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 paint on my first day in school
     redolent of matches and flagged Union Jacks
           raindrops, sunlit, clinging to the windows

Reckitt's Blue of rocks south of Windermere lake
     rush of babbling cobalt from a factory sluice
          rescued greying linen on a Monday washday

Sapphire blue delphiniums in a neighbour's garden
     sparkling blue of speedwell in strolled country lanes
          spectral blue of woods in budding April and May

Cloth-of-Gold blue of a new school blazer
     crescent mooned badge a bit like Byzantium
          culled wisdom for life: 'Spes Mea Veritas'

Accolade blue plaque for prize-winning gallery
     azure organza of pretty bridesmaids' frocks
          Alice blue congratulations, the birth of a son

Voyage blue of Quink in a newly-purchased bottle
     vial of Bristol glass, perfumed with history
          vault-of-heaven blue of Giotto in Padua

Mirage blue of the lucent Mediterranean
     fragile blue of rosemary, forking terracotta shards
          Madonna blue of Renaissance, Infinity's embrace

Lapis lazuli beads and Mysteries of the Day
    lagoon blue of Stanford's Bluebird, sleek sostenuto
        limber blue of agapanthus above Funchal airport
Blue of conjunction with emerald and purple
     blue of peacock and kingfisher, promising paradise
          blue of deep reflection, cooling the heat of haste



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