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.