HOLBEIN IN 1940
TUDOR imaginings are cheap on Cotswold;
" Semi-Shakespearean " is each road's label, And every orchard is some kind of cousin To that in which the quavering voice of Shallow Pled with necessity, "Is old Double dead?"
I took the pilgrims' way to Hayles this morning, And what shone out to me, as memory groped Among the allusions and the lecture-notes, But Fisher's face, John Fisher as Holbein drew him?
Magnificence wore many Tudor habits, Choosing at random to endow a college,
To write sweet sonnets, man adventurous ships,
Be architect to the ideal commonwealth, Also to give up life for truth of doctrine.
I saw those fearless eyes, hauntingly stedfast, For ever stedfast, always re-assuring, Looking on good and evil, two plain things, Alternatives forgotten while we paint The variable and factitious dyes Of self-deception over the wild words, The prophesyings, of oracular progress.
Those stedfast eyes turned their rebuking patience Into man's heart, not out into the headlines, The programme and the creedless catalogue Of all-reforming optimism's plans.
Man grows too fervent, hating ideologies, To see what Holbein shows him; just one glance Assesses virtuosity, then hurries To ephemeral malice and today's brief hatred Which could not face John Fisher's stedfast eyes, Trained to adore the heavenly affirmative.
DORIS N. DALGLISH.