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Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 2 [3] (Summer 1974)

Farrell, Russell
Shaman dancer,   p. 12


Page 12


Acropolis, Chartres Cathedral, Versailles, the Taj
Mahal-many other examples of great architecture
come to mind. In some cases these buildings are
museums of the past; in others they are the human-
istic legacy of the past with validity today. Let us
examine two examples in greater detail.
   To the east of Royan and not far from the es-
tuary of the Gironde river in France stands the
Romanesque church of Talmont. High on a prom-
ontory overlooking the river, the restored chapel
remains a quietly elegant architectural statement.
Small, beautifully proportioned, simply decorated,
it suggests the restraint, symmetry, and balance of
French art. With modern techniques and equipment,
the original building has been restored and contin-
ues to serve the people. To know the history of the
church is to know part of the history of France.
The Crusades, the Knight Templars, pilgrims to
Spain, Arab invaders, German bombings-all form
part of its history. Unlike Gothic, the Romanesque
does not dwarf man; rather it hugs the ground and
hovers over him. There are many Romanesque
churches in the Aquitaine region of France. Not all
will be preserved, but some will be, as models of
the respect we owe the past.
  Another building probably even less known than
Talmont is the Ommiad Mosque in Damascus. Like
a medieval cathedral, it is surrounded by busy ba-
zaars and looks down the Street Called Straight.
In scale and size, it rivals Saint Peter in Rome and
Saint Paul in London. Its slim minarets suggest
the soaring verticality of Gothic. Beyond the spa-
cious courtyard, one enters vast spaces orchestrated
by domes, arches, columns, and walls covered with
arabesque patterns and elegant calligraphy. One
sinks into Persian rugs of subtle and intricate pat-
terns. Everywhere prevails a sense of peace, quiet,
and coolness. A steady flow of tourists to see the
tomb of Saint John the Baptist does not disturb
the faithful. A religious leader is advising fathers
about their responsibilities; another is teaching the
Koran to the young. Everywhere there are clusters
of men rhythmically bending in prayer. Built cen-
turies ago, the mosque remains today a religious
and educational center for many. It remains too a
great work of art, an architectural wonder of the
past preserved because it enriches the daily lives
of so many.
  At the end of the first program of the Civilisation
series, Sir Kenneth Clark tells of a community on
the fringe of the Roman Empire. Located in what is
now northeastern Greece, the community had awaited
and dreaded the Barbarian invasion. Bypassed by
the invading hordes, the residents were filled with
gloom and despair. They did not know what to do.
They had lost confidence in themselves and their
ability to help shape their own future. We also con-
front new threats and have lost our confidence in
ourselves and our future. Today faced by the grow-
ing threat of a society in which technology dictates
and man obeys, the humanist too can retreat into
an ivory tower, wallow in despair and name-calling,
and count words. Or he can reassert forcefully the
centrality of the humanities in any culture. He can
find ways of discussing the humanities with larger
numbers of people, mindful that literature, philoso-
phy, history deal with man, his values, his way of
confronting life with dignity, courage, and ideals.
He can make the values of the humanities a major
force in the democratic process which holds out the
promise of the good life to growing numbers. *
*1 would like to acknowledge gratefully the help and
support of Martha Harkin, Richard Lewis, and Jean
Zieman of the Midwestern Center in writing this
article.
Robert E. Najem is director of the National Humani-
ties Series: Midwestern Center, a program of the
National Endowment for the Humanities.
12
Shaman Dancer
       Statuette by Charles M. Russell
            By Russell Farrell
 Bent low in fanatic earnestness the old man rages,
 immobilized in dance.
 There are spirits to be exorcized,
 demons to be cowed,
 who have fastened on Indian flesh.
 They falter before the old man's faith.
 They slink grudgingly away.
 He dances.
 There is spareness,
 an old man flaunting witch-rags in gyration,
 lank muscles straining in battle with spirits.
 Skull-less scalp of the wolfskin spread over his back
 clasps the sphere of his own skull.
 Shaman's skull is wolf's skull.
 The skin has spirit of its own-
 sinister slits of sightless eyes see-
 it lives in the frenzied energy of the old man.
 They are brothers in demon's work.
 The spirit of wolf and shaman,
 the violent fire-frozen spirit
 of Blackfoot nation
 fulfills itself in pagan dance.
 You see rage diminished
 by sensitized hands of cowboy artist,
 and by me-
 how do I tell you
 how it was?
 Russell Ferrall is a poet from Shawano, a past-
 president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets,
 and an appointee to the Wisconsin Arts Board.


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