HANS ZATZKA & ELLA WILCOX: ART AND CUPID

A Message from Cupid by Hans Zatzka
A Message from Cupid by Hans Zatzka

 

ART VERSUS CUPID

by: Ella Wheeler Wilcox

[A room in a private house. A maiden sitting before a fire meditating.]

MAIDEN

Now have I fully fixed upon my part.
Good-bye to dreams; for me a life of art!
Beloved art! Oh, realm serene and fair,
Above the mean and sordid world of care,
Above earth’s small ambitions and desires!
Art! art! the very word my soul inspires!
From foolish memories it sets me free.
Not what has been, but that which is to be
Absorbs me now. Adieu to vain regret!
The bow is tensely drawn – the target set.

[A knock at the door.]

MAID (Aloud)

Who knocks upon my door?

A VOICE OUTSIDE

‘Tis I, your fate!

MAID

Thou dost deceive, not me, but thine own self.
My fate is not a wandering, vagrant elf.
My fate is here, within this throbbing heart
That beats alone for glory, and for art.

[Another knock at door.]

VOICE

Pray, let me in; I am so faint and cold.
[Door is pushed ajar. Enter CUPID, who approaches the fire with outstretched hands.]

MAID (indignantly)

Methinks thou art not faint, however cold,
But rather too courageous, and most bold;
Surprisingly ill-mannered, sir, and rude,
Without an invitation to intrude
Into my very presence.

CUPID (warming his hands)

But, you see,
Girls never mind a little chap like me.
They’re always watching for me on the sly,
And hoping I will call.

MAID (haughtily)

Indeed, not I!
My heart has listened to a sweeter voice,
A clarion call that gives command – not choice.
And I have answered to that call, ‘I come’;
To other voices shall my ears be dumb.
To art alone I consecrate my life –
Art is my spouse, and I his willing wife.

CUPID (slowly, gazing in the grate)

Art is a sultan, and you must divide
His love with many another ill-fed bride.
Now I know one who worships you alone.

MAID (impatiently)

I will not listen! for the dice is thrown
And art has won me. On my brow some day
Shall rest the laurel wreath –

CUPID (sitting down and looking at MAID critically)

Just let me say
I think sweet orange blossoms under lace
Are better suited to your type of face.

MAID (ignoring interruption)

I yet shall stand before an audience
That listens as one mind, absorbed, intense,
And with my genius I shall rouse its cheers,
Still it to silence, soften it to tears,
Or wake its laughter. Oh, the play! the play!
The play’s the thing! My boy, THE PLAY!!

CUPID (suddenly clapping his hands)

Oh, say!
I know a splendid role for you to take,
And one that always keeps the house awake –
And calls for pretty dressing. Oh, it’s great!

MAID (excitedly)

Well, well, what is it? Wherefore make me wait?

CUPID (tapping his brow, thoughtfully)

How is it those lines run – oh, now I know;
You make a stately entrance – measured – slow –
To stirring music, then you kneel and say
Something about – to honour and obey –
For better and for worse – till death do part.

MAID (angrily)

Be still, you foolish boy; that is not ART.

CUPID (seriously)

She needs great skill who takes the role of wife
In God’s stupendous drama human life.

MAID (suddenly becoming serious)

So I once thought! Oh, once my very soul
Was filled and thrilled with dreaming of that role.
Life seemed so wonderful; it held for me
No purpose, no ambition, but to be
Loving and loved. My highest thought of fame
Was some day bearing my dear lover’s name.
Alone, I ofttimes uttered it aloud,
Or wrote it down, half timid, and all proud
To see myself lost utterly in him:
As some small star might joy in growing dim
When sinking in the sun; or as the dew,
Forgetting the brief little life it knew
In space, might on the ocean’s bosom fall
And ask for nothing – only to give all.

CUPID (aside)

Now, THAT’S the talk – it’s music to my ear
After that stuff on ‘art’ and a ‘career.’
I hope she’ll keep it up.

MAIDEN (continuing her reverie)

Again my dream
Shaped into changing pictures. I would seem
To see myself in beautiful array
Move down the aisle upon my wedding day;
And then I saw the modest living-room
With lighted lamp, and fragrant plants in bloom,
And books and sewing scattered all about,
And just we two alone.

