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Monday, February 10, 2003

Monday February 10, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:03 AM

Rainbow’s End

For Ernst Kitzinger, professor of Byzantine art at Harvard, who died at 90 on January 22, 2003. 

In “Sailing to Byzantium,” the poet W. B. Yeats wrote of Ireland,

That is no country for old men….
….
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
….
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Don’t ever tell me the gods have no sense of humor.  After writing the phrase “rainbow’s-end gold” in yesterday’s entry, “Messe,” I came across an obituary of Professor Kitzinger, which naturally prompted me to look for a good web page on “Sailing to Byzantium.”

The poem concludes with images of “gold mosaic,” “Grecian goldsmiths,” “hammered gold,” “gold enamelling,” and “a golden bough.”  I had forgotten that Yeats’s poem begins to sound rather like the curse of King Midas.  And then the touch of divinity: the perfect deflation of Yeatsian and Byzantine pretentiousness, on the following web page:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Atlantis/3260/sailing.html,

at “The Lonesome Surf-In Poetry Cafe.”  With lovely faux-gold borders, this page has as background music a gloriously cheesy rendition of “Moon River.”  (Rainbow’s end… Waitin’ ’round the bend….) So much for the Tiffany’s approach to poetry.

I still admire Yeats’ respect
For monuments of intellect
But even though I’m getting old
Can’t share his appetite for gold.

For a rather different “artifice of eternity,”
see my entry of February 1, 2003,

Time and Eternity.

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