Aquila grandis diceris puella,
     baiulans rostro ramulum virentem,
     nostrorum dira qui devicit bella.
        Salve regina
The painters whisper to each other
across the susurrus of the horsehair.
Uproar in the Campo - folded in a mirror
of brittle fresco (where light rays converge).
On the tender brow of reality (yellow-veil
female) - eagles, in roundels.  Somehow
got Coppo out of Ghibelline gaol
(burden of my song) to paint beyond the pale
of the Commune.  Some oscillation
signified (red, blue, imperial purple);
meek spectrum chanted beneath steep
glance of raptor-Madonna, in suspension
between splayed feet of Infant J
encircled by her fingertips - a
nailed impression of Apocalypse
whose furrowed brow echoes aquila-

span.  It doesn't matter,
in the end, who rules Siena,
Guelf or Ghibelline.  Janus-Julia
reigns in the deep (a mutter
from the Southern Cross).
The constellation of the Bear
or shining Virgo in autumnal air
reflect upon that earthy ruse
- burden of my waking muse; and
Easter's aubade will rouse those feet
to step the vernacular Paraclete
to lead the nine around (O brown recluse).

cf. a painting by Coppo di Marcovaldo in the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, called the Madonna del Bordone  ("Virgin of the Burden") - "burden" referring to the drone-accompaniment to medieval melody. Gianna A. Mina (in Art, Politics and Civic Religion in Central Italy 1261-1352, Ashgate Publ., 2000) argues that the title refers to the fact that the friars of the Servite Order - specially devoted to the cult of the Virgin - chanted their hymns in front of the image.

There are clusters of unfortunate obscurities in this poem, which Mina's excellent article (about a very important painting) can help elucidate. She discusses the tiny round eagle-emblems hidden in the Madonna's veil (imperial Hohenstaufen symbols, or subtly anti-imperial (Guelf) scriptural signals?), the way various elements of the painting (including the posture of the infant Jesus's feet) prefigure the Crucifixion and resemble or allude to elements in other paintings by Coppo, etc.

No comments: