Man's Magnum Opus. What is the greatest work of art in any medium?

Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 12:43 pm
It's hardly Man's magnum opus, but here's another great poem by Poe:


Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"
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Wally Tea
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 12:43 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Chai always did well on those "Where's Waldo?" puzzles.
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Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 05:45 pm
Poe is probably the best poet to have written in English but English is not a natural language for poetry, having no real grammar. A candidate for mankind's magnum opus from the realm of poetry would be more likely to come from some other language and my guess would be that the two likeliest such would be Sanskrit and Russian. One possibility might be Pushkin's Bronze Horseman:

...и он как будто околдован, как будто к мрамру прикован
соидти не может, вкруг него, вода и больше нечего
и обращен к нему сриною, в неколобимой вышине,
над возмушеную Невою, стоит с простортую рукою
кумир на бронзовом коне...

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Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 06:04 pm
since a few poets have been quoted, i'd like to quote Mr. John Keats:

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
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Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 06:18 pm
I think Mr Tambourine Man should be considered. Especially the 1981 manifestations.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Though you might hear laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly across the sun
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're
Seein' that he's chasing.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

What an amazing pattern of words with which to mark a blank piece of paper.

Art for artists.
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Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 05:13 am
Check out Simon Sachma's The Power of Art on Sky Arts. They are hour long marvels.

Focusing on eight iconic works of art such as Caravaggio’s David With the Head of Goliath, David’s Death of Marat and Picasso’s Guernica, this powerful series places great art at the centre of great moments in human history.

This series is not a stroll through a gallery, nor is it a demure tour through a museum, instead it takes us on an extraordinary journey to the centre of human struggle and the dark heart of history. A combination of dramatic reconstruction, spectacular photography and Simon Schama’s unique and personal story telling transports the viewer back to the intense moments eight great works of art were conceived and born.

Each programme takes us where only art can go; into the vortex of Turner’s murderous seas; the light Guernica shone on fascist slaughter; and into the deep gravitational force fields of Rothko’s pulsing planets of colour. See Bernini’s thumbprint impressed on the kneaded clay of an old man’s beard and the slather of Rembrandt’s pigment crusting on his canvas. The Power of Art is the epic story of an unfolding force, a chance to witness the power of the individuals who changed the way we view the world.

The eight works of art included in the series are: Caravaggio’s David With the Head of Goliath; Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, Rembrandt’s The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis; David’s Death of Marat; Turner’s Slave Ship with Slaves Thrown Overboard; Typhoon Coming On; Van Gogh’s Self Portrait; Picasso’s Guernica and Rothko’s Seagram Building Murals.

1. Caravaggio
David with the Head of Goliath (1601)
Rome 1603. Images of the Saviour, the virgin and the saints are beautiful and pure, created to win the hearts of the faithful. But then Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio starts to paint. He says the glory of the gospel is that the saviour was made of flesh and blood. And he paints him, and those who were with him, earthier and more physical than anything that has been seen before. His models are taken from the streets, the taverns, markets and brothels. Caravaggio changes forever the sense of what painting could do, how real it could feel. But to some, this was precisely the problem " he was the man who came to destroy painting, to rob it of its spiritual lift-off power.
Caravaggio is played by Paul Popplewell (24 Hour Party People, The Somme)

2. Rembrandt
The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilus (circa 1666)
In The Night Watch and his portraits of the richest merchants of Amsterdam, Rembrandt has done the impossible: made something heroic, dramatic and grand out of a world of merchants and money. Yet, 10 years later, he is bankrupt, out of fashion, dismissed as an obstinately rough painter in a smooth age. Then the chance of a comeback - to decorate the halls of Amsterdam Town Hall. But instead of the classical restraint and grandeur required, Rembrandt creates the roughest, toughest history painting ever, and one of the greatest masterpieces of his age.

3. Bernini
The Ecstasy of St Theresa (1652)
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, boy wonder, then adult prodigy - sculptor, architect, composer, as well as a dashing Cavalier, and the personal friend of Pope Urban VIII. His sculptures have the breath of life flowing through them; in his hands stone seems to move and ripple. Then, in the late 1640s, Bernini’s star falls; cracks appear in the bell-tower he has built for St. Peter’s. Bernini needs a miracle to restore his fortune. So he makes one: The Ecstasy of St Theresa. His marble saint levitates and quivers, hovering on the border between mystery and indecency. Devotees flock to see this holy peepshow, flesh dissolving into spirit, a mystery exuding pain and pleasure, carnal consummation and disembodied bliss. No wonder people watch.
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 05:22 am
I borrowed a copy of those DVDs from the NYPL. Simon Schama is quite accessible in his art analysis.

