Oberon, A Midsummer Night's Dream
That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm'd: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew'd thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
Fetch me this herb; and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.
In Eastern Christian belief, the icon is not merely a depiction of a holy figure; it transmits the light of God, captivating and otherworldly.
I have always been drawn to Christian religious imagery. I remember from a young age being taken by depictions of martyrdom and divinity, rendered in deep, striking hues, illuminated and golden; crimson blood on pale bodies, soft, angelic faces, scenes of chaos lit by a single beam, the gentle gaze of Virgin nursing the child Christ, her gentle tears with the dead body of her son in her arms. I was baptised and grew up around religion, and for a long time tried to reconcile the powerful reaction I felt to representations with a genuine need for faith in my life, or belief in a higher power. But that need just never came. I've realised that I don't believe in God; I believe in the strength and compassion of the people around me.
I'm still not sure exactly what I feel when I see these images, whether it be sympathy, artistic admiration or simply aesthetic satisfaction. But now I'm sure it's not the light of God.