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November 13, 2009

Poetry Friday--One Thing Leads to Another

I was skimming through some of Amy Lowell's poems and came across this one:

On Carpaccio's Picture

Swept, clean, and still, across the polished floor
From some unshuttered casement, hid from sight,
The level sunshine slants, its greater light
Quenching the little lamp which pallid, poor,
Flickering, unreplenished, at the door
Has striven against darkness the long night.
Dawn fills the room, and penetrating, bright,
The silent sunbeams through the window pour.
And she lies sleeping, ignorant of Fate,
Enmeshed in listless dreams, her soul not yet
Ripened to bear the purport of this day.
The morning breeze scarce stirs the coverlet,
A shadow falls across the sunlight; wait!
A lark is singing as he flies away.

This led me to wonder about the "picture" that Lowell describes. I wasn't familiar with the name Carpaccio, so I looked him up and found that Vittore Carpaccio lived from 1460 to 1525/26.

I found "The Dream of St. Ursula," which I assumed was the picture Lowell wrote about--there is the polished floor, a tiny lamp near the door, the sunbeams, the sleeping woman, and the shadow that "falls across the sunlight," but I did not see the lark. So, I went looking for another picture and found Vittore Carpaccio: The Complete Works. There are 147 images on the site and I looked at every one! I found nothing else that had a sleeping woman. I think what I have to do next is look into the story of St. Ursula. Maybe the lark is part of her story--one of those cultural references that I obviously missed, or, maybe the lark is Amy Lowell's spin on the picture. It's nice how art leads to art leads to art!

The Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted this week by Gregory K. Thanks Greg!


  1. Very cool! (I don't want to admit how long I've sat looking for the lark!!)

  2. Thanks for sharing this poem, Diane. It's amazing how the dense language carries the visual heft of the artwork. My post today was also on ekphrastic poetry (thanks to Mary Lee for pointing that out)!Laura

  3. this reminded me just a little (because ot the girl, the room, the light, the bird) of Richard Wilbur's poem titled THE WRITER:

    (Again, art leads to art...!) Thanks for posting this and the link to the archive of Carpaccio's paintings, Diane.

  4. Ekphrastic? That's a word and a half! It would be fun to write a "definito" using ekphrastic. See My Juicy Little Universe

  5. I love the poem. Stilling. (Or maybe I feel that way because I've been frantic today!) The painting is beautiful. Now I'm interested in knowing more about St. Ursula, too!

  6. I looked up St. Ursula and now I have another poem which I will post tomorrow. (If, after letting it sit, I don't throw it out and start all over!)

  7. Cool poem. I looked for the lark for a while before I read the end of your post. So glad I'm not the only one who couldn't find it.

    I love "It's nice how art leads to art leads to art!" Carpaccio's art, Lowell's art, your art...No end in sight. I like to think that the lark is just what Lowell imagined being just out of the frame of the picture when she studied that image.

    Might be totally wrong, but I do like that thought:>)