Before Paris

The Parthenon Friezes

By Prentiss Moore
April 1992; page 10; Volume 3, No. 5
Polemicist

That need may bear witness to its powers
in the image, and that vanity is the craving
of those who do not believe in themselves,
this much is certain. So that if we start here,
certain things of our selftrust may appear . . .
how art does not need, blind

to all but myself, to enslave itself,
but may see, breathing its body's speech
directly
into stone. For the eye's stone is true to itself
because it gives itself nothing it does
not dwell within the long
infinitesimal passing of, the folds'

cataract flaming down the loin, the horse's
nostrils flared, the delicate plectrum of
a youth's hand suspending the reins as if
to lift the coverlet from his lover's
body's sleep to let his eyes
hold close such music. No, this

stone Art of Fugue in flight around
the temple of Her who knows herself
to be free does not eternalize pain
but slows it to this utter faithlessness
in stone. Hearing itself thus in every feint
of such careful majesty, flowering

within the eye having learned
such patience through the hand,
pain assumes this mineral silence
that yields nothing to thirst which thirst
does not yield to itself and bear itself into
so that in dying it may bloom.

There is no eternity for our human
soul beyond that courage by which
our body makes itself worthy
of our heart. So that these triumphs
are not images alone; they are the mind,
the body's entering wholly into

such mastered selfjudgment
and prolific and earthly calm,
that desire's rivulets do not scatter
themselves, but become instead
their own harvest and future
in this conflagration of stone. Who

would have thought the fluttering
of cloth in the stupendous horse's veins
would behold itself through the fire
of a people's remorseless and imperilled
anguish reaching, open and clear,
to be unchained by this empathy

in stone? As the fugue carries itself always
into the embrace of its first clear moment,
so need that knows itself to be wealth
becomes its own flesh and composes
that peace which only mortality's
eyes can trust is life.