This Holiday, Be Sure to Remember the True Meaning of Monkeys in Margins (Mmm… Marginalia #95)

I hope everyone* had a pleasant enough holiday that I can be indulged a bit of grousing about it.  Because you know what I hate about Memorial Day (and also Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter)?    The people who self-righteously clear their throats and insist that celebrants remember “the real reason” behind the holiday.  Yes, yes, it’s called Memorial Day on account of the soldiers and suchlike who protect our freedoms and all that, but does that really mean you need to be such a wet blanket at the neighborhood cookout?**

And so this brings me to this week’s***)  marginal image, taken from fan favorite and frequent blog-appearer, Bodleian MS Douce 6, AKA The Bumper Book of Monkeys:

Douce 6 is a 14th-century Flemish-made Psalter, or book of psalms, whose margins are overflowing with marginal images of mostly profane and immature humor, so many digressions that even the marginal monkeys occasionally pause to point out, as this priestly monkey on the left does, that one really ought to pay attention to the psalms from time to time.  Devotional material is the reason for the season, as it were.

Double finger-gun monkey in the middle gets what the monkey ecclesiastical type–and, by analogy, the cookout wet blanket–is really on about.  Season-reason reminders mostly want us to look at them. Hey, get a load of how pious I am here, remembering what’s really important, while you frolic and play, you stupid monkey, etc.  Right back atcha, says our hip middle monkey.  You certainly are one pious fellow, Mr. Monk.

That leaves the monkey on the far right to point out, in his inimitable monkey way, what’s really going on to the left.  Pay attention to the bishop and this gullible monkey in the middle, there’s nothing to see over here, I’m certainly not planning on shoving this stick up my fellow monkey’s butt while he’s distracted, no siree…

I worry, though, that if we extend the metaphor back out, I’m the butt-probing monkey at the cookout.  And the last thing I want my loyal readers to think is that I plan on jamming things up their rears while they’re not looking.  So let’s just say I’m the bird-headed line filler, coldly aloof from the proceedings.  Yeah, that’s way better.


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  1. * Well, everyone in the U.S.  My international readers will have to just be extra indulgent for no reason. []
  2. ** And funny how these same folks never show up on Labor Day, a holiday I can only assume sprung fully formed from Ronald Reagan’s forehead.  But I digress–more than usual, I mean. []
  3. *** Given my current posting schedule, I should probably reassign the three M’s in Mmm… Marginalia to “Monthly Medieval Marginalia”… []

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