Monday, 19 July 2010

Salamis

The Statues

Pythagoras planned it. Why did the people stare?
His numbers, though they moved or seemed to move
In marble or in bronze, lacked character.
But boys and girls, pale from the imagined love
Of solitary beds knew what they were,
That passion could bring character enough;
And pressed at midnight in some public place
Live lips upon a plummet-measured face.

No greater than Pythagoras, for the men
That with a mallet or a chisel modelled these
Calculations that look but casual flesh, put down
All Asiatic, vague immensities,
And not the banks of oars that swam upon
The many-headed foam at Salamis.
Europe put off that foam, when Phidias
Gave women dreams and dreams their looking-glass.

One image crossed the many-headed, sat
Under the tropic shade, grew round and slow,
No Hamlet thin from eating flies, a fat
Dreamer of the Middle Ages. Empty eyeballs knew
That knowledge increases unreality, that
Mirror on mirror mirrored is all the show
When gong and conch declare the hour to bless
Grimalkin crawls to Buddha's emptiness.

When Pearse summoned Cuchulin to his side,
What stalked through the Post Office? What intellect,
What calculation, number, measurement, replied?
We Irish, born into that ancient sect
But thrown upon this filthy modern tide
And by its formless spawning fury wrecked,
Climb to our proper dark, that we may trace
The lineaments of a plummet-measured face.

(W.B.Yeats/Late Poems)



Here in a way is the antithesis to Devlin's Ank'hor Vat, and the paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha of the Buddha's gaze. The ideal body of the Greek statuary is firm, shapely and athletic and departs from the ideal only enough to give individuality. Their speed is not vegetative. The harmony of the proportions is governed by the golden section which continues to dominate our aesthetic sense and appears in joinery and cabinet making. The rectangle of Thomas Moser's coffee table is 30"x48" or 30x1.6. The one I am building at the moment will be 29"x18". It is a rectangle in which the lesser side is to the greater as the greater is to the sum of the sides, roughly 10:16 as 16:26. A common size of sash window is 5'x3'.

Curiously though the Scandinavians seem to favour a stretched rectangle. The very sense of its being stretched shows how dominant the golden section is but then the Swedish body is more stretched than the Mediterranean.

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