Venus and Mars

Image: Sandro Botticelli, Venus and Mars (ca. 1485). Tempera and oil on poplar. 69.2 x 173.4 cm. © The National Gallery, London, 1874. The Collection: Room 58. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/sandro-botticelli-venus-and-mars, 5 August 2015.

Sandro Botticelli

The National Gallery
 

SHE is a fate, although 
She lies upon the grass, 
While satyrs shout Ho, ho ! 
At what she brings to pass ; 
And nature is as free 
Before her strange, young face 
As if it knew that she 
Were in her sovereign place, 
With shading trees above
The little powers of earth on woolly hips 
Are gay as children round a nurse they love ; 
Nor do they watch her lips. 

A cushion, crimson-rose, 
Beneath her elbow heaves ; 
Her head, erect in pose 
Against the laurel-leaves, 
Is looped with citron hair 
That cunning plaits adorn. 
Beside her instep bare 
And dress of crimpled lawn 
Fine blades of herbage rise ; 
The level field that circles her retreat 
Is one grey-lighted green the early sky's 
Fresh blue inclines to meet. 

Her swathing robe is bound 
With gold that is not new : 
She rears from off the ground 
As if her body grew 
Triumphant as a stem 
That hath received the rains, 
Hath softly sunk with them, 
And in an hour regains 
Its height and settledness. 
Yet are her eyes alert ; they search and weigh 
The god, supine, who fell from her caress 
When love had had its sway. 

He lies in perfect death 
Of sleep that has no spasm ; 
It seems his very breath 
Is lifted from a chasm, 
So sunk he lies. His hair 
In russet heaps is spread ; 
Thus couches in its lair 
A creature that is dead : 
But, see, his nostrils scent 
New joy and tighten palpitating nerves, 
Although his naked limbs, their fury spent, 
Are fallen in wearied curves. 

Athwart his figure twist 
Some wreathy folds of white, 
Crossed by the languid wrist 
And loose palm of his right, 
Wan hand ; the other drops 
Its fingers down beside 
The coat of mail that props 
His shoulder ; crimson-dyed, 
His cloak winds under him ; 
One leg is stretched, one raised in arching lines : 
Thus, opposite the queen, his body slim 
And muscular reclines. 

An impish satyr: blows 
The mottled conch in vain 
Beside his ear that knows 
No whine of the sea-strain ; 
Another tugs his spear, 
One hides within his casque 
Soft horns and jaunty leer ; 
While one presumes to bask 
Within his breastplate void 
And rolls its tongue in open-hearted zest ; 
Above the sleeper, their dim wings annoyed, 
The wasps have made a nest. 

O tragic forms, the man, 
The woman — he asleep, 
She lone and sadder than 
The dawn, too wise to weep 
Illusion that to her 
Is empire, to the earth 
Necessity and stir 
Of sweet, predestined mirth ! 
Ironical she sees, 
Without regret, the work her kiss has done 
And lives a cold enchantress doomed to please 
Her victims one by one.

Sandro Botticelli

The National Gallery
 

SHE is a fate, although 
She lies upon the grass, 
While satyrs shout Ho, ho ! 
At what she brings to pass ; 
And nature is as free 
Before her strange, young face 
As if it knew that she 
Were in her sovereign place, 
With shading trees above
The little powers of earth on woolly hips 
Are gay as children round a nurse they love ; 
Nor do they watch her lips. 

A cushion, crimson-rose, 
Beneath her elbow heaves ; 
Her head, erect in pose 
Against the laurel-leaves, 
Is looped with citron hair 
That cunning plaits adorn. 
Beside her instep bare 
And dress of crimpled lawn 
Fine blades of herbage rise ; 
The level field that circles her retreat 
Is one grey-lighted green the early sky's 
Fresh blue inclines to meet. 

Her swathing robe is bound 
With gold that is not new : 
She rears from off the ground 
As if her body grew 
Triumphant as a stem 
That hath received the rains, 
Hath softly sunk with them, 
And in an hour regains 
Its height and settledness. 
Yet are her eyes alert ; they search and weigh 
The god, supine, who fell from her caress 
When love had had its sway. 

He lies in perfect death 
Of sleep that has no spasm ; 
It seems his very breath 
Is lifted from a chasm, 
So sunk he lies. His hair 
In russet heaps is spread ; 
Thus couches in its lair 
A creature that is dead : 
But, see, his nostrils scent 
New joy and tighten palpitating nerves, 
Although his naked limbs, their fury spent, 
Are fallen in wearied curves. 

Athwart his figure twist 
Some wreathy folds of white, 
Crossed by the languid wrist 
And loose palm of his right, 
Wan hand ; the other drops 
Its fingers down beside 
The coat of mail that props 
His shoulder ; crimson-dyed, 
His cloak winds under him ; 
One leg is stretched, one raised in arching lines : 
Thus, opposite the queen, his body slim 
And muscular reclines. 

An impish satyr: blows 
The mottled conch in vain 
Beside his ear that knows 
No whine of the sea-strain ; 
Another tugs his spear, 
One hides within his casque 
Soft horns and jaunty leer ; 
While one presumes to bask 
Within his breastplate void 
And rolls its tongue in open-hearted zest ; 
Above the sleeper, their dim wings annoyed, 
The wasps have made a nest. 

O tragic forms, the man, 
The woman — he asleep, 
She lone and sadder than 
The dawn, too wise to weep 
Illusion that to her 
Is empire, to the earth 
Necessity and stir 
Of sweet, predestined mirth ! 
Ironical she sees, 
Without regret, the work her kiss has done 
And lives a cold enchantress doomed to please 
Her victims one by one.