Dionysos, His Louche Fabulousness, has, of course, been with us since late autumn and throughout the winter months.
And is now leaving with the approach of Apollo.
Apollo’s approach burns off the wine-red flush of bushes where Dionysos’ followers have danced many nights.
Flowering Quince cultivar as the bushes appeared on March 11, 2019 at Winterthur, Delaware. Legacy of Henry Francis du Pont, 1880-1969, American.
It is spring.
Apollo, Fabulous Complexity Himself, appears in bright sunlight in our windows. Our parks and gardens begin to don his colours: yellow, gold.
Winter aconite in the park of Winterthur, Delaware on March 11, 2019
I don’t want to say that Apollo is more fabulous than Dionysos because I am superstitious. The two are complementary and pour energy into each other’s negative spaces.
Pink Alert, 1966, acrylic on canvas. Jules Olitski, 1922-2007, American born Russia. Corcoran collection, National Gallery, Washington, DC
Apollo cannot stand the cavorting of Dionysos.
He thinks it wasteful of divine energy.
Disordered movement which fragments light and blurs colour and rumbles relationships so that all we see is frenetic movement and we don’t know what is going on.
Fragrant Chinese witch hazel in the park at Winterthur on March 11, 2019. Usually the first bush to flower there.
Dionysos wants to know what is orderly about Apollo’s murderous rages and his childish Halloween disguises to the end of his obsessive seductions.
Apollo chasing Daphne; Florence; 1535, maiolica (with light interference). Guido Durantino workshop, Florence. Philadelphia Musuem of Art.
And his cruelty to the boy, Icarus.
Just a boy! Fun-loving, energetic, still unformed; and uninformed about the balance between taking risks and taking advice.
Apollo’s response is that, were he, Apollo, not divine, the contradictions of his ridiculously layered archetype would have driven him mad before he was out of his teens. Drunk and disorderly all the time like Dionysos.
Instead, he is more or less coherent and thoroughly glorious.
And the boy Icarus had been warned:
Icarus Falling; Hendrick Goltzius, 1558 – 1617, Dutch; Philadelphia Art Museum.
The Fall of Icarus, 1849, bronze. Hippolyte Ferrat, 1822-1882, French. Philadelphia Art Museum
Icarus, 1947, pochoir. Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
And let’s just recap, Apollo says, for one ghastly moment, the murder of that prince of poets, Orpheus.
Orpheus who was murdered in a bloody frenzy by Dionysos’ people for his reverence for Apollo.
Orpheus in Hades, oil on canvas, 1877, and detail, with light interference. Pierre Amédée Marcel-Beronneau, 1869-1937, French.
Loaned to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2017 by Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille for an exhibition on Symbolism in art.
The master poet, Orpheus, was in mourning for his wife, Eurydice.
Unable to keep his bargain with the ruler of Hades – touched by the poet’s grief and immense skill – not to turn around to check whether Eurydice was following as they both left Hades,
Orpheus turned around and Eurydice turned back.
And was lost to him.
Orpheus Looks Back, mixed paper collage, 1985, and detail (light interference).
Varujan Boghosian, American born 1926. Collection of the artist on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2018.
Orpheus, in despairing grief, gave up allegiance to all gods except Apollo, patron of poetry, music and dance.
To punish Orpheus, Dionysos’ satyrs caught him, imprisoned him, taunted him, killed him. Tore his flesh to pieces.
Orpheus Bound, 1981, wood, metal, textile, twine and paint. Varujan Boghosian, American born 1926. Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Dionysos’ people threw Orpheus’ head into a stream.
Drownings, 1975, mixed paper collage. Collection of the artist on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2018.
There the poet, Apollo always with him, continues to sing. His voice is heard in every impeded river and stream.
So: where were we, Friends?
(As heady as is the coming of spring, the gods are headier still).
Dionysos withdraws as Apollo advances yellow and gold into our world with spring.
Winter aconite on March 11, 2019 at Winterthur, Delaware
Apollo casts bright light on what moves and on what is still so that everything and everyone can be seen in pin-prick detail in order to be relished in fullness.
A million shades of colour; forms without number; contexts and relationships as clear as clear.
Gold thread false cypress on March 11, 2019 at Winterthur, Delaware.
The tree presents a cone-shaped wall of gold-green leaves. Behind this front and in deep shade is its main trunk, encircled by its auxilliary trunks which stab the ground at intervals.
No shadows anywhere. No falling down in dark drunken Dionysian thumping heaps.
Winter aconite and common snowdrop at the foot of a Japanese cornel on March 11, 2019 at Winterthur, Delaware
Apollo is to be thanked for the light of spring and summer still here in early autumn. I can thread my needle and work without eye strain.
A cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, a dogwood) as it was on March 11, 2019 with winter aconite on both sides of the path linked by golden lichen. Winterthur, Delaware.
The cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, a dogwood) as it will be – barring an act of the gods – on April 1 of this year when it will be in bloom.
The yellow of winter aconite has been replaced by the blue of Glory of the snow and Siberian squill.
Photo on April 1, 2018. Winterthur, Delaware.
Now the days grow long with bright pinprick light to fill in the world with a succession of colours.
Mural, 59th Street, Columbus Circle Station, New York Metro
The streams, rivers, streets, trees, skyscrapers, cellphones, teaspoons, dogs, singing. Spring.
Mural, 51st and Lexington, New York Metro. Spring rising from deep ground.
4 thoughts on “Apollo’s Light”
Thanks, Carl! Such evolved gods!
What an exquisite dance you have led us in this blog. Thank you, thank you so very much for this sharing of the light (and the dark as well).
Thanks, Susannah! I was hard put not to add P.B. Shelley’s ‘Hymn to Apollo’!
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