Contemplating Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer

He stands enwrapped in luminous shadowed light,
A woven cord of gold across his chest,
Voluminous silk sleeves of purest white
Contrast the deep-black velvet of his vest.
Arrayed as though he were a wealthy man;
A citizen of Rembrandt’s Amsterdam.

An Aristotle lost in time and space;
The Netherlands reborn as ancient Greece;
The past as present, brush-stroked into place,
An artist’s metaphoric masterpiece.
As time stands still, the sage’s eyes embrace
The enigmatic, stone-blind Homer’s face.

The famed philosopher and polymath
Of all that is and was and yet shall be,
Now walks his thoughts down a mimetic path
That leads to music, art and poetry,
And lays his hand of blessing on the head
Of one whose words yet live though he be dead.

Like Aristotle we look to the past,
And see Achilles on the fields of Troy.
And from that tragic tale return at last
To home, a wife’s long-suffering love, and joy.
We place the bust of Homer on our shelves
And deem him greater than we deem ourselves.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.

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8 Responses

  1. Andrew Benson Brown

    A lovely ekphrastic poem, James—and featuring one of the early theorists of ekphrasis!

    Rather strange about Aristotle’s updated raiment…am guessing this was also meant to double as a portrait of some Netherlandish merchant?

    • David Whippman

      Andrew, I think it was often the custom for artists to paint scenes from antiquity with the characters wearing clothes from the artist’s own period.

  2. BDW

    As per Cees Wilard Bui:

    Structurally, the poem is four sixtaines (sestets) of iambic pentameter with an English rhyme scheme of ABABCC, like that used by Shakespeare in his “Venus and Adonis” of 199 stanzas. Mr. Tweedie’s “Contemplating Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer” is opmerkelijk, worthy of presence in an anthology of 21st century poetry. My favourite rhyme is luminous and voluminous, and though I like the entire poem, my favourite parts are the tweede stanza and the final couplet.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Bruce for your kind words (although one of them, “opmerkilijk,” I had to look up!). When I submitted the poem Evan drew my attention to one you had posted on the same subject several years ago. There are, of course, enough stories in this painting to inspire any number of poetic inventions. No doubt there are more being written even as I write! All the best to you and to the others who took the time to comment on my poem.

  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    Thank you for an excellent poem, Mr. Tweedie. The more we remember outstanding instances of venerating cultural icons the more resistance is built to facile cancellation. (Speaking as someone not prepared to deck anyone foaming at the mouth to bomb a California mission or a school named after Lewis and Clark)


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