A Shepherd-Boy

Image: Titian (or Giorgione), A Boy with a Pipe (‘The Shepherd') (c. 1510). Oil on canvas. 62.4 x 49.2 cm. King’s Closet, Windsor Castle. https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/405767/a-boy-with-a-pipe-the-shepherd , 22 September 2015.

Giorgione

Hampton Court


A RADIANT, oval face : the hair
About the cheeks so blond in hue
It shades to greenness here and there
Against the ground of densest blue
A cloak flax-grey, a shirt of white,
That yellow spots of sunshine fleck ;
The face aglow with southern light,
Deep, golden sunbrown on the neck ;
Warm eyes, sweet mouth of the softest lips :
Yea, though he is not playing,
His hand a flute Pandean grips,
Across one hole a finger laying.

His flesh a golden haze, the line
Of cheek and chin is only made
By modulation, perfect, fine,
Of their rich colour into shade.
His curls have sometime veiled the top
Of the wide forehead,—we can see
How where the sunbeams might not stop
A subtle whiteness stretches, free
From the swarthy burning of their love :
The opened shirt exposes
Fair skin that meets the stain above
Half-coyly with its white and roses.

Not merely does he bear the sun
Thus visible on limb and head,
His countenance reveals him one
Of those whose characters are fed
By light—the largeness of its ways,
The breadth and patience in its joy.
Evenings of sober azure, days
Of heat have influenced the lone boy
To dream with never a haunting thought,
To be too calm for gladness
And in the hill-groves to have caught
Hints of intensest summer sadness.

Yet pain can never overcast
A soul thus solemnly subdued
To muse upon an open past
Of sunshine, love and solitude.
Maternal nature and his own
Secluded mother are the sole
Companions he has ever known ;
His earliest innocence is whole :
His mouth, attuned to the silvan breeze,
Is mobile with the blowing
Of notes beneath the olive-trees
Or where an upland source is flowing.

Ah, Golden Age, time has run back
And fetched you for our eyes to greet
And set you to repair our lack
Of splendour that is truly sweet,
By showing us how life can rear
Its children to enjoying sense
Of all that visits eye and ear,
Through days of restful reticence.
Delight will never be slow to come
To youth that lays its finger
On the flute's stop and yet is dumb
And loves with its dumb self to linger.

 

Giorgione

Hampton Court


A RADIANT, oval face : the hair
About the cheeks so blond in hue
It shades to greenness here and there
Against the ground of densest blue
A cloak flax-grey, a shirt of white,
That yellow spots of sunshine fleck ;
The face aglow with southern light,
Deep, golden sunbrown on the neck ;
Warm eyes, sweet mouth of the softest lips :
Yea, though he is not playing,
His hand a flute Pandean grips,
Across one hole a finger laying.

His flesh a golden haze, the line
Of cheek and chin is only made
By modulation, perfect, fine,
Of their rich colour into shade.
His curls have sometime veiled the top
Of the wide forehead,—we can see
How where the sunbeams might not stop
A subtle whiteness stretches, free
From the swarthy burning of their love :
The opened shirt exposes
Fair skin that meets the stain above
Half-coyly with its white and roses.

Not merely does he bear the sun
Thus visible on limb and head,
His countenance reveals him one
Of those whose characters are fed
By light—the largeness of its ways,
The breadth and patience in its joy.
Evenings of sober azure, days
Of heat have influenced the lone boy
To dream with never a haunting thought,
To be too calm for gladness
And in the hill-groves to have caught
Hints of intensest summer sadness.

Yet pain can never overcast
A soul thus solemnly subdued
To muse upon an open past
Of sunshine, love and solitude.
Maternal nature and his own
Secluded mother are the sole
Companions he has ever known ;
His earliest innocence is whole :
His mouth, attuned to the silvan breeze,
Is mobile with the blowing
Of notes beneath the olive-trees
Or where an upland source is flowing.

Ah, Golden Age, time has run back
And fetched you for our eyes to greet
And set you to repair our lack
Of splendour that is truly sweet,
By showing us how life can rear
Its children to enjoying sense
Of all that visits eye and ear,
Through days of restful reticence.
Delight will never be slow to come
To youth that lays its finger
On the flute's stop and yet is dumb
And loves with its dumb self to linger.