How we have wasted the years here, Father;
Grounded in the shadow of Talus, whom you envied
Too much, and murdered. We might be free
Ariadne had not received a precious ball of thread
With which to save her lover, yet you would rescue
Another even though we are trapped, and only
I’ve watched your shadows sleep against stone walls
While I ran our labyrinth, the sun above
Driving me as if I should call for my final repose
Do you remember the torrid wind maneuvering
Around the angles of our usless garrison,
Filling empty mouths with surrogate conversation?
Seldom spoke, you and I, roaming like languid souls
When the Minotaur’s threat was dead.
And yet I felt the lyre singing in my breast,
Crying out background noise for the construction
Of my cunningly wrought wings; my only means to rise
Above these steadfast fortress walls, lest I
To your silence. I know the gulls were wailing
When I robbed them, but they had flown too close:
I am not to blame for the necessity of my purpose.
I am as your own divided heart – double-sexed
And beating as a thief’s in the falling hours of twilight,
Awaiting my time to retire. Instead I take flight,
Drawing me as an opiate away from our
Etherized utopia, leaving you puzzled; compelling
You to follow me out above the open,
On The Menu
Article: Cupid and Psyche
Poetry: Ode to Psyche
The Artist: Lord Frederic Leighton
Biography of Lord Frederic Leighton
So here we are in the midst of the weekend. Not a large entry, but I think we have some outstanding poetry and art for relaxing with.
The Northern Monsoons have begun, and people are covering up. Gone are the shorts and t-shirts already. Summer and warm weather have vanished, just like that. Leaves are coming down in great masses…
Hope this finds you in a good place…
Cupid and Psyche
THERE was sometimes a certain King, inhabiting in the west parts, who had to wife a noble Dame, by whom he had three daughters exceeding fair: of whom the two elder were of such comely shape and beauty, as they did excel and pass all other women living; whereby they were thought, worthily, to deserve the praise and commendation of every person, and deservedly to be preferred above the residue of the common sort: yet the singular passing beauty and maidenly majesty of the youngest daughter, did so far surmount and excel them two, as no earthly creature could by any means sufficiently express or set out the same. By reason whereof, after the fame of this excellent maiden was spread abroad in every part of the city, the citizens and strangers there, being inwardly pricked by zealous affection to behold her famous person, came daily by thousands, hundreds, and scores, to her father’s palace; who as astonied with admiration of her incomparable beauty, did no less worship and reverence her, with crosses, signs and tokens, and other divine adorations, according to the custom of the old used rites and ceremonies, than if she were Lady Venus indeed. And shortly after the fame was spread into the next cities and bordering regions, that the Goddess whom the deep seas had borne and brought forth, and the froth of the spurging waves had nourished, to the intent to show her high magnificence and divine power on earth, to such as erst did honour and worship her, was now conversant amongst mortal men: or else that the earth and not the seas, by a new concourse and influence of the celestial planets, had budded and yielded forth a new Venus, endowed with the flower of virginity. So daily more and more increased this opinion, and now is her flying fame dispersed into the next Island, and well-nigh into every part and province of the whole world. Whereupon innumerable strangers resorted from far countries, adventuring themselves by long journeys on land, and by great perils on water, to behold this glorious Virgin. By occasion whereof such a contempt grew towards the Goddess Venus, that no person travelled unto the town Paphos, nor to the Isle Gindos, no, nor to Cythera, to worship her. Her ornaments were thrown out, her temples defaced, her pillows and quishions torn, her ceremonies neglected, her images and statues uncrowned, and her bare altars unswept, and foul with the ashes of old burned sacrifice. For why, every person honoured and worshipped this maiden instead of Venus; and in the morning at her first coming abroad, offered unto her oblations, provided banquets, called her by the name of Venus which was not Venus indeed, and in her honour presented flowers and garlands in most reverent fashion.
