Mourning for Paris – and for us all – I turn once again to Jan Zwicky, looking for hope in dark times …
There is, said Pythagoras, a sound
the planet makes: a kind of music
just outside our hearing, the proportion
and the resonance of things – not
the clang of theory or the wuthering
of human speech, not even
the bright song of sex or hunger, but
the unrung ringing that
supports them all.
The wife, no warning, dead
when you come home. Ducats
in the fishheads that you salvage
from the rubbish heap. Is the cosmos
laughing at us? No. It’s saying
improvise. Everywhere you look
there’s beauty, and it’s rimed
with death. If you find injustice
you’ll find humans, and this means
that if you listen, you’ll find love.
The substance of the world is light,
is water: here, clear
even when it’s dying; even when the dying
seems unbearable, it runs.
Rembrandt, “Lucretia” (1666), oil on canvas, 105 x 92.5 cm
According to the Roman historian Livy, Lucretia, the wife of a Roman nobleman, was known for her virtue and loyalty. She was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the ruling tyrant. The next day Lucretia revealed the crime to her husband and father and, in their presence, took her own life, choosing death over dishonor.Rembrandt used the story of Lucretia as the subject for two of his most moving paintings in which he represented two moments in the tragedy of Lucretia’s suicide. The first version, painted in 1664 and in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, depicts Lucretia just before she takes her life. This second version, painted in 1666, portrays Lucretia moments after she had plunged the knife into her heart.