The Gazer's Spirit

Poems Speaking to Silent Works of Art

John Hollander

John Hollander

8 color plates, 70 halftones | © 1995
This magnificent book is a gallery of words and images that celebrates the sister arts of poetry and painting. John Hollander, the eminent poet and critic, has selected more than fifty works of art—paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures from antiquity to the present—and matched them to poems that address the same images in their verses. The result is an illuminating and ingeniously organized chronicle of words and images in conversation, as well as a powerful introduction to how, across Western culture, great writers have been inspired by pictures.

The Gazer's Spirit focuses on leading examples of ecphrastic poetry, or poems that directly confront particular works of art. Hollander, who is one of the most distinguished contemporary practitioners of the ecphrastic tradition, has crafted a survey of enormous range, taste, and depth, from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. The heart of the book is its gallery of poems and images set side by side.

There are poems whose presence in this book is all but inevitable, such as Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" paired with Breugel the Elder's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, and delightful surprises, such as Edith Wharton's sonnet that casts fresh light on Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Here are Robert Browning and Michelangelo; Walt Whitman and George Inness; and Randall Jarrell and Albrecht Dürer writing and drawing about The Knight, Death and the Devil.

Among the poets are many visually sophisticated writers such as James Merrill, Richard Howard, Marianne Moore, and Richard Wilbur; the visual objects in the book are both celebrated and obscure, as various as a Greek sculplture, a medieval tapestry, a famous Renoir, or a fountain by an anonymous architect. In some cases, obvious affinities, such as a poem by Vicki Hearne on a white horse by Gauguin, produce unexpected poetic results.
Preface to the Gallery
The Gallery
Jacopo Sadoleto (1477-1547), "The Poem of Jacobus Sadoletus on the Statue of Laocoon"/Anon., Laocoon
Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), "Sonnet"/Titian, Portrait of Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino
Allen Tate, "Sonnet"/William Lescaze, Portrait of Hart Crane
Richard Howard, "Nadar"/Adrien Tournachon, Portrait of Nadar
Ben Jonson (1572-1637), "The Mind of the Frontispiece to a Book"/Renold Elstrack, Engraved Title Page of Sir Walter Ralegh's History of the World
Sir Richard Lovelace (1618-58), "To My Worthy Friend Mr. Peter Lilly"/Sir Peter Lely, Charles I and the Duke of York
Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), "To the Fragment of a Statue of Hercules"/Anon., Torso Belvedere
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), "Elegiac Stanzas"/Sir George Beaumont, Piel Castle in a Storm
Washington Allston (1779-1843), "On the Group of the Three Angels Before the Tent of Abraham, by Rafaelle, in the Vatican"/Raphael, Abraham and the Angels
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto 4/Anon., Apollo Belvedere
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), "On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery"/Anon. (no longer attributed to Leonardo), The Head of Medusa
Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820), "The National Painting"/John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82), "For 'Our Lady of the Rocks'"/Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin of the Rocks
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "For a Venetian Pastoral"/Titian, Concert Champetre
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61), "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave"/Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave
Robert Browning (1812-89), "The 'Moses' of Michael Angelo"/Michelangelo, Moses
Ford Madox Brown (1821-93), "The Last of England"/Ford Madox Brown, The Last of England
Charles-Rene Marie Leconte de Lisle (1818-94), "Venus de Milo"/Anon., Venus de Milo
Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), "Gypsies on the Move"/Jacques Callot, Les Bohemiens
Emma Lazarus (1849-87), "The New Colossus"/Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Liberte eclairant le monde
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), "Before the Mirror"/J. A. M.
Whistler, Symphony in White no. 2: The Little White Girl
Herman Melville (1819-91), "The Temeraire"/J. M. W. Turner, The Fighting "Temeraire"
John James Piatt (1835-1917), "To the Statue on the Capitol"/Thomas Crawford, Columbia, Goddess of Liberty
James Thomson ("B.V.") (1834-82), from The City of Dreadful Night/Albrecht Durer, Melencolia
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "For Spring, by Sandro Botticelli"/Sandro
Botticelli, Primavera
Walt Whitman (1819-92), "Death's Valley"/George Inness, The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Edwin Markham (1852-1940), "The Man with the Hoe"/J. B. Millet, L'Homme a la houe
Edith Wharton (1862-1937), "Mona Lisa"/Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa
Robert Bridges (1844-1930), from The Testament of Beauty, Book III/Titian, Sacred and Profane Love
Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), "Brueghel's Winter"/Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Hunters in the Snow
W. H. Auden (1907-73), "Musee des Beaux Arts"/Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Randall Jarrell (1914-65), "The Knight, Death, and the Devil"/Albrecht Durer, The Knight, Death, and the Devil
Anthony Hecht (1923-), "At the Frick"/Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in Ecstasy
Robert Conquest (1917-), "The Rokeby Venus"/Velazquez, The Rokeby Venus
Richard Wilbur (1921-), "A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra"/Anon., Fountain
W. S. Merwin (1927-), "Voyage to Labrador"/Alfred Wallis, Voyage to Labrador
James Merrill (1926-), "The Charioteer of Delphi"/Anon., Charioteer
Donald Hall (1928-), "The Scream"/Edvard Munch, The Scream
Irving Feldman (1928-), "'Se Aprovechan'"/Francisco Jose Goya y Lucientes, Caprichos, no. 16
Thom Gunn (1929-), from Positives/Ander Gunn, untitled photograph
Marianne Moire (1887-1972), "Charity Overcoming Envy"/Anon., Tapestry, 15th century
W. D. Snodgrass (1926-), "Matisse: 'The Red Studio'"/Henri Matisse, The Red Studio
Daryl Hine (1937-), "Untitled"/Roger van der Weyden, Calvary
Richard Howard (1929-), "Giovanni da Fiesole on the Sublime, or Fra Angelico's 'Last Judgment'"/Fra Angelico, Last Judgment
J. D. McClatchy (1945-), "A Capriccio of Roman Ruins and Sculpture with Figures"/Giovanni Paolo Panini, Capriccio of Roman Ruins and Sculpture with Figures
David Ferry (1924-), "Cythera"/Jean-Antoine Watteau, Le Pelerinage a l'isle de Cythere
Vicki Hearne (1946-), "Gauguin's White Horse"/Paul Gauguin, Le Cheval blanc
Rosanna Warren (1953-), "Renoir"/Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party
Rachel Hadas (1948-), "Mars and Venus"/Sandro Botticelli, Mars and Venus
John Hollander (1929-), "Effet de Neige"/Claude Monet, La Route de la ferme St. Simeon
Appendix: A Selected List of Additional Ecphrastic Poems
Notes to the Introduction
Notes to the Gallery
Photography and Poetry Credits
General Index
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