Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Great Venus Victrix, 1914
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (France 1841-1919)
Bronze Height: 1.80 m
The Sixth Color of the Afternoon
--Not long from the sea, Venus
Steps forward to her rock,
In a garden of rainbow flowers.
These elements: a broad-based
Body -- statue aslant
But balanced -- in one hand holding
A half-furled wave, her robe, its rough
Profusion widening,
The golden apple she had won
From Paris fecund in her palm.
--At that moment of change
To the fourth color of the afternoon
The apple sun had blazed, the garden
Flowers brimmed with light. The old man,
Hand tied to its wand, pointed to faults
Which faded with each gesture, as at creation
Adam was thought and formed.
--All art
Lies in that hair-headdress, crowning the naked
Woman, rippling, classic, curling
Back to the knot, one scroll escaping;
The bird-wing mouth, inward eye secure.
--At the sixth color of the afternoon,
We range about her as a mirror --
Her symbol -- and she exists inside our eyes,
Morning star at evening. To the old man
She meant: "This is as it should be. I am here."

----Written for the presentation of the first casting of Renoir's "Venus" to the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.


Barbara Howes, American (1915-1996)
A Private Signal: poems new and selected
Middletown, Conn., 1977, Washington University Press.


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