The Blue That Transmutes Fool's Gold

Lazurite glinting with pyrite and veins of calcite

'A fragment of the starry firmament’.
Pliny the Elder

The Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, whose ceiling Giotto
starred with gold, a palace for his frescoes. His blue was
of ground lapis lazuli mixed with oil and resin





Reverie In Blue


Raw blue of the powder paint on my first day in class

reminiscent of matches and Union Jacks

raindrops, sunlit, clinging to transoms


Reckitt's Blue rocks south of Windermere

rush of babbling cobalt from the factory's sluice

rescued ditched linen every Monday


Sapphire blue of delphiniums in my mother's garden

sparkling blue of speedwell in country lanes

spectral blue of woods in April and May


Cloth-of-Gold blue of my grammar school blazer

crescent moons on the badge a bit like Byzantium

culled wisdom: Spes Mea Veritas


Accolade blue of door plaque for prize-winning gallery

azure organza of my bridesmaids' dresses

Alice blue of congratulations on the birth of a son


Voyaging blue of Quink in the bottle

vial of Bristol blue glass, perfumed with ages past

vault-of-heaven blue of Giotto in Padua


Mesmeric blue of the Mediterranean

misty blue of rosemary, forking terracotta shards

Madonna blue of the Renaissance, Infinity's embrace


Lapis lazuli of Rosary beads and deep Mysteries,

lagoon blue of C V Stanford's Bluebird, sleek sostenuto

limber blue of agapanthus dancing on Funchal airport


Blue of conjunction with emerald and purple

blue of peacock and kingfisher foreshadowing paradise

blue of deep reflection, tempering the heat of the day

Fra Lippo Lippi's Virgin


Lapis Lazuli 

William Butler Yeats


I have heard that hysterical women say

They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow.

Of poets that are always gay,

For everybody knows or else should know

That if nothing drastic is done

Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out.

Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in

Until the town lie beaten flat.


All perform their tragic play,

There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,

That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;

Yet they, should the last scene be there,

The great stage curtain about to drop,

If worthy their prominent part in the play,

Do not break up their lines to weep.

They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;

Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.

All men have aimed at, found and lost;

Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:

Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.

Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,

And all the drop-scenes drop at once

Upon a hundred thousand stages,

It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.


On their own feet they came, or On shipboard,'

Camel-back; horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,

Old civilisations put to the sword.

Then they and their wisdom went to rack:

No handiwork of Callimachus,

Who handled marble as if it were bronze,

Made draperies that seemed to rise

When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;

His long lamp-chimney shaped like the stem

Of a slender palm, stood but a day;

All things fall and are built again,

And those that build them again are gay.


Two Chinamen, behind them a third,

Are carved in lapis lazuli,

Over them flies a long-legged bird,

A symbol of longevity;

The third, doubtless a serving-man,

Carries a musical instrument.


Every discoloration of the stone,

Every accidental crack or dent,

Seems a water-course or an avalanche,

Or lofty slope where it still snows

Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch

Sweetens the little half-way house

Those Chinamen climb towards, and I

Delight to imagine them seated there;

There, on the mountain and the sky,

On all the tragic scene they stare.

One asks for mournful melodies;

Accomplished fingers begin to play.

Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,

Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

Melozzo da Forli Angel Music Maker