BY BARRY VAN-ASTEN
BY BARRY VAN-ASTEN
GOBLIN AND GARGOYL – AN INTERLUDE
Deep in the forest of whispering oaks, by the shores of the Loveless Lake, stood an old monastery in which dwelt a very ancient order of monks whose labours were solely dedicated to the pursuit of love, for this was their God; the one true ideal of their worship. The devotion to which the monks gave to their God was more than just a divine belief in something which may or may not be. In fact, so intense was their devotion that sleep had been forbidden to them on account that it interferes with their holy obligations. And so many of the monks died before they reached adulthood, thus sustaining their pure and innocent beauty into the afterlife! But a short life was a little price to pay in the service of their supreme Lord of all things – Love.
That it was an industrious order there is no doubt, for every day began with a reading of the divine scriptures and a little time was given to artistic pursuits, which were wholly encouraged in the monastery, for art is a labour of love and the creation of beautiful things was seen as the purest manifestation in which love was present; for let us not forget that here, the artistic soul of man was born! In the evenings, the monks attended mass where beautiful songs are sung in praise of love, and where each monk partakes of the sacrament: a rose petal with a single teardrop upon it, to symbolise the pleasure and the pain of love. Then the mass ends with the raising of the bronze cup of love, and with the words of Our Love’s Prayer spoken aloud:
‘Love, be thy word
In sorrow, pity and regret,
For now, tomorrow and always –
Praise the Holy name of Love!’
After a light meal the night is spent in individual contemplation, endlessly turning the pages of long forgotten books in their search to discover the lost language of love, and to find long forgotten answers to questions they cannot forget, such as: what is love? Who is love? Why is love? Where is love? And when is love?
Because the monastery is a closed order the monks are strictly confined within its walls, having nothing whatsoever to do with the nearby villages of Woe and Despair, who think the monks a little sinister in their mysterious ways. It was a grand and ornate monster of a building, surrounded on three sides by woodland, with its remaining side bordering the chilly waters of the Loveless Lake, which sweeps right across to the edge of Despair. The walls of the monastery were taller than the oak trees beyond them and legend says that they were built by one man who lay down and died, having completed the task. Turrets and towers rise above the rooftops of the monastery, displaying fine examples of stone carvings. On one particular tower can be seen the carved figures of a goblin and a gargoyle, that seem to be more functional, in a peculiar sort of way, than decorative, for they were placed so high upon the tower to ward off all hateful thoughts emanating from those who do not believe in love. But it was purely superstition on behalf of the monks.
Each night, the stone goblin and the stone gargoyle would talk by the light of the moon, for as we all know, goblins and gargoyles know nothing of sleep.
‘How the moon becomes you, proud Goblin’.
‘Gargoyle, may I remind you that pride is an ugly word, especially in your mouth, and I will not be associated with ugliness!’ said the goblin.
‘I just meant how noble you look beside the moon, my dear Goblin’.
‘Then that is well, for what mere moon could contain such magnificence as you or I? It is a perfect fright to behold when placed so carelessly beside such handsome fellows as ourselves’.
‘We are beautiful in our gruesomeness, aren’t we Goblin?’
‘Indeed we are, for I believe there is not one soul who can say they have gazed upon our astonishing, and may I say distinguished features and not wept with admiration, when we are met by moonlight’.
‘Then you don’t believe it is the moon that draws tears of admiration?’
‘Of course not Gargoyle, if it were so, then why would those vulgar children from the village throw stones at it and shout ‘’monster!’’?’
‘But they always miss and hit you Goblin’.
‘Ahh, the price one pays for beauty. It is a cruel game that nature plays Gargoyle, to place our beauty before the moon, to shield it from those less fair than ourselves’.
‘Then you don’t believe, perhaps, that our beauty is a little misunderstood, and for some strange reason, those stones are not meant for the moon, but for us?’
‘Ahh, I see you have a heart of stone, dear Gargoyle, a heart of stone...’
It was a long time before another word was said, as both the goblin and the gargoyle were so pre-occupied with their own importance, that each forgot about the others existence. Eventually, the silence was broken by the gargoyle:
‘Goblin, what is love?’
