Tuesday, June 16, 2015

David commits adultery

I want to wait, wait for her to give herself to me—but in the end I cannot fight my passion any longer, and I take her. She sighs softly and arches against me, rising on the fervor of my caress, higher and higher into ecstasy.
What wakes us up when the glow goes out of the stars, when they hang over us like stones, and the hills around us take a faint, still uncertain shape, is a sound. 
Dazed, we look up at the heavens as if we were underwater, sunken and floating with the stream, and what startles us out of our dream is the march of soldiers out of the courtyard below, and the clinking of swords.
In alarm Bathsheba opens her eyes. 
“Stay awhile longer,” I whisper to her. 
“And live here with you,” she counters, “happily ever after?”
Before I can think of an answer Bathsheba rises to her feet and walks to the edge of the roof. Peering out through the lattice, “Nay,” she says. “Both of us know that’s not going to happen.”
It is sunrise. Sprawled around us is the city, its hills drifting in and out of grayness. Sudden gusts of wind press against newly erected scaffoldings, near and far. The tent of God can be seen below, its tissues alive, blowing like a mouth, a huge mouth swelling and puffing in unspoken anger. 
It brings to mind what my first in command, Joav, said to me. “Standing here,” he said, “I would feel above God.”
The troops march around the tabernacle, snap to attention when they reach its front, and bow deeply. Then they file out onto the road, heading east to the faraway city of Rabbah. 

I unlock the chamber door, glance left, right, and into the stoney shadow of the stairwell. To my relief my scribe, Nathan, is nowhere in sight. I give my hand to Bathsheba. First we move on our tiptoes, slowly, carefully, like little children playing hide and seek. Then, in leaps and bounds, we run down the stairs.
Near the bottom, where the staircase twists onto the landing, I am feeling particularly reckless. When she sets her little foot—a bit precariously—on the last triangular stair, I pull her to me. Wild and carefree I hope we can both slip. 
I find myself loving risk of all things—even more than her—and not minding anymore if a glimpse of us can be caught through the opening, as we lie there one last time before it is over, before both of us are forced to come out and lie, lie to ourselves, lie to everyone else, pretending that last night never happened. 
“This,” I say, closing my eyes, “Is happiness.” 
“Yes,” says Bathsheba. “For one night, it is. With the power you have, be sure not to make it the cause of mourning.”
For some reason I hold myself back from asking her what she means. 
All too soon Bathsheba gets up, dusts herself off, and straightens the folds of fabric about her. Then she walks out into the blindingly bright sunrise, her eyes clouded with some thought, perhaps worry. 
There is one thing, one nagging notion I am beginning to form in my mind as I watch her going, and it is this: yesterday, when I wrote her that note, I knew I was tempting Providence. What I failed to consider was the fact that she would be the one to suffer the consequences, more so than me.

David Commits Adultery, Maciejowski bible

Bathsheba Bathing by Paolo Veronese

My trilogy, and this moment in the second volume in particular, are greatly inspired by art of all ages. Her are two examples, where the artists viewed the love between David and Bathsheba in two different ways: 

The first image, titled in the most unveiled way, David Commits Adultery, is taken from Maciejowski bible, a medieval picture bible of 46 folios, thought to have been created under the direction of Louis IX of France in the mid-1240s. It is symmetrically framed by a distant view of the City of David and the raised curtains over the bed, where David makes love to Bathsheba. The most prominent graphical element is David's sword, erected in the center of the image, hinting, perhaps with a measure of humor, at the sexual vigor of the king. 

The second image is mush less explicit, despite its title Bathsheba Bathing she is shown fully clothed, or rather wrapped with silky fabrics. Drawn by Paolo Veronese, this is a sensual painting even without showing naked skin. The artist captures the king's little gesture of invitation, almost as if he was asking Bathsheba for a dance, and her surprise finding him so close to her.

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The complete series:

Volume II: 

A Peek at Bathsheba

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