Saturday, April 10, 2010

Unfinished Captives

When I visited Florence, Italy for the first time I was overwhelmed by the unfinished slaves sculpted by Michelangelo at the Academia. Arranged in a line down a long hallway that led to the more famous statue of David, I remember thinking that they couldn't possibly have been more powerful had they been finished. The figures of men were literally straining at the stone, their muscles taut and polished and trapped not only by stone but time. I had read The Agony and the Ecstasy that summer and was a graduate of English and French literature with goofy stars in my eyes. I felt as if I had channeled Michelangelo, himself, through centuries when I walked down that hallway, luminous in bright Italian sun.

Today I opened up the Borzoi Reader poem of the day and read this beautiful little poem. It brought back the captives to me on a cloudy Saturday afternoon, 6000 miles away and many centuries later.

The Fragment of Statue 
How is it
The marble
Looks whole.
Full of its power
The lips
And chin of
The feminine
Not that the whole
Would not have
Power but
How does the fragment
At all.

-- Stan Rice


  1. Elizabeth- I saw those unfinished statues too, when I was about eighteen and I have never forgotten them OR the David which brought me to tears.
    I had the same thoughts you did.
    My god. I would love to see them again.
    Thank-you for reminding me.

  2. I've never seen them, although I was in Italy briefly on our honeymoon. It was more of a family visit .

    That aside, I feel that I have come as close as possible now.

    and there is something deeper here I think.

  3. Deb - I actually wrote a piece about these sculptures and other Italian art that was published in an online literary journal called Slow Trains. You can read it by clicking on the link on my sidebar where I "toot my own horn." You're right that there's something deeper and I'm still exploring it...

  4. Just doing a quick blogs round. I love, love, love your new header!

    Greetings from Kuala Lumpur.

  5. i am moved to perfect silence.

  6. I really like that poem. Now I wish I could see the statue in person...alas, I've never been to Italy (it's my dream).

  7. I guess what impressed me the most when I saw them for the very first time was the strength contained within.

    I thought - I was quite young then - that the potential was a double edged sword. If kept prisoner it could either turned into rage or it could just simply crumbled with age, never really fulfilling its purpose. And that was perhaps why they were left as such. A mute, powerful message from the artist to the future.

    A pretentious interpretation, I admit, from somebody who wasn't old enough to drive yet.



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