Tuesday, June 7, 2011


He travels well in Italy,
Commedia Dell’Arte,
seeking never securing
his Columbine, flowered
name, flowered love, but
that’s what makes a love
story, a romance, that
always yearning never
achieving essence of the

He slips into France and
then England, creating
the pantomine, bursting
upon footlights and fame,
popularity forcing his way
from the streets
to the playhouses and
that changes him, naturally
and unnaturally so that
his DNA is transmitted
by Barrie and Sennett and
Disney to Peter Pan and
Snow White and Cinderella
and even those slapstuck
Keystone Cops and
Keaton and Chaplin.
Chaplin, yes, of course,
especially Chaplin.

Yet I see you
Cezanne Harlequin
and I wonder
at the sadness
of Harlequin, or
the sadness
of Cezanne.

My wife and I spent a long Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. In the Impressionists’ section, the Art Institute was featuring a very small exhibit of Harlequin (1888-1890) by Paul Cezanne, loaned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. If you’re interested in a little of the history of the character of Harlequin, you can read about it at Wikipedia and The History of Pantomine.

This poem is submitted for One Shot Wednesday, hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see other poems submitted, please visit the site. The links will be live at 4 p.m. Central time today.


Louise Gallagher said...

Oh. I like this Glynn -- really like it!

Maureen said...

How lovely to use the art exhibit as your inspiration, and such a wonderful choice of subject to relay a history poetically.

I enjoy looking up meanings of flowers and so appreciate your association of Columbine to the wildflower, symbol for foolishness. It is supposed to be bad luck to give a woman a gift of columbine, hence the aptness of your lines "love... always yearning never / achieving". The flower also has religious symbolism.

I haven't seen the Cezanne Harlequin at the NGA in years. Picasso's has always stuck with me.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

Beautiful! I love this post. I miss the old comedians things have changed.

Brian Miller said...

nice. picasso did one as well...saw it at the met while i was there...will find the name and get back to you...really nice piece, you capture his rambling spirit well

Patricia said...

I really liked the wonderful, historical progression then leading back to the sadness of his face and the artist. Like tracing a ripple in a pond back to the center core.

(side note: the link from your name at One Stop Poetry popped me into the middle of the Chicago Tribune. Maybe it's just me?)

S. Etole said...

a note of sadness as you end ...

dustus said...

Sounds like it was an excellent Memorial Day. I cannot think of the word Columbine and not recall the shootings. That reference ties fittingly to the sadness of your poem. Solid poem. Great writing Glynn

LauraX said...

exquisite Glynn...truly!

Anonymous said...

good one, Glynn.
maureen's comment, and your links add to the checkered background.

Sean Vessey said...

Great poem , Glynn. I like the words and the inspiration.

hedgewitch said...

I love the parti-colored concept of harlequin, from mask to pointy toe--even the word seems part of his essence. You do him full justice here, and once again also do the almost impossible: make me miss Chicago.

Quotes,Photos and a little Poetry said...

very good, it had a sweetness about it

lori said...

Oh, I do miss being able to visit the Art Institute! Lovely poem...

moondustwriter said...

mmm thanks for taking us into the world of the Impressionist

you paint the harlequin well with your words

thanks for also doing encouragement well each day :)

gautami tripathy said...

You made it so vivid...

eye for an eye

Pat Hatt said...

With the words you write
You brought the painting even more into the light
Sounds like a great time was had be all
Great write here at your hall

Michael Dodaro said...


Please? Will you allow me?
Ladies! Gentleman! Excuse me
If I appear thus alone. I am the Prologue.
Since our author is reviving on our stage
The masks of ancient comedy,
He wishes to restore for you, in part,
The old stage customs, and once more
He sends me to you.
But not, as in the past, to reassure you,
Saying, "The tears we shed are false,
So do not be alarmed by our agonies
Or violence!" No! No!
Our author has endeavoured, rather
To paint for you a slice of life,
His only maxim being that the artist
Is a man, and he must write
For men. Truth is his inspiration.
Deep-embedded memories stirred one day
Within his heart, and with real tears
He wrote, and marked the time with sighs!

Now then, you will see men love
As in real life they love, and you will see
True hatred and its bitter fruit. And you will hear
Shouts both of rage and grief, and cynical laughter.
Mark well, therefore, our souls,
Rather than the poor players' garb
We wear, for we are men
Of flesh and bone, like you, breathing
The same air of this orphan world.
This, then, is our design. Now give heed
To its unfolding.
(shouting towards the stage)

On with the show! Begin!

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully done. A marvelous ode to a classic painting. The dichotomy of the sad clown is always one for refection.