Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Devil Wears Red...and Really Well I might Add

Who cannot but relish Meryl Streep's steely portrayal of the ‘holds-sway-over-life-and-death’ fashionista Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada?! If in that film she spoke in that lock-jawed (yet always whispering), aristocratic kind of way, in others she has donned Polish, Irish, Irish-American, Upper Midwest, Danish, Bronx, Australian, British, Italian, Android, and French accents (The Many Voices of Meryl Streep). Her mannerisms, I would argue, are just as iconic. And so Streep has come to occupy a peculiar place in popular culture: The New York Times even dubbed her performances as “that unmistakable Streepness.” If in France, actresses (think Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Audrey Tautou and the departed Brigitte Bardot and Sarah Bernhardt) are regarded “as something between natural resources and national treasures,” here in the US actresses “tend to be idols, commodities, or fetish objects.” Streep, though, may just have ascended beyond the altar.

In any case, in these economic times, it is doubtful the Devil can afford Prada, but no doubt the Devil continues to wear red.

I’ve seen it.


In my garden.


Crocosmia Lucifer to be exact.

With its sword like leaves and outrageously flamboyant, upward-facing funnel shaped flowers populating tall, arching spikes, Crocosmia Lucifer is the perfect dose of waggery to the mid-to late summer garden.

As a reward for “getting things done” yesterday, I visited my favorite garden center and, well, bought myself a little happy (a.k.a. gluttony and lust). Crocosmia Lucifer caught my eye, as the devilish often does. Three were in bloom; I bought the fourth, which has several spikes of as-yet unopened flowers. The anticipation (a.k.a. greed) is killing me.

Poor Crocosmia (derived from the Greek krokos, or saffron, and osme, or odor), identified with capital vices and the Falling Star (him? it?) self. Yet here is where the association gets tricky. Lucifer is a derivative of the Latin lucern ferre, meaning light-bearer, which was the name the Romans gave to Venus, Morning Star, herald of light.

But how did Lucifer--a Latin cognate--get attached to a Hebrew text?

That Lucifer is attached to the concept of the Devil is where Christianity employed a bit of analogical reading. In Isaiah 12:14, the text reads:

"How are you fallen from heaven,
O Shining One, son of Dawn!
How are you felled to earth,
O vanquisher of nations!"

This is but one of 8 verses of a "song of scorn over the king of Babylon"--a rather clear indication that this has nothing to do with the Devil. "Son of Dawn" is a translation of the Hebrew Helal, son of Sherar--the very Babylonian king who persecuted Jews and whose downfall this song of scorn celebrates. The name is translated as Day Star, or Son of the Dawn. That the Christians wanted to tell a different kind of story, the story of a particular angel who fell from heaven, used the Latin Lucifer...and now we know, as Paul Harvey used to say on the radio, "the rest of the story."

Funny: I can think of another fallen star, that of a certain, now-former New York Congressman.

No comments:

Post a Comment