Sunday, March 7, 2010

Of Gallic Roosters and Sunday afternoons

Look at this guy! This is the Gallic Rooster that Mac talked about in his post - I wanted a good shot of it, so you could see what Mac meant by "bellicose" (this rooster could crush you with one drumstick alone!), and the kids wanted to go to the Promenade on our way to the Bois d'Amour, so we get our up-close and personal look at the Gallic Rooster atop the war memorial in Josselin sooner than expected! His rippling chest muscles are one thing, but then his world-domination talons, and strident crowing profile are another. (The shell (to the left) and the hand grenade (to the right) below him on the capital of the column are in a category of their own - wow)! That is an incredibly powerful national symbol. The Gallic Rooster has been around as a national symbol for a very long time (François Ier participated in its iconography), but I've seldom seen him look quite this buff. I've been studying a lot of these as they emerged in the late 15th-early 16th century, as France became more and more of a nation (and I'd like to add that I'm gaining an appreciation of just how important the annexation of Brittany was to French nationhood - to the cohering of territory and politics) - the one that fascinates me the most is Hercules, as emblem of the nation, the king, and (eventually, in the 18th century, when the symbol is co-opted by the Revolutionaries), of the people. Louise, François Ier and her daughter/his sister Marguerie were involved in some wild national allegories as well, with the Holy Trinity as their base! The one in which Louise is the Good allegorized as Jupiter, François is the Beautiful as allegorized by Mercury and Marguerite is the Just as allegorized by Saturn is pretty swell, too. Marguerite and Louise shared the association with the virtue of Prudence (with Louise getting the lion's share of the Prudence citations) - but here, it's Marguerite, as Saturn is associated with prudence. I find these allegorical associations didactic, but fascinating in the layers of associations they can provoke: a kind of semiotic game (some would say free-for-all when you have five, seven, ten associations). It becomes baroque and decadent by The End (some of the Louis XVII's allegories are just ludicrous), although Jacques-Louis David became involved in some very elaborate allegorical tableaux vivants of the Revolution. But by the time you get to the 19th century, and certainly 20th (where Mac can pick up with more precise information and reasons why), a robust, direct national symbol, such as the Josselin Gallic Rooster, is much more desired. There's much to think of in his aggressive stance: is it defensive? proud? vengeful? Here the difference from the old allegories might be that the interpretive field is less layered (you don't have to work from The Good to Jupiter to Louise) but more open (that Rooster can answer to a lot of emotions associated with losing loved compatriots to wars).

I'd love to tell you that Oliver and Iris were talking about public commemoration vs personal memory on the way to the Promenade, but of course they were not. I just love how deeply engrossed they are in their conversation, how Oliver is leaning in with his next point, how carefully Iris is considering it. They were actually talking about how to judge the worth of marbles (the clear ones, vs. the streaked ones, vs. the cloudy ones, vs. the opaque ones). He's all ready to go to school with 10 of them tomorrow and see if he can join a marble game in the schoolyard. Let's see if there's the same hierarchy of value that he and Iris have ascribed to the marbles.

Eleanor, meanwhile, looks for all intents and purposes like she truly is reading. Honestly, she looks like a little commuter on public transport (Mac the Metro?). She's in this kind of horrid stage where she's not walking - she's either running around like crazy (will not hold hands and is thus a menace to herself and others on the streets) or insists on being held (and she has ways of being extremely convincing that she must be held). Mac is a prince among dads, I tell you. Gee whiz, she really looks like she's reading that book - that is so funny!

We took our usual walk through the Bois d'Amour - the woods are starting to come alive just a bit (we saw our first daffodils today!), but truth be told, the moss is so vibrant and ever-changing that you don't get that same sense of things going dormant. I actually love the tree branches barren of their leaves framing the Gallic Rooster in the image above. The kids are loving wintertime in the park: lots of dead branches to do things like make soup (Eleanor said that it was poisonous, but that it tasted really good!)....

... or combine with dead leaves to make complex herbals that "only work with the full moon so don't take it just anytime or else you'll become a toad" (ok)...

...or be a forlorn little woodsboy, gathering up sticks for to feed the fire at home. Dear, dear Oliver - his headcold continues apace, but he's just so dear about Keeping On. I'm on him to blow his nose and today he tells me "Mom! I already blew my nose twice today - no, thrice." He wasn't going for any olde tyme effect, and I absolutely didn't correct him. We're also not correcting him about the lyrics that his leprechaun sings, which are "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" but which he keeps singing as "When Irish Guys Are Smiling". So, with Gallic Roosters and Smiling Irish Guys, we wish you all a good week!

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