By Elizabeth Prata
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Part 2, there is a scene with Christiana in the House of the Interpreter. The Interpreter was showing Christiana, Mercy, and the boys some things happening in different rooms of the house.
He had them into another room, where were a hen and chickens, and bid them observe a while. So one of the chickens went to the trough to drink, and every time she drank she lifted up her head and her eyes towards heaven. See, said he, what this little chick doth, and learn of her to acknowledge whence your mercies come, by receiving them with looking up.
Of course the Interpreter is making reference to something by using a picture. Chickens actually need to drink by tipping their heads back.
Often times in late medieval literature, the author used emblems to convey an idea. An emblem is not a symbol, exactly.
According to Wikipedia, “although the words emblem and symbol are often used interchangeably, an emblem is a pattern that is used to represent an idea or an individual. An emblem crystallizes in concrete, visual terms some abstraction: a deity, a tribe or nation, or a virtue or vice.”
Just a paragraph above in this section of Pilgrim’s Progress, author John Bunyan had directly referred to an emblem. As the Interpreter showed Christiana a robin eating a spider, he proceeded to explain its meaning.
A few moments later in the scene, we come upon the chickens. It’s a vivid word picture. Not much needs to be explained about what we see here. The picture is good to ponder. Do we acknowledge from whence our mercies come? Are we thankful to the Father who gives all good gifts to His children?