CUPID (in glee aside)

There’s not a doubt
I’ll land her yet!

MAIDEN

My dream kaleidoscope
Changed still again, and framed love’s dearest hope –
The trinity of home; and life was good
And all its deepest meaning understood.

[Sits lost in a dream. Behind scenes a voice sings a lullaby, ‘Beautiful Land of Nod.’ CUPID in ecstasy tiptoes about and clasps his hands in delight.]

Another scene! a matron in her prime,
I saw myself glide peacefully with time
Into the quiet middle years, content
With simple joys the dear home circle lent.
My sons and daughters made my diadem;
I saw my happy youth renewed in them.
The pain of growing old lost all its sting,
For Love stood near – in Winter, as in Spring.

[CUPID tiptoes to door and makes a signal. MAIDEN starts up dramatically.]

‘Twas but a dream! I woke all suddenly.
The world had changed! And now life means to me
My art – the stage – excitement and the crowd –
The glare of many foot-lights – and the loud
Applause of men, as I cry in rage,
‘Give me the dagger!’ or creep down the stage
In that sleep-walking scene. Oh, art like mine
Will send the chills down every listener’s spine!
And when I choose, salt tears shall freely flow
As in the moonlight I cry, ‘Romeo! Romeo!
Oh, wherefore art thou, Romeo?’
Ay, ’tis done
My dream of home life.

CUPID

It is but begun.

MAIDEN

The heart but once can dream a dream so fair,
And so henceforth love thoughts I do forswear;
Since faith in love has crumbled to the dust,
In fame alone, I put my hope and trust.

[CUPID at the door beckons excitedly. Enter lover with outstretched arms.]

CUPID

Here’s one who will explain yourself to you
And make that old sweet dream of love come true.
Fix up your foolish quarrel; time is brief –
So waste no more of it in doubt or grief.

[The lovers meet and embrace.]

CUPID (in doorway)

Warm lip to lip, and heart to beating heart,
The cast is made – My Lady has her part.

CURTAIN

CUPID AND THE THREE GRACES BY RAPHAEL

Cupid and The Three Graces by Raphael, 1517
Cupid and The Three Graces by Raphael, 1517

 

Cupid is winged, allegedly because lovers are flighty and likely to change their minds, and boyish because love is irrational. His symbols are the arrow and torch, “because love wounds and inflames the heart.” These attributes and their interpretation were established by late antiquity, as summarized by Isidore of Seville (d. 636 AD) in his Etymologiae. Cupid is also sometimes depicted blindfolded and described as blind, not so much in the sense of sightless—since the sight of the beloved can be a spur to love—as blinkered and arbitrary.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath love’s mind of any judgement taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is love said to be a child
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

– from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare

courtesy of wikipedia

BIRTH OF VENUS BY ALEXANDRE CABANE

Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel, 1863
Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel, 1863

Venus is the Roman goddess, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. In myth, Venus was born of sea-foam. Roman theology presents Venus as the yielding, watery female principle, essential to the generation and balance of life. Her male counterparts in the Roman pantheon, Vulcan and Mars, are active and fiery. Venus absorbs and tempers the male essence, uniting the opposites of male and female in mutual affection. She can turn the hearts of men and women from sexual vice to virtue. – wikipedia.org

CUPID’S TOSS BY HANS ZATZKA

Cupid's Toss by Hans Zatzka
Cupid’s Toss by Hans Zatzka

In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. He is often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus and the war god Mars. He is also known in Latin as Amor (“Love”). His Greek counterpart is Eros. Although Eros is generally portrayed as a slender winged youth in Classical Greek art, during the Hellenistic period, he was increasingly portrayed as a chubby boy. During this time, his iconography acquired the bow and arrow that represent his source of power: a person, or even a deity, who is shot by Cupid’s arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire. – wikipedia.org

AN OFFERING TO VENUS BY JOHN WILLIAM GODWARD

A Offering to Venus by John William Godward, 1912
A Offering to Venus by John William Godward, 1912

Venus is the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory. In Roman mythology, she was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles. Her symbols are the rose and common myrtle. Her day is Friday. – wikipedia.org