Classics Literature Poetry

“Nostalgia” a poem by Boris Pasternak

To give this book a dedication
The desert sickened,
And lions roared, and dawns of tigers
Took hold of Kipling.

A dried-up well of dreadful longing
Was gaping, yawning.
They swayed and shivered, rubbing shoulders,
Sleek-skinned and tawny.

Since then continuing forever
Their sway in scansion,
They stroll in mist through dewy meadows
Dreamt up by the Ganges.

Creeping at dawn in pits and hollows
Cold sunrays fumble.
Funereal, incense-laden dampness
Pervades the jungle

.Boris Pasternak

Does this poem convey the feeling of nostalgia to you? Geographically widespread there is certainly a sense of some disorientation. From “cold sunrays”, which suggest a Russian winter, to Kipling’s jungle or the Ganges or even the desert. The heat finds it hard to penetrate into the hollows and even the sunrays seem to fumble on their way to the losses of funereal dampness.

The poem shows Pasternak’s knowledge of Kipling and perhaps the first stanza refers also to Blake’s “Tiger, tiger burning bright”. Both, of course are political poets and the possible symbolism here might be imperial. However, it is the voracious hunger for the irretrievable which pervades the beasts-

A dried-up well of dreadful longing
Was gaping, yawning

Art and Photographic History

Baron Pierre Paulus de Châtelet- a Belgian Expressionist Painter (1881—1959)

Upon first seeing these paintings by Pierre Paulus I was put in mind once again of the dark and dramatic work of Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945) about whom I posted recently. Then the chunky expressive style depicting largely industrial scenes reminded me of Zola’s Germinal which was written between April 1884 and January 1885. The broad lines and dark colours seems well-suited to the scenery of cranes, docks and canals. The dark buildings, however contrast with the white snow-so the expressive aspect is sometimes conveyed through this wintry aspect. Paulus too is a great painter of the intensity of heavy industrialisation-human figures huddled under gigantic mills or stark against Blakean forges. The clip below is enlivened by Puccini’s Madam Butterfly.

Pierre Paulus was born in Châtelet in 1881 into a family of artists. He studied architecture at the Academy of Brussels, where having graduated he dedicated himself to painting, his only true passion. At the age of 15, he already had a considerable mastery of painting. It was not until  he was 25 , however, that he became the painter we remember today, the painter of the Black Country, with its industrial and industrialized environments: mines and islets on the banks of the Sambre, steel factories throwing their flames and the background smoke … he also painted nature, people, still life and everyday scenes.
He met the acclaim in 1911 at the Charleroi exhibition of the general public, and his notoriety began to grow. During the First World War, he took refuge in London.
The interwar period was released in Europe and the United States. He devoted his whole life to Expressionism but also to other forms of art such as lithography and posters.
In 1913 he drew the rooster used as the flag of Wallonia. (With thanks to Inesvigo)