And the goblin replied with genuine surprise – ‘Such a big question in so little words Gargoyle’.
‘But can it be answered Goblin?’
‘You know, everything has an answer Gargoyle, no matter how complex the question’.
‘Then can you answer my question dear Goblin?’
‘I can try Gargoyle, I can certainly try. Let me give you my own theories on love. But there is no one view on the subject, for its character is so perplexing. You have seen for yourself how the monks strive towards this same answer’.
‘I have seen Goblin, yet I have not seen, for they get no closer to knowing for all their words, books and art’.
‘And they will get no closer than you nor I, for love cannot be summoned by a cup, and it cannot be found within the pages of a book, for its name is sorrow and it dwells in the heart. You see, love has many ways and it strikes without warning, or so I have heard, and can depart just as quickly as it strikes’.
‘Then it is not eternal like the stars and the moon our poets have written about?’
‘It lasts but a short breath, and comes in many names, with only one true purpose – to destroy; weaving its charms into the heart only to suck the pitiful heart dry’.
'But does it not bring with it happiness? I was led to believe that love is joyful, is it not so Goblin?’
‘It is true that love is beyond all riches, I’m sure, for it cannot be bought or sold’.
‘Then love has no value?’
‘On the contrary dear Gargoyle, for the price of love is a broken heart’.
‘I should rather an unbroken heart than a broken one, I think. But tell me, why do so many willingly fall into its arms if it causes so much pain?’
‘Because love cannot speak and the awfulness of love, with all its pain, gives those who practice it, the false hope that life is beautiful, and that their existence really does mean something to someone, which of course, it doesn’t. For no matter how deeply one loves, one still cannot become two! We are all as stars in a lonely universe, pretending there is more... but why are your thoughts turned to love, dear Gargoyle?’
‘I have entertained no other thought, dear Goblin’.
‘Then let it be said that love is a bad lot of mischief and in surrendering to its ways a whole heap of despair will follow. For the fact is, love is a delusion, it makes one blind to the truth. Oh initially there is much to be said for it, of course, but nothing is as it appears when one is a victim of love’s arrows’. And here the goblin looked at the gargoyle and they both laughed.
‘Yes’, said the gargoyle, ‘I think I understand a little now, you say love makes one blind to the truth, I think it must be so also, for is it not true, that love makes those who are its slaves, want to give themselves completely and wholly to the object of their love in return for another love and devotion, only to find that it’s not worth having?’
‘You astound me dear Goblin in your lucid wisdom, you are indeed an intellectual sir, and I quite agree. It is better to remain ignorant of such things, than to be a fool under the spell of love’.
‘Yes, indeed’ said gargoyle, ‘it’s better for all who are concerned to live a lie than to die a hopeless liar, for they little know how they tear themselves to pieces’.
‘Never said a truer word dear Gargoyle, for I myself find the cold waters of the lake below more inviting than the warm arms of love, for the result is just the same: death!’
‘Exactly dear Goblin, for death conquers all in the end. And don’t you remember those many long winters ago, how we watched that poor boy build himself a snow maiden in the woods, and how he returned every day to sit with her. I don’t think we had ever seen such devotion before had we Goblin?’
‘No never, it was astonishing’.
‘But how sad it was when he returned one day to find that she had gone, and oh how he searched the woods for her’.
‘Love is cruel Gargoyle’.
‘Indeed it is. And do you remember how the boy returned in the summer and fell in love with the little bluebell at the edge of the wood, and how every day he came and watered it with his tears?’
‘Ahh, how dearly he loved his little bluebell and oh how he cried when he returned to find she had gone. I had never seen so many tears Gargoyle’.
‘And I had never seen such a fragile heart broken in two like that before’.
‘How love ruins the pure and gentle in all of us is truly a crime dear Gargoyle, truly a crime...’
Just then, the monks began to appear below for their midnight praise to the nature of love.
‘Here they come again’, said the gargoyle.
‘What fools they are!’ said the goblin.
The Goblin and the Gargoyle