Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"'and now never to be clean God again.'"

      Malle and Wat were burning garden rubbish; the heap was crackling merrily; below the busy flames were sliding their quick fingers about the dry wizened stalks, feeling along, licking up; above, smoke, reeking of rottenness, poured out, leaned sideways, swirled wide and swept over half the garden.  Malle and Wat, casting down fork and rake, fled out of it to the clear air to breathe, and leaned together upon the wall.
      ‘Wat,’ said Malle, ‘have you thought that He has stained Himself, soiled Himself, being not only with men, but Himself a man.  What’s that, to be man?  Look at me.  Look at you.’
      They looked at each other, and one saw a dusty wretched dumb lad, and the other saw a heavy slatternly woman.
      Malle said:  ‘It’s to be that which shoots down the birds out of the free air, and slaughters dumb beasts, and kills his own kind in wars.’
      She looked away up the Dale towards Calva, rust-red with dead bracken, smouldering under the cold sky.
      ‘And it wasn’t that He put on man like a jacket to take off at night, or to bathe or to play.  But man He was, as man is man, the maker made Himself the made; God was un-Godded by His own hand.’
      She put her hands to her face, and was silent, till Wat pulled them away.
      ‘He was God,’ she said, ‘from before the beginning, and now never to be clean God again.  Never again.  Alas!’ she said, and then, ‘Osanna!’

      Malle, the Serving Woman, in H. F. M. Prescott, The man on a donkey (New York:  Macmillan, 1961), 455-456 (26 October 1536), “by widespread assent one of the finest historical novels ever written” (Robert Irwin, "Poetry of history," Times literary supplement no. 5954 (May 12 2017):  10).
     But of course he did not un-God himself (extra Calvinisticum, extra Patristicum).  And "'clean God'"?  Would a "'clean God'" be the Triune God of Christian confession?
     Still, the moving imagined reflections of a sixteenth-century serving woman.

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