This sudden change and alteration of celestial honour did greatly inflame and kindle the mind of very Venus, who, unable to temper herself from indignation, shaking her head in raging sort, reasoned with herself in this manner: “Behold the original parent of all these elements, behold the Lady Venus renounced throughout all the world, with whom a mortal maiden is joined now partaker of honour; my name registered in the city of heaven, is profaned and made vile by terrene absurdities. If I shall suffer any mortal creature to present my majesty in earth, or that any shall hear about a false surmised shape of my person: then in vain did Paris that shepherd, in whose just judgment and confidence the great Jupiter had affiance, prefer me above the residue of the Goddesses for the excellence of my beauty. But she, whatsoever she be that hath usurped mine honour, shall shortly repent her of her unlawful estate.” And by and by she called her winged son Cupid, rash enough and hardy, who by his evil manners, contemning all public justice and law, armed with fire and arrows, running up and down in the nights from house to house, and corrupting the lawful marriages of every person, doth nothing but that which is evil; who although that he were of his own proper nature sufficient prone to work mischief, yet she egged him forward with words and brought him to the city, and showed him Psyche (for so the maiden was called), and having told the cause of her anger, not without great rage: “I pray thee (quoth she), my dear child, by motherly bond of love, by the sweet wounds of thy piercing darts, by the pleasant heat of thy fire, revenge the injury which is done to thy mother, by the false and disobedient beauty of a mortal maiden, and 1 pray thee without delay, that she may fall in love with the most miserable creature living, the most poor, the most crooked, and the most vile, that there may be none found in all the world of like wretchedness.” When she had spoken these words, she embraced and kissed her son, and took her voyage towards the sea.
When she was come to the sea, she began to call the Gods and Goddesses, who were obedient at her voice. For incontinent came the daughters of Nereus singing with tunes melodiously; Portunus with his bristled and rough beard; Salatia with her bosom full of fish; Palemon the driver of the Dolphin, the trumpeters of Triton leaping hither and thither, and blowing with heavenly noise: such was the company which followed Venus marching towards the ocean sea.
In the mean season Psyche with all her beauty received no fruit of her honour. She was wondered at of all, she was praised of all, but she perceived that no king nor prince, nor any of the inferior sort did repair to woo her. Every one marvelled at her divine beauty, as it were at some image well painted and set out. Her other two sisters which were nothing so greatly exalted by the people, were royally married to two kings; but the virgin Psyche sitting at home alone lamented her solitary life, and being disquieted both in mind and body, although she pleased all the world, yet hated she in herself her own beauty.
Whereupon the miserable father of this unfortunate daughter, suspecting that the Gods and powers of heaven did envy her estate, went into the town called Miletus to receive the oracle of Apollo, where he made his prayers and offered sacrifice, and desired a husband for his daughter: but Apollo though he were a Grecian and of the country of lonia, because of the foundation of Miletus, yet he gave answer in Latin yerse, the sense whereof was this –
Let Psyche’s corpse be clad in mourning weed
And set on rock of yonder hill aloft;
Her husband is no wight of human seed,
But serpent dire and fierce, as may be thought,
Who flies with wings above in starry skies,
And doth subdue each thing with fiery flight.
The Gods themselves and powers that seem so wise
With mighty love be subject to his might.
The rivers black and deadly floods of pain
And darkness eke as thrall to him remain.
The King sometimes happy, when he heard the prophecy of Apollo returned home sad and sorrowful, and declared to his wife the miserable and unhappy fate of his daughter; then they began to lament, and weep, and passed over many days in great sorrow. But now the time approached of Psyche’s marriage: preparation was made, black torches were lighted, the pleasant songs were turned into pitiful cries, the melody of Hymen was ended with deadly howling, the maiden that should be married did wipe her eyes with her veil; all the family and people of the city weeped likewise, and with great lamentation was ordained a remiss time for that day, but necessity compelled that Psyche should be brought to her appointed place according to the divine commandment.
And when the solemnity was ended, they went to bring this sorrowful spouse, not to her marriage, but to her final end and burial. And while the father and mother of Psyche did go forward, weeping and crying to do this enterprise, Psyche spake unto them in this sort: “Why torment you your unhappy age with continual dolour? why trouble you your spirits, which are more rather mine than yours? why soil ye your faces with tears, which I ought to adore and worship? why tear you my eyes in yours? why pull you your hoary hairs? why knock you your breasts for me? Now you see the reward of my excellent beauty: now, now, you perceive, but too late, the plague of envy. When the people did honour me and call me new Venus, then you should have wept, then you should have sorrowed, as though I had been then dead: For now I see and perceive that I am come to this misery by the only name of Venus, bring me, and as fortune hath appointed, place me on the top of the rock; I greatly desire to end my marriage, I greatly covet to see my husband. Why do I delay? why should I refuse him that is appointed to destroy all the world?”
