a threat to the empire. As seized of their charge the early bishops did not dabble in temporal matters. The serious threat to the religion actually came from the time Constantine made Christianity as the state religion. He made it not out of any genuine conviction but as a matter of state policy. Such explosive mixture could only delay but not prevent the march of events. The empire was doomed to collapse and it did happen. With it the primary aim of the Church was seriously compromised.
After the fall of Rome during the “Middle Ages”, the papacy was influenced by the temporal rulers of and surrounding the Italian Peninsula; these periods are known as the Ostrogothic Papacy, Byzantine Papacy, and Frankish Papacy. Over time, the papacy consolidated its territorial claims to a portion of the peninsula known as the Papal States. Thereafter, the role of neighboring sovereigns was replaced by powerful Roman families of which I may merely mention the Tusculan Papacy.
From 1048 to 1257, the papacy experienced increasing conflict with the leaders and churches of the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The latter culminated in the East-West Schism, dividing the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. While Popes were politicking the Church underwent through serious spiritual crisis among believers that came in the form of the Black Death. With such a calamity for the suffering flock the Church failed to address their spiritual confusion. They believed it was the divine chastisement and came from God. ( The Black Death wiped out nearly two thirds of Europe and the Pope sat out through this terrible times in Avignion,France. No wonder the survivors came out with a new idea of making their present life count. The Carpe Diem effect. This led to Reformation and the Enlightenment in course of time. Initiative in trade and commerce had passed from Italy to Germany, England and Holland.)
The Church was split by politics rather than any theological disagreement that quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize that showed the lie that the authority of the Pope came straight from St. Peter. The schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418).
Islam also suffers from the same tragedy. Petro-Islam is out and out buying converts who fit neither here nor there. Their head is a counting machine while their heart is far from obedience to their God.
P.S: The tragedy of putting the cart before the horse , mistaking the heart for the head led to the decline of the Church and Italy never survived the Black Death. In a manner of speaking the medieval mindset still plagues them. Unification of Italy was hampered by Papacy and the present economic crisis owe partly to it. We see conjugation principle at work here.
Wahhabism is a religious movement developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792) from Najd, Saudi Arabia. He advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations. Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Abd-al-Wahhab was influenced by the writings of Ibn Taymiyya and questioned classical interpretations of Islam, claiming to rely on the Qur’an and the Hadith. He attacked a “perceived moral decline and political weakness” in the Arabian Peninsula and condemned what he perceived as idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation. Wahhabism is often used interchangeably with Salafism. They are considered ultra conservative and heretical by their detractors.
The Wahhabi teachings disapprove of veneration of the historical sites associated with early Islam, on the grounds that only God should be worshipped and that veneration of sites associated with mortals leads to idolatry. Many buildings associated with early Islam, including mazaar, mausoleums and other artifacts have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia by Wahhabis from early 19th century through the present day.
According to Riadh Sidaoui it is an Islamic doctrine which is based on the historical alliance between the political and financial power represented by Ibn Saud and the religious authority represented by Abdul Al-Wahhab, the doctrine continues to exist to this day thanks to this alliance, the financing of several religious channels and the formation of several sheikhs. Perhaps in not so distant future it will be seen how this purportedly charitable institutions bankrolled the recruits who were sent from third world,- from Malappuram District in Kerala to Malaysia, to support the Jihadist elements in the Afghanistan. Their covert mission was nothing less than bringing down the financial might of the USA.
International influence and propagation
According to observers such as Gilles Kepel, Wahhabism gained considerable influence in the Islamic world following a tripling in the price of oil in the mid-1970s and the progressive takeover of Saudi Aramco in the 1974-1980 period. The Saudi government began to spend tens of billions of dollars throughout the Islamic world to promote Wahhabism, which was sometimes referred to as “petro-Islam.” According to the documentary called The Qur’an aired in the UK, presenter Antony Thomas suggested the figure may be “upward of $100 billion”.
Does money corrupt? The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad which goes under the guise of charity. Some of the hundreds of thousands of non-Saudis who live in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf are recipients of its largesse and the fervent converts to Petro-Islam and are intended as carriers of their message.
What connection, if any, there is between Wahhabism and Jihadi Salafis is disputed. Natana De Long-Bas, senior research assistant at the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, argues: the militant Islam of Osama bin Laden did not have its origins in the teachings of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and was not representative of Wahhabi Islam as it is practiced in contemporary Saudi Arabia, yet for the media it came to define Wahhabi Islam..’ (note: . Karen Armstrong, former US “emissary” to Islam, states that Osama bin Laden, like most extremists, followed the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, not “Wahhabism”)
Noah Feldman distinguishes between what he calls the “deeply conservative” Wahhabis and what he calls the “followers of political Islam in the 1980s and 1990s,” such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and later Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. While Saudi Wahhabis were “the largest funders of local Muslim Brotherhood chapters and other hard-line Islamists” during this time, they opposed jihadi resistance to Muslim governments and assassination of Muslim leaders.’ By the same token it could be argued that wahhabism of Ibn Saud family did not forbid if global Jihad were set in motion against the Christian west.
Posted in religion,, tagged Benny Thomas, Correspondence principle, dar-ul Islam, dream of prophets, human evolution, Islam, Mormon religion, Principles of Islam, recidivism, Sickman of Europe, society, Turkey on November 24, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Man is a social animal and as such thrust of his progress can be measured in terms of the society, created by him.
