Portrait of the Artist

Ah, but we want so much more— something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else -which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

cf. C.S. Lewis “The Weight of Glory”

There is a presence and an absence here;
The artist sets himself aside, leaves space
For his shy muse. Descending from her sphere

She shimmers through his touch and brush, which place
These faint suggestions of her presence, where
She arches just behind him, full of grace.

He looks another way, as though aware
That turning round to see would frighten her.
He cannot see, we cannot help but stare,

Where light and shade, informing one another,
Call forth the forms that haunt his staring eyes;
Beauties from which not one of us recover.

Beauties of gold and green appear and rise
Behind him like the walls of the Duomo
Which hold the body and its mysteries,

For he has summoned them, like Prospero,
Spirits of air and fire, water, earth,
They haunt him now and will not let him go

Until he paints for them the secret path
Whereby they might grow visible at last,
Until he brings them to their proper birth.

And in their presence we are found and lost:
What finds us here is haunting, numinous,
And opens out the secret of our past

That longing, inconsolable, within us
For beauty, yes, and yet for something more,
Not just to see the lovely, luminous

Appearances of nature, but to pour
Ourselves into and through them, to receive
Them into us, till beauty, grace, and power

Become the very world in which we live,
The air we breathe, the light by which we see,
And we are one with all the things we love.

And what we lose is our complacency;
The daily comfort of the commonplace,
Our cherished substitutes for grace and glory.

These lines of longing in us somehow trace
A portrait of the Artist who has made us
And waits for us to turn and see his face.