Saturday, March 12, 2016

Two Writers

It has been a long while of no painting at all, and I miss delving daily into the Art Spirit, attempting expression, trying to learn the basic skills of value and temperature and composition and line.  I didn't want to stop; in fact, it feels as if a part of me has been imprisoned and is doing hard time, marking the days on the wall of the cell.  Life has intruded and work demands my attention in a way it hasn't in several years, and I am surprised to find that my brain has switched into a gear that does not allow for Art.  All hands are on deck for other kinds of thinking, analytical and exacting and fixed, and there is no impulse to create, nothing but the drone of numbers.

Finally I had to insist that I take an hour, a brief respite in which to squeeze out some paints and quickly scribble out something, anything, just to free those cramped muscles for some exercise.  Those very few of you who actually wander into this blog to see what I may have been dabbling at will know that I enjoy trying for passing resemblance in small portraits, and here are two more dead writers, with a small scrap of their work to accompany:

Ma pauvre muse, hélas! qu'as-tu donc ce matin?
Tes yeux creux sont peuplés de visions nocturnes,
Et je vois tour à tour réfléchis sur ton teint
La folie et l'horreur, froides et taciturnes.
Le succube verdâtre et le rose lutin
T'ont-ils versé la peur et l'amour de leurs urnes?
Le cauchemar, d'un poing despotique et mutin
T'a-t-il noyée au fond d'un fabuleux Minturnes?
Je voudrais qu'exhalant l'odeur de la santé
Ton sein de pensers forts fût toujours fréquenté,
Et que ton sang chrétien coulât à flots rythmiques,
Comme les sons nombreux des syllabes antiques,
Où règnent tour à tour le père des chansons,
Phoebus, et le grand Pan, le seigneur des moissons.

My poor Muse, alas! what ails you today?
Your hollow eyes are full of nocturnal visions;
I see in turn reflected on your face
Horror and madness, cold and taciturn.
Have the green succubus, the rosy elf,
Poured out for you love and fear from their urns?
Has the hand of Nightmare, cruel and despotic,
Plunged you to the bottom of some weird Minturnae?
I would that your bosom, fragrant with health,
Were constantly the dwelling place of noble thoughts,
And that your Christian blood would flow in rhythmic waves
Like the measured sounds of ancient verse,
Over which reign in turn the father of all songs, 
Phoebus, and the great Pan, lord of harvest.

(from les Fleurs du Mals)

Then one afternoon - the rain had stopped but the clouds had not broken and it was turning cold again - it was about dusk and we were galloping along an old road in the river bottom; it was dim and narrow under the trees and we were galloping when my mule shied and swerved and stopped, and I just did catch myself before I went over his head; and then we saw the thing hanging over the middle of the road from a limb.  It was an old Negro man, with a rim of white hair and with his bare toes pointing down and his head on one side like he was thinking about something quiet.
(from The Unvanquished)

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