It Happened In Amsterdam. - Poem by Michael Walker
I noticed straight away the Canal Ring
as I walked by the tree-lined Pinsengracht,
the canal bordered by old and new buildings
from warehouses to homes with ornate facades
which rise almost straight up from the water.
I took a canalbus along the Amstel, the Leidersgracht,
crossed bridges in my mind and over the Reguliersgracht,
impressed by the arch stone construction of seven bridges
before strolling through the red light district,
but I did not venture inside those neon nightclubs.
I ventured into the Van Gogh Museum outside the Canal Ring
into a world of glowing yellow and blue paintings
by the Dutch post-impressionist artist of bright colours.
I liked ' Starry Night', 'Cafe Terrace at Night',
and 'The Sower at Arles' and a self portrait.
I ventured into the nearby Rijksmuseum in which
'Winter Landscape With Skaters' made me feel cold
on a hot summer's day and 'Feeding the Hungry' empathy.
On a stairway I chanced on Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch',
a group portrait of the city's militia about to set out
to inspect and guard the streets: it has thirty-four characters,
with one man beating a drum and another cleaning his rifle.
'The Night Watch' is dominated by the captain and lieutenant
in the right foreground, clad in light in the chiaroscuro
on a very large canvas, which suggests imminent movement.
All the characters play a part in the ready-to-leave moment.
- 18/19 August,2018.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
In 'The Night Watch', the captain seems ready to step out of the painting to talk to you a minute, before leaving the scene. Rembrandt has captured what later French photographers called 'the decisive moment'. Not entirely static, because the characters are about to move away.
In the poem I refer to these paintings:
'The Sower at Arles',1888. Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) .
'Cafe Terrace at Night',1888. Van Gogh.
' 'Starry Night',1889. Van Gogh.
' Winter Landscape With Skaters',1618.Hendrick Avercamp
'Feeding the Hungry',1504. Master of Alkmaar d.1540.
' The Night Watch',1642. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) .
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