Treasure Island

gershon hepner

(5 3 38 / leipzig)

aren't the heavens far too far?

Aren’t the heavens far too far from earth
for us to pay them very much attention?
Should not earth’s accommodating girth,
despite its gross distension and pretension,
inspire us, enabling us to find
in it the groundwork for uplifting thoughts
more elevated than what comes to mind
when contemplating heaven’s distant courts?
Our soil has got a density with which
the heaven’s can’t compete, and we can soar
far higher if we make the earth our niche
instead of an imaginary shore.
Although a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
it is the earth’s girth man should try to clasp.

Inspired by a line in the Israeli writer Yizhar Smilansky’s book “Preliminaries”:

And then. Then there were the hills. Not the body of the hills and their mass but the line of sky tracing the edge of their spine with that clam, necessary motion. Separating the density of the soil of the hills from the emptiness of the sky, which immediately started soaring upwards, far away, perhaps too far.

Also alluding to Robert Brownings’s lines from “Andrea del Sarto, the Perfect Painter”:

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

Andrea del Sarto, like Fra Lippo Lippi, lived and worked in Florence, albeit a little later than Lippo, and was later appointed court painter by Francis, the King of France. Under the nagging influence of his wife Lucrezia, to whom he speaks in this poem, he left the French court for Italy but promised to return; he took with him some money that Francis had given him to purchase Italian artworks for the court, and also the money advanced to him for his own commissioned paintings. However, he spent all of the money on a house for himself and his wife in Italy and never returned to France. This poem finds Andrea in the house he has bought with the stolen money, as he thinks back on his career and laments that his worldly concerns have kept him from fulfilling his promise as an artist. As he and Lucrezia sit at their window, he talks to her of his relative successes and failures: although Michelangelo (here, Michel Agnolo) and Raphael (Rafael) enjoyed higher inspiration and better patronage-and lacked nagging wives-he is the better craftsman, and he points out to her the problems with the Great Masters' work. But while Andrea succeeds technically where they do not (thus his title 'The Faultless Painter') , their work ultimately triumphs for its emotional and spiritual power. Andrea now finds himself in the twilight of his career and his marriage: Lucrezia's 'Cousin'-probably her lover-keeps whistling for her to come; she apparently either owes the man gambling debts or has promised to cover his own. The fond, weary Andrea gives her some money, promises to sell paintings to pay off her debts, and sends her away to her 'Cousin, ' while he remains to sit quietly and dream of painting in Heaven.


Submitted: Saturday, December 13, 2008
Edited: Saturday, December 13, 2008

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