Girolamo Savonarola.jpg

Girolamo Savonarola

Here we are at circus, you and me and all the others, facing each and every way in the Age of Absurdity. Rather alike some Swiftian satire, some Aesopian consequence, some Seussian phantasmagoria where all the world is upside down, facing sideways in slow-motion walking backwards into a psychedelic truth. Yet, who can say, this day seems alike most other days in Washington, D.C., sunny, easy, grown wealthy by coast-to-coast plebs who pay us to mock them, to destroy their lives, to take from them what is most dear, most good.

Savonarola took from others the most good. You remember Savonarola, the persuasive pastor who worked upon the open minds of questioning Florentines, the Medici, the Albizzi, the Pazzi and other putz who did not know the difference between the intellectual pose and the intellectual throes of a burning in passionate argument and a burning of the person with whom you are arguing.

Well, if you do not remember, we shall here recall the great circus, the Carnival of Savonarola’s preaching damnation to his congregation (the whole of Florence), the rooting of the devil that lived within the dark, silent places of each Florentine, the rooting-out of the devil, of the Florentine vanities, the pride, the prettiness, the wealth of pictures, of draperies, of books and manuscripts, those great piles of privilege set magnificently to flame in a bonfire of vanities most good, most humane.

Do you see, there, in the flames, that portrait exquisite of style, the glaze crackling horribly; Botticelli himself fed this his picture to the flame. There! A Lorenzo di Credi, his self-fed picture glows, a pretty orange … there, flames shoot from the eyes, the lips melt. And that? Why, that is the floating silver-ash of a Dante, the red specks yet hot above the heads of the dancing, self-flagellating crowd. Oh. And look there, a pinkish smoke, pretty in its way floating airily away, the last, the only, the is-no-other copy of an Ovid. Good bye, sweet thoughts.

Do you know; the Magnificent Lorenzo, patron of Michelangelo, Leonardo, architects and poets, grew to despise his generosity, his inspiration to creation of great works in art and literature, that he retired ignominiously in failure, that at death he begged the forgiveness of the beauties burning friar, Savonarola. Old, broken, will-wary, great Lorenzo. Savonarola forgave the broken, penitent Lorenzo his generosity, his goodness. Some few years later, the dancing, flagellating Florentines grew weary of burning their beauties, because they were running short of beauties to burn, so they burned Savonarola, instead.

For the most part, a preaching, an education is a good thing. Edu, caritas, to draw out knowledge; to bring-up, to rear, to train. Just now, in Fairfax county, named for The Right Honorable Thomas Fairfax, Sixth Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the only resident Peer of the Thirteen (original) British Colonies, youngsters are being trained to hate themselves—in truth, only children of European ascendency are being trained in self-disgust—by the influence of Ibram Kendi, by his “critical race theory,” by all the District’s teachers under order to train, to rear, to tell youngsters that they are vain, that they are privileged, that they should renounce themselves, that the bright, innocent, rose-cheeked face seen each morning in the mirror is a thing vain, racially ugly. Will these good children offer themselves to flame in auto-da-fé; too early to say; though, if history will be our guide, yes, they shall. But smile: even after all is ash, bright flowers will grow from the black. Was that a, “trigger”: yes, though just in fun.

Well, here we are, little to do but to watch the circus, to smile at the absurdity of it all. We humans are silly creatures, silly, both in the word “silly” original meaning, “alike an angel,” and as “silly” has become, “foolish, alike an idiot,” alike a child chasing a blind butterfly that airily flits both along into the hard gray mede of the ten-thousand-ton bumper of a red, rushing Mack truck. Can you see what Swift, what Aesop might have done, might have written of this circus of us. Expect you can. I can, too. What, do you suppose, a Dr. Seuss might write of this moment’s circus.

I have no need of telling you, Dr. Seuss would not be writing, would not be read: Dr. Seuss is being “disappeared,” disappeared as were inconvenient “soviets” disappeared from photographs, from wordy Russian sentences, from family and friends, from breath and from life. Yes, the little Savonarola’s have shamed the old, weary Dr. into silence, have disappeared him; today, some six little Seuss books into one fire; tomorrow, into two fires; into three fires, into me fires, into you fires.

Why is Dr. Seuss disappeared? No reason, really. Reason’s got nothing to do with disappearing a person. Posing, preening, posturing, proselytizing are the causes of disappearing your neighbor. In the instance of the good doctor Seuss, orthodox relations omitted him from his Canon, that the Canon might be purified, sanctified by the Progressive. And the sin? Well, don’t you know: picturing people, silly. No. Not the “silly” part, the part of, the “people” pictured silly.

Of course, I know, I have eyes, I notice that every person pictured by Seuss, pink, white, purple, yellow, chartreuse, heliotrope, is absurd, is silly, is a caricature. And you know this, too. You are a poet, you caricature everything, persons, planets, platitudes, petunias, whatever particular you draw in words is a caricature, sometimes, a caricature of a caricature. Caricature is the nature of our art.

Now, I might go on to detail who is allowed to caricature, who must be caricatured, who must not be caricatured; yet, the argument grows tedious, because obvious. You know as-well-as I: hate today who today you are told to hate, tomorrow hate, et cetera, and the next day, hate et cetera for whichever hateful et cetera next tomorrow is in fashion.

So then, to the finale, to the point, to the moral: With Truman, friends, please, “Strike a blow for Liberty.” Write, freely. Speak your minds, caricature your caricatures; if caricatured, smile, knowing that someone saw you for who you are, silly, that curious person this morning reflected gangly, Seussianingly in the mirror. Yes, both you and I know, you have faults, I have faults, best to laugh one-another our faults, for, if not, where shall we end, Savonarola, in flames? No, let us smile, together.



Michael Curtis is an architect, sculptor, painter, historian, and poet, has for more than 40 years contributed to the revival of the classical arts. He has taught and lectured at universities, colleges, and museums, including The Institute of Classical Architecture, The National Gallery of Art, et cetera; his pictures and statues are housed in over four hundred private and public collections, including The Library of Congress, The Supreme Court, et alibi; his verse has been published in over twenty journals; his work in the visual arts can be found at TheClassicalArtist.com, and his literary work can be found at TheStudioBooks.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Yael

    Nice rant and poetic too. I love the details that fit the larger picture so well, like in a fine tapestry, tightly woven. Good job on the juxtaposition of the historical with the contemporary state of affairs.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Michael, this essay says everything, succinctly, poetically, hard-hittingly and beautifully. I am with you all the way! Thank you.

  3. Sally Cook

    Dear Michael Curtis –

    To the point. through the cloth and right to the heart of it. Horrible example of what can happen with just one fanatic at the helm. But I despair of what can happen when they are legion, as they presently seem to be.
    In any case, I was very glad to see your work here.


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