Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Terza Rimas for Virgil Burnett's Terra Cottas

There is to me something so incomprehensible in death, that I can neither speak nor think on the subject. -Lord Byron in a letter to John Hobhouse, August 10, 1811.

When we heard of the death of Virgil Burnett, my wife and I were overcome with a great sadness.  We had both been thinking about him, he was in our thoughts.

Books brought us all together. He came to our bookshop and often visited the library where my wife works and we always enjoyed his visits. We were not close friends but we did cherish the occasional invitations to his beautiful house and the fine dry white wine he shared, much like his wit. We both have fond memories of his graciousness and kindness.

For a number of years I was selling a small portion of his personal library on consignment.  I enjoyed sitting at a table at the back of his living room cataloguing his books and having his youthful cat, Arlequino, constantly curl his way around me as I worked.

Virgil's terra cotta sculptures fascinated me.  In a letter to me, in thanks for the poem I wrote about his sculptures, he said, "I am very flattered and so are my clay ladies, vainglorious baggages that they are." His wit and humour always hovering nearby. The poem is an acrostic one and he said, in his usual understated manner, "I have never been acrosticized before--not to my knowledge anyway."  The small appendages to his sentences, little afterthoughts and reflections, are to be found in his novels and stories as well as in his speech. His very style. Le style est l'homme meme. His patience too can be seen in the lines of his illustrations.

Many, many, many people will miss him. I know we will.

Terza Rimas for Virgil's Terra Cottas

Voluptuous embodiments alight,
In stasis, dancing to an ancient song;
Redeeming Love, and Fortune's round delight.
Gyrating with this earthen world, yet strong
In vigil, burnished with a fixed desire,
Life-giving forms to guide our souls along.

By silent stillness, sculptures do inspire,
Unveiling what is ripe within.  One's hope
Renews, that truth and beauty do conspire.
Noetic visions through the figure's scope.
Eternal shapes transcendent into thought,
Transparent with the weight of mythic trope,

Though sensual, through tactile passions sought.

-ralph patrick mackay
feburary 2006.