Saturday, April 07, 2007

Archaic Torso of Apollo

This is not an archaic torso, nor is it in the Louvre, as Rilke's would have been. It is probably a late work (1st C BCE) showing "classicizing" tendencies, that is, made to look as if it were from the 5th C BCE. It seems these artists--in the midst of a robust and luscious Hellenistic style, began to look back to the 5th century, as artists and others have been doing ever since, to find a way of limiting or constraining any tendencies towards excess.

In any case, the work does seem to fit Rilke's bill nicely.

Archaic Torso of Apollo, by Rainer Maria Rilke

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Don Patterson's translation