Rise early

So, with the help of Ez Pound & others in mind, I try to zone in on John LaFarge & express the process of "seeing in paint".  To be in the paradise of an artist in Paradise.  The "lamb in a landscape" refers to a specific oil painting, "Paradise Valley" (1866-68) (see it here).  The poem opens ("His solitude" etc.) with a quote from Henry James, a friend of the painter who also visited Paradise with him.  There are some quotes also toward the end from Leonardo da Vinci (on the difficulties of "painting flesh").


His solitude was broken in November (mud-
brown earth-month, swirling toward shallow 
hollows of no-color, wavering in the deprived blue-
black depths of the bowl) by the chance arrival of

John LaFarge.  Half-known, insular, shady, 
indigenous, igneous, indirect sketch of trade-wind, 
somewhat Parisian, eccentric, kind, unkind,
a man of nuances, streams in the grass, heady

tempered instinct.  Shut your eyes and see.  Open 
your ineluctable, indelible nine-pin Santa
Marias, bowling toward a sudden infant – a
new content! Only... a lamb – alone, in a pale green

spring-cropped meadow – like a white upstart 
crowning a green map!  Paint, painfully, what you see. 
Painstaking, to capture the exact luminosity
of time of day – settled, gravitational, there, apart,

still. His four legs fanning, relaxed like a Pushkin 
on the rock-strewn sward of Paradise Valley, sloping 
so gradually (through medium transparency)
to the seablue with pendant cloudbank.  Begin

again, a new sheepfold.  Early, with birds, 
before sunrise: where the little navicella twirls 
solitary under shadows of Berkeley's
Seat.  Melancholy, gay, in the quiet: whispers

of cedars – motionless – high up – over salt hay. 
He sets up a little shack in the cleft cliffs
for storing his brushes, clay; goes off – stiffs 
the world each day for this.  Every day.

Every day his eyes hold it – the round whole,
the spiral – hold to it – bear down upon it, finger-
painting, until it comes back – figured – grounded 
in geometric shades – a squared bowl.

Paint what you see.  Seal it in clay, cuneiform,
a royal seal.  Seal it forever.  Dichten = condensare
Condensation in the air, the dense sea air =
rain, rain – precipitation – disinterred, disintegrated

storm of particulars – held in the hand until. 
Before your eyes with the tenderness of a scent. 
Vague blur, flight, pervading – lent
only a moment, gone.  Breath over soil,

the loam, fresh till.  Breath-wind of salt. 
Sealant for clay, mordant.
Everything pendant,
hovering.  Manifest, without fear – this colt

of cobalt Paradise.  Spotted with various stains 
or with a mixture of different kinds of stones,
you will be able to see in it a resemblance. . . 
adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains,

wide valleys and various groups of hills.
You will also be able to see divers combats
and figures in quick movement, and strange 
expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes. . .

What you see, meanwhile.  Brady figures
on a ground.  Bag of corpsegas sopping in foul brine.
LaFarge stiffs a world of stiffs – mine. 
Of the various colors

other than blue, that which at a great distance 
will resemble blue most closely will be that 
which is nearest black.  Out of his shovel hat, 
stovepipe.  Gun-gray metal.  Prince

of pain.  The shadow of flesh 
should be of burnt terra verde
By sea-bord, dog-merde. 
Fresh, invisible,

underfoot – breath of air, 
incongruous, ground of your shaping 
clay.  Composed compost, a ring 
unseen, hovering there, somewhere. . .

for indeed flesh is difficult to render;
this unctuous white, even without being pale 
or mat; this mixture of red and blue which 
imperceptibly perspires;. this is blood, and life,

which create the colorist's despair. . .
thousands of painters have died without knowing 
flesh; thousand others will die without feeling
it.  Pain is what you see.  Prepare your

clays.  Rise early, before sunrise
and civil wars.  LaFarge was there before, 
in Paradise.  Under Berkeley's Chair 
and the Hanging Rock – sophisticated, 

wise, scrupulous (for a while) 
and hungry.  And look – there lay 
the calm lamb, peaceful.  Eye 
perpendicular to the ray

of the painter's unselfconscious smile.
There, that particular day, only.
Once, in Paradise.  Gently
the horsegrass flickers in his hand (awhile).

Paradise Valley, near Newport, RI

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