If it is created measure of his success can also be determined in how sociable he has become. In the evolution of our ape-ancestors to the modern man we hold no distinction between Australopithecines, Homo erectus (which inhabited Asia, Africa, and Europe) and Neanderthals (either Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) (which inhabited Europe and Asia). We carry however in our genome something of those groups that have died out. We are humans and our achievements are part of our common experience. In short despite of evolutionary twists and turns of our origins we bear the bequest of those who did not make it. Family beginnings of modern man go far back as 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. In terms of biology we humans do not demonstrate in the least any particular divine favor that a Christian, Jew or a Muslim claim as special for himself.
But looking at our social structure we see we are fragmented in the way we have chosen to show our identity in terms of our race, religion and economic status. We went about creating a family of man and became a creature of our own conceit. Perhaps this paradox is ever in our consciousness and that would explain the perennial popularity of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.
We choose the society that we can relate to and not other way around. In accommodating members with various life experiences and interacting with them we infuse vitality into it. We broaden our horizons as a result. Nature has divised ways which would seem to follow this formula: like repels like; and opposites attract. History is replete with instances where societal collapse owed to the failure in heeding Nature’s warning. Inbreeding of Pharaohs in Egypt sowed their eventual demise and one of the serious consequences of Islam lay in the cultural stagnation. Dar-ul Islam or Global Islam means that all nations would be ruled under an Islamic theocracy, which is simply a national government set up under the rule of Allah’s divine sanction as expressed in the Qur’an and Shari’ah law. It did not happen. Historically Muslims failed to make their initial successes in world conquests to something permanent or significant. Mongol Invasion of the 13th century and Black Death had curtailed their mission. In their falling back to their old ideas a way of life they were comfortable they denied further growth. Compare between the period of Ottoman Empire at the height of its glory during the reign of Suleiman the magnificent, and the decades prior to the WWI (when it was called the Sick Man of Europe) is a sad commentary of a society that had run of ideas. It ceased to grow.
Islam as a religion can be authoritatively dated and the flight of Mohammed is a historical date. Let us consider Islamic tradition relates Prophet Muhammad in 610, when he was 40 years old first heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, who recited to him the word of God, today written down in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, meaning “recitation.”
It is significant that Muslims believe that what Gabriel told Muhammad came directly from God;by the same token the Jews believe the promise of Israel was given by God to Patriarch Abraham indicating the extent of their promised land.
One cannot be true and the other false.
Islam says that the message was similar to those received by the early Hebrew prophets: that God is one, he is all-powerful, he is the creator of the universe, and that there will be a Judgment Day when those who have carried out God’s commands will enjoy paradise in heaven, and those who have not will be condemned to hell. As we have seen, these ideas were also part of the Zoroastrian religion. When certain ideas are common experience of man there must be something to it. But in the way these ideas are coined and given value we need to be clear that such value system is man-made and as currency holds limited use. The correspondence principle states that if one man’s revelation is accepted as true on the same scale every belief must be accepted as true.
Man who dreams the impossible is everywhere persecuted. It is not the dream but how that dream is realized for the betterment of society is the main point. Prophet Mohammed fled to Medina and his dream was put into reality by his followers. How one would make a case for the Mormon sect, which was also founded on a spiritual experience?
This sect was founded in 1830. The Mormon pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Latter-day Saints, who migrated across the United States from the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley in what is today the U.S. state of Utah. At the time of the planning of the exodus in 1846, the territory was owned by the Republic of Mexico, which soon after went to war with the United States over the annexation of Texas.
The journey was taken by about 70,000 people beginning with advanced parties sent out by church fathers in March 1846 after the assassination of Mormon founder Joseph Smith made it clear the faith could not remain in Nauvoo, Illinois — which the church had recently purchased, improved, renamed and developed because of the Missouri Mormon War setting off the Illinois Mormon War. The well-organized wagon train migration began in earnest in April 1847, and the period (including the flight from Missouri in 1838 to Nauvoo) known as the Mormon Exodus is, by convention among social scientists, assumed to have ended with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Whether preposterous or wholesome values that a religion may contain man is ready to forsake all for his liberty of conscience. It is the golden key which opens the door to the promised land.
How can Moslems expect others to accept their religion as perfect when they themselves did not keep the promise? History of mankind shall be strewn with the conflict of liberty of conscience and pursuit of pleasure whatever the term ‘pleasure’ may mean. History is not concerned with motives or dreams of man but how their dreams were realized. When the children of Islam fell back from the shared experience of the rest of the world they nullified even what was within their reach to be at the vanguard of progress.
Dreams of a prophet like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young will please many but for me to accept these under coercion would be veritable nightmare. (To be continued)
Parts of this essay was taken from my book Principles of History. B
‘A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Here is a news item from AP news service:
‘Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.
More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.
The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.’
