Wednesday 2 December 2020

Lars Gustafsson: 'Albert Dürers Rhinocerus 1515'


Albert Dürer’s Rhinoceros 1515


Dürer’s rhinoceros, you strange beast who so gravely

fill the picture space with your solemn body.


Hide in heavy shields like some knight and grave figure

off on an Adventure. What damsel will you


find, you the sole unicorn that actually existed?

One can see that you have come from afar


and do not belong to Franconia’s dark valleys.


What would not be needed to penetrate

this body and reach right in to your heart?


A silver bullet perhaps? To capture you

in some patiently plaited net cannot have been easy,


no less than to keep you alive as long as this,

and all this only to capture you a second time,


in the terrible net of the picture,

and this time for ever.


What were you thinking? How still did you stand? What fear

can you have felt in your far too armour-plated heart?


The maestro turned you into a knight,

larger, more melancholy, more armour-plated


than any of the others in his pictures.

Perhaps more innocent as well.


You are The Beast That Stands Stock-Still

in the midst of the cold current and take in


with your tiny but trustingly alert eyes

every image that light reflections make in the water.


His own knight. His own dragon.


Ready for everything.

1 comment:

John Irons said...

Nach Christus gepurt. 1513. Jar. Adi. j. May. Hat man dem großmechtigen Kunig von Portug[all] Emanuell gen Lysabona pracht auß India / ein sollich lebiendig Thier. Das nennen sie Rhinocerus. Das ist hye mit aller seiner gestalt Abcondertfet. Es hat ein farb wie ein gespreckelte Schildtkrot. Vnd ist von dicken Schalen vberlegt fast fest. Vnd ist in der groeß als der Helfandt Aber nydertrechtiger von paynen / vnd fast werhafftig. Es hat ein scharff starck Horn vorn auff der nasen / Das begyndt es albeg zu wetzen wo es bey staynen ist. Das dosig Thier ist des Helffantz todt feyndt. Der Helffandt furcht es fast vbel / dann wo es Jn ankumbt / so laufft Jm das Thier mit dem kopff zwischen dye fordern payn / vnd reyst den Helfffandt vnden am pauch auff vnd er wuorgt Jn / des mag er sich nit erwern. Dann das Thier ist also gewapent / das Jm der Helffandt nichts kan thuon. Sie sagen auch das der Rhynocerus Schmell / Fraydig vnd Listig sey.

After the birth of Christ. 1513. Anno Domini. 1 May. Brought to the mighty King of Portugal Emanuel to Lisbon this magnificence from India, such a live creature. This they call Rhinoceros, here depicted in its entirety. It has the colour of a speckled tortoise. And is covered with thick plates, extremely firmly. And has the size of an elephant, but with shorter legs and extremely well protected. It has a sharp, strong horn on its nose. It always starts to whet this when in the vicinity of stones. The creature here is the deadly enemy of the elephant. The elephant is utterly terrified of it for when confronted by it, the beast charges and rips open the elephant’s belly, thereby causing it to choke. The elephant is unable to protect itself against it. For the beast is so armoured that the elephant is powerless. It is also said that the rhinoceros is quick, audacious and cunning.