Marcel Proust had a great cultural affinity for all things Dutch. On this blog, we have already posted a poem of his about Dordrecht (June 22nd 2015), and there are famous references to Dutch art in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, in particular the little patch of yellow wall in Vermeer’s view of Delft (which anyone can still see exhibited in the Mauritshuis in the Hague, but which in La Recherche was being exhibited at L’Orangerie in the Tuileries gardens is Paris. So is is not surprising that he wrote this poem inspired by the painting of Albert Cuyp, one of the great artists of the Dutch golden age of painting.
Marcel PROUST (1871-1922)
Albert Cuyp I
Cuyp, soleil déclinant dissous, dans l’air limpide
Qu’un vol de ramiers gris trouble comme de l’eau,
Moiteur d’or, nimbe au front d’un boeuf ou d’un bouleau,
Encens bleu des beaux jours fumant sur le coteau,
Ou marais de clarté stagnant dans le ciel vide.
Des cavaliers sont prêts, plume rose au chapeau,
Paume au côté ; l’air vif qui fait rose leur peau,
Enfle légèrement leurs fines boucles blondes,
Et, tentés par les champs ardents, les fraîches ondes,
Sans troubler par leur trot les boeufs dont le troupeau
Rêve dans un brouillard d’or pâle et de repos,
Ils partent respirer ces minutes profondes.
Proust’s poem celebrates several aspects of Cuyp’s paintings – his use of colour, his composition, his subject matter (akin to the poem posted here yesterday from Frances Cornford about the Norfolk coast.) He describes a scene of bucolic calm and beauty, in the midst of which there are riders with feathers in their hats, blond hair and who seem to be galloping through the scene without disturbing the cattle grazing calmly in the background in the pale mist.
A nice marriage of poetry and art, and of course Proust was a master of writing about all other art forms, be it art, music, dance, theatre or other literature. The richness of his writing can open us up to so many other artistic experiences.
I wonder if anyone can suggest the Cuyp painting which is described in the poem? There are a number with cattle close to water, but it is the riders with pink feathers in their hats which have me stumped for now.
The Poetry Dude