Marx rightly said ‘Religion is the opium of the masses.’ Why is it an opiate but for the hereafter? The brutes who cannot think for themselves to better their lot and get what rightly belongs to them, they let themselves instead to be led by the hand. If the hereafter is their destination it stands to reason they would know well what are the rules of engagement while they have time. Now is day of their salvation, in the simple act of living,making their home and community thrive in the work of their hands and in the trust,patience and in the warmth of their hearts. Evil of religion is only seen in those who haven’t looked beyond their moral instruction and have ceased to put them to practice. No these fools pride themselves in their religion and and deny even the basic tenets that religion demands of them. The golden rule is golden in so many religious belief- systems. But how many do you think observes that rule freely and with pleasure? Religion of hate is where rascals pride in their hate and make a cesspool of misery for everyone else. The Jihadists who sow terror do not mind if the number of their own brethren were lost in the violence as long as their terror brought them media attention. In Israel the conservative Jews will see that the Palestinians their own brethren from Abraham is made to crawl for water, air and shelter. How did these Orthodox Jews get such callous hearts? Simple. Like Pharisees of old their tradition made them careless of their obligations, simple courtesies you owe to your fellow beings. These sepulchers,- white and gilded, hold in their heart religion to animate them.
Why limit to Americans? Ask in other parts of the world what their religion means to them. They shall certainly come up with a harangue of their saints,monks,sanyasin and glorious tradition. You probe them beyond their impasssioned pleas and seek the basic tenets you will see they are no bigger ignoramuses than the Jews and Moslems.
Religion can only be made glorious by your life,love and service in cause of others who may be of another religion or persuasion. You disgrace Allah, Jehovah,God and your prophets by speaking on their behalf and yet distance from their hearts.
‘The signs of our times must be so bad that we must fashion God in our image. Recently I spent some time with a couple who had come from the US. He said he was all for the GOP and he minced no words to show he abhorred the liberalism that made the American society weak kneed. When I said God must love Americans because one in eight under the Republican Bush were medically uninsured his wife was sure that it was propaganda. She knew the youngsters did not care to insure themselves out of some cock-eyed optimism. ‘In America insurance is alive and kicking.’ Yes from their vehement rebuttals I knew the poor always were to be kicked around. Later we got to talk around the nature of God and His workings. I said,’God must be a liberal to make the sun shine on the good and the bad.’ My American friend pooh-poohed to say,”don’t be fooled Benny,”
Seeing my raised eyebrows he said,’ God is giving the ungodly a taste of hellfire to visit upon them.’ His words had a ring of the Bible and verses he quoted were from the Bible. Only that I didn’t see God whom I had in my innermost being before I knew what was good or bad or worshiped with conscious mind.’ Naturally I had to dismiss his God of his own making and of little worth.
Posted in history, religion,, tagged Admiral Coligny, Alexandre Dumas, House of Medici, massacre, Night of St.Bartholomew, poisoned gloves, project Gutenberg, romance, The four Henrys, the House of Guise on September 9, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
This is to highlight the great work done by Project Gutenberg. Thanks to them great literary works that are in public domain are available for those who care to read them. Dumas’s novels certainly whetted my appetite for reading history. I read Marguerite de Valois and its sequel Chicot the Jester in my adolescent years. Then I read an excellent biography on Catherine Medici by Leonie Frieda. Lately I have been reading the memoirs of La Reine Margot, an interesting, intimate study of Court life in one of the fascinating but dark periods of France.
History is the blind spot of man who wants to create history, For all his understanding of the events that are in full flow and in his eagerness to make them suit his own needs he makes news. But has he escaped the mistakes that happened in another time and another place? No the early modern French history shows our inability so clearly.
When one reads the six religious wars(1562-1629) and the Massacre on the night of St. Bartholomew one can well understand the present intolerance that exists in our midst. Religion didn’t make any tolerant then as now. The pulpit in the Churches as now as from the mosques is a place to spew hate; mullahs speak for their prophets and is Islam any better for it? Popes wash feet on special days to show humility. But still rest of their days they are stuck to the seat of Satan making appropriate sounds to show love of God. A plague on both houses, I say.B.
VALOIS BY ALEXANDRE
NEW YORK, THOMAS Y.