I thought I heard that he's making a sequel to the series? Any truth to the rumor?
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 05:47 am
Chai, Thanks for reminding me of the caves at Lascaux. Remembering when I first saw the pictures and gasped.
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Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 08:31 am
I thought I heard that he's making a sequel to the series? Any truth to the rumor?

I don't know. I try not to think too far ahead.

What about cricket as a work of art. Billions of man hours given over to patiently chiselling masculinity into the shape of a complete idiot. A range of them morelike.

In 19th century Paris, the intellectual segment I mean, it was a common practice after a night of festivities to have an excursion to the lunatic asylum in order to continue the amusements of the evening and, presumably, to provide topics of conversation in the ensuing days in the salons when discussions about such things as intelligent design had petered out in a welter of confusion and nonsense. As money changed hands, albeit in a slightly subtler manner that it does at a Superbowl ticket office, the Superintendent, in his impressario manifestation, he dressed up himself for it, had carefully chosen inmates trained up to be even more nutty than they normally were and he conducted the party to various rooms where he was staging the performances. A hopeless and obsessed escapologist, say, it is a science, who has been brought in to be cured of his obsession because he is no good at it and his friends and relations are sick to the back teeth of having to get him out of the various constrainsts his vivid imagination has thought up to practice on. Anything, as long as it's a gross (see definition of insanity) exaggeration of traits to be seen all around us in everyday life.

I think John Cleese had to have therapy after a while. Expensive stuff too. In the USA.

TV can be seen like that. I imagine often that I'm being conducted past a series of viewing apertures looking at an exaggerated picture of human life which we wouldn't look at at all if it wasn't exaggerated and thus getting a false picture of life and if good care is not taken there is a danger that sedentary types such as myself might feel a twinge of guilt and a sense of failure rather than rolling off the sofa in a fit of giggling and tittering watching the ski-jumping or the 4-man bob. The "in flight" shot in the former is a hoot.

There was a professor, about 16 stone, on the Sky News review of tomorrow's papers last night who seemed to think that him fathering twins was some great feat which qualified him to hold forth on things like the financial crisis in Greece, which we are hoping remains there. What his wife is qualified to hold forth upon, with that logic, doesn't bear thinking about.

Mr Schama is himself to be seen in such a light. Think of the practice it must take to learn to speak in that manner and to avoid awkward visual moments, which Brian Sewell doesn't always manage to do, and to remember all those long and difficult sentences with never a mistake or hiccup as he works up to telling us what the inkblots remind him of. He went a bit overboard with that Rothko stuff I thought. I wondered if he was exaggerating having a genuine mystical experience.

I watch how the programmes are made these days. The content is all the same. Shop till you drop.

TV is a work of art. Like cricket. Billions of man hours given over to chiselling money out of our pockets. There is engineering in it but there is also an artistic component in the sense that art is about nothing else but chiselling money. The cave painters had other motives judging by some I have seen. Watching how TV manages the resistance to "product placement" and Salome doffing the lot is going to be quite interesting.

Post art art.

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Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 06:09 pm
The ITV Champions League frontman announced tonight that the prize in their competition to answer a very easy question has been won by a Mrs Dick from Scotland. She has won a free jaunt, with a partner, to five big football events upcoming culminating in the World Cup plus £10 grand spenders.

He said that 700,000 had entered, who they thanked.

I reckon they raked £2 million and the prize will cost them no more than £2oo,ooo. More like half that. And they had ads in between the promotions.

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Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 01:57 pm
I find it interesting that da Vinci and Shakespeare have not been yet mentioned.
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Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 01:59 pm
Nothing beats the statue of Brittany Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug.


Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 02:02 pm
Cycloptichorn wrote:

Nothing beats the statue of Brittany Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug.



I prefer Suri Cruise's First Bowel Movement to that.
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Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 02:42 pm
Most of Poe's poems, and the last verse to William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Psalms of David

Have to agree with edgar on Shakespeare.

Milton's sonnet on his blindness
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ebrown p
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 02:53 pm
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 03:01 pm
@ebrown p,
The Droid! Of course! I am surprised it has taken this long for someone to nominate it on this thread.
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Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:15 pm
You said any medium, so I nominate Mahler's 8th symphony, a great affirmation of the universe and humanity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uP_nnMerCoY&feature=PlayList&p=7F5E8E666BB7BABD&index=0&playnext=1
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Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:19 pm
It's a film and nearly impossible to find except ocassionally on ebay at a high price. It is great and seems more like a play on screen than a movie.
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Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:22 pm
"Probably Romeo and Juliette." As danced by Margot Fontaine and Rudolph Nureyev with the Royal ballet in Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo and Juliet."
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 02:28 pm
Has anyone said Dark Side of the Moon yet?
I mean honestly, it's the most incredible piece of music out of this century at least. Timeless.
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