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The Adoration of the Kings

Pieter Brueghel the Elder – National Gallery

The Adoration of the Kings

a poem by Benjamin Jacques

Doc Williams tipped me off to this painting,
so unlike De Vinci or other masters. Nothing
unusual with how Mary is depicted, as she
balances the infant on her lap before the fawning kings,
but old Joseph, smug in his carpenter’s smock,
distracted by a stable hand who whispers
something in his ear. What?

The sentry to Joseph’s right can only gawk
at the proffered riches, while to the side
a well-dressed sheriff with crossbow and sword
fronts a group of ignorant soldiers
with their various spears.
Pity the child, so tender. But pity more
these obsequious kings (with their stolen wealth,
we can hear Williams muttering),
who have nothing better to give than gold.

Author’s note: Here’s a poem for the Art Wall that turns everything upside down, as [Jesus did]. The last line pushes the question, what is more valuable than gold? Is it too much? The Doc Williams in the first line is of course William Carlos Williams, who also wrote a poem on this painting, as well as many of Bruegel’s works. – Ben Jacques 2022.12.12

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