Jerome? You sure you want to go up there? Well, you’ve come this far by boat -- that couldn’t have been easy, and you do have a determined look about you. The road to the place where he lays his head, well, it’s two day’s journey from here. He gets the occasional letter, and I’ve had to deliver a few to him up there in the hills. But he’s kind of irascible, that one. I can’t imagine he has many friends. There’s that fellow down in North Africa, Augustine I think his name is, writes to him now and then with some question or other about the scriptures.
Jerome always wants paper, says I should bring more paper with me whenever I come, so he can keep translating his holy books. Who knows where he gets the money to pay for it? But he’s never owed me anything, always seems to have a few coins about him. Well, it’s not like he’d spend it on anything else, right? Never seen a woman up there. Doesn’t keep much to eat or drink. Where he lives, it’s a cave mostly. You could call it a hut, but it doesn’t even have a proper wall. The rain seeps in, the wind whistles through. But believe me, it hardly matters to him. He keeps a crucifix before him, and a skull, his memento mori he calls it. Once I found him talking to a lion, pretty foolish that, and I told him, I’m not coming any closer! But he whispered something in its ear and the thing padded off.
For a good part of the way it’s farmland, and that part’s not bad. You’ll go past a lake too, where there’s a mill. You might see a few carts, coming and going. Not far from there is a monastery where they’ll put you up for the night and help you get started again in the morning. But soon the road gives out and from there it’s just a path, Lonely, deserted. Keep your wits about you, friend -- some travelers were beaten and robbed up there recently.
You’ll come to a footbridge that crosses a stream and from there it’s about an hour. Eventually that path comes to an end, and that’s where you’ll find Jerome. He’ll probably be praying when you get there, he might not even notice that you’ve come…
Fred Guyette is a Reference Librarian at Erskine College in South Carolina. "In the place where I work," he says, "I walk past a print of "Jerome" by Patinir (1524) everyday. I often stop for a moment, and find something in the landscape that I haven't seen before. I try to imagine... Who would go and see Jerome? How would they get there?"
The Ekphrastic Review
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