Egon Schiele's (Flesh And Blood) Poems
Known for his pictorial oeuvre, Schiele wrote poems that are in no way inferior to his visual works.
Despite their crudity, Egon Schiele’s paintings have become increasingly popular. And perhaps it is precisely because of their nudity that these boney figures, which always seem to suggest the proximity or presence of death, are immediately understood by most of the audience.
Even Schiele’s landscapes seem to be made of bodily matter: roofs of trembling flesh and structures that throng as if they were overcrowding humans; the same cold delimitations, the same morbid treatment. Eros and Thanatos united and giving shape to images of life-death.
There is a small painting titled Small Tree in Late Autumn, in which we can appreciate the same convergent force of those two poles that rule over every human fate. In it we discover, like in no other, Schiele’s poetic sensitivity, his calling of solitude and his inner pain; a small tree whose twisted branches seem to struggle desperately for life.
Schiele the poet, Schiele who created that small tree contracted by fatality, was the same who left a handful of memorable poems that capture his agitated innards and his perception awestruck by life.
“I, Eternal Child” is the name of one of his most emblematic poems, in which he poetically records the inner vicissitudes of his short life (he died at the age of 28).
I, eternal child,
always watched the passage of the rutting people and did not want
to be inside them, I said—spoke and did not speak, I listened and wanted
to hear them and see into them, strongly and more strongly.
To “see into them” sounds so much like Schiele, like his paintings, like his demanding and vigorous outline which seems to arrest souls within a fence to be dissected later. But there are two other short poems in which he uniquely impresses the state of his soul. Both poems have the same title: “Self-portrait”
I am everything at once,
But I shall never do everything at once.
I am a man, I love death and I love life.
His extreme sensitivity is evident in these emaciated fulgurations, where the author expresses his sense of belonging in the world and his explosive love for life, so empathic that it necessarily entails a proportional love for death.
Once again, life and death are fused in an erotic connection. Schiele paints and writes while he looks upon the world with stunned eyes. The world that unfolds in changing colors and fugitive expressions, the constantly mutating world that only a poet can capture.
Artists easily feel,
the great flickering light,
the breathing of living beings
the arrival and
the disappearance of things.
He extends his brush to the poetic word and writing and painting becomes confused in the images of his verses. The trees can be columns, and the landscape and sunspots can become clouds in the stunned gaze of the artist. Everything is transmuted and reconfigured before eyes that are willing to look beyond appearances —and Schiele’s, inherently configured for the ineffable, become arduously scattered amid the evocations of landscape.
I saw the park: yellow-green, blue-green, red-green, violet-green,
sunny-green and shudder-green –
and listened to the blossoming orange flowers,
then I bound myself to the oval park wall and listened
to the gaunt-footed children,
who were touched with blue and streaked with grey
by the pink bows.
The tree column led lines exactly where they sat down
I pondered my colored portrait visions,
and it struck me
that only once had I spoken
to all of them.
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