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  • Scott Williamson

Quattro Stagioni: Cento for CYT

Cy Twombly: Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons), Tate London

The "Cento" or "found" poem below is inspired by Cy Twombly's paintings, and the poetry scribbled, scrawled, scratched, painted over and erased in them. Most of the quotes come from poems CT used in his Quattro Stagioni cycles (Four Seasons; one at the MoMA and one at the Tate), and his epic 13 x 52 foot tripartite poetry-&-paint canvas, Say Goodbye, Catullus to the Shores of Asia Minor.

Twombly: Say Goodbye Catullus, painting in three parts

(Quattro Stagioni = Four Seasons: Primavera=Spring, Estate=Summer, Autunno=Fall, Inverno=Winter).

Quattro Stagione: A Cento for CYT, after Keats, Rilke, Seferis, Howard...

Prologue: Quattro Stagione (Keats: The Human Seasons; Burton: Anatomy of Melancholy)

Four seasons fill the mind of man measure

Spring clear easy beauty

Summer honey’d cud of thought dreaming high

nearest Heaven quiet coves

His soul in Autumn mists in idleness most melancholy

Winter too of pale misfeature

Or else he would forego his mortal nature.

Twombly: Primavera (Quattro Stagioni, Tate version)

I. Primavera (Seferis, “Summer Solstice,” Three Secret Poems; Rilke, Duino Elegy, # 10)

You spoke about things they couldn’t see / and so they laughed

And you who have always thought

of happiness flowing would feel the

emotion that almost overwhelms

when happiness falls.

They couldn’t spoke so they laughed about / you and things see

you thought happiness overwhelms

happiness falls

So you couldn’t laugh see they spoke / about things and they

And always / flowing feel / emotion almost / when

Twombly: Estate (Summer, Four Seasons, Tate)

II. Estate (Rilke, Catullus, Seferis)

But to have / been / this Once / completely / even if only / Once (Rilke, Duino Elegies, 9)

(Nine gates. Nine clues. Nine shapes. Nine boats. Nine ciphers.)

Say Goodbye, Catullus to the shores of Asia Minor

Once for each / only / once once / no more / only once / Never again.

High on light / how the dizziness / slipped away / like a fish / in the Sea

Between the hammers our heart

lives on, as the tongue,

even between the teeth, remains

unceasing in praise.

Say Catullus to the goodbye minor shores of Asia

how even sorrow’s lament resolves upon form

high sea fish how slipped on the light in a dizziness like away

what transformation urgent charge

existence wells within

High on light dizziness slipped like a sea fish

Catullus say minor goodbye to Asia of the shores

Twombly, Autumn (Four Season, Tate version)

III. Autunno (Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, 7, Seferis, “Summer Solstice”)

His mortal heart / presses out / inexhaustible wine

His heart ephemeral press wine unending

Mortal presses his inexhaustible wine out

Your life is what you’ve given / this what is what you’ve given, / the blank page

Press his ephemeral heart unending wine

Inexhaustible mortal presses out his heart wine

Unending heart his ephemeral wine press

What you’ve given blank page this what your life what


Epilogue: South ripened / gods / messengers / doors of the dead / bowls fruits praise

Twombly, Inverno (Winter, Four Seasons, Tate)

IV. Inverno (Seferis, Three Secret Poems)

your life is what you gave

this void is what you gave

the white sheet

this ravaged present

like a fish gleaming

sleep had fallen

among the laurels of the dead

Twombly: Lepanto (Brandhorst, Munich)

Postlude: Inverno (after Howard, Alassio: 1889)

bare, scored, broiled, scraped, blotched, scalped, flayed, flogged & ruined

a country calcined, grimy, powdered / parboiled, without trees, water, grass

dead branch

my soul

odoriferous / decay

solitary pacings gray beach


in the realm of Time

another misshapen passion

my exile

Pippo has left me for the last time. / Again. The point is, he has left me again:

in the white air

in white light

in the white flat sea. / La bella / noia!

these Italians

I confess / to love for red

names, vermillion, scarlet floating crimson silk

contortions of the Sibyl

inspiration utterance mystery




We are all and everlastingly alone


Twombly: Untitled (Seferis, Brandhorst, Munich)

Tamuz 5779 | VA | HLM

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