Bright Golden Girl

A Poem By Caleb // 1/11/2020

Bright Golden Girl (with a meagre scattering of thoughts on La Gioconda, La Belle Ferronnière, Lady with an Ermine, and Das Bildnis Adele Bloch-Bauer I)

The eloquent Florentine borrowed with his brushes
The beauty of their knowing eyes, their bending lips,
The breathing beauty of their wills, and subtle blushes;
Still this reflected light did they themselves eclipse.

I'll never hesitate to say
That every real girl in every way
Surpasses so much lead and verdigris,
Burnt umber and dioxide manganese
Spread into lips that never breathe a sigh,
And eyes behind which no desires lie.
Though every hour gives birth
To sixty times a thousand girls on earth,
And only once or twice in one world's life
Appears a painting like Giocondo's wife.

But still — Who cares?
If silver were ubiquitous as sulfur,
We'd still prefer her for a host of wares,
And higher in our estimation hold her.

Yet you above the common mettle rise,
Above the silver medal prized,
You seem as true gold metal in my eyes;
Whose worth's not solely based in scarcity,
But untarnishing stability,
Unsurpassable ductility,
And long-lasting conductivity;
As fair as it is rare
And glorious everywhere.

You think I’m joking, listing all these traits?
Or that I now bring a woman down with golden weights,
And will with the weeping Midas find too late
That a real girl surpasses every way
A gold encrusted icon every day?

I don’t seek to sarchophagize,
But as a monk in scriptorium who scrimped
A store of golden leaf to emphasize
The beauty of one theme, so I would metaphorize,
Illuminate — not bury you in gold like lustful Klimt.

The lifeless element illuminates my theme
As this world weighs to heaven as but a dream;
Yet weightless, parables that better story
Of living, breathing, heavy golden glory.

You move untarnished through this world of sin
For God’s all holy nature dwells within;
Temptation’s tensile stresses but produce,
A vessel better shaped for God's own use,
And uncorroded, walking in His light,
His light conduct to those in this world’s night.
True daughter of your heavenly King;
Who finds you finds a costly thing.



This poem imitates the way I talk in real life -- tying subjects together.

The first stanza: Though Leonardo's portraits are great, they cannot be greater than their subjects. See Shakespeare's sonnet LXXIX on the idea of an artist only taking what's already there --

Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.

The second stanza, first six lines: A real girl is better than a painting made of pigments. Better because she has the breath of life, a mind, desires, and a soul behind her exterior. I echo Psalm 135:16-17 about man-made idols

They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.

Second stanza, last four lines: The reason one could be confused into thinking that the Mona Lisa (Giocondo's wife) is more valuable than a real girl is because of scarcity. The market is glutted with real humanity and not many Leonardos.

Third stanza: But scarcity aside, some things just have better qualities than others. Humans>mere elements.

Fourth stanza: But if other humans are like silver, you (this poem is not to any real person) are like gold -- better. Gold is not just valued for it's scarcity, it's a really amazing element! It is resistant to corrosion and the most ductile and malleable of metals. It's the third best electrical conductor, but because it tarnishes less it will conduct for a longer time than any other metal.

Fifth stanza: Is it a joke to say someone is like gold, and then scientifically list the properties of the element? Is that what poets do? And if I'm now so carried away with the properties of gold, have I become what I was warning about earlier -- someone who values dead elements more than real people?

Sixth stanza: No, I'm just using the metaphor of gold to highlight, or illuminate a real person. This part gets a little tricky; Earlier I was not really saying that Leonardo was trying to turn our minds from valuing people to valuing paintings. But is there a kind of art-making that exalts dead images above living souls, and reflects that mindset back on us, to make us value other humans less for their living human-ness and more for their dead icon-ness? In this regard I throw Klimt under the bus, not just thinking of his portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer but other paintings from his gold period such as his Judith.

Seventh stanza: This one's not clear. I'm saying that a metaphor comparing a person to gold sheds light on the person in the same way that we can learn things about the eternal from the temporal. Jesus used earthly parables to tell heavenly mysteries.

Eighth stanza: Back to the question of whether I was joking with my golden girl comparison -- NO I WAS NOT! The three features I listed are revisited in the final stanza

Stability:You move untarnished through this world of sin
For God’s all holy nature dwells within

Ductility:Temptation’s tensile stresses but produce,
A vessel better shaped for God's own use,

And Conductivity:And uncorroded, walking in His light,
His light conduct to those in this world’s night.

If it seems like I'm exaggerating her imperviousness to the corruption of the world, it's because in the first couplet I was thinking of I John 3:9 "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."

Obviously at the very end I'm riffing on Proverbs 18:22 "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD," and 31:10 "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."

Caleb | Fri, 01/17/2020

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse


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