The following piece, John Bishop Peale's "The Recollection", appears at first glance to be a benign little poem about a woman, its classic form coupled with a classic subject. But upon a closer examination, or perhaps a more unconventional examination, the poem makes a statement that is both shocking and revelatory.
Famously she descended, her red hair
Unbound and bronzed by sea-reflections, caught
Crinkled with sea-pearls. The fine slender taut
Knees that let down her feet upon the air,
Young breasts, slim flanks and golden quarries were
Odder than when the young distraught
Unknown Venetian, painting her portrait, thought
He'd not imagined what he painted there.
And I too commerced with that golden cloud:
Lipped her delicious hands and had my ease
Faring fantastically, perversely proud.
All loveliness demands our courtesies.
Since she was dead I praised her as I could
Silently, among the Barberini bees.
A cursory glance down the left shows Peale's true feelings regarding the form and subject that he has restricted himself to. It's clear just how much impact Peale's ingenuity packs into this vulgar message; the shock and delight that the reader acquires after deciphering the hidden sentiment fosters a wild evangelism.
It's also surprising that many people must study "The Recollection" for many minutes before jolting upright in shock with an obligatory smile. The poem ultimately serves as a reminder of society's constraining vision, the restrictive thinking and loss of perspective associated with an increasingly "civilized" existence. Peale's obscene little statement is really directed towards us all - if we as readers restrict our thinking to perpetuate a paradigm, we are true half-asses.
"All loveliness demands our courtesies" indeed.