Kenneth Slessor

Here you will find the Poem Rubens' Hell of poet Kenneth Slessor

Rubens' Hell

VENUS with rosy-cloven rump 
And rings of straw-bright flying hair 
Looks in the glass that slaves are plying 
Not for her own face floating there, 
But for the sly and curious gaze 
Of Rubens, through the keyhole prying. 
Warm flesh of gods, by light embayed, 
And drifting daemon-bones within 
That sweep like music up and down 
To pouts and cups of ivory skin, 
Firm-valleyed croup, and swagging arm 
In whose embankment bracelets drown? 
Do you remain, you strokes of paint, 
With Venus mocked and Rubens dead 
And Beauty sold for an antique 
And microscopes raised up instead? 
Still are your old adherents true; 
Rubens is there, if he could speak. 
Rubens is there in your high room, 
Rubens it is who blows his breath 
To fix you laughing in the glass, 
Who keeps a castle here from death 
While schools go out and fashions fall 
And microscopes and movements pass. 
This castle-keep of joys conceived 
But never sucked is Rubens' hell, 
Is Rubens' limbo, cut and won 
From darkness. Here he comes to dwell. 
Man's heaven is the place he builds 
By thoughts imagined and things done. 
Some choose a paradise of gas, 
And some, by pious deeds below, 
The heavenly butter-hatch for flunkeys; 
Who dream of nought to nothing go. 
Therefore I'd sooner Rubens' hell 
Than go to heaven with the donkeys.