Perfect object

All objects are perfect, as Zbigniew Herbert explained to me, whenas I was growing up. (Czezlaw Milosz translated.) They “cannot, unfortunately, be reproached with anything.” He had never seen a chair shift from one foot to another, a bed rear up, or a table (even when tired) dare to bend its knees. He suspected that they did (or rather didn’t do) this from “pedagogical considerations,” and were in fact reproving us. For we living subjects are a notoriously unstable lot.

This would be the beginning of my defence of corruption, growing again as I read (not for the first time) the biography of Lucrezia Borgia, by Ferdinand Gregorovius. I am at the point in her young life when she discovers who her father really is, and what opportunities in life this will present to her and to her siblings. For there are advantages to being a Borgia, especially when your father is the pope. (And one of my favourite popes: Alexander VI, a generous and competent administrator, who usefully divided the New World between Portugal and Spain. Though not the best example to later popes, on the point of personal morals.)

Even today, many children try to make the best of what they have to work with; and neglect their Latin and Greek studies, as Lucrezia is accused of doing. (Nevertheless, she was plenty smart.)

A femme fatale is the opposite of an object, as I would say in defiance of the old-school feminists. They shift from one foot to the other, bend their knees, and occasionally rear up. They do this because they are alive; and few are saints after all. But saints, too, are not objects, except when made into statuettes (which is not a criticism of art).

Byzantine and Mediaeval history are brimful of characters who were, to a superlative degree, not objects, and to understand them, centuries after each has performed his death, is a task beyond our reach. But as it is Sunday, I thought I should put my book aside. This is another thing an object would not do.