Connoisseur        

 
All day besieged by beauty, he grew tired.

Perfections surged about him, courtiers round

King Louis: ‘Marly, Sire?’ and he would give

The same response: ‘Je verrai,’ for admired

Though each deserved to be, yet none could sound

The Haydn note, the Mozart recitative,

Since what he sought was more than just the good -

Obliques by which the Parthenon still stood.

 

The Sistine ceiling triumphed through its faults.

The Neo-Platonists beheld those youths

As naked elements or states of soul.

The Catholics hoped that in such once-starred vaults

Angels attended on celestial truths.

The critics sadly saw a sculptural goal

Attained by high perspective, meant for stone.

In drawing, it is line; in paint, the tone.

 

From art to art he moved, as might the rich

Or rulers or the tourist multitude.

Now theatre, now the ballet, now the two

Entwined in opera, with that music which

Seemed somehow, when he listened, just too loud.

And there were coins acutely died, the few

From Greece preserved; the Georgian furniture;

And Safed rugs with roses that endure.

 

He thought of gardens, water-meadows, lakes,

Of alleys cut through oaks, of crossways where

Fountains rise, and in the distance, white

Columns and a portico that takes

The eye up tiers of marble, stair on stair,

To where the aviaries are, great nets of light.

He thought too much, he thought, and wished he could

Forget his thinking, wander in a wood.

 

But no, for he was prey to beauty, and

He found that he who hated numbers must

Bestow his mind on mathematics now.

As Polyclitus said: ‘To understand

Sculpture, look to measurement, for just

As with the body fractions will allow

Beauty to come to rest, so is it here.’

Then added: ‘Some disorder should appear.’

 

They feared, the Greeks, though not the Florentines,

The fierce excess of pride perfection brings,

And always made a single small mistake

To save themselves from hubris, and just as lines

Will waver slightly when the skater swings

Too far from centre and his movement makes

Arcs bend, yet no one sees, so swift his grace;

Just so the Greeks would sculpt an oval face.

 

Ah, Beauty, Beauty, Beauty, all desire

To see and hold that Beauty, never lost,

And lesser beauties lead to greater ones,

So Plato taught, and none can fault him there,

Save those left senseless by their senses, most

Sad, for no created beauty stuns

Them ever, gives its message to their hearts.

They miss the Artist hidden in His arts.

 

Perfections made him much dissatisfied.

The palace bosquets ended when they should

Go on, and music from the violins

Faded too soon. The bronze Apollo tried

To give ideas of Heaven, but it could

Not soar above its sculptor, whose iron sins

Held him to earth - No, none of these availed,

While pointing where One Beauty never failed.

 

August 14th,1974