CROWELL & COMPANY,
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Title: Marguerite de Valois
Author: Alexandre Dumas
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I. MONSIEUR DE GUISE’S LATIN 1
II. THE QUEEN OF NAVARRE’S BEDCHAMBER. 13
III. THE POET-KING 25
IV. THE EVENING OF THE 24TH OF AUGUST, 1572 36
V. OF THE LOUVRE IN PARTICULAR, AND OF VIRTUE IN GENERAL 44
VI. THE DEBT PAID 53
VII. THE NIGHT OF THE 24TH OF AUGUST, 1572 64
VIII. THE MASSACRE 78
IX. THE MURDERERS 89
X. DEATH, MASS, OR THE BASTILLE 102
XI. THE HAWTHORN OF THE CEMETERY OF THE INNOCENTS 114
XII. MUTUAL CONFIDENCES 125
XIII. HOW THERE ARE KEYS WHICH OPEN DOORS THEY ARE NOT MEANT FOR 132
XIV. THE SECOND MARRIAGE NIGHT 142
XV. WHAT WOMAN WILLS, GOD WILLS 150
XVI. A DEAD ENEMY’S BODY ALWAYS SMELLS SWEET 164
XVII. MAÎTRE AMBROISE PARÉ’S CONFRÈRE 176
XVIII. THE GHOSTS 183
XIX. THE ABODE OF MAÎTRE RÉNÉ, PERFUMER TO THE QUEEN MOTHER 193
XX. THE BLACK HENS 204
XXI. MADAME DE SAUVE’S APARTMENT 210
XXII. “SIRE, YOU SHALL BE KING” 219
XXIII. A NEW CONVERT 224
XXIV. THE RUE TIZON AND THE RUE CLOCHE PERCÉE 236
XXV. THE CHERRY-COLORED CLOAK 248
XXVI. MARGARITA 257
XXVII. THE HAND OF GOD 263
XXVIII. THE LETTER FROM ROME 268
XXIX. THE DEPARTURE 274
XXX. MAUREVEL 280
XXXI. THE HUNT 284
XXXII. FRATERNITY 293
XXXIII. THE GRATITUDE OF KING CHARLES IX 300
XXXIV. MAN PROPOSES BUT GOD DISPOSES 306
XXXV. A NIGHT OF KINGS 316
XXXVI. THE ANAGRAM 324
XXXVII. THE RETURN TO THE LOUVRE 329
XXXVIII. THE GIRDLE OF THE QUEEN MOTHER 340
XXXIX. PROJECTS OF REVENGE 348
XL. THE ATRIDES 362
XLI. THE HOROSCOPE 372
XLII. CONFIDENCES 379
XLIII. THE AMBASSADORS 389
XLIV. ORESTES AND PYLADES 395
XLV. ORTHON 404
XLVI. THE INN OF LA BELLE ÉTOILE 415
XLVII. DE MOUY DE SAINT PHALE 423
XLVIII. TWO HEADS FOR ONE CROWN 430
XLIX. THE TREATISE ON HUNTING 441
L. HAWKING 448
LI. THE PAVILION OF FRANÇOIS I 456
LII. THE EXAMINATION 464
LIII. ACTÉON 473
LIV. THE FOREST OF VINCENNES 479
LV. THE FIGURE OF WAX 486
LVI. THE INVISIBLE BUCKLERS 497
LVII. THE JUDGES 503
LVIII. THE TORTURE OF THE BOOT 512
LIX. THE CHAPEL 520
LX. THE PLACE SAINT JEAN EN GRÈVE 525
LXI. THE HEADSMAN’S TOWER 530
LXII. THE SWEAT OF BLOOD 538
LXIII. THE DONJON OF THE PRISON OF VINCENNES 542
LXIV. THE REGENCY 547
LXV. THE KING IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE KING! 551
LXVI. EPILOGUE 556
MARGUERITE DE VALOIS.
MONSIEUR DE GUISE’S LATIN.
On Monday, the 18th of August, 1572, there was a splendid festival at
The ordinarily gloomy windows of the ancient royal residence were
brilliantly lighted, and the squares and streets adjacent, usually so
solitary after Saint Germain l’Auxerrois had struck the hour of nine,
were crowded with people, although it was past midnight.
The vast, threatening, eager, turbulent throng resembled, in the
darkness, a black and tumbling sea, each billow of which makes a roaring
breaker; this sea, flowing through the Rue des Fossés Saint Germain and
the Rue de l’Astruce and covering the quay, surged against the base of
the walls of the Louvre, and, in its refluent tide, against the Hôtel de
Bourbon, which faced it on the other side.
In spite of the royal festival, and perhaps even because of the royal
festival, there was something threatening in the appearance of the
people, for no doubt was felt that this imposing ceremony which called
them there as spectators, was only the prelude to another in which they
would participate a week later as invited guests and amuse themselves
with all their hearts.
The court was celebrating the marriage of Madame Marguerite de Valois,
daughter of Henry II. and sister of King Charles IX., with Henry de
Bourbon, King of Navarre. In truth, that very morning, on a stage
erected at the entrance to Notre-Dame, the Cardinal de Bourbon had
united the young couple with the usual ceremonial observed at the
marriages of the royal daughters of France.
This marriage had astonished every one, and occasioned much surmise to
certain persons who saw clearer than others. They found it difficult to
understand the union of two parties who hated each other so thoroughly
as did, at this moment, the Protestant party and the Catholic party; and
they wondered how the young Prince de Condé could forgive the Duc
d’Anjou, the King’s brother, for the death of his father, assassinated
at Jarnac by Montesquiou. They asked how the young Duc de Guise could
pardon Admiral de Coligny for the death of his father, assassinated at
Orléans by Poltrot de Méré.
Moreover, Jeanne de Navarre, the weak Antoine de Bourbon’s courageous
wife, who had conducted her son Henry to the royal marriage awaiting
him, had died scarcely two months before, and singular reports had been
spread abroad as to her sudden death. It was everywhere whispered, and
in some places said aloud, that she had discovered some terrible secret;
and that Catharine de Médicis, fearing its disclosure, had poisoned her
with perfumed gloves, which had been made by a man named Réné, a
Florentine deeply skilled in such matters. This report was the more
widely spread and believed when, after this great queen’s death, at her
son’s request, two celebrated physicians, one of whom was the famous
Ambroise Paré, were instructed to open and examine the body, but not the
skull. As Jeanne de Navarre had been poisoned by a perfume, only the
brain could show any trace of the crime (the one part excluded from
dissection). We say crime, for no one doubted that a crime had been
This was not all. King Charles in particular had, with a persistency
almost approaching obstinacy, urged this marriage, which not only
reëstablished peace in his kingdom, but also attracted to Paris the
principal Huguenots of France. As the two betrothed belonged one to the
Catholic religion and the other to the reformed religion, they had been
obliged to obtain a dispensation from Gregory XIII., who then filled the
papal chair. The dispensation was slow in coming, and the delay had
caused the late Queen of Navarre great uneasiness. She one day expressed
to Charles IX. her fears lest the dispensation should not arrive; to
which the King replied:
“Have no anxiety, my dear aunt. I honor you more than I do the Pope,
and I love my sister more than I fear him. I am not a Huguenot, neither
am I a blockhead; and if the Pope makes a fool of himself, I will myself
take Margot by the hand, and have her married to your son in some
This speech was soon spread from the Louvre through the city, and, while
it greatly rejoiced the Huguenots, had given the Catholics something to
think about; they asked one another, in a whisper, if the King was
really betraying them or was only playing a comedy which some fine
morning or evening might have an unexpected ending.
