Since Columbus sailed, has anyone heard?
What did he find? Eden, Hades, or a New World?
He left all he knew behind, but what was it he took?
Coughs, sneezes, The Holy Cross, The Good Shepherd’s crook
Any people he meets will be innocent of these:
The Spanish Inquisition and Europe’s most common disease
“Hell is other people” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre
Three ships sailing from Europe were simply the start
n.b. www.napowri.net Day 6 prompt an ekphrastic challenge.
Hieronymus Bosch painted ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ around the time Cristoforo Colombo sailed for the East Indies by heading west. Colombo had touted his unlikely project around the kingdoms of Europe for years until Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain finally agreed to fund his adventure.
Did Bosch the painter know of this far-fetched expedition and the subsequent discoveries by the Genovese sailor? Is this nightmarish painting a portent of what would be visited by Europeans on the peoples of these lands that were to be labelled after the Florentine, Amerigo Vespuscci?
The images in the painting begin with the Garden of Eden. This pastoral setting, our collective past is always imagined to be better than today, if not perfect. The Garden of Earthly Delights, is the present; always a time of excess and pleasure seeking. Hell is the future; a fearful extrapolation from the worst aspects of today.
But what is Hell? In Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1943 play ‘Huis Clos’ (‘No Exit’) he sets up Hell as being only populated by three people. He wrote;
“All those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!”
Christopher Perry, 6th April, 2020