St. Eustace

Derek Mahon

The hunt ceases
Here; there will be no more
Deranged pursuit of the mild-eyed
Creatures of the countryside.
Startled, he reins before
His nemesis

And stares amazed
At the hanged man of wood--
Gawain caught in the cold cathedral
Light of a temperate forest, Paul
Blind on a desert road,
One hand upraised.

He will not burn,
Now, with such nonchalance
Agape beasts to the gods of Rome
Whose strident, bronze imperium
He served devoutly once
But in his turn

Rotate above
A charcoal brazier,
Braised in his own fat for his contumacy
And vision; in his dying briefly
One with the hind, the hare
And the ring-dove.

Antonio Pisanello, Saint Eustace (c. 1450)

Egg tempera on wood, approximately 21.5 inches x 26 inches. National Gallery, London.

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