Charles IX.’s conduct toward Admiral de Coligny, who for five or six
years had been so bitterly opposed to the King, appeared particularly
inexplicable; after having put on his head a price of a hundred and
fifty thousand golden crowns, the King now swore by him, called him his
father, and declared openly that he should in future confide the conduct
of the war to him alone. To such a pitch was this carried that Catharine
de Médicis herself, who until then had controlled the young prince’s
actions, will, and even desires, seemed to be growing really uneasy, and
not without reason; for, in a moment of confidence, Charles IX. had said
to the admiral, in reference to the war in Flanders,
“My father, there is one other thing against which we must be on our
guard–that is, that the queen, my mother, who likes to poke her nose
everywhere, as you well know, shall learn nothing of this undertaking;
we must keep it so quiet that she will not have a suspicion of it, or
being such a mischief-maker as I know she is, she would spoil all.”
Now, wise and experienced as he was, Coligny had not been able to keep
such an absolute secret; and, though he had come to Paris with great
suspicions, and albeit at his departure from Chatillon a peasant woman
had thrown herself at his feet, crying, “Ah! sir, our good master, do
not go to Paris, for if you do, you will die–you and all who are with
you!”–these suspicions were gradually lulled in his heart, and so it
was with Téligny, his son-in-law, to whom the King was especially kind
and attentive, calling him his brother, as he called the admiral his
father, and addressing him with the familiar “thou,” as he did his best
The Huguenots, excepting some few morose and suspicious spirits, were
therefore completely reassured. The death of the Queen of Navarre passed
as having been caused by pleurisy, and the spacious apartments of the
Louvre were filled with all those gallant Protestants to whom the
marriage of their young chief, Henry, promised an unexpected return of
good fortune. Admiral Coligny, La Rochefoucault, the young Prince de
Condé, Téligny,–in short, all the leaders of the party,–were
triumphant when they saw so powerful at the Louvre and so welcome in
Paris those whom, three months before, King Charles and Queen Catharine
would have hanged on gibbets higher than those of assassins.
The Maréchal de Montmorency was the only one who was missing among all
his brothers, for no promise could move him, no specious appearances
deceive him, and he remained secluded in his château de l’Isle Adam,
offering as his excuse for not appearing the grief which he still felt
for his father, the Constable Anne de Montmorency, who had been killed
at the battle of Saint Denis by a pistol-shot fired by Robert Stuart.
But as this had taken place more than three years before, and as
sensitiveness was a virtue little practised at that time, this unduly
protracted mourning was interpreted just as people cared to interpret
However, everything seemed to show that the Maréchal de Montmorency was
mistaken. The King, the Queen, the Duc d’Anjou, and the Duc d’Alençon
did the honors of the royal festival with all courtesy and kindness.
The Duc d’Anjou received from the Huguenots themselves well-deserved
compliments on the two battles of Jarnac and Montcontour, which he had
gained before he was eighteen years of age, more precocious in that than
either Cæsar or Alexander, to whom they compared him, of course placing
the conquerors of Pharsalia and the Issus as inferior to the living
prince. The Duc d’Alençon looked on, with his bland, false smile, while
Queen Catharine, radiant with joy and overflowing with honeyed phrases,
congratulated Prince Henry de Condé on his recent marriage with Marie de
Clèves; even the Messieurs de Guise themselves smiled on the formidable
enemies of their house, and the Duc de Mayenne discoursed with M. de
Tavannes and the admiral on the impending war, which was now more than
ever threatened against Philippe II.
In the midst of these groups a young man of about nineteen years of age
was walking to and fro, his head a little on one side, his ear open to
all that was said. He had a keen eye, black hair cut very close, thick
eyebrows, a nose hooked like an eagle’s, a sneering smile, and a growing
mustache and beard. This young man, who by his reckless daring had first
attracted attention at the battle of Arnay-le-Duc and was the recipient
of numberless compliments, was the dearly beloved pupil of Coligny and
the hero of the day. Three months before–that is to say, when his
mother was still living–he was called the Prince de Béarn, now he was
called the King of Navarre, afterwards he was known as Henry IV.
