LORD SCALES. I must at this point, beg the accused to remain silent. For the bench has just passed me a note that relates to a new witness. May I ask whom?
SATYR. Yes my Lord. ’Tis a monk of honour and credit who knows me in my native home of Hades. Indeed, I can certify that this monk is an esteemed and officiated priest of Satan, who brings with him a certificate of authority to speak on His Majesty’s behalf.
LORD SCALES. I trust this document is genuine? I would hate your witness to perjure himself on Satan’s behalf, and then discover that all the private confessions he made to me under oath, were then brokered to the realm of heaven by gossiping goblins. Although ’tis never much trouble to vindicate myself from the imputation of any criminal breach of secrecy, I fear you would have a harder time of it. Especially since we have reached such a crucial point in the proceedings.
SATYR. My Lord, I would state my reputation on his character; and the certificate he brings is quite genuine, signed by Beelzebub himself no less…
LORD SCALES. Let me see that. Oh what terrible handwriting. Beelzebub is right scrawler if ever there was one. Yes, I would recognise that ambivalent hand anywhere. See how the characters slope left one moment, then right the next.. Why, he has even written this line forwards!
SATYR. Ah, well yes, that is in fact a palindrome my lord.
LORD SCALES. A palimpsest? Great Satan! I thought as much – the document is a fake! The original text has been defaced. What is Hades coming to? Is parchment still so scarce?
SATYR. Er, no, not a palimpsest my Lord – a palindrome. It can be read both ways – forwards or backwards.
LORD SCALES. Oh I see. I thought it was another infernal erasure. Beelzebub is very found of those. Do you know he erased Cicero’s De Republica to make room for Saint Augustine’s commentary on the psalms? Political sacrilege! Anyway, what does this palindrome say –
SATYR. Dog as a devil deified.
LORD SCALES. Deified lived as a god... Ah yes, I see, very clever. Or in the case of Jacques Vallin: Madam, I’m Adam…
KREW. Oh, that is most amusing my Lord! Though my favourite palindrome is one in my own native tongue:
which means: wash my transgressions, not only my face.
LORD SCALES. Quite. But methinks we should make a Palimpsest of that particular Palindrome, so scrub it out, and in its place write this proverb:
He who knows does not speak;
He who speaks does not know.
KREW. Oh, that is most profound my lord. Shall we sit in silence until cock-crow?
LORD SCALES. I would prefer it. My scribe is running out of parchment. Unless we make a Palimpsest of the entire transcript and start all over again with the first scroll.
JACQUES. Oh, for the love of Christ! Would you get on with it!
LORD SCALES. Er, what did you just say?
SATYR. Yes we all heard it: “For the love of Christ.”
IMP. He calls upon The Pierced One.
LORD SCALES. That man meek and lowly of heart, kind and collected, chaste and pitiful, conspicuous for all goodness and sanctity... (i) Yet the accused abhors the Host as embodiment of His flesh. Devotion to the flesh of Christ is a gift – but ’tis carnal in comparison with that love which does not so much regard the Word which is Flesh, as the Word which is Wisdom, Justice, Truth and Holiness. (ii) So let us, for the love of Christ, continue. For the Infernal Counsel is only concerned with Wisdom, Justice, Truth and Holiness. And the truth of the matter is that three souls have already died at the hands of the accused: the priest, the minorite and brother Symon. The accused would have us believe he is only twelve years old. But by the abbot’s reckoning, he is in fact fifteen. The jury will bear this in mind as we come to the fourth slaughter. So let us hear this ghastly tale. Bring the witness forward. Please state your name to the court.
RICON. Ricon le Rouge.
LORD SCALES. I see from your magnificent horns that you are related to Jacques.
RICON. Yes, we share the same father.
LORD SCALES. The jury will recall that we have already met Ricon le Rouge: for he was spied by young Jacques, whoring with the midwife in the gorge.
RICON. I am most ashamed.
LORD SCALES. Don’t be. Love of the flesh is a noble thing. Good men spiritualize their bodies; bad men incarnate their souls.(iii) Is that not so Jacques?
JACQUES. Spiritualize their bodies? Oh, I found his urinal baptism between Margot’s legs most edifying…
LORD SCALES. Indeed. Especially when you consider that all men spend the first nine months of life swimming in a womb of piss… Now, where were we? Ah yes, Jacqueline, after seeing the orb, had left her bed and crept away to the abbot’s lodging. And all this at Grazide’s bequest. Please continue Ricon: the court is listening…
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2010
i. Bernard of Clairvaux.
iii. Benjamin Whichcote.