Friday, 16 January 2015

'all the darknesses are dared'

I shall be off soon to the National Gallery to see the great Late Rembrandt exhibition.
Here is an ekphrastic poem by Elizabeth Jennings that explores the extraordinary power of the late self-portraits...

Rembrandt’s Late Self-Portraits
You are confronted with yourself. Each year
The pouches fill, the skin is uglier.
You give it all unflinchingly. You stare
Into yourself, beyond. Your brush’s care
Runs with self-knowledge. Here
Is a humility at one with craft.
There is no arrogance. Pride is apart
From this self-scrutiny. You make light drift
The way you want. Your face is bruised and hurt
But there is still love left.
Love of the art and others. To the last
Experiment went on. You stared beyond
Your age, the times. You also plucked the past
And tempered it. Self-portraits understand,
And old age can divest,
With truthful changes, us of fear of death.
Look, a new anguish. There, the bloated nose,
The sadness and the joy. To paint’s to breathe,
And all the darknesses are dared. You chose
What each must reckon with.


  1. I saw the exhibition on Monday. Stupendous.

    Very crowded though. For once, it didn't matter.

  2. And a brilliant poem too.