From time to time a swift and gloomy cloud passed over his brow;
unquestionably it was at the thought that scarce had two months elapsed
since his mother’s death, and he, less than any one, doubted that she
had been poisoned. But the cloud was transitory, and disappeared like a
fleeting shadow, for they who spoke to him, they who congratulated him,
they who elbowed him, were the very ones who had assassinated the brave
Some paces distant from the King of Navarre, almost as pensive, almost
as gloomy as the king pretended to be joyous and open-hearted, was the
young Duc de Guise, conversing with Téligny. More fortunate than the
Béarnais, at two-and-twenty he had almost attained the reputation of his
father, François, the great Duc de Guise. He was an elegant gentleman,
very tall, with a noble and haughty look, and gifted with that natural
majesty which caused it to be said that in comparison with him other
princes seemed to belong to the people. Young as he was, the Catholics
looked up to him as the chief of their party, as the Huguenots saw
theirs in Henry of Navarre, whose portrait we have just drawn. At first
he had borne the title of Prince de Joinville, and at the siege of
Orléans had fought his first battle under his father, who died in his
arms, denouncing Admiral Coligny as his assassin. The young duke then,
like Hannibal, took a solemn oath to avenge his father’s death on the
admiral and his family, and to pursue the foes to his religion without
truce or respite, promising God to be his destroying angel on earth
until the last heretic should be exterminated. So with deep astonishment
the people saw this prince, usually so faithful to his word, offering
his hand to those whom he had sworn to hold as his eternal enemies, and
talking familiarly with the son-in-law of the man whose death he had
promised to his dying father.
But as we have said, this was an evening of astonishments.
Indeed, an observer privileged to be present at this festival, endowed
with the knowledge of the future which is fortunately hidden from men,
and with that power of reading men’s hearts which unfortunately belongs
only to God, would have certainly enjoyed the strangest spectacle to be
found in all the annals of the melancholy human comedy.
But this observer who was absent from the inner courts of the Louvre was
to be found in the streets gazing with flashing eyes and breaking out
into loud threats; this observer was the people, who, with its
marvellous instinct made keener by hatred, watched from afar the shadows
of its implacable enemies and translated the impressions they made with
as great clearness as an inquisitive person can do before the windows of
a hermetically sealed ball-room. The music intoxicates and governs the
dancers, but the inquisitive person sees only the movement and laughs at
the puppet jumping about without reason, because the inquisitive person
hears no music.
The music that intoxicated the Huguenots was the voice of their pride.
The gleams which caught the eyes of the Parisians that midnight were the
lightning flashes of their hatred illuminating the future.
And meantime everything was still festive within, and a murmur softer
and more flattering than ever was at this moment pervading the Louvre,
for the youthful bride, having laid aside her toilet of ceremony, her
long mantle and flowing veil, had just returned to the ball-room,
accompanied by the lovely Duchesse de Nevers, her most intimate friend,
and led by her brother, Charles IX., who presented her to the principal
The bride was the daughter of Henry II., was the pearl of the crown of
France, was MARGUERITE DE VALOIS, whom in his familiar tenderness for
her King Charles IX. always called “_ma soeur Margot_,” “my sister
Assuredly never was any welcome, however flattering, more richly
deserved than that which the new Queen of Navarre was at this moment
receiving. Marguerite at this period was scarcely twenty, and she was
already the object of all the poets’ eulogies, some of whom compared her
to Aurora, others to Cytherea; she was, in truth, a beauty without rival
in that court in which Catharine de Médicis had assembled the loveliest
women she could find, to make of them her sirens.
Marguerite had black hair and a brilliant complexion; a voluptuous eye,
veiled by long lashes; delicate coral lips; a slender neck; a graceful,
opulent figure, and concealed in a satin slipper a tiny foot. The
French, who possessed her, were proud to see such a lovely flower
flourishing in their soil, and foreigners who passed through France
returned home dazzled with her beauty if they had but seen her, and
amazed at her knowledge if they had discoursed with her; for Marguerite
was not only the loveliest, she was also the most erudite woman of her
time, and every one was quoting the remark of an Italian scholar who had
been presented to her, and who, after having conversed with her for an
hour in Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Greek, had gone away saying:
“To see the court without seeing Marguerite de Valois is to see neither
France nor the court.”
Thus addresses to King Charles IX. and the Queen of Navarre were not
wanting. It is well known that the Huguenots were great hands at
addresses. Many allusions to the past, many hints as to the future, were
adroitly slipped into these harangues; but to all such allusions and
speeches the King replied, with his pale lips and artificial smiles:
“In giving my sister Margot to Henry of Navarre, I give my sister to all
the Protestants of the kingdom.”
This phrase assured some and made others smile, for it had really a
double sense: the one paternal, with which Charles IX. would not load
his mind; the other insulting to the bride, to her husband, and also to
him who said it, for it recalled some scandalous rumors with which the
chroniclers of the court had already found means to smirch the nuptial
robe of Marguerite de Valois.
However, M. de Guise was conversing, as we have said, with Téligny; but
he did not pay to the conversation such sustained attention but that he
turned away somewhat, from time to time, to cast a glance at the group
of ladies, in the centre of whom glittered the Queen of Navarre. When
the princess’s eye thus met that of the young duke, a cloud seemed to
over-spread that lovely brow, around which stars of diamonds formed a
tremulous halo, and some agitating thought might be divined in her
restless and impatient manner.
