The Haywain


Hieronymous Bosch was a cheery sort. In this triptych, we see the fallen angels expelled from heaven, Adam and Eve cast out of Eden and the human race, indulging in its manifold follies and foibles, being merrily led towards Hell and eternal punishment. And Christ looks down over the oblivious, obstinate throng.

This book tells us that in  the 16th century, ‘to drive the haywain’ was to ridicule or mock a person. Hay was also a symbol of the worthlessness of earthly gain and this is a painting, above all, about Avarice, the deadly sin that leads to other sins and offences against God, such as are pictured in the actions of the figures around the cart. So Avarice is a deceiver – the folly of chasing worldly riches is that this pursuit leads to Hell:“Not only have worldly goods and honours no intrinsic value, they are also employed by Satan and his army as bait to lure men to destruction.”

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