Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Religious Compositions, 15th century

Piero della Francesca
Crucifixion panel from the St Augustine Polyptych
ca. 1460
tempera on panel
Frick Collection, New York

The Dead

Our business is with fruit and leaf and bloom.
Though they speak with more than just the season's tongue 
the colors that they blaze from the dark loam
all have something of the jealous tang

of the dead about them. What do we know of their part
in this, those secret brothers of the harrow,
invigorators of the soil  oiling the dirt
so liberally with their essence, their black marrow?

But here's the question: are the flower and fruit
held out to us in love, or merely thrust
up at us, their masters, like a fist?

Or are they the lords, asleep amongst the roots,
granting to us in their great largesse
this hybrid thing  part brute force, part mute kiss?

 Don Paterson after Rilke

Pietro Perugino
Pazzi Crucifixion
Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi

Gerard David
ca. 1475
oil on panel
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Filippino Lippi
Crucifixion of Peter and Disputation with Simon Magus
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

Jean Fouquet
ca. 1475
oil on panel
Parish Church, Nouans le Fontaines

Jean Malouel
ca. 1400-1410
oil on panel

Risen Christ
ca. 1490
oil on panel
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

The Sarcophagi in Rome

Old tombs, you never leave me long.
Your heavy lids still guard their dreams:
the murmurs of the ancient stream
roll on like half-remembered songs.

Though some have woken, their black eyes
as wide as shepherd's: all deadnettle
and stillness, filling with the petals
of new-hatched, bone-white butterflies.

I praise all things wrested from doubt.
Those mouths alive with their new voice
having learnt the truth of silence.

So do we know it, or do we not?
This question is the hesitance
that tolls in every human face.

 Don Paterson after Rilke

Andrea Mantegna
St Sebastian
ca. 1480
tempera on canvas

Sandro Botticelli
ca. 1485
tempera on panel
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fra Carnevale
ca. 1445-50
tempera & oil on panel
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Jacques Daret
ca. 1434-35
oil on panel
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Andrea del Verrocchio
Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St Donatus
ca. 1475-83
oil on panel
Duomo, Pistoia

Filippino Lippi
Madonna and Child with St Anthony of Padua and a Friar
ca. 1480
tempera on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Johann Koerbecke
Assumption of the Virgin
ca. 1457
oil on panel
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid


Is there really such a thing as time-the-destroyer?
When will it shatter the tower on the rock?
When will that low demiurge overpower
this heart, that runs only to heaven's clock?

Are we really so fragile, so easily broken
as fate wants to prove us, or have us believe?
Is the infinite life that our childhood awakened
torn up by the roots, and then thrown on the grave?

Look how the ghosts of impermanence slide
straight through the mind of the open receiver
again and again, like smoke through a tree.

Among the Eternal  wherein we reside
as that which we truly are, the urgent, the strivers 
we still count; as their means, as their Earth-agency.

 Don Paterson, from Orpheus : a version of Rilke's Die Sonette an Orpheus (Faber and Faber, 2006)