See, how this lady rises on her swing
Encouraged by the brush of Fragonard,
As light as love, as ruthless as the Czar,
Who, from her height, looks down on everything.

When on a canvas an oil-eye of blue
Has tiny fissures, you can stand behind,
Imagine time, observe, and condescend.
Wink at, and spit on, those who are not you.

Out of the eye of Christ, you might see God;
Or, from your swing, see pastoral machines
Romanticised, re-made as guillotines;
Or, Goya’s captive, face a firing-squad;

Or, Goya’s soldier, be condemned to hear
Eternity in the museum of death –
Your moment after triggering – and with
The horror of aesthetics in your ears.

Ah, they were lucky, who were drawn from life
By river-banks in summer, in café scenes,
The way they were, for all their speechless pain,
That absinthe drinker and his sober wife.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences