21 Aug 2013

The Maid of Ghent

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Attributed to Agnes van den Bossche, The Maid of Ghent painted battle standard, circa 1481-1482.

The standard’s symbol of a maiden comes a 1388 poem by Bouden or Baudouin van der Loore, De maghet of Ghend (The Maiden of Ghent), a poem of 240-odd verses, which allegorically describes a war between the city of Ghent and Lodewijk van Maele, Count of Flanders fought between 1379 and 1385.

In a dream, the poet sees a beautiful arbor, located in the middle of a wilderness where two rivers come together: an allusion to the city of Ghent. In the arbor is seated a graceful lady, resplendent in black fur and wearing on her right arm fine gems spelling out the letters: G, H, E, N and D. The maiden is accompanied by a silver lion with golden crown and necklace — the defender of the city. In a clear voice, the maiden sings a heavenly song. But the maiden is soon threatened by a gang of soldiers who covet her purity and her freedom. Across the river appears the leader of the army who turns out to be none other than the father of the beleaguered virgin, i.e., the Count of Flanders. On his banner, he bears a black lion rampant on gold. The poet now warns the lady that they are surprised and surrounded by many enemies. She replies that she has ​​much good company which can come to the rescue if necessary. And when the poet looks around he sees emerging out of the mists from the North East, Christ, St. Jacob, St. Bavo, St. Macharius, and from the East came Saint George and Saint John, and from all directions, all the saints to whom were dedicated in Ghent churches from their exact geographical directions. With the protection of this heavenly host, the maiden has nothing to fear. Still, she hopes for a peaceful end to the conflict with her ​​father. The poet, now awakened, closes with a short prayer to God and the Virgin and all the saints to save the maiden and reconcile her with her ​​father.

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