Delacroix's Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
a poem by Joseph Stanton
Jacob is wrestling with God
as if he expected to win.
The powerful diagonal of his musculature
drives hard to the left:
a wedge of fierce resolve.
The calmly poised Angel
receives in his opened arms
all the man has to give,
unmoved by earthly urgency,
and with a mere touch
to the hollow of human thigh
throws muscle out of joint.
We know that the Angel
will refuse the victory,
tell the defenseless man he has prevailed,
endow him with a wondrous name,
make him father to a chosen people.
But the outcome does not interest Delacroix.
His concern is all for the climax:
the hero's wild reach
for what he could not even begin to grasp.
Jacob's striving is an emblem
for Delacroix's art.
with the inscrutable angels of imagination,
this lover of Mozart and Greek statues
strove to render his romance
But his details give him away:
the mighty twist and grimace of trees,
a Nature that wants to overshadow
all that mere men and gods choose to do;
brush strokes that shimmer with an inner light;
colors that leap to the dance of bonfire design.
the would-be reasonable gentleman,
could not subdue or let go
the unreasonable demons of his dreaming.
The wrestling itself
is what the pictures are.
[from: Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, by Joseph Stanton. Time Being Books, 1999, pg. 23.]