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Tree of Meekness, in 'The Desert of Religion'

Tree of Meekness, in 'The Desert of Religion'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1425

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Faustina B VI, vol. II

Item number: f.6r

Length: 25.5

Width: 20

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Allegory, or extensive use of symbolism in a moralising story, has a long tradition in Christian literature. 'The Desert of Religion', a poem in a northern English dialect, uses the symbol of a forest to expound the daily spiritual battle of virtue and vice. This copy has tinted half-page drawings of devotional figures with verses inscribed around them. Facing them, diagrams in the shape of trees bear the names of virtues and vices on their trunks and leaves, giving visual form to the poem's allegory. The book was made for a religious community, the location of which is now unknown. A tree diagram shows good acts growing from the 'root of meekness.' Each oversized, bright green leaf bears a nugget of advice on achieving good inscribed on a long panel. The trees vary in appearance in order to express the lessons inscribed upon them. This robust tree gives visual form to the image of goodness read in the verses.

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