The Rokeby Venus

LIFE pours out images, the accidental
At once deleted when the purging mind
Detects their resonance as inessential:
Yet these may leave some fruitful trace behind.

Thus on this painted mirror is projected
The shield that rendered safe the Gorgon's head.
A travesty. -- Yet even as reflected
The young face seems to strike us, if not dead,

At least into an instantaneous winter
Which life and reason can do nothing with,
Freezing the watcher and the painting into
A single immobility of myth.

But underneath the pigments' changeless weather
The artist only wanted to devise
A posture that could show him, all together,
Face, shoulders, waist, delectable smooth thighs.

So with the faulty image as a start
We come at length to analyse and name
The luminous darkness in the depths of art:
The timelessness that holds us is the same

As that of the transcendent sexual glance
And art grows brilliant in the light it sheds,
Direct or not, on the inhabitants
Of our imaginations and our beds.

-26-

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Poems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • I - Persons and Places 1
  • Nantucket 3
  • Guided Missiles Experimental Range 4
  • To a Girl Who Dreamt About a Poem 12
  • The Landing in Deucalion 13
  • Adriatic 14
  • A Woman Poet 16
  • The Death of Hart Crane 19
  • Anthéor 20
  • II - Arts and Contexts 23
  • Poem for Julian Symons 25
  • The Rokeby Venus 26
  • Significant Form 27
  • A Painting by Paul Klee 28
  • Dédée D'Anvers 29
  • A Level of Abstraction 30
  • Reading Poetry After a Quarrel 33
  • The Psychokinetic Experiments of Professor Rhine 34
  • Epistemology of Poetry 35
  • Mating Season 36
  • Humanities 37
  • Another Klee 38
  • 'Head of a Faun' by Salvator Rosa 39
  • A Problem 40
  • III - War and After 43
  • Possilipo: 1944 45
  • Love and War 46
  • Poem in 1944 47
  • Caserta 48
  • A Minor Front 49
  • Arion 51
  • On the Danube 52
  • Lament for a Landing Craft 54
  • IV - The Balkans 55
  • Sunset Under Vitosha - For T. 57
  • Near Sliven 58
  • Lamartine at Philippopolis 59
  • Pliska 60
  • Aegean 61
  • Messemvria at Noon 62
  • By Rail Through Istria 64
  • In the Rhodope 66
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