Of this is the judge judge and the night does not end (Blood Meridian)

In that sleep and in sleeps to follow the judge did visit. Who would come other? A great shambling mutant, silent and serene. Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin and whatever science he might bring to bear upon the dusty primal matter blowing down out of the millennia will discover no trace of any ultimate atavistic egg by which to reckon his commencing. In the white and empty room he stood in his bespoken suit with his hat in his hand and he peered down with his small and lashless pig’s eyes wherein this child just sixteen years on earth could read whole bodies of decisions not accountable to the courts of men and he saw his own name which nowhere else could he have ciphered out at all logged into the records as a thing already accomplished, a traveler known in jurisdictions existing only in the claims of certain pensioners or on old dated maps.

In his delirium he ransacked the linens of his pallet for arms but there were none. The judge smiled. The fool was no longer there but another man and this other man he could never see in his entirety but he seemed an artisan and a worker in metal. The judge enshadowed him where he crouched at his trade but he was a coldforger who worked with hammer and die, perhaps under some indictment and an exile from men’s fires, hammering out like his own conjectural destiny all through the night of his becoming some coinage for a dawn that would not be. It is this false moneyer with his gravers and burins who seeks favor with the judge and he is at contriving from cold slag brute in the crucible a face that will pass, an image that will render this residual specie current in the markets where men barter. Of this is the judge judge and the night does not end.

From Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian. 

4 thoughts on “Of this is the judge judge and the night does not end (Blood Meridian)”

  1. “This passage contains all the elements of du Bois-Reymond’s later argument.The only difference between it and his mature philosophy was that in 1848 he still thought he could reconcile choice and constraint. That changed in the winter of 1861, when he began to assert that there was no room for caprice in ‘the world of Epicurus,’ and that either one could look on history as Voltaire did, as an absurd fable convenue, or one could accept the harsh logic of Calvin’s election of grace, which preserved the idea of providence at the cost of condemning apostates to be burned.”

    Emil du Bois-Reymond (MIT, 2013), 283.


  2. WOW. Stunning passage.

    I’m trying to come up with bullet points about this passage, but I’m failing to do so right now.

    I like how the preciousness of the judge is undercut at certain points in the book. At the end the kid tells the judge that he “ain’t nothing.” I can’t remember the character’s name, but after the Glanton gang wakes up to find a disemboweled apache child, I think it’s Brown or Toadvine who threatens to shoot the judge, but Brown/Toadvine is unable to pull the trigger. There’s this magnetic pull with the judge. People have a hard time leaving him, or stopping him. The unspoken allegiance between Glanton and the judge is interesting as well.


    1. It’s Toadvine who threatens to shoot the judge…and Brown and the judge dislike each other from their first meeting. At the end of the book, Brown passes the kid and the expriest in the desert; they tell him Holden’s up ahead and the implicit idea is that Brown is going to go kill the judge. And then of course, Brown and Toadvine end up hanged.


  3. The judge is Judge Holden in this passage. The fool that is “no longer there”, is the wild imbecile who accompanied Holden on a leash earlier in the book. In the Kid’s trance he sees himself and other men with warring proclivities now in the place of the wild imbecile. They are in service of Judge Holden as false moneyers who seek “favor with the judge” by doing what other great men of war have done in history, which is to put their faces on coins. One of the most famous men of war-history to do this is Caesar of Rome. To more fully grasp the meaning of Blood Meridian, one must compare it to the Bible. In the Bible Jesus is the Judge of men-of-God. In contrast to Judge Holden who is the judge of men-of-war. In scripture, detractors of Christ seek to entrap him by having him violate lese majeste laws. They scheme to have him disparage Caesar by asking him where his fealty lies while handing a coin with Caesar’s face for inspection. In this particular instance; however, Jesus deftly avoids the trap by making the following judgement, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Judge Holden renders coins with mens’ faces up unto the God of War so that men may become Gods themselves, fulfilling his role as the Judge of war. Jesus Christ renders works of men up unto the God of Abraham so that they may become servants of God, fulfilling his role as the judge of moral righteousness.


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