Last fall, Humanities magazine published an essay I wrote about the relationship between a poem by Tennessee Williams and a statuette the playwright had once owned, now here in Sewanee. Both are pasted below.
Testa dell’ Efebo
Of Flora did his luster spring
and gushing waters bathed him so
that trembling shells were struck and held
until his turning let them go
Then gold he was when summer was;
unchangeable this turning seemed
and the repose of sculpture told
how thinly gold his shoulders gleamed.
A cloud of birds awoke in him
when Virgo murmured half awake.
Then higher lifted birds and clouds
to break in fire as glasses break
A lunatic with tranquil eyes
he must have been when he had dimmed
and that town burned wherein was turned
this slender copper cast of him.
—By Tennessee Williams, from In the Winter of Cities, copyright ©1956, 1964 by The University of the South. Renewed 1984, 1992 The University of the South.
In case you’re interested to hear TW himself reading the poem, go to this podcast from KWLS: “Testa dell’Efebo” starts at 12:31.