The Temptation of Saint Anthony

Temptation of Saint Anthony


The first object which attracts his attention is a long blood-colored chrysalis, with a human head surrounded by rays, and the word Knouphus inscribed all around it in Greek characters. It is placed upon the shaft of a column, which is in turn supported by a broad pedestal. Hanging upon the walls of the chamber are medallions of polished iron representing the heads of various animals:—the head of an ox, the head of a lion, the head of an eagle, the head of a dog, and the head of an ass—again!

Shrill voices announce watermelons for sale, iced drinks, and cushions of woven grass to sit upon. From time to time there are bursts of applause. He hears the sound of footsteps above his head.

Suddenly a long roar is heard, mighty and cavernous as the roar of water in an aqueduct.

Temptation of Saint Anthony 2


And he sees, directly opposite, behind the bars of another compartment across the arena a lion walking to and fro, then a line of sandals, bare legs, and purple fringes. Beyond are the vast circling wreaths of people, in symmetrical tiers, enlarging as they rise, from the lowest which hems in the arena to the uppermost above which masts rise to sustain a hyacinth-colored awning, suspended in air by ropes. Stairways radiating toward the centre, divide these huge circles of stone at regular intervals. The benches disappear under a host of spectators—knights, senators, soldiers, plebeians, vestals, and courtesans—in woollen hoods, in silken maniples, in fallow-colored tunics; together with aigrettes of precious stones, plumes of feathers, the fasces of lictors; and all this swarming multitude deafens and stupefies Anthony with its shoutings, its tumultuous fury, as of an enormous boiling vat. In the middle of the arena, a vase of incense smokes upon an altar.


The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Temptation of St. Anthony, by Gustave Flaubert, Translated by Lafcadio Hearn


8 thoughts on “The Temptation of Saint Anthony

  1. I can see how the text relates to the first video of kaleidoscopic images and to your artwork but the Three Stooges film’s relationship to the whole has me mystified. I didn’t make it to the end, I should add.

    Was interested to see Lafcadio Hearn’s name associated with the translation as I only know of him as a writer about Japan and her culture.

      1. Hearn had a complicated life. His father was Irish and his mother was Greek. His full name was Patrick Lefcadio Kassimati Charles Hearn.

        In 1861 he was enrolled at the Institution Ecclésiastique, a Catholic church school in Yvetot, France. Hearn became fluent in French and would later translate into English the works of Guy de Maupassant.

        In 1869, he ended up in Cincinnati in a very dire situation, “I was dropped moneyless on the pavement of an American city to begin life.” Eventually, Hearn obtained a job as a reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, working for the newspaper from 1872 to 1875. Writing with creative freedom in one of Cincinnati’s largest circulating newspapers, he became known for his lurid accounts of local murders, developing a reputation as the paper’s premier sensational journalist, as well as the author of sensitive accounts of some of the disadvantaged people of Cincinnati. He also acquired the name The Raven, after Poe’s famous poem ( you can see a pattern developing here ).

        While in Cincinnati he translated stories from the French writer Théophile Gautier under the title One of Cleopatra’s Nights (1882) and Gustave Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony (published posthumously).

        He eventually went to New Orleans and pursued his journalism career . The vast number of his writings about New Orleans and its environs, many of which have not been collected, include the city’s Creole population and distinctive cuisine, the French Opera, and Louisiana Voodoo. Hearn wrote enthusiastically of New Orleans, but also wrote of the city’s decay, “a dead bride crowned with orange flowers”.[3]:p. 118

        Hearn’s writings for national publications, such as Harper’s Weekly and Scribner’s Magazine, helped create the popular reputation of New Orleans as a place with a distinct culture .

        Throughout his career he was fascinated by the exotic and often marginalized or often ignored cultures/social groups. His complex life, from birth to his later life in Japan would make a fascinating television series – a single movie could never cover it.

      2. Fascinating man. I had been under the impression he went from Ireland to Japan in one leap. Yes, a mini series would definitely do him justice. I wonder if anyone has ever approached a production company with a proposal?

    1. The Three Stooges are an acquired taste, some would say a “guy thing”. 😀 The last part of the court trial, with the recreation of the musical number as a means of establishing the sequence of events is hilarious. Note that they are trying to convict the dancer for the death of Kirk Robin. So this is a version of the old English folk song “Who killed Cock Robin ?”. Note that the final court evidence is provided by the parrot.

      Contextually I included this in the post for a number of reasons.

      a) Can not go wrong with Classic Stooges, ” Certainly, Whoop, Whoop, Whoop, Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk”. 😀

      b) Imagine someone from the distant past living an ascetic life being plagued by visions of cultural images and sounds from the future (our present Mass Media). “Shrill voices, announce watermelons for sale, iced drinks, and cushions of woven grass to sit upon. From time to time there are bursts of applause. He hears the sound of footsteps above his head.” Would they perceive a Heaven or a Hell ? Would they be tempted/moved by such sights ?

      c) The Stooges are part of the great folklore & literary tradition of the good-hearted Fool. The foolishness reveals the truth. For all their rough and tumble play, the Fool is not mean spirited or malicious. Though suffering from human frailties, the Fool will heroically rise up against injustice, doing their best to fight against superior forces with their madcap manner. In some instances such an individual can be said to be Holy Fool/Fool Saint…….

      “For sometimes he pretended to have a limp, sometimes he jumped around, sometimes he dragged himself along on his buttocks, sometimes he stuck out his foot for someone running and tripped him.”

      d) “The Temptations” of a Saint can also be called “Trials”.

      1. Yes, I got the ‘Who killed Cock Robin?! reference 😊.the Stooges have grown on me as I’ve gotten older. They really were brilliant for their genre of comedy. It is a shame they got ripped off so badly by the studios.

        Would love to explore the links you included but am struggling to write this. Sorry it took me so long to reply. Having EDS is a constant struggle.

      2. Yes, like many in the entertainment industry and the arts, they were taken advantage of/under appreciated for their craft & creativity.

        Take care of your self.

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