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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 164 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 Napoleon returned the cloth to Bayeux, not to the church, but to the Hotel de Ville, in which manner it became the property of the civil authorities, instead of the ecclesiastic. It was rolled on cylinders, that by an easy mechanism it might be seen by visitors. But the fabric suffered much by the handling of a curious public. Even the most enlightened and considerate hands can break threads which time has played with for eight centuries. It was decided, therefore, to give the ancient toile fatiguée a quiet, permanent home. For this purpose a museum was built, and about 1835 the great Bayeux tapestry was carefully installed behind glass, its full length extended on the walls for all to see who journey thither and who ring the guardian’s bell at the courtyard’s handsome portico. Once since then, once only, has the venerable fabric left its cabinet. This was at the time of the Prussians when, in 1871, France trembled for even her most intimate and special treasures. The tapestry was taken from its case, rolled with care and placed in a zinc cylinder, hermetically sealed. Then it was placed far from harm; but exactly where, is a secret that the guardians of the tapestry do well to conserve. There might be another trouble, and asylum needed for the treasure in the future. The pictures of the great embroidery are such as a child might draw, for crudeness; but the archeologist knows how to read into them a thousand vital points. History helps out, too, with the story of Harold, moustached like the proper Englishman of to-day, taking a commission from William, riding gaily out on a gentleman’s errand, not a warrior’s. This is shown by the falcon on his wrist, that wonderful bird of the Middle Ages that marked the gentleman by his associations, marked the high-born man on an errand of peace or pleasure. In these travelling days, no sooner do we land in Normandy than Mount St. Michael looms up as a happy pilgrimage. So to the same religious refuge Harold went on the pictured cloth, crossed the adjacent river in peril, and—how pleasingly does the past leap up and tap the present—he floundered in the quicksands that surround the Mount, and about which the driver of your carriage across the passerelle will tell you recent tales of similar flounderings. And when in Brittany, who does not go to tumbley-down Dinan to see its ancient gates and walls, its palaces of Queen Anne, its lurching crowd of houses? It is thither that Harold, made of threads of ancient wool, sped and gave battle after the manner of his time. Another link to make us love this relic of the olden time: It is the star, the star so great that the space of the picture is all too small to place it; so the excited hands of the embroiderers set it outside the limit, in the border. It flames over false Harold’s head and he remembers sombrely that it is an omen of a change of rule. He is king now, has usurped a throne, has had himself crowned. But for how long is he monarch, with this flaming menace burning into his courage? The year finishing saw the prophecy fulfilled by the coming of the conqueror. It was this section of the tapestry that, when it came to Paris, had power to startle Napoleon, ever superstitious, ever ready to read signs. The star over Harold’s head reminded him of the possible brevity of his own eminence. The star that blazed in 1066—we have found it. It was not imaginary. Behold how prettily the bits of history fit together, even though we go far afield to find those bits. This one comes from China. Records were better kept there in those times than in Christian Europe; and the Chinese astronomers write of a star appearing April 2, 1066,

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 165 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 which was seen first in the early morning sky, then after a time disappeared to reappear in the evening sky, with a flaming tail, most agreeably sensational. It was Halley’s comet, the same that we watched in 1910 with no superstitious fear at all for princes nor for powers. But it is interesting to know that our modern comet was recorded in China in the Eleventh Century, and has its portrait on the Bayeux tapestry, and that it frightened the great Harold into a fit of guilty conscience. The archeologist gives reason for the faith that is in him concerning the Bayeux tapestry by reading the language of its details, such as the style of arms used by its preposterous soldiers; by gestures; by groupings of its figures; and we are only too glad to believe his wondrous deductions. There are in all fifteen hundred and twelve figures in this celebrated cloth, if one includes birds, beasts, boats, et cetera, with the men; and amidst all this elongated crowd is but one woman. Queen Matilda, left at home for months, immured with her ladies, probably had quite enough of women to refrain easily from portraying them. Needless to say, this one embroidered lady interests poignantly the archeologist. Most of the animals are in the border—active little beasts who make a running accompaniment to the tale they adorn. This excepts the very wonderful horses ridden by knights of action. Scenes of the pictured history of William’s conquest are divided one from the other by trees. Possibly the archeologist sees in these evidences of extinct varieties, for not in all this round, green world do trees grow like unto those of the Bayeux tapestry. They are dream trees from the gardens of the Hesperides, and set in useful decoration to divide event from event and to give sensations to the student of the tree in ornament. Such is the Bayeux tapestry, which, as was conscientiously forewarned, is not a tapestry at all, but the most interesting embroidery of Europe. T CHAPTER XXIV TO-DAY HE making of inspired tapestry does not belong to to-day. The amour propre suffers a distinct pain in this acknowledgment. It were far more agreeable to foster the feeling that this age is in advance of any other, that we are at the front of the world’s progress. So we are in many matters, but those matters are all bent toward one thing—making haste. Economy of time occupies the attention of scientist, inventor, labourer. Yet a lavish expenditure of time is the one thing the perfect tapestry inexorably demands, and that is the fundamental reason why it cannot now enter a brilliant period of production like those of the past. It is not that one atelier cannot find enough weavers to devote their lives to sober, leisurely production; it is that the stimulating effect is gone, of a craft eagerly pursued in various centres, where guilds may be formed, where healthy rivalry spurs to excellence, where the world of the fine arts is also vitally concerned.

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