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Monday, 4 February 2008

Hugh Bowden 2008

After having failed dismally to 4quate last year (I was on leave, so all the time in the world but never enough time for anything) I made rather more of an effort this year, although I think the result shows a disappointing literal-mindedness. My excuse is that I had been busy trying, and failing, to make sense of the cult of Isis in the Greco-Roman world (as one does), and was not able to think very subtly. My choice of quotation was from the fifteenth chapter of the Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, starting somewhere on the second page (I left out the detail of who was saying the words):

‘Easy enough to see where the sculptor’s sympathies lay. His commission may have been from the king but his heart was with the lion. The king, for all the detail and all the curls in his beard is little more than an ideograph, a symbol referring to the splendour of kings. But the lion!
‘The king is almost secondary. The mortal stretch of the lion’s body meets the length of the spears he hurls himself upon, becomes one long diagonal thrust of forces eternally opposed. That thrust is balanced on the turning wheel and the lion’s frowning dying face is at the centre, biting the wheel. Masterfully composed, the whole thing. The king is secondary, really — a dynamic counterweight. He’s only there to hold the spear, and nothing less than a king would be of suitable rank for the death of that lion.’

from The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin Boaz

There was really only one place to leave the passage, so I printed off five copies, with a picture at the top and 4 February 2008 on the bottom, and headed to the Assyrian Galleries of the British Museum. The museum was full of school parties and tourists, and there was a constant trickle of people through the lion hunt passage. I sat on the bench and looked at the lion biting the wheel - although I actually always find my self drawn to the dead lion to his right, body twisted upside down and his tongue hanging out - and put the sheets of yellow A4 paper on the bench beside me, with my hand resting on them. Feeling more like a character out of a le Carré novel than an Hoban one (but then again, middle-aged academic sitting on a bench in central London feeling that I am doing something vaguely improper - who am I trying to fool?) I waited until the museum attendant had made her slow way through the gallery, and then walked out in the other direction, without a backward glance.

Not really a photo-opportunity, although the scene could be illustrated with the lion biting the wheel. In all probability the paper will have been spotted by a cleaner and rapidly consigned to a bin, but there is always a chance that someone will have picked one up, thinking it an information sheet - which of course it was. I suppose that, had I thought about it more, I could have mocked it up to look like a BM leaflet (although those are mostly full-colour these days) or a school work-sheet, but I don't think that that would be quite in the spirit of the exercise.

Happy Birthday Russ!

An Hugh Bis

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