When left-hand shoes lack left-hand feet,
The world looks like a bad Magritte:
Expanses vast bereft of barley
Remind one of a mystic Dali;
Chicken-children from the egg
For illumination beg.
Yet here what find we, one and all?
Three-sided circle, cubic ball.
Catullus on the wedding gift
Depicts the waves which rock and lift
The Argo, its heroic crew
And sea-nymphs calling up ‘Halloo!’
And when, he writes, Peleus’ eyes
Met those of Thetis, such surprise
Did seize the fresh-enraptured pair
That Thetis did Achilles bear…
But pomegranates question such,
Hanging from bowers overmuch
Enslaved to Adriatic climes,
The friends of lizards – little mimes –
Which scale the white Torcellan walls
Leagues away from what befalls
The figures in the poem old,
Its broken faith, its fleece of gold.
In such a manner, strawberries
In summer sun (and gooseberries
In vast profusion), populate
The fields with tales of matters great.
They’ve read the earth and read the sky,
Into their slaking water scry
The truths which run among the rocks
Deep underground, the ancient shocks
Which shaped the land… But in the main,
Such berries, not endowed with brain,
Can’t understand the things they see,
And so they rustle, like a tree.
Fresh fruit without the Fisherman
Who hauls in all the nets
Is splendid but no knowledge gives,
Like badgers in their setts:
For once I met a badger bold
Upon a lonely road,
Who did not rear and box with me,
But told me about woad
Which covered ancient Britons’ skin
And made them very brave.
The badger then advised me well,
And sound directions gave.
But if he in his sett had lain,
Entreaties would have all been vain.
The Fisherman has family,
A daughter fair and sweet,
Who’s married to a fishmonger,
Who lives just down the street.
This son-in-law’s his favourite,
For hard he works and long,
And from his little cabin
Every day the fish does mong.
Likewise, without this Fishmonger,
Fresh produce would be mute,
Whether it’s vegetables or fish,
Or molluscs, herbs or fruit.
This explanation’s greater span
Now resumes how we began:
Painters can be fishmongers
In how they sate consumers’ hungers,
Mediating produce fresh,
Making pigments mimic flesh:
Elizabethan Bacon’s painting,
– Made to set all lovers fainting –
Melons, squashes, grapes and beans
So figures forth, the viewer leans;
A buxom maid, a monstrous cabbage
Calculate like Charles Babbage
(Though this man is not yet working:
In his unborn past he’s shirking),
Plenitude the store-room hollows,
No Dutch New Testament scene follows.
No longer for unveiling beg
The Chicken-children from the egg;
Later, in a mystic Dali,
Vast expanses filled with barley
Show the world a fine Magritte
When left-hand shoes fit left-hand feet.