‘Ut pictura poesis’ (Horace)


Poussin 1594 to 1665

a brief biography will do

to put you in the picture

the little boy from Normandy made good in Rome

a classic case

poverty recognition fame

what matter to us here today

are the paintings not the man


spectators at his Bacchanals

or those witnessing the Sacraments

will sense the reasoned observation

read with intellect as well as eye


the colours on the canvases

the shadowed folds of drapery

& figures geometrically arranged onstage

conform to rules of order & decorum

mode evoking mood in short

that much is apparent at a glance


the shifting world outside the frame

the fluid freedom of amorphous paint

fixed in final finite form

by one mind’s mastery over material


his friezes froze the telling moment

in the naked sensual dance

while yet conveying vital warmth & motion

so the pagan in us joyfully responds


his ‘Triumphs’ all deserve that title

being acknowledged masterpieces of their kind

as are the contemplative Christian pictures

the seven sacred visions which balance the profane

we have a second series painted later

complemental variants synoptic like the gospels


DoveAnnunciation Poussin.jpg (26807 bytes)


with hindsight we can recognize

formative influences on his style

how in turn he was precursor

the cognoscenti know full well


the lines he worked along have been laid bare

a glossy catalogue with commentary

translates the old ineffable

concisely into modern English

rendering the numinous and transcendental plain

mythological forgotten names

that sound so strange to unversed ears

therein are sensibly explained


of course allowing only minutes of our time

to antique scenes which have outlasted centuries

seems scant regard for his life-work

the long hard labour disciplined in love

but clichés claiming immortality for art

fail to mention Poussin’s ‘Penance’ was destroyed by fire

those that remain on show deteriorate with age

& chemical changes alter what we see


abstracted by the future we must rush

we’ve been commissioned to compose tomorrow’s chaos

as photographic black & white tableaux

secretly everyone is an artist at heart


before we leave the gallery

we buy some postcard reproductions

to send to friends who missed the exhibition

we’ll tell them it was quite remarkable

outside this winter day draws in

behind our backs the great god Pan is laughing still







(National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, December 1981)


Poussin-Self.jpg (36480 bytes)


13baccha.jpg (170372 bytes)

(Bacchanal before a Statue of Pan)


19triump.jpg (190923 bytes)

(The Triumph of Pan)


22dance.jpg (143422 bytes)

(A Dance to the Music of Time)


10poet.jpg (125163 bytes)

(The Inspiration of the Poet)


11david.jpg (123289 bytes)

(The Triumph of David)



07echo_n.jpg (154018 bytes)

(Echo & Narcissus)



23arcadi.jpg (87428 bytes)

Et in Arcadia ego


Botticelli: Birth of Venus

Botticelli: Venus & Mars

Da Vinci


Some Modern Art

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