Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Birth of Venus

The drawing was made by my dad, Malcolm, sometime in the 1940s, I think: Exercise Showing the Directions of the Form from the Pelvis. Captured by the Japanese when they invaded Singapore, he spent the entire war working on the Burma Railway. He was lucky to survive. After the war he went to evening classes at art school and spent a lot of time subsequently painting and drawing.
Some fifty years later, during his last illness, we spent some time discussing a postcard of Botticelli's Birth of Venus (above). He had it pinned up where he could see it from his bed. Some time afterwards I wrote about it:


You had "The Birth of Venus" pinned where you could see,
Beyond the bed. A modest nude to contemplate.
A feat of balance, standing on that shell, at sea.

Poised between the Carnal and the Ultimate,
You talked about the art of painting, pointed out
How Botticelli's composition-lines relate
To a Matisse, the things New Masters learnt about
The Old. You took a pencil-stub to demonstrate.

What deprivations of the Underworld assailed
Your mind, or bright Venusian dreams tormented you?
You'd seen so much - you thought you knew what death entailed:
"Talk about art? Why not? What else is there to do?"

An atheist, you doubted Heaven, doubted Hell.
More fitting, to be borne away upon the Shell.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Wonderful. Have read it before but forgotten how powerful it was.

The Solitary Walker said...

Dominic, I am speechless with emotion at this sonnet. It is extraordinarily good. I remember Malcolm quite well.