Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19, 2012

Jacques le Moyne de Morgues was a young man when it all began . . . far too young to experience the sort of heartache he would endure in the years to come. He was an artist, nurturing aesthetic sensibilities. A New World full of unsurpassed beauty must have seemed like heaven to a man talented with a paintbrush. Having been born somewhere around 1533 and likely having been exposed to Calvinism --- and thus to persecution from detractors --- his entire life, the idea of La Floride as a Protestant refuge must have been beautiful indeed.

Soon after the French fleet arrived in Florida, le Moyne got to work. It must have been an amazing feeling to finally step off the roiling death-trap of a ship and into the tropical wilderness. Le Moyne trotted off with his paints and canvases and found a spot where his view might remain unhindered. In those few days of freedom, he must have felt peace that few can explain. Le Moyne’s paintbrush was quite prolific. He immortalized rites and rituals of the local Timucua Indians and drew maps whenever a new route was established. It was what he had been born to do.

All good things must come to an end, le Moyne soon discovered. Yet it is doubtful that he ever imagined how bloody the end could be. In his narrative, he states that after an Atlantic hurricane had ravaged Fort Caroline, he attempted to get some sleep early in the morning of September 20, 1565. No sooner had he begun to relax when a troop of Spanish conquistadors broke through the fort and began slaughtering the men who stumbled out of their beds to find the cause of the commotion. If le Moyne had not previously believed in guardian angels, he surely did now, for he stated that he was directly in view of the soldiers and yet for some reason they did him no harm.

In these days, if anyone sees their companions killed or witnesses some other horrid tragedy, help and counsel is forthcoming. Yet in the bloody, no-holds-barred days of the sixteenth century, it was every man for himself. Mental anguish was the order of the day. Horrified, le Moyne saw his friends dying one by one. By the grace of God he managed to escape. The boat he took back to Europe was flimsy and barely survived the journey. It was a tragic ending to a foolhardy dream. Le Moyne was a survivor, but he most assuredly suffered survivor’s guilt to the end of his days.

Jacques le Moyne de Morgues' sketch of the voyage

Luckily, after returning to France and later moving to England, Jacques le Moyne de Morgues managed to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. He returned to painting and became well-known at court. As we often think of artists as sensitive and caring people, I wonder how his soul must have been tormented by the sights he saw and the insecurity of the times in which he lived.

To le Moyne, the idea of “religious freedom” was just a beautiful fantasy in an ugly world. In his day and age there was no way he could have contemplated such a thing . . . Huguenots were prime targets for death and destruction. His short-lived exploration of such a utopia had ended horrifically, furthering the idea that there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide . . .

. . . except in the arms of Christ.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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