Thus ended she her words, and thrust herself amongst the people that followed. Then they brought her to the appointed rock of the high hill, and set her thereon and so departed. The torches and lights were put out with the tears of the people; and every man gone home, the miserable parents well-nigh consumed with sorrow gave themselves to everlasting darkness.
Ode to Psyche
O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conchéd ear:
Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see
The wingéd Psyche with awakened eyes?
I wandered in a forest thoughtlessly,
And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair creatures, couchéd side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whispering roof
Of leaves and trembléd blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied:
‘Mid hushed, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white and budded Tyrian,
They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;
Their lips touched not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoinéd by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At ender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
The wingéd boy I knew;
But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!
O latest born and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!
Fairer than Phoebe’s sappire-regioned star,
Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
Nor altar heaped with flowers;
Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
From chain-swung censer teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.
O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retired
From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing, by mine own eyes inspired.
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours;
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
From swingéd censer teeming –
Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.
Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branchéd thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
Far, far around shall those dark-clustered trees
Fledge the wild-ridgéd mountains steep by steep;
And there by zephyrs, streams, and birdsm and bees,
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lulled to sleep;
And in the midst of this wide quietness
A rosy sanctuary will I dress
With the wreathed trellis of a working brain,
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e’er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!
Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)
Pre-Raphaelite Born in England, Leighton became the pivot of the English art establishment and the President of the Royal Academy. As a child he became absorbed in classical mythology and this inspired his idealised human figures. Considered the Olympian of Victorian classicism, he was particularly interested in Ancient Greece and had plaster copies of the Parthenon frieze set into his studio walls. His best works, including Flaming June, were created in the last 10 years of his life. Most of these major works were modelled by his muse, the actress Dorothy Dere.
The leading establishment figure in Victorian art, was the first artist to be en-nobled. He was President of the Royal Academy for almost two decades, & his presidency was a time of unrivalled prestige, & success. Leighton carried out his duties with panache, & scrupulous fairness. He was a classical painter producing highly finished pictures, & was also an excellent portraitist (see his portrait of Sir Richard Burton the explorer & orientalist). Leighton was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan figure, much of his early life having been spent in Germany & Italy. The Leighton family was financially independent, his grandfather having been Doctor to the Russian Royal Family. Leightons father was also a Doctor, but retired in middle-life due to the onset of deafness. Leighton enrolled in the Berlin School of art in his early teens, having lied about his age. The following year he enrolled in an Art Academy in Florence. The Nazarenes & Italian Renaissance painters were considerable early influences. His cosmopolitan early life exposed him to a wider range of influences than any other English painter of his day. Many people now believe that his decorative pictures of the 1870s represent his best work, though his large classical pictures remain extremely impressive.
In 1855 Leighton sent his vast canvass Cimabues Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence, to the Royal Academy Exhibition, where it was a sensation, creating his reputation as an artist overnight. This vast painting, done in Rome was the product of two years work. It is over 17 feet long! The subject concerns Cimabues Rucellai Madonna being taken in procession from the painters house to a large church in 13th century Florence. The painting was meticulously planned by Leighton, & a great number of preparatory sketches were used. The whole vast picture is wonderfully painted, & in its style points towards the mature large works of the painter. It is, however, very static, also an enduring feature of Leightons work. The picture was greatly admired by Prince Albert, & as result was bought by Queen Victoria. In the immediate following years, Leighton was unable to repeat this success, but as the 1860s progressed grew steadily more successful. He moved to London in 1859, was elected in Associate of the Academy in 1864, a full Academician in 1868, & PRA in 1878.
Leighton was a lifelong bachelor. In later life his favourite model was Ada Alice Pullen, known as Dorothy Dene. George Bernard Shaw knew them both, & it is likely that they were the models for Professor Higgins & Eliza Doolitlle in Pygmalion. Throughout his life he was energetic, & hardworking, & his inability to take life more easily when in his sixties accelerated his death. It is a curious fact that Leighton was only Baron Leighton of Stretton on the last day of his life. His funeral was at St Pauls Cathedral.