Poetry: The Book of my Enemy — Ramifications of Pure Beauty (original, with errors)| clivejames.com
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Ramifications of Pure Beauty

(Original, with errors. See revised version here)

Passing the line-up of the narrow-boats
The swans proceed down river. As they go
They sometimes dip and lift an inch or so.
A swan is not a stick that merely floats
With the current. Currents might prove too slow
Or contrary. Therefore the feet deploy:
Trailed in the glide, they dig deep for the thrust
That makes the body bob. Though we don’t see
The leg swing forward and extend, it must
Do so. Such a deduction can’t destroy
Our sense-impression of serenity,
But does taint what we feel with what we know.

Bounced from up-sun by Focke-Wulf ‘Long Nose’
Ta-152s, Pierre Clostermann
Noted their bodies ‘fined down by the speed’:
And so they were, to his eyes. Clipped wingspan,
Long legs and close-cowled engine made the pose
Of that plane poised when stock-still. In the air,
High up and flat out, it looked fleet indeed.
What pulled it through the sky was left implied:
You had to know the turning blades were there,
Like the guns, the ammo and the man inside
Who might have thought your Tempest pretty too —
But not enough to stop him killing you.

The crowds for Titian cope with the appeal
Of flayed Actaeon. Horror made sublime:
We see that. Having seen it, we relax
With supine ladies. Pin-ups of their time,
Surely they have no hinterland of crime?
Corruption would show up like needle-tracks.
No, they are clean, as he was. All he knew
Of sin was painting them with not much on.
Even to fill a Spanish contract, he
Fleshed out the abstract with the sumptuous real —
Brought on the girls and called it poetry.
Philip II felt the same. Why think
At this late date about the mortal stink
Of the war galley, graceful as a swan?

Note (from Collected Poems)

The designer of the various Focke-Wulf WWII fighter aircraft, Kurt Tank, was one of the understandably unsung heroes of modern sculpture. There was never any rational reason for WWII military aircraft to be graceful, so it remains remarkable that so many of them were: aerodynamic efficiency seemed to have beauty as a consequence. The British Spitfire, however, for all its ballerina-like glamour, was left standing by the American P-47, which had the same poise and delicacy as a charging buffalo. The National Gallery in London had a Titian exhibition in 2003: as usual, too many people came to see too many paintings, so hardly anybody saw anything.