Selections from ‘Belcimer’

Shared by BELCIMER

By evening one finds oneself in the studio of one of the naturalist American painters, listening as he holds forth on the development of an Italian technique that works, he says, in compliment to Roman artifice by burying the evidence of the thing not seen somewhere in the canvas. He refers to a study wedged into a tabletop easel that has been given the name End of the Renaissance Pleasure-House.


According to the painter, we are to take this as evidence that the once grand house has been reduced the shabbiest of farms, with muddy water in the old pièces d’eau and dunghills on the old parterres. The feature, says the painter, by which I intend to draw the viewer into the scene is the contents, the visible contents, of the loggia that one sees through the open window – the vaulted roof and walls decorated by Romano, the exquisite stucco and still brilliant frescoes, the arabesques and figurini, nymphs and fauns, animals and flowers — for which much of the color, especially the blues, I made still vivid, so that all the work would appear to you wonderful and elegant and charming.


For the remainder of the evening you will hear that song. In the mass of the celebration, the brim of your hat plumed by chalk and lime, you will hear it rising from the tumult, lilting toward you, as you move up the Corso, hemmed in by your neighbors, at your elbow, the little demon in your footsteps, plucking at your sleeve. The hour is near. An old man, bending forward, rosy with wine, will clutch at your arm and, gibbering, press into your hand a lighted waxy stick. The bells will peel. With a single, hoary shout the crowd will swell inward and exhale so that at once, together, the lights will all go out.

Later you will find yourself on the balcony of your room. Hours have likely passed, though you cannot say for sure. In front of the apartment, in the street, one of the children kicks at a pile of confetti. You recall the tune, and consider it not worthwhile. The child does not look up.


By midnight, the wine having been consumed and talk dispersed, the painter’s guests, in pairs and threes, return to the Corso through the dimming crowd. Walking down the hillside toward the heart of the city, it is possible to glimpse, through a break in the wall, the fifty thousand lighted candles of the moccoletti shimmering between the Palazzo di Venezia and the Piazza del Popolo. The sounds of the festivities can be heard generally, and on the damp and befouled wall an arrangement of figura breaks and reforms in plunging movement to a signature of music.


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Categories: Fiction, Poetry