... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Friday, August 02, 2013

John Sculptures

Sir John Hertsreach
"Be ye angry, and sin not:
let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Neither give place to the devil."
Ephesians 4:26-27

"That's it," he said to the settling stone dust. By Jove, I've done it again, he had planned to exclaim but, upon completing his latest statue, he just said that's it. As the granite particles fell gently about his person he placed the hammer and chisel into his belt and stepped back.

The granite block rose shoulder-height, smooth and rectangular, and atop it stood the carved figure of a man in cutaway coat, waistcoat, high-waisted breeches, stockings, shoes with buckle and heel, and a powdered wig tied with a ribbon. Its surface was unpainted and its size was larger than a man. His pose was one you have seen many times before: hand on hip, head raised, eyes gazing to the future. One foot rested on a pile of books; three copies of the Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version. Carved into the stone pedestal was naught but the name, Sir John Hertsreach, his dates, and a Biblical quote presumably relevant.

The sculptor's latest completed work was Sir John, whose biography briefly runs thus: Sir John was born 1722 at Castle Rowth to Christian Hertsreach, 1st Baron Hesterbridge, and the Lady Anne Allen. Educated in all the proper manners he was nevertheless a precocious child who grew into a temperamental yet brilliant man. He gained a reputation both for his unusual personal habits and his incredible architectural talents. Baron Hesterbridge funded the building on his land of many of Sir John's designs. Sir John received his knighthood soon after George II visited Castle Rowth in 1750. Sir John passed away in 1766 after a short illness. The relevance of the quote, and the meaning of the three Bibles was not recorded by contemporary sources.

"Thank you," said the sculptor, his neck strained backward to look Sir John in the eye. Sir John has no mortal remains but his name, his dates and his statue. The sculptor sweeps the granite dust from the floor. Moving up and down his ladder and using a soft, handheld brush he picks dust from out of the curls in Sir John's wig and the folds of his coat. Again he sweeps the floor, then carefully puts away his tools, brushes and ladders.

John the Betrayed
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock:
if any man hear my voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him, and will sup with him,
and he with me."
Revelation 3:20

Amongst the detritus of a busy desk – crushed pencil sharpenings, pots of paint-clouded water, doodles and jottings, a half drunk bottle of wine, biscuit crumbs, and paper ephemera – he pulled towards him his sketchbook. Opening it in the middle and flicking back a couple of pages, past charcoal and watercolour drawings of bodies and body parts, he settled on a man in pencil.

Bare-footed, dressed in robes, palms at waist height and facing outwards, eyes closed and lips slightly apart; the drawing exactly mirrored that of a marble figure in the room. The sculptor looked from the sketchbook to the carved marble and back again, emphasising the curve of a finger with a few strikes of the pencil. He looked back and forth until he was done and moved over to the figure to caress its smooth surface with his hands.

Little is known of the life of John the Betrayed save for a few brief samples outlined in the sculptor's sketchbook. Without consulting the book, he recited all available information: "John the Betrayed, you lived and died from 690 to 769. You tamed the birds and built the first bell-tower in a European church. You preached good words to all who would listen, but your church was taken from you by your own family and you were cast aside to Asia Minor. You lived long and travelled much but never returned to the bosom of your family. Your final resting place is unknown and no relics currently exist." John the Betrayed listened closely with closed eyes and marble ears.

The sculptor sat again at his desk, picked up his pen, and turned to a blank page in the sketchbook. He found a packet of biscuits in the drawer beside his legs and chewed on a chocolate digestive until it was gone. While chewing he began to think, and upon swallowing the final mouthful he began to write:

Captain John "Uthuze" Terran
"For to be carnally minded is death;
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Romans 8:6

John Terran captained the HMS Horncastle, one of the Royal Navy's earliest ironclad warships, from 1859 until 1869. Primarily he was involved in protecting Victoria's possessions in Canton and Hong Kong, however he is most remembered for leading the bombardment on Kagoshima which opened up trade with the Japanese. He retired from active duty in '69 aged 54 due to a sudden undiagnosed illness, which caused the growth of great tufts of body hair and rendered him entirely mute for the rest of his life.

Known as Uthuze to his closest friends, John had always felt the urge to travel; his father had also risen through the Naval ranks and spent many years away from home. On the rare occasions when young Uthuze saw his father, he was regaled with long and exotic tales; dusky folk of all shapes and sizes and strange monsters unlike anything seen in God's green England. John's favourite story from his father was the one about the great shark which leapt from the ocean and landed on the deck. It had taken seven men to subdue the beast, and all the crew dined well on shark meat that night.

Remembered and honoured for his achievements Captain John "Uthuze" Terran was also known among his peers and subordinates as a generous but commanding leader; a man who deserved respect. Women loved him for his broad chest and shoulders, thick lustrous moustache and dark, dark eyes. His wife and children adored him and his parents couldn't have been prouder.

The sculptor created a cluster of pen and ink sketches of square-jawed mustachioed men in large dressy hats. He worked with a variety of glorious and victorious poses rendered using stick men or roughly outlined silhouettes, and consumed many more biscuits as he worked. Pencil sharpenings and drips of black ink covered the desk, and biscuit crumbs found their way into the centre crease of the sketchbook. Eventually the sculptor paused for a moment to look over his work, took up his pen and scrawled large crosses over the biography and sketches of Captain John Terran.

He turned the page and began to write:

John Fentercast,
Industrialist and philanthropist
"And these things you have heard from me
among many witnesses,
commit these to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also."
2 Timothy 2:2

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