We are Creatures of the Margin

In the central castle, in the Empyrean, the Emperor sits enthroned.  In the lower heavens live the angelic knighthood.  We, on Earth, are “outside the city wall”. How, we ask, can the Empyrean be the centre when it is not only on, but outside, the circumference of the whole universe?  Because, as Dante was to say more clearly than anyone else, the spatial order is the opposite of the spiritual, and the material cosmos mirrors, hence reverses the reality, so that what is truly the rim seems to us the hub.

The exquisite touch which denies our species even the tragic dignity of being outcasts by making us merely suburban, was added by Alanus.  In other respects he reproduces Chalcidius’ outlook .  We watch “the spectacle of the celestial dance” from its outskirts.  Our highest privilege is to imitate it in such measure as we can.  The Medieval Model is, if we may use the word, anthropoperipheral.  We are creatures of the Margin.


An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature


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