Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Rembrandt and Dick Davis Again

 Here is another poem from Dick Davis's Seeing the World. In the collection, this one, naturally enough, follows 'Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son'. In it, the dying Rembrandt looks back over his life and faces his approaching death. It is, I think, a wonderfully poised and moving poem, especially if you love Rembrandt's paintings (and who could fail to?)...

      Rembrandt Dying

      What have I known?
   The darkness I perceived
Beyond each face invades my mind,
      I have been shown
   The night of the bereaved 
   In which all men are blind.

      But I recall
   Old faces marred, their eyes
Outstaring that obscurity –
      Awaiting all
   Life yet may ask with wise,
   Unbroken dignity;

      And the young Jew
   Who was my Christ, in whose
As-if-omniscient, worn face
     Compassion grew – 
   Where patience could peruse
   The suffering of a race;

      And Hendrickje
   Who taught me tenderness,
So that the proof of all technique
      Was to convey
   Love's truths – light on a dress,
   Or on her turning cheek.

     All these are past – 
   The darkness wells in me;
Though grief and ignorance increase
      And must outlast
   My will, yet memory
   Is thankful for lost peace.

            [Rembrandt Self-Portrait, 1657. National Gallery of Scotland]

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