Three Paintings In the Frick Mansion. (Because Wolf Hall is on the telly)

For images see this brilliant virtual tour of the Frick Mansion: http://www.frick.org/visit/virtual_tour/living_hall (click directly on paintings for close-ups)

Three Paintings In the Frick Mansion.

Behind magnolias the house sits on 5th Avenue, 70th and 71st
Of Henry Clay Frick, steel and coke magnate,
His palace to make Carnegie’s house look like a miner’s shack

In the Living Hall, three portraits frame a Reformation
Over the mantle shimmers transcendent St Jerome of El Greco
In a cardinal’s scarlet, hands intent on the gospel
In his imperious Latin of the True church in his old world

On his right hand below sits Holbein’s Sir Thomas More
In Tudor rose chain of state, a noose of letters ‘S’
Nestling luxuriously in softest furs, over crimson silk sleeves
And leaving visible to history his merciless knotted hair shirt

So not only God will know of his penitential suffering
Which spurs his gaze to heaven, Man as a picture of faith
Inspired to his divine works on earth as in heaven
Ready to torture and die for the spirit of Jerome

On whose left hand below, he is faced down by Holbein’s
Other great Thomas, Chancellor to that absolute king
Whose love and rage ruled him more than wisdom
Cromwell broods a shrewd master of the Book and the Word

Not Jerome’s olivewood testament he committed to memory
But the knotty English oak prose of Wycliffe and Tyndale
The practical text for man like God himself to make
His own firmament – an England of works not wonders

Where new man forges the world of his own miracles
Where profits and debts are the new-made heaven and hell
And mercy is by man’s law alone and the king’s grace granted
As two beheaded men confront each other and us

Across the gulf of Reformation, their gaze today a single span bridge
From St Jerome to the robber baron of the Frick Mansion
In the New York City world that Cromwell made.

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