Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Embowered birds

At the library for a couple of hours as my home computer has become infected; downloading combatants in the empty house. I hope all goes well. I cannot do without that connection.

Spent the morning reading poetry in free-associative fashion, the Brownings, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert; Tennyson; and Byron. Came across the word "embowered" in reference to artists who are at a remove from society, isolated in their own bower or tower. Tennyson's Lady of Shalott is embowered, not by choice but because she is cursed. (Four grey walls and four grey towers,/Overlook a space of flowers,/And the silent isle embowers/The Lady of Shalott.) Then I discovered a slew of pre-Raphaelite paintings of the Lady of Shalott - she seems to have been quite the obsessive subject for Victorian artists. The paintings typically depict a comely woman who falls into lonely reverie as she becomes roused by the notion of lovers on the other side of her window.

Then I started thinking about Madonna and Child paintings, such as Botticelli's Madonna del Mare, and DaVinci's Madonna with Carnation. Both those Madonnas are "embowered" in a cloistered room - I suppose what saves them is the child.

Men can be embowered too, such as in Byron's The Prisoner of Chillon. I love this little bit, which absurdly put me in mind of Snoopy and Woodstock.

A light broke in upon my brain,--
It was the carol of a bird;
It ceased, and then it came again,
The sweetest song ear ever heard,
And mine was thankful till my eyes
Ran over with the glad surprise,
And they that moment could not see
I was the mate of misery;
But then by dull degrees came back
My senses to their wonted track;
I saw the dungeon walls and floor
Close slowly round me as before,
I saw the glimmer of the sun
Creeping as it before had done,
But through the crevice where it came
That bird was perch'd as fond and tame,
And tamer than upon the tree;
A lovely bird, with azure wings,
And song that said a thousand things,
And seem'd to say them all for me!
I never saw its like before,
I ne'er shall see its likeness more:
It seem'd like me to want a mate,
But was not half so desolate,
And it was come to love me when
None lived to love me so again,
And cheering from my dungeon's brink,
Had brought me back to feel and think.
I know not if it late were free,
Or broke its cage to perch on mine,
But knowing well captivity,
Sweet bird! I could not wish for thine!
Or if it were, in winged guise,
A visitant from Paradise;

James McNeil Whistler, Woman in White
Emily Dickinson's white dress
John William Waterhouse, I'm Half-Sick of the Shadows
Andrew Millais, Mariana
Sidney Harold Meteyard, Lady of Shalott
Sandro Botticelli, Madonna del Mare
Leonardo daVinci, Madonna of the Carnation

No comments:

Post a Comment