Chanson: Art Creating Art

One of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen is The Meeting on the Turret Stairs
by Frederick William Burton (Irish, 1816-1900). According to the link I have below, the painting is in the National Gallery of Ireland. According to one source I wrote about this piece of Burton’s art, the painting is “an illustration of an episode from a Danish ballad, translated by Whitley Stokes and published in Fraser’s Magazine in January, 1855. It shows the final parting of Hellelil and her bodyguard, Hildebrand, the Prince of Engellend. Their tragic affair results in the slaying of seven of Hellelil’s brothers by Hildebrand, and his own death at the hand of the youngest.” I was so moved by the painting and the story that I wrote the poem I’m posting in this blog.
You can see the painting here:

For some more discussion on this painting , go to:

Here’s my poem that the painting inspired. I call it “Chanson.”


The story of the painting is sad,
A tale of a tragic love,
Born in conflict, recklessness and lust,
The kind that lasts forever,
The kind with no happy ending.

Six times he had battled brother-protectors,
Six times they had said goodbye,
Six times he had returned to her alive.
One brother is left.
This time, the brother will return.

That’s us in the painting,
You are the princess, and
I, the desperate, doomed,
Mesmerized knight,
About to fight a last battle.
Like them . . .
We ascended an ancient,
Winding iron staircase
Into a dark balcony corner for a hurried, last embrace.

You are amative,
An inamorata,
The perfect beauty,
My beau ideal.
You slide your hand into mine,
And I, a moonstruck amorist,
Flattered and ennobled,
Am dissolved by your touch.
My heart is so enflamed, I fear
It will burn to ashes.

You are a chanson,
The French love song
I could never write.
Your brown eyes are the counterpoint,
Your soft voice the descant,
Layering the melody of
Love’s subjective mysticism.
The music fills my empty, aching heart,
And though my poetry is sad,
The song you give me tonight is not.

Two lovers in a dark balcony corner
Makes a beautiful painting,
But, you and I, we’re only a tableau,
A frozen moment on a rented stage,
Mirroring two unknown lovers’ tragedy,
Words fail us.
Like her, you turn your head,
And I, I’ve lost the battle already,
We both know I can’t return.