The Temptation of St Anthony by Sidney Nolan

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tempt st anthony nolan ngv

Image: The Temptation of St Anthony by Sidney Nolan: NGV, Victoria.

 

Rimbaud: I sought voyages to disperse enchantments

that had colonised my mind.

 

Where the sun strikes and the prickly thorn proffers

no shelter and the cicada no relief,

there’s a dessicated torment and no

solitude in the desert, as Christ found.

Harsh glare distorts even a saint’s vision.

The reclusive can lose their perspective.

Gamma rays will cause some to lose their minds.

 

A goanna is my constant totem

and a huge dragonfly lures me to leave,

but Satan has monopolised the air.

 

If I kill the dragon; dip my finger

in its blood, will it reveal its secret?

Will it transform me into a prophet,

who may see the approach of The Black Mist,

or experience St Anthony’s Fire?

The drought has made the billabongs brackish.

The gold cache tempts for a month of Sundays.

 

The Manus Dei issues no blessing;

no intervention.  The struggle is mine.

The mind is its own place and my free will

may choose to receive the full stigmata.

 

I foresee The Darkening Ecliptic;

the universal diagnosis is

Graves’ disease – even for haloed beings.

Should I go to the wars and fight Regin,

or heed the nuthatches’ advice and act?

I must carry knowledge in my own grail:

the only way to be a dark hero.

 

My own survival strategy was the

weaving of eucalypt leaves, to combat

oppressions of desertification:

devil-delivered snakes, beasts, scorpions.

Yet each seemed to lack power in itself.

If I was confident and mocked demons,

might I reduce them to a puff of smoke?

 

The last man, or woman, on this scorched Earth

will carry in their bodies isotopes,

blown from Maralinga and Emu Fields.

The thunder brings no catharsis as yet.

Each must pass Mount Hopeless; find Cooper’s Creek.

Asthall, nr Swinbrook, Oxfordshire

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I think Eton College funded its 19th century restoration.

Haunt of the Mitford Family.  A Cotswold cornucopia.

Photos by Candia Dixon-Stuart