Wednesday, December 15, 2010

From "The Young King" by Oscar Wilde

The recent post I did on Oscar Wilde reminded me of one of my own favourite spreads from that book, in which these two pictures flank the text.
It's a powerful piece of writing by Wilde, with wonderful imagery for the illustrator to explore.

"On and on he went, till he reached the outskirts of the wood, and there he saw an immense multitude of men toiling in the bed of a dried-up river. They swarmed up the crag like ants. They dug deep pits in the ground and went down into them. Some of them cleft the rocks with great axes; others grabbled in the sand. They tore up the cactus by its roots, and trampled on the scarlet blossoms. They hurried about, calling to each other, and no man was idle.

From the darkness of a cavern Death and Avarice watched them, and Death said, 'I am weary; give me a third of them and let me go.'
But Avarice shook her head. 'They are my servants,' she answered.
And Death said to her, 'What hast thou in thy hand?'
I have three grains of corn,' she answered; 'what is that to thee?'
'Give me one of them,' cried Death, 'to plant in my garden; only one of them, and I will go away.'
'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice, and she hid her hand in the fold of her raiment.
And Death laughed, and took a cup, and dipped it into a pool of water, and out of the cup rose Ague. She passed through the great multitude, and a third of them lay dead. A cold mist followed her, and the water-snakes ran by her side.

And when Avarice saw that a third of the multitude was dead she beat her breast and wept. She beat her barren bosom and cried aloud. 'Thou hast slain a third of my servants,' she cried, 'get thee gone. There is war in the mountains of Tartary, and the kings of each side are calling to thee. The Afghans have slain the black ox, and are marching to battle. They have beaten upon their shields with their spears, and have put on their helmets of iron. What is my valley to thee, that thou should'st tarry in it? Get thee gone, and come here no more.

'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn I will not go.'
But Avarice shut her hand, and clenched her teeth. 'I will not give thee anything,' she muttered.
And Death laughed, and took up a black stone, and threw it into the forest, and out of a thicket of wild hemlock came Fever in a robe of flame. She passed through the multitude, and touched them, and each man that she touched died. The grass withered beneath her feet as she walked.

And Avarice shuddered, and put ashes on her head. 'Thou art cruel,' she cried; 'thou art cruel. There is famine in the walled cities of India, and the cisterns of Samarcand have run dry. There is famine in the walled cities of Egypt, and the locusts have come up from the desert. The Nile has not overflowed its banks, and the priests have cursed Isis and Osiris. Get thee gone to those who need thee, and leave me my servants.'
'Nay,' answered Death, 'but till thou hast given me a grain of corn I will not go.'
'I will not give thee anything,' said Avarice.

And Death laughed again, and he whistled through his fingers, and a woman came flying through the air. Plague was written upon her forehead, and a crowd of lean vultures wheeled round her. She covered the valley with her wings, and no man was left alive."


Eva Huertas said...

Yt's scary and awesome at the same time! YAY! i love every detail!
Glad to have your blog in my favs! (even more Glad to discover you through Oscar Wilde!).

Merry Xmas! :D

Sadami said...

Dear PJ,
Thank you for sharing your wonderful illustration and an original text. Wow...while reading the sentences, I looked up your work and wondered how I would interprete them...
PJ, you're great...I admire you...
Kind regards, Sadami

PJ Lynch said...

Thanks so much Eva and Sadami
Best regards

Anonymous said...

This was a brilliant read not only because the haunting scene you quoted takes place on the borders between the forest but also because your images so CLEARLY represent Renaissance influences so potent with characters like Death, Avarice, Plague etc!

They remind me of the representation of the donors in the Ghent Altar Piece by Jan van Eyck: (the best image I could find on short notice… reminiscent of Renaissance marriage portraits as well). But they also, possess that inherently rotten, magical, yet suffering quality of other work that borrows from more harmonious forms and twists them to evoke emotion, like the Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald: (originally painted for the monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim that specialized in hospital work! So the themes of death would also have been highly pertinent as the artist chose his stylistic approach!).

I’m sure you’re aware of all of these but I just had to point them out in appreciation!

In other words: Yay! Another Awesome Entry. It inspires me and reminds me to get moving with my own work. ^_^


PJ Lynch said...

Hey Aladine
What a great comment. Really interesting stuff.
I loved those links.
The Van Eyck was great to see in hi res( I love those banners), and the Grunewald is likewise inspiring in it's wonderful ugliness.
The Wilde piece was well worth including as a terrific excerpt in itself, but also to show how the illustrations and words play off and lean on each other. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Best regards