(for J.D. and Shona)
He must be read
in a snow-filled spinney
beside an ice-thick stream
where all is cold, empty and still,
no twig trembling in its winter sheath.
Then will the cliffs become
his bristling deserted ramparts
with spectres massing, threatening,
ancient bells will shake to sound within you,
his fever possess you
with the bitter beauty of a god-riven
trailing shreds of the forsaken
the mysteries of dissolution,
a savage view of a mad earth
filled with a passion you can never retain,
dare not interpret.
Katherine L. Gordon
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Christ en CroixJe remarquais toujours ce grand Jésus de plâtre
Dressé comme un pardon au seuil du vieux couvent,
Échafaud solennel à geste noir, devant
Lequel je me courbais, saintement idolâtre.
Or, l'autre soir, à l'heure où le cri-cri folâtre,
Par les prés assombris, le regard bleu rêvant,
Récitant Eloa, les cheveux dans le vent,
Comme il sied à l'Éphèbe esthétique et bellâtre,
J'aperçus, adjoignant des débris de parois,
Un gigantesque amas de lourde vieille croix
Et de plâtre écroulé parmi les primevères;
Et je restai là, morne, avec les yeux pensifs,
Et j'entendais en moi des marteaux convulsifs
Renfoncer les clous noirs des intimes Calvaires!
Translation by Konrad Bongard
The gypsum Jesus always stalled me in my steps
Like a curse at the old convent door;
Crouching meekly, I bend to exalt an idol
Whose forgiveness I do not implore.
Not long ago, at the crickets' hour, I roamed dim
Meadows in a restful reverie
Reciting 'Eloa', with my hair worn by the wind
And no audience save for the trees.
But now, as I lie with knees bent beneath Christ's scaffold,
I see his crumbling mortar cross
With its plaster buried in the roses, and am saddened -
For if I listen close enough, I can almost hear
The sound of coal-black nails being wrung in
To his wrists, the savage piercing of Longinus' spear.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On 2016-01-08, at 9:34 AM, Katherine Gordon wrote:
Beautifully laid out Chris. Just to see that face! He speaks to me
so powerfully. Do you think his family thought he was gay? A very
Victorian crime it seems. I long to comfort him, he certainly tears open
Love to you and the Chase, Katherine.
. . . .
I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know anything about him, & I had to Google to learn the barebones of his story from Wikipedia. Your poem perfectly captures the mad sadness of his life and art.
thanks again for a haunting poem,
Chris ... & Chase wrrfffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (still napping)