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Eagrasan/Ekphrases

by Crìsdean Macillebhàin

Mìorbhail èifeachdach an deilbh, chan e
an com aig Crìost a th’ ann, is e cho cuimir,
bàn, caoin-dhealbhaicht’ mar na h-ìomhaighean
snaighte aig na Ròmanaich no na

Seann-Ghreugaich de lùth-chleasaichean no diathan.
Chan e an iarmailt os a chionn, glainne
na guirm’ ud, no neo-chuideamachd nan neul,
no ’m bachall òrdha an glac an naoimh Mànais,

no eadhon meur an teagmhaiche, a’ dearbhadh
an leòin an slios a Shlànaigheir, is e
a’ cur a làimh mu thimcheall caol-dùirn Thòmais,
gus a bhrosnachadh no chasgadh - ach

an làmh eile, nach do chleachd an t-abstol
gus amharas a chur mu sgaoil, cuartaicht’
le leus mar gum b’ ann tàrmaicht’ leatha fhèin,
a dhubhas às cruth-tìr’ a’ Veneto.

Cima da Conegliano ‘Incredulità di San Tommaso’

The genuine miracle in the painting
isn’t Christ’s torso, shapely, pale,
delicately moulded like the carved images
the Romans and the ancient Greeks

made of athletes or divinities.
Not the firmament above, the purity
of that blue, or the weightless clouds,
not the gold crozier in St Magnus’s hand

or even the doubter’s finger, checking out
the wound in his Saviour’s flank, while he
puts one hand around Thomas’s wrist,
encouraging, restraining him. No, it’s

the other hand, the one the apostle didn’t
use to put his doubts to flight, surrounded
by a light it seems to generate itself,
blotting out the Veneto landscape
.

*

Theireadh tu gun robh Teachdaireachd Moire
na cuspair aig an dealbh, nan robh aingeal
a’ nochdadh ann, ’s am boireannach na b’ òige.
Dh’ionnsaich Vuillard mòran an sgoil Vermeer.

Ghlac e ìomhaigh a mhàthar tràth sa mhadainn,
na h-èideadh oidhche. Cha do chuir i fhathast
a falt an òrdugh, ’s i gabhail a cofaidh
le bainn’ à bobhl’ a thogas a dà làimh

cha mhòr gu bilean. Rinn i stad mar sin.
An e cailis a th’ ann? Dè ’n t-sàcramaid
bhalbh a tha i coileanadh, a’ tairgse
ùmhlachd tostaich do ghathan na grèine

dìblidh ga ruighinn tro uinneig nach fhaicear?
Bheil i ’g èisteachd ri teachdaireachd gun fheum
air faclan, nach iarr pongalachd no aingeal,
no cùl-fraoin eil’ ach oibseactan gach latha?

Édouard Vuillard ‘Sa mère avec le bol du café dans les mains’

You would say the Annunciation was
the subject of the painting, if there was
an angel, and if the woman was younger.
Vuillard learnt a lot at Vermeer’s school.

He caught his mother early in the morning,
still in her nightdress. She has not combed
her hair yet, and is drinking her milky
coffee from the bowl her two hands lift

not quite to her lips. She stopped like that.
Could it be a chalice? What can be the dumb
sacrament she celebrates, offering
wordless adoration to the pallid sunbeams

reaching her through a window one cannot see?
Could she be listening to a message
that needs no words, no angel, no precision,
no other background than everyday objects?

*

Mar phort-adhair anabarrach trang
le trafaig, uimhir a dh’itealain ann,
a’ teàrnadh ’s a’ falbh uair eile, ’s gun tàinig
boile air na truaghain dam bu chòir

a h-uile riaghladh, ’s dh’fhàg iad an àiteachan -
ach cha bhi feum aig sgiathan ainglean air
stiùireadh no riaghladh bho neach talmhaidh, is
cumaidh Muire, ann an àird’ an speur,

grèim seasmhach air an naoidhean dhiadhaidh
air cho claont’ ’s a bhios fiaradh an gluasaid.
Ann an ìochdar an deilbh, na h-anamannan
gan spionnadh à lasraichean na h-ionnlaide,

cuirp de chuimireachd a stadas d’ anail
mar ann an ionad-eacarsaich an t-saoghail
ud thall a’ sealladh suas, an gàirdeanan
sìnt’ a-mach ri làmhan aingeil chobhrach.

Francesco Guarini ‘Madonna del Purgatorio’

Like an unbelievably busy airport
where so many flights are taking off
and landing, that the wretched people whose
job it is to keep this all in order

deserted their posts - but then, angels’ wings
have no need of an earthling to direct
them or to organise their movements, and
Mary, where she is high in the sky,

keeps a firm grip on her divine child
however sharp the angle they’re moving at.
Down at the bottom of the painting, souls
are being snatched from Purgatory’s flames;

bodies whose shapeliness takes your breath
away, as if their place was in a gym
somewhere in that other world, gaze upwards,
reach out towards a rescuing angel’s hands.


English translations by Shuggie McCall

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