The Princess Claude, Marguerite’s eldest sister, who had been for some
years married to the Duc de Lorraine, had observed this uneasiness, and
was going up to her to inquire the cause, when all stood aside at the
approach of the queen mother, who came forward, leaning on the arm of
the young Prince de Condé, and the princess was thus suddenly separated
from her sister. There was a general movement, by which the Duc de Guise
profited to approach Madame de Nevers, his sister-in-law, and
Madame de Lorraine, who had not lost sight of her sister, then remarked,
instead of the cloud which she had before observed on her forehead, a
burning blush come into her cheeks. The duke approached still nearer,
and when he was within two steps of Marguerite, she appeared rather to
feel than see his presence, and turned round, making a violent effort
over herself in order to give her features an appearance of calmness and
indifference. The duke, then respectfully bowing, murmured in a low
That meant: “I have brought it, or brought it myself.”
Marguerite returned the young duke’s bow, and as she straightened
herself, replied, in the same tone,
“_Noctu pro more._”
That meant: “To-night, as usual.”
These soft words, absorbed by the enormous collar which the princess
wore, as in the bell of a speaking-trumpet, were heard only by the
person to whom they were addressed; but brief as had been the
conference, it doubtless composed all the young couple had to say, for
after this exchange of two words for three, they separated, Marguerite
more thoughtful and the duke with his brow less clouded than when they
met. This little scene took place without the person most interested
appearing to remark it, for the King of Navarre had eyes but for one
lady, and she had around her a suite almost as numerous as that which
followed Marguerite de Valois. This was the beautiful Madame de Sauve.
Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, granddaughter of the unfortunate
Semblançay, and wife of Simon de Fizes, Baron de Sauve, was one of the
ladies-in-waiting to Catharine de Médicis, and one of the most
redoubtable auxiliaries of this queen, who poured forth to her enemies
love-philtres when she dared not pour out Florentine poison. Delicately
fair, and by turns sparkling with vivacity or languishing in melancholy,
always ready for love and intrigue, the two great occupations which for
fifty years employed the court of the three succeeding kings,–a woman
in every acceptation of the word and in all the charm of the idea, from
the blue eye languishing or flashing with fire to the small rebellious
feet arched in their velvet slippers, Madame de Sauve had already for
some months taken complete possession of every faculty of the King of
Navarre, then beginning his career as a lover as well as a politician;
thus it was that Marguerite de Valois, a magnificent and royal beauty,
had not even excited admiration in her husband’s heart; and what was
more strange, and astonished all the world, even from a soul so full of
darkness and mystery, Catharine de Médicis, while she prosecuted her
project of union between her daughter and the King of Navarre, had not
ceased to favor almost openly his amour with Madame de Sauve. But
despite this powerful aid, and despite the easy manners of the age, the
lovely Charlotte had hitherto resisted; and this resistance, unheard of,
incredible, unprecedented, even more than the beauty and wit of her who
resisted, had excited in the heart of the Béarnais a passion which,
unable to satisfy itself, had destroyed in the young king’s heart all
timidity, pride, and even that carelessness, half philosophic, half
indolent, which formed the basis of his character.
Madame de Sauve had been only a few minutes in the ballroom; from spite
or grief she had at first resolved on not being present at her rival’s
triumph, and under the pretext of an indisposition had allowed her
husband, who had been for five years secretary of state, to go alone to
the Louvre; but when Catharine de Médicis saw the baron without his
wife, she asked the cause that kept her dear Charlotte away, and when
she found that the indisposition was but slight, she wrote a few words
to her, which the lady hastened to obey. Henry, sad as he had at first
been at her absence, had yet breathed more freely when he saw M. de
Sauve enter alone; but just as he was about to pay some court to the
charming creature whom he was condemned, if not to love, at least to
treat as his wife, he unexpectedly saw Madame de Sauve arise from the
farther end of the gallery. He remained stationary on the spot, his eyes
fastened on the Circe who enthralled him as if by magic chains, and
instead of proceeding towards his wife, by a movement of hesitation
which betrayed more astonishment than alarm he advanced to meet Madame
The courtiers, seeing the King of Navarre, whose inflammable heart they
knew, approach the beautiful Charlotte, had not the courage to prevent
their meeting, but drew aside complaisantly; so that at the very moment
when Marguerite de Valois and Monsieur de Guise exchanged the few words
in Latin which we have noted above, Henry, having approached Madame de
Sauve, began, in very intelligible French, although with somewhat of a
Gascon accent, a conversation by no means so mysterious.
“Ah, _ma mie_!” he said, “you have, then, come at the very moment when
they assured me that you were ill, and I had lost all hope of seeing
“Would your majesty perhaps wish me to believe that it had cost you
something to lose this hope?” replied Madame de Sauve.
“By Heaven! I believe it!” replied the Béarnais; “know you not that you
are my sun by day and my star by night? By my faith, I was in deepest
darkness till you appeared and suddenly illumined all.”
“Then, monseigneur, I serve you a very ill turn.”
“What do you mean, _ma mie_?” inquired Henry.
“I mean that he who is master of the handsomest woman in France should
only have one desire–that the light should disappear and give way to
darkness, for happiness awaits you in the darkness.”
“You know, cruel one, that my happiness is in the hands of one woman
only, and that she laughs at poor Henry.”
“Oh!” replied the baroness, “I believed, on the contrary, that it was
this person who was the sport and jest of the King of Navarre.” Henry
was alarmed at this hostile attitude, and yet he bethought him that it
betrayed jealous spite, and that jealous spite is only the mask of love.
