Apollo and Marsyas

Image: Pietro Perugino, Apollo and Marsyas (c. 1495). Oil on canvas. 29 x 39 cm. Musee du Louvre, Paris. http://www.wikiart.org/en/pietro-perugino/apollo-and-marsyas-1495, 23 September 2015.

Perugino

The Louvre
 

FAIR stands Apollo,
Magnanimous his figure sways :
He deigns to follow
The brutish notes that Marsyas plays ;
And waits in haughty, vengeful peace,
One hand on his hip,
While the fingers of the other quietly slip
Round a staff. He does not raise
His eyes, nor move his lip.

Breeze-haunted tresses,
Worn proudly, float around his head ;
His brow confesses
No wrath—and yet a sky grows dead
And silent thus, when fatal bolts
Treasure up their might
Underneath its secret and attentive light.
Lifted by a cord of red
His lyre hangs full in sight.

His face supremely
Is set against the lucid air ;
And, as is seemly,
Round Marsyas' straining skull the bare
Knolls of the vale are dominant.
Waters spread their way
By yon bridge and towers, developing the gay
Sunshine-blueness everywhere :
The god is bright as they.

Although his colour
Is of an ivory-olive and
His locks are duller
Than his pale skin, that, scarcely tanned,
Flushes to carmine at the knee,—
Gracious, heavenly wit
From his members such effulgence doth emit,
Mortals must admiring stand
Simply for awe of it.

Unapprehending,
Absorbed, the brown, inferior man,
On his tune spending
All honest power, believes he can
Put the young shepherd-god to shame.
Scrutinise and hate
His spiritless brows, the red down on his pate, 
The diligent eyes that scan
His fingers as they grate !

The landscape spreadeth
In clarity for many a mile ;
No light it sheddeth
Through stream and sky upon the vile,
Painstaking herdsman at his task.
Summer brings no ease,
He misses the glow on the olive-green trees :
A gyrfalcon stoops meanwhile
A wild duck's head to seize.

Wood-nightshade shooting
Purple blossom and yellow spark, 
Or scarlet fruiting,
By Marsyas’ uncouth limbs we mark,
Where anxious and infirm he sits ;
The poet's feet are placed
On a soil rich-flowering violets have enlaced
And the daphne-bush springs dark
Behind his loins and waist.

To end the matter,
He gives an ear to the abhorred
Strains of the satyr,
Counting it worthy to afford
Grace to so confident a skill ;
For he first did try
His strength and the rival did not fetch a sigh :
Lo, his rich-wrought heptachord
In silence he laid by.

Shame and displeasure—
The god of inspiration set
To hear a measure
Of halting pace ! But he will whet
A knife and without comment flay
The immodest faun,
Fearing poets should, indifferent through scorn,
License all that hinds beget
Or zealots feeble-born.

There is a sadness
Upon the lids, the mouth divine ;
He loathes the badness
Of what disturbs his senses fine,
But calmly sorrows, not that doom
Should harry ill-desert,
But that the offender callous, unalert
To contempt or threatening sign.
So grossly must be hurt.

 

 

Perugino

The Louvre
 

FAIR stands Apollo,
Magnanimous his figure sways :
He deigns to follow
The brutish notes that Marsyas plays ;
And waits in haughty, vengeful peace,
One hand on his hip,
While the fingers of the other quietly slip
Round a staff. He does not raise
His eyes, nor move his lip.

Breeze-haunted tresses,
Worn proudly, float around his head ;
His brow confesses
No wrath—and yet a sky grows dead
And silent thus, when fatal bolts
Treasure up their might
Underneath its secret and attentive light.
Lifted by a cord of red
His lyre hangs full in sight.

His face supremely
Is set against the lucid air ;
And, as is seemly,
Round Marsyas' straining skull the bare
Knolls of the vale are dominant.
Waters spread their way
By yon bridge and towers, developing the gay
Sunshine-blueness everywhere :
The god is bright as they.

Although his colour
Is of an ivory-olive and
His locks are duller
Than his pale skin, that, scarcely tanned,
Flushes to carmine at the knee,—
Gracious, heavenly wit
From his members such effulgence doth emit,
Mortals must admiring stand
Simply for awe of it.

Unapprehending,
Absorbed, the brown, inferior man,
On his tune spending
All honest power, believes he can
Put the young shepherd-god to shame.
Scrutinise and hate
His spiritless brows, the red down on his pate, 
The diligent eyes that scan
His fingers as they grate !

The landscape spreadeth
In clarity for many a mile ;
No light it sheddeth
Through stream and sky upon the vile,
Painstaking herdsman at his task.
Summer brings no ease,
He misses the glow on the olive-green trees :
A gyrfalcon stoops meanwhile
A wild duck's head to seize.

Wood-nightshade shooting
Purple blossom and yellow spark, 
Or scarlet fruiting,
By Marsyas’ uncouth limbs we mark,
Where anxious and infirm he sits ;
The poet's feet are placed
On a soil rich-flowering violets have enlaced
And the daphne-bush springs dark
Behind his loins and waist.

To end the matter,
He gives an ear to the abhorred
Strains of the satyr,
Counting it worthy to afford
Grace to so confident a skill ;
For he first did try
His strength and the rival did not fetch a sigh :
Lo, his rich-wrought heptachord
In silence he laid by.

Shame and displeasure—
The god of inspiration set
To hear a measure
Of halting pace ! But he will whet
A knife and without comment flay
The immodest faun,
Fearing poets should, indifferent through scorn,
License all that hinds beget
Or zealots feeble-born.

There is a sadness
Upon the lids, the mouth divine ;
He loathes the badness
Of what disturbs his senses fine,
But calmly sorrows, not that doom
Should harry ill-desert,
But that the offender callous, unalert
To contempt or threatening sign.
So grossly must be hurt.

 

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