Monday, September 15, 2014

That was the reason he reached the summit, and fell on his sword

In the end, all that bravery, for which I praise him profusely in my eulogy, turned upon itself. I imagine Saul waiting for his savior, waiting for death to release him from a life of torture, waiting in vain, waiting until it was too late to wait anymore. No wonder he felt compelled to take matters into his own hands. 
I figure he knew his fate, even before setting out to battle. Judging by different accounts, he seemed to be headed—quite intentionally—into defeat, which is quite evident when you study his battle plan. 
In his place, I would have let the Philistines enter the valley, and once they did I would launch a surprise attack upon them from all flanks, and especially from their back. Not so Saul: he engaged them upfront. In retrospect, it seems like a death wish.
This I know: on the eve of the battle, he went to the old witch of Ein-Dor, seeking some advice, some word of reassurance. He begged her to summon the spirit of the prophet Samuel, who used to be his spiritual advisor until they fell out. She chanted her usual nonsense, “Double, double, toil and trouble.” Then, out of the poisonous steam puffing out of her caldron, a ghastly face arose, to the sound of a rattling of bones. 
I am certain that the witch of Ein-Dor has a stash of bones in her back pocket. She could not have fooled me, if her life depended on it. As for Saul, perhaps he was ready to be fooled. He should have let Samuel rot peacefully in his grave, because there, opening in midair, was a wrinkled, toothless mouth, and the words that came out of the cold froth rolling upon it were utterly horrific.
“Why do you consult me,” came the rasp, in a voice that sounded like the dead man, “now that the Lord has departed from you, and become your enemy? He has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to another. Because you did not obey Him, because you did not carry out His wrath against the Amalekites… Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me!”
I imagine despair burning out of Saul’s eye, as he rode his stallion at a furious speed, back to Mount Gilboa. Yes, he knew his fate, and the only thing he could do about it was to usher it in. That, and no other, was the reason he reached the summit, and fell on his sword.

Rembrandt, Saul und seine Diener bei der Frau
in Endor 

Henry Fuseli, Samuel appearing to Saul

William Blake, The Witch of Endor Raising Samuel’s Spirit 

My entire trilogy, The David Chronicles, is inspired by art throughout the ages, depicting the story of David moment to moment.

In Rembrandt's sketch, the scene seems like a visit at the next-door neighbor's kitchen. The witch of Ein-Dor sets the table as Saul, wearing a magnificent hat with a feather, seems to squirm on his seat, waiting to hear word from her. 

In Fuseli's painting, Saul is groveling on the floor, begging for an insight to the future, and Prophet Samuel's ghost appears before him as an angry old man, drained of color. The real magic belongs to the witch of Ein-Dor, whose long scarf is swirling magically in the air.

In William Blake's Pen and watercolor painting, this scene becomes fully mystical. Saul's apparition glows, it is light itself, and it casts such fear in Saul that he faints backwards, into the arms of his soldiers. The witch of Ein-Dor is in the center of the image, arms spread, holding the  the scene in the tension of her power. Blake was a poet, and here is his comical 'nod' to Fuseli:
The only man that ever I knew 
Who did not make me almost spew 
Was Fuseli: he was both Turk and Jew 
And so, dear Christian Friends, 
how do you do?

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