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'Haphazard by Starlight' - Day 17


by Gwyneth Lewis

When first he painted the Virgin the friar filled

the apce around her with angels' bright wings,

scalloped and plated, with skies of gold,


heavy with matter.  He thought that he knew

that heaven was everywhere.  He grew

older, wiser and found that he drew


more homely rooms with pots and beds,

but lavished his art on soft furnishings

and the turn of the waiting angel's wings


(still gorgeous with colour and precious dust).

Much later, he sensed that his God had withdrawn,

was spacious.  On smaller frescoes he painted less,


let wall be wall, but drew in each lawn

the finer detail of sorrel and weeds.

Still later, he found his devotion drawn


to nothing - shadows hinted at hidden rooms,

at improbable arches, while angel's news

shattered the Virgin, who became a view


As open as virtue, her collapsing planes

easy and vacant as the evening breeze

that had brought a plain angel to his grateful knees



Fra Angelico c. 1437 - 1446

(the friar of the poem)

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