Thursday, January 26, 2006

Professor Bagley Replies...

I'm still tracking down images in The Bitter Withy, so for those of you not interested in this current wild hare of mine, forewarned is forearmed.

That's "fore-armed," not "for-ear-med."

After reading the Jesus at School article by Professor Ayers Bagley yesterday, I sent him an email inquiring about Jesus sliding down sunbeams or rainbows and promptly received a cordial reply, from which, I post the following relevant information:
Let's see what I can do in response to your questions. First, I went through my slides of Tring tiles displayed in the British Museum. I photographed the tiles late in the 1970s or early '80s. My photos show no depiction of a sunbeam rider on any of the tiles.

Not all the tiles from Tring Church are extant. In the full collection originally produced for the church, might there have been a tile showing the sunbeam rider? Possibly.

The "Jesus at School" essay is based on the sort of literature search that might be done by one not trained in medieval historiography or medieval literature. (Interest in the history of education imagery has led me into unexpected places.) In the Bodleian Library, I was able to consult Selden Supra 38 and Douce 237. No doubt I was led to those manuscripts by the published works of more specialized scholars cited at the end of the essay.
This answers the implicit question that I posed yesterday:
Not being familiar with either these Tring Tiles or the Enfancie de Nostre Seignour, I don't know if Bagley means that the sunbeam image appears on one of the tiles or only in the Enfancie book.
Now, courtesy of Professor Bagley, I do know. The sunbeam image appears not on one of the extant Tring tiles but on one of the illuminated pages of the Enfancie book.

Unfortunately, the images from this book do not appear to have been uploaded onto the internet, so I still cannot view them myself. I have, however, located an online description that would enable me to find precisely what I'd like to see if I ever found myself in the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. Here in a pdf file is what I found online describing the Enfancie de Nostre Seignour, also known as The Infancy of Our Lord (Bodleian Ms. Selden supra 38):
The Infancy of Our Lord
MS. Selden Supra 38 /s c 3426) 36v.

Adviser : W. 0. Hassall, M.A., D.Phil., F.S.A.

A French verse version of the De Infantia Salvatoris, written in England c. A.D. 1300. For a transcription and comparison with Grenoble and Cambridge University Library copies see Gast — Die Beiden Redaktionen. The Cambridge MS. is later, without illustration, and is in a much shortened form.

The Infancy begins with the Annunciation and the story of Christ's birth in St. Matthew's-Gospel. At the point where the Holy Family go into Egypt the Infancy turns to apocryphal stories to fill the details into the gaps of the Biblical account of Christ's Childhood. These apocryphal stories come mainly from the Liber de Infantia or Pseudo-Matthew written down in the eleventh century from stories two centuries earlier. The sources of the Liber de Infantia are the Proto'evangelium and the Gospel of St. Thomas, but there are some untraced stories. These are supplemented by a few Greek and Syrian stories. For details and translated stories see M. R. James: "The Apocryphal New Testament". Throughout, the Infancy the apocryphal details are fitted into the Gospel account to make a continuous story. Thus the return to Nazareth initiates a new group of stories about Jesus as a child of five or six. Attempts to give him schooling lead to the insertion of the Gospel story of Christ in the Temple teaching the Elders. The Infancy ends with the Marriage at Cana in Galilee, merging into the Gospel account of Christ's life and ministry. To those reading or listening to this verse Infancy of Christ and looking at its naive pictures the life of Christ would have been made more contemporary and more real. Hence the inclusion of such stories as Jesus being apprenticed to a dyer — and having to learn his alphabet from the clerks. Both words and pictures capture a vivid impression of a more than human little boy — malicious as well as saintly and proud of his powers over life and death. Mary becomes a tactful intermediary between Jesus and his harassed father Joseph who was always being told that his son was out of control. The Infancy begins and ends with the pious wish that the donor may be remembered before Christ and the last picture shows him kneeling holding an empty scroll.
If one goes to this pdf file and scrolls down further, to Frame 21, one finds this description:
Frame 21 Fol. 24 Jesus slides down a sunbeam (4.6" x 1.8")

In Jericho Jesus is playing and slides down a sunbeam. Other children try to do it and all are hurt. Jesus cures them.

7.70. Vita Rythmica
Now, I know exactly where to find what I've been looking for. I'm simply not standing in the right place for looking. One would need better eyes than most to see all the way from Seoul to the Bodleian Library ... though if the Seoul smog would lift a bit ...

For those curious enough to ask about the Vita Rythmica, that's a text that scholars suggest as a source for the sunbeam-slide legend. According to Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Volume 4: Medieval Christianity, Section 160, St. Liudger, the Vita Rythmica was "written by a Werden monk about 1140." That would be Kloster Werden (Werden Abbey), a Benedictine monastery in Essen-Werden, Germany, on the Ruhr River.

But where does the Vita Rythmica get the sunbeam legend?

Ah, you see ... a scholar's search is never done.


At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Gypsy Jeff,

I'm still interested in the "jerdins". Do you know where it came from?

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No, I don't know for a fact.

I still suspect that it's a corruption of "children" since the poem has "upling scorn and downling scorn" as a corruption of "up Lincoln and down Lincoln."

Jeffery Hodges

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