Saturday, 29 September 2018

Stained Glass and M.R. James

I recently returned from the fair city of York, where I met with a whole bunch of M.R. James enthusiasts. The occasion was the centenary of Monty visiting the city to examine various stained/painted glass windows in the city's churches.

One very significant window that impressed the future Provost of Kings (and later Eton) is at All Saints, in North St. It is a vision of the end of the world, drawn from an immensely popular medieval poem entitled 'The Pricke of Conscience'. If you click on the image below you can embiggen it and see just how wonderful some of the panels are.

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Here is the earth and sea catching fire.
The fift day , the se sal brynne
And alle watters als thai sal rynne;
And that sal last fra the son rysing
Till the tyme of the son doun gangyng.


Here are some irate fish.
The fierth day, sal swilk a wonder be
The mast wondreful fisshes of the se
Sal com to-gyder and mak swilk roryng
That it sal be hydus til mans heryng
Bot what that roryng sal signify,
Na man whit, bot God almyghty.


Oh, look, here's Death in person with a spear. Just to drive the point home.
The fourtend day, al that lyves than
Sal dighe, childe man and woman;
For thai shalle with tham rys ogayn
That byfor war dede, outher til ioy or payn.
Image result for all saints church york pricke of conscience

A detail of one panel. They were a bit iffy on drawing skulls in the Middle Ages. I wonder if seeing pictures like this (many times, mostly in MSS) influenced MRJ's depiction of demons/ghosts as having rather rudimentary, not-quite-human features?

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The actual poem is here, with links to the window panels.

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