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Relief: Hercules and the Cretan Bull

(c.460 BCE. The Louvre, Paris) How strange and ironic that something like a half-spoken word or an incomplete image can still be complete and carry out its full import? So this labor of Hercules frozen in stone. For the god’s arm, broken off at the shoulder, still carries the struggle upward in a curve of action that strains to run its course into an arm and hand that now can only be imagined as wielding a sword about to bring the beast down while the legs, broken at the hips, brace unseen like pillars on ground no longer there. So, too, the bull’s face, partly sheared off, its head turned defiantly towards the slayer it cannot see yet tells something of its rage as the sword remains forever suspended in its impending blow. So, too, the angry mouth, the exposed teeth, the snorting nostrils – are they not all there plain to see as the snapping sound of the tail’s violent whiplash? For there is no victor, no victim, no victory here except what the ancient legend tells. What remains for god and beast is the interval, an interminable waiting, a fate more cruel than the blow that never falls.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2021




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Date: 3/12/2021 11:53:00 AM
Maurice, this is a fine piece of ekphrasis writing. You took me there, made me stand in front of these statues, and made me see "there is no victor, no victim, no victory here" apart from story and legend. "Good stuff!", as Johnny would say.
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Maurice Rigoler
Date: 3/12/2021 7:10:00 PM
Thanks for calling this poem an ekphrasis which I meant to do but forgot. It's based on a bas relief in the Louvre. I was intrigued by how much was missing in it yet how much wasn't. Many thanks for your comment. You can see a photo of it on Google. / Maurice
Date: 3/12/2021 8:06:00 AM
Wow! Love this! A fave! The image ingrained in my mind!
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Maurice Rigoler
Date: 3/12/2021 8:33:00 AM
Kim, what a great compliment you've given me. It tells you how I look at art. If the imagery stuck in your mind, then I accomplished my purpose.Hope others see it as you did. Many thanks for stopping by. / Maurice