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Tag: “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix”

“Monet Refuses the Operation” – Lisel Mueller‏

Claude Monet - "Rouen Cathedral, Magic in Blue"

Rouen Cathedral, Magic in Blue (1894)

Claude Monet


up until now I’ve presented dramatic
, but only to music, on my
, referring to Robert Browning as
their originator, but not ever producing
any representative spoken work, never
mind any of, themselves, the poet’s
seminal masterpieces, My Last
“, “Fra Lippo Lippi“, “How
They Brought the Good News from
Ghent to Aix
for instance, which,
granted, can be daunting now in their
breadth and erudition, the Romantics
didn’t have television, they had to
entertain themselves

here’s a poem for our time, written
in 1996, only two decades ago, gasp,
Lisel Mueller imagines herself Claude
, an easier concept, after all,
who’s been to Ghent or Aix, why
would anyone want to run there,
whereas Monet‘s another story, who
doesn’t today know Monet

Monet was blind at the end of his life,
one learns from the website where I
got this
, a blog with plenty of breadth
and already considerable erudition, he
received corrective surgery to be able
to continue with his work

there was, however, a limit

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller


psst: thanks Brain for this beautiful poem

“good news from Ghent”‏

the only thing that rang in my ears ever
about Ghent until contemplating the van
Eyck Altarpiece was Robert Browning‘s
poem about it, “How They Brought the
Good News from Ghent to Aix
“, the
idea, like in his “Pheidippides“, of
dying valiantly for a cause had mightily
impressed me

that cause is incidental, of course,
dependent on the beliefs and situation
of that particular stalwart person

it might make you unforgettable, that
unfettered and irevocable devotion, as
it did for me, for instance, the heroes
of these two poems, such an exalted
mission is an ambition for lots of folks,
very much for a young boy, especially,
such as I was when I read these

Rose Valland rose indeed to the occasion
when it came to saving priceless art before
the onslaught of ruthless Naziism, wherein
the very van Eyck Altarpiece, and also even
Raphael‘s incandescent “Sistine Madonna“,
to my utter horror, from another, and opposite,
corner of Europe, Dresden, could’ve been
forever lost

but the “good news” was in kind returned
to Ghent, eventually, in this fascinating
documentary, “Hitler’s Museum: The Secret
History of Art Theft During World War II”,
part 1, part 2, just click, from its hiding place
in Altaussee, a mountain fortress in Austria

The Adoration of the Lamb” now resides in
its rightful Ghent, even more, after so fraught
a trek, a wonder

also returned to Dresden, incidentally, the
Sistine Madonna“, that city’s own defining

it is to be noted that a task force had been
set up by no less than the Americans to
save the purloined art of Europe in that
however fraught time

this hasn’t been at all the case in their
recent military forays, what do you gain,
I ask, if you lose your ideals, what exactly
do you conquer


psst: Browning‘s “news”, if you’re wondering,
was of the “Pacification of Ghent“, 1576