EN3246   Literature and the Other Arts: Poetry and Painting

Rajeev S. Patke

Image/Poem pairs

(as in the Benton book: reproduced below, strictly for class use only, since the book is out of print.)



Gwen John image (click on image for larger size file) and related poem: Benton, 54-55.



Gwen John's Cat

I may never have anything to express except this desire for a more interior life.

If you are a woman, try hard not to write about Gwen John. (ROSEMARY HILL)

Edgar Quinet (named after the boulevard
in Montparnasse) must have got fed up of
posing in so many glum girls' laps.
Dressed in slate-blues, greys or mauves,
they all fade into walls as if they had no choice.
Such a gloom of sitters came and sat and went
(woman in a necklace; woman with a jug, a book;
young woman holding black cat; herself).
I like to think that Edgar Quinet bristled,
scratched, brushed past and exited -
maybe came back with a nature morte
(a bird, a mouse, a dead leaf at least)
to liven up the canvases a bit.
If so, his gifts were fruitless.
Drawn into interiors as if to represent
the artist's lot (and she forever waltzing out
into the whirl of Montparnasse by night)
he looks as if he never could have settled
either this side of the door or that,
his eyes forever focused on an exit back.

Sylvia Kantaris


Bonnard image (click on image for larger size file) and related poem, Benton: 10.


The Bowl of Milk

In a moment the little black cat will be gone,
Th bowl of milk set down somewhere
Outside the picture-space. Alone
Upstairs, Marthe will undress, prepare
Th ritual water, soap herself, and lie
Becoming innocent. The cat will drop
Asleep in the sun, the milk bowl dry.
Bonnard will paint sunlight on th table top.

John Loveday


Ben Shahn image (click on image for larger size file) and related poem, Benton: 37.


Father and Child:Ben Shahn

Times change:
no longer the virgin
ample-lapped; the child fallen
in it from an adjacent heaven.

Heaven is far off, back
of the bombed town. The infant
is human, embraced dearly
like a human mistake.

The father presses, his face set,
towards a displaced future.
The mother has salvaged her mother's
portrait and carries it upside down.

R.S. Thomas



Max Ernst image (click on image for larger size file) and related poem, Benton: 65-66.


The Virgin Punishing the Infant

He spoke early. Not the goo goo goo of infancy,
but I am God. Joseph kept away, carving himself
a silent Pinocchio out in the workshed. He said
he was a simple man and hadn't dreamed of this.

She grew anxious in that second year, would stare
at stars saying Gabriel. Gabriel. Your guess.
The village gossiped in the sun. The child was solitary,
his wide and solemn eyes could fill your head.

After he walked, our normal children crawled. Our wives
were first resentful, then superior. Mary's child
would bring her sorrow ... better far to have a son
who gurgled nonsense at your breast. Googoo. Googoo.

But I am God. We heard him through the window,
heard the smacks which made us peep. What we saw
was commonplace enough. But afterwards, we wondered
why the infant did not cry, why the Mother did.

Carol Ann Duffy



Reverse Ekhphrasis:  Benton: 24-25.


La Belle Dame Sans Merci, 1820

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,  
    Alone and palely loitering;
The sedge is wither'd from the lake,
    And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
    So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
    And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
    With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheek a fading rose
    Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads
    Full beautiful, a faery's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
    And her eyes were wild.

I set her on my pacing steed,
    And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
    A faery's song.

I made a garland for her head,
    And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
    And made sweet moan.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
    And honey wild, and manna dew;
And sure in language strange she said,
    I love thee true.

She took me to her elfin grot,
    And there she gaz'd and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes--
    So kiss'd to sleep.

And there we slumber'd on the moss,
    And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dream'd
    On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
    Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry'd--"La belle Dame sans merci
    Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starv'd lips in the gloam
    With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
    On the cold hill side.

And this is why I sojourn here
    Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
    And no birds sing.


Reverse Ekphrasis: Benton, 27-28.



Ekphrasis: Benton, 31.




Ekphrasis: Benton, 31.





Last Updated 11 January 2012