/ Brushstrokes

The thing itself

The thing itself

A man obsessed, he painted them over
and over again, mostly loyal
to what was before him there and then:
a bow of hazy white, slightly tinted
in places along its edges. Never the light
as Newton explained it, never the full
spectrum of stranded colours,
but instead the sight itself:
what his two eyes plainly saw
among the mountains or on some deserted shore
where all at once it came. A happening,
miraculous and ephemeral
as a gift: the whole wide beauty
realised and in a sharp intake of breath
expressed as an astonished ‘O’.

JMW Turner, 'The Rainbow: Osterspai and Filsen' 1817

For the next poem in this sequence, click here

The thing itself
Share this