Memorial for Corporal Bombardier Samuel Robinson by Paul B. Kincaid

Paul B. Kincaid

Memorial for Corporal Bombardier Samuel Robinson, 2014, Sandstone, Collection of Dennis and Alison Robinson, © Paul Kincaid

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My Cry is to All That Live

Commentary by

‘My cry is to all that live’ (v.4): but who are the living and what does it mean to have life? 

In the Ancient Near East, the gates of a city were massive, double entranced defensive constructions that were also the site of major transactions (May 2014: 88ff). Here the king offered audiences, dispensed justice and oversaw the preparations for, and outcomes of, war—thinking to demonstrate in this last respect how effective he was as the protector of his people. Despite the exterminatory capacities of modern warfare, political leaders in many parts of the world still pander to such a view; young men, whole populations, die as a result. Now, as always, such conflicts will be the result of the pride, arrogance and ‘perverted speech’ (v.13) against which Wisdom rails. 

The figure in Paul Kincaid’s Memorial to Samuel Robinson, a soldier killed at the age of 31 in Afghanistan, opens its arms in an imploring gesture: it is the gesture of all parents who have been thus bereaved as they wail for their dead sons. The outstretched stumps are also prophetic: wanton waste of life is what results from the lack of wisdom on the part of those who do not ‘govern rightly’ (v.16), those who, hating Wisdom, are in love with death. 

Wisdom’s words, however, concern more than wise and just governance. She repeatedly offers riches and wealth (vv.18, 21), yet this is not merely filling our treasuries or investment portfolios. The wealth she promises is life itself, life in the life of the Lord. It is a life that transcends the boundaries of time, there before the world was created and, by implication, there after it ends, although Wisdom does not explicitly say so. This terrifying mystery, the paradox of time and eternity, moves at the heart of Kincaid’s sculpture. At the top of the supporting trunk sit two ovular shapes, the eggs of fertility and regeneration, and at this horizontal they meet the downturned beak of the dove, the Holy Spirit, the intercessor-paraclete, the angel of life and death, whose wings and feathered tail, we now see, are the mutilated limbs and faceless head of grief. 

 

References

May, Natalie N. 2013. ‘City Gates and their Functions in Mesopotamia and Ancient Israel’, in The Fabric of Cities: Aspects of Urbanism, Urban Topography and Society in Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, ed. by Natalie N. May and Ulrike Steinert (Leiden/Boston: Brill), pp. 77–122