Friday, April 16, 2010


Once in a while I become somewhat self indulgent in celebration of the eclectic mess of eccentricities that I am, in posting things that you can't google.

Maybe someone else will recall a performance by the 'divine' Sarah Bernhardt, where she and her compatriots were on stage representing 'les Cathedrales de France' and she was Rheims, this was after the first world war of course and somewhere in that was a poem containing these immortal lines "enemies shelled Rheims cathedral"

Okay I wasn't there but I nonetheless recall someone else's recollection of the event and I may have confabulated two memories in conflating the poem, but it does exist if someone can but find it. The title I expect would be "enemmis" anyway there was a communal drawing in of breath when the divine Sarah intoned during this performance "Je suis la Cathedrale de Reims" and if you click on the link, there it is the roofless Cathedral of Rheims, not quite as destroyed as the roofless Coventry Cathedral, but proof of enemy action nonetheless.

I saw a German movie once, it was called "field of fire" I think it was based on a story by Heinrich Boll, but I wouldn't be 100% sure but it covered the attitude of the advancing US army to blast anything that stood in the way of the field of fire.

Enemies shelled Rheims Cathedral, Enemies bombed Coventry Cathedral, but then they left the gas holder alone, they needed that to navigate, never mind it had been built by German Engineers.

Well these memories will be gone like those tears in the rain won't they, and what is the relevance of all of this besides this bizarre and prodigious memory of mine?

Well the theme could be La Bernhardt's disability, but it ain't. It could be the folly of war

Or maybe it is just a certain paranoia about *my* enemies.

I have not finished with them (whoever they are, or they think they might be)

In a way I do not matter in this, because what I have to say does not carry the authority merely of being told by me. No it carries an authority that no law or bogus science can contradict, because it carries the authority of what is true about autism and what is not.

And now if you google the phrase "enemies shelled Rheims Cathedral" you will have even less chance of finding Sarah Bernhardt, cos it will lead to this blog, such is the recursive world of Google.


Socrates said...

Better be damned for the Truth than lauded for a Lie.

Anonymous said...

Ah but Mr Socrates, as Frank Carson (who is a low comedian m'lud) used to say "It's the way you tell them"

And being a wannabe muckraking journalist is fine if you can get away with it, but if you use the same tone and you are supposed to be a respectable academic and then it is another matter (custom and practice of the blogosphere notwithstanding).

One has to rein in ones natural passions (so one has been informed) and probably cite (in Harvard fashion) instances of that particular truth one wants to tell. Even then some legal eagle will tell you that it is not lawful to tell the truth in blighty.

So if I were to tell you that you are speaking Bollox I would have to cite Eric Partridge inter alia but alas I have no John Mortimer to defend me, maybe just as well because he was very fluent in that language :)

The author said...

Aaargh it turns out that my memory is not 100% infallible just 99.9%:)

Je suis en erreur, I have just discovered that the divine Sarah played Strassbourg Cathedral not Reims even if Rheims was the 'martyrd' Cathedral. Quel bete moi!

Socrates said...

At Hack's school we learned that even if a Fact is True, publishing it can still actionable.

This is the unpalatable truth.

oscilor said...

This made me think of the burning of Elgin Cathedral in 1390, whose ultimate destruction was more protracted and complicated. It is roofless not due to bombs or fire, but because it was dismantled in order to get the lead, then was abandoned and fell into disrepair after the Reformation. I wonder who are the enemies here?

Since you mention Strasbourg, there was also the Muckle Kirk in Elgin. The Wolf of Badenoch burned it too when he attacked the town.

"The original parish church, often referred to as "the Muckle Kirk" because of its size, sat on the site presently occupied by the modern parish church. Also known as the "High Kirk", it was said to have been surpassed by few in the Kingdom. It was even older that the cathedral and had altars belonging to the six Incorporated Trades - Hammermen, Glovers, Tailors, Shoemakers, Weavers and Square-wrights."

It turns out that both Strasbourg Cathedral and the Muckle Kirk of Elgin have legends about the masons who built them.

r.b. said...

The war film was extraordinary. Bullet music...and the end, where we wonder why the "God of war" of the old testatment is replaced by a thinking man.

There must always be an aggressor. Either you've stepped in someone elses territory and they are peeved (my own favorite thing to do), or you have something they want, and they don't think you deserve it. (I'll never forget our own sweet politician, the dark lord, who was known to have said of Iraq, "what's our oil doing under their sand??")

I hope you are able to ride this one through, Sir Arnold. It is a war, and I'd just as soon see you be the victor. Right makes might, I guess you'd say.

The author said...

I have never been to Elgin Cathedral, seen Jedburgh Abbey though.

There certainly were "interesting times" in Scotland. Montrose was a guerilla leader whose endurance would put Che Guevara to shame and of course I recall what Cromwell had to say to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland on August 3rd 1650, a message the chelationistas ought to consider at least if they had the guts to do it :)

The author said...

I think I have tracked down the Heinrich Boll movie too

"Nicht versöhnt oder Es hilft nur Gewalt wo Gewalt herrscht "

Features a guy who demolished an abbey to create a field of fire, gotta be the one hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

La pièce d’Eugène Morand Les Cathédrales met en scène un immense décor représentant l’édifice rémois enflammé. Les cathédrales sont également associées par l’auteur de cette pièce à des femmes en deuil. Le rôle de la cathédrale de Strasbourg était joué par Sarah Bernhardt. Le thème de crucifixion de la cathédrale y est largement représenté. Il s’agit de l’estampe de Lesbroussart « Ibi crucifixerunt eum », qui compare l’incendie de Reims à la crucifixion; de l’estampe d’Isabelle Charlier « Cathédrale de Reims » (1914) évoquant un crucifix dans la cathédrale incendiée. La cathédrale est surtout associée, à cette époque, à la figure du Christ et à la sainte martyre, Jeanne d’Arc. Penchons-nous sur la série d’aquarelles d’Antoine Bourdelle « Martyre de Reims », symbolique et profondément émue. Marc Vromant résume avec justesse dans Comœdia la démarche du sculpteur : « Il n’a pas figuré la grande catastrophe de Reims d’une façon documentaire avec l’exactitude de reportage comme le font presque toutes les compositions inspirées par ce drame; il en a dégagé le symbole et l’esprit. » On pourrait rapporter les mêmes paroles aux poètes dont on a parlé, qui ont transmis le symbole de cette tragédie. Dans sa série d’aquarelles, Bourdelle ne représente pas l’architecture, mais plutôt la statuaire de la cathédrale. On y voit des statues mutilées, brisées, supportées par des anges. Mais ce qui nous intéresse surtout, c’est la partie de ses aquarelles inspirée par la crucifixion du gâble nord de la façade. Cette série, on pourrait l’intituler également « L’art crucifié », d’après le titre d’une des aquarelles. On y voit le Christ soutenu par des anges. Sur la croix se lit une succession de dates : 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917 – années où il a créé cette série.