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The Monday Poem > “There is a gold light in certain old paintings” by Donald Justice (November 23, 2015)

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message 1: by Susie (last edited Nov 26, 2015 04:51PM) (new)

Susie | 179 comments 1

There is a gold light in certain old paintings
That represents a diffusion of sunlight.
It is like happiness, when we are happy.
It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light,
And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross
Share in its charity equally with the cross.


2

Orpheus hesitated beside the black river.
With so much to look forward to he looked back.
We think he sang then, but the song is lost.
At least he had seen once more the beloved back.
I say the song went this way: O prolong
Now the sorrow if that is all there is to prolong.


3

The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work.
One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good.
The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar.
Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good.
And all that we suffered through having existed
Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.


"There is a gold light in certain old paintings” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2004 by Donald Justice.

From The Poetry Foundation
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/...


message 2: by Susie (last edited Nov 23, 2015 11:07AM) (new)

Susie | 179 comments I looked for a specific Thanksgiving themed poem, but none I found really moved me, so this one...just because I like it.
Because I love paintings from the Renaissance era, the title struck me...so fitting with how amazingly the Masters could paint 'light' into their paintings.

Also...last two lines really speak to me.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to all!


message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I like it - especially the final stanza. Good choice Susie!


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, Susie, I think it is full of beauty in a difficult world, what a good choice for Thanksgiving. I think this surpasses the cliches!

I know some people won't celebrate Thanksgiving because they're alone, because they can't afford it, what a lovely sense of taking a moment to consider something like gratitude in the lines:

Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good.
And all that we suffered through having existed
Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.

I get a feeling I have to give thanksgiving for the generations before me, who worked to hard to bring my family here.

I just love this. Donald Justice. My, my.


message 5: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
I love this poem, being British I don't celebrate but in the past couple of years the United Kingdom has taken on the idea of Black Friday. But as AnnLoretta mentions the generations before you, it brings in that deeper meaning to me which helps me understand in a way why thanksgiving is celebrated.


message 6: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13414 comments Mod
AS Alannah says, we don't have this particular festivity. but we've seen it so many times in books and films from USA that I suppose we'll pick it up as we've done with Halloween!!!
Out of jokes, I liked this poem a lot


message 7: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
This is a poem of grace Susie!

I waited to read it until I had time to enjoy it because Donald Justice is a very fine poet, and I'm glad I did. Today, I read it in a quiet moment before heading off to Thanksgiving preparations. The second stanza made me cry. This is the sort of poem a poet would choose to share. It doesn't have a single faulty note!

It feels almost foreign in some ways, like the greatest Latin American poetry .. the largeness of it, the largeness of heart and the sureness of expression. This is a poem so well crafted that I could detect no artifice in it at all.

My favorite lines are the end of the first stanza: "It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light, / And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross / Share in its charity equally with the cross." The light shines on the just and the unjust, and in the Bible, even the prisoner on the cross can be redeemed with a simple act of humility. Just so. The "poor" soldiers are part of creation and they also are touched by grace, regardless of what they do. It's so endearing the way of thinking behind this stanza; it's a way of thinking suffused with light.

And then the second stanza: now Greek mythology instead of Christian. But oh, what Donald Justice sees in Orpheus! And how human Orpheus is! To descend into the underworld feels almost worth it for him to get one more glimpse of her beloved back. And so it is with us; we linger on the edge of the "black river" to keep those memories and glimpses of those we love but some moments longer before our eyes. And there's something noble and pure in that which won't let go easily, that great grief that everyone with an open heart eventually feels, impractical as it may be in a world of trivial pursuits.

And then the final stanza, a beautiful expression of hope. Another favorite line, so simple, but so lovely and profound: "The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work." Again the perspective is one of pure grace and light, simple and kind. It's precious too, that endearment "uncle." It makes me feel like Justice is leaning over to kiss my forehead in my convalescence, encouraging me.

It's an appropriate poem for Thanksgiving, but for me, it's more about living nobly .. about the choice to see the light in everything (stanza 1), the choice to allow oneself to feel deeply (stanza 2), and the choice despite all appearances and difficulties to live in hope (stanza 3).

Overall, just lovely! I think AnnLoretta is exactly right that the poem is about being "full of beauty in a difficult world." And as she says, "Donald Justice. My, my."


message 8: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments There's do much of this poem that I love, I think it's remarkable. There's so much of it I don't understand, but do many wonderful phrases and lines.

For example, I love that the soldiers are described as 'the poor soldiers'; so much sympathy for them and their role in this one word 'poor'. Does anyone else know the song 'God on their side'? I've always been very moved by the line in it 'Did Judas Iscariot have God on his side'?)

I don't know Donald Justice, but I'm interested to find out more.

Thanks so much, Susie.


message 9: by Susie (last edited Nov 28, 2015 01:00PM) (new)

Susie | 179 comments Wow Greg...I love all you had to say about this poem...you have given me so much to ponder so thank you!

Your insights into this poem (and others) are so helpful to me in opening my mind more fully to appreciate, even see, each line in each poem I read.
Sort of the living nobly thing...or at least trying... ;)

Such a wonderful adventure!

Gill, I was taught that the question to ask is, 'Whose side am I on' as opposed to the other way around...interesting if you phrase it like that for Judas...


message 10: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Yes, Susie. I've always taken the bit in the song to be looking at the important role Judas held in the death of Jesus, and that this was an essential role.
Here's the verse

Through many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side

It's strange how that has stuck with me, when I'm not at all religious.


message 11: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Susie wrote: "Wow Greg...I love all you had to say about this poem...you have given me so much to ponder so thank you!

Your insights into this poem (and others) are so helpful to me in opening my mind more ful..."


My pleasure Susie - I just love poetry! I don't think I'm always directly on the mark, but I do really enjoy trying to extract everything I can out of poems. And I find myself learning a lot from others' interpretations too; that's something I love about this group's Monday Poem threads!

Thanks again for the wonderful poem! :)


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