The Impresario (part twenty-six)

Posted by ractrose on 28 Jan 2020 in Art, Poems

Oil painting cameo of signature bird with despairing human face for eye




The Impresario

Part Twenty-Six


“You will appreciate my dilemma.”

The Bishop says this to the wax-man

He has been pleased to find this one have Latin

For without the prompting of these matters grave

Had of his own to doubt the Friar Gaspard

Ought so to be relied on, with regard

To dispositions towards the Third Estate

“My verdict must be such as none presume

A laxity of law will now prevail, resting upon this precedent.

And if,” he sharply adds, although the wax-man does not speak,

“I cannot be persuaded such a course exists,

I must uphold the charges, and pronounce death.”


The impresario has been carried to the scullery

The girl among the servants here allowed

The wax-man’s brief is bolstered by researches

And on the strength of Pierre’s news he answers

“As to the charge which is blasphemy…which is,

a willful disrespect for Holy Writ; and the lesser charge

of wizardry, which you must drop for want of testimony…”

He looks up from his vellum, his place marked by Tortu’s

Most ornate E:

“My men cannot discover any claimants, and Gaspard

will not himself reveal names. Ergo…”

“You must expose some virtue in this man, albeit. He is loved,

it seems, and yet, I think, a mountebank…akin in nature to a thief.”

“On the contrary, I mean to prove he has no virtue. And nor do I, and nor do you.


But this offense is thrust aside; the Bishop lifts a shining eye,

For the saint of Aquino he calls his master

And clearing his throat, had spake the wax-man:

“I quote from the Summa Theologica. They receive honor from men by

way of reward, as from those who have nothing greater to offer—

“We address virtue.” The Bishop nods.


“That virtue that resides in your honored court and in your office. While I, having no honor from men, have nothing I deem virtue either, although I have not the prisoner’s faults. I quote again:


Man is not to be loved for his own sake, but whatever is in man is to be loved for God’s sake.”


“You counter-propose me!” The Bishop rubs his hands, his loneliness in a foreign land, for once forgot. “The life of the body, being man’s great good, and these, this girl…and the other one…”


“…sacrificing this…intending to have done so…”

“…the worldly object of the act is not wherein it derives its holiness, yes.”

“That is something. But neither, I think, has sought counsel of a priest. Do they know what they do…or can they? Say that tomorrow, I am asked to judge the identical case…”

“Could there be such?”

The Bishop smiles. “There is a saying, friend. Nothing succeeds like success. I know what testimony I hear given. I am not an augurer, nor am I an angel. I am a man.”

“I take your point. I return you this. You have brought many a felon to judgment and never by so arduous a path. The vintner, even, truly has confessed—he would not bury the abortion in unconsecrated ground, for fear of those with morbid passions…but hoped my master’s taste for curiosities might spare him losing custom.”

“Before I have finished my contemplations, I will have broached with God this vintner’s question, this matter of abetting, if not instigating. Why,” the Bishop interrupts himself, “are you called the wax-man, now…can you not recall your name?”

“Ah, monsieur. Say that my name is Théophile. Once I was spared man’s ridicule; I dwelt in the cave of a holy eremite. Here my skin did never suffer daylight. Yet through his years of teaching me—for the hermit would in all things sacrifice—I had on both our meals grown fat, as you see me today. My melancholic master summoned me; the eremite belonging to his family. I mean his living on their land was borne for piety.”

“And you were not dismayed to find yourself made this pitiable display? You and the others?”

“Well, as for misery, to each his own. Only the Dauphin and the girl were purchased. Pierre was ransomed, rather, I and Tortu the happier. Madame Poupée, who taught the girl to dance, cannot bear, she claims, an empty house.”

“And you remind me, God doth place His obstacles until His will be done.”

“I do. Indeed, you have already the guidance of His hand.”




Oil painting of medieval chamber featuring The Sower from the Tres Riches Heures

















(2017, Stephanie Foster)