Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Two prose poems by the Dutch writer René Huigen



Your Reverence, what are eight stivers for a confession compared with
the price a penitent must pay for his shameful acts? Envy is what I feel
towards the man I married and and who to the abhorrence of the Lord has
made images of the Great Designer’s hands. I curse his pride and affliction,
the lover of rest and shadow, that conceited fool, from whom he
learned to be a world citizen and to belong to everyone. Nemesis
he drew on a cloud of moderation above Chiusa, but vengeance
was mine in Emmerich, where, tormented by thunderstorms I tore up three
of his portraits. Jealous am I of all those that he has immortalised,
towards the nameless just as much as his friends. They belong to the intimate
world of his hands, whose proportions reflect the musical intervals
of the harmony of the spheres. Brought to life in so masterly
a manner with velvet touch, they comprise mountains, valleys
and rivers, all herbs, all wood, all quartz and pebble stones, and everything
that has lines, veins and furrows. But it is the selfsame mountains,
valleys and rivers that now divide us. Since the time he sketched my dear
Agnes and later, with coarser strokes, had depicted me as a farmer’s wife
he has never touched me again. I am fallowland to him.
He portrayed himself as an effeminate coxcomb in a low shirt trimmed
with gold. In his fingers, as a token of his power, in both elevated
and down-to-earth fashion, to jeer at all that he loves, a prickly thistle,
with a purple crown, with which to crown the Son that he could not
give me, the Eryngium, also known as man’s faith. Amen


I have dared look the world straight in the eye, a fur collar
and veiled look have little changed that, for he is only vain
to those who do not fear God. And besides: no matter who I drew –
Lucas van Leyden in silverpoint or Nicholas, the jeweller, or little
Bernard of Brussels, Florent Nepotis, the organist of Lady Margaret
and secretary Peter, the angelic face of Johann or my dear
dear Agnes in charcoal – I portrayed them with equal devotion,
as I did you, my dear Saint Hieronymus. Man has always been
central to me, his complete, round form at the middle point of His
magnificent edifice – the firmament. Thus did the Ancients classify
their temples, public buildings and other structures according to the
construction of the human body, and no limbs exist that do not
refer to a constellation, a star, an intelligence or a divine name.
I realise that for many people this can be a leaden burden,
that only few are able to bear. Therefore, on Melancholia, I placed
compasses in the hands of a Genius who connects all that
surrounds us with the unmoved core of love and justice. His gaze
he has turned aside, composedly deferred looking, no longer vain
in the eyes of Him whom he fears, but become a man in his
own right. Amongst the symbols of the ancient science the tools
of such finite art lie idle – a plane, a hammer, a saw,
lost at his feet. Now that grace is no longer poured down on him
from above, that which gleams on the horizon makes him feel dejected,
and, above a nimbus of sunlight, he sees, on a spot that it cannot
illuminate, in black and white, a rainbow rent the welkin, he thinks thus
to weigh up the world, but feels only the immense weight of his head!

No comments: