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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Shade of Separation (Irises)


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Iris: Albrecht Dürer, c. 1503, brush, pen, ink, watercolour and body colour, height: 77 cm (Kunsthalle, Bremen)





Wan dolls' false indigo, thrown against the cold,
Comes out water colour, faded blue as souls
Laundered and fluttering on a breezy line,
Too late to freeze, too early to dry out
A sky drained of brilliance, stuffed with wet grey-white.
Awaited, spring refuses to be pushed.
Something in its latecoming promises a crush
Of sighs to follow like the mourning iris --
Its petals tissue-thin, folded on themselves,
A skin as delicate as mist or tears
Limp in morning drizzle, soft as daylong fog
That shrouds the dull head in cotton wool.





Crested Iris 412.jpg (254808 bytes)

Crested Iris (Iris cristata): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 12, 1798

Siberian Iris 50.jpg - 101123 Bytes

Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 2, 1788

Particolored Iris 21.jpg - 101123 Bytes

Particolored Iris (Iris versicolor): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 1, 1787

Dwarf Iris 9.jpg - 101123 Bytes

Dwarf Iris (Iris pumila): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 1, 1787
 
Elder-scented Iris 187.jpg - 101123 Bytes

Elder-scented Iris (Iris sambucina): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 6, 1792

Dingy Flag 669.jpg - 103938 Bytes

Dingy Flag (Iris lurida): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. John Sims, Vol. 18, 1803

Dingy-coloured Flag 986.jpg - 160844 Bytes

Dingy-coloured Flag (Iris lurida): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. John Sims, Vol. 25, 1807

Dull-coloured Flag 577.jpg - 160844 Bytes

Dull-coloured Flag (Iris tristis): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. John Sims, Vol. 16, 1802

Spurious Iris 58.jpg - 101123 Bytes

Spurious Iris (Iris spuria): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 2, 1788

Chinese Iris 373.jpg - 111842 Bytes

Chinese Iris (Iris chinensis): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 11, 1797

Variegated Iris 16.jpg - 101123 Bytes

Variegated Iris (Iris variegata): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 1, 1787

Persian Iris 1.jpg - 101123 Bytes 

Persian Iris (Iris persica): Sydenham Edwards in The Botanical Magazine, ed. William Curtis, Vol. 1, 1787
 

File:9059 - Roma - Cimitero acattolico - Tomba John Keats (1795-1821) - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, 31-March-2008.jpg

Protestant cemetery in Rome: John Keats' grave: photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 2008

14 comments:

William A. Sigler said...

Something about the alliterative vowels and measured rhythm makes
"Something in its latecoming promises a crush
Of sighs to follow like the mourning iris --" really cry.

TC said...

Thanks, William. Yes, there is (to me anyway) "something of the" lachrimae rerum in the wonderfully sympathetic droopy body-language of the iris. No matter how droopy one feels, the iris is always feeling just that little bit droopier. Not to mention just that much larger a bit more beautiful.

It's cold and wet and shady and overgrown (northfacing slope) here under the overarching giant sequoia where the iris live, and yet -- they flourish. And seem just as happy. Every year. To be sad.

(Having bulbs seems a swell way to go, when one thinks of it.)

kent said...

Just back home from baking and see first Iris of the spring. Walk inside and see my first beyond the pale. Nothing sad about it.

Chris said...

Beautiful poem. The conjunction of "pushed" and "crush" is miraculous.

I will have to go back and learn about Keats's enemies. Hard to imagine that such people could exist.

TC said...

Thank you, and thank you.

Far more was made of Keats's enemies by others than by Keats.

In any case I am certain he would not wish to have given them quite that much air time on his tombstone.

"Here lies one whose name was writ in water," was the inscription Keats had requested.

All the rubbish about the Malicious Power of his Enemies was the work of a supposed friend, Charles Brown, who insisted upon those epithets; and the rather weak young man who had very sweetly nursed Keats at the end, Joseph Severn, gave in.

The lovely watery irises though, an appropriate cortège.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

"comes out water colour, faded blue as souls"

That Durer is so lovely (why so pale and wan?), Sydenham Edwards all so precise, and then we happened upon the purple beside the grave of "YOUNG ENGLISH POET" --- oooooh my.

5.16

light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, black shape of black pine branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

relations of tones to color,
“combination of tones”

picture in relation to what
is, to be, world view

white circle of sun in fog above ridge,
cormorant flapping across toward point

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, I love this--a crush /Of sighs
and the skin as delicate as mist
and the laundered souls . . .

Irises are otherworldly, I think. Except for the yellow ones that grow wild in the woods here, right by the creek. They seem somehow showy, almost brazen.

Nora said...

I was almost named Iris (after the flowers that were blooming in St. Louis the day I was born). Maybe that explains my cotton wool head. :)

ACravan said...

This is really splendid and fits right into our never-ending rainfall here and my own mood. Everything everyone says here really reaches me. Curtis

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Over here most Greeks avoid having irises in their yards because they are such a common sight in cemeteries—I guess they figure they’ll get enough of them once they depart and there’s really no use having reminders of that fact just outside their door! Wonderful poem, by the way.

TC said...

Many thanks to all.

Nin, perhaps that yellow iris is the Pseudoacorus, a wild variety that democratically loves swamps and water treatment plants.

The local superstition to which Vassilis alludes has a long history.

"An ancient belief is that the iris serves as a warning to be heeded, as it was named for the messenger of Olympus. It also conveys images of lost love and silent grief, for young girls were led into the afterlife by Iris."

Nora, had you been given that name, it would have been an honour to led into the afterlife by you, were there an afterlife, and were one a young girl.

In the ancient world, violet and purple, the colours of the iris, commonly brought to mind the classical colour of the soul.

Virgil refers to this association more than once.

Aeneid, 9:349-350: "...purpuream vomit ille animam et cum sanguine mixta / vina refert moriens, hic furto fervidus instat."

Georgics, 4:372-373: "Eridanus, quo non alius per pinguia culta / in mare purpureum violentior effluit amnis."

Artemidorus Daldianus, in his Oneirocritica (Interpretation of Dreams), 2nd c. BC., relates colours with specific emotions. Violet he identifies as the shade of separation, a sign of detachment and widowhood.

Subsequently this became the colour of fasting and prayer for the Catholic church.

In Goethe's colour theory the emotional shift from blue to violet is noted.

"Blue points to the dark which works in it. Therefore it gives a feeling of cold just as 'it also reminds one of shadows.'

"Violet is blue which is striving toward the bright."

See: Living Colours

Annie said...

I painted our front door iris violet-blue (took in an iris to be scanned, then helped the paint mixing clerk tweak the color till it seemed right)so that would be what one saw (okay, what I saw) right before coming inside. To me, that color is the aura of deep truth and openness, feeling at one with what is, so yes, that conjuncture of happy/sad.
To echo the comments, I love this poem that shares the iris' tender toughness, quiet resilience, the fog's hush. Thanks for the gift, Tom.

TC said...

We love the idea of having your paint mixed to match your iris, Annie.

(That's getting the priorities...)

Sandra said...

"Laundered and fluttering on a breezy line,
Too late to freeze, too early to dry out"...love this!!