Thursday, 3 September 2009

Saint George - 10. Facing the music

Nothing in this world remains stationary, nor so did standing arrangements. The sheer horror that on first encounter had struck people dumb, steadily subsided each time and in consequence, silence was observed ever less. What had been feared, that the monster would baulk at so many staring eyes and turn back in fright, it didn't happen. On the contrary, it seemed rather to like it. At times, while proceeding, it raised its head to the gallery as if to say, 'stop hiding, will you. I do still see you!' and at once distorted its terrible jaws into something that might pass for a grin.
The public took this for a challenge and it wasn't long ere the boldest - youngsters, of course - dared from their hiding places and as they stood watching openly it didn't in the least seem to bother the monster. Also, when shouted at by a foolhardy lad, it only raised its grinning head.
'He knows we are here, already. We need not hide from him anymore!' became the new watchword and those in authority weren't slow to act on the consequences. Mandatory silence was abolished and instead of the covert gallery, they built open tiers rising to considerable height. Watching on the sly was over. Overnight, visibility became a matter of national importance and every tall building with a view, either public or private, was adapted accordingly.
Following the authorities, which from now on were levying entrance fees on their tiers, the owners of well situated premises started to rent their rooftops to spectators and were doing nicely by it. From this instant, financial interests were attached to the monster. The cost of the sheep became a side issue.

Now, one would think the eagerness of watching an ever repeating event might dwindle with time, but nothing was more beside the truth. Though all it came to was ought but the eating of a sheep, still, in the totality of events there was a mounting degree of suspense. Every next time the spectacle was enriched, at least by expectation itself. As soon as opinion prevailed that the beast seemed to appreciate the presence of a large audience, it received a boisterous welcome on arrival and still today, no one can tell whether it be hooting or cheering.
From this, someone got the idea to grace the offering fest - for this aspect gained in prominence ever more strongly - with music. A small orchestra was quickly composed and now, it so happened that the beast synchronized its appearance with the starting of the music as if listening for the tune of the orchestra rather than for the rumbling of its stomach. In this way, its arrival could be timed at will and of course, this proved a major boon to the whole enterprise.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2009
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

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