Marcel Proust: Anton Van Dyck

The sweet pride of hearts, the noble grace of things,
Shining in eyes, in velvets, in the trees;
The fine high language of address and dress,
The inborn vanity of women and kings!
Van Dyck, you’re a triumph; you’re the prince of calm
Gestures in these fine creatures soon to die,
In every trusting hand that beautifully
Still knows to open: look, she spreads her palm!

Marcel Proust: Chopin

Chopin, ocean of sobs and tears, of sighs
Above whose waves of sadness play a swarm
Of never-resting, dancing butterflies!
Dream, love, suffer, cry out, cradle, charm,
Always between attacks of pain you pour
An oblivion as dizzying and sweet
As the butterflies’ caprice from flower to flower;
And so you find your grief and joy complicit:
the whirlwind thirsts for tears, and more, and more.
Soulmate of pale moon and sea, the prince
Of despair or noble lord betrayed, and all
The handsomer for your pallor, still you thrill
To the flood of sun into your sickroom, since
It weeps in smiling and in seeing suffers…
Smile of regret along with hopeful tears!

Marcel Proust: For Madeleine Lemaire

What subtle orchard-thief has skulked about
To snip these luminous grapes my lips love so?
A chance breeze blows these candles, makes them billow,
And is just soft enough not to snuff them out.

But no, for a paintbrush you set aside the yarn
And spindle, and bested God: made endless spring;
And it was to the lily and the climbing
Rose you went for your colors, Madeleine.

Your beauty may be frail, not to endure,
Yet like flowers of one day lives nonetheless
Immortally: all the carnations, lilies,
Or lilacs you painted, Madeleine Lemaire.

Carlo Crivelli and the Trees

Playful, prolific, noted for
tableaux of bounty, he’d do a portrait
of a man’s face composed of fruit,
or picture his Madonnas under

garlands, bright as chandeliers,
of nearly three-D pickles, pears,
apples pecked by birds; then turn
even a gruesome Crucifixion

into a sort of game. Here: a
trompe-l’oeil in oil and tempera
replicates the look of wood on
a panel that is truly wooden,

in fact paints over knots to make
knots in the hard planes of the cross.
Real as a relic, the unique
tree on which one man-god dies