“And the little wheel runs on faith…”

If you’ve ever owned a hamster, then you know how easily these creatures succumb to ontological and epistemological crises, especially when they look in a mirror. In this case, the mirror is Walters 71.170, a medieval artifact that also repays human scrutiny.

A HAMSTER CONSIDERS AN IVORY MIRROR COVER FROM MEDIEVAL FRANCE

Is this the wheel rabbanim learn
In serifed murmurs to discern
How beasts on every fourthwise spoke
Revolve by fours, but do not turn?

Is this the wheel the brahmin broke
When, himmel-eyed, she dared invoke
Her patient, wisdomed groom, then beamed
To bow her head for Roman stroke?

Is this the wheel a consul schemed
To wreathe with kaisers crudely dreamed
Who whirled their luckless lots away,
Yet leave one lady long esteemed?

Is this wheel the suras say
Was made of silver, not of clay,
And spelt like ash across the sky
To lift a grazing flock to pray?

Four beasts about the border fly;
Within, the aging never die.
For wheels in wheels I long to burn,
But which, the beast, the blest, am I?

(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)

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