My first post featuring the Cherub hasn’t proved to be one of my most popular pieces. Possibly too whimsical, or just a bit weird. But the search never really ends and when I found him again twice in as many weeks it seemed that I couldn’t avoid laying him before you again in one of these short posts for Christmas.
This is the usual idea of a cherub:
As drawn by Bernard Partridge for a volume of poetry by Austin Dobson. A chubby little chap with wings and a toy bow and arrow, doing Cupid’s work.
My cherub looked like this:
The portrait of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s spymaster is not for me the point of this engraving. The amoral child clutching his caduceus and his demon dog grasping a key are the real subject matter.
I looked for further occurences and found this:
The same sinister boy sitting underneath the bland features of Sir John Pym up to no good at all with his flashes of lightning and his new friend the predatory goose. He is about to make a magical gesture of some sort I’m sure.
And as I say I’ve found him again so I can bring together all four of his appearances in this post.
There he is, skulking beneath Ann of Cleeves (a Chelsea resident – the Flanders mare as Henry VIII called her), his hand on the crown while he looks to see who is watching him. His insect wings are like those of Partridge’s cherub but instead of helping him with Love’s work they give him the power of flight so he can make off with the crown.
There is a final metamorphosis to see.
This is possibly the most sinister verision yet. His lower limbs have become tentacles and he has acquired a tail, along with a trident for further mischief. He reaches for another crown as if about to imitate the Deep Ones and snatch it away, heading for the abyssal depths.
I’ve referenced Lovecraft, but we could also be reminded of Robert Aickman and the inhabitants of the dark church in his story the Cicerones. You could imagine the engravings as actual sculptures hiding in the dark corners of an ecclesiastically dubious place of worship awaiting the unwary traveller.
But I’ve read a lot of that sort of thing and now my mind makes me lean in that direction. No doubt there are perfectly rational explanations for all of the Cherub’s manifestations.
Further Christmas reading:
M R James – Lost hearts / Casting the runes (to name but two, in Collected Ghost Stories and many others)
H P Lovecraft – The shadow over Innsmouth (in several Lovecraft collections)
Robert Aickman – The Cicerones (currently in print in the collection The Unsettled Dust. Also made into an unsettling short film by Jeremy Dyson starring Mark Gatiss – find it on YouTube)
Clive Barker – Anything from the Books of Blood (still the most startling debut in horror fiction)
Clark Ashton Smith – Anything you can find really.
To re-inforce the Christmas spirit, these short posts will be accompanied by seasonal greetings from a number of soft toys. Today with HP Lovecraft in mind Happy Christmas from the Great Cthulhu and the less well known Great Old One, Little Cthulhu.
See you tomorrow.