Sunday, August 15, 2010


Since Shakespeare wrote of Ophelia and her demise an abundance of artists, writers, actors and musicians have applied their perspective to her story and used her image symbolically. To which I add my own, currently on display as part of the Kerrville Art & Cultural Center as part of their invitational glass show Luminous.
8 1/2" in diameter 1/2" thick cast glass bowl
Several years ago, I shared with you the Ophelia series of glass beads created by Nina “Sam” Hibler. They were inspired, I believe, in part by the Pre-Raphaelite painting of Ophelia created by John Everett Millais. For the last 12 years an Ophelia like print of The Young Martyr by Paul Delaroche has hung in my home. Although I was not consciously considering it when I made this piece, it obviously had an effect. Other influences included Arthur Rimbaud’s poem on the subject.

On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils...
In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.

For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.

The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.

The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.


O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.

It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child's heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!

Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl!
You melted to him as snow does to a fire;
Your great visions strangled your words
And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye!


And the poet says that by starlight
You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.

Arthur Rimbaud
Ophelia As translated by Oliver Bernard

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