Commentary on Poem "Michelangelo's Bow":|
David with his sling shot,|
and I with the bow
Prof. Barkan noted that Michelangelo rarely signed any of his artworks. Yet in this drawing,
Michelangeo signed his name in the three-line verse next
to the arm sketch for his sculpture of David.
Rhyming Michelangelo with arco (bow) brought to
mind T.S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917)
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
(Images: Photo from Barkan's lecture, wisdomportal.com;
Michelangelo's drawing and poem,
Bow shooting arrows
or playing the harp
weapon of war or peace?
William Dyce (1806-1864)
Joash Shooting the Arrow of Deliverance (1844)
Prof. Barkan said the bow may be a weapon of war
shooting arrows or the bow of a musical instrument.
It's interesting King Joash (d. 800 BC) shooting arrows,
was buried in the City of David (2 Kings 12.22).
King David plays a Bow Harp that produces a
sad sound whose music seems to linger.
David cites the bow often in his Psalms
but he follows
Psalms 46.9 "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire"
with Psalms 46.10: Be still, and know that I am God.
(Images: Joash Shooting the Arrow of Deliverance,
Postage stamp, Israel #399, issued 9-24-1969,
David playing harp
by Marc Chagall (1951)
Professor Barkan tells us|
"If you wish to know
you'll have to buy my book."
In Michelangelo: A Life on Paper
(Princeton University Press, 352 pages, $49.50), Prof. Leonard Barkan focuses on Michelangelo's "life on paper" the hundreds of sheets
that have survived containing drawings, poems, doodles, instructions to assistants and "notes to self". This book has 5 stars from
three reviewers and 4 stars from another on Amazon.com.
Washington Post Book Review:
"Barkan is a tentative but deeply learned interpreter. His close readings of these complex traces are marvels of erudition."
New York Times:
"Personable in tone, astute in observation, Mr. Barkan's book is that rare thing, a historical study as absorbing as a novel."
NPR Interview. I have not read
Barkan's book yet when writing this poem.
(Image: Michelangelo: A Life on Paper book cover, amazon.com)
I tell him the bow
could be a crescent moon
in the hands of Diana
Crescent Moon is waxing (D-shape) when it grows between the New Moon and First Quarter.
It is waning (C-shape) when it diminishes from Last Quarter and Dark Moon. A Crescent Moon appears as a "Bow in the sky".
Diana (Greek: Artemis)
was the Roman goddess of the Moon and the hunt. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, Diana, Minerva, Vesta, who swore never to marry.
Along with her main attributes, Diana was an emblem of chastity. Oak groves were especially sacred to her. According to mythology,
Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos, daughter of Jupiter and Latona.
(Images: Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, wikipedia.org;
Crescent Moon like "Bow in the Sky"
with planet Venus to the left at night
Edmund Dulac's drawing
of Rubaiyat Quatrain I
or the Bowl of Night
filled with stars to make
our dreams come true
The night sky appears as a dome or bowl filled with stars. The 1940 song
"When you wish upon a star / Your dreams come true" (lyrics)
made many look up to the night stars to grant their wishes.
The first quatrain of Edward Fitzgerald's
translation (1859) of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
comes to mind after the Moon Goddess Diana who rules the Night gives way to her brother
the Sun God Apollo, "Hunter of the East" who awakens the sky with his morning rays of sunlight:
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.
(Images: Edmund Dulac's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Quatrain I, gutenberg.org;
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with stars on cover, parkhurstrarebooks.com)
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Houghton Mifflin (1884)
or a bow in the cloud|
a covenant between
heaven and earth
"Bow in the cloud" is the rainbow that appeared to Noah after the Flood when God made
a covenant between heaven and earth that He will never destroy the earth again with a flood
"I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."
(Image: Noah's Ark & Rainbow, oneyearbibleblog.com)
Note: I first read Juan Mascaró's translation of
in 1968, and bought Swami Nikhilananda's
4-volume Upanishads translations at the Cornell Bookstore
soon afterwards. It now occurs to me that Nikhilananda's interpretation of
or the bow is Om|
symbol of Brahman
the Supreme Spirit
Om or Aum is a sacred mystical syllable in the
Indian religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The
is entirely devoted to its explanation. Hindus believe that as creation began, the divine,
all-encompassing consciousness took the form of the first and original vibration manifesting as sound "OM".
The Mundaka Upanishad (II.2.4) links the bow with Om:
"Om is the bow; the Atman is the arrow; Brahman is the mark. It is to be struck by an undisturbed mind.
Then the Atman becomes one with Brahman, as the arrow with the target."
(translated by Swami Nikhilananda,
The Upanishads, Vol. 1, Harper & Brothers, NY, 1949, p. 290). Commentary: "As the bow is the cause of
the arrow's entering into the target, so Om is the cause of the Atman's entering into Brahman. The Atman becomes purified
through the constant repetition of Om, and then with the support of this mystic syllable is absorbed in Brahman."
(Image: Om, manifestourreality.com)