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St. George and the Dragon, 1878, Sir Joseph Boehm

The young waif braces her charge

As she gallops through the night

Faster than the Erl King did long ago

When he snatched her from her mother’s bosom.

The white mare turns a pair of frighted doe eyes

Back toward her mistress, begging for relief

But her delirium relents not, her fever rises;

Drenched, eclipsed locks like talons

Cling to her temples and swan-like neck

Lashing at the shadow of the maiden shape

With the same wild abandon that spurs

Her ghostly limbs to spur the frighted mare

“Hie, ho, hie, faster, run, to safety, take us

As far from the dreadful shapes of my nightmare

As the day is from the night and the east from the west.”

But the Erl King isn’t sleeping,

He rises from his heavy golden throne,

Unchains the dragon and dispatches the creature

In pursuit of the fugitive shapes riding the night

The toad-like frame breathes hot flames in their heels

Scorching the very earth beneath them

As the pale shadows reach the outskirts of the city

The dragon gains on them ever closer

Each inch throbbing with the dread of mortal danger

The gate is shut, all asleep within the city gates

No one comes to aid the poor runaways

The mare and her charge at their last breath, near collapsing

Stop their mad gallop at the edge of the river

Four pairs of horror-dilated pupils

Catch fire on the reflection of the flames

Lashing forth from the jaws of their pursuer

— A creature made for the sole purpose

Of instilling limb-tearing terror —

Yet, the beast reciprocates the bidding of their eyes

The emerald windows of its mind

Which let the light into the grisly shape

Are quickly turned into enormous mirrors

The virgin maid recognizes herself and her companion

— The pale shapes of their trembling limbs —

Whirling into the vertiginous spiral

Of the creature’s enormous orbs

And is bolted faster than an anchor

Into the flaming sea under the mare’s hooves

By the monster’s hypnotic stare

It breathes a potent gust in her face

As she stands paralysed on the edge of the bridge

Resolved to face her destiny and yield to

Erl King’s flames — her eternal wedding bed.

But the mare wakes her from her trance,

Throws her on the cool grass skirting the river

And raising a gale cools her mistress’s enflamed senses

The maid gasps and whispers:

“Lord Christ, as I remember my poor mother

You too recall in your mercy the fair boy

Who stirred this fire in me, and send him hither

To rescue me from my own fiery prison

With a ring of promise tempered

In the flames of my ill fated passion,

Tempered even as that mare of mine,

Who, schooled and domesticated,

Having learned to yield her wild power

To the will and pleasure of her mistress,

Threw me here on the ground to save me

From the clutches of this merciless dragon,

Infernal embodiment of my fear,

Pain, incontinence, and wild desire.

Send me the boy, my Lord, in George’s armor,

The Saint who overcame the greatest pain

To remain faithful to You and to all maidens

In hope of salvation from their serpentine masters,

You, who are the New Snake on the rod of salvation,

Have mercy on my burning mind and soul,

And send the tempered ring of the boy

Whose dragon I will tame as I did my mare. Amen.”

And as she trembles on the dewy pasture

Drenched in the spray of the river and her own water

Paler than the snowy slopes of winter,

Her fire-breathing pursuer turns his head

Toward Erl Kingdom, his blazing eyes burst forth

And swiftly seek their master in the dark castle

To find him gorging on the flesh of the maid

Whose pale shadows trembles still by the city bridge

Begging for her life and eternal star in heaven.

William Blake, Soul departing the body

The golden feather of the Lord’s Scrivener

Descends on the eyeless beast clutching the maid

By the river, beating the bridge with his giant tail

And alters his shape; deprived of the light of its sight

The poor beast cannot resist the transformation

And bursts forth from the new seat of light in his temple

In the very form and being of the boy the maiden loves,

Bestrides her leaderless, still terror-stricken mare

And lifts her near-lifeless shape in his broad bosom;

The maid whispers in his ear: “to Erl Kingdom, fast!”

And as this George rides, she whispers in his ear:

“Like the unparalleled beauty of the short-lived

But glorious blossoms of spring

This flower of evil too, this castle of beastly passions,

Deadly desires, and frightful transgressions, must wither

For its better incarnation to dwell immortal

In the chambers of my mind’s eye,

Forged, like this ring of promise and fidelity

In the fires of the violence it inspired;

Let this plant of darkness fall & let its better part

Live eternal in the Lord’s garden by the bridge

That separates a maid from the evil blossoms

Of her spring and takes her to the godly harvest

Of her Christmas season. Dear George,

High on your virtuous pedestal, holy, unblemished,

Your fair features shining like your unbendable faith,

I am your courage and your eternal resting place,

In my sanctified heart you live immortal

To give your patronage its glory and its justice,

As I wed thee here every winsome spring

Before God, the saints, and each new crop of petals

— The generations of fearless men-gods who follow

Your command and learn their valour from your visage;

What your rescued from the fiery breath and the ruins

Of dark passions on that memorable night

When I first begged our Lord to bring you to my aid

Is yours forever and no man nor thing nor any power

Under God can tear us apart. Amen”

Her words spur his swift charge and their execution

Withers the evil blossoms every year on this day,

St. George, the honour and the crown.

Fresco, Piccolomini, Siena Cathedral (250 pc. Wentworth Wooden Puzzle)

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