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Ursula and Attila

Hans Memling, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (1489)

Little Bear and her Eleven Thousand Virgins,

abandoning Britain, concatenate at Köln.

There, Memling finds them playing at martyrdom.

Provoking Attila the Hun

's plate-armored ponces' naughty thoughts

pretending to pierce Ursula with his arrow a dandy bowman sports

a splendid six-foot sash.

It's fun!

Caravaggio, six score and and one years on,

depicts a very different scene:

Attila's become a kind of cacodemon,

Ursula nurses a wound in her poitrine.

The world's grown dark in the long sixteenth eon,

or perhaps it's just that art itself's gone mean.

Ten dozen years or so ago,

things were all different for us, too.

Don't like to whine,

but Kaiser Bill was a gentleman compared to Stalin, Putin, and Herr Hitler.

Summer 1914 was a grateful time.

Caravaggio, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (1610)


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