“Indeed, dear Charlotte, you reproach me very unjustly, and I do not
comprehend how so lovely a mouth can be so cruel. Do you suppose for a
moment that it is I who give myself in marriage? No, _ventre saint
gris_, it is not I!”
“It is I, perhaps,” said the baroness, sharply,–if ever the voice of
the woman who loves us and reproaches us for not loving her can seem
“With your lovely eyes have you not seen farther, baroness? No, no;
Henry of Navarre is not marrying Marguerite de Valois.”
“And who, pray, is?”
“Why, by Heaven! it is the reformed religion marrying the pope–that’s
“No, no, I cannot be deceived by your jests. Monseigneur loves Madame
Marguerite. And can I blame you? Heaven forbid! She is beautiful enough
to be adored.”
Henry reflected for a moment, and, as he reflected, a meaning smile
curled the corner of his lips.
“Baroness,” said he, “you seem to be seeking a quarrel with me, but you
have no right to do so. What have you done to prevent me from marrying
Madame Marguerite? Nothing. On the contrary, you have always driven me
“And well for me that I have, monseigneur,” replied Madame de Sauve.
“Why, of course, because you are marrying another woman!”
“I marry her because you love me not.”
“If I had loved you, sire, I must have died in an hour.”
“In an hour? What do you mean? And of what death would you have died?”
“Of jealousy!–for in an hour the Queen of Navarre will send away her
women, and your majesty your gentlemen.”
“Is that really the thought that is uppermost in your mind, _ma mie_?”
“I did not say so. I only say, that if I loved you it would be uppermost
in my mind most tormentingly.”
“Very well,” said Henry, at the height of joy on hearing this
confession, the first which she had made to him, “suppose the King of
Navarre should not send away his gentlemen this evening?”
“Sire,” replied Madame de Sauve, looking at the king with astonishment
for once unfeigned, “you say things impossible and incredible.”
“What must I do to make you believe them?”
“Give me a proof–and that proof you cannot give me.”
“Yes, baroness, yes! By Saint Henry, I will give it you!” exclaimed the
king, gazing at the young woman with eyes hot with love.
“Oh, your majesty!” exclaimed the lovely Charlotte in an undertone and
with downcast eyes, “I do not understand–No! no, it is impossible for
you to turn your back on the happiness awaiting you.”
“There are four Henrys in this room, my adorable!” replied the king,
“Henry de France, Henry de Condé, Henry de Guise, but there is only one
Henry of Navarre.”
“Well; if this Henry of Navarre is with you all night”–
“Yes; will that be a certain proof to you that he is not with any
“Ah! if you do that, sire,” cried Madame Sauve.
“On the honor of a gentleman I will do it!”
Madame de Sauve raised her great eyes dewy with voluptuous promises and
looked at the king, whose heart was filled with an intoxicating joy.
“And then,” said Henry, “what will you say?”
“I will say,” replied Charlotte, “that your majesty really loves me.”
“_Ventre saint gris_! then you shall say it, baroness, for it is true.”
“But how can you manage it?” murmured Madame de Sauve.
“Oh! by Heaven! baroness, have you not about you some waiting-woman,
some girl whom you can trust?”
“Yes, Dariole is so devoted to me that she would let herself be cut in
pieces for me; she is a real treasure.”
“By Heaven! then say to her that I will make her fortune when I am King
of France, as the astrologers prophesy.”
Charlotte smiled, for even at this period the Gascon reputation of the
Béarnais was already established with respect to his promises.
“Well, then, what do you want Dariole to do?”
“Little for her, a great deal for me. Your apartment is over mine?”
“Let her wait behind the door. I will knock gently three times; she will
open the door, and you will have the proof that I have promised you.”
Madame de Sauve kept silence for several seconds, and then, as if she
had looked around her to observe if she were overheard, she fastened her
gaze for a moment on the group clustering around the queen mother; brief
as the moment was, it was sufficient for Catharine and her
lady-in-waiting to exchange a look.
“Oh, if I were inclined,” said Madame de Sauve, with a siren’s accent
that would have melted the wax in Ulysses’ ears, “if I were inclined to
make your majesty tell a falsehood”–
“_Ma mie_, try”–
“Ah, _ma foi_! I confess I am tempted to do so.”
“Give in! Women are never so strong as after they are defeated.”
“Sire, I hold you to your promise for Dariole when you shall be King of
Henry uttered an exclamation of joy.
At the precise moment when this cry escaped the lips of the Béarnais,
the Queen of Navarre was replying to the Duc de Guise:
“_Noctu pro more_–to-night as usual.”
Then Henry turned away from Madame de Sauve as happy as the Duc de Guise
had been when he left Marguerite de Valois.
An hour after the double scene we have just related, King Charles and
the queen mother retired to their apartments. Almost immediately the
rooms began to empty; the galleries exhibited the bases of their marble
columns. The admiral and the Prince de Condé were escorted home by four
hundred Huguenot gentlemen through the middle of the crowd, which hooted
as they passed. Then Henry de Guise, with the Lorraine gentlemen and the
Catholics, left in their turn, greeted by cries of joy and plaudits of
But Marguerite de Valois, Henry de Navarre, and Madame de Sauve lived in