This Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch 037.jpg
Detail from Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, Link

The garden of earthly delights is vast.
I can’t take it all in immediately.
No one can. And so many delights
seem like horrors. Is that like Life?

Is one’s delight just another person’s horror? 

The manacled blue flutist and the devil
sitting on his night chair eating someone,
rightfully frightened me as a child and
that hasn’t changed. Is this Earth or
Hell? I do not want either place.


The Garden of Earthly Delights is the modern title given to a triptych oil painting on oak panel painted by the Early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch, between 1490 and 1510. It is kept at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

The painting is an inspiration for this poem, but what really triggered it was seeing a group of figures from the painting made 3D into small sculptures.

The painting must be viewed at a much larger size than shown here to be appreciated, but in the detail at the top of this post, you can see a group of nude females from the center panel.  The head of one female is adorned with two cherries—a symbol of pride. To her right, a male drinks lustfully from an organic vessel. Behind the group, a male carries a couple encased in a mussel shell.

Little is known of Bosch’s life or intentions. The symbolism is intricate. There have been many scholarly interpretations over the centuries. Modern interpretations still wonder if (particularly the triptych’s central panel) is meant to be a moral warning or a panorama of a paradise lost. Is this an admonition of worldly fleshy indulgence? Is it a warning on the perils of life’s temptations? Is it an evocation of ultimate sexual joy?

Joy is the furthest from what I feel looking at the painting. Earthly is also far from what I see. As a young person, I thought it depicted some kind of Hell.

The_Garden_of_earthly_delightsclick this link to see a larger version of the painting

Lost and Found

Venus de Milo rear view

Lost for 1800 years, she was found
hiding on her home island of Milos.
Without arms holding, her modesty sliding down
her nude torso holds our modern gaze.
She is cold in this Parisian coffin.

Venus de Milo front view

It was 200 years ago that a Greek farmer on the island of Milos found a statue. It was damaged but still beautiful.

Most people assume – and it is an assumption – that she is meant to be Venus/Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. She was sculpted around 130-100 BC. Some art historians believe she is the sea-goddess Amphitrite who was venerated on the island of Milos.

The statue was purchased by France for 1000 francs and now resides at the Louvre in Paris – found but still a long way from home.

Ici Repose

Vincent and Theo

In a pretty little French town, Auvers-sur-Oise,

we will walk up from the station,

past that church, past that wheat field,

to his grave, against the cemetery wall,

alongside his brother Theo, and we’ll pray.


Church of Auvers-sur-Oise

Wheat Field with Crows

Daubigny's Garden

Daubigny’s Garden, possibly Vincent’s final painting


A new year is drawn but shows

days recently erased still beneath.  It’s repentance.

It has a long life. It bleeds

through the new work, day, life

and haunts the wet, freshly painted present.


Blue Room

Picasso’s 1901 Blue Period painting The Blue Room under infrared imaging revealed another portrait underneath the room scene. This pentimento is a bearded man in formal wear wearing a number of rings on his fingers. Did Pablo run out of money for a new canvas, or did he regret what he had painted?