Friday, April 5, 2013

flamed with light

Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle 
by John Updike  
The celebrated windows flamed with light
directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place. Then violins
vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
 bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye
saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes
of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held
the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed
until our beating hearts, our violins
were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.


  1. I love this poem. It reminds me of an magical evening concert I once attended at an ancient chapel in Dubrovnik. With Updike's reputation being primarily connected to his novels, I think his fine poetry has often been overlooked.

    1. I agree with you. I found this poem in the New Yorker a few years back after coming home from Paris and attending one of these very concerts at Sainte-Chapelle, something I've done three times. One of them was such a profoundly powerful experience that it infused my dreams that night, which was a night-long ecstatic conversation with the musicians!

  2. i wonder if there is a difference at all between light, music, language, art, body, or if everything is in fact one note being played long and sweetly.

    you've experienced such things? i can't imagine. while i would have a difficult time with all those people, i think witnessing something like this i would burst into fire.



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