Erasure Poem: Faded Lustre

Anna Montgomery, illustrious host of tonight’s Meeting the Bar at dVerse, prompts us to try our hand at an erasure poem, a type of found poem using an existing text. This is a very fun exercise—why don’t you join in?

The artist did not immediately reply, being startled by the apparition of a young child of strength that was tumbling about on the carpet,–a little personage who had come mysteriously out of the infinite, but with something so sturdy and real in his composition that he seemed moulded out of the densest substance which earth could supply. This hopeful infant crawled towards the new-comer, and setting himself on end, as Robert Danforth expressed the posture, stared at Owen with a look of such sagacious observation that the mother could not help exchanging a proud glance with her husband. But the artist was disturbed by the child’s look, as imagining a resemblance between it and Peter Hovenden’s habitual expression. He could have fancied that the old watchmaker was compressed into this baby shape, and looking out of those baby eyes, and repeating, as he now did, the malicious question: “The beautiful, Owen! How comes on the beautiful? Have you succeeded in creating the beautiful?”
“I have succeeded,” replied the artist, with a momentary light of triumph in his eyes and a smile of sunshine, yet steeped in such depth of thought that it was almostsadness. “Yes, my friends, it is the truth. I have succeeded.”
“Indeed!” cried Annie, a look of maiden mirthfulness peeping out of her face again. “And is it lawful, now, to inquire what the secret is?”
“Surely; it is to disclose it that I have come,” answered Owen Warland. “You shall know, and see, and touch, and possess the secret! For, Annie,–if by that name I may still address the friend of my boyish years,–Annie, it is for your bridal gift that I have wrought this spiritualized mechanism, this harmony of motion, this mystery of beauty. It comes late, indeed; but it is as we go onward in life, when objects begin to lose their freshness of hue and our souls their delicacy of perception, that the spirit of beauty is most needed. If,–forgive me, Annie,–if you know how–to value this gift, it can never come too late.”
He produced, as he spoke, what seemed a jewel box. It was carved richly out of ebony by his own hand, and inlaid with a fanciful tracery of pearl, representing a boy in pursuit of a butterfly, which, elsewhere, had become a winged spirit, and was flying heavenward; while the boy, or youth, had found such efficacy in his strong desire that he ascended from earth to cloud, and from cloud to celestial atmosphere, to win the beautiful. This case of ebony the artist opened, and bade Annie place her fingers on its edge. She did so, but almost screamed as a butterfly fluttered forth, and, alighting on her finger’s tip, sat waving the ample magnificence of its purple and gold-speckled wings, as if in prelude to a flight. It is impossible to express by words the glory, the splendor, the delicate gorgeousness which were softened into the beauty of this object. Nature’s ideal butterfly was here realized in all its perfection; not in the pattern of such faded insects as flit among earthly flowers, but of those which hover across the meads of paradise for child-angels and the spirits of departed infants to disport themselves with. The rich down was visible upon its wings; the lustre of its eyes seemed instinct with spirit.

Faded Lustre
The artist 
startled
with something so real
moulded this hopeful
momentary light 
yet steeped
in such depth of sadness
produced by his own hand
as if
to express by words
the pattern of faded
lustre
—————————————
This is from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Artist of the Beautiful.” I just read this yesterday so it was fresh in my mind—not particularly creative with the design here, but such as it is. I pretty much left it as I found it, without punctuation. The only change—I de-capitalized the “T” in “this” (line 3). I thought hard about replacing “lustre” with the word “paradise,” and still think it might be better. I stuck with lustre for now since I used the word “light” in line 4. Seems to be more consistent, but either word feels right.
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44 thoughts on “Erasure Poem: Faded Lustre

  1. i think lustre is just perfect…i didn't knew the word before (i'm german..that's why), so had to look it up and really like the different nuances and images it creates…good job sir..

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  2. Well, I have a long love-hate relationship with Milton–I studied him in college, but (should I admit it?) never actually read all of PL. I felt I owed it to him. It's not as bad as it seems.

    I hope you find Hawthorne as rewarding as I do. Many of my friends can't stand him–his highly allegorical, heavily-themed stories don't appeal to everyone.

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  3. Thanks Gay. Hawthorne seems to have been troubled by the how's and why's of inspiration and art–several of his “Tales” touch on this theme. In many ways Hawthorne was a very modern writer, strange as it may seem.

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  4. With Hawthorne, one can never read too much religious significance into his work. One of Hawthorne's earlier reviewers, Herman Melville, noting a certain “blackness” in Hawthorne's work, wrote that “this great power of blackness in him derives its force from its appeals to that Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin, from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always and wholly free.”

    Hawthorne–like Melville himself–is continually wrestling with matters of religious significance. Hawthorne, I think, was particularly torn between his detestation for his forefathers' Puritanism and his inability to completely rid himself of their influence.

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  5. Hmm. This is lovely – very crisp and I think lustre works with the artistic image and creative process you are trying to convey… Paradise wouldn't follow-up with this theme, in my opinion. LOVE, LOVE the title of your blog!

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  6. Thanks Margaret–I think you're right about lustre.

    As for the blog title, here's how the whole thing started (my first post from Feb. 2008):

    I've no idea what I'm doing here. I wanted to comment on someone else's blog, kept clicking on stuff, somehow ended up with a blog of my very own. I don't have time for this kind of nonsense. No one in their right mind would care what I think. I seldom care what I think! But maybe this can be a place to practice my fiddlefarting–I don't think I'm as good at it as I once was, and I'd like to recover that lost skill.

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